Wednesday November 26th 2014, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life,Wildlife

Should have thought of this years ago.

Weird light reflections. A (very faint) smell Nature never made. The edges randomly flying up when a bird flutters down nearby and probably making a squeaky sound when they do.

Nothing has dared yet actually step on the stuff but I’ve seen some grand leaps sideways in avoidance.

We had been having so many squirrels of late.

Bubble wrap. That’s all it took. Just for a little while, while they re-learn some manners. I popped a bubble or two going by but resisted the impulse to squish them all–gotta leave some to do their job.

Maybe the peach clamshells next Spring could use an outer liner against raccoon prying–Christmas packages will be coming soon and let’s hope for no packing peanuts this year, I have other plans.

Meantime, we staked out the Page orange tonight and made it ready for a tarp come hint of frost. The weatherman says our nights are still eighteen degrees warmer than the norm but the fuzz and the fat on the squirrels and the layers of sweaters on me say that no, it really is getting chilly out there.

May tomorrow be warm with laughter and good folks and good times shared. Travel safely. Happy Thanksgiving!

Granny almost-Smiths
Tuesday November 25th 2014, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

If you have room for a pot, you have room for one of these new-variety trees, although you’re going to need two for pollination if there aren’t any other apple trees around–but aren’t those cool? Eighteen to twenty-four inches across fully grown, eight to ten feet tall.

Our next-door neighbor’s Gravenstein, a locally-famous old variety, died some time ago and she was lamenting to me the other day that she misses it still.

Between our properties there was once a towering but dying pine tree  just over on her side. We had been concerned it would fall and the direction it was most likely to fall was on our house. Taking it out, though–one guy knocked on my door wanting seven grand for the job. Gack.

Then came the time in ’03 when I was in the hospital trying not to die of my Crohn’s disease the first time. Our neighbor’s response when she found out was to want to do something: so she picked up the phone and got that monster tree cut down.

We like having that part of the front yard opened up. And yet… It’s been long enough that the pine roots are pretty much one with the soil now.

Twenty-four inches and straight-up growth. It won’t block our way, it won’t block her gate and outgrowing its space will never be an issue. We can put it just to our side of the property line and still have plenty of room, and Stark Bros tells me that my other apples on the far side of the property will be all it needs to produce.

These won’t be Gravensteins but they will be tart ones; I went for the Tangy Greens to keep the critters disinterested. I have friends in the area with a Granny Smith that their squirrels leave alone.

The tree ships out Monday and with Fall planting they say the roots may well make enough headway for it to start producing the first year.

We’ve already told her they are hers for the picking. Anytime.

And then I told her why.

From see to shining see
Monday November 24th 2014, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

I’m tempted to talk about how stupid the cuts to the National Institutes of Health’s funding are, but let’s just go straight to the point (even if the research relevant to this post was paid for pre-sequester.)

So: there’s a drug long approved for treating HIV that they knew had interesting characteristics, they just didn’t know what all else it might be applicable to.

And now they know at least one new thing.

Thirty million Americans. That’s how many they expect to have dry macular degeneration within the next five years, thirty million people going slowly blind and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Till now. AZT and its newer, easier forms can be used off-label right now and they hope for testing to begin soon for this to become an approved use.  Ebola may turn out to be another and if so, they want to know. And they don’t have to spend hundreds of millions to find out safe dosage levels, whether humans can tolerate it at all, etc, etc., since that’s all been done long since.

AZT was first tested not for AIDS but as a proposed cancer treatment, which it failed at. When you do medical research you never learn just the thing you set out to learn. There’s always more to see.

(Like this, for instance. I mean, who would want to miss out on that little moment?)

Buttoned down
Sunday November 23rd 2014, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So here I was in the last meeting at church today, where we were sharing experiences of moments in our lives where we felt the nearness of God and how His love makes all the difference–and how we had been able or had come to be able to recognize that in relation to the experience being discussed, because we don’t always. Sometimes you have to wait for time and perspective to give you that ah-hah.

