Lockdown days eight through twelve
Friday March 27th 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Last summer I bought some apricots at Andy’s Orchard that did not taste like any apricot I had ever had in my life. Not only were they sweet, there was a richness and a depth and spiciness and indescribable something and wow were they good. And this from someone who had once thought apricots were kind of meh–but having read a little about what Andy had now, and having tasted his Blenheims, I had to give the new varieties a try.

Someone he worked with had spent decades going into some of the more dangerous parts of the world where they’d originated, trying to discover what that particular fruit was meant to be. He collected the pits and brought the best home to see what might grow in the very different climate of near-coastal California.

He sold a few trees to Andy, but they are not for sale to the general population.

And yet, the pits from the ones I marveled over were going to be at last halfway from one of those trees and the other parent was at the very least going to be something Andy grew and you know that that meant it would be something you’d be glad to have.

And so I looked up how to sprout apricot kernels.

There was a consensus that they had to be kept chilled in the fridge for months. From there the advice diverged wildly: one writer was adamant that they must be sprouted in the fridge as well, another that you needed a heating pad. One said wrap them in wet paper towels after the winter chilling (I couldn’t see how the rot sure to come would help anything), another said soak them overnight.

I soaked them overnight and wondered if I’d drowned them all and would have to wait a whole ‘nother year to try.

I tried a few days of having small pots of soil in the fridge with two of them and then thought, okay, that just really doesn’t work for my household, you know one of us is going to knock dirt all over in there, nuts to that.

The house is a bit chilly and I think our old heating pad got tossed about twenty years ago.

I’ve been watering them for a month. My tomatoes have their third set of leaves but those apricots did not come up. I had planted them after my fevers ended and my cough was subsiding to give me something to look forward to and how long was this supposed to take, anyway?

I resisted the temptation to dig one out just to look at it.

Three days ago a root appeared down the side. Next the split edges of the kernel pushed just slightly above the soil line.

Where they still are. But thicker, and turning green under the skylight and you can just see that it’s getting its strength together so as to be able to hold up a whole baby tree once it pushes itself the rest of the way out of there.

There’s a second pot that looks slightly different, like it might show soon too.

But this one was marked as the one that had been the biggest seed and now it’s the most vigorous earlybird and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m gonna need me some bigger pots. I do have one new one waiting. But the lockdown.

At some point I’m going to be trying to find someone to adopt my spare apricot seedlings, like trying to give away a litter of kittens–just, bigger, right?

That’s the hope, anyway.



Lockdown day eleven
Thursday March 26th 2020, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Friends

They decided to go for an evening’s walk.

Our phone rang: We’re turning onto your block and wanted to see your faces and we were wondering if we could talk through your window just to say hi a moment?

SURE!

So that was our dose of humanity for the day and it was so good to see them.



Sprung a little freer on day ten
Wednesday March 25th 2020, 7:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We started the afternoon with a hailstorm but it let up.

Four o’clock is still working hours, from home or no, plus the driving time to get there. Only two other people had publicly responded to the idea. I had this small terrible fear that the whole thing was going to be a bust.

Park on the east side of the street right before where you turn onto ours, Catherine had said: no parking is allowed there, so there won’t be any other cars in your way.

I saw three other cars when I got there. And then another. And then another. Okay, good. So there we all were, just out of sight of their house but blatantly out of place to the older guy crossing the intersection in front of our line. Of which I was inadvertently at the head because I’d started to overshoot–I’d thought their street was a little further down.

So. No point in having his day be anything but better, I figured.

I had used a piece of cardboard as a backing, taped a piece of plain white paper on top, and Sharpied on it, Happy Birthsday J and J! Just the right size to hold up at a driver’s side window.

I held that sign up for the perplexed pedestrian and he broke into a big grin and gave me a thumbs-up. Alright then!

I don’t think he’d seen what was on the other cars. He’d just been looking at mine.

One, they’d spray-painted–on a sheet maybe?–and had affixed it somehow to the side of their car to make a really big banner. Another friend had used grocery bags to make paper-cut-out words. Someone else back there had–I dunno, I didn’t get a good look other than bright pink and sticking out. None of us had been able to go in to a store for anything you could buy, none of us had had quite 24 hours’ notice, we’d all kluged it from whatever we’d had, which made it all the sweeter. Or we’d simply come. Which is what mattered most.

