Gotten well
Thursday July 16th 2015, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life

The bramble coming over the fence: as much as I could pull up into view is gone now, and thank you all for the advice on what it was and what to do about it.

The yarn: Wink, a get-well gift from Karin of Periwinkle Sheep, set on one of my get-well afghans from six years ago.

I’ve mentioned previously that up till last August we had a whole line of weed eucalyptus trees sprouting profusely from a sucker running along the fence line. They grew to where they completely shaded the back half of the Fuji apple tree and then started to arch over the rest of it. The side that had been shadowed the most gradually became diseased and blackened, the leaves crumpling and falling off and the blotchy branches no longer growing. What was left looked so bad I was afraid it was going to spread and we were going to lose the whole tree.

I read up on apple diseases and the most hopeful thing said that simply solving the lack of light could give the tree a chance to recover and fight the disease off. The eucalpytuses had to go anyway for the sake of saving the fence (and they are ferociously flammable! You do not want eucalyptuses in California, even if they planted a lot of them in the 1800s) and so we did.

This is not quite a year later. In the foreground to the left is the edge of the Yellow Transparent apple and to the right the planted-this-year Black Jack fig. And then there is the big Fuji apple tree. All those branches on the right side of the main trunk are growing and green as of just this one year and it amazes me that it has gone from being very lopsided to what it looks like now. There was nothing alive in most of that area before. It recovered that fast.

All it needed was sunlight and a little looking out for it.

It’s going to need some pretty good pruning soon, and that’s a problem I didn’t think I would get to have.


And then all. that. gorgeous. yarn.
Wednesday July 15th 2015, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Politics

So, Donald Trump’s campaign released an ad via Twitter: the Donald, the flag, and faded into its background stacks of hundred dollar bills, the White House, and a small group of soldier trudging across a field.

Except, as Mother Jones pointed out (and the Washington Post ran the story too and then apparently took it down, so take this whole thing with a grain of salt if need be), if you do a search for images of World War II soldiers, then (allegedly) that same photo pops right up.

And it’s Waffen SS soldiers. You had to know the uniform or at least look it up, and whoever it was at the Donald’s offices didn’t think to do so, says Mother Jones. He blamed it on an intern (does he pay his interns? Just curious) and it quickly got taken down.

So (if true, and even if it’s not) it proves the old axiom: those who don’t know history are doomed to retweet it.


And I was going to leave it right there at that punch line, but a box arrived in the mail this evening, completely unexpected. It was from Melinda of Tess Designer Yarns. I knew she’d been playing with color gradients but I had no idea and absolutely no expectation of anything whatsoever, much less that she would surprise me with some of what she’d been doing, and look at all that…. Wow! Gorgeous, gorgeous, soft stuff. Just, wow! She did it simply to make my day. I am totally blown away. Thank you, Melinda!

Starting over and over and over
Tuesday July 14th 2015, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Garden

The pattern continues: Tuesday is our allowed watering day and I discovered yet another volunteer that was not there the previous week. (We were already at fig tree, fig tree, tomato, and lettuce.) So much for this living in a desert idea. The squirrels seem to particularly like to tuck seeds near anything made of wood.

I actually thought I saw something else yesterday and went out to check near the mango tree, but it was just a weed: no grand discoveries on Mondays allowed–you have to wait a day. It’s the rule.

I did, however, find what I assume is a rose bush coming up over the fence from the neighbors a few days ago and I’m quite sure they have no idea it’s there. I’m curious to see what we get but not enough to let it climb my peach tree. Maybe I’ll train it along the top of the fence? It needs to prove itself before I put work into it, and soon, or it’s Get Back To Where You Once Belonged.

So the volunteer: did I really need another tomato plant, but hey, it’s mine now. That makes two of unknown variety. I should mention the random strawberries turned out to be wild strawberries like the delightful little ones of my childhood (I had to Google to see that they really do grow on this coast, too, the birds will be thrilled), and I just can’t quite make myself taste-test that lettuce. But you can’t go wrong with tomatoes.

