Learning by doing
Tuesday March 16th 2021, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Garden

And now there are six. The two new apricots, including the one that was just a little curl coming out of the ground last night, already have their second leaves.

But there was a squash sprouting whose root was growing down the side of the plug against the plastic tray and never got the memo to get inside and it tried for a few days to be rooty enough–and then the whole thing died.

So tonight when I found an Anya was starting off its root at the edge like that I took another plug, put it up against it there, and wedged them together outside of the tray. Not too hard. We’ll see how it goes.

Note to self and to anyone who hasn’t planted theirs yet: point the pointy part of the kernel towards the center of the plug. I didn’t on all of them.

Meantime, courtesy of Anne, a physicist vs a squirrel. Whee!

The sequence
Monday March 15th 2021, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Garden

Sunday I checked a set of apricot kernels that didn’t seem to be doing too much yet and, actually, one of them had a thick taproot coming out the bottom that hadn’t been visible the day before–not only that, the tip was starting to look darker–it needed a place to grow to, fast, so the plug went into a larger jiffy pot as a bit of a stalling tactic: I’ll go to Yamagami’s for bags of soil after we get our covid shots.

Twenty four hours later I had a new sprout.

Twenty hours after that, it is on its way.

Okay, I wrote that, and then I stumbled across a conversation with a guy who’d not only saved but had grown about 40 Anya kernels and at their fifth year wrote up the characteristics of what he had. Every one of them was really good, some closer to the original Anya than others but every one at least double the brix of your average grocery store apricots. (Explanation of brix here.)

It’s not just the sweetness, though: it’s the depth and nuances of flavor.

It made me feel really good about all those kernels I sent out. Nobody’s going to get a clunker, they’re all going to be great.

One dedicated person in the right place
Sunday March 14th 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Life

If you know anybody with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, this is huge: a well-respected Stanford bioresearcher (San Jose Mercury News link), one of those who worked on the Human Genome Project, has a previously world-traveling son with a severe CFS case and was appalled at the lack of knowledge, funding, or interest in it, not to mention the fact that many patients are told it’s all in their heads.

His son is fed via tubes, in bed, and unable to speak.

I have no doubt that the dad’s reputation and previous work helped him land the funding he did. The result is a test that so far has identified every one of the severe cases tested (two year old Stanford link–there were 50 more patients affirmed last year by it) and ruled out every healthy control volunteer. It is finally a verifiable, quantifiable thing.

And now he’s applying what he’s learned to studying covid long-hauler syndrome.

A bit much for me
Saturday March 13th 2021, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Garden

Our house had a yellow front door when our kids were little. It was not a color either of us would ever have picked.

When the invasive white flies were taking over and killing our ash trees, we had no idea that yellow meant food to them. We found ourselves with a blanket of small white gnats plastered against that door constantly, a whoosh of them inside every time we opened it, and at last we gave up and repainted the darn thing and they went away.

That and the scientists released a tiny non-stinging wasp from where they’d come from that ate them.

Since then I’ve found the idea of painting your whole house that color unfathomable. Pavlov would say I have issues.

And yet there’s this house. Actually, I know someone with a house like that: he’s a CEO and has to be able to entertain big, and does, and that’s fine. So:

One stovetop, two trash compactors (but one might be for recyclables?), five? no three ovens plus (checks description) one convection oven and a microwave. Don’t miss the faux columns being held up by the granite countertop on so wide an island that us mere 5’5″ types would have to leap halfway across the top of it to pass the dish to an outstretched hand on the other side.

And yet for all that, the kitchen cabinets alternate wood stains like a self-striping yarn knit sideways.

Gotta say, the library with the sliding ladders is a nice touch in that certain Disneyed Beauty and the Beast way.

But a pool in all that perfectly good fruit tree growing area. Nope. Deal’s off.

Now you Guam and done it again, Marj
Friday March 12th 2021, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

If anyone’s considering putting in quartz countertops–and I would say the majority of kitchens I’ve seen that were clearly remodeled towards putting the house on the market have them–you might want to read NPR’s report on them first. Now that the industry knows their workers’ lungs are getting silicosis, they’re still not doing enough to protect them.

Granite is far safer to work with (and personally I think it’s prettier), and if you get a dark one (scroll down to the bottom for details–I’ve linked to that site before, it’s a good one) if it’s truly all granite you likely will never have to refinish it because it will never absorb a thing.

