A mango grower!
Saturday February 28th 2015, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Good intentions, got up, got ready, and felt like okay, that’s it for now, I’m done.

I got talked into going anyway. And so we picked up Michelle and went to our favorite chocolatier downtown. (That car is not sitting in the middle of the chocolates display–it’s a reflection from outside.)

The other two went back over thataway to the left to chat a moment over where you can watch them making wonderful things while I drooped in a corner at the front, waiting. Timothy saw me and immediately sent Michelle over with one of their new pieces, wrapped in foil so that I didn’t have to eat it immediately if I didn’t want to. He caught my eye in happy anticipation and got to see my whole face change–my day had just gotten better on the spot, as he’d hoped. Thank you!

Adams, his partner, talked fruit trees with me briefly between customers: at their old house, they’d had eleven. The one he most had to tell me about, though, that he clearly most missed–was a rare-variety mango tree.

A fellow mango grower! I’d had no idea! I am so glad I went!

The chocolate everything was wonderful but I couldn’t eat it all. Most of my cuppa became a to-go–which is fine, it turns into a light ganache in the fridge and I’ll scoop some into my hot cocoa tomorrow and greatly improve it. I’m looking forward to it.

After dropping Michelle off, heading towards home to let me rest, my sweetie asked me what I most wanted done today.

Well, actually… He’d bought all the parts, and what I most wanted was to get the box set up that will turn the Christmas lights on and off based on temperature without my needing to be there. For the times we know we’re going to get home late but don’t want to cook the tree during the warmth of the day by simply leaving them on. For the times we go out of town. For taking care of my mango while giving me a little more leeway.

(Yeah, you can buy such things, but he does electronics like I do yarn. Create a little. Play.)

He was surprised at how much longer it took to do than he’d expected–he spent most of the rest of the day on it but he did it and it is ready to go. It’s not outside yet because by the time he finished it was 49F and falling fast and I’d already covered and lit the thing for the night. That, and, going back out there in the dark, um, hormonal skunks have been having hissy fits of late and I’ve luckily missed them so far. Barely, once.

Tomorrow, then. “It’s in Celsius, because, y’know. Scientists,” he told me, grinning. (And because converting it was going to take far more programming time than it was worth bothering over.)

While he was making that I was researching automatic watering systems. I want my trees’ health not depending on mine.

Oh and? There was a new cluster of buds today beginning in a new place on that mango. (YAY!!!!!) Not that I’m excited or anything. Oh no not at all.

I’ll have to bring Timothy and Adams one when I can. (Don’t worry, Dani, you’re still first in line.)

In tandem
Friday February 27th 2015, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Knit

The awful and ironic thing after yesterday’s post was finding a very still honeybee with a foot snagged in the mango tree cover today. It was quite cold but I don’t think it was the cold. (Cue McCoy: “He’s dead, Jim.”) I will keep that cover further away come the mornings henceforth from anything flowering.

I’ve been checking the new peach every day for any sign of breaking dormancy and at two weeks after planting, at last this evening there was a bit of green here and swelling pink buds there and there–my apologies that I cannot hold my hands steady enough for the camera to zero in well. One concern had been that the Indian Free produces so late that I was hoping the flowering would still overlap with at least the Babcock, since it’s the only one that needs a pollinator.

Well there you go. Looks like we’re going to do just fine. Whether I let it set fruit so young or not, I love that I didn’t have to wait another year or two to find out.

Meantime, I woke up this morning needing to knit something pretty. I didn’t know what and I didn’t care but I needed to knit and I needed lace and I needed something colorful and pretty and NOW.

The end result is that after looking briefly at some promising yarns, I sat down with the endless slog of dark steel blue in boring 2×2 and made major progress on my brother’s hat, neglected during this flu till now. And I actually got to where I could see the end of the thing coming at me. That feels huge. It is actually rewarding me with progress in exchange for time spent. It did not feel so for so long.

I can’t end without mentioning my sense of loss, like everybody else’s sense of loss, at Leonard Nimoy’s passing. My favorite tribute to him comes from President Obama himself:

“Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.”

As did we all.

