Spring
Wednesday March 22nd 2017, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The hole the woodpecker made in the dead wood that ended up on the ground, leaving a tiny feather behind.

The tree with a bigger hole now.

The first peach of the season, on a tree hit by peach leaf curl despite my spraying copper; once was not enough. The first two were leafing out during the storms last month, and rain plus cold weather lets the disease attack the developing leaves.
The new healthy leaves are already coming in, and once they’re fully grown they’re impervious to it.

The other two vulnerable trees are leafing out and it’s been raining–but it’s also been warmer.

The Indian Free is happy as a clam, and should I lose one of the others I’m going to put in a Muir, which likewise is resistant and late-blooming.

The breba (spring crop) figs growing below the leaves.

And there are new flower buds today on the cherries and blueberries.

I love the happy anticipation at this time of year. It’s like a new knitting project with enough rows done that you can really see what it’s going to turn out to be.



Gorsuch-and-such
Tuesday March 21st 2017, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knit,Politics

As I clipped off the ties there was this vague sense that something was wrong, but it made no sense and I ignored it–at the time.

Oooh, man. All those hundreds of yards of wool and that compliant-looking hank was anything but: it was tangled, and tangled bad.

If you are winding yarn into a hank (race-track shaped, for the non knitters, for dyeing now and winding into a ball later) and get interrupted and come back to it and finish with the winding going the other way, you create loops against the loops instead of one big loop–and the yarn must be slowly carefully unwoven back through all those figure-eights. The ball, as it gets bigger and bigger, still has to fit through all those catch points every time around.

I started at about 10:30 this morning. I got interrupted by a few things, including a friend dropping by for an hour and a half, but still: it was 3:30 when I finally got that last yard onto that ball.

Which I emphatically did not knit. I was done with it for the day.

So while I fussed with all that, I had the second-day Neil Gorsuch hearings going to keep me occupied. (The Supreme Court nominee.)

He seems like a nice guy. We could definitely do worse, given who chose him.

And yet. Too often he’s sided with money over people. That Hobby Lobby judgment that he defended because of the owners’ “sincerely held beliefs”? A Senator said, Well, what if an owner is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to pay for employees’ medical insurance to cover blood donations? Where does this end? And what about the sincerely held beliefs of the 1300 employees, don’t they matter?

There were questions about a case involving a trucker, which Gorsuch dismissed as squabbling over a hole vs an opening in the floor of the truck. I wondered what that was all about, since he clearly seemed to be avoiding it, so I went looking.

What he refused to acknowledge was that by his dissent in that case, he was saying a man’s life was less important than corporate rules.

The brakes had failed on the guy’s trailer and he had called for help, was told it was coming, and fell asleep in his unheated truck. He woke up in the early stages of hypothermia and knew he would die if he stayed there. Rather than drive with a dangerous trailer he unhooked it, drove the truck to safety and warmth, and when that roadside help finally came, drove back to the trailer and dealt with it.

He was fired, and Gorsuch upheld that firing. The rules were he was to have stayed put, and he didn’t.

And this is the man who wants to make potentially life-and-death decisions for us all.

I can only pray we get the smiley Mr. Nice Guy he portrayed himself as. We have enough of a tangled mess at the top.



Hawk eye
Monday March 20th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Two ravens landed in my back yard yesterday, standing there watching me, testing, and then quickly lifting away when I objected, flying in a half circle just outside the periphery of the property and jerking back away when I waved my arms when they got too close. Territory is a language they speak (loudly, at times. Caw.) Back to your willow tree, guys.

Every spring, they try. Once. And then the young ones decide the rules their parents had taught them were real.

But that challenge could not be allowed to stand, and the absence of birds at my feeder the entire rest of the day but for two frantic all-ee-all-ee-in-come-free minutes, twice, then frantic scrambles away, suggested that a Cooper’s hawk had seen what those ravens had done and was having none of it.

Time to claim that which is closer to the ground as well as the redwood heights above.

The first shake of the window got my attention, the second bounce still didn’t stop it and then at last the dove turned towards that tree with the hawk now in close pursuit.

