What’s in a name
Friday February 13th 2015, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Lupus

I’m so tired let’s see if I can proofread this right. Happy tired.

Their goofs meant I totally won. Not enough other people could find them, I think.

We had this one spot behind the plum tree that was a perfect space, now that the weed trees were gone, for another, specifically a bigger tree than some of the others I’ve put in. Not being in a raised bed meant that much more allowable height, and it likely wouldn’t shade the solar there even if it got out of hand (which it won’t.) And the neighbor on the other side of the fence there had once so hoped out loud that we would plant a peach near enough to reach over her side a bit.

If we put one there it could go that far but it wouldn’t have to–perfect.

And I could plant a standard size without having to look for a semi-dwarf.

The only problem, and the thing that had stopped me previously, was the roots I would have to deal with that would surely be left over from those weed trees.

I only considered it because I’d fallen in love with a gorgeous specimen of an Indian Free peach two weeks ago, the last one at that nursery, and by the time we decided that yeah, we really did want it it was long gone and from every other retailer I called, too. Bare root and potted both, sold out.

That’s what happens when Dave Wilson, the grower, describes it as the all-time best-tasting peach they know of.

And: Indian Free (developed and named by Thomas Jefferson) does not get peach leaf curl disease. In our foggy area, this is huge. It produces in September and October, long after my others are done for the year. The peaches are tart and presumably, like my Yellow Transparent apples, uninviting to squirrels until full ripeness–at which point, suddenly, wow. The peaches, anyway.

Once we’d agreed on it I didn’t want to lose a year’s growth to having to wait. One last try. I clicked on Where To Buy for the variety one more time this morning, even though I hadn’t found anything at all within three hours and I’d spent an hour and a half on the phone yesterday asking.

But I’d wondered about this one retailer I hadn’t called–because clicking from Dave Wilson to ProBuild had been a complete bust, a page that said they sold building (only) materials. The end. Well then why…?

How about if we try clicking “handout”? For another retailer, that had been a dead link so I’d ignored them all but let’s try it.

Turns out ProBuild does have a nursery on the side with a list of what they stock but the page is not on their site but on Dave Wilson’s instead. Huh.

Indian Free. There you go.

I called them.

Sure, we have five! Bare root. Do you want us to reserve you one?

I told them nah, I’ll be right there–well, as in, coming from… Thinking, it would only be about an hour, right? I figured I was safe and I wanted to pick it out myself. (I had to pick up the dishwasher part on the way. It was an hour and a half.)

Those who have driven the steeply twisty Highway 17 over the mountains with slow trucks and heavy traffic and quickly-alternating vivid sunshine and dark under the redwoods will understand when I say I felt like I had to pry each deathgrip finger off the steering wheel when I got there, but I got there.

More or less. There was no sign with that street number. There was no sign that said ProBuild. I saw a nursery, but I wanted the one I’d talked to and I did not want to make that return drive in rush hour traffic. I figured I just hadn’t gotten there yet. (Wait! Is that Golden Fleece?! Gunilla! It was, or at least their old place, but I did not dare take the time to find out.) I kept on going, but no, the numbers were going the wrong way. Turning back, it really was San Lorenzo Nursery at 235 River over there. No sign of the word ProBuild anywhere, not even on the construction-supplies place next door.

I looked around a bit and asked for help, and when I explained the lupus/I need to stay out of the sun thing, the guy was wonderfully helpful.

I saw four. (Come to think of it now as I write, maybe they’d put one aside for me over in the area marked Holding after all–I’d better let them know I already got it.) I picked out the one with the thickest trunk. “There aren’t any on Citation rootstock, right?” (Semi-dwarfing.)

“No,” he apologized.

I hadn’t expected one; “They didn’t make any this year, though, I don’t think.” (He agreed, with a look on his face of oh, so this lady knows!)

They hadn’t been planted in paper pots as the season had gone on. The price hadn’t been quadrupled. There was a long sand and soil bed that he pulled the one out of for me and then he wrapped up the bare roots in plastic for the drive home. The tree was still dormant. This was good.

$19.95 and no tax on food-producing plants. Twenty bucks for a lifetime of perfect fall fruit, and from a really nice group of people.

I drove back over 17 with the tree going from the far back to partly into the passenger side next to me. I knew now where the mudslide had been, where the lanes were going to be narrowed. I was in no hurry. (Yank that wheel lady and you’ll have a faceful of twigs.)

UV levels went down to 1 and it was time to start.

I hit root. Root. Another root. Chipping away at the biggest there was a sudden smell of eucalyptus. There were earthworms doing their best at it all. I pulled one way back, then got sensible and got out the clippers and got rid of it.

