Bag it
Saturday March 28th 2015, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

The Bababerry that was a dry-looking stick a few weeks ago. The grower’s description, here.

So I have someone I need to knit for, and I’d settled on a type of yarn that I thought would work well but not a color. I’d narrowed it down pretty much to two.

They were cones of silk from and still in the thick plastic bags they’d come in.

I hesitated and finally ripped open the one on the left and tucked it into a ziploc with needles for an errand where I was likely to have to sit and wait awhile. Colourmart’s bags are more bug proof than mine and I like keeping the yarn in them till I’m ready to set it to needle, so, this was supposed to end my inner debate once and for all.

It did, actually: the instant that thing was open I felt a surprising pang of disappointment–but I ignored it and kept getting it ready for my errand, where, it turns out, I did not have time to knit a single stitch. And the longer I carried that cone around the more certain I was.

Well then. Now I finally knew: the other one is the one. Clearly.

And more blossoms
Friday March 27th 2015, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Garden

New flowers on the sweet cherry–we’ve gone from only at the very top to continuing on down. I feel like I can never get enough of those flowers. Some of the earlier ones are starting to throw sweet confetti.

Top, right, and left, I’m trying to give a better sense of the whole of the mango. The new buds at the top? They weren’t there at the beginning of the week. We had a three-day heat wave and it actually hit 94.7 degrees yesterday–in March. So strange. The plant life took off all over the yard.

I have no idea how many actual mangoes, if any, we’ll get this year but it looks promising and the honeybees are definitely trying their best.


Thursday March 26th 2015, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

He was about a year old when we moved here and his parents were some of the first people we met.

He’s the kid who, post college graduation (he’s back now for grad school), took a job for awhile in Texas such that we utterly randomly ran into him at church in Ft. Worth while we were visiting my in-laws. Out of all the places in all the country and to end up in the same room at the same time… Our jaws hit the ground in unison.

Such a great kid. Yeah yeah yeah, so, I knew him when, as well as some of the other kids in the video who also grew up with mine. Don’t know if you’ve seen it yet but JK Rowling herself called this brilliant and how cool is that?!

He mashed Bruno Mars with Harry Potter.  Keith plays Harry (direct YouTube link). And if you watch it over here you get to find out more about that python whose face his buddy sang to.

So much for easy
Wednesday March 25th 2015, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Non-Knitting

Yeah, that talk about getting the taxes done so fast?

Turbotax e-files the federal form for free but charges $24.95 to e-file the state one, after all they charge for the software. For twenty-five bucks I can make a trip to the post office, thanks, since I was going there anyway.

One checks every page first, of course…

Hearts. And smiley faces? I stared. And here’s another one. Hearts?! Smiley faces?! Turbopunked? Emoticonned?

Nah, said he later, probably came from when I got the printer to finally work with the new computers. Must still be a glitch in there somewhere.

And it only shows up when we’re doing that one little task, think I. Great.

Michelle dropped by and she and I spent some time going through what was missing and what was mutilated and trying to reprint what was needed.

No more emoticons but some pages still stayed inexplicably vanished.

That was one of the more irritably spent $24.95 ever. But now (unless we hear back to the contrary from Sacramento and the Feds) we are really and truly *done* for this year. Let’s just assume the pristine view we saw on the screen was what they received.

You just really don’t want the tax collector’s face to do what mine did when I first saw those printouts.

Sweet lemonade
Tuesday March 24th 2015, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

I was ecstatic: I’d done the taxes and I’d done them in under four hours. This has never happened before. Richard knew of one other number we needed–and it was right there, page two in the stack. Done.

The Meyer lemon burst into bloom in celebration–there were no flowers yesterday, but, look at it now. 

Six eggs
Monday March 23rd 2015, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Crumpled sharp-edged eggshells around a trunk or stem are the easiest, most benign way to keep snails and slugs out of what you’re trying to grow.

And so I had to make that chocolate hazelnut torte. Had to. My future fresh-picked peaches depended on it.

