Baby steps
Thursday July 16th 2020, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Sterling asked how I was and I didn’t really answer because I was still trying to figure it out. The nausea and dizziness are thankfully gone. Tomorrow’s another day further away from the concussion, and the day after that and the day after that and I figure this’ll all be temporary just like the other times.

Meantime, Milk Pail offered flats of peaches, ran out, restocked, relisted them for this Saturday morning’s pickup and I grabbed one. I’d passed on it earlier because I was going to drive to Andy’s and there was no way Milk Pail’s could ever live up to his. Plus I was hoping Andy might have a few last Anya apricots left.

That drive to Morgan Hill is not happening no matter how much I want it to. Richard will be doing the local pickup.

My head still just wants to hold still. Walking around the yard, I have to watch my feet constantly because they don’t entirely know how far away the ground is with each step.

Which isn’t really new, it’s just my brain doing Groundhog Day and back at the starting point.



Finally turned the Page
Sunday July 12th 2020, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

When I was a kid my dad met a guy who owned a truck. And who had connections to Florida’s citrus groves. Who said that the Page mandarin orange was the best tasting one in existence but nobody ever hears of them outside Florida so you couldn’t get them in Maryland so he would drive down there every winter to bring some back.

Which is how my Dad, working on a fundraiser, found himself commissioning a truckload of those Page oranges to be dropped off in our carport to sell, and the trucker got his, too. People would sign up for so many cases, Dad would place the order, and everybody knew what the delivery day was in case the weather threatened to freeze them–there was no way all those were going inside the house. Come and get’em.

But then one year there was a big freeze in Florida and for reasons of geography or biology I don’t know, but the Pages, which as I remember were mostly growing alongside one river, pretty much all died.

They were not replanted. That variety was particularly hard to grow; why not put in something that was easier, more prolific, and probably a bit hardier so that the farmers wouldn’t have to go through a complete loss again. And Pages are small. The market rules, and families have to be fed.

I read an interview with the owner of a citrus tree grower here a few years back, answering questions about his company and the varieties he sells.

What caught my eye was his saying, And to fill out your collection, I’d get the Page–it’s my favorite.

Why to fill out…why not just get it first?

And so I did.

Where I planted it that summer six years ago turned to be a terrible spot sun-wise in the winter–the fences were just wrong. I was advised to dig it up and put it in a pot to contain the roots to let the top recover, and did so.

The next year I planted a Gold Nugget mandarin, the only variety that doesn’t need heat to get sweet and that can go down to 26F. It went in the ground (avoiding that bad corner) and is nearly to the top of the fence.

The Page, by comparison, grows very little. I don’t think its twice its original height yet. It buds out a bit in the spring and then they all fall off and die, every year. The best I got was a green dot before it let go.

Its rootstock is the one that shot out those fast spiky barbs that I cut off that are now successfully protecting branches of my peaches from birds and critters. That part wants to grow!

There’s a reason those trees are rare.

But for all this time I’ve just kept on watering it, even though I’ve long since given up on getting anything out of it. A little citrus food. Doesn’t care. Stays mottled. Oh well.

I didn’t see it till a few days ago: hidden in those leaves? Wait. Where did that come from? After six years, the first fruit, and that big–how was I completely oblivious that that was there? That’s way bigger than the ones on the Gold Nugget! (Well, to be fair, Pages are for Christmas and the Nuggets are for spring.)

I didn’t think it would or ever could, but it wanted to do what it was meant to do and now hopefully it’s just getting started.

 



The trick is not to lick your fingers
Saturday July 11th 2020, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Especially in a pandemic, and we don’t. Wipe it off your fingers with a paper towel. It’s a messy process and it does use a lot of them.

Meantime, what with our air conditioner having gone out during a heat wave–all fixed now–I found that all the chocolate in the house had become untempered. Same taste but grayed a bit and it just didn’t have that snap to it, and then gradually the last of the homemade chocolate, the best stuff around here, just…somehow…vanished. Go figure. Right?

Bless my sweetheart, he proclaimed himself fine with my running the melanger these past 24 hours despite a migraine. The man is a keeper.  Grinding cacao nibs between granite stones is not an overly quiet process.

Last time I poured it out we filled eleven molds–but to be fair, they were shallow silicone ones.

He poured this time, though, and the newer lucite molds are deeper, so even though I processed a half pound more than we ever have, (@Afton: 2.5 lbs) there are five molds cooling over there. There was one particularly deep one which he’d filled to the tippy tippy top.

The smaller the pieces the less the guilt, but not this time. We’ll just have to live with ourselves.

