All ears
Tuesday May 11th 2021, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Lupus

I’m trying out that lobster shell compost. It was black and velvety rich and finely crumbly in the hands and you could just hear the plants swooning. I mixed it in to about 60% organic bedding soil and pretended I knew what I was doing. (I only buy organic after getting soil from Costco a few years ago that was full of little green plastic beads.)

The youngest Anya seedling is the guinea pig. It’s pretty dwarfed in that 15 gallon fabric pot but given the vigor of its roots I didn’t want it to grow through my 5 gallon in a month, seeing as how it is, in fact, a tree.

On the other hand, it’s too heavy now to move it much. So it’s in a good spot because it had to be.

The fabric pots dry out fast, but the other apricot that’s in one is looking really healthy and happy. They do not like soggy roots so those are a good counterbalance to my tendency to overwater based on the fear that I can’t go out in the bright summer sun to rescue them before evening’s safer UV levels.

The bigger thing is: I finally went to the new audiologist today. It felt so strange to just go do a normal errand out in the wild like that.

She was a peach. And she was thorough. I’ve been dealing with hearing aids since I was 27 and never before has someone tested to see how well I lipread.

There was the standard man’s voice speaking words into one ear, then the other, where you try to repeat each word back. She chuckled at one guess: “Well, that’s creative.”

But then, taking her mask off from the other side of the thick glass, with the lighting not super good for it from my view, she went through what was clearly the same list of words as I sat in the anechoic chamber–and I zipped right through those with confidence. Only had two I didn’t quite get. It was absolutely revelatory to me. I had NO idea I was that good at it. I knew how much I need to see people’s faces, but…!

She examined my hearing aids and said they were eight iterations ago, and now they can do all these other things.

Cool. That’s what I was there for. My old ones sometimes turn themselves off randomly and are clearly at the end of their lifespans.

When she said Oticon would take two weeks at their end, I asked if I could pay for overnight shipping? I want to be able to hear grandkids sooner rather than later. She checked into that and, yes, they could do a rush job on the whole thing, sure.

A week from Monday my cracked ear mold will be history, I will have much better background noise cancellation, and we’ll see how it goes.

And even with that rush she charged me about $1500 less than the last time/last guy. Nice.

As she was writing things up, there was a computer screen next to me with two audiogram charts (no name visible) with five slightly wobbly lines that curved up a bit and then down again with Xs and Os marked along the way for right vs left ear, but these other lines too were marked for–tympannometry? I don’t know, and five seems odd when you’re talking ears but that’s what was there.

When she got done, I motioned towards the screen and said, “It looks like middle school band members trying to read the music.”

She glanced at it and guffawed. “You ARE creative!”

Have all you want
Monday May 10th 2021, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

A chocolate torte went to my friend Edie, the second (I always make two) was for Donna.

Donna’s husband Clyde stopped by to pick it up and was reveling at the idea of being able to actually see friends in person again at last. He was delighted when I offered him Meyer lemons from our tree; we walked around the back to pick some.

He looked at all the fruit trees and happened to say, Y’know, the one thing I really miss is good dried apricots. You can never find them anymore.

I had been munching on exactly those all winter long to try to fend off pandemic pounds.

He’d grown up here when there were still Blenheim apricot orchards in the hills.

I dashed inside a quick moment, knowing time was pressing for him, and grabbed the pound box of slab Blenheims from Andy’s Orchard that I’d opened a few days earlier, not quite full but close enough in the rush.

He tried one. I told him I had another box and Andy’s was about to open for the season so I could get more, take them, enjoy.

He’d wished for these for so long. He finally knows how to find them. And Andy gets a new customer.

Man, that felt good.

If Donna wants one, too–his eyes lit up at the thought–one of my apricot seedlings is going to have a great yard to grow up in. The newest and tiniest (shown alone and for comparison) got a slow start but in the heat these last few days has grown its roots to over four inches long. It’ll do great. But whichever, they’re all good.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Sunday May 09th 2021, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Family

From Richard and Kim.

The happy little dragon lady pointed at the screen and said, Grammy!

Then when Michelle came into view she stared and stared and tried to grok that no, she really wasn’t hiding upstairs like Mathias insisted as I explained, She’s at our house now. (She arrived last night.)