If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss Mr. Nimoy’s explanation for the origins of the Vulcan greeting.

Honey on tap
Friday February 27th 2015, 12:04 am
Filed under: Garden

The first two plum blossoms opened today, joining with the tea roses and the blueberry, peach, and mandarin flowers, and it has begun to be heavenly the moment you step outside. I marveled this evening thinking, but it’s not spring yet! But then I walked across the yard taking note of how, yes, actually, it’s beginning to be. California, remember? Apples, cherry, lemon, raspberry, more peaches–there will be far more to come. There is actually a fruit bud on the Comice pear, and they only bear on three- to ten-year-old wood.

The mango bud stalks are noticeably longer than two days ago, and I’m thinking, especially as the side shoots grow, that what I need is a better way to hold the Christmas lights up on that tree; there’s only one side branch to wrap them over and I don’t want the cord to sit at the notches where things are growing from, but for now, they are.

I know I obsess a little over the thing. It’s just, I’ve never seen a mango tree grow before.

Today I saw the indiegogo campaign for the beekeeping setup (great article there) that would require no smoke, no lifting out, no stress on the bees. Just peek in the window, see that it’s ready, open the tap and let the honey slowly fill up your jars and then turn it off. The bees get right to work resealing everything at their end.

We certainly have enough fruit trees to keep a hive busy and happy and there are a lot of urban beekeepers in the area who would surely love one of those. I’m not intending (yet) to become one–but I very much love that this thing has been invented. It’s an idea that will clearly greatly increase the number of people willing to keep bees. And we definitely need those bees.


Edited 24 hours later to mention an important link re the Flow. I had no idea it could mess with the genetic diversity of the hive, but apparently it can. These professional beekeepers had some points to make that definitely bear attention.

Red light green light
Wednesday February 25th 2015, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life

I went to a lecture once years ago by a Stanford professor who, with his grad students, had designed an aid to hearing aids: it was a kind of horseshoe-ish necklace with six microphones set in it, using the wearer’s own chest to help screen out background noise while relaying sounds up to the hearing aids. That which is straight ahead of you you can hear.

He tested it out on a woman with profound hearing loss on a very busy street. They faced each other and he spoke with that tremendous amount of low-pitched background noise going on right there, the very worst for wiping out the highest frequencies where the consonants of speech reside–and she heard every word clearly.

He said that when he told her it was a prototype only and that she had to give it back she burst into tears. She was desperate to own it. I can well imagine.

He then searched for a manufacturer willing to pick up on the idea but last I heard several years after, none had. He was custom-making them one by one at six grand apiece as any request came in.

At the time, six grand just staggered or I’d have asked for one, too, and we certainly debated the idea and the cost and wished. Only, my hearing aids didn’t even have the telephone coil that his setup needed in the first place, so there would have been replacing them, too, although, I have since. I don’t have t-coil now, either, I have blu-tooth going to a device connecting my phone and my $8888-a-pair aids and having not thought about him in awhile until today, am suddenly wondering if he’s still making them and if he’s updated his technology… (But can we come up with the funds. Same thought, just like the old thought.)

All this by way of mentioning an article I stumbled across about a company that was making special glasses for doctors to use during surgery and a friend of one such doctor thought they looked cool, could he try them on?

The right person in the right place at the right time asking the right nonchalant even almost flippant question, having no idea.

It apparently had not occurred to the company that they had created a solution for red/green colorblind problems, but suddenly they had a huge potential market and they are running with it.

Just in case you know someone this applies to. And whatever they’ll cost, let me tell you, it just can’t be all that much.

Now I see it, now you don’t
Tuesday February 24th 2015, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Life

I was knitting in the waiting room today. My choices included kidney stone, kidney cancer, or an infection that would respond to antibiotics within four hours.

Yes please on the latter.

Thank you lab work. One dose down and just like they promised, it’s already starting to kick in. Sweet success.

Meantime, we hit 32 degrees last night and it was 43 under the mango cover–just above the limit of 40F where the inflorescences (flowering sets) die, not that there were any of those to worry about but one wants no cold spots.