A wholly tare-er
Sunday March 22nd 2015, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life

Today’s Sunday School teacher, whom I happen to be married to, was talking about the parable of the sower who tossed his seeds along the ground as he walked, hoping for a good crop later. You’ve probably heard that one.

The text was read and then the poetry of it was discussed, metaphor by metaphor, soil types, marauding birds (what, no squirrels? Do you know how fast they dug up the sugar snap pea seeds I put down?) the part about the lord of the harvest saying, no, don’t pull out the tares or you’ll uproot the wheat along with it, let them keep growing together till they’re ripe. The growth habits of rye and wheat plants were mentioned and we had a visiting rancher from Wyoming on hand (what were the chances!? Never seen the guy before) who talked about how they are mechanically separated now at harvest with the machine being able to tell which is which.

Cool. Learn something new. While part of me was wondering, two thousand years later they’ve *still* got their seeds mixed?  Couldn’t be by much, surely. Clearly there was a lot more to ask the guy but it wasn’t the time or place.

Then the general query was thrown out there: So what did it all mean?

I raised my hand and pronounced: Having planted a few trees this past week, if you want them to produce well then by golly you’ve got to have slimy earthworms and chicken manure in there.

The tall man standing at the front of the room was amused as the room laughed. “Slimy. Earthworms. And chicken” (we were in church, the only word I would dare use there and that he would ever use anyway) “manure.”

Yup. Every life has to have some for the person to grow into the best they can become. It’s all just part of how it is.

The sore sorer’s apprentice
Saturday March 21st 2015, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Don’t take that subject line too seriously, I just couldn’t resist a pun like that.)

I’m smaller, I fit better under there–let me give it a try.

Okay, that makes it sound like I volunteered a lot more enthusiastically than I did. It was definitely not going to be comfortable with the lip below the counter digging into the small of my back but the job needed doing and I had nothing to complain about vs what it would be like for him. We put a folded towel over that edge down there.

My hands aren’t strong, though, and as I tried to tighten the nut on the right bolt as best I could I dropped it again and again: my arms were simply too short. The nuts had not only come loose, the big brass washers to either side had actually fallen out. How, I don’t know. This was a new faucet as of December.

I gave it my best.

Being that tall and squeezing under that bathroom sink in that space was definitely a challenge–but he did it.

When he got all done I suddenly noticed that the faucet above was off. Like, WAY off. I tried to describe it for him, wedged under there, and he, realizing it meant undoing both sides, kind of pleaded for it to look good enough. A half to three quarter inches skewed to on side, that doesn’t sound like a lot, right?

Uh… I described it.

He knew. He lessened his grip on the idea of finally being done: So we really do need to undo and start over?

I’m afraid so.

I knew we should have been looking at it from top and bottom, says he.

(I didn’t, even if it was obvious in the aftermath, but I do now. If it’s break-the-sale bad if the house were on the market which it emphatically is not, the house I mean, then you need to fix it.)

This time he simply stayed crammed with his head at a painful angle behind the U-tube till it was done rather than asking me to spell him. He tightened up the last of it far faster than I ever could have done. Hopefully there will be no more leaks, hopefully the faucet will stay solidly in place now. My hero! I exclaimed as he stumbled out and to his feet, and I meant it.

I don’t feel like a hero.

My hero, I repeated emphatically. Given how strong his big hands are, having his being the ones holding that wrench this time means we won’t have to do this again. Hopefully.

Can you dig it?
Friday March 20th 2015, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

The first Fuji apple flowers burst into bloom today–and yesterday I couldn’t even find buds, I looked.

The Stella cherry. 

Pushing around half-barrels full of soil and plants (fig, raspberry) the last two days to test sun hours may not have been my best move–I woke up at dark o’clock in shooting streaks of oh-no-you-didn’t. Wait, *I’m* not the one with the bad back.

Come the morning I took it easy and sat up straight and did all the right things and as the day went on the twinges faded out.

