Friday March 29th 2019, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Family

Sat on the ground two hours while they fixed the plane. Curious: they left the door open for most of that because once it shuts, they said, the countdown begins: two hours and they have to let you get off.

Which means I cast on a hat in the airport, 70 stitches of Mecha on size 7s, and finished it before takeoff. Which was a first.

Landed to new snow here in SLC and a bit of rain working away at it.

It’s good to see the folks.

Love you, Dad
Thursday March 28th 2019, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Two years in on his pulmonary fibrosis.

I’m going to go see my dad tomorrow, so it may be quiet here for a few days.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with one edit: clearly, it’s 92 that is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Colors of spring
Wednesday March 27th 2019, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knitting a Gift

Finished last night at bedtime and hung to dry fast before calling it a night, grateful I got it done in time: Laura’s cowl. Delivered on her last day at Green Planet Yarns.

That amaryllis from last week has a second stalk blooming, and I had no idea that bulb had a twin!


More flowers
Tuesday March 26th 2019, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

There are more blossoms on the Indian Free peach (the new Frost with the red limb spreaders is behind it) –and to my surprise, the first squash blossom. It’s not even in the ground yet but it couldn’t wait.

I hope it’s spring where you guys are, too.

This land is your land this land is my land from California to the new-worked eyries
Monday March 25th 2019, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

A crow broke off a twig from the fragile-looking tree just across the fence and with three of its peers inspecting and jumping around that same tree, took off with it trailing along behind, cutting across the corner of my yard to go past where the redwood used to be to go to the tall pine the next yard over.

They ignored me till I took my hat off and waved it at them, at which point the remaining crows wheeled the other way and flew off, this time not over my yard.

So that explains why the crows have been hanging out over there. I knew it wasn’t for food.

And it explains the hawk’s behavior. It’s been working at improving its take-out window hunting technique for several weeks now, giving me an occasional glimpse if I look up fast enough, but it sure wasn’t holding still for more than that.

Till yesterday, when a yearling Cooper’s whose adult feathers won’t come in till this summer was standing guard for some time on the edge of our awning, staring down the crows over yonder, declaring both ownership and a dare.

They flapped off the same way they later would for me.

Eventually the Cooper’s hopped down into a better view for us and explored our porch on that fine Sunday afternoon. It perched on a birdnetting tent to give it some height and looked in the windows at us.

I made sure to blink a lot so as not to be a challenge nor a predator to it. Come, I mentally welcomed. Stay awhile.

Don’t mind if I do. So it did. It let me admire its gorgeousness from fifteen feet away for several minutes, perfectly fine with my eyes meeting his.

Eventually it–I’m going to say, given the size, he–did a short jump over to the potted plants, and at that point I thought maybe I could get its picture, but no, I moved across the room to get my phone and that was not yet allowed. This is still new, don’t push it.

There were dove feathers starting their rapid rainy return into cherry tree fertilizer this morning.

So we have a resident Cooper’s hawk again, to my great delight, and it is establishing our yard as part of its own home from an early age. Coopernicus, who was probably its father, was always the most friendly to humans during breeding season and this one is starting to be, too. Even though it probably won’t start its first family till next year.


When I waved those crows away today I wondered if yesterday’s hawk would know I was keeping the place open for him.

And then I saw it: two of them, wings stretched wide far above in courtship mode, circling around each other on the updrafts and keeping an eye on the goings-on below. Yup. They noticed.

Note that when San Jose built its new city hall, a female peregrine falcon wandering through claimed the eighteenth floor ledge and the building as her own. She too was a yearling. But a male peregrine was smart enough to know that having a female and a territory was good enough to wait a year for and he joined her. From the spring after that one, Clara’s been producing young there every year and is brooding a clutch of four right now, her thirteenth set, if I’m counting right.

And of course mine aren’t peregrines.

So we’ll see how this one goes. But having this one prove people-friendly means we have us some good times ahead.

Sunday March 24th 2019, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I can only knit so much at a time before my hands kvetch at me for it. But still, I’m making progress.

Milk Pail
Saturday March 23rd 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Milk Pail is closing. Forty-five years an institution in the community, a place where CEO types can find (or ask for) some exotic cheese no one’s ever heard of, where the family just scraping by can go to find produce for far less than anywhere else; I once noticed I’d been charged fifteen cents for my single zucchini. I did a double take once when I realized that the guy who’d just helped me reach something I’d dropped was the co-founder of Smugmug; he was the brother of my late and much-missed friend RobinM, but I’d recognized him a moment too late.

Steve was able to buy the land under the business all those years ago, and with the distortions from Proposition 13 across the decades, that meant his costs have been very low and he could pass that on. Which he didn’t have to do, but he did.