And sometimes it’s pretty darn obvious right then and there. There were some profound experiences shared.

This was not one of them: while all this was going on, I looked down and suddenly noticed the button had popped off my blouse right at belly button level. Somewhere, some time, presumably at church. Great. I was wearing a silk T underneath so modesty wasn’t the issue here, just, the loose overblouse was also silk and the two being quite slippery against each other, that gap showed nicely any time I moved.

I wanted my silly button back.

And I wanted this not to have happened the very first time I wore that pretty blouse–knowing, though, that for $12 at clearance I really didn’t have too much room to complain. (But I’d *liked* those buttons on that blouse!)

It finally dawned on me that I was sitting here listening to a discussion on how God cares about us individually while I was letting myself be distracted by a small inner crisis of certainly no particular account. I apologized to the Above for not paying enough attention while saying a little prayer of, if it’s findable, if it’s in this building, if I could get it back? That would really really be nice right now.

I had already lifted my purse and looked under it three times. I had already glanced all around me, trying not to be distracting to others. But at the inner “amen” I looked down again and there it was right there right between Alice’s feet right next to me. No need to worry about vacuum cleaners later.

I dived down quickly and held up my prize in triumph for a nanosecond, way too pleased.

Nobody else had any idea, of course.

Object lesson to the lesson, I laughed with Alice afterwards. Human cluelessness, divine caring…

…And a cosmic chuckle: Go my child and sew-’n’em more.

Winter coat
Saturday November 22nd 2014, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Other food sources must be low this time of year because this past week or so I’ve suddenly had a ton of squirrels arriving here. Usually there’s just one or two or none, but these were all over the place (six, seven, eight, okay, who else out there? Get out of my tomatoes!) being both destructive (do not dig up my baby trees’ roots and you. will. not. come close enough to chew on my house) and getting into fights. Remembering the time one bit off part of another’s ear, I knew how violently territorial they can get–but for the first time I actually saw one work so hard at chasing all those newcomers away that it got slower and slower and finally was too tired to continue.

All for those nasty hot safflower seeds they don’t even like.

I picked all the cherry tomatoes that were big enough to have any chance of ripening off the vine.

Several times of late, too, I’ve seen one stay right there on the patio under the birdfeeder with Coopernicus just feet away, deliberately ignoring him other than quickly flipping around when he changes places so as to always be facing him: he has always come at squirrels from behind where teeth and claws can’t hurt and a tail can’t thwap in his eyes. I have twice seen him strafe them as if to grab but I have never seen him actually intend to catch one.

And clearly they know how he would hunt them. So a few have been brazen enough to dare him to try. They’d be heavy for him to try to lift and away with.

Remember, though, that female Cooper’s hawks are about a third larger than the males and that we now have a mated pair.

I have no way to know which it was.

I guess Wednesday’s rat tasted good.

I guess someone wanted a bigger helping.

This morning I woke up to soft tufts of fur right outside the door that I don’t let the squirrels get close to: black, a bit of gray, one bit of white–belly fur. Having gone there, it had had no room to escape.

It took about an hour before it even occurred to me to override the no’s from all the childhood parental rules about touching wild things much less from dead wild things and to tell myself, Listen: you’re a fiber artist. You’ve wanted for years to stroke their fur and see if it’s actually soft and now you not only can, you can spin it!

There’s about enough to make a shawl for a squirrel. A small squirrel.

And it is very, very, soft. I finally know.

(And then after gathering it into a jar I washed my hands thoroughly, twice. My Mom and Dad read this blog. Just sayin’.)

Friday November 21st 2014, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Wildlife

Coopernicus swooped in around lunchtime, perched on the lawn mower handle and communed with me a few minutes and allowed me to admire him up close.

Right when I needed it in my day and right on cue. Time to put down the stupid health insurance company why-are-they-charging-us-out-of-network and just go be one with nature for a moment.

Needed that…

Four o’clock good?

Yes, sure, c’mon by.

