Our house is part of a community run by a Homeowners' Association. Our first month was a series of learning experiences as we adjusted to Rules (You must park your vehicle inside the garage, you must keep the garage door shut most of the time, you may not make changes to the ouside or public areas, etc.) This simplifies our life considerably. Years of motel living have accustomed us to accommodating ourselves to the requirements of our innkeepers; we are impressed by the apparent obedience of our neighbors here as well. Our truck fills our garage Our truck at home

The big event during the past month, which has occupied the attention of many of the Harbor Bay residents, is the arrival of dozens of egrets, who have taken up quarters in the tops of a few tall trees not far from us. Their chicks have now hatched and grow almost visibly. The older ones have begun making cautious little walks along the stronger branches, while the younger babies are still flapping their shorter wings. Whenever an adult returns to a nest, the entire group, it seems, sets up a clamor for food. The croaking stops immediately when the adult flies away again. The local ducks, which had managed to ignore them for several weeks, are now becoming aware that immense white birds are flying around, and have moved across the lagoon away from the egret trees. Baby egrets Babies in their nest

Closer to home, our amazing tomato plants are holding on, but not without setbacks. We bought them to shade our kitchen window, and put their pots on a worktable on the outdoor deck. This worked quite well for about a month, while they produced flowers and an astonishing number of tiny tomatoes. But one unusually windy day brought a sudden wind gust which knocked one plant right off the table onto the deck. Now we have them in a more protected spot, hoping that they will survive long enough for the tomatoes to ripen. One tomato has already turned red, and, not wanting to take any chances, we picked it and ate it. It was delicious. Our tomato plants Our tomato plants

The plants are still in their original pots, although we have added lots of stakes to support the branches. We have become accustomed to the plants' need for watering several times each day -- not unlike the baby egrets and their lust for food. We are beginning to suspect that the growing process has used up lots of the original soil, which made the plants top-heavy, which encouraged them to fall. Maybe next year we'll plant smaller plants in larger pots. Maybe we will wait for the local farmers' markets.

A green tomato Some of our tomatoes The other day, we stopped for lunch at the Pear Street Bistro in Pinole, a small community north of San Francisco. We had a delicious lunch and as always enjoyed watching the other diners, apparently mostly local businesspeople. The couple next to us were two businesswomen who had arrived earlier and left just before we finished. After they had gone, we noticed a pair of sandals on the floor by their table. After a few minutes, one of the busboys came, carrying a plastic bag, and, with the same motion he would use to pick up after a dog, captured the sandals, enclosed them in the bag, and toted them off to a back room. This leads us to wonder: Do restaurants supply shoes for guests, as they used to supply coats and ties?