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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Memories from Orchard House

Bow looking at a picture of himself from Orchard House
Yesterday, I went over to Orchard House to check on things.

Somebody had taken most of the firewood that had been stacked outside. Someone had been leafing through Project Bow notebooks that had been in the unlocked shed, and left them strewn on the lawn. Small children scampered away as my car approached.

But the apple tree was blooming, so that was good. I asked my yard man what I should do to keep people from stealing the apples before I can pick them. He laughed. "I don't think those people will work that hard for apples. They have plenty to eat."

This reminded me of my Debt Collector song, with music by composer Daniel Carter, that has a line that goes like this: "Good things don't grow on trees, 'cept in other people's yards, but we don't climb those trees, who wants to work that hard?"

You can hear the song, sung by Victoria Trestrail,  here. (There is also a new version from 2015 that I just got, but I haven't had a chance to make a video of it.)

I took the notebooks from Orchard House home for safekeeping. Once upon a time, I had volunteers who helped with Project Bow, and they lived at Orchard House, and they had schedules like this:

A Schedule for Two Interns from 2006
The interns worked with Bow, they video-recorded his floortime sessions, and they transcribed his utterances into digital dialogues. And of course, they played with him.

Bow looking at a very old photo of his human  sister and his cousin
He is pointing at his cousin's name, because I asked him who that was.
Those were good times for Project Bow, but they are over now. People who volunteer to work with chimpanzees want to be able to go in and interact with the chimp and then leave and resume their lives.

But Bow needs people to make a lifelong commitment to him. He can't abide new people every year. We still need volunteers to pick the fruit at Orchard House and to work on computer programs for Bow's literacy, but they would not be allowed to go in with him, so the prospect is not that attractive for young people interested in apes.

A Hummingbird moth hovering over the creeping phlox in front of my house

But it's okay, Bow and I manage on our own. We have nice things happening at our own house, too. Yesterday, I spotted a hummingbird moth and was able to get very close.

The Hummingbird Moth's Wings are Translucent
Bow watched with interest as I showed him the video.

Maybe if I sell Orchard House, we can take some measures to allow Bow more outside access, so he can see hummingbird moths close up, too.


  1. I wish Bow was able to go outside. Maybe one day if your book sells more copies you can afford to build a larger barrier to keep people off your land. Yes, kids are often destructive when they think a house is abandoned. I was really upset because a ten year old boy I knew threw a rock through a house that had been built in the 1930s, and started stealing items out of it. I did not know what to do at the time because I told him not to, but he had a history a stealing things from people, and tresspassing into houses. I felt bad for those people because they usually were only able to come up to maintain and clean the houses every couple of years, they lived far away, and when they came back they would have found a broken window.

    1. Hi, Julia. Bow can go outside now, but he is confined to the outer pen. Yes, I do want to make arrangements for him to be able to roam five of my ten acres, when I can afford to.

      The children on that street know the house is not abandoned. I am there often. I just don't live there. Also, my yard man lives on that street and keeps the grass mowed there. But he also has a day job, so there is no one to keep an eye on the house 24/7. But that would also be true if there were tenants who worked. So I think part of the problem is lack of respect for the property rights of landowners, as opposed to people who live there. That must have been true in the case of the house you saw vandalized. That boy knew the house was owned and not abandoned, but he went ahead and broke the window, because he did not respect property rights.