Edit: Oh wait. I *am* tired. There are eleven bars in those five molds, that’s right, just some of them have quite a bit more to them this time. Alright then.



Parfianka
Thursday July 09th 2020, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Mango tree

I’ve told this before, but for those who haven’t yet read it: My friend Jean planted a pomegranate tree and two years later brought a half a paper grocery bag’s worth of fruit to church to share that was bursting open, breaking itself into pieces that made it easy for lots of people to get a sample (outside). *She* thanked *us*, saying there was way more than she could eat.

I had never tasted anything like it. I wondered if I’d ever tasted an actually ripe pomegranate before, or was it just the variety (she didn’t remember the name.)

A few years later I got to tell her that she was why I’d researched descriptions and taste tests and planted my own, a Parfianka, the favorite of not only a whole bunch of people online but the owner at Yamagami’s Nursery. I never would have done it had I not tasted hers first and found out what I was missing. She’d definitely earned a thank you.

Mine was a cute little $10 end-of-season-clearance what-they-had-left thing in one of those 4x4x10″ sleeves. Jean was 80 when she planted hers and she clearly started with a more established specimen. Makes sense.

Time and sun and water and dirt and the little one got there just the same. It fascinates me how the tree just keeps on randomly throwing out new flowers with the fruit in various stages, keeping the feeding station open for the bees and hummingbirds.

Jean is 94 this year and I think others will be bringing her pomegranates inside to her. I hope she gets to see them fully ripe again.

And one of my mangoes, too: two more months. I would not make her wait for an Alphonso, knowing she misses the Hadens of her childhood in Hawaii but her late husband even more, but I hope to help her discover something new to love and partake of just like she did for me.

I don’t dare risk bringing one to her in this pandemic, but if her daughter okays it I’ll pass one along through her.



The Babcocks
Saturday July 04th 2020, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

Our yard’s first squirrel-free, scrub jay-free peaches in two years. Very juicy.

And, frankly, rather flavorless. Being in a clamshell sped up the ripening process, I guess–they about fell into my hand–but not the sugaring.

But we got them and they were ours and there are more peaches to come that are protected by citrus-branch barbs rather than plastic boxes.



Pulling a raspberry
Friday July 03rd 2020, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Somewhere at a pick-your-own farm.

Lillian tried a few raspberries, pulled a face, considered, and then decided, Wait–I like these!

And then the basket was no longer in her reach. All in good time, love.



Blenheims
Tuesday June 30th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

We wore masks, we socially distanced, we stayed outside and only to say goodbye did she have her kids stand in the doorway for us to see each other and wave hi-‘bye. I hadn’t seen them in two years, but even the then-toddler still knew full well that I was her old buddy and she made my day.

Jennifer had invited me to come see her housewarming present in full production mode. She’s done a great job with it.

I got sent home with a goodly number of apricots and now I need to figure out the best way to save some for when the season is over.



The convert
Saturday June 27th 2020, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

My husband was sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be a Mormon missionary in France in the late 1970s.

Where there was a chocolatier on practically every corner, as he liked to describe the cities there.

When we were dating in college I had no idea what his problem with Hersheys was nor why one would want to eat what seemed like excessively bitter bars. But he knew what a dark chocolate from good beans could actually be, and despite the dearth of those in the States he eventually won me over to the dark side.

And so it seemed that celebrating our anniversary in great chocolate was the way to go.

Dandelion on Valencia Street in San Francisco, it turns out, takes orders via smartphone and lets you pick up at the door.

They have a talented pastry chef as well as their excellent small-batch chocolate. Anything you get there, it’s going to be good.

We got a parking space just one storefront away. That never happens.

This being very much the city, lots of people walked by, not as many as pre-pandemic but still not a few, and a few sat at the tables set up out on the sidewalk.

Most were wearing masks. The ones who were not kind of stood out. Only one person, tall, white, older, male, looked like he dared anybody to call him on it–he was swaggering down that sidewalk.

What struck me was how alone he looked.

Richard, picking up our hot chocolate and pastries, found himself being crowded at the door and turning and saying, Six feet! Figuring there had to be some pushback from someone for their risky behavior if it was ever going to change. He was protecting me (I was in the car) and he was protective of the people trying to keep that business in business.

Personal space. Masks. It’s just not hard, people, look, all those others were managing it.

I tried the S’more: a crisp homemade perfect deep chocolate cookie with a large homemade marshmallow on top that barely held in a lake of molten newly-made chocolate that I’m not sure had any sugar added to it at all, but as you bit into it and the melting marshmallow, creme brûlée made divine was somehow the description that came to mind.