And so, curious, I weighed today’s two bags of persimmons. Forty-five pounds? I’d guessed I’d picked and given away about a hundred pounds so far but it looks like it must have been double that.

A crow somewhere unseen was scolding me for that taking as I worked, and I threw a few that had been chowed down on already in an outside bin–and so it begins. The fewer the fruit left, the less danger by mobbing gangs of ravens and their smaller cousins to my hawks later, but man, there was a lot of fruit left. I extended the pole the full twelve feet for the first time (though that does make it harder to avoid snagging leaves) and could have filled many more bags, but it was time to go get Richard.

Still. That’s a whole lot of fruit that won’t rot in their yard, that the crows won’t squawk over, and that will and is being eaten by people.

And that doctor who told me to work on my upper body strength? I am so on it.

Beaded, (sing it), beaded…
Friday November 21st 2014, 12:06 am
Filed under: Friends

I got to see Janice tonight at Purlescence. She was doing a trunk show of her Beadlemania work.

We joked about the tomato seedlings she’d given me back in April and I surprised her by saying I’d picked tomatoes just yesterday–she’d pulled her spent plants already but some of mine from her starts are still blooming, even.

The raccoons had at long last clawed their way in past the birdnetting two nights ago but it hadn’t been worth the effort and they’d left the tomatoes behind. Too green.

So I’d brought them in to ripen in here, I mean, it’s not like you’re going to get the summer sweet from the heat the week before Thanksgiving anyway.

Meantime, Krista had just finished a lace shawl Janice had designed so that Janice could get to see it done and appreciated. And there was a matching teal-green kumihimo necklace and bracelet made by Janice! Krista beat me to them, as she well deserved. And wow did she look great in those.

Now, I’m someone who usually admires jewelry on other people and that’s all I need. But I not only loved Janice’s work, I loved who made them. And let me tell you–Krista made a great model.

That red strand? My Iphone insists on auto-correcting all the sparkle out. I wish I could show it to you in person.

Necklace by Janice. Handknit dishcloth by RobinM. Hot cocoa addition by me. (Oops, and that’s why it comes in handy.) A Second Treasury of Knitting Stitches treasury by Barbara Walker below their work.

Wednesday November 19th 2014, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

A plea: please don’t put out rat poisons where the rodents will get eaten by raptors, who are still  coming off near-extinction from the DDT era. Thanks.

Hope this one was organic. As I typed this afternoon…

Wow! I was on the phone with my dad, watching squirrels ambling in no particular hurry down the fencelines, one near in, two off to the right and out of sight past the cherry tree. (The side of the house cuts off my view from there.)

Then suddenly a rat–a big, fat, round-looking (pregnant or winter-fluffed?) roof rat, endemic around here and they do like to be in high places–appeared on the neighbor’s higher fence to the left, jumped down to mine, and was starting off in the direction yonder bushytails had just declared as safe.

In the daytime? Man those things are brazen.

BAM there was the Cooper’s hawk right on it! Instantly from right where the oblivious squirrels had gone. Must have been in my camphor. The rat jumped back up to the neighbor’s fence as big wings flapped right over it or maybe it was simply Coopernicus pulling up at that intersection but then he wheeled and there he was on the ground in front of my baby Page tree as if to show me, Here, lady, I got it for you. Holding it tight and standing upright to keep away from any teeth or claws, wings mantling fully out to the sides to hide his success from any potential mobbing crows overhead.

I said to Dad again, WOW! as the hawk kept direct eye contact with me his whole time on the ground, his prey succumbing between his talons, watching me tell my father what I’d just seen. I was mentally thanking my parents yet again for teaching their children to appreciate and watch the birds.

Roof rats, though, are prolific non-native pests that decimate bird species here on top of the damage they do to houses and gardens.

“Glad to help you out there, lady, anytime, just, one meal at a time is all,” I laughed telling my neighbor later as she invited him to take them all, help yourself, don’t hold back!

Having shown me he got that one, he was off and away to where the cover from the still-leafy trees would help him keep his meal to himself.

