The fix of the day at the break of day
Monday March 27th 2017, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Dawn today was officially at 7:00 am sharp.

After waking up at 5:30 because my subconscious was afraid I wouldn’t hear the alarm, at ten of I turned on the outside light, opened the door, and waved at the work van to let Mr. Chavez know I was ready whenever he was.

We walked around the house to the culprit and he quickly determined it was indeed the thermocouple. He showed me how he could tell this was so and noted the GE model and said it was particularly bad for those going out–his own, he’d had to do this twice already, every three years. So we would probably have to do it again, but meantime, the heater was built in 2013–it definitely had life left in it. He noted that some manufacturers have moved away from thermocouples altogether, for the next time we’re in the market. You’ll want to get one of those.

And then he got to it.

Well, as long as I was already outside at that hour I decided to do what I’ve known for a long time I should do but really really had no particular desire to get up early to do: I walked around the fruit trees and the–what are those big leafy plants along the raised border called again–and picked off the snails and crushed them. I’d done this at evening many times but wow, at the break of day is definitely when they’re out.

The copper tape around the base of the trees meant I only found two small ones in one tree where they’d climbed the grass over the barrier; the rest were in those big juicy green border-plant leaves.

As he worked they started heading downwards into hiding for the day, with me going oh no you’re not.

The trick is not to push your hair out of your face with the hand you pick them up with (this hand, snails, that hand, hair.) A few of them, um, panicked at being grabbed.

It was a near thing a time or two.

He finished up, I paid him, I waited the half hour he said to… And then another just to make absolute sure.

That was the best best best shower in a long time. Thank you Bernie Chavez.

(Washing machine repairman: Wednesday.)



A nest to feed
Sunday March 26th 2017, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

The hawk swooped barely above a squirrel’s head on the fence to let it know who was boss and landed halfway down the birdnetting tent over the still-tiny sour cherry tree. The tent flinched but held and with a shuffle of feet so did he. I really need a decent-sized tree over there and rather regret having put in an ultradwarf, but the new pomegranate next to it is likely to put on some height soon to make up for it.

My phone rang and I reached for it, breaking the spell of the moment, and he took off.

Later, a solitary dove landed under the bird feeder when not even a squirrel was visible. I thought, that’s perfect for him–but for you, not so much. Don’t you know…?

I went back to what I was doing.

I looked up just as the enormous Cooper’s wings flapped wide in a hard turn right there as its feet simultaneously grabbed the dove falling backwards from the window. Bird yoga. The hawk flew hard with it, slightly wobbly as it made its grip sure, across the open yard swooping low then up at the last over the fence and steeply back downwards, whether to the ground or up again to the cover of the neighbors’ trees (which is more likely) I don’t know. The ravens would steal it in an instant if they saw and he would know where they would be and where they could see. I never took my eyes off him but I had no idea where he’d gone. He’s good.

He watches everything.

Chavez is coming at 7 am and we should have fully hot water in that tank by mid-morning.



Monday has never looked so good
Saturday March 25th 2017, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Life

She LOVED the blue, passed on the green. So having the washing machine go down worked out well for her.

Had it been my choice, the hot water heater would have waited more than a day to join it.

The city prefers we let them send their inspector on their dime when it comes to gas appliances rather than having you blow up or burn down your house, so, a very nice guy showed up not long after we called–probably not a lot of demand on a Saturday at dinner time–and said the pilot was indeed out.

The winds the previous day had blown open the door to its small outside-facing closet and that almost never happens; had that blown it out?

He looked at the set up and said no, it couldn’t be blown out.

He could get it to relight but it refused to stay lit–probably the thermocouple, he said. Should be an easy fix. This thing says it was built in 2013–no way it should need to be replaced yet, though you may need a new control board if it’s not the other.

So. The washing machine yesterday, the hot water heater today. As the clerk rang up pecan Kringle and frozen macarons with my groceries, I said to her, So what can you do but go to Trader Joe’s and buy sweets?

She cracked up.

The one plumber who answered his phone said he would put us first on his list for Monday, and so it shall be. Actually, wait, there were two, and one said he doesn’t do that anymore but call Chavez, he’s the best in the business.

Chavez, whoever he is, was surprised and thrilled when I passed that word along, pride and humility both in his voice and I liked him already.

The bathtub is full of water for the morning. Room temperature will not be fun but at the outside temp–dang. Just unthinkable.



The absurd with the Sublime
Friday March 24th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

There was a little left of the second skein of Sublime pearl/bamboo tonight but not enough to be absolutely sure I could do another repeat–besides, it’s at seven and the eye is satisfied with groupings in odd numbers and oddly dissatisfied at even-number ones and I knew that trying for nine, there was just no way; I cast off.

