Still learning
Friday February 12th 2016, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Went out this morning armed with cinnamon sticks and out again this evening to check again.

No new gopher holes either time. No new signs.

But something did, over the course of the day, munch most of the petals off the two peaches that had started blooming. Because, y’know, Nature vs. nurture.

Do the dosey do
Thursday February 11th 2016, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

Two new gopher holes by the Indian Free peach tree, which is along the same fence line but at the far end of it from the first attack. I can’t lose that one, I just can’t. But my Comice pear, whose trunk is now ringed by lots of little cinnamon sticks,  seems to be being left alone now.

So the peach got a bunch, too.

I just ordered two more pounds from the cassia type, cheaper and more pungent and exactly what I want. I imagine I’ll have to re-dose after next week’s rain.

And I finally at long last did something I’d been thinking about trying–seeing if swapping out the white bulbs on the warming Christmas lights on the mango would make the night less bright. The answer is, and how!

I didn’t have enough opaque incandescent blue bulbs in the right C9 size to raid from various old strings so I had to finish off with green ones. But oh does it make a difference.

I heard something out there when I went to snap this picture that puzzled me. It stopped when I approached the tree. It started up again when I was almost inside. Walked back towards the tree, and it stopped, but I don’t think it was even in my yard: a rhythmic sound that I finally figured out would be if a critter was trying to dig under, say, a wood plank that was hitting another wood plank. It seemed to come from the other side of the fence.

Skunks eat mice and rats. So that means they’d eat gophers too, right? I hope?

I left the gate open so it wouldn’t have any trouble getting over there. That done, I’m definitely not going back out there in the dark, not tonight.

Round two
Wednesday February 10th 2016, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

More gopher holes yesterday. A lot more, same area but further out from the pear tree, none of them very big of an opening.

Alright then: I found the Costco bottle of cinnamon sticks and stuck one into the opening to each hole (should have thought of that sooner.) Each almost entirely filled the space. Then where the edge of the house comes closest to the fence I drew a line of ground cinnamon straight across to make a scent fence. The little underground beavers have to come up to sniff the air sometime.

Today I found that no stick had been touched. There were just a couple new holes, placed as if the gopher had been trying to avoid what I’d done. I stuck cinnamon sticks in them, too, again half in the ground, half out, little flags all around marking my territory. It was welcome to go right back where it came from–out of here!

Meantime, my plum tree, my Santa Rosa plum my kids planted me as a surprise Mother’s Day gift about eight years ago–the last two years it looked increasingly unwell and I thought for sure last summer we were losing it. Of what I don’t know and I could only Google, but when I described it to a friend who has the same variety she said her tree was like that now, too.

I treated it like a peach, giving it an organic-label-friendly dormant copper-spray treatment a month ago, at least on the main part of the trunk and some of the branches before I ran out, trying to do something.

Yesterday it showed only gray trunk and limbs and I was still wondering if that’s all it would ever be again.

Today it had small bursts of green everywhere, some single, some in clusters. All. Over. It felt very, very good.

And I have more cinnamon sticks for this end of the yard, too, if I need them.

Food for thought
Tuesday February 09th 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

It was almost time to go pick up Richard when I felt like walking around the yard while there was still some light out, just to enjoy.

Our lemon tree is having the biggest and juiciest crop it’s had in years (thank you, rain!) and I found myself reaching in past a few thorns for a larger, deeper-colored one. The bit of tangerine in the tree’s parentage deepens the flavor the longer they ripen.

Coming back inside, I meant to put it down in the kitchen but somehow I walked on past and it stayed in my hand.

I was almost to the door. I stopped a moment, looked at the thing, and wondered if today somehow I was supposed to gift someone with, of all things, a lemon. A fresh-picked lemon, but still, it wasn’t much, it certainly wasn’t a hand knit, but hey, they’re fun and they smell wonderful and so out the door we go, sure, I’m curious to see if anything comes of this, but whatever.