Tuesday November 18th 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Instead of a fruit picker and paper bags in hand, for today it was a chocolate torte with the ringing of their doorbell. Food for food.

She and I both had way too much fun.

It’s what I can do
Monday November 17th 2014, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

There was this sudden moment today when I knew I needed to knit for a particular person–like, yesterday. Now. Never mind the queue, never mind anything–this had to be done as immediately as I could possibly manage it.

I finished off the hat on the needles that had already been at the decrease-at-the-top stage, found the softest yarn, hoped the color was right and cast on immediately and have been off like the wind.

Knitting to the rescue.

Fuyu once, fame on him
Sunday November 16th 2014, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I followed Jean’s lead and brought persimmons to church and Richard set them over by that same table for me, two grocery bags’ worth. The table itself was covered with a basket from Deanne with a note saying Free Lemons (we weren’t the only ones copying Jean) and a beautiful flower arrangement Wendy had made that included small Fuyu persimmons as accents.

There was a young dad whose mom was visiting the grandkids from out of state. I offered her some from my bags to make sure she wouldn’t miss out, thinking, I mean, how often does she get to have these?

“I’ve never tasted one,” in a tone of wonderment.

Wendy’s husband overheard that and he pulled a Fuyu out of that arrangement and a pocket knife out from nowhere for a little instant gratification. “God’s candy,” as he cut her off a slice and explained that this was the crunchy-like-an-apple type of persimmon.

She quite liked it. She took one or two of my Hachiyas, with him and me both warning her not to eat it until it was very soft. Gushy, even.

Do you eat it like an apple?

Pre-made puree, I told her, as he nodded. Sweeter than that one, nodding at the rest of what was still held out to her in his hand.


We three talked around the subject a bit more, such matters as Hachiyas ripen faster with a banana near them giving off ethylene gas, you can’t really pick them ripe because then they’re just fruit splat, and finally she said, So–I eat it with a spoon?

Yes, that’s perfect! says he as I nod vigorously.

And I said a silent prayer: please don’t let hers split and go bad. Please let her have a good one. And I’m so glad she loved her first bite of the other type.

All the more reason to visit her grandkids come this time of year.

Saturday November 15th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Mugs! (Re yesterday’s post.)

Tonight: the annual fundraiser for the Scouts, with a silent slideshow going  of their week-long stint at Camp Oljato high in the Sierras this past summer.

The boys made and served a spaghetti dinner and ice cream and cookies and, mercifully, there was no program to have to sit through–they went straight to the dessert auction. TwentytwentyfivedoIhearthirty!thirty!thirty!doIhearFORTYFIVEanyoneFIFTY!FIFTY!

And so it went.

Dave was keeping them back a bit and I thought, C’mon, Dave, there are two there.

Now, you don’t want uncooked cream sitting around at room temperature a long time so we had decided to wrap up and freeze the chocolate tortes after I’d made them–but we didn’t have the freezer space. We arranged with one of the scout leaders to store them in his for two days, and the guy’s wife had written the 4×6″ note covering each describing what the item was.

Not my handwriting. Not my description. Dave hadn’t been sure.

Finally he picked one up, lifted its card off and looked across at me, questioning; yes, that’s my chocolate torte, yes, I made those.


And so the bidding began.

Clyde, a former scout leader himself, had told me last Sunday that he was coming to that dinner IF he would get a chance to bid on one of my tortes. He refused again and again and again and again to be outbid. SOLD, to Clyde, for $75!

Wait, there are two? We get a second crack at it? And so, SOLD!, for $85.

That’s half a scholarship to that camp right there. Man, that felt good. I may not be the biggest Boy Scout booster in the world but I know my sons got a lot out of going to that camp and it’s good to pass the experience on to the next.

The super-heavy pure cream I use to make those comes in half gallon amounts only. And so I had just baked and glazed two new tortes this afternoon and gotten them in the fridge when it was time to go.

There’s a family here on a visiting-professor sabbatical that will end next month. You know how some people just instantly make it into your heart? They couldn’t leave without sampling my torte.