Finally, “Awn-tee!”

Yes it was. Her auntie is here for the next little bit. (Sorry, kiddos.)


Wishing everyone a great Mother’s Day.

House painting stuff to know
Saturday May 08th 2021, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Life

My apologies for using someone else’s picture, which will embiggen if you click on it, but I know when that house is sold the original will disappear. I’ll link below to be fair to the realtor and owner.

My great-grandfather founded a paint and glass company that in its day was the biggest one in the western states. It’s been gone forty years now, but a little bit of knowledge did make it down to me.

And that is that painted walls reflect off each other and darken each other.

Just like yarn spun from wool is just a bit darker than the raw fibers, and knitted things from that yarn are a little darker still. They reflect on and within themselves.

We once picked out some palest peach paint for a kid’s bedroom and by the time we finished the fourth wall it was all a deep dark anxious orange. Check the paint chip–yeah, that really was the one. So not what we wanted, and I knew I should have known better. I went back to the store, bought some very nearly white light blue and gave it a do-over that turned the room the color shown on the right side of the photo above–I mean, seriously, that’s exactly it. But at least this time I knew how much darker than the chip it was going to look.

All of that was over mid-century mahogany paneling that after decades of the wood and glue drying out was a fire hazard anyway, so we later replaced it entirely with wallboard. Color: eggshell. Our contractor said it was more restful on the eyes than glaring white. I figured, kid, you want color when we’re done, put up a picture or poster, it’s a lot easier to change than the walls.

Anyway, so I came across the photo and it stopped me in recognition: I have lived this. All those shades of blue: they’re all the same color, even the same can of paint, all of it, even that dark dark bathroom back there.  And you’re going to need strong light to get even the foreground to stay how it is once the sun goes down.

Just in case anyone was planning on painting any rooms any time soon.

Friday May 07th 2021, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

The Parfianka pomegranate at four years four months. It’s much denser than last year.

There’s a pomegranate tree in the neighborhood that is the first and for a long time was the only one I’d ever seen growing; it has a twisty scraggly trunk that is bare for five or six feet and then there’s this big poof on top that gets wispy looking at the edges as the season goes on. I don’t know how old it is, but we’ve been here 34 years and it was always there.

Mine, at four, is more a bush so far but it’s determined to turn into a much bigger tree than theirs if I don’t prune it a lot. So I have been, but I probably would have planted it a little farther from the house if I’d known. It’s fine, though.

I learned this year to my surprise that the wood doesn’t feel stabby during winter dormancy. You can really get in there. It does by now, though.

The fruiting all happens on new wood, and of course when you prune you get multiple branches growing where there had just been one.

Isn’t it nice that the tree makes the job a lot easier at the time when pruning it would make it much more productive for the coming year?

But are there bats in the belfry?
Thursday May 06th 2021, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Life

I’ve often thought I should ask you all, although, no, we’re not moving, so it’s a moot point anyway: the houses with rooms and racks and coolers for wine–if you don’t drink, what do you do with those? Leave them as is for future buyers? Rip them out? Store your balsamic vinegar sideways and hope it doesn’t leak? Try to freak your Mormon friends out with Martinelli’s in there? (Not to worry, we’re on to it.)

What other appliance fits in the space of a wine cooler in the kitchen? (Am I even calling it the right thing.) Can you take it out and put in, say, a second dishwasher? For parties? Since they’re both about parties (once you get past the first dishwasher any extras are definitely for parties and usually found only in bigger houses than we’d ever buy.) Right?

But this is taking it to a whole new level. My cousin found a house with a door that opens to a cave in the hillside, (note the fake window in picture 32) and her friend instantly said it would be great for her husband’s winemaking.

I’ve been in California too long–I looked at those pictures and thought, but egads, what would you do in an earthquake? Major heebie jeebies.

That’s a beautiful Tudor, even if it has an upskirt staircase, but really: isn’t that more Frodo’s natural hobbitat?

Best workaround ever
Wednesday May 05th 2021, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Life

As one who sometimes blanks on the word I’m trying to say, it made my day reading someone’s mention of their Chinese student trying to find chicken at the grocery store but unable to think of what they were called in English.