He was back in the afternoon: the solitary sentry at the center of the fence, his chest not streaked with youth but not quite chestnut yet either, at least not at that angle in the shadows of the heavy clouds. It could have been just the light. He stood.

A while later, wide wings caught my eye as he came in to guard the top of the awning above the bird feeder, that typical low swoop with the upwards at the end. Three sightings in one day? I looked at my calendar, and yes: it was solstice. Ah, now I get it.

He stood there for some time, too.

He flew down to the patio to what I had not quite realized till that moment was his other I-am-here: the wooden box. But in the instant his feet would have touched down he tucked them back up again and turned and flew towards the redwood.

I felt like I’d wrecked it. I’d left my tomato seedlings at that edge and he’d seen at the last that they were too flimsy to support him, right when he no longer had quite enough lift to simply land past them. As soon as he was out of sight I opened the slider and moved them to the other end of the box so he could have his perch back.

The one he likes to people-watch from (and also look for finches cowering in the elephant ears against the house.)

It is raining hard and will off and on for the next five days. There is easy food just outside of the rain for the seedeaters and they will want that.

He’s got a nest up there again this year. He will be back.



15-second friends
Sunday March 19th 2017, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Saturday night I was at Trader Joe’s reading a label at the end of an aisle when a woman I didn’t see coming up behind me, on her way by, said, warmly, “I LOVE your hair!”

She had no way to know I’d despaired over it that very morning and had seriously considered simply cutting it all off–knowing I would hate it if I did.

Surprised, I turned to see a beautiful African-American woman with her softly graying hair in long dreds and told her, “I love *your* hair!” (And I did.) “Trade you!”

We both laughed as she continued on her way, both of us better off for her outspoken kindness.



The Wave
Saturday March 18th 2017, 10:06 pm
Filed under: History

Wow, what a story. I had no idea of this local history till tonight.

It took forty years for the single student who truly resisted what her classroom was turning into to feel comfortable letting her peers know it was her all along–alone. Only her father, backing her up all the way, had known.

Nevertheless, she persisted.



Build-a-nest kit
Friday March 17th 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

It looks bigger if you gather it round like the curve of the needles. I’m on the second of three eight-ounce balls. As long as it beats the baby here it’s all good.

I was about six ounces into it a few days ago when I realized that the pattern I’d picked and what I was actually knitting don’t look like they have any connection, because I… And then I kept… How did I not see that I… Eh. So it’s unique.

Meantime, a full month behind the Bewick’s wrens doing this, the chickadees (ours are the chestnut-backed variety) dove into the dog fur today again and again and again all day long, at one time managing to lift what looked like an entire pile–briefly, and I wish the camera had caught that millisecond. No way, and it put most of it back for now. It was comically wobbly heading off.

In Alaska, where the forecast is zero degrees tonight and warm wool a good idea, our daughter reported that her cat cuddled up next to her–but was then flummoxed that her stomach was kicking it.



Nearing equinox
Thursday March 16th 2017, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Back to the old method. Coopernicus, is that you?

That was a hard enough smack to shake the window next to me and I looked up to see feathers and more feathers floating down–and the dove? Still flying after that? How?

Immediately incoming was the Cooper’s hawk in pursuit, aimed as if straight for my face, but it pulled up into a tight curve around the bird feeder and back out again after its fleeing dinner. Which it surely caught, somewhere through the trees and just beyond where I could see. We’re both fine with that.



Giving us the birds
Wednesday March 15th 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life

My baby Parfianka Pomegranate, the two-year-old Indian Free peach, and the yearling Baby Crawford that’s too young to let fruit but whose flowers will serve the other nicely.

And the first 8 oz skein of Washington Circle Worsted, done. (I might be able to squeeze one last row out of that.)

Two days of having the net down except for a few brief blips made for lots of knitting time. Also icing of hands.

As I was walking around the yard this evening, trying to capture these trees being young and small (or not so small in the case of the IF), I was surprised to see chunks of dead wood on the ground over there near the kids’ old climbing tree.

I don’t know if I have a photo for real or just in my head, but, when our kids were young the two older ones threw a long hose again and again up and over one of its upper branches (before it grew too big) and improvised their own swing out of it. Never mind that we had an old swingset at the time; this was way more fun. Because they’d made it. In a tree. Be like a bird. It was a playground unto itself in their childhoods.

