I love spring
Saturday April 30th 2022, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Try to say ‘Pretty pre-pomegranate’ six times fast.

Next to it, the English Morello started blooming a month ago at the bottom and has been slowly working its way towards the sun: the top had stayed so bare that a friend had asked me if it were dead, but a few days ago it burst into blossom.

While the early sour cherries below are already well on their way. Spacing out not just the picking but the pie-making. Nice.

Every time a squirrel goes near the sweet cherry tree, which is much more to its taste, one of a pair of mockingbirds dive-bombs it and it high-tails it, literally, down the fence line. Mrs. M over there might get mad at it for eating her roses but she doesn’t move at the speed of wings.

I’m not sure, but I think the mockers’ nest is tucked somewhere down in the dense tangle of the mango tree. I’m trying not to disturb it.

Eight legs
Friday April 29th 2022, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Did you know that spiders produce different types of silk and it depends on what they’re using it for? That wrap-the-prey silk is different from wrap-the-precious-eggs silk is different from spin-the-web silk? That there can be seven different kinds?

Did you know spider silk is used in bulletproof vests?

I didn’t either.

Seems to me that on the latter all you really need to do is train the spiders to leap out at the bad guys. The jumping Wolf ones might be good for that. The perps will stop right there throwing their hands through their hair over and over screeching, NO NO GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME!

I’m just trying not to look at the pictures too close to bedtime.

Every baby deserves something handmade just for them
Thursday April 28th 2022, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

The young couple across the street.

The husband showed up on our doorstep about a month ago with the misdelivered birthday box addressed to us of Hawaiian-grown chocolate. It was clear what was inside. We both had a good laugh as I thanked him for being willing to give it up.

A Pod storage unit showed up in their driveway two days ago.

Yesterday evening, I saw her briefly across the street in silhouette: she was!

This morning there was a truck.

I spent too long diving through stash, looking for that perfect skein in my head, sure it must be there, and finally thought, C’mon. Speed. Speed is what matters. Hurry. The undyed (and thankfully already-wound) Rios won, even though my brain was in anything-but-white mode after two months without colors on the needles, and I cast on. It’s more formal anyway, they could use it for more places and to match anything.

The truck with the Soft Air Pac writing (?) left, a different one arrived. Box trucks, both of them, big ones.

I took a break only because my hands demanded it and fed Richard the fastest microwaved lunch I could think of. (Sorry, dear.) I got back to work. It surprised me how long this was taking me. Go go go. You don’t have time to stop. Go.

1:00 pm: I DID IT! I ran the ends in, wrote a quick note of washing instructions and tucked it inside the hat, found a gift bag, and went over there and knocked on their door.

The mover guy opened it with question marks all over his face: who are you and why are you here now of all times?

But she saw me from across the room and her face lit up as she quickly took his place at the door.

Me, stammering: I saw yesterday–pregnant? Are you–? holding out the bag.

Her: Yes! Thirty weeks. It’s a girl!

Me: I didn’t know your tastes, so, y’know, frog? puppy? lace?, so I just made it plain, but I’ve been knitting like crazy since I saw you.

She laughed with so much joy in her face. So much happy anticipation: towards the next two years abroad, towards her daughter, life, everything, made all the sweeter as she looked at that hat all squished up in a ziplock. It wouldn’t take up much room.

She declared it perfect. She said Oh thank you! when I assured her it was superwash wool, so that while it would fuzz out in the laundry, it wouldn’t shrink, even in the dryer. She saw I knew and still remembered what it’s like with a new baby.

She was so glad to see me to say goodbye before they leave on that temporary assignment and the hat just topped it off.

I didn’t keep her but a minute. I knew she had a ton to do.

The moving van pulled away a half hour later.

Back to it
Wednesday April 27th 2022, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Knit

About three dozen stitches got dropped on both ends of the work when the needle tip simply fell off its cable as I neared the end of the row. See that gray metal down on the left?

Overly slick, pointy enough to draw blood and I was trying to remember the brand name on these needles because I am not a fan. This is why I don’t buy cheap ones (but I did and they were.)

