Along about mid-December, during a relatively warm spell, we got optimistic and bought a basil plant to keep outdoors. It was all downhill from there. The weather not only slowly changed but this winter, most unusually, we had six Pacific cold fronts come through. We’ve had weather, including temperatures below freezing, thunderstorms with hail, and high winds. There were very warm spells in between but it was all too much for our little basil plant.
We planted it in a large, deep terra cotta pot, along with some mixed flowers–which did very well indeed. This pot is about three feet from the sliding glass door that gives entry to the kitchen from our deck. The basil withered and slowly disappeared. But, lo!, it disappeared not only from the dwindles but because in its spot arose a number of huge Swiss Chard leaves which took over the whole back half of the pot. Well, cool, we love Swiss Chard. In fact, your regular author bought a nice bundle of same yesterday and then went out to harvest the enormous leaves (that had clearly come from seeds in the basil cup) to make up a nice mess of greens to go with our fried cod.
She found she could not bring herself to do so. Under the shade of the chard, in an ingeniously arranged bowl in the earth, she found seven Gambel’s quail eggs. Now, why in the world would a quail select a flower pot, just a few feet from our kitchen, as her nesting spot? Hummmmmmm. It might make sense. The coyotes use the field next to us as their primary market of delicacies, among which have to be the scores of quail that live there. We hear their howls during the middle of the night. Smart mother Quail! Her nest is in a fenced courtyard!
From that moment until now, there has been no sighting of mother quail, even at 3 AM when I got up to check. But, wait! Fern told me that there were seven eggs. I found nine this morning. There were ten at midday and a check just now showed eleven eggs. Something very fishy is in the works.
Seeking knowledge, that I did not readily find on the Internet, I telephoned the East Valley Wildlife Center, to which I was referred by the Arizona Humane Society.
All OK! The rig is that a Gambel’s hen does not sit and incubate her eggs until they are all laid–usually about fifteen of them. Only then is it time to get to the sedentary part–with help yet. Dad does his duty and sits as well. The incubation period is 21-23 days. And when they hatch, the chicks, after drying off for a short while, are ready to march off, under the watchful eyes of the proud parents.
We may have to delay our return to Italy. The suspense of not knowing the results of this extraordinary act of creation would be more than we could handle.
Yes, you counted correctly. We’re up to twelve. Stay tuned…