Meantime, the water hit the paper towel around the most ripe of my big ones and of course it instantly showed the color beneath (don’t show the squirrels!)  To my surprise it was quite red already. I figured I was pushing my luck enough and beat them to it.

Force fields are us
Tuesday July 14th 2015, 9:19 am
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Monday it was a gray squirrel that leaped and did a faceplant into the birdnetting around the mandarin, bouncing back towards me in the middle of trying desperately to get away.

You could just see its brain: Oh… so *that’s* why the others stay far away from here!

Meantime, I got some Karin knitting done.

Papering over the differences
Sunday July 12th 2015, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Took some friends some homegrown yellow cherry tomatoes after dinner, a pretty perfect little snack, and we all chatted for three hours.

Speaking of which.

The squirrels occasionally get past my attempts at barriers and raid those, sucking the juices and spitting out the rest because they don’t actually like tomatoes. There’s not been much loss because they don’t seem to go for seconds and the things were pretty small to begin with.

And plentiful. The Sungold is super-productive, so losing one or two of them a day isn’t a big deal. I also planted a big red type but as the Sungold branches spread out all around the other much slower plant, the one in the center grew a grand total of three fruits. Almost no blossoming.

But so I really want those three tomatoes once they’re ripe: all that water and anticipation for such a small payoff. They’d gone from green to greenish-white and clearly the red was coming soon and I was keeping a wary eye on the critters when I happened to mention this to my friend Robin at the beginning of the week. She told me to do something I’d never heard of before: take some white paper towels, soak them, and wrap one around each tomato. They will dry as white husks encasing and hiding them.

And they did! So far so good! (Do NOT peek during the daylight. They do watch and learn fast. But I’ve learned too.)

Paper towels. Wet white (no dyes seems a good idea) paper towels. I don’t know who thought of this, but clearly they were a (desperate) gardener. And a genius!

Best Costco story yet
Saturday July 11th 2015, 6:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Batteries, sun-dried tomato sauce, shrimp, blueberries and raspberries. (Phew!)

Oh wait no that was mine.

He always did have a sense of humor.

And so. I was heading down the milk aisle when I did a double take and stopped to say hi. Totally out of context (and did he even know I was about as tall as him when we’re both standing?) he was lost for a split second (it’s been a year, but it’s been 25 years) and then he stopped, too. Richard was coming right up behind me just then after looking for something else, his wife was right behind him, and so we got to introduce each other all around.

But the funny part was right off the bat when he put on this fake-panic voice and exclaimed, “Don’t look in my cart!”

Laughing, I assured him I hadn’t, and actually the only thing I did see over his shoulder was baby spinach which reminded me we needed baby spinach so I sent Richard to get some after that little meet-up.

But as we got to the far end of the aisle with them out of sight going the opposite direction, Richard turned to me, not quite remembering, wondering, it having been twenty years since he’d seen the guy, “C’est qui?” (Who was that?)

“My cardiologist.”

Ch ch ch ch changes
Friday July 10th 2015, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Well, there’s one vacation photo. This was coming back from the cabin, heading towards my parents’ Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday’s blossom find on the Yellow Transparent? Now there are ten apple flowers in three clusters and I’m going to be checking every day to see how many more show up. I’ve never heard of an apple tree producing two crops in one year before. So strange.

New mango leaves are purplish brown and narrow; they widen, lengthen, and start greening up slowly or within a few days, depending on warmth and light and time of year, clearly (I’m new at this). There had been no new leaves since April, and whether it was the flowering that made it stop awhile or the fact that I covered the tree for four days solid while we went off to our nephew’s wedding in early May to protect it from any last cold snaps I don’t know, but the thing just stopped and held its breath for six weeks and the leaves that had been purple then never did turn as dark green as the others.

Solstice seems to have finally kicked it back in gear with signs of new leaves, bringing it to this point by June 30. My vigorous tree was back! I was afraid I’d damaged it. It was quite the relief.

Monday when I saw it by daylight for the first time since leaving Thursday morning I did quite the double take: even the branches were noticeably longer–and not just at the sides, look at the new leaves popping up above the top now and at the center. I was going, wow, same tree?

