Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Raised Bed Cover and a Couple of Crows January 11, 2010

The uncharacteristically deep and long freeze Seattle endured in December subjected winter veggie gardens to a real beating. Many unprotected plants, including some that were hurriedly swaddled in floating row cover, did not survive. Even some carefully shielded by a pro gardener under the warming embrace of a hoop house just couldn’t hack it after days in the 20sF or lower. This was one mean frost!

That’s why, when I saw this plastic tent-like structure in a parking strip recently, I wondered if its contents had made it through okay.

Hoop house for winter greens

Looks like it might be a pretty easy DIY project, just a few lengths of PVC and some heavy-duty plastic. I wonder if the low and compact shape, as compared with a hoop house, trapped warm air inside more effectively and helped to keep things alive? The lettuce seems to have survived:

Lettuce through hoop house cover

Are the crows just decorative or do they deter potential pilferers? I took them as a warning and didn’t poke my camera inside for a closer look.

Crow guards for raised bed

Later, some real corvids were spotted on a house’s rooftop. They like to look in rain gutters for tasty tidbits.

Crows on roof


Unusual Winter Food for Crows December 16, 2008

Filed under: edibles,fauna,neighborhood gardens — greenwalks @ 9:16 pm
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Crazy times here at the end of the year, haven’t been able to do much more than lament my lack of time for writing blog posts, reading others’ or leaving comments. I look forward to getting back to all of that, probably not until  January though!

Things have been so hectic that I can’t even seem to remember to take my camera with me when I leave the house. I’m usually driving these days, sadly, no “greenwalks” for me at the moment.

In the parking strip a few blocks from our house, someone had put out their (uncarved) pumpkins a few weeks ago in the bare dirt and leaves. Hm, I thought, odd choice but whatever. Then someone else (I suspect teenagers but maybe that’s unfair) smashed every single one of them, leaving them in place but completely shattered. Before the rot could set in, we got a really crazy cold snap (for here) and they have been perfectly preserved in their new forms. The result is oddly artistic, and I have been watching them every day as I drive by to see what will happen next.

Well, during the afternoon school run the other day, we were driving by and saw a funny sight – 6 or more crows happily nibbling away on the pumpkin shards! Maybe it tasted like pumpkin ice cream to them (one of my favorite flavors at the legendary Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco, it’s only available in the fall and early winter and I missed going there on our last visit). I lamented my lack of a camera, and my daughter asked “why, is it for your blog?” Oh dear, I guess she’s heard that word a few too many times around here! So I said yes, I wished I’d been able to take a picture of it and she said “Well, I could draw a picture and then you could put that in your blog instead.” How could I resist an offer like that?

In her rendition, there is only one pumpkin, and the crows are flying over it, not eating it, but that’s artistic license (and 5 year olds) for you. 🙂

Crows & pumpkin drawing


Crow Movie September 23, 2008

Heading to our favorite local gringo Mexican place for lunch with the family on Sunday, I saw a guy with a fancy movie camera set up in the street near the restaurant.


Since we were basically on the University of Washington campus, we thought at first it might be some kind of film class assignment, but we couldn’t figure out what he was filming. Plus, the camera looked too spiffy to be college-course-issue. Then we saw a second guy, camoflauged behind some greenery.

Crowcam II

We got in line (there always a line at Agua Verde), and in front of us was a woman with a walkie-talkie, who occasionally turned around to give pointers to the crew. It seemed pretty obvious that she was directing the film, so I asked her what it was about. She said she and her crew were here in Seattle putting in long hours to follow the movements and learn more about the habits of crows.

In a previous (and somewhat off-topic) post, I mentioned a study by some University of Washington scientists that further proves the intelligence of crows. They can apparently recognize human faces and warn each other about those of us who might need keeping a close eye on. The director, Susan Fleming, has received funding from the Canadian Broadcast Company and other sources to make her film, “A Murder of Crows,” which she hopes will help people to understand more about these often-reviled and, until now, poorly-understood creatures. They are currently filming some of the crows whom the UW scientists had captured and banded with radio frequency tags, and she said that they are getting some really amazing footage. Next stop for the crew is New Caledonia, off the coast of New Zealand, to film the crow population there (the New Caledonian crows are famous for their tool-making). For a short clip from the upcoming documentary, click here.

As the tired and hungry crew took a burrito break and we headed home after our own meal, I saw what could have been their movie star, a lone female who has recently left her parents’ protection, atop a pole. I wonder if she was looking at me too, and if so, would she remember me next time I indulge my cravings for fish tacos and limonata?

Pole crow

Later that day, I saw a pair nosing around in the parking strip near my house. Susan had reminded me that crows generally mate for life, and I definitely looked at this couple with a fresh perspective and an extra dose of respect.

Crow couple


Crows Are Smart (Duh) August 27, 2008

Is there anyone gardening in the US who does not see crows on an almost daily basis? The ones that live near us seem to mostly steer clear of the garden, favoring the trees, power lines and street for their food-searching and head-cawing-off business. I mostly only notice them in the spring, when they are menacing the other birds’ babies and the Stellar’s Jays set up a gigantic protective racket in response.

The New York Times had an article recently about a University of Washington scientist who has studied crows for 20 years and has all kinds of proof about how smart they are. You can see the link here. Apparently they can recognize and remember human faces!?!

Here’s a pensive one I saw today next to a parking strip garden in NE Seattle. Wonder if s/he was memorizing my face for future reference?

Crow & Parking Strip Garden

Anyone got a “smart crow” story to share?