I want to do 66 repeats and I’m on the 63d.

I got everything rescued on another needle and then that was enough. I went outside and gave all the fruit trees their three-minute soak (it used to be five) while spending an hour and a half yanking the meanest of the weeds out by the roots. It felt good.

I still need to go finish that 63d. The day will end right if I know that’s done. Okay, off I go.

Protesting can cut both ways
Tuesday April 26th 2022, 9:55 pm
Filed under: History

It’s not funny, my husband insisted. You can’t condone doing bad things just because someone else is doing bad things.

He’s right. But… I still laughed. I’d only read a description of it and it sounded hilarious. I told him, Bullies only understand being stood up to and some form of that has needed to happen.

And now there’s video.

There’s an Assemblywoman in the East Bay who proposed a bill that would protect women so they couldn’t be charged for having a stillbirth, a miscarriage, or even, for that matter, an abortion. Roe v Wade is still the law of the land and will continue to be in our state.

My older sister and I have had miscarriages, mine at the 12-week mark. My younger sister had a stillborn son. All of those potential children were very wanted, but biology is messy and uneven and sometimes just plain random. The idea that going to the hospital for the 20 hours labor I went through for mine could put me in jail for something I didn’t want to have happen to me–and that happened to someone in Missouri and would it surprise anyone that she was Latina?–I mean, what are you going to do, slap handcuffs on G_d?

So. The truckers’ convoy that ran out of their mask mandate to protest against decided to drive all the way from DC to honk their horns here for hours, first in my town last week to try to intimidate our county public health leader who was receiving an award for having kept the covid rate the lowest in the country with her early lockdown despite our having some of the earliest cases and dense population; conveniently, that ceremony was happening at the local Jewish Community Center. Anti-Semitism! A two-fer! Then across the Bay to threaten and intimidate that Assemblywoman. I don’t think they would have done it to a man, but a woman, now, she needed to know her place–and her, too.

They actually had My Body My Choice written on some of their trucks. Because wearing a mask is so much more intrusive than a state telling you you have to die of an ectopic pregnancy.

Daily Kos says their reporter managed to snag a copy of the requirements on the participating truckers: they get reimbursed for all this gas they’re wasting but only if they turn the receipt for it in right away and in person, not by mail. Whoever’s funding them is determined to control them by keeping them together.

I wonder if they realize they have become the Westboro Baptist Trucks.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Oakland knows the traffic is terrible.

School let out.

There was a Safeway right where the truckers were being obnoxious and tying up traffic even worse and blowing their stupid horns. The police were not ticketing them for that horn use, they were not ticketing them for driving in residential areas, but they also didn’t ticket the pedestrian who walked in front of a truck and stood there in the street, basically a you block us we’ll block you.

First it was just middle fingers and yelling against the honking. (The guy in the middle of the street simply plugged his ears.)

Then someone bought that first carton of eggs.

Safeway had lots of eggs.

A woman walking by with a pizza she’d clearly just picked up took in the scene, went, yeah. Yeah I’d like an egg for those guys, thanks, and waited for the right moment because the truckers had sped up a bit now and clearly she didn’t want to waste this on bad aim. She nailed it.

And for the protection of those drivers’ good health she kept her mask on, as a polite person does.

At one or two points it was like a fireworks of exploding egg shells rising above the tops of the trucks. One guy rolled his window down so they could hear him better while he was yelling at them. Right on his shirt. He got out of his truck like an earlier guy had done to intimidate a woman, but there were a lot more people now and all those teens had joined in–he saw those arms drawn back to have a second go at him and quickly thought the better of it.

It worked. They hightailed it out of here. Wonder if their hidden source will reimburse them for those paint repair jobs.

Don’t go out the back door
Monday April 25th 2022, 8:27 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Tonka truck for scale, sort of.

If I hold it up, the weight drags it to being slightly taller than me, but the recipient has about 5″ on me. It should cover her feet and go up to her chin which means the person’s height plus a bit extra for wiggle room.

Factor in that it’s 50/50 cashmere/cotton and I’m going to deliberately preshrink that cotton a bit when I scour the mill oils out before handing it off.