I tucked it in a cupholder next to the driver’s side.

Richard didn’t get my text that I’d arrived and so I ended up waiting ten minutes before finally calling and going, yo….

And during that time one of his co-workers on his way to his car walked past where I’d parked and waved hi.

I turned the car back on a moment so I could roll the window down and asked how his day had gone.

Oh! He threw up his hands and laughed with a wince. Busy! SO busy! But he looked like he really didn’t want to be asked any questions about details, so okay, and I found myself reaching for that silly lemon. I described having just picked it and on a whim having brought it with me; would he like it?

That was the–comic relief isn’t the word–the break from it all, something so unexpected, and he said, “Sure!” in delight. He turned it over in his hands a moment, taking it in, and asked, “A Meyer?”

“A Meyer lemon, yes.”

He told me they’d had a tree, but, in embarrassment, “I killed it.” I told him that in that big week-long freeze we had about 15 years ago we thought ours was gone, too, but it had slowly come back and now it’s fine.

I don’t know what he’ll do with just one lemon, but I saw what that one homegrown lemon in that moment could do for him. It was just the thing.

Tuesday February 09th 2016, 12:00 am
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I walked around the yard this evening, taking in the slow awakening that makes the whole winter thing worth it.

My Tropic Snow peach. As I was trying to get just the right angle with my phone, a hummingbird dashed right in front of me and dove into the flower at the top branch back there, laughing and dancing away when I got over my startle and tried to get it into the next shot.

The August Pride peach was all small green buds yesterday.

And way over here… ohmygoodness, clear signs of a gopher attack (am I right?) on the pear tree’s roots with quite a scoop of ground dug out near the trunk on one side and some gone from the other side, too. I dumped a load of moist topsoil on top, tamped it down again and again with my shoe, knowing the animal had to have retreated far into its burrow at my coming, and then I put a lot of cinnamon over the top. I know squirrels hate the smell and gophers are rodents too so that should help, right?

I have a few gopher plants standing guard halfway across the yard from there, volunteers and strays of last year, but they’re biennials so I don’t have any seeds yet to spread the love to where I need it–now those would be roots those critters would avoid. I was planning on doing so for my cherry trees at the far end of the yard because they’re prime targets. I didn’t know pear trees were. Maybe the thing just went for what it could reach first after digging under the fence. Maybe it dug under the fence to get away after the neighbors cut a tree down.

Looks like I’m going to have to go find me some more gopher plants somewhere, quick. 

Superb Owl 50
Sunday February 07th 2016, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit,Life

I made a quick trip to the grocery store Saturday night. Oh my.

Only later did it hit me that that Trader Joe’s was in walking distance of a train station, that riders can transfer to the light rail that goes straight to Levi’s Stadium and that maybe that figured in…

Finger foods, desserts, hors d’ouvres, any kind of party food, things especially that didn’t need to be cooked–whole shelves and freezer spaces were picked utterly clean. It was amazing.

One woman with a very full cart told me she’d had to venture out into the crowds and traffic and she was making sure she wouldn’t have to again for awhile.

The police sent out a message today telling us not to go on the expressway and that it was closed past X for security reasons and really, you might just want to stay as far the heck away as you could, y’know?

Stitches West is at the Santa Clara Convention Center the second weekend from now and having missed it last year for the flu, I cannot WAIT to finally go again.

The Levi’s Stadium was built a few years ago just down the street (over the Convention Center’s objections) and the biggest parking lot serves both.

So, um, they don’t need to use that stadium for awhile now that football’s over, right?

There be dragons
Sunday February 07th 2016, 12:01 am
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Mango tree

She’s recovering from surgery after breaking a hip but you can’t keep a good woman down–she was going to be ninety and by golly we were going to have a celebration. I think she told the doctor he had to okay it and well, hey, how could he not, then?