I ran off to get Richard. And back home again. We were losing sun time fast and you don’t leave a bare root tree drying out.

In the end I did my best and simply straddled it over the chipped-away big root down there in the dirt, knowing it was dead and this was alive and the peach would win. Not perfect but I’d made a pretty darn good big hole and it would do. I mixed in soil amendment and raised the level around the trunk to just so high below the graft point like I’d seen the pros do.

I stepped back and looked and it was suddenly just overwhelmingly gorgeous. That’s a big, healthy tree. I can’t wait.

The message is clear. Don’t cook! Knit!
Thursday February 12th 2015, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Found a guy who said he’ll call tomorrow when he has the dishwasher part in. Beats waiting two weeks on Sears.

It wasn’t till hours later that I realized that Sears, on the other hand, would let me return it if it doesn’t make the machine work. Here’s hoping supporting the little guy over the big corporation turns out okay.

Went to open the oven at dinnertime and yelped and then walked around the corner to show Richard what that was all about–holding the door handle out to him, the one from the upper oven, the one that, like the right half of my stove, still works. (We wrestled it back in place. Dinner was inside there–we were motivated.)

And after all this we need to figure out what’s wrong with the leaking fridge, although so far it’s still cold where it needs to be cold.

I think my kitchen is on strike.

Happy Birthday, Milk Pail!
Wednesday February 11th 2015, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Spinning

Milk Pail turned 41 today and Steve threw a cheese tasting party in celebration and that it wouldn’t be the last. We got the invite.

Seeing the Wensleydale with cranberries, I said, “I’m going to tell you something I bet you don’t know.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

I told him that Wensleydales ate too much for how much wool they produced and so the commercial flocks pretty much had vanished except for one flock (actually might have been two, come to think of it) hanging on preserving the breed. And then the handspinning market found out that there was this rare really cool lustrous wool to play with and that was the start of its comeback.


Milk Pail is the little shop that spent years and finally successfully fought off a developer who’d wanted Steve’s land. The problem being that Steve had had an agreement to share parking with the other businesses surrounding his but one by one they had all sold out to said developer, who proposed building eight to ten stories in a solid block around Steve’s till he starved and sorry about that, pal. The mayor even told the guy’s rep to shorten those in the plans so that they could make better use of Steve’s land when they got it. Charming.

They did a test run by illegally cutting off another small shop from its customers, and its owners caved and sold.

Not Steve.


City council meeting protests. Standing-room-only turnouts, again and again. Appeals to reason. Because Steve had owned his place so long (the distortions of long-ago Proposition 13 being the unspoken elephant in the room) he could keep his prices very low; a new owner would have to pay current-market-value-rate property taxes in one of the most expensive parts of the country. Local zucchinis at fifteen cents? Ears of corn at twenty? Triple-creme brie? Manufacturing cream for your chocolate torte, which no one else sold? You want local, Steve even owns his own cows now, having saved someone’s family farm.

You had the most and the least well off in Silicon Valley calling the eclectic little place their favorite shop and coming together in their day-to-day, being human together no matter their circumstances. And that is no small achievement.

Steve knew our car situation and that there had been times when Richard had taken time off work so I could go to those city council meetings, and he made a point of telling Richard how grateful he was for that and that I’d not only gone, I had told him when I wouldn’t be able to make one.

It told him the fate of what he’d poured his whole life into mattered not just to him. That had meant far more to him than I had ever had any idea of.

And, he continued, “Have you seen the video? You’ve got to see the video!”

I cringed but I quoted: “If. You. Shaft. Steve!” and we laughed together at that moment when I’d stood at that podium. “Yeah, I kind of lost it.”

“You should show it to your kids! Save it for your grandkids!”

“Four, two” (almost), “and one month.”

“Yeah, okay, a little young yet,” he agreed. “But still. Who would have guessed it. I mean, with your religious background, and you’re a…knitter! I mean-! He grinned, “You really took them on!”

“Yeah, she can be a real rabble rouser,” said Richard, and we both kind of explained our Washington DC/political family backgrounds: you speak up when you see an injustice. You just do. (But then, one does anyway, I would hope.)

And I remembered the city council meeting where I had cast on at the start and cast off at the hours-later finish, wound the ends in with my knitting needles and presented Steve with a hand knit hat to tell him the community was behind him. It was later that I would be telling that city council how good they had it to have a business like Steve’s creating some of the better moments in Silicon Valley and with that memorable phrase announced that my family and I would take it as, then they didn’t want our business. Any of their businesses. Anywhere in Mountain View, if those politicians pocketed that developer’s money and looked the other way. “We have our own,” and I stormed off before their timer even beeped.