And so I pulled them aside when the bidding was over, invited them to drop by our house on their way home, and when they arrived I handed them their own dose of high-octane chocolate, telling them that it had been my signature dessert at church dinners for about twenty-five years and they couldn’t leave without having some.

It was also my way of saying, y’all come back now, y’hear?

Table to table
Friday November 14th 2014, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

There’s a Harvest Festival in San Mateo this weekend and Mel and Kris are there. (See Mel in action here.) It’s indoors? Cool! So I drove up there today to see them.

But before I did, I put the two biggest and best looking persimmons in a small bag to take them–wondering, because you never know, people love’em or they hate’em.

And then I put a third one in.

One of their sons was with them–well, that worked!

I handed the bag to Mel, who handed it to Kris, who looked in and right back up in a surprised, thrilled grin. She said something about how having moved from California to Oregon, persimmons and pomegranates growing were things they never see anymore.

They had the cutest toddler-sized mugs, and oh goodness, a sweet little light lavender baby one, all of them as perfect as I could possibly have hoped for. They’d had the toddler size before but I’d resisted, thinking I didn’t want to worry about the little ones breaking them; then, seeing my grandsons at my table a few months ago I so wished I had something that rose to the moment. Such a rare and fine thing to have our grandchildren here, we should be celebrating with the best, and now we can. (And lavender, and our granddaughter due in six weeks, and then one to match her brothers’ as she gets older…  I’ll get that mugshot when I’m not quite so tired.)

We chatted awhile, and then I got out of the way.

Oh that totally does it: I found myself stumbling into the Skylake Ranch booth (I didn’t know you guys were here too?) and stocked up on some of their syrup and fruit spread and the like.

“It’s a special, three for twenty.”

“I still want four.”

She grinned.

And then I went back to Mel and Kris with that fourth jar of fruit spread made from the pomegranate trees of the woman I’d just been talking to.

And there you go. Take a little bit of California home with you while I feed my family in Mel and Kris style.

Branching out
Friday November 14th 2014, 12:19 am
Filed under: Garden

I love love love my new toy. Persimmons way up high, perfectly in reach, 5’5″ of me and 12′ of it: put the prongs over the fruit, pull gently, un-extend the thing back down and roll the persimmon gently into the waiting bag.

Actually, it took me a few stabs on some of them to get the prongs on that thing just so around those leaves as I teetered around with that unwieldiness. Still. I love love love that I can reach things and it got easy fast.

And I now know that, unlike down below, there are some way up there where they get more sun that are already tree-ripened and perfect and one of those was the single best persimmon I have ever tasted. (As I wiped my hands on the grass, wished for a towel for my face, and laughed at how undignified Hachiyas are.)

And I also found out that those are an impromptu way to out-redhead Lucille Ball.

Have some more
Wednesday November 12th 2014, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

So there was a bag, not a big one but it had persimmons of course for offering around at my lupus group today. The number of people who might come is always random so I tried to make sure nobody would be left out. And so there were enough.

It was fun to see every single face light up.

And then everybody was being too polite and the things just sat there.

Our allotted time in the hospital conference room was ending so I declared flat-out, I am not taking these home. Meaning, I know you like them but I will hand them out to random passers-by in the hallways and that is a threat.

And just like that they were all spoken for and everybody who wanted some got some. (One person would have loved but could not eat them.)

A young man whose Mom’s baby shower I got invited to when we first moved here (I knew nobody–it was very kind of her friend at church to welcome me in that way) making it real easy for me to remember how old he is knocked on my door this afternoon, and so we helped the neighbors get rid of some more persimmons. He’ll be sharing too.

But it’s not fair to take all the low-hanging ones, and so this evening Richard and I went off to the hardware store and bought an extending-arm fruit picker, one of those useful things that you only have to buy once, and I sent them off a note offering to use that to pick some for them to give away, too. It’s not fair for me to have all the fun.

As I was typing this the oven timer beeped.

I will glaze the chocolate tortes tomorrow and you know where one of them is going.