It fills up. It drains. It won’t agitate and it won’t spin, it just growls. You know you’re a knitter when your first reaction to finding out the washing machine just broke is, but then how on earth am I supposed to spin this out after I rinse it so it can be dry by the morning?! How am I supposed to block this?!

On the other hand, I have a bright blue cowl done in cashmere, silk, and baby alpaca yarn I’d plied on the wheel and I know she loves that color, too. The practical side says I think we’re good.

But the part of me that made that avocado one just for her wants to tuck it into my purse and offer to switch her if she’d rather. I’d better go get those ends run in to give myself the option, if not her. (Edited to add, oops, scratch that, it’s not that one it’s the 66/34 cashmere/cotton one. Still good.)



Pearlescent
Thursday March 23rd 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

It suddenly needed to be knitted, like, yesterday.

After all those afghans, it was amazing how fast 100 stitches of slippery yarn go around and around; it’s a bit splitty, so the blunt needles are exactly on point.

I’ve had a few skeins of this for awhile, waiting for the right person to knit pearls for. Truly: it is made from the chips from rounding off off-kilter pearls for jewelry. Soft, lustrous, warmth in my hands that anyone could wear in any weather.

It’s very much not my color but it’s what it came in that was still in stock–it was expensive to manufacture and was discontinued quickly. Now that I know where it’s going, the color is perfect. It will be treasured.

My phone is refusing to take its picture even after I deleted old ones. You don’t mind waiting till tomorrow to see it, do you? I knitted till pretty late.



Spring
Wednesday March 22nd 2017, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The hole the woodpecker made in the dead wood that ended up on the ground, leaving a tiny feather behind.

The tree with a bigger hole now.

The first peach of the season, on a tree hit by peach leaf curl despite my spraying copper; once was not enough. The first two were leafing out during the storms last month, and rain plus cold weather lets the disease attack the developing leaves.
The new healthy leaves are already coming in, and once they’re fully grown they’re impervious to it.

The other two vulnerable trees are leafing out and it’s been raining–but it’s also been warmer.

The Indian Free is happy as a clam, and should I lose one of the others I’m going to put in a Muir, which likewise is resistant and late-blooming.

The breba (spring crop) figs growing below the leaves.

And there are new flower buds today on the cherries and blueberries.

I love the happy anticipation at this time of year. It’s like a new knitting project with enough rows done that you can really see what it’s going to turn out to be.



Gorsuch-and-such
Tuesday March 21st 2017, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knit,Politics

As I clipped off the ties there was this vague sense that something was wrong, but it made no sense and I ignored it–at the time.

Oooh, man. All those hundreds of yards of wool and that compliant-looking hank was anything but: it was tangled, and tangled bad.

If you are winding yarn into a hank (race-track shaped, for the non knitters, for dyeing now and winding into a ball later) and get interrupted and come back to it and finish with the winding going the other way, you create loops against the loops instead of one big loop–and the yarn must be slowly carefully unwoven back through all those figure-eights. The ball, as it gets bigger and bigger, still has to fit through all those catch points every time around.

I started at about 10:30 this morning. I got interrupted by a few things, including a friend dropping by for an hour and a half, but still: it was 3:30 when I finally got that last yard onto that ball.

Which I emphatically did not knit. I was done with it for the day.

So while I fussed with all that, I had the second-day Neil Gorsuch hearings going to keep me occupied. (The Supreme Court nominee.)

He seems like a nice guy. We could definitely do worse, given who chose him.

And yet. Too often he’s sided with money over people. That Hobby Lobby judgment that he defended because of the owners’ “sincerely held beliefs”? A Senator said, Well, what if an owner is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to pay for employees’ medical insurance to cover blood donations? Where does this end? And what about the sincerely held beliefs of the 1300 employees, don’t they matter?

There were questions about a case involving a trucker, which Gorsuch dismissed as squabbling over a hole vs an opening in the floor of the truck. I wondered what that was all about, since he clearly seemed to be avoiding it, so I went looking.

What he refused to acknowledge was that by his dissent in that case, he was saying a man’s life was less important than corporate rules.

The brakes had failed on the guy’s trailer and he had called for help, was told it was coming, and fell asleep in his unheated truck. He woke up in the early stages of hypothermia and knew he would die if he stayed there. Rather than drive with a dangerous trailer he unhooked it, drove the truck to safety and warmth, and when that roadside help finally came, drove back to the trailer and dealt with it.

He was fired, and Gorsuch upheld that firing. The rules were he was to have stayed put, and he didn’t.

