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.

Lockdown day 71: Andy’s Orchard
Tuesday May 26th 2020, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Is it good? Yes. So much so that I can’t wait to spend an hour and a half pitting and stirring pureed cherries over a hot stove on a hot day again? That I’m not convinced of.

Which is kind of funny, because one of the things I picked up at Andy’s Orchard today was dried tart cherries as well as fresh Black Tartarians so I wouldn’t have to use cranberries next time. But there’s still another cup of that puree, so we’re not quite done yet.

That was the first retail venue I’ve stepped inside of since the lockdown began. It was roped off and marked into in and out and one way going around, there was the plexiglass barrier for the clerk, and at the entrance a prominently-placed sign requiring masks.

Theirs were cloth with bright cherries against a black background. Will they have peach ones later? I’ll just have to come back when those come on.

Mine had bright fish. 

Lockdown day 69: a door gradually closing
Sunday May 24th 2020, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We got the news that our 95-year-old friend Betty is in isolation with covid-19.

Her lungs have gotten through all these years after being damaged by airborne specks of metal when she was a Rosie the Riveter working on planes in WWII.

As a woman completely blind since birth.

After the war, until new technology made her skills obsolete, she worked in a dark room developing x-rays for the hospital because the lack of light was no novel thing to her.

Then there was the time she told her husband he was too drunk to drive them home–she was going to do it. He could coach her through it but she was taking the wheel, and did, and told the tale with great delight forever after. (How far she actually got I have no idea.) She’d just always believed she could do just about anything anybody else could and was happy to try to prove it.

Past 90 and in a nursing home, she wasn’t always sure she remembered me but she always remembered Richard when we visited; he’d helped her with her computer (and as a visitor, he knew how to talk loud enough so that she could hear, which she needed more and more.)

I don’t expect we’ll ever get to see her again. I don’t expect to get to hear that laugh of hers again.

But I’m glad that I know what it sounds like.

Lockdown day 68: opening doors
Saturday May 23rd 2020, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

So there I was in the early evening when the sun and UV levels were low enough, watering the fruit trees, setting the timer, moving the hose again, going in and out.

The slider has a broken roller and sometimes it’s iffy but it was totally behaving itself, and I was silently remarking to myself how nice that was.

Until suddenly it jammed and that was it for the night. Aargh.

Beep beep beep. Three minutes and 27 gallons per tree, time to move it to the next. So I went out the front and around the house to the next peach and thought, eh, a little extra exercise, right?

And then I considered a moment: was it shorter to go back around again or through the gate to the front door on the other side? Maybe that. Why not. So I opened the gate–

–and who was parked in front now but the hopefully new neighbor-to-be. We waved hi enthusiastically at each other. She said something out the window, so I went around to our door, grabbed a face mask, and dashed back out to get to know her and meet her daughter and answer questions about the neighborhood.

The mom opened up: “I’m looking for a community.”

I told her about the annual block party with the street closed off and the rented bouncy house to keep the little kids amused and contained while the adults pull out the grills and barbecue.

And about how the neighborhood had rallied together when a developer wanted to put 42 houses on the I think it was .6 acre lot in the next block and the neighborhood had rallied around and had demanded the land go back to the school district. Enrollments were back up these days and once land is gone it’s gone, and that used to be the playing field for the elementary there (which has since reopened)–and in the end, the school district listened to us and they did!

I had to excuse myself after several minutes for fear of drowning my tree, ran, moved the hose, and came back out. This time the daughter was standing by their gate and wanted to know why it wouldn’t latch. She asked about the plants and the trees and I told her the story of the stabby juniper that the old neighbor and I just couldn’t get to stay cleared out–till the young man across the street hooked up the stump to the back of his jacked-up truck and revved it right out of there by the roots. VRROOOM!

They still have a contingency on the house. It’s still not a done deal. But they really want it. And I really want them to get it.

I would never have known they were there if that silly door hadn’t jammed. Thank heavens for irritating favors.

Lockdown day 64: New neighbor. Maybe.
Tuesday May 19th 2020, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Picture taken a few rows ago.

Somehow a few darker purple stitches came out in a line that makes the fish looking like it’s making a tight-lipped face. I may duplicate stitch over a few to break them up and make the odd stitch more random.

Taking the recycling bin to the curb this evening, I got to meet the woman who put an offer on the house next door and her realtor.

The neighbor on the other side was coming over to introduce herself, too, and she chatted with the buyer while I chatted with him; he asked me if I’d like to see the place and I said, Sure!

He’s a birder with arborists in the family, so he was thrilled at having me point out where the hawks have nested in those trees–and he knew from the get-go what he needed to advise his client re what work should be done to trim them back to safety. And now, why one had to be sure there were no raptor fledglings left when they do.