So celebrate we did. Ninety and a day. It was quite the party. Old friends came from Oregon for it, her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren came in from everywhere all over. The grandkids blew up balloons one by one to create this dragon that stretched far around overhead while the little greats gleefully popped as many as they could get their hands on. Hey, guys! (as one of the young parents told me afterwards.) Not all of them!

Balloons and tape (and a little hanging wire) can become this?! Creativity is a magical thing.

One of the grandchildren told me, I know your daughter! She was in grad school in Ann Arbor when we were!

And in the slide show there was a photo of Jean and her husband with Conway and Elaine that got me right there. It took me by surprise how fiercely I missed those three, mixed with my gratitude that we still have Jean.

I asked one of her sons if he remembered them and he said why yes of course. I told him their granddaughter had grown up and gone off to college and met and married my son and they had three children now.

That just made his day. Small world.

Jean grew up in Hawaii and misses the fresh-picked mangoes of her youth; she’s an avid gardener and has tried several times to grow them here but always lost the trees to the cold. She’s content now to cheer me on and I love that it matters to her how mine does.

I just figure she can’t go anywhere till I’ve finally had a chance to offer her one.

Okay, honeybees, your turn
Friday February 05th 2016, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Garden

The first peach tree officially pronounces it Spring.


Another knitter to knit with means more gets knit
Wednesday February 03rd 2016, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

You know how to get a lagging project almost finished? Have Holly come over. That black yarn in my purse didn’t stand a chance.

I can’t begin to tell you how delighted I am that she’s finally moved back not only to the States but to the Bay Area, even if at the other end of it from me–it’s doable. As proven.

And so we spent the afternoon here knitting and catching up on each other and baking lunch (because we could!) and having a grand time. I sent her off with lemons we picked together from the tree and she sent me off with a cone of baby alpaca from South America. Hardly a fair trade. But great fun.

How a major corporation kills its business by trying to avoid costs
Tuesday February 02nd 2016, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

So there it is

.  Thank you Davies Appliance. We made lemon sponge cake to try it out: even and perfect. But they have to come back tomorrow to rewire the circuit breaker so that cleaning both ovens at once (not that we intend to do that) doesn’t cause problems. They also had to cut the lower cabinet drawer to fit it in and–it didn’t come cheap but they do it right.

The installer looked at the dishwasher a moment for us and said whoever had brought it had bashed in the top, which had sprung back, but it was why we’d never been able to pull out the third rack at the top. It wasn’t that we’d been doing anything wrong.

I knew exactly where the sales receipt for it should be (and the one for the oven now is). It wasn’t there. Well no real problem, I went online to my account–where Sears had no record whatsoever that we’d bought that dishwasher from them. Huh. I knew they didn’t do extended warranties, but making it so they don’t have to be hassled over the original manufacturer’s one either? That’s pretty…broken, however it happened. I tried their chat. Nope, no record. He recommended calling the store.

We only have two months left on that warranty. The guy at the store on the phone told me that for him to mail me a new copy meant its having to go through headquarters and there was no knowing how long it would take. He said that part again for emphasis–the implication being, they’ll string it out till your warranty’s over. It doesn’t matter to them.

There was nothing for it but to go there, twenty-one miles each way across Bay Area traffic, for a new copy of the receipt in person. Which he was glad to give me. They’ve got a good guy working there who does right by his customers.

It wasn’t till I got home that I found that nowhere on those two pages that printed out does it say the actual word SEARS. Wow. If I have to drive back down there again to get an amended copy, I do, but, hopefully this will do. But wow. I will never, ever buy a major appliance from them again. Which is a shame, because the people who work the floors that I’ve encountered have all been people whose jobs I want to support.

Glad I bought the oven from the local family-owned-since-1935 company.

(Afterthought: the sales person who said Sears charges $100 less if you order online rather than in the store? Can you just imagine if I’d done that?)

