Check your smoke detectors
Thursday March 14th 2019, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Life

Monday night the door of the big freezer bounced open. We found it in time.

Tuesday night the door of the fridge bounced and we did not find it in time–not till morning.

Wednesday night…

It was a nearer thing than we would have liked. We’re okay. The house is okay.

Suddenly spoiled food didn’t seem like all that much at all.

Ear doctoring
Wednesday March 13th 2019, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sometimes a blueberry clafoutis just demands to be made and that’s that.

Meantime, I went to go see my ENT today. His wife got a handknit from me years ago but I’d never knit him his own something; it was time.

A Malabrigo Mecha hat, thick, densely knit, warm, and soft. He quite liked the dark teal green. He tried it on for size, very pleased.

Turns out he’s taking a week off starting tomorrow to visit his daughter’s family, and where she lives it’s been snowing a lot.

A man who loves what he helps put into the world
Tuesday March 12th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

One new Frost peach tree with one flower and more to come.

Yesterday, Garden Company in Santa Cruz had five of them. Today there were only three, so I was glad they’d offered to reserve me one.

He knew who I was the instant I said Frost peach and he brought me over to the biggest and best-formed one, tagged with my name, just a beautiful baby tree in a pot. He warned me that the peaches on these were very large and could break limbs, and I felt as he said that how much what he sells and the people he sells to matter a great deal to him. I said I’d have to be careful on thinning them to one each, implicitly promising him that I would, that I would take good care of it; he nodded yes. I told him the great Loring peach of my youth on the east coast doesn’t need thinning.

But is it peach leaf curl resistant?

Oh no, I shook my head ruefully. No it is not. And we both knew that disease was why I was here.

There were two Frosts lined up behind that one.

He pointed out that the one at the back, however, did have lower branching than the others. One of the side effects of our longer, warmer season is that things grow a lot and it can be hard to find a fruit tree whip that isn’t tall between the ground and the bottom limbs when you plant it.

He wanted to make sure I knew I had that choice.

I knew it would be easier to pick the fruit. And somewhat easier to keep the tree to a manageable size. Which was going to be an issue, because the variety was only available on semi-dwarfing, not dwarfing rootstock, and I’d seen how my Indian Free had taken off like a rocket on that Lovell.

He pulled out the two in front so I could see it. Rather than limbs spread widely like the one with my name on it, most of them went pretty much straight up as if they’d been squeezed for sunshine. Not great angles.

I was quite pleased that he had been saving me the best.

And yet I took the smaller, thinner-trunked, slightly funky-leaning Charlie Brown tree after all. It won’t stay small long. It needs a little pruning to widen that out and definitely some limb spacers to push them apart. Someone else will get the perfectly shaped tree perfectly ready to go.

Hopefully I’ll be glad for a long time to come that I chose this one.

But I know that I’m really, really glad I bought it from these guys. What a wonderful place.

I heard that
Monday March 11th 2019, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

My Santa Rosa plum, a Mother’s Day gift planted by my kids maybe a dozen years ago.

The second Alphonso fell into my hands. It is ripening for a few days inside and then I’ll deliver it as promised to Eli, the young man who took such good care of my mango for several years whenever we were out of town. He’s earned it, by his enthusiasm for that tree as well as all the bicycle trips over here.

Already the aroma is starting to bloom.

I called around, and this late in the planting season, the place I love in Santa Cruz still has the peach variety I want: Frost produces when my others don’t, it blooms when my Indian Free needs a pollinator, and it’s a yellow peach with a worthy flavor by all reports.

There was just too much rain and cold this year for my earliest variety: the Tropic Snow’s greening-out starts too soon to dodge peach leaf curl disease, which thrives on growing leaves in those conditions, and sprayed or not it still always gets hit. The effect was cumulative. We’re losing that tree and I’d rather not lose a growing season, so, out it will go and in with the resistant Frost variety.

It’s too late for it, but I read last week on a gardening forum that the British a number of decades ago came up with a way of dealing with the problem. They plant susceptible varieties (and most peaches are) under the eaves of houses and espalier them there to keep them close, then cover the exposed side with wide rolls of plastic so the rain can’t touch them and the disease can’t make its way around the tree.

And the word for that method?

Eavesdropping. Yes it is.

The perfect blue
Sunday March 10th 2019, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

The cowl was just the right color for her. Cashmere and 14-micron merino: soft, soft stuff.