Looking over the otherwise cleared-out back yard, I told him she could plant any kind of fruit tree she wanted and would likely have a pollinator from across the fence for it. He grinned.

It’s not a done deal, there’s a contingency, but I came away really hoping she gets it and I think she came away really hoping all the more, too. I can’t wait.

Lockdown day 49: works of art
Monday May 04th 2020, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Anne couldn’t find my address so she had to rat herself out and ask. I’d ordered some Holz and Stein needles and a Mel and Kris deep-dish pie plate for picking up at Stitches back in February, which I missed due to a if not the virus.

So Anne had picked them up for me and waited for me to get better. But before we could plan it–we do not live close and the whole thing was heroic on her part as far as I’m concerned–the early lockdown was announced.

Today we became officially slightly less locked down.

The doorbell rang.

She had on a mask, I put on a mask, but these past few months have taught me that I lipread more than I think I do. So Anne stepped even further back and hung hers askew so I could see and we chatted a few minutes, which felt like heaven.

She brought me my needles, she brought me my pie plate…and she brought me a Mel and Kris yarn bowl as a surprise!

She had no way of knowing how much I’d wished for weeks that I had one while working on the ocean afghan–well, and forever before that, too. I finally gave up a few days ago and started doing the intarsia Kaffe Fassett style, where instead of trying to untangle whole balls of yarn as you switch sides at the ends of the rows you simply break off as long a length as you think you can manage and pull it and the next through again and again and again and just deal with weaving in all the extra ends. It’s faster and so much easier.

This is the yarn bowl I would have picked out if I’d been the one picking it out. It’s gorgeous. (So is the pie plate.)

Anne also brought the news that since so many of the festivals and art fairs they make a living at have been canceled this year, Mel and Kris are now selling online. Shipping is what it is because pottery is heavy.

Those pictures of the 8″ pan I make my fruit cobblers in? It’s labeled as their mini pasta.

Lockdown day 45: purple irises
Thursday April 30th 2020, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus


 They were in this area, but this is not how they were. He must have quietly dug them up and replanted them. I thought he’d just cleared off the dead cover plants.

They were here when we bought the house, and over time they crowded themselves badly and then did a mass die-off in the drought–and have been steadily, slowly working their way back ever since.  They ended up kind of split down the middle into two bunches of randomness.

I thought it was so weird when we moved to California that everybody had a hired gardener. Doesn’t anybody work in their own yard around here?

Then I got lupus with extreme sun sensitivity, my husband threw his back out, and we ended up asking the neighbor’s how much he charged. (Fred’s cardiologist had made him retire.) It’s been good to have the help, and Elio’s a great guy.

I paid him extra last winter for something I didn’t feel was in his usual job description. He disagreed and tried to stop me. Dude: Take. The. Money. You spent the time, you did the work, you earned it.

Which is probably why the purple irises are now arranged in a perfect circle of green leaves and purple blossoms, with enough distancing to be social and healthy for a goodly while to come, placed just so between the apples and the fig tree. They are in their fullest glory and they have never looked better than they do right now.

Elio quietly offered up a gift in the barren winter dirt and waited for the day when I’d get to notice.

Lockdown day 44: Sierra edition
Wednesday April 29th 2020, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Blame it on the mailman.

He left the next-door neighbors’ magazine in our mailbox. Well, that wouldn’t do.

And so I put on a face mask, washed my hands, cut an amaryllis that was opening up today, plunked it in a vase, and walked it and the magazine over next door.

After stopping in my driveway so the woman pushing her stroller could continue on past, but she saw me, chuckled, nodded, and rolled those wheels over into the car-less street.

The little dances we do.

Lockdown day 32 on a sour note (yum)
Thursday April 16th 2020, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Bread post #2: I used the sourdough starter and then I fed the little beast more flour and water like you’re supposed to and having looked over the two sourdough cookbooks Becca had recommended, I saw the pictures of the pumpkin cranberry bread, found that yes I had dried cranberries and canned pumpkin and the four mandarin oranges to squeeze the juice out of, and it was, Sold! Game on! (Yeah I like physical cookbooks better but instant gratification has its moments.)

Emilie Raffe’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple does a good job of explaining what to do, how to do it, why you do it, and when you do it. Plus everything sounds really good.

I shot a question at Becca: am I right in thinking that there’s no butter, no fat, in sourdough breads period? She answered that other than some focaccias, pretty much as far as she knew, no.

Lesson learned number one: time it so that the 6-8 hour rising is overnight. You don’t want to be finishing up at midnight.

Lesson learned number two: probably I need to figure out how to cut the parchment paper so it goes nicely around the edges of the dutch oven it’s going to bake in without scrunching the stuff up like tin foil and am I going to have to cut it out of my bread when it gets done?

I’ll find out. It’s too late now.