So I figure I’ll simply keep going till I finish that big cone and call it good. I’ve got about 175 yards to go. Today’s her birthday and she got a note and an IOU for now.

Oh, and just because: I’ve got to show you the renter near Tahoe who couldn’t figure out where the purring sounds were coming from till he finally called in a volunteer group to check just to make sure it wasn’t…

There were five bears hibernating underneath the house.

Who knew black bears snore like kittens?

He might want his shoes after all
Sunday April 24th 2022, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

One of my favorite pictures from last weekend. Spencer is 3.

It reminds his grandmother of how, in elementary school, when the door opened for recess I would run and run and run and run and burn off all that energy from having to sit too long and too quietly.

The only time I ever got sent to the principal’s office is when one larger older boy decided that I needed to be chased and since I didn’t know what he was going to do if he ever caught me and he wouldn’t stop even though I told him to, he socked me and I socked him back. Once each because we instantly found we did not like this turn of events. But being kids, we needed help being stopped so we would both know we both knew it wouldn’t happen again.

There happened to be a teacher steps away right at that moment.

The principal was dumbfounded that I of all his students had done such a thing. So was I.

And it never happened again.

In sixth grade they were doing Presidential Fitness Awards (I think Nixon started it) for athletics in young kids, so then the other kids had to run, too. Measured. Competing. All the boring stuff.

Which made me officially the third fastest kid in my grade. I was the fastest girl, by quite a bit, and when the boys I’d beaten tried to put me down about it I was having none of it–I’d outrun them fair and square and they knew it even if they didn’t like it.

Go Spencer go!

An early start
Saturday April 23rd 2022, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

When Richard and I had been married about a year, I discovered a farmer whose wife had a few apricot trees that were for her personal pin money and she was offering 27 lb wooden crates (with a strong request that you return the crate) for $5.

I brought that crate home in great anticipation and glee at our adulting–all that fruit from pick-your-own farms in my childhood that my Mom had put up every year, and now we got to do it–and my husband and I spent a Saturday in grad school jamming and bottling and creating rows of all those gorgeous jars of summer sunshine.

I lined them up, tired and proud and admiring what we’d accomplished, when my sweet new husband turned to me with a smile and a half-apologetic half-bemused confession: “You know what? I really don’t like apricots.”

He’d waited till we were done. He hadn’t wanted to wreck my enthusiasm. We gave most of it to his older sister when we moved away and she was quite happy to have them.

I remembered that day when I read last week someone saying she’d picked a hundred pounds of apricots off her four year old tree. At least mine were growing from seeds, not nursery stock, so I figured we wouldn’t have to deal with anything like that for awhile yet. Besides, all you have to do is ask friends to come over and help themselves and a good time will be had by all.

He has actually tried the Anyas from Andy’s and though not as bowled over as I might have hoped, he conceded that for an apricot they were good.

I have six seedlings left, with two spoken for.

I figured we have several years before I even get to taste from the two I intend to keep long enough to find out which one has the fruit most like its known and loved parent.

This evening, I saw, really saw for the first time, and how had I missed this? My third-year has this one branch near the top that hadn’t been sprouting any leaves off it, and it was now quite a bit thicker and browner than all the young ones around it growing straight and red.

What had happened was that we had our first warm day in awhile today and the buds had burst out from it. Thus the nubbly randomness that had caught my eye at long last while the other branches around it had grown past it and obscured it.

Those are flower buds!!! That’s a fruit spur!

I wanted to jump up and down like a little kid.

I don’t get it. Not that I’m complaining! My cherries, peaches, and plum, my other stone fruits: they all bloom first and then leaf out as the petals begin to give way in the spring. That apricot was the first one to leaf out starting over a month ago and there were no signs of flowers then. As a matter of fact, I had thought that in years to come it would be more likely to lose its crop to the weather because it had leafed out three weeks before the second-year seedling.

Granted, it’s still a baby and its timings could be random for now and time will tell.

But an apricot that doesn’t bloom till the end of April or more? If that holds, that would be a highly desirable thing indeed.