But his brother-in-law who’d helped manage it died, it’s hard to find retail workers at our local cost of living–although there is one who is, literally, a rock star who loves his day job. Steve’s daughter interrupted her college to help manage the place after her uncle’s death but in the end keeping tabs on a business that was open seven days a week for forty-five years, while the big developer was raising high-rises all around him and cutting off his customers’ parking, wanting his land too, it became just too much. They were tired.

Nobody sells vanilla extract like their vanilla extract and nobody sells it at that good a price. Michelle and I were going there anyway, so while we were at it we asked what a case of those bottles would cost.

Steve’s daughter laughed and said, Well actually we fill those from the gallon jars we buy.

So that would be…? It lasts, right?

She laughed again, envisioning All. That. Baking. It was four gallons to a case and she didn’t know how much they would charge, she would have to find out.

We gave her a phone number and she’ll get back to us. They’ll be open for several more months. But the land is sold and the deal is done. The city okayed an eight-story office building going in there.

As we headed out, there was Steve himself and he and I threw our arms around each other, remembering those hearings at city hall together. He’d been so gratified at the outpouring of community support, yet again–and the number of people who’d told him they were just glad he hadn’t died of overwork in his store. Yeah him too.

It was time.

There were so many people trying to get into his small parking lot that traffic was backed up into the next block as we left. Nobody sells the stuff Steve sells. Nobody. You want newly-picked Violette de Bordeaux figs? In their season he has them. Locavore heaven. The place is a treasure.

Michelle and I each came home with an 8 oz bottle of that double-strength vanilla, just because.

She’ll need warm things there
Friday March 22nd 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

My friend Laura is moving away so I headed over to Green Planet yarns to meet up with her. (And with Anne. Hi Anne!)

Which means I really need to get to work on that cowl I cast on because I needed a carry-around project; no particular planning went into it, whatever yarn would do. Cameleon, in Malabrigo Rios. Summer in a ball. Cheerful stuff.

It wasn’t in Anne’s colors, but Laura swooned.

Which means I made sure I have her forwarding address now. That worked out well.

Meantime, the blueberries are blooming.

Black Jack fig
Thursday March 21st 2019, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Garden

First leaves and first figs–or to be technical, the breba crop, ie, that which is produced on last year’s wood and ripens early on without the heat of the summer to increase its sweetness, although for this variety they’re not far off from the main crop that comes later on on the new wood. You can always roast them and drizzle a little honey on.

They’re just starting to show but there are already a lot more brebas than last year.

There’s some knitting going on, too, but right now I’m just reveling in watching everything coming back to life. We woke up to 36F again this morning, which is so not normal for March. The historical average is 47F. I like that spring is, at least by daytime, steadily upstaging the unusual cold, bit by bit.

Merry Christmas!
Wednesday March 20th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family

An amaryllis my dad gave me for Christmas, celebrating the first day of spring. Thank you, Dad, it’s gorgeous!

Done right at last
Tuesday March 19th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

What last week’s trip to Santa Cruz to buy the Frost variety was about:

The effects of peach leaf curl disease are cumulative. It needs a combination of rain and cold and newly growing leaves to spread across a tree and we have had twelve atmospheric rivers this winter with another just starting to let loose as I type.

My Tropic Snow always bloomed in January with leafing starting as the petals fell right at the middle of our cold rain. It took the hit year after year, sprayed with copper or not. And you don’t want too much copper build-up in your soil or it kills the good organisms.

When I planted it, there was a patch of lily of the nile and a stump (correction 3/20/19: it was still a small tree at that point) that kept me from centering it between the lemon tree and the fence and it ended up right by the lemon, a very lopsided look, not even close to centered. But there was no way I could tackle those. It frankly looked terrible and I always regretted that.

Now, nearly every leaf on the thing was shriveled and brown and unable to produce food for the tree; the single peach that set from all its flowers was diseased and would never be edible. I didn’t even have to prune it this winter–it spent all its energy last year growing a second set of leaves, and after it rained again, a few more. It had been in sheer survival mode for some time now.

Given that it was one of my earliest learning experiences in fruit tree growing, I didn’t do a good job pruning and shaping it its first year or two and too much of it had grown above picking reach–which is one of the reasons I chose the tree last week that had the lowest branches. I’ve learned how to envision what these will grow to look like if I prune them right, and that you start from as close to the ground as you can.

My Indian Free does not get curl disease but it was the only resistant peach I had and the only one that needed a pollinator. Timing-wise, the also-resistant Frost variety could be that pollinator. And it is on Lovell rootstock, too, meaning it will grow strong and it will grow fast. (It will take some work to keep it to a reasonable height.)