Totally earned Tiger Mom cred in his eyes that night. He was unfailingly soft-spoken and kind but someone needed to stand up for him and give it to’em like they needed it given to’em. Darn straight.

I handed out a few Peruvian hand knit finger puppets to two sets of parents for their toddlers tonight.

We had a great time, and let me tell you, that Wensleydale with the cranberries? I have a new favorite cheese. Clearly it wasn’t just the handspinners. I can’t wait to go stock up at the shop.

Not that, try this
Tuesday February 10th 2015, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life,Wildlife

The dishwasher fix? It was good for one single load Saturday. After much research we unscrewed the door again tonight to check for corrosion, but, nope. At least we found that a new control board (if that works) is half the price at Sears–which helps, because at this point with all the repairs this thing has needed since immediately after the warranty we’ll have spent enough to have bought a Bosch in the first place. If we could find a schematic for the electronics we might be able to bypass the start switch but all links to one seem to be broken. Maytag MDBH945AWB.

A better part of the day was when I was quite surprised to find five new flower buds on the struggling baby mandarin tree. It is much happier where I moved it to.

I did not see the male Cooper’s hawk coming in till he landed on the giant elephant ear just outside the window ten feet away from me. I had twice today accidentally flushed a dove from right next to the door and such things do not go unnoticed.

But I had nothing to offer. Only love and silent gratitude at his presence. He stayed a little while.

I stumbled across a story in the St. Louis newspaper that I thought deserved wider notice: small farmers feeding their families on land their local airport was happy to have them work for 35 years. The airport didn’t have to pay to maintain it and an underserved community worked for its fresh vegetables, lugging in water by hand as needed.

A developer bought that land and the farmers expected that at last that would be the end of it all.

It wasn’t.

They’re getting an irrigation system, restrooms, and a farming-only deed in perpetuity. Across the street.

Monday February 09th 2015, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

If you’re squinting, they’re at about the same point in both photos.

There’s a big new nest, Cooper’s hawk sized, in the tree next door that they favor for its height–the season has begun.

A Bewick’s wren was tugging hard at nesting material on the patio today and flew off trailing fluff in its beak.

We were getting in the car this morning when my husband said, Wait, I forgot my umbrella, and went back inside while I waited as a few drops started to fall. And so I had a moment to look up, and there, above that tree, was one of our pair, riding the thermals and circling around its nest below, letting all who fly here know that this, this spot was taken. The tree whose sweet flowers are so coveted later in the season by smaller birds.

Including the ever-swaggering crows. But we had to drive three blocks before we spotted one and then a little further down, a pair, and they were staying down low so as to be well out of sight of that hawk.

The more our Coopers hang around the more fruit we’ll get off our trees. Wishing them a successful season. Besides, fledgling raptors meandering through the amaryllises are so cute.

And Bewick’s wrens are really too small for them to bother with.

Point made
Monday February 09th 2015, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Life

Point oh one of an inch was forecast for the rest of the day; the storm was supposed to be basically over, with a noncommittal shrug of a chance at slight drizzles tomorrow.

That .01″ has been .41″ so far, and every now and then another cloudburst hits for twenty, thirty seconds (and right on cue, here comes another one and I’m editing that number.) Go rain go. (And another one.)

The roots of the neighbor’s redwood have lifted the ground around our gate and so the latch misses connecting now by several inches, the gate held in place only by a small flowerpot–and so the first time, when I said, What was that? Richard looked out the window searching for where out there, going, Something just fell in the yard.

The trees all seemed to be accounted for. We realized that no, it was the gate slamming that mismatched fence. Let me in! Again. And again. And again.

We may not get a lot of weather here but we’re trying for this Dark and Stormy Night thing as best we can.

Re cycle
Saturday February 07th 2015, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Here we go again.

Sitting on the floor, I unscrewed the screws. Here, could you get that one over there for me? Sure, says he.

He gently pulled the door and the cover apart to find the broken latch and the piece it connected to and we adjourned to our side-by-side computers to find the name of the part (which one of those three random numbers was the model number?) and what business might still exist in the area to buy it from. The local appliance parts place that my friend Diana and I once made an outing of? Long gone.

Fremont, the page said. (Oh okay that’s not too bad.) Open till 4:00 on Saturdays. I called them and they said they had two, Richard said something like Oh good! (you’re always on speakerphone at our house, one of the charms of hearing loss) and we looked at the clock, 2:30, and the weather and told them we were on our way. (Don’t close up early!)