Edited to add: I just heard back from the friend I gave a Blenheim to as a housewarming present several years ago. She told me that the lower blossoms do open first in the spring, before the leaves, but that there’s often a few fruit spurs at the top of the tree that open up at the very last like mine is doing.

Well there you go.

Alternatives, energetically
Friday April 22nd 2022, 8:43 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I do not remember which TV show from when I was a kid had it as a tagline but I do remember “Here in beautiful downtown Burbank!” as the audience applauded and the show host waved his arm to the stage. I always wanted to know what did Burbank actually look like? Were they being proud? Ironic? Sharing a good day?

Okay, I just googled the phrase and apparently a bunch of shows and businesses there have now adopted it as their own. But–Price is Right, maybe? Who did it first?

Well, anyway, Southwest Air wanted hundreds of extra dollars each for the only nonstop return flight three weeks ago, so we flew Salt Lake to Burbank to San Jose instead.

The Bob Hope Airport at Burbank.

Which looked like it was straight out of the 1950’s. That had to be the original signage. Possibly the carpeting, too. Roll the metal steps up to the plane and cross the tarmac and should you want a wheelchair, the people working on the ground urgently requested a strong complaint to Southwest to finally provide them because they don’t.

But what I actually sat down to write about was what I saw on the way there, that I would never have on any other route nor even from the other side of the plane: a solar farm, sure, that was cool, but also another one that I had to figure out how to even search for it to learn more about the giant cobweb.

A solar tower that runs on melted salt. Including up to ten hours at night.

Melted. Salt.

What I can tell you is that the very top of that thing is brilliantly, painfully bright, so you know it’s doing its job.

It was very expensive to build and it was apparently a proof-of-concept endeavor.

But I figure (with admittedly limited knowledge) that once you build it you have it so why wouldn’t you and why aren’t there hundreds of these already.

Just make sure the pilots have sunglasses.

My orchard is your orchard
Thursday April 21st 2022, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

These first three are in identical pots, 14″ across: a yearling, and two that were planted in February.

It wasn’t till I asked today and she answered with an enthusiastic Yes! that I remembered and connected all the dots.

Last summer we went to go visit the up-north grandkids, after our two shots and before Delta hit. But during a heat wave.

Aubrie and Eric volunteered to come over and water our garden while we were gone and to keep my tomatoes and tree seedlings alive for me–a drive halfway across town each time for them, but they were so wonderful about it. This is when I was growing veggies in those fabric pots, which do live up to their billing and help create great root structures–but they dry out in a day.

It happened to be when the Anya apricots were ripe at Andy’s. I gave them a box in thanks and some of Andy’s cherries before we left–with the one request that could they possibly save the Anya kernels for me?

They and their two boys did.

I gave quite a few away for others to grow and kept three, which got me two surviving baby trees, pictures two and three above. One is fast and upright, one is very slow. Just like the previous two years’ growth patterns. Picture #1 is of a slow one on its second year.

I told her that the vigorous one is growing like my now-48″ tall 15-month-old one, fast and steady and, going by this guy’s experiences, it will probably be quicker to fruit than the smaller year-old ones. But any apricot will be easy to keep to whatever size she wants because the branches that are pruned during the growing season do not branch out below that point; they just stop right there. They wait for winter’s reset on the growth tips.

I offered her her choice, and that I’d be happy to take care of it here where there’s sun until it’s time for them to pull out of town.

I expect they’ll take the two month old vigorous one. I would. Four feet tall a year from now with a gorgeous form.

None of us knew last summer when they were saving those kernels as a favor to me, back when it felt like the dad’s doctoral program would go on forever, that they were helping to create the tree that would someday grow in their very own yard at their first house. That the fruit they’ll pick will come to be because of their generosity.

And they know how good those Anyas are.

Wednesday April 20th 2022, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

A friend stopped by for a visit today; she and her family will be moving soon, and I will very much miss them. Her husband’s defending his doctoral thesis next month and I told them I would bake a chocolate torte in celebration.

With coconut cream. He’s allergic to dairy. We know all about that, I said, no worries, coconut cream substitutes one for one with heavy cream on the ganache.