As they got older and more in need of their individual spaces we added a bedroom too close to that tree and it gradually grew over it. Richard and I quite a few times heard the thud in the night of a raccoon dropping off a branch and landing overhead and ambling around, with paw prints in the morning across the bathroom skylight like a two-stage verification process.

And then there was that notable year when the nocturnal black beetles that favored that type of tree dropped down through the heating vent and landed on my head at night. This was before we found out there were breaks in the heating system up there that gave them that pathway from the tree. OUT!!!

And so we cut that side of the tree off, and I would have told them to take it all–but Richard remembered the climbing tree days and he couldn’t quite bear to erase the thing.

Alright, so at least we got it away from our bedroom.

There is a big knot hole where one of the larger branches was taken out.

Between it and the house is where I found those chunks of dead wood.

When we bought this house, the sellers had cut down two white-fly-stricken Modesto ash trees (the third lived seven more years) leaving stumps about eight feet high. Why, we did not know–till we found we had woodpeckers nesting in the cavity just below the v-shaped top of one of them.

Richard was the first to notice it. And that the parent birds never flew directly to it; they zigzagged here and there, mostly over in the tall still-living tree next to it, before dashing into the hole at the last–where, from a respectful distance, the tall guy could put our children on his shoulders one by one to see the parents feeding their babies.

When we added on that bedroom, those stumps, very regretfully, had to go.

And now, around the corner on the other side of that room… There’s a hole gouged out that’s angled sharply down. I’m again not quite tall enough to see into it.

But there are thicknesses of leaves of the still-living tree directly above for the parent birds to catch bugs in and zigzag to their hearts’ content through.

He’s right. The tree stays. Or at least the bottom seven or eight feet of it, after nesting season is over.



Washington Circle
Monday March 13th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Knit

I sent off a note to Karida at Neighborhood Fiber Company: is my Washington Circle yarn named after the area near George Washington University in DC? Or for somewhere in Baltimore?

I could just hear her smile as she wrote back:

Alison,

Washington Circle is one of our original colors and is definitely referring to Washington Circle in D.C. I went to GWU, and that circle was part of my daily pedestrian life as a student. Cheers!

So cool. My husband and I were both born at the old (now replaced) hospital at George Washington University, and I love that the yarn I’m knitting for our grandson has such a connection to place–both ours, and Karida herself: and now she’s working from a place close to where our daughter/his mother lived in grad school.



Forget the knitting, hey, look! A pretty peach tree!
Sunday March 12th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The Indian Free has started blooming on the side of the tree towards Adele’s yard. I could have pruned more of those smaller branches out but everything fills out fast on that tree, it being a standard rather than a semi-dwarf, and I wanted the lower ones to grow just over the fence rather than having only the upper ones left which could end up towering high out of the neighbors’ reach. I want it to grow a lot more out than up. I’ll adjust it as it goes along.

Wildflower ground cover: oxalis.

A Cooper’s hawk landed in the middle of the fence this afternoon. There was a squirrel at either end of that fence, one standing still, one lying down, and neither seemed to know quite what to do–reminding me that the average lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is a single year. They’ll learn to be afraid of it soon enough.

The one lying down thought about it a moment and stood up with its legs stretched upwards rather like a cat, facing the hawk. It was an odd thing to do.

The hawk was not a juvenile. It was a male. Whether it was my Coopernicus who’s been around these last eight years or so I don’t know but observations will tell. The hunting pattern has definitely been different; he likely had a shoulder injury from sideswiping the window screen and learned to compensate by driving his prey into the windows to stun them. There have been very few window strikes this year–but then, I’ve mostly been seeing juvenile Coopers.

Knitting: I worked on Nash’s stocking and ripped it right back. I know how to fix a miscrossed cable, just, I didn’t do a very good job of it and rather than spend any more time fussing over it it was only four rows down so there you go. Rip.

Back to the receiving blanket.



That was cold…
Saturday March 11th 2017, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Dear? The milk is… (swish swish swish) crunchy??