Lesson number three: when she gives you the ingredients by weight or cup measure and recommends you go by weight and the 500g comes out to closer to four and a half cups not five, and you stick to the 500g, add in the juice, and think this is way too liquid, this can’t be right–it is. At the end of the process, including shaping the loaf on a bit of flour and the cranberries plumping out by baking time, it came out just how you’d want.

Both Becca and the book say absolutely do not cut into that loaf till it’s had an hour to cool, well, other than that little slice(s) you do across the top before it goes into the oven so that it can have room to expand.

Not devouring it immediately after anticipating it the entire day is going to be really hard. Those spices and flavors on my hands from kneading it–I was like, I have to wait how many more hours?

Lesson number four: it’s supposed to be best the day that it’s baked so maybe having it cool near bedtime wasn’t the brightest idea? See Lesson #1.

But homemade pumpkin cranberry orange sourdough bread with spices.

Yeah no, wasn’t going to wait till tomorrow for that.

(I have no doubt that if you want it faster and easier you could make its equivalent with yeast and regular dough and you could even mix some butter in. Boil or soak overnight but do something first though to make the cranberries soak up those spices and juice like mine did over the course of the day.)

p.s. Ten minutes to go in there, and it’s smelling divine and almost but not quite done.

Lockdown day 27
Saturday April 11th 2020, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Those Anya apricots. I saved ten pits last summer.

I knocked over one of the paper cups the middle of last week and when I went to gently put everything back in…there seemed at first to be no sign I’d ever planted anything in there.

Did I somehow miss that one?!



At least I had that one big, healthy one about to sprout. And then seven days ago, an actual sprout in a second cup.

But I checked a few others and they’d rotted away, too, so I quit looking and just kept watering (not too much now!) and figuring I’d give it another week–again, and likely another one after that; maybe all they need is warmer weather?

I transplanted the big one split wide open and its healthy, strong root into a bigger pot with better drainage.

I do not know how that killed it, but it died.

At least by then I had the tiny second one throwing out leaf after glorious little leaf.

I went to bed last night grieving Brad’s death hard. So not the ending to the story we’d expected. Thank you for all your comments, it helps more than you know.

And–as long as I was wishing things had turned out different–I wished I’d gotten more than one healthy actual apricot seedling after all that hope and expectation and effort. Not that it mattered; I just wanted it. Like a two year old who’s going to go pout in the corner over not getting a marshmallow.

I woke up this morning and somehow the first thing I did was walk across the house over to those pots.

Where there was very new and completely unexpected life. A sprout! It had no color to it, the future leaves were just tiny bumps on a tiny stem and it could have just been a fragment in the potting soil, but no, it was real and it was not there last night and I grabbed the paper cup out of the windowsill and put it outside in the new sunlight of the day. (Under a bird netting cage. Its little homemade ICU.)

Not ten minutes later I thought, wait, I need a picture.

Already it had taken on a tinge of green. Can you see it? Already it was starting to respond to the sun and creating sugar for its roots below. That fast.

And I bet I can tell you what it’s going to look like a week from now.

We’ll see how it goes, but right now it feels like a gift from Brad. It helps.


Friday April 10th 2020, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

After ten years of trying to have a family, their daughter was three and their twin boys were two weeks old when this happened. I’ve told the story here before but it’s been a goodly while and today’s a day that needs the telling of it.

They are just the nicest people ever. They had moved into a house about a mile from us and when the movers pulled away, a neighbor came by to introduce himself and welcome them to the neighborhood. He happened to mention that back in 1955, there’d been a very high tide with a monster storm and the houses on their street had taken quite a flooding. Just something to know about the place.

A few years later, the babies had just come home from the hospital and the rain was not like anything you usually see here and it had been a hard downpour all day long.

I remember that day vividly: I was on the freeway going to Berkeley to replace my kid’s lost sheet music at the only place that sold copies, with a school concert the next night (the music teacher later told me, All you had to do was ask me, I could have given you guys one!) when one windshield wiper suddenly broke and jammed the other one and I couldn’t even see the truck in front of me much less the cars to either side.

Yeah. It was like that. With his family turned in for as much of a night as you get with newborn twins, Brad was watching the local news, waiting for the weather report.

King tide tonight, they warned as they reported on where the major flooding was.

He opened the front door to see if the water was coming up in their street like that guy had warned them about.

His koi from the pond in their back yard suddenly swam past his feet on their way to the Bay. Freedom! Explorations ahead!

He told that story with a laugh for years. (He also evacuated his family to friends whose house was on higher ground and spent the night lifting everything onto cinderblocks. It was months before the house was livable again but at least he could save their stuff, and he did. I forever after imagined how tired he must have been as he just kept on going anyway.)

My Richard was their home teacher from church.

