Gravity at the Rancho

by cheri

After a winter of heavy rain and blustery winds, our 58 olive trees, growing on the hillside in three levels of terracing, have suffered mightily.

Planted seven years ago from 15-gallon containers, the trees are large and loaded with tiny olive buds. Many would have  not survived had not our friend Glenn been staying at our home when the trees succumbed to the soppy clay soil (olive trees hate to get their feet wet) and began to topple over, one by one.

Glenn staked them up temporarily back in January.

We were able to begin the repair  last weekend. It was a sorry sight, like Van Gogh’s image here: download-1

We worked all three days. I pruned the trees (artist that I am),  and my husband (the guy with ingenuity and strength), staked up each tree.

To do this, he had to ask his big John Deere tractor to pull each tree erect before he could stabilize it. Then,  he wrapped two  rubber cords attached to thick wires around each trunk,  and finally with  the triple tension in balance ( tractor, tree, wires) pulled back and secured the tree by hammering two metal stakes into the hard earth. He then topped each stake  with a large orange square for safety.  What a guy.

On his way to deposit the cuttings in our huge chip pile, he noticed a small grey pillow of fluff resting on a log. Oh no!!

One only had to look up to the sky to see and hear a frenzied Red-tailed hawk mother screaming, diving, and zig-zagging throughout the sky. Her baby had fallen out of the nest. Frantic is too calm of a word to describe her angst.

In all of the years that we have been watching Red-tailed hawks construct their huge nests high in the pine trees on the Rancho, feed their young,  and finally give flying lessons to their fledglings, we have never known a chick to fall out of the nest.

She fell on some type snake carcass or something:



As you can imagine, it was a stressful experience for all, including us.

Several calls to what I wish had been a local bird hospital but instead  was one 50 miles away, we determined that this chick was not a fledgling learning to fly. It should be in its nest.

As the mother continued to scream, I wondered why she didn’t come down and pick it up.

My husband put on his gloves, constructed a Banker’s box, laid a towel in the bottom, and picked up the very weak fluff ball and put her in her bed for the night.

He set her in the garage.

“Shouldn’t that box be in the house where it is warm?” I inquired.

He wasn’t so sure.

“Let’s set her  on the dining table,” I said.

He reluctantly capitulated; Dinah, the Labrador, agreed with me although her motives may have been insincere. We locked her in the family room for the night.

This morning, as I arose early to drive her to the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital in Walnut Creek, my husband asked me if I was going to look in the box before I left in commute traffic.

To tell you the truth, I almost didn’t look for fear of finding a dead hawk chick, but I heeded his advice. When I picked up the box and put my hand on the bottom, it was warm. Whew.

She was still breathing but very weak.

One hour later, we arrived at the hospital; they took her without emotion and set the box on a heating table. That was that. I felt the need to emote. But. That was that.

“Do not call for two days and inquire about this bird,” a very nice Green woman instructed me.

The hospital was swamped. “Baby birds are falling out of their nests in droves,” she added.

Other people had small tissue and jewelry boxes with, I assumed, small birds within.

I wondered (but did not say), ” Shouldn’t a hawk (or any raptor for that matter) take precedence over say, a sparrow or hummingbird?”

I’m so glad I didn’t ask that question aloud. The room may have been stormed by rampaging Evergreen College students.

In two days, I will call and hope that Margaret (the name I have given this chick) is still alive.

Until then, let’s hope for the best.


June 2, 2017: Good news! Margaret (or Ed, depending on what sex this chick is) is going to make it. She was emaciated and has a bacterial infection of some sort. She has gained weight. The Lindsay Wildlife Hospital indicated that they thought, when ready, she can be released back “home” on the Rancho.


June 7, 2017: Better news! Margaret has now been moved to home care. She is eating and gaining weight. I have no idea when she will be able to hunt by herself and fly. I will call each week and report back to the blog.




About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Growing Olives, Life, My photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Gravity at the Rancho

  1. CINDY USEDOM says:

    cute story Cheri. I pray for Margaret!

    Cindy Block Usedom Graphic Design and Art Direction

    Mobile: 510-501-4140 Office: 925-426-3760 Portfolio:


  2. Brig says:

    LOL at do not call! Blessed be Margaret. What a great story.
    Down at my daughter’s there is a cranky ol fellow that rescues baby birds and eggs for all the local farmers (who find nests & babies) while working. We took a baby crow to him, to raise and release. There is a whole murder of crows he raised around his house.
    The great thing about olive trees is they are tough. There is a hillside in the Sutter Buttes that still has an old homestead olive grove growing. No one has watered or taken care of those trees for the last 50 years and they are going strong.

    • Cheri says:

      Interesting comment, Brig. It seems there are always old somewhat odd people out there, almost like Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird (no pun intended) who gravitate toward saving little abandoned or injured creatures.
      You made me think about whether I would have driven 50 miles for a crow baby. I don’t think so…

      Yes. Olive trees are like weeds. We are a bit concerned that they may be root bound as we planted them 7 years ago with gopher guards. One tree is dead. We need to pull it out to discover if this is the problem.

  3. I have sent good thoughts for Margaret—and of course, for the olive grove.

    • Cheri says:

      Your good thoughts will infuse those trees with love and energy. Thank you Kayti! I will let you know about Margaret when I call tomorrow.

  4. Christopher says:

    Margaret is my thoughts too.

  5. shoreacres says:

    It’s been nearly 48 hours. I hope the report is good, when it comes. It’s not possible to save all, but it is possible to save some, which makes the effort worthwhile. I suppose it would be worthwhile even if we couldn’t save any, but thank goodness that’s not reality.

    Around here, right now, it’s turtles. The creeks and bayous that thread through the Houston and surrounding communities are home to a lot of them, and even though they move slowly, they move. Often, they end up in the middle of a human road of their way to somewhere else. I have a big plastic box with a lid in the trunk, and I’ve already used it once this year. I’m just glad I found a red-eared slider rather than a big snapping turtle!

    Do let us know about Margaret, however it turns out.

    • Cheri says:

      Your comment reminded me of that famous inter-chapter in The Grapes of Wrath early in the novel. A tortoise is crossing the road. There are those who swerve to avoid hitting it and those who swerve to hit it. I hoped my students would see the symbolism of the Oakies and the tortoises.

      And you can see my addendum. Margaret is going to make it! I am so happy with this news.

      • shoreacres says:

        That’s wonderful, Cheri. I really am happy for you, and especially for the chick!

        • Cheri says:

          It’s funny how a little good news can change how we look at the world. If, in fact, we can participate in the release of this bird where she was born, that will surely make for a blog post!. But where is the mother. She has left for now.

  6. Cyberquill says:

    Keeping Margaret in my thoughts and prayers. So who’s gonna get stuck with the vet bill? You or Margaret’s mom?

    • Cheri says:

      Margaret’s mom has not been seen since we tool her chick to the hospital.
      The Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital is free.
      They do accept donations.
      I will definitely be making one.

  7. Christopher says:

    You haven’t said anything about Margaret for a while. How’s she doing?

  8. Cheri says:

    I have not called the Lindsay Wildlife Rehab Hospital in two weeks. When I called last they told me she was in home care and thriving. Again, I asked if she might be released back to our property and again they told me they didn’t know if that would happen. At this point, I have given up on that hope. She will probably be set free on Mt Diablo. I am just so pleased that she is alive! I willl call one more time. Thanks for the nudge.

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