Y’know, I’ve really badly wanted all week to plant that Gold Nugget mandarin and it’s not healthy for it to stay in that small nursery pot too long, thought I. Dinner was ready to go. Richard wasn’t home yet. I picked up the spade–okay, that felt pretty much okay–and walked over to the spot the two of us had agreed on.

Just like the one time I’d tried before, that hardpack seemed utterly impervious to anything I could do to it; the metal tip wanted to simply ricochet off.

Just one little bit to mark the spot? This was one chore where I could simply stop any time if I needed to. I even had, once.

Yeah who was I fooling. Suddenly I was finding that it was just that top layer that was difficult, it was beautiful, soft soil underneath and there was the spade sliding right on through it. All those years of accumulated buckthorn leaves had done some real good over here and the earthworms I encountered thought so, too. I didn’t hit the water line this time.

I picked up the pot (okay, that was pushing it a bit) and set it in the hole a moment to see how it was coming along. Ideally, I should dig wider; it was wider than I thought, though. Ideally, it should be deeper. Actually, I was going to have to fill it back in a bit. And since it’s not all clay here the roots should be just fine.

Richard got home and let me drag him out there to be part of the final decision process. He didn’t tell me I shouldn’t be doing this quite yet; he knew how badly I wanted to. It’s just one day and then we have a healthy tree for life.

I sprinkled some olive-tree shavings across the bottom, added bagged soil, the mandarin, water, more bagged soil, and at last a ridge from the excavated soil to make a moat around the trunk. More water. I did cut back the scraggly old bushes that were peering over the edge of the hole in that picture earlier. The temperature hit low enough that the lights on the mango next to it clicked on in the dusk.

It is done. I cannot tell you how good it feels. Grow little tree grow!

Spacers, the finial frontier
Thursday March 19th 2015, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Learned something new today. Those spacers I bought to try to reposition fruit tree limbs with just a little?

Our English Morello cherry’s pruned and shortened branches were quite stiff and quite determined to stay as upwards-facing as possible last Saturday when I planted it. Like I mentioned, that can lead to broken boughs in years to come so even though there wasn’t much to anchor them against I did what I could with some of the smallest spacers to try to stretch the wood earthward a bit.

Tonight I went out to see if by very small chance I could reposition things a little. I truly did not expect to.

I could. Rather easily, actually, I could even get a medium spacer in one place now and the angles are noticeably improved.

Who knew that making a few very small changes and allowing it some time would help it become flexible enough to accept the better points of viewing to come?

I need to get started on that knitting
Wednesday March 18th 2015, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

Sun, sun, watching its path… Huh! Going down the fence line it’s low light at the corner, high light (where the mango is)–I knew that–but then kind of middling and then back up to high where the new cherry is–so in between those two high points is a lower one. Who knew. I’m thinking, the fig is deciduous so, no, put that in that spot where it won’t bother it if there are slightly fewer minutes of direct light in the winter (even after digging that hole a foot further forward yesterday) when it’s going to be bare anyway and then put the Gold Nugget mandarin between it and the mango and it’ll be happier.

I’m glad I gave myself time to observe the interplay between the heights of those trees as they are now and those rays before planting.

All of which is an excuse to show more photos. The fig starting to leaf out, some of the mango clusters, the Stella cherry with a few more blossoms open.

Re the knitting. For someone I’ve never met before but who’s about to become an in-law, silk is the safest yarn to reach for in terms of the odds of pleasing them and not running into allergies, right?

Flying in formation
Tuesday March 17th 2015, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

I was watching the path of the sunlight closely today, moving the mandarin pot in and out of the hole I’d dug so far, and decided that it was going to have at least a half hour to maybe even an hour in the winter more direct sun if it came forward about a foot; all I had to do was dig a little more. The more hardpack clay replaced for its roots to grow into the better anyway.

The Gold Nugget variety we bought, it turns out, survives to 26F, six degrees colder than almost all the other varieties, it produces in the early spring rather than winter, the flavor is supposed to be intense, and then, unlike some, the fruit can simply wait there on the tree for months without rotting. Ready when you are. Eating a perfect tangerine right off the tree in July? No problem.

