More energy, more got done
Saturday September 24th 2016, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Mango tree

Something was wrong towards the end of the spring–it wouldn’t turn off automatically anymore. I unplugged it and called it done for the season.

A little troubleshooting and reprogamming (thank you Richard) and the automatic mango warming lights are now back in business.

Meantime, I started this with a recipient in mind but as I worked I found myself thinking of someone else. Incessantly. How much she would enjoy it. It kind of annoyed me at first because I really was making it for–

–wait what. Am I supposed to be getting something here and is it just going right past me.

So I stopped and said a prayer and let myself just feel whom it was supposed to be for: person A or person B? (Or anyone else, for that matter.) There’s no point in offering them ones they wouldn’t love as much. Or made of a fiber they can’t wear, maybe?

Person B.

Why it makes a difference, I have not a clue, and they’re both getting something from my needles. Switched, is all. And that’s fine.



Immunocompromised
Friday September 23rd 2016, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The sore throat finally caught up with me and Michelle drove me in. The good news/bad news is it’s not strep. If I need a doctor’s note for the airline next week, I’ve been offered one.

My brother’s daughter is getting married back home in Maryland and I badly want to go.

And on a more somber note, a childhood friend’s brother’s funeral is most likely also to be there next week, his prognosis measured more in hours now–and I want to be present for her sake, too.

This is why I work harder at avoiding crowds before traveling. I am not going to be the one who should have stayed home but instead made everybody sick; when knitting just takes a bit more oomph than you’ve got, there’s no way I’d inflict that on others. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.



Oh yes they call him the streaked (boogie-dy-boogie-dy)
Thursday September 22nd 2016, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Today is equinox, I thought, glancing up at the emptied bird feeder; if I want the Cooper’s hawks to keep claiming territory (if they were even still around) I’d better give them a reason to, and with that I got up and filled the thing.

Finches above, a small flock of mourning doves below, showing up out of nowhere almost instantly; that’s more like it.

Then this new guy did, very much to my surprise.  Yes! The harassing ravens were thwarted this spring after all! A successful fledge!

I have never seen his parents do what he did. It made me wince a little for the trees we cut down a few years ago–but we had no choice at the time.

If bushes are all there are there then bushes are where the prey is, and so after standing sentry up there awhile, the juvenile Cooper’s hawk suddenly dove straight down. Towhee tartare, anyone?

That’s a lot of bird to fit into a lot of small spaces. It was clear he’d judged the fit first.

He zigzagged around on foot back there, popping out then back in again. He circled the baby mandarin tree (the lighter green). He did actually flush out a cowering finch but it managed to get (or lucked out on having) nuisance branches in his way first and escaped. As he followed it, his attention fully to my left, a squirrel I hadn’t known was cowering under the picnic table to my right slunk carefully away towards the large fig and raspberry pots. The trees that direction were far enough away that it had no chance should it be spotted making a mad dash across the yard.

It was not.

We had a young’un here who needed a good meal to live long enough to learn better how to land a good meal. Late September? Maybe the parents were still keeping an eye out for it, maybe not.

He went back to the fence, staring, walking down it, looking for more. He seemed not the slightest afraid of me as I lifted the phone again and again, hoping for a shot that would at least show something, like those brown wavy streaks down his white chest that told the world of adult hawks not to bother him, that he’s just a kid. He flared his striped curving tail, clarifying his family for me once and for all: Cooper’s, not Sharp-shinned.

Whether he’s claiming my longtime Coopernicus’s territory or just hanging around where he grew up because he’s too young to have set out on his own yet, we’ll find out.

But he definitely made my day.



Playing ketchup
Wednesday September 21st 2016, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knitting a Gift,Politics

Lots of waiting times today, part of what happens when you only have one car and (helpfully delayed) appointments six cities apart. And the lab. And the…

How much time?

This much, minus the half-repeat I started it with several days ago and the two hours added this evening. Cashmere, about 50g worth of tomato-colored, knitted on 3.5mm needles. About 13″x9″measured flat. Done!

Meantime, I got an email purporting to be from an organization I’m familiar with but from an email address I am not, saying that I needed to check my voter registration.

Given that there were a number of Democrats who showed up at the primary polls in Arizona to find their party affiliation scrubbed from the records–including an official from said party who likewise found herself disenfranchised despite having been on the rolls for years–yeah, not a bad idea.

But I wasn’t about to click through their links. Who knows…

So we went to California’s Secretary of State site, clicked on our county, found Voter Registration, and on that secure site found ourselves verified as registered to vote, and since it’s not the primary, party doesn’t matter so we stopped searching at that point. We can always verify at the polls.

But we felt it was worth checking.



Fun house mirror
Tuesday September 20th 2016, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A decision that yes they wanted him in San Jose today and so he hopped on a plane after telling us last night that that might be what would happen.

When you’re traveling on business often there’s no time for anything but work and sleep, period, but our older son carved out the time to go out to dinner with us tonight.