Meantime, in political news, the ever-loud-and-angry Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene decried our giving foreign aid to undeserving countries like, y’know, Guam!

The representative from Guam decided to gift her with some Guam Chamorro Chip cookies as a warm welcome to the new Representative, and the governor is sending her a history of the territory. All done with island charm, it sounds like.

So you know that means I had to go run look up what a chamorro chip was. Made from some exotic dried fruit or something?

Apparently it’s mini-chips. Of the chocolate, shall we say, persuasion.

I thought they built it from Airstreams, but no
Thursday March 11th 2021, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Life

The curb view at my house this week, with two nests in that tree.

I rather like this old/new house.

But I keep wanting to ask the folks who gutted and rebuilt it, why? Two stoves: that’s eight burners you could be trying to stand over and stir at the same time! And for all that, only one oven. It’s been surprising to me how few houses under a cool million have a double oven when to me it’s as close to a necessity as common sense will allow me to call it.

But then there’s always this house which used to have one. Which is the reason I’m writing about houses again because you have to see that one quick before they remove the pending listing. They built it with rocks, then cinder blocks, then finally bricks on the inner side. I guess that counts for insulation?

I think they were trying to thwart Oklahoma hurricanes with that shape?

It looks like the upper oven failed, they gutted it, they left the outer frame of it intact and then stuck a microwave inside. And if you think that’s weird, the kitchen floor is made from telephone pole slices.

It’s creative, for sure.

But I just don’t see where the yarn stash goes.

Line’em up
Wednesday March 10th 2021, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Life

I didn’t catch it at first and then I did a double take.

Those guys must have had my contractor. Picture #5: quite the setup they’ve got there. And a good lesson why mine needs to get remodeled out of there before I ever think of putting our home on the market. At least mine’s lined up evenly, even if the cabinets hang over the stove on both sides. (I know. Still are. Pandemic.)

Or picture #17 in this one: is that bathroom vanity made from an old library card catalog? With a grab bar added? (This is begging for an “it got carded at the bar” joke.) Or was it something else in a former life? It must be a big chunk of why the listing says they spent $67k on the bathroom remodel.

A greenhouse! And then picture #25 on this one wants to see who’s coming to buy this house and are you bringing us treats? Maybe we can give you some mohair!

(Thinking of a teen who once asked me, Mohair? MO-hair? What kinda animal is a Mo!?)

Falcon flailings
Tuesday March 09th 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I haven’t mentioned the peregrine falcons in awhile. I was one of the San Jose nest cam volunteers for a season about ten years ago, and I always keep an eye on how they’re doing.

They got new cameras installed just before the season got underway and not only are those far better, one of them has sound.

Which you may or may not want to have on. You may or may not want to even watch. But one of the cam operators managed to capture video from both angles of when an intruder arrived, looked at the male to one side, the female to the other, and decided the 18th floor ledge at City Hall with a nest box and a resident female who had just gone in it for the first time, showing she was into this, was a territory worth fighting for.

I had long heard that locking talons was their primary means of fighting–the loser lets go–but I’d sure never seen it before. Before I link to it, let me just say H2, the resident male, won, with his leg looking a little injured but walking just fine today. He’s called H2 because at this point last year he apparently did the same thing off camera to the then-resident male and bested him.

The intruder has the bigger white bib and more brown.

Okay, here’s the first one.

And here’s the second.

The female flew in near the end to check on who her mate was going to be from here on out. Peregrines mate for life–or until their mate gets run off.

A bucket of Kernel Standards
Monday March 08th 2021, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Ellen was wondering how best to plant her newly-arrived Anya apricot kernels at the very moment I was scrolling through my phone, got distracted, and butt-dialed her. She FaceTimed right back and we both had a good laugh. The answer is, I don’t know what the precise depth one should plant those is but I do know I had to tear the top of the Root Riot to get a kernel in–they’re latex and peat moss if I remember right, kind of an odd combination–so I didn’t put mine in very deep, afraid they would have a hard time fighting their way out.

As they swelled to sprout the kernels kind of worked their way upwards slightly and the seedlings have the split-open sides angling upwards from the surface like flower petals.

And it worked just fine.

Plant and root both will be growing from the pointy end of the seed.

Covid covetings
Sunday March 07th 2021, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The closer we get to being vaccinated, the harder it feels to wait. I’m trying not to be antsy.

We had a great time Facetiming with the northern grandkids today–but Lillian wanted us to BE there, not just be pictures that interacted with her.

With you all the way, baby girl, with you all the way.