And every branch means another flower cluster for next year. Grow little tree grow.

…Edited to add, I almost forgot the very funny Toronto’s memorial to a raccoon. As a city councilman said, May we all leave the lid on our green bins open tonight in its honor.

Back to the land
Thursday July 09th 2015, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Garden

I need to show off my Indian Free peach tree just because I can’t believe how much it’s grown since I planted it Feb. 13.  Photo July 7. Not even five months. I guess the moral of the story is, if you want instant gratification buy a standard rather than a semi-dwarf. It will need more pruning, though. (Large clamshell, one peach.)

And the Black Jack fig, planted March 14. Fig roots being shallow and a potential problem, it will stay in a pot. I’ve never observed a fig tree growing before but I’m assuming those notches, some single, some twinned, mean there will be a few figs this fall. Again on the instant gratification. (Here those two are two months ago for comparison.)

And the thing that blew my mind–I was picking all the Yellow Transparent apples that were left; they got ripe or even more than ripe while I was gone and it was time to make sauce out of them. They are quite good for that.

There was a threesome of flowers. On the apple tree. In July. After the harvest. I have never seen such a thing before. The warm winter had spaced out the blooming time a lot, but still–all that finished months ago, and yet here they are. So strange.

Not that I mind having extras.


Looks good on paper
Wednesday July 08th 2015, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Do they measure this stuff like fabric? Always a little extra in case the previous cut was done at a bad angle? Or is it prefab? Never bought it myself so I don’t know.

A cousin’s story.

Bob’s mom wanted to redo the wallpaper in this one room. She picked out a pattern, ordered, and when it came it was in two rolls.

Which, it turned out, didn’t actually match: one was printed larger than the other–somebody’d really goofed.

Well, huh. Well let’s see: you could use one as a border to the other here here and here like this and that would like nice but would there be enough for that?

(Oh, the roses one? I asked. No, that was in the kitchen, he answered. I don’t think I’ve been in that house in forty years but I remembered the roses–wallpaper was a novelty to me as a kid.)

My uncle, an engineer and a gifted mathematician, measured everything meticulously and went off in the other room to work out the dimensions of each space vs the wallpaper to find out, if you cut it with this part this way you could fit that that way but if you do that then this or maybe you could try this like this other. Etc.

Meantime, my aunt and Bob, her oldest son, decided between themselves, Oh what the heck, we were all ready anyway, let’s just do it.

They were just triumphantly applying the very last piece when his dad came back around the corner saying apologetically, I’m sorry, it just can’t be…(suddenly looking up in slow motion at the walls and their hands)… Done?

Tuesday July 07th 2015, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Every reunion needs a moment to tuck away for laughing over together at the next one.

We were not far from a ski resort. The cabin had a small square patio overlooking a noisy rocky creek below (I heard it. I heard it! It was loud, too!) and in our childhoods that patio was hemmed in by iron railings whose top rail bowed halfway down at the center as if it had been designed to scallop like that. Gram explained to us back in the day that that was from the weight of the snow.

Those railings are gone now and instead there was modular outdoor seating along the three outer sides. We filled it up. Another square of it was put at the fourth side closer to the cabin with a small round table top placed on top; throw in some folding chairs next to it and we were able to squeeze everybody who was there that night into the space for a barbecue. (More cousins arrived the next morning while some had to leave. Me, I went down the mountain for the night and back up the next day, that altitude was pretty high.)

Two of the men were sitting on that table top and then one got up to refill his dinner plate.

Which is how they found out it wasn’t nailed down: the instant see-saw flipped Grant and sent him flying across me, food airborne and fruit juice down my side. I, at the same time, for once in my life managed to gracefully move my own cup of juice out of his way in time so as not to nail him in kind. He is so not a klutz and I so much am and the role reversal was quite the show. He picked himself quickly off my lap while making sure I was okay.

We all guffawed (since it was clear nobody was hurt). Grant, between laughs, apologized for soaking me and I told him, In this air? I’ll be dry in five minutes.