So the kid grabbed an egg and went for a clerk and asked: Where is its mother?

Old friends
Tuesday May 04th 2021, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

Constance’s work brought her back in town. Twice in two months after not seeing each other for probably ten years!

The plan was to sit in the shed again, but walking a few steps from the front entryway out of the air conditioning and into the blast of heat, we turned around in unison, going, just, no. She was fully vaccinated; I will be Thursday. Less risk to it overall if we go inside than of me being out even in filtered sunlight, right?

We sat in the living room distanced with me masked and her not so I could hear and spent a couple of hours swapping stories and catching up.

Man did it feel good.

She worried just a little about her Anya apricot seedling being babytreesat by her house sitter for a few days.

I figured if anything happens to it then I’ll know where the next one of mine should go.

The Maine idea
Monday May 03rd 2021, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Garden

The things you stumble across on the internet.

A guy in New England who bought this stuff by the truckload for his farm raved about it and said it had become popular enough that it’s now sold by the bag to everybody.

Lobster compost? I thought hey why not. If nothing else I’ll have the swankiest dirt in town. And so for the sheer novelty of it all I bought a bag.

I confess my back’s been antsy and after I managed to get the box over the front step when it arrived–I thought it was coconut water, oops, wrong return address–I haven’t yet hefted it over to the back yard. And I’m not about to open it in the house. My nose wants to know what it smells like in there, but only out there.

I just hope the raccoons don’t tear the heck out of my trees trying to get to the seafood.

Sunday May 02nd 2021, 11:09 pm
Filed under: History

Our friend who is a virology researcher at Stanford mentioned today a meeting he’d had with the chief technical officer at Moderna. Who told him that when the covid-19 virus was discovered and sequenced and it became clear what this was quickly becoming, (she, I think he said) vowed that the lights would never go off at night till they had this beat. And they did not. Round the clock, they were on it and they stayed on it.

“And they are not a big company,” he told us.

But they knew they could do something about it and that every day fewer that it took to test and then get those vaccines out there could be thousands upon thousands of lives saved around the world.

And then there was Dolly Parton, who jump-started the effort with a million dollars in seed money while they waited for the Federal grants to come through.

Peace, Lily
Saturday May 01st 2021, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

The Peace Lily Afton sent me when my father died just opened up some new flowers. When the old ones start to fade it has sent up more, again and again.

It is a very patient plant. I’ve underwatered it, and it perked right up again when rescued. I’ve overwatered it, and it held on till I realized my mistake, poured the unseen water in the outer pot out, and then it was fine.

I’ve had it in an east-facing window this past year and a half, not knowing that’s exactly what it would most want.

And it has been a comfort these long months every time I see it, offering a sense of the nearness of friends, Afton, her Tall One, everybody, no matter how far away we all may be in our quarantines.

(Just now noticing, I really ought to take that brown stick out–the florist’s card is long gone.)

As for the human Lillian, she was upset that her brother got to do something she didn’t and he was getting all the attention for it, too, while she got told no when she tried to grab away what was clearly now a toy. If someone’s going to use that it was going to be her!


As blog is our witness, someday we get to tell her that yes, she did, she cried because she didn’t get to scrub the toilet.

Friday April 30th 2021, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Life

I sent that picture hours ago… Okay, so, something to look forward to tomorrow.

Meantime, to make up for yesterday’s house listing: there’s a line of look-alike homes in a row down the block from this one and it may have started out as one of them and been added onto.

But WOW. This guy did woodwork like we do yarn. 

I had to laugh at the 1950s bright red and chrome dinette set. I was not expecting that.

The wall art thing again
Thursday April 29th 2021, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Life

Look! They’ve got a pomegranate juicer on top of the fridge! Not a lot of those around.

Nice sized house, big lot, overlooking the golf course, across the street from the Portland Yacht Club–and a lower than average price. Why, in a market where such things are being snapped up in under a week, has that one been sitting there for over three months?

My guess? Picture #19. 

Someone who leaves a blatantly racist trope on their wall for the whole world to see online is announcing who you’d be buying from. They’re suggesting what your neighbors will be in agreement with because they’re certainly not embarrassed to have them see it. They’re deciding what kind of person should live in their house after them.