Their production time is staggered. Perfect.

That’s the Frost in bloom above and the Indian Free below.

Today was one of Elio the gardener’s Tuesdays. I asked him if he could do this extra project for me, not sure he had the tools nor the time for it. Of course he did. He dove right in.

The stump that has defied me and kept growing back for five years now (never ever let a eucalyptus sprout in your yard) has much less to it now.

The lily of the nile cluster has been dug out to two feet deep and transplanted to the bare spot beyond the mango tree that really called out for it and it makes my heart sing to be able to, for the first time, see it out the windows. Beautiful plants. I can’t wait to see them bloom.

But the Tropic Snow.

Was I sure? Elio asked.

I was. We looked at that poor sad peach tree together for a moment as if in eulogy. It had tried so hard.

He not only took it out, he went below ground level working away at the stump, which I didn’t expect at all.

A large gopher-proofing wire cage highly recommended by the Garden Company went into the new hole.

I wanted to plant the new tree myself.

And now it’s in there, near the Indian Free, right in the spot where that lily of the nile was this morning. I will buy new and sharp shears in its honor and get that done.

I got the help I should have asked for the first time around, but I’m rather glad I didn’t–this is much better.

This will be a healthy tree. And now Adele will have peaches reaching over the fence towards her in July as well as September and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.



But is it woolly edible?
Monday March 18th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knit

When my sister Anne was an art major, there was a semester where she had to choose one article and render it in many mediums. I remember the watercolor the best of all her lobsters.

With thanks to Margo Lynn for the heads-up, now someone has crocheted one: along with a knitted squid, shrimp, smelt, mussels, oysters, scallops, a beaded crab and a side of French fries wearing French berets and sporting the perfect little mustaches. Red i-cord for the tabasco sauce dribbling out. Atlas Obscura had fun with this one.

The long-awaited day
Sunday March 17th 2019, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Mango tree

I had pushed leaves aside to see how yellow it was and it had fallen into my hand a little early, as that variety apparently does, but it was ripe now. I found a good box for it. I put small-bubble bubble wrap inside, then a paper towel, then nestled the homegrown Alphonso mango there, nicely cushioned for the short trip.

Eli’s mom and big sister were outside as I pulled in, along with their neighbor, who seemed to be helping with the daughter’s bicycle.

I told them what I’d brought.

“It IS?!” His mom and the neighbor both sniffed its fragrance and the neighbor did a little swoon. I explained to her that Eli had helped keep my tree alive while I was traveling when it was small and I’d promised him the second mango ever and this was it.

His big sister pedaled her bike in great excitement around my car and towards the front door to go tell him.

Chez Suzi
Saturday March 16th 2019, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

She’s someone else’s daughter, but I know how much it means to my own when someone takes her dairy allergy seriously: is chocolate made on equipment shared with milk, etc, okay to use in the ganache? She said yes, grateful at my asking her first without her having to say anything. Alright then, coconut cream for the cream, Earth Balance for the butter, and the chocolate torte just kind of melted in your mouth.

I sent her home with the leftovers.

And our mutual friend Suzi is a fabulous cook. If she ever opens a restaurant I’ll be first in line.

Friday March 15th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

So here’s what happened: I walked out of the room to get ready for bed two nights ago, expecting him to follow in a moment or two; instead, he called out for me to come back about five minutes later, and as I turned from the hallway into the family room it hit me, too. The sharp smell of burning plastic. It happened that fast.

We unplugged everything around and including the computers, since it seemed to come from that part of the room, and stayed up way late sniffing and looking and touching and trying to track down the source, with fans blowing to clear it out. Which two things kind of defeated each other but. We would step out of the room or outside to refresh our noses and try again. I wished out loud for a trained dog, and we kind of laughed over what our lovable but not overly bright St. Bernard/Mastiff granddog would do. I wondered if we were supposed to call the fire department–but there was no fire for them to come to, yet, anyway, and nothing had a power source anymore.

Last night we plugged in the surge protector and the computers again and gave them a try. Seemed okay. We did not leave them on for the night but at least I got my blog post done in that short time.

With slightly more confidence in those, my computer came back on in the morning, and the idea was that we would plug one new thing at a time back in to try to figure out what was going bad.

I think we’ve found it. The smell was faint but the heat from the thing was not. I’ll feel better when we’ve tested everything but I think that ACDC adaptor was it. If anyone has any words of wisdom on the subject please fill me in.

That whole thing was just really, really close. The smoke alarms (Wikipedia link) did not go off. What if he’d left the room when I did.