The bonus is that it comes in small containers that don’t have to be refrigerated till I open them and use them all up. No churning butter in the washing machine.

If he passes (he will!), if he gets the job he’s interviewing for, if they don’t get outbid first on the one they’re hoping for, they will then buy their first house. They will anyway, just, they’re hoping for that one.

And if they want it, an Anya apricot seedling will go with them. They’ll be leaving the state just before Andy’s crop comes on, and they know how good those are–they’re fans. And I’m fans of them. Not to mention they volunteered and kept things watered for us while we were out of town last summer and definitely earned their baby tree.

I couldn’t let them and their two boys miss out on what those are growing up to be.

More and more and more
Tuesday April 19th 2022, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

One and a half milk chocolate tortes were still in that fridge. After our big Easter dinner, even with all those people here, we’d only eaten the other half.

I put a note on the ward chat explaining what they were, why they were there, the fact that they freeze easily whole or by the slice, but that they were milk and not my usual dark chocolate and that I had no freezer space for them.

Please rescue us from these calorie bombs, I wrote.

It took no more than the time it took him to type it for the first response to come in, where the guy said he was so glad he’d been on the computer just then. He’d love to share one with his neighbors. He knew what my tortes were like.

He got the whole one.

I write notes in my cookbooks, which is how I know that the first time I baked the original version before it morphed over time into richer and darker was in June 1990, and the person who answered next had been enjoying them that long; she got the half.

Her husband stopped by to pick it up on his way home from work and by the quizzical look on his face I’m not sure she had told him not to expect a whole torte. But he was certainly willing to let me give him that one.

The third person wished so hard and was a dear enough friend that I measured the cream I had left, found a half–I never have a half, but there was a half, and only a half–of a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar for the glaze and there was enough cream for just one plus for whipped cream on a certain somebody’s birthday cake tomorrow but there was not enough cream to glaze two tortes. So that settled that.

A few hours later I sent her a note.

Wait what?! You did not!

Did too.

So she stopped by a little later to pick up the one I baked this afternoon, a proper bittersweet chocolate this time, and she surprised me back with her favorite balsamic vinegar plus a jar of honey from her bees.

Because if I can do it to her she can do it to me. So there.

And then she told me her family was going to share it with a mutual friend whose husband has been in the hospital for some time. I’d had no idea. So glad that torte got baked and ended up where it needed to be. (And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the second set of recipients shared theirs with that woman, too.)

We’re working on it
Monday April 18th 2022, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

We got a little extra grandkid time!

They had their brunch with the great grandma and then they’d hoped to take the kids to see the redwoods. Richard-the-younger mentioned that their town near San Diego is beautiful and certainly has lots of trees, but he hadn’t realized just how much greener it is here. He’d wanted to show their kids the best of it.

But looking at the time, in the end, the distance vs the route vs potential traffic and the potential of missing their flight with four kids in tow, they came here to retrieve his camera bag instead.

So I pulled Kat’s polished redwood slab out of the other room and told them about our neighbor’s generosity as Maddy and Hudson promptly sat down to count the rings. I told the kids how the fog condenses on the needles and runs down the trunks and that’s how they get their water.

That got their daddy reminiscing over the immense cross-section of an oldest-growth redwood cut down in the 1800s, preserved at the visitor’s center at Big Basin, how it has these little tags that mark off this is when this happened, this is when the Magna Carta was signed, this… It’s a map of human history, he said, just the most amazing thing.

I hadn’t realized how much of an impression it had made on him when he was young but I definitely understood why he wanted his kids to have that experience, too. But…

…It’s gone, I said.

He went right on saying a little more about it.

It’s gone, I said again. It burned in the fire. The beautiful visitor’s center built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s that it was in front of–it’s all gone.

I saw in his face that sudden moment of staggering loss that we had gone through at the news. It was even worse than that, though I didn’t say so; the CZU Complex fire had burned through 97% of that old-growth park, though some of the oldest trees did survive after all when the biologists hadn’t been at all sure they would. (Park FAQs here.)