(Adjusting the fridge control from arctic to iceberg lettuce.) Well, that’s one way to get a taste of winter in California.

Meantime, here’s the cowl, dry now, as requested.

It’s been two whole weeks since I bought Karida’s bright, deeply saturated blue superwash merino at Stitches–the Washington Circle colorway–and it got to me at last and I started the receiving blanket I’d bought it for. We’ll call it the carry-around project by way of excuse, or at least while it’s still small, but I had to at least get it begun. It would not let me be till I did.

It is somehow a surprise (and not) that there are only two months left before we’re due to meet the little guy. And in Alaska, even in May, he’ll need a blanket that’s just his size.

 



Losing winter fast
Friday March 10th 2017, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

Another warm day, and now there are 17 green figs. Getting that tree out of that big Costco pot and moved into the ground (twice–the first spot was just too close to the fence) clearly didn’t hurt it any.

You can almost watch the new mango leaves growing in. Compare this to two weeks ago, when they were barely starting. (Around the trunk: cinnamon, because the ants have taken a sudden interest.)

The Mosaic Moon Lachlan cowl will be a lot brighter once it’s dry.

Back to Nash’s stocking.



72F
Thursday March 09th 2017, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

In the side yard, nothing but dormancy yesterday.

Today, a dozen tiny green figs, and those protective brown swirls split (on the other side on this one) to show leaves inside that were already green by the end of the day.

The August Pride peach, still blooming after three weeks.

All three of the tomato varieties I planted sprouted today, two to learn about and one familiar old wonderful Sungold. And the…(where did I put it. I was going to show you) Habanero peppers with no heat, there you go. Mr. Sulu, Wimp Factor Seven, full speed ahead! (Assuming they come up, too.)

Oh, and I did some of that anticipated me-knitting: a cowl in Lachlan from Mosaic Moon, not quite that colorway but close and in that soft silky yarn. Gorgeous. I’ll show it off when it’s done.



February showers bring March flowers
Wednesday March 08th 2017, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Garden

As the two early peach trees give way to leaf we have more coming up behind.

The Baby Crawford that I planted last January after being introduced to the variety at Andy’s Orchard (*man* those are good!) Its first blossoms opened yesterday.

The Indian Free peach aimed at the neighbors across the fence, to their enthusiastic encouragement: its first blossoms opened today. Pretty good timing there.

And the darker Babcock? Sunday. And yet these will all ripen in different months.

The mango tree is growing like crazy on one side–so much so that I need to find a way to brace it: it’s starting to lean. Some pruning would help but I want to wait first to see if we’ll get more blossoms on it. It lost all of its dozens of baby mangoes in the big storm but it looks now like it’s trying to make up for it.

So much happy anticipation. So glad I planted all these.

The cherries, figs, apples, and pear: dormant for just a little longer.



A new generation
Tuesday March 07th 2017, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Storms and squirrels and who thought it was a good idea to run that thing over their tree? Chomp. The Comcast guy came tonight, after I had no internet all day, and pronounced the cable full of water.

Remember that day when part of our road was flooded so we ran off to the phone store in the other direction to update to the new cheaper plan because nobody in their right mind would be out in that, so we wouldn’t have to wait? (The storm where they evacuated 1400 people in San Jose by boat, as it turned out. Yow.)

Richard tonight said that because of that his phone was now a hotspot so, here, and he set it up: I can blog tonight while waiting for the new cable to be installed in the morning after the guy gets permission to go into the neighbors’ yard again; 8:30 pm was a little late to knock on their door and then climb up that pole.

The skunks are breeding out there somewhere in the dark and would surely love the interruption… Nah, I’m with him. Come back tomorrow.

If it were July Adele would be sending him off with homegrown tomatoes. It’s a shame it doesn’t rain in July.

Meantime, a Cooper’s hawk landed on the fence this afternoon and then hopped on down and stared into the bushes, cocking her head this way and that: I KNOW you’re in there! Come out and let me grab a bite!

The juncos, finches, wrens, towhees, and white-crowned sparrows kept from panicking and outwaited her and she took off.

This was the best look I’ve gotten at the newcomer yet. The juvenile markings were fading but not quite gone.