Oh wait. While I was sick this past week–

–looks great to me!

(Views are from one side of the trunk and the other. Future leaves and branch in this one, inflorescence in the second view: we could actually get mangoes this year.)

(And then I go to…) Huh. My iPhone isn’t sending photos for some reason, even after I just deleted a hundred or two and I have no idea why. Anybody?

Well, anyway, trust me, the cluster of buds, it’s there.

And I might actually get that monster 250g worth of merino/silk hat finished while the weather’s being terrible in other places.

Edited to add, Richard to the rescue!

The fruits of their labors
Monday February 23rd 2015, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Our neighbors thanked us for the extra sunlight for their garden after the tree cutting last summer.

A week ago, I was weeding and found one plant that was different and was amused that it looked like a carrot top as I yanked it out. I was standing on my side of the fence from that garden.

Oh wait. Look at that size 00000 orange thumb needle under there. Who knew.

Today I went out and near that same spot, it looks to me like a strawberry plant (and I know they grow strawberries.) Think I’ll keep this one awhile and see what it does.

Fixed in our ways
Sunday February 22nd 2015, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Friends,Life,Lupus

Let me say upfront that it’s nearly impossible to rile my husband. He’s calm, steady, seeks for understanding, he’s my rock. So I can’t imagine that he was anything but matter-of-fact in his statement. Me, on the other hand, I think I struggle a little harder at staying charitable when someone hits me right where I live. Literally. Even if we tell them they don’t know, they can’t possibly know, we remind ourselves, only those who live it can.

Although, the doctors and nurses at Stanford Hospital certainly do a good job of it. Good people. Yeah… That, “Oh I remember you!”

Our ward shares its church building with another ward and at the beginning of every year we flip which one has mornings and which the afternoons, whose toddlers get their nap time, who gets to sleep in.

There is an elderly woman in the other ward who–and this is the first year she’s done this–has decided she didn’t want to make that switch so she would just join ours. She probably has her favorite seat that her ward knows all about and she always goes there unless someone beats her to it, and that’s fine. We do too, going for where I’m most likely to hear, assuming no one else is there yet.

Two weeks ago she sat down right behind us (we always get there a little early, she, a little late) and started coughing hard. I apologized but got up and moved as far away as I reasonably could without making a scene (scoot down that bench…) Our ward knows. She had no idea, so we explained after the meeting was over and hoped that was that.

Last week someone beat her there–he was from out of town, visiting his grandkids. Directly behind us, clearly sick, coughing deeply. Given how fast and how hard that same cough would hit me a few days later, I can understand why getting ready for church he’d probably thought it wasn’t much. And I can certainly understand wanting to spend every minute with your grandkids you can (this being why I’ve been wearing face masks to church since Madison was born–I don’t want to be limited in when we can go see ours. But last week I forgot to bring one and there you go.)

The brainstem lupus had me fainting in the shower this morning, saved by the shower chair a dear friend dropped off last night when she heard. The tyranny of the ileostomy is that it does not care that you’re too sick to deal with changing the dressing every third day, you absolutely must and you must do every step right because one four-month staph infection is enough.

Hopefully all of this will be very short-term. I prefer my Crohn’s flares being in the past tense–and for the most part, they are, this is nothing compared to those two big ones: when my life was saved by an experimental med, when my life was saved by major surgery.

Michelle’s idea is that we should ask permission to place a box of face masks at the entryway for all who might need one to help themselves to. I think I should have one and a spare in my purse as it is.

Richard went off to church this morning. That same elderly lady sat down behind him after he got there.

And again she was coughing. A lot. While asking after me.

A short and sweet, “My wife is very ill. Someone was coughing right behind her last week.”

We bought plane tickets before all this started to go see our grandkids and to celebrate a birthday. Assuming we’re healthy.


P.S. Rereading this I’m thinking, can you tell I’m ready to be done with this? And remembering the nurse I once apologized to at Stanford who comforted me with, and I’ll never forget the kindness of her words, “It’s okay to be grumpy: when our patients feel well enough to be grumpy it means they’re getting better and they want to go home.”