And so no new family does, day after day after month after month.

Edited to add: Imagiknit in San Francisco is having a 21% off sale through Saturday. Malabrigo is rarely on sale, so I thought I’d mention it. (There’s more after the pattern books, keep scrolling down, they have a lot.)

The bees and the birds
Wednesday April 28th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Wildlife

With blueberries, cherries, plums, apples, and peaches already underway and the pomegranate and mango blooming I was a bit overdue for watering the fruit trees and it got unseasonably hot at 83–they needed it.

So there I was as I got to work, wondering why I’ve never gotten around to paying someone to install a drip system and realizing it’s because I like the rhythm and the process in getting out there and paying attention to each thing I’ve planted.

It hit me from halfway across the yard.

Now *that’s* how I remember those mango flowers! They’ve been opening for weeks but the nights have been cold and the scent just wasn’t the intense perfume it had been. I’d wondered if maybe I did lose some of my sense of smell last year after all?

Apparently all it had needed was some heat. My tropical tree was absolutely reveling in it and telling the world that this is how it’s supposed to be! Celebrate! Bring on the honeybees! It was throwing a party for the hive across the fence.

The side door next door nearest both opened wide and I hope the neighbors got to enjoy it, too. It was absolutely heavenly.

On a falcon note: the San Jose nest got three eggs in their do-over and are quietly incubating.

Peregrines start brooding after the third egg arrives.

Which means when the San Francisco nest had their fourth egg it was laid late, hatched late, and has been noticeably smaller all along.

The parents feed the eyases first that try hardest to get to the food–Darwin at work–and the little one would beg and stretch right with them and fall over on his beak. He just wasn’t as steady and he could not get as high up there as the others. It’s like a short person playing basketball: you can have a lot of talent, but… He (a lot of us are assuming male; we’ll know Monday at banding) was usually the last one fed, and sometimes the meal was pretty scant by then.

Parents simply won’t feed one that they don’t think will make it and there were murmurings of concern amongst the watchers. But they did, they fed him, he’s the spare to the heirs and there is no lack of pigeons in San Francisco so he’s gotten enough.

Today the mom flew in outside their nest box with a meal rather than straight in and it was the little one that hopped right out of that box and came for it, grabbing some himself when he thought she was going too slow.

The others perched on the edge, watching: how did he *do* that?! Finally, one hopped down and joined them, then a second, but the last one just stayed up there watching, not hungry enough to risk that very small leap.

Four hours later, they were all out of there and doing some exploring. Another meal.

Another week or two and the parents are going to drop the plucked prey in front of their grabby sharp-edged youngsters and make a break for it.

I typed that and immediately a new video showed up: that is not what the dad had wanted to do just now but that’s what happened. Have you ever seen a falcon do an eye-roll? It was hysterical. He circled behind them, trying to figure out how to get into the scrum as the meal in the middle got torn four ways. He gave up and left.

The mom flew in, looked the camera dead in the eye, like, Oh come ON, let’s do this RIGHT, snatched under there and grabbed the food away and started feeding the suddenly noisily begging babies acting like babies again.

There was just not much left at that point, though, so she was off on the hunt for more. Came right back and fed them again, this time with both parents there keeping an eye on their boisterous kids.

Who tried to flap their wings during their exploring, but with the feathers only barely starting to grow past the baby fuzz they kept flopping over like the little guy.

Who watched them and then did it, too.

Wait, wait, me, too, me, too!
Tuesday April 27th 2021, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Garden

There was still this tray of half a dozen apricot kernels sitting there and most had clearly declared they were not living up to their potential or, frankly, at all, but there were a few that looked like, welllll, maybe if you wished hard enough.

So still she persisted.

I realized Saturday they’d almost dried out while I was sick in bed after my second shot–but not quite. Just a bit of water couldn’t hurt. Right? (How long have I been doing this while those others have been moved into bigger digs twice now?)

I could not believe my eyes today. The white on the back of that seed half on the right is mold; that thing was supposed to be dead but the inside kept insisting on being green.

Leaves! A stem! Look, and an actual root down there! Those were not there yesterday, but they are today!

And there might even be another one soon. But we’ll see.