The state is allocating doses by county and has decided that ours having had the best compliance and the fewest cases and deaths with ample resources to deal with the illness means we’ll be the last to get the vaccine.

Which feels a little like punishing the well-behaved, but on the other hand there are so many people whose circumstances put them in so much more need than us. We can simply stay home and wait a little longer.

We’ve proved that.

But I do not blame the friend younger than I who drove into the next county and got his first shot. I so get that.

‘Cot in the act
Saturday March 06th 2021, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Garden

Stretches and back exercises and ice packs and we’re both doing better today than either of us expected to, which is a relief.

Meantime, I took a closer look at this one apricot at front left of the Jiffy pots; it hasn’t been shooting up like the other two planted at the same time. Turns out it has three side branches, each with its own tiny cluster of new leaves, and the stem is thicker than on the biggest plant. If I wanted a more dwarf tree, this looks like a good bet so far. Here, let me get you a closeup.

And new growth at the top of the stem isn’t red, either. It’s definitely different.

All three in such varying sizes had their roots make it through the bottoms of the Jiffy pots for the first time today, the smallest, branching one the most so. Curious.

I’ve mailed out eight packages of three kernels and rooting plugs each at this point and I thought I’d mention to those trying this at home: most apricots don’t need a pollinator, but since there’s no way to be absolutely sure, and if you want to keep yours small, one thing mentioned by one wholesale grower is to plant two fruit trees of the same rootstock type in one hole, side by side, maybe a foot apart. They’ll pollinate each other and by competing for root space they’ll keep each other small.

And, in this case, for if you want to hedge your bets on how their eventual fruit tastes. You could always try your hand at grafting branches from a great one onto the less great should one fall short.

Mine are going to stay in large pots for at least this first year to try to keep them up and out of reach of wild rabbits and snails while they’re at their most vulnerable. My hope is to keep them happy in them for long enough to be able to choose the best.

There is an onramp to an overpass nearby that certainly has room and sun for an extra tree to be snuck in among the others there (given how many more of these I’ve now planted) –the only thing that stops the thought is, how would I get away with watering my guerrilla gardening? And you have to in our rainless summers. But there are so many people who need that fruit.

I have four kernels left in the fridge, the smallest and most shriveled ones. Which doesn’t mean a thing as to their character as far as I know. In case there’s anyone else out there who’d like to give a seed from an Anya a try. Last call.

Takes two to tumble
Friday March 05th 2021, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

In answer to Chris and Sharon, Richard was the one who started talking over a year ago about eventually retiring near the grands. The ones south have a great deal of family very close by, the ones north, none whatsoever. But right now he’s happy to be here and in the After Times they’ll all be easy to fly to.

But you move to a place where you’d want to live anyway even if the kids were to take a new job and not stay where you’ve moved to. He does like Portland. I think I was ten the last time I was there other than in the airport so I wanted to familiarize myself a bit.

But we’re happy with our neighborhood and friends, and peaches and blueberries that blossom in January, I mean, how do you beat that?

Speaking of those peaches.

The one that started blooming a month ago is now about 2/3 of the way leafed out and it’s finally going to rain tonight.

The growing-leaves stage mixed with cold weather is how you get peach leaf curl attacks; once they’re fully leafed out the fungus is somehow powerless, and it can’t grow in warmth. It wants new growth on a chilly night.

We get ocean cold with our rain.

The local gardening columnist said to put a lightweight frost cover over to help keep the rain off. Well, we have those for sure, although it would take two of us to try to wrangle it over.

My sweetie was very dubious about this idea but he wanted to be supportive. I couldn’t do it by myself: after days of warning spasms from having to haul all those wet clothes around in the water heater blowup, after carefully doing back exercises to ward off what they threatened to become, this afternoon I bent over a box that had been delivered and without even picking it up it felled me right there for a moment. Protests of innocence at it got me nowhere. Here we were again.

It took me awhile to be able to stand up so as to go get an ice pack.

But I really wanted that tree covered, and the ice packs were helping some, so we went out there tonight together to try to wrangle the thing. Visions of summertime peaches right outside the door can get the better of you like that.

He got the fruit picker to try to maneuver the thing over the top–and not knowing I had just fallen down on the other side of the cloth with my foot tangled in the acanthus stems that border the tree, he caught his own foot and fell with the picker and bloodied his face–thankfully not against the tines. I finally extricated myself at the sound of his voice and got over there, where he then tried to get up by holding onto the picker held upright for leverage so I tried to hold onto it on the other side to steady it for him.