I had no idea you could create something built on that concept that tasted that good. Wow.

This honeymoon story.  Melting marshmallows for the anniversary for sure. And there was a potency of skunk outside the house after midnight last night, and although it was not close enough to pet it this time, I think we celebrated our 40th right after all.



Waited a year for those
Friday June 26th 2020, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Anya apricots. Picked this morning, since I’ll have to wait about five years for mine. Worth the trip to Andy’s Orchard, and I got some early-season peaches and cherries, too.

Out of curiosity, I added some raspberry honey from The Honey Ladies, which surprised me by being my new favorite right up there with their less-sweet poison oak blossom.

All the employees were wearing lined black face masks with room for a filter, with a motif of red cherries with green stems and leaves,  and they had some for sale. Very reasonably priced. Very soft. Quite happy with mine.

Got home, walked in the door, walked in the kitchen, rinsed a good handful of those cherries and put them in a small bowl in front of my husband, who dove enthusiastically into them as his meeting and his screen continued.

Looked out the window and thought, there’s always a possibility of snails making it up the pot to my baby tree. So I’m saving the kernels again, out of curiosity if nothing else: a year ago I found two very differing methods of sprouting them, and somewhat against my better judgment followed the one that had you submerging them for 24 hours after their winter in the fridge.

It seemed a good way to rot them.

It was.

So I’ll try the damp paper towel thing next time, because, science!

(P.S. What would you do for your 40th when you can’t go anywhere?)



To you to you to you for you to you and you
Wednesday June 17th 2020, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

My neighbor said she was picking her plum tree and did I want some?

I’d love!

Don’t return the bag, she told me, just come on over and pick it up from outside the door. (She is not someone you want to potentially expose.) So I did, and was tickled that it was from Medecins Sans Frontiers–Doctors Without Borders, and anybody who’s read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee for years has probably helped donate to the over a million she helped raise for them. It did not surprise me that those neighbors were involved with MSF, too; good people.

We both have Santa Rosa plums, and yet every single year hers from her much older tree on a bit of a rise from mine always ripens a week ahead.

Meantime, Jeremiah gave a gas barbecue grill to David when he moved in April and now David is moving and he offered it and our old one is long dead and other-Dave volunteered his truck and time to get it to us after calling this afternoon to confirm. Dave and his daughter rolled it on back to the patio under the Chinese elm.

A small-world aside: I knew Dave when he was a teenager in New Hampshire when we lived there and we are all definitely old friends.

Would you like some homegrown plums, I asked by way of thanks.

His face lit up. “YES!” His daughter looked pretty happy about it, too.

And he wanted to see our fruit trees, so I took them on a tour of the yard.

He was intrigued by the mango. When I said it really needs that Sunbubble off it for the summer, the lack of air flow at the back has let a fungus do a bit of damage, his instant response was, We can do that!

It’s about fifty pounds, I warned.

C’mon! We can do it! And so before Richard could even step outside to help the three of us undid the stakes and lifted it and Dave had it over the mango and set it down over there and insisted on putting at least a few stakes back in so it wouldn’t balloon away just for fun before we can get it taken apart.

I got my first real good unobstructed look in two years at the entirety of that tree and what it had grown to and how the Sunbubble had to some degree restricted it, plus that one shoot straight up at the center where the greenhouse’s ceiling had been highest. There is definitely some pruning coming, and I’ll be able to reach that now without a wall in the way.

But it’s done, it’s done! And we have a new-to-us grill! I had something to send them off with in thanks (freely admitting the plums had come from next door.)

I need to find out if the first David likes plums, too.

Jeremiah, I’m afraid, is way too far away now to share ripe ones with.

And I need to thank the neighbor again for making a whole other family happy, too.

——-

Edited to add just for fun: dolphins with mirrors.



Apricots and cobblers and good friends
Tuesday June 09th 2020, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

What my Anya apricot seedlings get to be when they grow up! When they’re not about three inches tall.

This Blenheim was a housewarming present, before I’d even heard of Anyas, and every year Jennifer sends me a picture to show me how it’s coming along. (Looking at the date on that old post–wow, this is only its third year.)

“So many apricots,” the email said. She asked for ideas on using them all up and I sent her my two favorite fruit cobbler recipes; her kids are going to love all the extra desserts.

She does indeed have sourdough starter and I told her we’d finished off that recipe tonight and were quite sorry to have it all be gone.