The twins’ dad just happened to go for a little walk. It was 4:00. He waited a moment, checking his phone, and then waved us over.

And so our parade began.

There were easily a dozen cars by then.

Now, I’d never done any such thing before and I was kind of winging it there but I drove at pretty much walking speed and held up my sign and Happy Birthdayed from inside my car.

They’re thirteen. They did what new teens do: they smiled back, they got all embarrassed, and they headed for the front door to escape with their mom calling after them.

Parked cars on both sides keep it a tight line driving down that street so, eyes back to straight ahead for me.

It’s a cul-de-sac, and as I got to the bulb at the bottom of it another elderly man stepped forward–right into the middle of it, quite deliberately in front of me. He didn’t know who I was or all those other cars way up there but none of them looked familiar, this was not our neighborhood, and he wasn’t having this intrusion. Didn’t we see the No Thru Street sign? Hello? The lockdown? Whether he was saving space for his grandkids to come out and play dodgeball or what, who knows–but I again held up that Happy Birthsday! sign.

Ah, okay. He gave a little smile back, waved like the other guy had, and stepped out of the way.

Coming back the other way, making space for the ones still coming meant I was really going slow this time.

Catherine was just joyful as she recorded video of our going by. Her girls were closer to the street now, by the twin flowering trees that had been planted out front when they were born; they were looking out at all the cars and people with a look now of, Wow. Cool. Thank you.

They’ll be telling the story of their 13th birthday to their grandkids someday. It was great fun.



Lockdown day nine looking forward to day ten
Tuesday March 24th 2020, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Actually, this was Sunday’s rain but it gave us an encore this afternoon.)

Someone on the church chat asked for ideas on keeping kids amused.

I mentioned that my sister-in-law’s granddaughter turned four and there was supposed to have been a birthday party. Oh well.

What ended up happening instead is that her daughter-in-law took said granddaughter out to the front lawn–and a parade of cars went by! Each with a parent at the wheel and a friend holding up a Happy Birthday sign enhanced with preschooler artwork, the kids waving and cheering at each other.

One kid rolled down her window before her mom could stop her, but then the wheels on the bus went round and round and kept on slowly going, so, not too much exposure there.

Catherine read that.

And that’s why I get to be one of the ones surprising her birthday-girl twins tomorrow. Quick, I need me some cardboard. This generation seeketh a sign.



Gauging the squirrelocity
Monday March 23rd 2020, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

About this time every year the next door neighbors work outside picking the last of their oranges with their telescoping fruit picker.

They were our kids’ semi-adopted grandparents, their own having gone off to college when we moved in on our oldest’s fifth birthday. We went to their 50th anniversary party enough years ago that I can no longer put a date to it.

They have been active and with it and engaged in the community for so long. But this year, at long last, the oranges, at least the ones facing this side of the fence, have stayed.

Well, until those moments where they don’t.



Lockdown day seven
Sunday March 22nd 2020, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Church by Zoom for the first time today, and it was odd and wonderful and distant and intimate all at once. The pretty background music? Agonizingly distorted for us, wonderful for someone else, yay for the chat function on the side–it got turned off.

I wished out loud for closed captions and someone said, There’s got to be a way to do that. Someone else said, That’s okay, I’ll type them! And he did. Wow. (So then I lean forward to read the words I miss and I look way weird to the camera’s eye.) We’re getting the hang of this.

Meantime, Lillian is somehow seven months old come the morning and we know how blessed we are to have her.

(p.s. Nope, I didn’t: I bought the owl hat at a craft fair last Fall.)

 



Lockdown day six
Saturday March 21st 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift

1. It had been two weeks since she’d sprung us and she was hatching another plan for helping us be sure we still had depth perception. We were not to be exposed: she would do everything. She had us look at the menu and decide ahead of time.

Restaurants are allowed to serve to-go only, curbside.

She drove us to this ice cream shop. I had never seen parking freely available around there before. Ever. Everything around it was closed, as well it should be, and even the restaurants had the lights really low, trying to cut costs with the hit to their income or what I don’t know, but this one had their door open wide on a chilly day like the Whos in Whoville calling out to the larger world, We are here, we are HERE!

Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut totally for the win.

We’d actually tried calling Timothy Adams, thinking to get some hot chocolate to take home, too, and to see our old friends there (at the prescribed six foot distance and from the car) and it hurt hard that there was no answer.

One dessert place can stay open and the other can’t? What’s up with that?

2. Why that cashmere cowl got ditched for so long, as it turned out: I’d started it, I’d changed the pattern, and I hadn’t known where to go with it from there. When I rediscovered it I continued the second part and figured it would tell me how to end it: whether to expand it outward so it would be in three sizes to match the three stages, or whether I even had enough yarn for that.

It did tell me. I didn’t. I got to where I was unsure I could do another repeat as is, even weighing it repeatedly and doing the math. I just wasn’t sure and I’m not one to do a game of yarn chicken over an hour’s worth of work that isn’t a necessary risk.

So I followed Eleanor Roosevelt’s dictum: if you make a mistake in your knitting, do it again and make a pattern out of it. The four-stitch-repeat top now matches the four-stitch-repeat bottom as if I’d meant to frame the picture like that all along.

I’d thought that small yarn small needle project would cling to me forever but it is finished and drying and somehow it is actually done and part of me can’t quite comprehend that. But I don’t mind that it is.

3. Seemed as good a reason to celebrate as any. Michelle had brought us blueberries.



Forever after
Friday March 20th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

It took me a day to find the words.

For those in the knitting community who may not have heard yet. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka YarnHarlot, friend to all, welcomed her second grandchild and first granddaughter this week.

Two days later Elliot’s baby sister was gone from them.

My younger sister lost a baby at birth, with the scant consolation that she knew she likely would. His older brothers insisted still on a birth-day cake and blowing out the candles in his honor and memory.

Charlotte Bonnie.

Nicholas.

Part of who we love and are, they are with us forever.



Lockdown day four
Thursday March 19th 2020, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Passing on something that made me laugh in surprise.

Rarely am I up to date on movies but this one I’ve actually seen. (Okay, released in 2011. Close enough.)

Rapunzel was forced to shelter in place alone, and in Disney’s Tangled, got a husband out of it.

And the name of the nearby town?

Corona.



Lockdown day three
Wednesday March 18th 2020, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Knitted a little, should have done a lot more.

Last year’s volunteer Sungold tomato plant, bursting into bloom all over after the rains, hanging off the remains of the one that would have been four years old had it made it through another winter. I guess it didn’t mind being a toddler but it did not want to sign up for preschool.

A close-up on the Indian Free peach.

This being pick-up day, I happened to step outside to bring the bins back from the curb at about 4:00 and saw my neighbor several houses away. She waved her arms and shouted hello and I waved back and it felt wonderful to see another human being out there. We’re all a little starved for contact.

And while everybody’s working from home and relying on their networks, Comcast went out. This post via my phone.



Lockdown day two
Tuesday March 17th 2020, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

I finished the hat. I found a red cowl I’d forgotten starting and got some work done on that, too, in Lisa Souza’s hand-dyed cashmere. How anybody could forget that I don’t know. It’s a very nice yarn.

This evening, the sudden quiet was almost startling when we turned the melanger off. Time to cool and pour the finished chocolate into the new molds.

Yonder geek husband had a new toy to try out. We have one of those laser thermometer readers, and he had the latest and greatest version with a flickering graph giving you sixty-four points of data instead of the one little red dot.

It was revelatory.

It read at five degrees celsius cooler than the old thermometer. Wow.

Which explains why the chocolate was almost setting in the bowl while the old thermometer was saying it was too hot to pour yet. It was clear to me it wasn’t. It wasn’t. And since adding any pre-tempered cocoa butter to make all the chocolate crystals align right is highly dependent on getting that temperature just so, well, we’ll see in the morning when we start unmolding the bars to see what we’ve got.

But so far, it looks like the best tempered batch we’ve ever made. New toy for the win!