Waze, an app that directs you away from traffic accidents, sent us clear around the bottom of the San Francisco Bay and back up. Wave after wave of blinding rain hit and it was just not a great time to be on the freeway or anywhere else out in that but by golly I wanted my dishwasher and he wanted to solve the problem.

They knew who we had to be the moment we walked in their door and opened our mouths. We chatted like old friends. They had an antique wringer-style washer on display; I told them my grandmother had had a live-in maid when my mom was growing up but that she’d told Mom later she’d have given her up in a second in exchange for a modern washer and dryer. We all allowed as how fortunate we were to have modern appliances, even when they’re being a pain.

Richard had actually used a wringer washer and he and one of the men talked about all the things you could get trapped in those: your hair. Your arm. Yup, those were the days.

There was a chance all along that it wasn’t just the latch but the expensive display panel going out again, and one wonders how long one should baby an old machine along before throwing in the towel. But then, just last month we had finally given up and replaced our vacuum cleaner. I do like the Dyson. But one hopes for a little time in between such things.

We got home, we did other things, we chilled a bit after that drive and we kinda didn’t want the hassle, either of us, till finally I said, What’ll it take us? Half an hour?  (Not saying, and that’s if it works.) And at that we both got off our duffs and went back in there and tackled the thing. I filled every last bit of space with more dirty dishes, and after three days of only doing a little in the sink at a time because my hands were bothering me, there were, shall we say, a few.

Connect the new piece, admire how shiny and new it looks, screw. all. those. screws. back in the door–

–and push the button in great hopes.



He wasn’t willing to give up that easy. Did you plug it back in?

Oh right.

Push the button.


He tried pushing the cycle buttons, and just like before, they did briefly light up green, the one thing that had assured us all along that the panel wasn’t (entirely?) bad. Then he with his bigger stronger fingers pushed the On button and darn if that dishwasher didn’t cave. It knew who was boss.

The sound of that machine doing our dirty work at last was an immense relief. It finished the cycle, everything was sparkly clean and disinfected more than hand washing could ever do and I’ve emptied and refilled it most of the way again.

Try pushing not hard next time but long, says he. But I’m not touching that thing again till it’s all the way full. It may only have so many cycles left in it and I don’t want to waste a one.

Here it comes again
Friday February 06th 2015, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

We had the wettest December in history and then the driest January in history, as in, zero rain–my grass sprang up and grew just enough to look green and then froze in place as the top of the soil cracked apart as if it were summer. In this drought if you don’t feed us I don’t water you.

I woke up about 7:15 this morning to strong winds and leaves and limbs thrashing and an overcast but bright, deep yellow sky.

I’ve seen a sky like that–right before a tornado hit, ages and ages ago in a different place and it got me out of bed to go check the weather report, but no, as far as I can tell, it was simply the late dawn against the storm clouds and it faded to gray quickly.

There was an errand that had to be run today not tomorrow whether we wanted to hunker down or no, and so we were on the expressway at late rush hour clearly immediately after the tall eucalypus fell and blocked all southbound lanes. Shattered pieces were thrown across the divider and the northbound lanes where we were and beyond. A busy road–and yet there was no sign of any damaged car, just tree shrapnel. Everyone completely lucked out.

And I mean that, because coming from the other way there’s the crest of the hill and then there was that tree–with a 45 mph speed limit, there was no way to have seen it till drivers were right on it. Just past it, I was waiting at the light at the bottom of the hill while a rush of cars was coming back the wrong way in both lanes across the divider from me. People were doing crazy things, and meantime, the next group of cars was arriving facing them head-on at the light. One particularly panicked-looking woman reacted to my left-hand green arrow as if it were her right-turn green arrow–NO, honey, STOP.

I dropped Richard off a block away (if I had to be out and about he might as well work from work rather than home) and coming back there was already a cop with flashers on and the road coned off and the city’s tree workers were getting right to it. They had a big job there, and that one probably took immediate priority.

Tomorrow we get a ten-hour break in the middle of the day for the earth to inhale deeply of this rich essence of life-sustaining fluidity and then it starts coming at us again.

A good time to be thankful for a warm house to knit in.

I noticed a whole flock of finches not in the trees but in odd spots under what roofspaces we could offer them. Drier that way.

You teal’em
Thursday February 05th 2015, 11:30 pm
Filed under: To dye for

The colors in this nighttime photo are washed out: the greens are quite a bit greener and the light blue is more teal, but at least you can get an idea of how different they are from each other.

So. I had this silk turtleneck. A warm, very soft, heavyweight spunsilk turtleneck bought on clearance from Wintersilks at something like twelve bucks and free shipping in a color on the screen that I could only hope.

Um. No. And didn’t it match any of the things I’d wanted it to go with.