And this is the man who wants to make potentially life-and-death decisions for us all.

I can only pray we get the smiley Mr. Nice Guy he portrayed himself as. We have enough of a tangled mess at the top.



Hawk eye
Monday March 20th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Two ravens landed in my back yard yesterday, standing there watching me, testing, and then quickly lifting away when I objected, flying in a half circle just outside the periphery of the property and jerking back away when I waved my arms when they got too close. Territory is a language they speak (loudly, at times. Caw.) Back to your willow tree, guys.

Every spring, they try. Once. And then the young ones decide the rules their parents had taught them were real.

But that challenge could not be allowed to stand, and the absence of birds at my feeder the entire rest of the day but for two frantic all-ee-all-ee-in-come-free minutes, twice, then frantic scrambles away, suggested that a Cooper’s hawk had seen what those ravens had done and was having none of it.

Time to claim that which is closer to the ground as well as the redwood heights above.

The first shake of the window got my attention, the second bounce still didn’t stop it and then at last the dove turned towards that tree with the hawk now in close pursuit.

He was back in the afternoon: the solitary sentry at the center of the fence, his chest not streaked with youth but not quite chestnut yet either, at least not at that angle in the shadows of the heavy clouds. It could have been just the light. He stood.

A while later, wide wings caught my eye as he came in to guard the top of the awning above the bird feeder, that typical low swoop with the upwards at the end. Three sightings in one day? I looked at my calendar, and yes: equinox. Now I get it.

He stood there for some time, too.

He flew down to the patio to what I had not quite realized till that moment was his other I-am-here: the wooden box. But in the instant his feet would have touched down he tucked them back up again and turned and flew towards the redwood.

I felt like I’d wrecked it. I’d left my tomato seedlings at that edge and he’d seen at the last that they were too flimsy to support him, right when he no longer had quite enough lift to simply land past them. As soon as he was out of sight I opened the slider and moved them to the other end of the box so he could have his perch back.

The one he likes to people-watch from (and also look for finches cowering in the elephant ears against the house.)

It is raining hard and will off and on for the next five days. There is easy food just outside of the rain for the seedeaters and they will want that.

He’s got a nest up there again this year. He will be back.



15-second friends
Sunday March 19th 2017, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Saturday night I was at Trader Joe’s reading a label at the end of an aisle when a woman I didn’t see coming up behind me, on her way by, said, warmly, “I LOVE your hair!”

She had no way to know I’d despaired over it that very morning and had seriously considered simply cutting it all off–knowing I would hate it if I did.

Surprised, I turned to see a beautiful African-American woman with her softly graying hair in long dreds and told her, “I love *your* hair!” (And I did.) “Trade you!”

We both laughed as she continued on her way, both of us better off for her outspoken kindness.



The Wave
Saturday March 18th 2017, 10:06 pm
Filed under: History

Wow, what a story. I had no idea of this local history till tonight.

It took forty years for the single student who truly resisted what her classroom was turning into to feel comfortable letting her peers know it was her all along–alone. Only her father, backing her up all the way, had known.

Nevertheless, she persisted.



Build-a-nest kit
Friday March 17th 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

It looks bigger if you gather it round like the curve of the needles. I’m on the second of three eight-ounce balls. As long as it beats the baby here it’s all good.

I was about six ounces into it a few days ago when I realized that the pattern I’d picked and what I was actually knitting don’t look like they have any connection, because I… And then I kept… How did I not see that I… Eh. So it’s unique.

Meantime, a full month behind the Bewick’s wrens doing this, the chickadees (ours are the chestnut-backed variety) dove into the dog fur today again and again and again all day long, at one time managing to lift what looked like an entire pile–briefly, and I wish the camera had caught that millisecond. No way, and it put most of it back for now. It was comically wobbly heading off.

In Alaska, where the forecast is zero degrees tonight and warm wool a good idea, our daughter reported that her cat cuddled up next to her–but was then flummoxed that her stomach was kicking it.



Nearing equinox
Thursday March 16th 2017, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Back to the old method. Coopernicus, is that you?

That was a hard enough smack to shake the window next to me and I looked up to see feathers and more feathers floating down–and the dove? Still flying after that? How?

Immediately incoming was the Cooper’s hawk in pursuit, aimed as if straight for my face, but it pulled up into a tight curve around the bird feeder and back out again after its fleeing dinner. Which it surely caught, somewhere through the trees and just beyond where I could see. We’re both fine with that.



Giving us the birds
Wednesday March 15th 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life

My baby Parfianka Pomegranate, the two-year-old Indian Free peach, and the yearling Baby Crawford that’s too young to let fruit but whose flowers will serve the other nicely.