I would say we totally lucked out when we got that one.

There was a meeting at church tonight and having just put down my tools since I can only be outside in low UV I decided I was too tired to drive; Richard said no problem, and off we went.

And so I got to be the passenger and thus put my full attention on it.

We were pulling through the big driveway there when I suddenly exclaimed. He had no idea why. A little further and he stopped by the door and then asked what that was all about.

You didn’t see it?!

No, I didn’t, what was it?

A Cooper’s hawk and some smaller but not small bird were doing a crazy-fast slalom race across the parking lot and over and around our car, in such tight formation the whole time that at first glance I had not been able to tell it was two birds. They were right there at the passenger side!


I wasn’t the only one watching, I realized as I got out of the car and looked up. C A W W W. There were two ravens at the top of a tree watching, knowing that hawk would win and waiting, two-on-one, to mob it and steal its hard work the instant they could.

Only, our car had blocked their view a moment and I had spotted them at it. Corvids are always very interested in what humans are doing–they’ve survived via scavenging from people for millennia. They turned their attention to me and spoke up some more, conversing with either each other or me or who knows.

And with that diversion, the hawk wasn’t forced to give up his meal for his mate and his nestlings, wherever he might be now. His.

Whatever we do they’ll taste good
Monday March 16th 2015, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Lupus

The first day of blooming for the Stella cherry.

Caught another cold and slept very little last night but it didn’t stop me from doing more digging and planting this evening. The prep work for the Gold Nugget mandarin is done, other than that nicked water line. The one single zucchini/pattypan hybrid seed I sprouted inside is now out there giving it its all, hoping for not-too-cold nights. What the heck. I put more seeds down near the baby plant–we can sauté the flowers and skip scaring the neighbors with the excess.

The friend who’d recommended Black Jack figs has hers espaliered.

I waited for Richard to get his input. After digging a hole in the corner at the end of the row the Stella is on (which was fine with him) and then thinking no, I don’t want it there, I went back to our original plan, which was to put it in a pot to help limit its size with the least effort or at least to buy us some time till we decide to do otherwise while we see just how fast this thing grows. Turns out we’d had different ideas on where that pot should go so I’m glad I waited; he’s been so supportive and I’m trying to return the favor.

He most wanted it up against the back fence, thinking how about to the far right from the cherry picture.

I could so easily espalier it right there and ditch the ugly Costco fake-wine-half-barrel thing and that would work really well.

If I wanted to. Not sure I do. Fig trees are pretty and I want it pretty. (Okay, and I’ve never done anything remotely like espalier work before.) But we could always transplant later–the Stella used to be in that same pot.

So I took it over by the tea roses where he wanted. It took some work to pull its bulging sleeve off–it turned out the roots had grown into every molecule of space and where they’d hit bottom they’d curled around and back into the mass like a felted knitted thing. Planted like that, they would strangle themselves. They were already working hard at it. There was nothing for it but to cut them apart and pull as hard as I could, again and again, doing as little as possible and as much as I had to and separating them into roughly four solid clumps with a few stragglers and hoping that would be enough.

But at that point I was fast running out of daylight and a decision had to be made.

A stick in the mud in the pot. Plunk. It’ll do for now.

Half right
Sunday March 15th 2015, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

This is my favorite peach blossom photo so far, the Indian Free–just wait till there are hundreds of these all at once. I’m going to let the tree concentrate on establishing its structure this first year, no peaches, but for now I’ll share it with the honeybees. It’s too pretty not to.

Re the knitting. I had an appointment with the eye doctor Friday that I knew was likely to take awhile, so, needing a portable project I grabbed some yarn and needles on my way out the door.

Dark yarn does not go with dilated eyes when you’re trying not to make a mobius strip on your circular needles. I made a mobius strip. And that of course is one of the great things about knitting: if you don’t like what you did you can simply turn it back into anonymous plain yarn. Try not to raspberry at it in triumph while it’s getting all wound up about it.