With a man more than twice my weight and a back already like that.

And now his matches.

He wasn’t surprised when I told him his shoulder was green.

It’s a really good thing our house is a ranch right now.

It’s time to look at each other wryly and say in unison, and not for the first time, Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to do that?

The kitchen in the attic
Thursday March 04th 2021, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Life

A few moments of, wait, what?

I pictured the balancing act of trying to lift something heavy or awkward in or out of these cabinets. If that place were a business OSHA would be having words with them.

On this one, I started off thinking, wow, you can get an actual mansion for what you could sell a Silicon Valley postwar tract house for–and then I got to the master bath. Where the tile edging on the vanity and up the side of the shower is a motif of lipsticks. With walls the color of–okay, Tammy Faye Baker’s old news, who’s famous these days for outrageous shades of brilliant rosy red on their face?

And then we get to a cute old house that the owners were clearly trying to make over for its big day on the market along with its ADU over the garage.

But someone way mismeasured for that countertop. And you know it’s new, because the backsplash behind it is the latest fad that will age every house it’s in 30 years from now and that home has already been around the block. I did a double take. Go look at that sideways fridge, it’s a hoot, and the cart blocking it from being rolled out is even funnier: you WILL diet. No more pandemic munching for you!

To be fair, maybe it’s the angle of the camera and the corner of the fridge isn’t bumping the ceiling.

But oh, then there’s this one. I’ve always adored stone houses. And with a play structure for the grands, room to run, and the waterfront just far enough away for while they’re little?

I clicked on the street view and thought it was showing the wrong address. It wasn’t; it was just showing what it used to look like.

Man did that house get Cinderalla-ed.

That light-filled addition at the front completely changes the whole character of the thing and it’s just stunning.

Note that the child’s play structure at the side got changed to one for an older child and the trees have grown since Google drove by.

And there’s enough light and space in that atrium that you could grow a dwarf mango in a pot there. Y’know, the important things.

Pony, express
Wednesday March 03rd 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Life

This is so cool. A woman in North Carolina who grew up on a horse farm is volunteering her horses for kids to read to them, and sometimes ride them.

The horses feel loved that someone is taking the time to talk to them and they hold still while they do. The kids feel the attention of the horses with no correcting or feeling judged if they get a word wrong, in a community whose literacy rate needs help.

In some cases where parents cannot get their kids to the horses, the horses have come to them.

If the Washington Post’s paywall doesn’t get in the way, go read it. It’s such a great story.

He got us in hot water
Tuesday March 02nd 2021, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Life

For the record: today, March 2, 2021, the new water heater was installed by JohnA at Water Heaters Only with a six year warranty promised on the thing.

I have never been offered a warranty on one before. We hired the people who only do this one thing because they have a good reputation and they get it done for you that day, but this was better than I’d hoped.

The last time one flooded the master closet it was a Saturday when I was off at Stitches West for what turned out to be the last day my minivan was still running.

This time I was the one who had to deal with all the googling and the calling and the emptying and the cleaning.

The carpeting got ripped out that time and a new floor put in there. We may need a do-over.

There was a pan under the tank and a spigot and it was supposed to empty outside, and it did but there was way more water than it could handle. There is now a wider taller beautiful much more functional pan, not smashed in on the side by the guy putting the heater in over it this time, our beautiful new water heater, and (shout it from the rooftops) it does not have a thermocouple! The part that broke every two years!

The guy on the phone had asked me to read off the model number and when I did, went, Oh, that’s an old one!

(Yeah, it was an old model when we got it that the other guy must have gotten a very good deal on at closeout but we had no way to know that at the time.)

It is amazing how much stops when you don’t have hot water. Yes, Texas, I know, but still.

It is amazing how cold a tub can still be in the morning after three large pots’ worth of hot water off the stove gets dumped in with the chilly stuff when there wasn’t even that much of the chilly stuff.

It is mind boggling how much stuff was in that closet that reached the floor, how much water it soaked up into the clothes that didn’t, how many loads of laundry had to be done (nonstop the whole blinking day), how many things had to be aired out and dried. And oops that hanger with the paper across the bottom is still wet.

I was almost too tired to knit, but I even got a little bit of that done at a moment when I had to just stop right there and put my feet up while the washer washed. One lace motif done. Yay.

So I measured and yes my apricot seedling hit 6″ today. Grow tree grow!