And the first 8 oz skein of Washington Circle Worsted, done. (I might be able to squeeze one last row out of that.)

Two days of having the net down except for a few brief blips made for lots of knitting time. Also icing of hands.

As I was walking around the yard this evening, trying to capture these trees being young and small (or not so small in the case of the IF), I was surprised to see chunks of dead wood on the ground over there near the kids’ old climbing tree.

I don’t know if I have a photo for real or just in my head, but, when our kids were young the two older ones threw a long hose again and again up and over one of its upper branches (before it grew too big) and improvised their own swing out of it. Never mind that we had an old swingset at the time; this was way more fun. Because they’d made it. In a tree. Be like a bird. It was a playground unto itself in their childhoods.

As they got older and more in need of their individual spaces we added a bedroom too close to that tree and it gradually grew over it. Richard and I quite a few times heard the thud in the night of a raccoon dropping off a branch and landing overhead and ambling around, with paw prints in the morning across the bathroom skylight like a two-stage verification process.

And then there was that notable year when the nocturnal black beetles that favored that type of tree dropped down through the heating vent and landed on my head at night. This was before we found out there were breaks in the heating system up there that gave them that pathway from the tree. OUT!!!

And so we cut that side of the tree off, and I would have told them to take it all–but Richard remembered the climbing tree days and he couldn’t quite bear to erase the thing.

Alright, so at least we got it away from our bedroom.

There is a big knot hole where one of the larger branches was taken out.

Between it and the house is where I found those chunks of dead wood.

When we bought this house, the sellers had cut down two white-fly-stricken Modesto ash trees (the third lived seven more years) leaving stumps about eight feet high. Why, we did not know–till we found we had woodpeckers nesting in the cavity just below the v-shaped top of one of them.

Richard was the first to notice it. And that the parent birds never flew directly to it; they zigzagged here and there, mostly over in the tall still-living tree next to it, before dashing into the hole at the last–where, from a respectful distance, the tall guy could put our children on his shoulders one by one to see the parents feeding their babies.

When we added on that bedroom, those stumps, very regretfully, had to go.

And now, around the corner on the other side of that room… There’s a hole gouged out that’s angled sharply down. I’m again not quite tall enough to see into it.

But there are thicknesses of leaves of the still-living tree directly above for the parent birds to catch bugs in and zigzag to their hearts’ content through.

He’s right. The tree stays. Or at least the bottom seven or eight feet of it, after nesting season is over.



Washington Circle
Monday March 13th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Knit

I sent off a note to Karida at Neighborhood Fiber Company: is my Washington Circle yarn named after the area near George Washington University in DC? Or for somewhere in Baltimore?

I could just hear her smile as she wrote back:

Alison,

Washington Circle is one of our original colors and is definitely referring to Washington Circle in D.C. I went to GWU, and that circle was part of my daily pedestrian life as a student. Cheers!

So cool. My husband and I were both born at the old (now replaced) hospital at George Washington University, and I love that the yarn I’m knitting for our grandson has such a connection to place–both ours, and Karida herself: and now she’s working from a place close to where our daughter/his mother lived in grad school.



Forget the knitting, hey, look! A pretty peach tree!
Sunday March 12th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The Indian Free has started blooming on the side of the tree towards Adele’s yard. I could have pruned more of those smaller branches out but everything fills out fast on that tree, it being a standard rather than a semi-dwarf, and I wanted the lower ones to grow just over the fence rather than having only the upper ones left which could end up towering high out of the neighbors’ reach. I want it to grow a lot more out than up. I’ll adjust it as it goes along.

Wildflower ground cover: oxalis.

A Cooper’s hawk landed in the middle of the fence this afternoon. There was a squirrel at either end of that fence, one standing still, one lying down, and neither seemed to know quite what to do–reminding me that the average lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is a single year. They’ll learn to be afraid of it soon enough.

The one lying down thought about it a moment and stood up with its legs stretched upwards rather like a cat, facing the hawk. It was an odd thing to do.

The hawk was not a juvenile. It was a male. Whether it was my Coopernicus who’s been around these last eight years or so I don’t know but observations will tell. The hunting pattern has definitely been different; he likely had a shoulder injury from sideswiping the window screen and learned to compensate by driving his prey into the windows to stun them. There have been very few window strikes this year–but then, I’ve mostly been seeing juvenile Coopers.

Knitting: I worked on Nash’s stocking and ripped it right back. I know how to fix a miscrossed cable, just, I didn’t do a very good job of it and rather than spend any more time fussing over it it was only four rows down so there you go. Rip.

Back to the receiving blanket.