One time, Brad’s wife put some oreos on a plate and told the now-two-year-old boys to go offer them to him. They did–but in between the kitchen and the living room, given that you had to scoot around a wall that made it so Mommy couldn’t quite see them doing it and the ones in the living room might not, the frosting part of those cookies somehow…vanished. Richard was offered a plate of somewhat soggy dark plain rounds. Well, mostly still round.

Hey, when two sweet little toddlers offer you a goodie you know they want, you eat one to teach them to see how your eyes light up and how grateful you are for their generosity so they’ll want to do that for other people again. (One cookie was enough.)

Such sweet memories. They moved away to a better job and lower cost of living but we kept in touch over Facebook and I marveled that somehow their kids turned into young adults in spite of their not being here where I could see them do it in person.

Brad put up a post there yesterday, acknowledging that he rarely does but he wanted to reach out and say hi to everybody in all of our sheltering-in-place. (I’m sure he wanted us to know how much we really, really should.) He wanted his family, his friends, the whole world, to know how much he loved them.

He was wearing a big mask and his face was so thin–I had to look twice to make sure it was him.

He wrote that his was the first case of COVID-19 diagnosed in his county. And the first success. He’d been ill these past three weeks, in the ICU on a ventilator for two, but he had just moved out of there into a regular bed. He was off the ventilator. He was so weak, but he was getting better and he was so very very happy that he would get to see more of his kids’ lives from here on out.

I just now opened Facebook again.

The post was from Brad’s brother so his wife and children wouldn’t have to.

Brad is gone.

I am gutted.

Lockdown day 25
Thursday April 09th 2020, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I couldn’t disappoint Suzanne. So I did get some done today.

Lockdown day 18
Thursday April 02nd 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

We had two bad years in a row for peach leaf curl disease, and even though I’d used copper spray, one tree was dying and I gave up and replaced it with a resistant variety, and the August Pride…at least looked better than that. I decided to let it try for another year.

My artistic gardening friend James out of the blue decided that someone had done something good for him that was making his life so much better–so much so that he wanted to pay it forward, and he asked me if he could come over with his copper spray and do that job for my peaches?

Totally unexpected. Yes please thank you!

And look at that healthy August Pride now. Needing to thin all that fruit is a great problem to have.

Lockdown day 15: work from home edition
Monday March 30th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Lupus,Wildlife

This actually happened last week but I had to decide to tell it on myself.

The suet cake holder is hanging from the underside of the middle of the porch awning; no squirrel has so much as attempted to reach it, ever (if you don’t count the one that bounced a little going across up there, peered over the edge and gave up.)

There is a tall metal toolbox directly below it which no rodent can climb. A mover put it there last year after his dad’s estate settled and trying to wrestle it into a better place is something we would have to hire someone younger to do, so there it has stayed; it was that or the living room at the time and no thank you but at least it wouldn’t get rained on there.

So this is how it has been for six months now, with me feeding only the birds and nothing else so much as sniffing in its direction. Still, I tended to buy the chili-oil-infused cakes just to be on the safe side. I draped a thick but old 3×6 wool rug over it that is no longer quite nice enough to be at our doorway, giving the birds a better surface to hop around on and nibble fallout from while protecting the box. Every now and then I shake it out over whatever in the yard maybe needs some fertilizer. What else you guano do, right?

When the initial quarantine order came down I only had a few cakes left and the bird center was shut down–I was stuck with ordering from Amazon, but at least I was going to buy the same brand, not some knock-off that had who knew what. (Later, the bird center would be deemed Essential Functions and allowed to deliver to your car in front of the shop. Which I have yet to do.)

The ones mixed with peanuts seemed like a good thing for nesting time of year and to attract more types of birds, right? So I ordered a case of those.

I put the first one out there: one big fragrant four and a half inch square of come-and-get-it. Somehow my husband made himself a peanut butter sandwich shortly after.

I heard something and looked over to see a huge gray squirrel that had made the massive leap successfully and was gauging how to get from there up the rest of the way to that suet. I hadn’t so much as seen one cross my yard in awhile and I was just astonished to see one right there!

I burst through that sliding door after it got caught and noisily didn’t want to open as immediately as I wanted it to, while I yelled, YAAAH!!!! GITOUTATHERE!!!

It took a flying leap and away. I set up something I hoped would be a barrier along the far edges and came back in, not wanting to spend too much time in the sunlight–lupus and all that.

To the sound of my husband in the middle of a work conference call right then, and having just apologized and explained to his co-workers, the familiar voice of one of them, chuckling. At both me and my husband’s embarrassment and totally understanding. A couple of others were chiming in, laughing.

Oh… Hi, Gary…

The next time I put a suet cake in I broke it and put the two halves side-by-side in the holder so that from the phone lines through the trees over yonder it doesn’t look like there’s much left in there worth bothering with, much less falling over backwards with a cinnamon broom landing on your head like the second time it had tried. Into the stored frost covers. It was cushioned.

No more squirrels.