It came out the wrong gauge. The last time I used that yarn I was trying to make a hat that was Alaska windproof and I guess my inner yarnmemory wanted to keep it that way. I thought, well, at least it will stretch out a lot when it hits the water.

It only did a little. Assessing it honestly, it was pretty but it was pretty small: it needed a petite person for it to be flattering on, which she is not. And it was very warm, again begging for someone who needs it that way.

So it’s been sitting around for a few weeks, a little lost. Last night I felt like, I need that done and I need it done now. I found it and ran the ends in and put it in my purse, along with a project in progress to make up for it that was partly that same blue.

Which my intended recipient totally fell in love with. Malabrigo in the Whales Road colorway for the win! Deep-water blue, a little purple, a little teal, perfectly blended, in a much lighter yarn. The gauge and size are coming out perfect and she is very happy about it.

Meantime, very much to my surprise, John E showed up from New England to visit his mother, introducing his wife to all his old friends who were still around.

When we moved here in the late ’80’s, I was asked to teach the twelve-year-olds. Of which there was, for the first six months, one. Him. I asked if there was a manual for the class? I think so, the person in charge answered, but never got back to me despite being pestered a few more times. Well alright then I’ll just have to make do.

So every Sunday I had about 35 minutes one on one with this kid, trying to teach him what it means to try to live by the light of the love that seeks to guide our steps toward blessing others. That we make mistakes. We own it and apologize. We learn. We improve. We go on.

It was hard, since the planning and delivering were ad-libbing, but it was easy; he was a great kid.

I remember one time when he came home from college, watching him interacting with others at the ward Christmas party I think it was, and with my own kids being young I said to his mom standing next to me and with quite a bit of pride of my own directed his way, How does it feel to know you’ve succeeded?

He heard that and turned to face us from several feet away in the crowd, overwhelmed. It was a moment for all of us to live up to forevermore.

His hair is starting to turn gray.

His wife is quite petite, and a lovely woman who made you instantly feel like you were in the presence of a friend. Clearly John found the right one.

She was busy talking to someone else, so I motioned towards his jacket and asked if she liked that color?

Yes, she does! His eyes suddenly wanted to know where this was going, hoping/not daring to hope…

The next thing you know, she was swooning over the most perfect soft blue cowl and he was telling her happily, You know that really big warm scarf I have? She made it!

She threw her arms around me. I was claimed.

Awhile later, as people cleared out and they were off to his mom’s, someone who grew up here took me aside and asked, Who was that guy everybody was swarming around?

Then, That was JOHN?!!! Man, she told me, after not seeing him for 30 years I just didn’t recognize him.

Well, but that’s the difference between 12 and 18. He was just a little kid to you back then.

Only in California
Saturday March 09th 2019, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Life

(The woman who grew up with east coast hurricanes looking out the window this afternoon in the San Francisco Bay area.)

You just can’t really quite call that rain. More like a liquidation sale at the fog factory.

With one voice
Friday March 08th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Out of all the times I’ve cleaned out my inbox, somehow that one from eleven years ago survived and popped up in my search. It was a fairly stunning moment.

I lost my contacts list when Microsoft bought out the maker of the Sidekick phones and shut them down to get rid of the competition to their new phone (which very quickly tanked.) I was never able to get it all back. I lost my email contacts again when my data was supposedly being switched over from my old Dell desktop to my new Mac.

I had it!

The phone number in it was still valid. Assuming it still went to the same person.

I called it from the landline; it went to voice mail. Well, sure, I’m (most likely) a strange number. I texted it and identified myself again, thinking that surely these days everybody’s phone texts (if the number goes to a cell.)

I got answers both ways.

And now a daughter on the other side of the country is breathing a little easier, updated on what’s up with her elderly mom who lives alone and knowing she’s got someone now who can and is willing to help her and how to reach me. The mom needed a contractor but was reluctant to let anyone in the house? Call this guy, I said: he’s good, he’s kind, he’s honest, and when he could have sold me an entire water heater he replaced a simple part and did right by us.

And I’m happy to come over there and be there with her while he works. (She really needs that done.)

She filled me in on a few details, I filled her in on some observations she needed to know, including the event two days ago that had me trying to find her.

I think the last time I talked to her, she was a newly launched adult who had come home to take care of her mom when she’d just been diagnosed with two types of cancer–at the same time that I was with systemic lupus. That makes it 29 years ago. We’re all still here pulling together.

And man, does she have the voice now that her mom did then.