Maybe connected, maybe not
Saturday February 21st 2015, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Read an article about noise and light pollution and its effects on the wildlife. Now, that subject could be an entire college major and this was one relatively short article, but at least I did learn a few things about what the Christmas lights on my mango tree might be doing out there.

House finches are late risers and couldn’t care less. Alright then.

Robins wake up several hours earlier and get to start foraging before anyone else can beat them to it.

After we planted that tree and started turning on its lights every night I started seeing robins in my back yard for the first time in all the years we’ve lived here.


A day at a time
Saturday February 21st 2015, 12:02 am
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life

Last night Richard took care of the mango tree for me.

Tonight I turned the warming lights on and covered it over myself, claiming a little bit of normal life even though I’m far from feeling it–but it’s proof that today was better than yesterday. By far.

Still needing anti-nausea meds, though–the Crohn’s has been announcing itself along with the flu. Hopefully it will all settle down when the germs are over.

No Stitches this year
Thursday February 19th 2015, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Life

Nope, no Stitches.

Woke up too sick to get out of bed, started barfing nonstop, went from no cough to “sounds like pneumonia” in three hours (X-ray was clear for now) and spent five hours getting fluids pumped in me at Urgent Care. Just got home.

Not what I wanted.

Mel and Kris Kunihiro were going to custom-make me some extra-talls of their rice bowls for me to pick up. I’ll see if I can reach them on FB. I would gladly reimburse anyone who picked, say, four of them up for me if they have them.

Okay, back to bed.

(Ed. to add in the morning, they didn’t bring those bowls so that part is all good; we can wait till next time I see them.)

August Pride, February proud
Wednesday February 18th 2015, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

First peach flower of the year. I wish I could send a whole armful to New England. (Don’t miss that second video down on the Washington Post site…)

Not quite a snowbank of them yet.

Two days till Stitches!

A farmer and Adele
Wednesday February 18th 2015, 12:22 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Before and after. Kind of horrifying but you have to do it or you get a weak misshapen tree that won’t produce well. Cut off the top at planting, the videos from the growers said, down to three to four feet, max. Leave three to five branches for scaffolding. If there’s one that twists back on itself, cut it off. You want to create a vase shape over time so that sunlight can reach the inner center to make all the fruit sweet and you want a wider angle coming from the trunk than straight upright to make for stronger branches to bear their future load–watch those angles and choose the best, spaced around the tree. Trim.

Yeah, you see the wishful thinking in those red spacers? The first photo was taken Saturday. It took me awhile to work up the courage.

This morning I managed to make myself cut them down to six. Good thing the tree is still dormant, because I think I’m not quite done yet. There is just such a twirly twig, but it’s clear it was reaching in the direction the light was most dominant where it came from and since snapping this picture I’ve been able to mostly straighten it with another spacer–and it’s growing in the direction I want.

But it’s flimsy compared to the others. It has not yet convinced me it gets to stay. (Edited to add Wednesday morning, it’s gone now.)

I managed with great effort to cut the top off, as one is supposed to do, but the cut edge was sloppy, going down and then back up again like a check mark. It was misting out as a reminder that everything I’ve read or watched says take it at an angle so that water can’t collect on the healing cut.

Richard hadn’t left for work yet so he went out there for me and did a better job of it. But that is one good sturdy tree and it’s going to grow just fine, and in a place where it has space to spread nice and wide, unlike my smaller semi-dwarfs along the other fence.

This Indian Free peach is for my neighbor. The one with early dementia whom I had so many good long chats with last summer while there was an opening between our yards while her husband was gradually replacing the fence (I want to have that kind of energy when I’m his age) sawing the lumber on his back patio and putting the boards up a few at a time, day by day. She wished I had planted one of those peach trees near enough to grow over to their side when all this was done. And she would pick’em, too, if they did! she grinned mischievously.

And now I have. The best-tasting peach there is, according to the grower, one that does not get peach leaf curl disease, one that will thrive and grow and create bonds between neighbors long after she and I are both gone. It is planted close enough to spread a bit over the top there and yet far enough away that if some future neighbor halts it at the fence line it will do just fine with that, too.