We’ll see tomorrow
Tuesday February 02nd 2016, 12:15 am
Filed under: Life,Politics

I’ve never watched the Iowa caucus results like this before. It’s past two am their time and they’re still counting!

Clinton, Bernie, O’Malley: 695, 693, and 8 SDEs, ie State Delegate Equivalents, and yes, I had to go look up how the caucuses are done in the two parties in Iowa and it is a strange system and also one that denies any sense of privacy in one’s voting.

Clinton hits 696… Wait, Sanders is at 692 now? Did it go down? Can it go down? Did I see it wrong a moment there or did it really do that? Huh.

Meantime, the phone rang this evening. The oven comes tomorrow morning.

A ghost of wind
Sunday January 31st 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

That was centered when I put that on there… You can tell where the stakes are high.

Quite the windstorm tonight. Cold, too, so the Christmas lights are on and the frost cover is over the mango tree. (A few nights ago it was warm enough that the lights didn’t trigger on till the dead of night.)

That white plant tent put on quite a show, although it’s mostly settled down now; I had to find big rocks to hold it in place, the wind was pushing the usual ones around as if they were barely there.

And then I sat in the warmth inside, grateful for a working furnace and watching it letting its freak flag fly.

Done and almost done
Saturday January 30th 2016, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

It’s strange walking through a grocery store thinking oh wait no not that no oven, oh wait not that…

I froze a half a pan’s worth of leftover berry crisp before going out of town a few weeks ago and it is silly and funny how important that crisp feels now: we will have it tomorrow morning for a special treat. I make crisp all the time, only, I can’t. So yeah. Treat. It’s like we’re hardwired to want right now what we have to wait for even if we wouldn’t have thought of it otherwise.

I called a number of companies yesterday, trying to find one, anyone, that had a Bosch double oven in stock, preferably an 800 series. The 27″ size I needed would have been nice but I gave up hope of that pretty quickly–30″ is the standard. The woman at a Sears store checked her computer to see if any of the other Sears in the entire San Francisco Bay area might have a floor model in either size, since they sell them. I got nowhere.

But I did get the curious bit of information from her that if I ordered online the company would charge me a hundred dollars less than if I went to the store to do so. And I thought, are they *trying* to kill off their physical stores? Wow. At that I wanted to go in to order from her personally in thanks for her considerable time she spent on the phone with me but I really did want to see what I was buying first.

After all, we went oven shopping a couple of years ago just to see what our options were if we were to get rid of the too-random-temp one with the broken lower oven. (The unit that just blew up.) There was one brand where the back of the handle on the door had sharp exposed upper and lower metal edges the length of it that you could easily cut your fingers on, and I did: the handle looked pretty in front but the manufacturer had skimped so that the metal wrapped around but didn’t actually meet much less get seamed at the back. I cannot begin to imagine how they thought that was okay. Maybe they assumed people would order online and then simply be stuck with it?

Bosch is a good brand. But I still wanted to see one first. Trust but verify.

I finally tried searching for ‘major appliances, (specifically) my town,’ and that brought up Davies Appliances in Redwood City.

I was intrigued. I’d forgotten about them. My contractor took me to their store when we were remodeling over twenty years ago–good to see the little guys still succeeding out there.

The thing you saw first walking in their door was a Bosch 800 series 30″ double oven. And it was beautiful.

They offered us a good price, they offered us a contractor whom they said knew their stuff on the installation–that this was all they did, and they would make it look like it was the oven the kitchen had been remodeled with in terms of fitting into the existing cut-out. Shipping was free. We wanted an extended warranty? Three years or five? Five? Sure.

Sears had offered none. That had been the deal breaker. Our then top-of-the-line Thermador double oven blew through an $800+labor motherboard in three years and the second one a few years after that and you bet I wanted to spend a few hundred not to have that problem again any time soon.

The amazing thing? None of this three-week-wait stuff. It will be picked up from the distributor Monday and they will call before they come. Which might not be Monday–but it might.