Thursday March 07th 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I was just talking to Ruth and I thought I’d pass on to the rest of you, too, what a repairman recently told my daughter: if you have a self-cleaning feature on your oven, don’t ever turn it on. The motherboards are not protected well enough from all that heat and that’s the fastest way to kill your appliance.

Given that about fifteen years ago I was quoted $800 just for the motherboard for each oven of my double oven, labor on top of that, I’d say that self-cleaning is a wonderful feature that sells ovens.

And then sells more ovens.

The Eichler
Wednesday March 06th 2019, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Life

The contractor came. Chris is the guy who fixed up the mess that the original guy left behind on our remodel 25 years ago, and I wouldn’t want to hire anybody else. Having lived through rain dripping into the overhead light fixtures and coming out the light switch on the other side of the room, when the water heater was set up to leak carbon monoxide (I know, Mom and Dad. Again, right?), the gas and water lines didn’t meet code (why didn’t the inspectors catch that), when we had twelve buckets and had to get bigger ones to catch the rain from our previously working roof–and so many finishing details done wrong, when even a goof plate was too small to cover the hole cut in the wall for the switch plate–in two rooms… When they hung a light fixture such that you couldn’t open one of the doors in the pantry, and instead of replacing the new wooden plank in the ceiling when they moved it to where it was supposed to have gone all along, they just filled the damaged beam in with putty… (And there it remains.)

Chris stood in my kitchen one day back then, looking at that and the slider with the two tall windows beside it that were supposed to be to the same height but had been framed to a mismatch. He was quietly steamed but he wasn’t going to badmouth anybody.

“What’s wrong?” I prompted, giving him permission to say it.

“I get so upset with people who don’t take pride in their work.”

You want someone who’s good and who’s honest working on your house, you want Chris.

We’re all a little older now. He told me his family still has the stuffed animal I knit his kids from their Samoyed’s fur, the beloved dog that we had fun having in our fenced-in yard while he worked. He told stories back then on her barking at skunks at their house, but she never did it at mine. She was on squirrel patrol here. She is long gone, but a bit of her lives on.

He’ll get me a quote within a few days and we need a week of dry weather first for that concrete.

Looking at the divided shed that took on all that rain damage from the redwood’s effects he considered a moment, but no, it does, it needs a rebuild; you can’t un-rot that wood and there’s no sense in putting a new roof onto that. It’s not a big project, he comforted me.

Now I have an idea of what our driveway is going to be like. And he’ll fix that dangerous gap from where the city lowered the sidewalk but not (despite my objections) our walkway to match. I forgot to ask if we can angle things so there’s a space where I can plant my Kishu mandarin on the other side; I’ve already talked to the neighbors about that, so I know they’re good with it.

And so it begins.

We had a late frost last week
Tuesday March 05th 2019, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

Since the critters ate some of my seedlings the rest of my starts have been kept safely behind windows for now.

This squash is just plain ready to go: it’s already got flower buds. C’mon, Spring, hurry!

Brace yourself
Tuesday March 05th 2019, 12:24 am
Filed under: Family,Life

Last night I was marveling to Richard, I have no vocabulary for this. I’ve never experienced this before. It’s so weird.

Come bedtime, though, I pictured myself writing it down and then the words came: it felt like a water ballon inside that squished up or down as I moved my knee.

It did not want any weight on it. It did not want to let me get any sleep.

Today seemed better but to be careful I still went in: not hurting terribly much when I don’t use it doesn’t mean it will not hurt later when I do–that, and more to the point, my pain levels are completely unreliable as problem detectors. Sometimes those nerves work and sometimes they don’t. Which can be nice. Mostly.

Richard came in with me at my invitation and explained to the doctor, “I’m her ears.”

I made the guy laugh, looking at the sizes of the two of us, when I illustrated that particular idiosyncrasy by describing the time he took off his undershirt, hit the overhead light, it shattered, he fell into the wooden hamper trying to avoid the breaking falling glass and I ran across it to go save him.

Like that works?

Then I sat down and howled with laughter: we are such klutzes!  Because the idea of me pulling him out..! and because I knew that within five minutes I wouldn’t be able to feel what I’d just done to my feet. And I didn’t.

The doctor reassured me that the knee wasn’t broken. “It will probably help a lot if you stabilize it”–he told me what kind of brace to go buy.

It is on. And it really does help.

“Anything else?” This guy was thorough.

The elbow.

The knitting? He glanced at it peeking out of my purse.