She’ll never remember wishing for those peaches nor how many times she’d said those same words. But I do.

And so these last few months I kept coming back to the thought of her sitting beneath peach blossoms, inhaling the essence of spring and of love and finding a place to feel centered come what may. Of her picking ripe or even not-yet-ripe fruit as it makes her happy.

Of offering both her and her husband a place of peace.

And so I tracked down that variety and I drove over that mountain and with my husband cheering me on, I dug out as many old roots as I could and at last I planted her her peach.

Who knew, who could possibly have known, that it would feel so joyful. I mean. Wow.

Monday February 16th 2015, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Garden

The outer pot is the one the pear tree’s roots were cut out of, and with no soil in it I’m using it to keep the Page’s from growing through the paper pot to the ground.

So. We dug the Page up and put it in there to recover from its too-dark-in-winter location (oops) that it was losing its leaves over. It needs a good year of recovery because citrus, being evergreen, especially dwarf citrus, produce new leaves slowly.

Not that that’s stopping it.

It wants to do what it wants to do. I stopped counting at 83 flower buds. Sometimes even if you can’t make it right away, for creativity’s sake you just gotta have your stash on hand. (Still. I’m pruning those off when they get a little bigger.)

Quoth the raven, Evermore
Sunday February 15th 2015, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

Another grand performance by the Cooper’s hawk this afternoon.

A raven later cawed a few times at the top of the Cooper’s nest tree but despite the momentary swagger did not hang around long.

Meantime, deadlines are a wonderful thing: I finally finished a cowl I’ve long been wanting to wear to Stitches this coming weekend, and as I did those last few rows I was thinking about another yarn I’d been wanting to have done by then too by way of showing the dyer see what I did? but I’d never actually quite figured out just what that was going to be.

As I was casting off I thought, y’know, that other is in the same natural color as… I’ve got it! Only took me a year, but, yes!

Can I pull off a design-and-knit by Friday. The race is on.

Valentine’s day
Saturday February 14th 2015, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life

After yesterday’s 82 degrees, the first two peach buds of the season swelled and turned pink on the August Pride today.

We have the sweet, sweet sound of the dishwasher doing its second load. The part was the right part. The repair worked. And it didn’t die after one round like last week. Would I go to that parts place again in that sketchy part of town where the owner had to unlock the door to let me in, um, probably not. (The guy in Fremont hadn’t had it.) But we don’t have to shell out yet another hundred-forty for the motherboard after all and that is a huge relief.

Coopernicus (pictures of him here) did a swoop around the patio and together we got to see him with wings and tail stretched wide right on the other side of the window. Gorgeous. A birdwatching trip from the comforts of home.

I did a quick run this evening to the local Trader Joe’s to buy a favorite thing for my favorite man.

Frozen green figs. Who ever thought you’d find… Well okay so I got that too.

Going to my car, there was a man sitting in his next to mine, waiting, lights on. Clearly his wife too had run in for just one thing and was being distracted by all the finds one finds in that store.

And facing the rear in the car seat in the back was a very little girl.

Her mommy had left. She couldn’t see her daddy. Bedtime was bearing down on her too and she looked like a baby who wasn’t quite crying yet, but it was sure coming.

I smiled my best grandma smile and waved hi at her.

She stared.

I waved and smiled again and put my fresh-pressed apple juice in the car. I’d bought four. It was going to be a squeeze in that fridge but my Richard likes theirs better than anyone else’s.

She looked like she might be okay with being here after all.

The man rolled down her window and I told him, Cute baby!

But what he’d wanted was for me to hear: “Bye!”




We waved and bye’d at each other a few more times, the world a friendly place for a child too small to have more than a word or maybe two that she could reliably express yet, but by golly she got to put it to great use and she made my day.

At the last, I changed it on her to a double-word sentence of “Bye bye!” and reluctantly pulled my car out of that spot, time to go.

She made Richard happy too when I got home and told him about her.

I just looked at the remote-read on the thermometer under the mango tree. Forty-six and heading down. Time to turn on the Christmas lights to keep it warm and safe for the night.

It’s been a good day.