When the doctor explained that having two early-stage cataracts was normal for people in their 50s and 60s I had this strong inner protest of But *I’M* not that old! Mercifully stifled almost as instantly by the common-sense thought that oh wait. Yes. Yes, actually, I am. Well, the one not the other but still.

I could really have put myself out on a limb there.

The Morello of the story is, it’s Pi day
Saturday March 14th 2015, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

Sweet cherries are wonderful but there is nothing like a sour one for pies.

I jotted down all the varieties and dates yesterday: Stella cherry, May 29-June 14, Santa Rosa plum, June 25-July 5, English Morello cherry? Right in between there at June 9-22, the best I was going to get. Those are average ripening times where the grower is in the Central Valley but it tells me what the spacing is so that I don’t have everything happening all at once. The other sour cherries ripened when my sweet Stella does and the English Morello needs a lot fewer chill hours to set fruit than some of the others–so. It was definitely the one.

Checking around, I ended up on the phone yesterday again with San Lorenzo Garden Center in Santa Cruz, where I got that glorious Indian Free peach a month ago.

Yes, they had one. Yes, they would hold it for me. I told them I would come today to get it.

What they didn’t say was that bare root trees were going to be half off today.

And so we set off noon-ish over twisting, steep, narrow Highway 17 with Richard (oh thank you thank you) at the wheel over the mountains (he’s a peach).

And as we went we discussed whether to get more than just that sour cherry. Having allowed as how a good fig was okay by him and with me saying I would want to keep it in a pot so it doesn’t take over the world–and we had the pot–we decided to see what we could see.

We couldn’t find the cherry. Any cherry. We asked for help. The guy looked awhile just like we had and being distracted with multiple people loaded a tree on our cart while I was over looking at mandarins, and as I headed back and looked askance at the height of that thing Richard was going, Uh, the tag says this is a birch.

Oh right. Sorry, he said. (Off with the birch.)

Nope, I checked again, the cherry was definitely not in Plant Hold–and just as I started to say wistfully that we had come from over the hill for it I found it over there with the other bare-roots still but with a tag on it: Sold. With my name and phone number. YES!

By now someone else was helping us out and she asked me (it was quickly clear to her I was the one most vested in this) what shape I wanted: central leader or vase?

I had my opinion but she’s the expert so I told her how I wanted to block the neighbors’ windows as it grew: Vase, said she, and pruned it on the spot. “You’ll need spacers,” looking at the angles on those limbs.

“I have spacers.”

She smiled and nodded.  She found a small broken root I would never have noticed and trimmed it off and we were good to go.

Black Jack figs were the variety most recommended to me by a friend who grows several types in our area and so the only one I was interested in. They had a beautiful one. Score.

I was hoping to find a Kishu mandarin. Turns out they’d sold the last one for the year a half hour before we’d gotten there and the growers themselves were completely out of stock.

Having gotten the Page tanangelo I wanted last summer, I wanted a tangerine for Richard, one without grapefruit parentage.

Gold Nugget starts producing after Page is done and not only is the fruit marvelous, it waits on the tree throughout the summer for you to get to as it suits you. (Squirrel netting here we definitely come.)

The surprise of the day was the total. The cherry tree? All of $12.50. The fig? $10. The mandarin, a new, patented variety, was also on sale, and at $25 was the splurge of the day.

$12.50 for organically grown sour cherry pie for life, sweetened with the tangerine juice to come. Not a bad way to celebrate 3/14/15.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to see that cherry in the ground where it’s been looking so bare. The roots were wide–this is good–but it took more work than I expected. (I knew about that old water pipe now. I did not know about that olive root the stump grinder had missed.) I definitely earned my good night’s sleep tonight.

The Gold Nugget will go in that second hole over where I nicked that pipe Thursday night but there are only so many hours in one Saturday and we didn’t get that repaired quite yet. No hurry, that tree came potted.

Monday I’ll get back to work.