The walls of Jer-echo
Sunday June 07th 2020, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Food,History

And on the subject of why yes, I am still baking too much, we present…

…drumroll…

…how to use up sourdough starter when you’ve grown too much of it, a pint of blueberries, a half pint of raspberries, and the dozen or so newly ripe tart cherries off the tree. After Richard tasted one and puckered and went Wow that IS sour! I chopped the rest a bit, sprinkled on a spoonful of sugar, and let them soak it in for about ten minutes before adding to the berries.

It was a great way to use up a full cup of that starter, but since it’s all about the fruit, I would probably either double the fruit or halve the biscuit part of it next time. As is, it fit perfectly in my new deep-dish Mel and Kris pie pan. (With thanks to Anne for getting that to me from them.)

But if you ever need to make just biscuits from that recipe I’m going to say add a few spoonfuls of sugar to the dough. Here, they’re sprinkled on top.

Oh, and completely randomly but in case you missed it, the new sidewalk panels strengthening the Golden Gate have turned the bridge into, as the headline says, a giant kazoo. One that be heard across San Francisco.



Loaf-flying chopper
Wednesday June 03rd 2020, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

My last two KitchenAid mixers did this, too: as they got old, the on-off switch stopped being reliable. You could turn the darn thing off and it would simply keep going till it ran out of steam.

I found this out with the first one years ago when I had my hand down in the bowl and it must have been just enough movement that it toggled itself on and gave my wrist a compression fracture.

This one, as always a 5 qt size because at the time that was the biggest home-kitchen one they made (and because at this point I have all these extra bowls for that size), has been at that stage for about a year now. But it still runs, and it still turns off, if reluctantly, and I can always unplug it if need be. Haven’t needed to yet. I’ve been thinking for awhile now how replacing it would be a lot of yarn money.

I am typing this carefully. It was the top of the dough hook this time below my thumb. I knew better, that’s the thing, it was sheer stupidity on my part.

I figure if it’s broken I’ll know for sure tomorrow because it will hurt more then, but right now we’re on 8:30 pm curfew for ten days, Urgent Care is closed, and the ER is just not where anybody wants to be during a pandemic even if they’re separating suspected covid cases at triage, which they are. And I seem to be able to manage.

When Richard said by way of comforting that he really enjoyed that sourdough, it helped. A lot.

 

Edited to add in the morning: the pain is not more localized and it’s not sharper so it’s likely just bruising. Carry on!



Official lockdown day 76
Sunday May 31st 2020, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

The backstory on the pie: my daughter was looking at the strawberries we’d gotten from Andy’s Orchard and dearly wished for rhubarb to complete them. But one only goes to the grocery store these days when it’s a necessity and we didn’t even know where to find it now that our old source is gone.

Friday night, knowing none of that, my friend Catherine said she was picking more rhubarb from her garden than her family could eat and offered it to all on the ward chat–with the one request that if you take it you eat it.

I had an order already in for the Milk Pail Saturday morning produce pick-up from their warehouse: you pull up, you roll down the window, they swing in the bag of random plantliness, no choosing, just a good price and far fewer hands between you and the farmers.

So: there, then Catherine’s.

Where I opened the back door to see for sure. It looked like chard, but no, it was indeed kale, and my sweetheart has strong opinions about kale, as in, why would anyone do that to a perfectly good meal?

Poor little unloved kale, you look good to me, and part of me almost didn’t but it felt right and I put the little foundling in its green bio-friendly bag on Catherine’s doorstep as I picked up the waiting rhubarb.

And went home and sent off an email explaining why she was going to be finding it there and that I hoped it had found a good home.

Which she didn’t see for a few hours–but she did see the kale and had no idea how it had gotten there.

What she answered is that she had found it and gone ?!!!!? She had just then been finishing the last kale in her house. She loves it, she loves that particular variety of kale the most, she eats it all the time and she was quite sorry to be out of it to the point of debating risking an unnecessary run to the store just to get more.

Just like we almost had for rhubarb.

And there it just shows up right at her door just like that.

And already there were the pictures of the rhubarb strawberry pie: we’d used it all up.



Lockdown day 75: Blessed are the peacemakers
Saturday May 30th 2020, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History

In Kansas, there was no violence nor looting. The people holding up the sign demanding End Police Brutality–were the cops.

In Santa Cruz over the mountains from here there was a peaceful demonstration that stayed peaceful. The chief of police, with no riot gear and no back up, met with the protestors and took a knee right along with them.

Meantime, my friend Catherine offered rhubarb from her garden and asked only that it actually be used. So I got it home and a few hours later teased her about my strawberry celery pie.

Note to self: mixing the flour/sugar mixture with the fruit and letting it soak in for awhile and then stirring again before putting it in the crust was absolutely the way to go. Never again just pop it straight in the oven.