Ever go on a long trip and when you come home, it’s like things are distorted: the countertops aren’t quite at the right height and when did that hallway become that width and it’s like when you have a new glasses prescription and the floor and your feet are the wrong amount of space away from you, and then after about a minute or two everything’s back to normal?

Or is that just me?

Anyway. He got to the restaurant before we did, and as he rose to greet us in that very tall-ceilinged place (maybe that was part of it) I looked up at our 6’10” son (6’9″, I always thought, but I’ve been corrected) and wondered, wait: when did you get even taller yet compared to way down here?

He asked me how I was doing and I said, I’m shrinking. He chuckled.



Cookie monster
Monday September 19th 2016, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

I am totally going to plagiarize my friend Dannette’s toddler on this one. (A side note to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: he was the baby you held in San Francisco.) She needed chopped nuts, and you know there’s nothing a little boy would rather do than be allowed to pound things–and with a grown-up’s tool no less. And to be helping Mommy and Daddy with the baking while doing it!

And thus the gleeful picture she posted, the rubber mallet a blur in his happy hands, with the word: Pismashios!



Going for that Jackson Pollack/Salvador Dali touch
Sunday September 18th 2016, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

So the problem was only finding four of the mini cupcake pans–I know there used to be six, but then I had only one working oven for years; I probably gave the other two away, having no reason to hog them. Okay.

Mini paper liners, check.

But this batter is turning out to be way too much unless I wash and dry the first set of pans as they come out and the second set goes in, and then again. (The second oven’s busy with something else anyway.)

Butt-checking the baker: hey, that works, too!

(Final tally: 78-12. Not counting the ones we ate already.)

 

 



Durkee or not Durkee: is there even a question?
Saturday September 17th 2016, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

The annual Labor Day block party happened today because that’s when the people who organize it could be there.

Having forgotten to buy cream, I didn’t bring a chocolate torte this year, but I figured homegrown black cherry tomatoes were a decent trade-off, with some Durkee sauce on the side and a plastic knife to scoop it out with and a note explaining that they go together.

It’s one of the great old traditions of summer. My dad tells me he learned about Durkee’s (there should be an ‘s there. There really should) from Richard’s great uncle (probably before we were even born, right, Dad?)

Three times I saw someone bending over my bowl and wondering out loud, without reaching in, Are those tomatoes?

I did not go on and on about their having been picked in the early morning for peak sweetness, yadda yadda; I just said, Yes, and homegrown, too!

A few got eaten. The Durkee was left untouched. Leaving me wondering, is that combination just an East Coast thing? Don’t these people know how good this is? I couldn’t find it in any stores here and had to order a six-pack online, so hey, I had plenty to share if they’d let me.

Okay, searching for it to offer you all a link, I got this:

“FAMOUS SAUCE
This popular tangy sandwich spread has been around for over 100 years! It was even served in the Lincoln White House!”

With a picture of the bottle.

But when I searched for info on that actual item on the manufacturer’s website, it seems that after hanging in there since the mid-1800s, it… Is on the list of all their products but isn’t under Sauces and it isn’t filed under F. Wait, don’t tell me they’re not making it now!

Looking a little harder, I found this on food.com, along with a recipe for faking it:

“Eugene R. Durkee created the first prepared and packaged salad dressing called Durkee Famous Sauce in 1857. To appreciate his endeavor, it is important to remember this was created prior to refrigeration. His creation was carried west by the pioneers. Historians have found old, discarded Durkee dressing bottles along covered-wagon trails. Durkee Famous Sauce was even purported to be stocked in Mary Todd Lincoln’s pantry and served to Abraham Lincoln in the White House during the Civil War.”

The real stuff, as currently constituted (i.e. with soybean oil) is still on Amazon after all. Phew.



Bubble wrapping
Friday September 16th 2016, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

Reading that book yesterday got me looking again…

It seems to be a new product, as far as I can tell. But it’s designed by actual gardeners for actual gardeners by a company that does actual customer service.

Meaning today I finally found what looks like it would be a great greenhouse for my Alphonso mango tree, The Sunbubble. The unusual shape is perfect.

The smaller version would be plenty for now. The bigger one would be more of a challenge to heat but the tree would have longer to grow into the space before having to be kept to that size, and it makes more sense to just buy the one and be done.

As long as we don’t go out of town when it’s cold I can keep on doing my two layers of frost covers every night over the Christmas lights thing. The idea of a greenhouse would be to be able to leave the tree on its own for more than a single daytime. I once left it for five days with a single frost cover over it because it (hopefully) wasn’t going to hit freezing–and even with the claim of 85% light transmission with just the one on, the leaf color took a major hit for a month.

Being able to pop that big thing right over its head, stake it down, and be done once and for all is highly appealing regardless.

I sent them a question re heating issues… To be continued.