Timothy started all this
Friday January 29th 2016, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Been too long since I’d had the perfect chocolate, so I met up with my daughter today at Timothy Adams for a mug’s worth and a truffle or two and for some catch-up time with her.

We saw Timothy starting to stir a pot of something after we arrived, and turns out it was a dairy-free praline mixture so my allergic kid could eat it. He poured it onto some toasted nuts and put a big piece in front of her as we sat. Just because he could.

The mug felt like enough for me right then but I’d had the kid at the counter put two–eh, make it four truffles–into a take-out bag. You can’t have Richard totally missing out, now, can you?

Michelle had parked right nearby but I’d had to circle around and settle for a spot near the far end of a long narrow alley that stretched to the block the shop is on. There was a tall, blind-looking building right up against the asphalt on one side and a series of smaller buildings on the other, including one that looks like the house straight out of the movie UP; in front of it, the alley opened up a bit as if to try to leave it a tiny paved front yard.

And so. On my way back, there was a large FedEx truck halfway down the alley and five or six men beyond, standing near where my car was just out of sight. The truck started backing up at about that point, so at least I wasn’t going to have to dodge it squeezing by. Not a whole lot of room.

There are times when one can become acutely aware of how it looks to be gray haired and walking with a cane. I fought the sudden feeling of vulnerability with the only thing I had: I offered up a silent prayer for everybody in that alleyway whoever they might be.

There were more of them than I knew: two more men were tucked up against the back of the building next to the UP house–and (take a few more steps) one had a mail cart. Okay.

And near them was a woman. She was standing holding a cart holding, one might easily guess, all her worldly belongings, with them as disheveled as she was. Her face had been exposed to the sun for a very long time and her eyes didn’t see things quite the way I would.

I found myself pulling that bright pink and white striped cheery paper bag out of my purse and asking her, Would you like one? It’s from the Timothy Adams shop around the corner there, as I handed her the dark plain truffle, thinking, Keep it simple. Just chocolate.

She let me give it to her; the men behind her were watching, smiling.

A few more steps, and the FedEx driver was a young man calling out to me. His window was rolled down, his elbow resting on the truck door, and he asked me in delight, Was that chocolate?

Yes it was, I grinned.

Can I have some? he teased, with zero expectation.

Sure! Ginger okay?

His surprised oh wow reaction meant that I’d made the right choice on that one–that he was the kind of person who would turn around and do something for someone else in response and pass it along.

Meanie that I am, I saved the date caramel marzipan for me. It lasted about three hours. I was going to wait till my sweetie got home but, y’know, chocolate-covered date caramel marzipan! Sorry, Richard–I’d have handed the guy the hazelnut praline if that’s the one that had come to hand but it wasn’t.

Not that Richard minded.

Thursday January 28th 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: History,Non-Knitting,Wildlife

1. Something serious: an article on how the whole Bundy standoff thing has been affecting the fish populations at Malheur Refuge.

2. Something not serious, except that it is in that it’s trying to address a common source of landfilling: a thanks to LynnH for pointing out a (fun!) reusable replacement for the ubiquitous to-go coffee cup. Design your own colorways.

3. Something really not serious: I guess the thoroughly-overripe, starting-to-rot grapes I’d tossed in that tall plastic garden waste bin outside the kitchen smelled really good because when I got up later to see what on earth that noise was, there was a squirrel straddling the edge of the screen door and squeezed in against the glass slider while holding tight to either side of the metal mesh as it carefully climbed, clinging and releasing step by unsure step. That screen was the only thing it could get its claws into to try to reach into that utopia that its nose just knew was right there waiting to be claimed. It owned this! (Never mind that the lid was shut. He’d figure that part out later.)

It took the little animal a panicked moment to figure out how to disengage and flee from it and me.

Actually, the Bundys and that squirrel have a lot in common.