The earlier injury, then the weight of the granite-bottomed melanger and the batch I decided to do by myself. “That’s why I hold the bowl,” Richard admonished, but not that one time, and that one time is when I learned how much I need his help.

So the elbow has a brace too now and the reasons why it will help that I didn’t know before.

But here’s the thing: that look of being taken completely by surprise and then the sudden eagerness in the up-till-then quiet face that said I AM SO GETTING ONE OF THOSE!!! when I explained just exactly what a melanger is after the word sailed right past him the first time.

The extrovert
Sunday March 03rd 2019, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Such big eyes and not a shy bone in his body. He reached for me across the bench. His daddy let him come to me, carefully. He’s about seven months old.

He sat down. I was claimed.

Some babies instantly want daddy back, or mommy, who was the speaker and just a little farther away than he might have preferred; he craned his neck upwards to again see the face of the person whose lap didn’t quite feel like the familiar parental ones.

Still me up here, smiling back. Well alright then, I would do, and we played a little bit while everyone around us hoped to catch a moment’s shared grin with him, too. Which he gave them.

Then he crawled a few steps back towards his daddy, with both of us keeping an arm to the side of the bench when his curiosity and lack of fear of heights seemed a bad combination for a moment there.

A bottle! He snuggled into his daddy’s arms.

He looked over with one last big grin for me when it was done. We were friends now.

I need to remember to ask Kat her baby’s name.

Room, with a view
Sunday March 03rd 2019, 12:10 am
Filed under: Wildlife

New hawk, no redwood, new technique. I’ve seen it twice now and it’s clearly a pattern–which means I can’t move that cooler that got put out on the patio. It likes it exactly where it is.

It flies in low alongside the house to hide on it where the giant elephant ears and the amaryllises on the old picnic table help shield it from view. I can’t see it there. Usually the finches and doves don’t either, at first. (The towhees, so far, are out of there pronto.) It’s not optimal because it has to leap upward from cooler height to catch its escaping prey rather than coming zooming in ambushing at great speed, but I saw today as it spooked a dove towards the alcove, away from safety, leaving a poof of feathers as it bounced off the screen and somehow still flying fled the other way as the big hawk burst around the patio, wings and tail wide at the sharp turn in pursuit.

Nesting season and a mate and maybe babies to feed already–probably not quite yet, but soon–and the new Cooper’s is a little more willing now to come close to where I am on the other side of the glass.

Nailed it
Friday March 01st 2019, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The tires are a month old. The idiot light came on. The shop told me to bring it on by. I figured all the thing needed was some air against the cold temps we’ve been having, but I brought my knitting because you just never know.

I was running out of that skein and eyeing the second awhile later while they were doing their best squeezing me into their schedule. Eh. With wool as my witness, as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee likes to say, waiting was no problem.

You have to do just the exact right sequence of maneuvers to pull it off and it’s only happened to me once since we bought our Prius thirteen years ago. I’m guessing I started it when I locked the doors while driving over there? As women often do.

The tire was repaired (there was a nail right by the sidewall, they said, and if the idiot light comes on again they’ll replace the thing after all) and it was time to send me on my way.

There seemed to be some kind of holdup.

Oh wait.

They asked me if I had the keys. Uh, no (?)

Priuses are designed so that you can’t lock the keys in the car. They knew that. I knew that. They tried again.

They got a flashlight to help look into where they might be; no sign. Did I have a spare? I checked for a door-only key; wrong door.

At last there was nothing for it but to offer to call Richard at work and then have their clerk drive me over there to get his; it was only two city miles at most away, which was nice, and it wasn’t rush hour.

For the first time since I swapped out phones a couple weeks ago I’d let the battery on the new one go dead. Well, that was a bug.

Richard, thankfully, answered a strange number at work.

We got his key.

We got the car unlocked, and only then did they find mine, dropped down the tight side of the driver’s seat. Success!

The men were young and they were very very sheepish and apologetic despite the fact that I’d said it was probably my fault for not hitting the unlock button when I got out just to be sure. Actually, I thought I had, but clearly not.

So I grinned and quoted Richard’s words as he gave me a kiss at the office’s outer door while handing me his car key: “Just don’t lose it.” Since at that point mine still were.

They guffawed in a complete release of tension, and a good day was had by all.

I just bet you they’ll hit the unlock button before getting out of the next Prius to be sure. If they don’t see the key in the console, it doesn’t mean the clerk has it.