Green with, well, something, anyway
Thursday September 15th 2016, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Garden

I got quite wrapped up in a new book that came today, “Grow Fruit Naturally,” by Lee Reich, that I ordered in part because it includes a section on mangoes, and let me tell you, there’s not a lot of information out there on how to take care of a mango tree. It even mentions Alphonsos. Especially given that mine flowered in February when it was a few months old last year, which was a warmer season, and didn’t at all during this chilly spring, that 55F+ for fruit set was worth the price of the book.

I have a large Gardman Fruit Cage I can set up over it; I just wish I knew how to find that size of greenhouse-type material to fit over it instead of/in addition to its birdnetting.

Seaberry and Medlar fruits, if you’ve never heard of them that’s okay, they’re new to me, too.

And now I finally know that that weird little fruit in my neighbor’s yard is a pineapple guava.

Who knew that some kinds of citrus turn color as they ripen–and then under certain conditions turn green again? (And why did the author leave me dangling with that little bit of information without an explanation for the how and why of it?)

I loved his take on the best way to grow plums without a lot of pest or disease problems. Half joking half not: “Move to California or the Mediterranean.”

Well then.



Other people’s details
Wednesday September 14th 2016, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Life

Some worrying, some celebrating, some gladness that a city with college kids in it has a night life when you want everybody to share a treat downtown at 9:00 pm on a weeknight because that’s when it works to be able to go out for it.

A whole lot of life packed into one day.



Teach them with the good stuff
Tuesday September 13th 2016, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Knit

“A friend is getting into knitting,” my son texted. “Got any surplus fluff you wouldn’t mind passing along?”

Fluff being kid code around here for yarn, roving, raw fibers, the works. So I asked what colors they wear.

“Darker colors normally? Never seen him wear anything in a light shade, thinking about it.”

Yeah I was a little surprised and shouldn’t have been, but mostly I was just delighted, knowing just how much fun and even joy that person could be bringing into his life and others’ in the years to come; sure, I’d be glad to enable that a bit, here, just let me stash dive here a moment (don’t think he’d want that laceweight silk…)

Meantime: I read a week or two ago someone’s story of his squash climbing out of his raised bed, the plant within that bed dying, but where it had grown out to it had rooted to the ground and was still merrily producing new squashes. He wrote it to tell people who like to grow on trellises what they might be missing out on, but for me, it was a hey, you, water that new area that the plant had sprawled to, chasing the sun as it edged away from summertime.

So I started to.

And suddenly, after not producing a single new squash since July, there was a new one, and two days after that another new one and maybe they’ll even have time to mature before a frost (especially since they’re near the mango tree.)

And I found this description of parthenocarpy and maybe it explains how that second one has that huge flower still going while the new squash is already that big: as a seedless decoy, which would take less energy out of the plant to produce, to keep feeding the critters it needs to disperse its seeds while luring them away from some of the seeded squash so the plant has some chance of actually being reproduced next year.

We’ll see when we eventually cut into the thing.

Alright. So. Stash. Time to get to it more than that first quick glancing-over. There’s a definite dearth of manly superwash worsted around here, hmm.



Needs some new blue bulbs
Monday September 12th 2016, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

(Almost finished this hat project, putting it into its ziplock for the night.)

It’s probably a little early, but it was chilly this evening, and I figured if I needed a jacket, it needed a little something, too. And so I officially inaugurated the fall season by plugging in the newly reinstalled Christmas lights on the mango tree. Our own little constellation shining in the night.



I think we should name them Caspar
Sunday September 11th 2016, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Life

The friendly ghosts.

Albino redwoods, pictures here. (Wikipedia)

The why of them, and another picture, here. (San Jose Mercury News) The white needles concentrate heavy metals and leach them away from the host tree, keeping it healthy even while living off its nutrients, given that they themselves are unable to photosynthesize.

Livers for the trees, it says. Who knew.



Sheep and tar and fish oil
Saturday September 10th 2016, 10:26 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

Finished a quick little project from the cobweb cashmere and silk that I 9-plied on my wheel recently to a fairly thick yarn. The splittiness was a pain but it was worth every minute now, now that it’s warm and so soft and pretty and–this is important–done. (Note to self: US 7 needles.)

Interesting stuff, meantime: an art-quilt wallhanging made for a museum exhibit in Australia pieced from handknit swatches and bits. I particularly like the digitalis flowers. So graceful.

And for those who haven’t seen this article yet, a bit of Viking history, starting with a 600-year-old reused sail found insulating an old church in Norway.

And so we know they were woven not of linen but of wool, shrunken and fuzzed out to a solid surface that was then coated against the water.  They would have needed 700 sheep per sail, and their entire fleet, two million animals. There is speculating that the Vikings set forth in search not of treasure of gold so much but of pastures for their flocks.

There are lines like this one: “Not long ago, researchers found that laundering synthetic fleece floods aquatic ecosystems with tiny plastic microfibers, which made wool look even better in comparison.”

I’d never heard that before. I imagine it’s surely better if you stay away from the fluffier types that tend to shed a bit? But all the more reason to buy wool to keep warm in.

Which you will need while reading a description of sailing in a replica Viking ship in those icy waters. Enjoy.