Supply note: Esmeraldas cocoa nibs from The Chocolate Alchemist. Who has a photo of a chocolate Easter bunny with a white chocolate face mask on, the link to the artist who made it for him, and says the guy might make more that way if we ask him (he was hoping out loud for people to help the guy’s small business in the current environment.)

I have a favorite doctor. I’m tempted.



Lockdown day one
Monday March 16th 2020, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

The six-county San Francisco Bay area is, as of this afternoon, essentially on lockdown: we can go to the doctor, the pharmacy, the grocery store, we can hire a plumber if need be and the plumber can come, but otherwise we are to stay home. Period. Till April 7.

There is a race on to hire delivery people and shelf stockers, with one company offering health benefits and sick leave even if the jobs turn out to be only as long as the pandemic, I’m sure those being a necessary component in the face of the incurred risks they’re asking people to take on.

I ordered a bar and some two-ingredient peanut butter cups from Dandelion Chocolates just to do my small part to help keep one of my favorite places afloat (the pastries in their shop! And it’s right around the corner from Imagiknit!) And because I’m curious: how good is something with no sugar and no salt, just peanuts and fresh 100% chocolate? I have a diabetic brother and I want to know, but if anyone could pull it off, they could.

And then, having perused their list of chocolate bars for longer than maybe was good for me and as a sign of our definitely doing better–we hadn’t done this since before Christmas and we were way overdue. I asked and he grinned and two pounds of Esmeraldas cacao nibs got roasted, Cuisinarted, and thrown in the melanger. An hour later I added .6 lb extrafine sugar; I figure we’ll come out about 78%-ish.

It’s just at the beginning so it’s slightly gritty, but I dipped a spoon in about an hour into it and man. That was good.

Dandelion sells Esmeraldas at two different sweetness options. Just saying.

And only then did I ask Richard if we were going to need to unplug the machine and run for the bathroom counter tomorrow while he has his conference calls with work. Plug it back in quick and shut the door? Because that thing is noisy.

That, he decided, was a problem he was going to be okay with having. We would see when we got there. But hey–homemade chocolate!

And all because Dandelion wrote this book that got us started.



Living the generational golden rule
Sunday March 15th 2020, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knit

Blueberry flowers and an imperfectly-lit nighttime photo of how the afghan’s pattern looks spread out, as requested.

There was a note on the neighborhood site yesterday from someone saying that she’d gone to do her grocery shopping and saw an elderly couple sitting in their car, not moving, not getting out, and how they looked was such that she went over to ask them if they were okay.

The place was jammed. (There were reports of three hour lines over at the local Costco.) They were old and vulnerable to exposure and they didn’t dare get out and didn’t know what on earth they were going to do. She was quite happy to go in and do their shopping for them and load up their car, so glad that she was there at the right time so as to be able to help.

There had to be so many others in the same boat…

So she wrote about it to all whom that site might reach, offering a sign-up sheet: who needed help? Who was willing to do the shopping of their neighbors in need so they could stay quarantined?

People answered saying they were in tears. So grateful to her. So grateful to all those signing up to help. So grateful to get to be able to be one of those signing up.

I wanted to pass that idea along.



So not my orange. But it’s someone else’s.
Saturday March 14th 2020, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

1. The mango is starting to set fruit, and not only that but at the time of year it’s actually supposed to. My little tree is growing up.

2. The silk color was called geranium, and it definitely earned that.

They sold it as a knitted tube that looked like a flat tape yarn. I expected it to stretch, since loosely spun silk does, but it wasn’t the spinning of it that had the looseness and it did in fact shrink somewhat when I washed the mill oils out in hot water.

For now. The weight of it is such that it will probably grow longer/wider in time. Either way, it’s all good.

 What surprised me is how much the look of the yarn changed: it went from flat to round and the tube announced itself. The stitch at the peak of each arrow repeat, though, flattens going over the other two stitches. I really like the effect.

And this only took half the cone.



Itching to go
Friday March 13th 2020, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Today they said it may be that one is still contagious with COVID-19 as much as five weeks after feeling better. Maybe. Only testing could tell if you’re good to go.

If that’s what either of us even had, but who knows when we’ll get to know.

I couldn’t do anything about that so I ran the last end in anyway and sewed the label on with it. It’s ready whenever I am.