And then we moved on from there, a lot gladder now that they hadn’t made that long trip for nothing. It will take some planning and checking next time to see what’s ready for visitors again, but a lot of effort is going into reopening things safely. Alright then.

That space where you know you have to leave soon and you hate to really get into making a Lego robot like the one your grandmother so admired yesterday before the little Hulk! Smash! got to it and you might not have time to finish it anyway? The two middle kids suddenly needed something to do.

So I asked them if they wanted to learn to knit (suddenly very very glad I had two balls of already-wound-up soft, thick Mecha yarn right there.)


And so I pulled out a pair of needles for Hudson and one for Maddy and cast on a few stitches each.

Hudson was sort of getting it, with a couple of long loopinesses where he’d dropped a stitch or two. But he’d done it. He’d knitted all by himself. Maddy wrapped the yarn for me and I popped the other needle over it and showed her what that did.

But what does it make? she wanted to know.

Well, I told her, our neighbor used to have a very fluffy cat and we combed its fur, I spun about 18″ of yarn out of it, and I knitted it into a little square just like this and then glued this thing on the back that made it into a pin for her.

I cast off both their pieces and showed them how pulling the yarn through the last stitch meant it wouldn’t unravel now. Maddy wore hers as a necklace. Hudson was deciding as they left, but they were both quite proud of their first knitting, especially after I made sure they knew how much I was. Suddenly his funky strands were okay after all.

Spencer (whose shoes had been found in the car, and that’s where they were again) danced barefoot down the walkway towards the rental car as they headed for the airport and away and home.

Sunday April 17th 2022, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Easter Sunday at church, lunch, dinner: today was our day with the grands, and a grand time it was, starting with their discovery of the kids’ corner by the fireplace. Legos, Play Dough, Hot Wheels, something for everybody. (Let’s take the Play Dough outside, said the wise mom, looking at the carpeting.)

While every now and then the three year old simply took off at a run across the back yard because we had the space and the fencing and he could. He and I played Chase Me and Peek a Boo that involved blowing kisses when you showed your face.

So. Much. Joy.

I told Hudson the chocolate torte was for his birthday this month. He thought it would definitely do.

I texted my neighbor afterwards, telling her, I don’t expect so but just in case: over at the half-high fence section, if you should by chance happen to find a pair of toddler shoes, the three-year-old was throwing things near there and there was no sign of his sneakers when they had to go.

She laughed and said she’d look–and mentioned that her son’s baseball had gone over the fence there a day or two ago.

So that’s where that came from! I told her the grands had been playing with it and I’d had no idea where they’d found it.

I walked it back over to her on the spot and we looked in the dark for the shoes and topped off my day with a great time visiting with each other.

As I told her, when I was three I floated my shoes bye bye down the creek in back of my parents’ first house. It’s genetic.

But it didn’t have a basket
Saturday April 16th 2022, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Family

There was a breakfast at the church with an Easter egg hunt for the kids. Today was Great Grandma M day for our kids but it was before her family’s festivities began, so they came. Minus Hudson, who woke up feverish, and our daughter-in-law, who stayed at the hotel with him. Poor kid. Poor mom–man do I remember the days. Taking a train from Boston to DC with two toddlers and pregnant to come to my cousin’s wedding, and then spending her wedding at some random pediatrician’s office for a kid with an ear infection and missing all of it. I think every parent has a story like that.

But meantime, it was fun watching the number of people who did a double take at realizing who our son holding his three year old was. He was surprised at how many people there still were there who knew him; this being a college town (not to mention having an insane cost of living), people come and go all the time.

Someone had brought their very large orange pet rabbit. They had set it in a corner of the gym on some blankets that were clearly home territory to it and it was staying put. The adults kept an eye on the kids going over to pet it; not all of them knew how. Stroke in this direction. Don’t grab fur. Gently, yes. Like that! Well done!

Being surrounded by strange small bouncy people intruding on its space didn’t faze it a bit.

Maddy (I made sure it was okay) fed it a grape. It reached out its nose to take it right from her hand, accepting her offering, and that sweet rabbit just totally made her day.