Today I saw again what color it could be, the one that had justified the purchase, and given the fact that I would be putting it on in a second if it were that I realized I was never going to wear it if I didn’t do something. I fired up my dyepot. Soapy water, rinse, throw it in, stir and turn over nonstop for a half hour as it bubbles away.

That was the one in the middle here. It now perfectly matches my favorite skirt. Score! Why stop now. When it came out, I threw in a silk sweater (left) and it too came out far better than what it had been. And then an older silk shirt that I’d previously dyed in the same Jacquard teal, and it had been beautiful, but then I had treated it for a stain one day and the Shout took out some of my dye–well, then, it was indeed a reversible one, wasn’t it. I should have known better.

So it sat in a drawer for a year and a half with me unwilling to toss what had been a favorite and not really believing it could be fixed.

But sometimes reversible dyes, if you’re really really lucky, can lift somewhat off the fabric in boiling water and resettle a bit as you stir with new dye. And as far as I can tell right now while it’s not quite all the way dry yet, I was really really lucky. I have my shirt back.

One of the thing about overdyeing natural-fiber clothes away from ugly or wrong colors is that you never know what kind of thread they used to sew the garment up with. On the turtleneck, it looks to have been a poly or poly/cotton blend so there are now lines of contrast around the hems and neck. This is why I tend not to overdye too far away from what the thing was.

But on that sweater. The 78/22 silk/nylon sweater. Nylon takes up wool dyes while polyester does not and all the thread took up the dye in a complete match, so it must have been nylon.

And what that means is that I can overdye it again in, oh I dunno, yale blue or anything else on the blue or green scale and the stitching will do exactly what I say again. I might, but morning and full dryness will show me exactly what I’ve got and I do like it so far.

A side note: for dyeing, only use a pot, stainless being preferable by far, that you will never ever use for cooking.

The stakes are high
Wednesday February 04th 2015, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Lupus

I stopped by the local nursery today and they told me the back wall along the fence is where they kept their bamboo stakes. Six feet tall, a set of six, seven bucks. Hey.

And so the frost cover won’t rest against the mango tree leaves anymore–and I spent a fair amount of time up on my tiptoes trying to get that thing over those stakes and back down firmly to the ground all around.

With all that extra space above the tree to heat up, so far at four hours after sundown there’s only a ten degree difference between the outside temp and underneath that canopy, but unless we have another severe cold snap that should be enough and I can always take them back down again while the tree’s this small.

And I won’t accidentally break off the tiny beginning of a leaf at the tippy top while taking the cover off in the mornings now. I know, I know–that one hurt, enough to get me off my duff and to go track down those stakes. Thank you all for the suggestions.

Oh, and on a side note? My friends Mel and Kris are going to be at Stitches West again this year. YES! Buy yourself some fine pottery (I’ll bet they’ll have yarn bowls) and tell’em I said hi. I put in a special request for rice bowls with extra high sides, perfect for berries and ice cream. Save me some.

Trying to start early this year. No. Really.
Tuesday February 03rd 2015, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Life

It is amazing how much you can get done in a day when you’re avoiding starting in on the taxes.

Wondering how fast it’ll grow when it’s warm
Monday February 02nd 2015, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Garden

The new leaves (which started this day) turn reddish before they turn green at full size.

The burn marks on the outer edges of the older leaves are from when I only had a black garbage bag to put over the tree at night–where the leaves touched it they were not happy after that exceptionally cold week of twenty-something-degree nights. The frost cover is much better, breathing, letting light in and still keeping it warmer, but better still would be to put some narrow stakes around the tree to suspend the cover above and off it. It’s above it now with that stake it came with, but it’s catching up to it fast.

Craft store? Where would you go? The 2x2s at the hardware store are a lot more massive than I want; I’m thinking more a size 15 knitting needle on stilts.

I can see the day coming soon when I will have to sew a bunch of frost covers together to make one giant one. (There are rocks on the bottom edges on the small chance of wind.) There will be more non-LED Christmas lights on it by then.

But it just amazes me how much our Alphonso mango has grown in the five weeks since we planted it. In winter! It seems to me that buying a vigorous variety in this climate, even though we’re going to keep it far shorter than it would do in its native one, is probably going to be protective against minor dieback like those leaf burns.

It would make a great colorway
Sunday February 01st 2015, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

I missed it before. January did more than just flowers.

An O’Neill blueberry quietly doing its thing, waiting for the others to catch up. (As I look at the yarn and the calendar and realize Stitches West was almost a year ago and the next one is in two weeks and how on earth did that happen already?!)

I got me some knitting to do.