I knew I should be taking pictures of the aspen and spruce towering around us, the majestic trees of the rocky mountains, so gorgeous, but I just couldn’t pull myself out of the moment to focus on a camera lens. I just wanted to breathe it into my bones, the love, the place, the memories, the new ones we were making, to bring it all home and always have it.

Saturday night there was another barbecue, this time at my niece’s with all her cousins’ generation invited who could come as well as her mom and me. Where I saw for the first time in my life monster Campfire marshmallows, big enough to make any kid happy for a long time. I told my skunk story. Eric asked me how I wanted mine cooked–and then went, Oh, of course: burnt!

Yes! I laughed.

And then dinner with my son, my sisters, and more of our kids at our parents’ for one last meal together Sunday night, celebrating a niece’s birthday before my flight.

Richard always gets to the airport a bit early to wait at park-and-call but this time he wasn’t there yet. I didn’t wait too long but I was a little surprised. One person who’d been on the plane walked past me, still dressed for a hundred plus degrees as she walked into the chilly Oakland breeze and I caught her eye and nodded, Back to the cold.

She laughed–and then stopped and asked if I needed a ride home. I thanked her but I was fine. She totally blew me away with her kindness–I was a long way out, not that she knew that. But she had decided on the spot that it wouldn’t matter if I were, she would do it. Wow.

Richard pulled up a few minutes later asking if I were up to driving. Sure!

Turns out he’d had to pull off the road to barf. RICHARD! Oh I’m SO sorry! I could have called Phyllis or someone and gotten a ride, you didn’t have to…!

It actually hadn’t occurred to him. He’d been so focused on doing right by me that he hadn’t been paying any attention to himself.

He’s a sweetheart and I got him home and put to bed quickly while I typed out that brief post to say I was back.

And that will be a story to tell the next time, too. He missed me. I missed him. And we took good care of each other.

The hot date
Monday July 06th 2015, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A story told by my cousin Russ, one of the youngest grandchildren. It made me realize that I never, no matter the weather, saw our grandmother looking disheveled: she was always properly dressed and coiffed just so. Always ready to look the role of the Senator’s wife.

Russ was coming into town on business and had a reservation to rent a car, the cheapest economy size, of course, no need for more.

Only when he got there they were fresh out; would he mind being upgraded?

Gram was 95 or 96, and it was during her two years of widowhood after seventy-two of marriage.

Her usual routine had long been to be taken to have her hair done on Wednesdays and then to her favorite restaurant for lunch. I don’t know how many years she and Grampa had kept that routine, but my family and I once got to join them for lunch there ourselves. (Grampa, who wasn’t always entirely with it by then, ordered something unexpected and the waitress smiled behind his 95-year-old back: “I know what he really wants” and brought him his usual.)

The people hired to take care of Gram were happy to help her go off with Russ this week–assuming he was legit.

So here’s this handsome young man in a hot Mustang muscle car (I pictured it in red but I’m not sure he actually mentioned it) pulling up to the curb. The nurses asked her, making sure, Do you know who this man is?

“I don’t know,” said our formerly tall, now stooped and tiny Gram with a laugh, “but if he’s taking me to get my hair done he’s fine with me!”

Just stepped in the door
Sunday July 05th 2015, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Life

Past midnight my time.

Today was, as far as I know, the first time I have ever gone to church with the Secret Service minding the doors. Odd, that.

Had a fabulous time. So good to be home. More later.

Opening up
Wednesday July 01st 2015, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Life

I knew a lot of them consider it a scut job and I wanted the nurse to know that no, this was important. It was important to me, and I was glad she was willing to do it. I told her I was going to be at a family reunion starting tomorrow and that I needed to hear as much as I could.

And so, with the obligatory before-and-after check-ins by the doctor, she got to work cleaning out the wax that my ears are forever trying to wash away my hearing aids with: one aid in place as she worked on the other side so we could converse, then dab dry with some tissue and we were going to switch.

But she finished the first and turned to the sink a moment to refill her spritzer thing while I put that side back in and I said in surprise, “I can hear the water running now! I couldn’t before.”

It really made that much of a difference?

It really made that much of a difference.

And the audiologist cleaned out the hearing aids yesterday. I am ready to go.