Inadvertent favor
Saturday December 15th 2018, 12:11 am
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

I had wondered when we set up the Sunbubble if there would be water seepage under the sides during a rainstorm that would get to the mango. Nope. It was time to get the hose going inside there again.

Turns out that over my birthday it had sprouted new budding branches in five places, which is the best evidence I could have asked for that my new improved heating set-up seems to be what it had needed and means summertime fruit, when it will have real heat to make it sweet. Yay!

I also found that my long-time tree guys goofed. I’d hauled my sick self out of bed yesterday morning (thankfully not too early) because months earlier I’d contracted for them to winter-prune some of my fruit trees so that I wouldn’t have to worry about branches falling at my head while doing it myself. Twelve concussions is enough. The pear, which is tall and thin and really isn’t much yet, the big peach (the Indian Free) and the sprawling 25+ year-old Fuji apple.

That pear is going to grow a lot in the coming year now that we cut away so much that was shading it when we were making the insurance company happy. I need to set a good foundation for that.

Chris called the day before to confirm and I couldn’t stop coughing. Which may well be why when the crew came yesterday the one guy who approached stood well and I mean well back from the door and I couldn’t hear a word he said and didn’t want to breathe on him so I just said you’re here to trim my trees? Apple peach pear? Great, thank you! and left them to it.

I was too tired to go look afterwards. Chris always follows up with a walk-through, but I did not hear the doorbell. Not with my stuffed ears. That’s fine, I didn’t want to infect him, either.

Today I was up to walking around. Even did my treadmill time tonight (slowly. Very slowly. But it felt great to.)

They’d trimmed the Fuji apple, the Indian Free peach–and the Santa Rosa plum. The three biggest trees, planted in a triangle. Made perfect sense. The pear over yonder needed maybe a dozen snips at most and quite honestly made no sense to call them in for other than as a one minute add-on, while the ten-year-old plum was a project.

I know Chris had mapped out what was where for them.

If I call and tell them then they’ll have to come back for just such a waste of their time and they really did me quite the favor. I was trying to keep the cost of the job down and figured the plum was mostly at a height I didn’t have to worry about.

My lingering achiness is really quite delighted that I don’t have to handle pruning materials for very long at all now. What’s left to do is, thanks to them, a piece of birthday cake.

Postscript: I couldn’t find the original email with the contract in it before I wrote this, but I just found the saved document: okay, so Chris did put the plum on the list in August, then. Alright, that makes more sense.



Kishu tree for my milestone
Thursday December 13th 2018, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

My sweet husband. He’s a very kind man.

They’d been sold out the last several years whenever I looked, and Four Winds is the only grower I know of allowed to ship citrus here: we don’t have the devastating greening disease (Huonglongbing) yet in northern California, and they’ve moved their citrus growing inside with air blowing unwanted insects away at the doors to try to avoid it.

Kishu mandarins are tiny little things that are not sold commercially. You have to know someone who has a tree. The skins just fall right off, there are no seeds, and after seeing them demonstrated there is so little fiber to them that even I should be able to eat them easily. Just pop a small round packet of sweet juice into your mouth and that’s about it.

I first saw them in planters outside a restaurant a few years ago and wondered, what *is* that? How have I never heard of this? And so I went looking. There were none to be found, not from them and not from any retailer within a hundred miles when I settled for the Gold Nugget mandarin that I bought in Santa Cruz, whose birdnetted first squirrel-free fruits are turning orange now. And those will be good. Post-colectomy and all that, I’ll probably have to juice mine.

But normal tasty food eaten a normal way. Richard gets what that means to me.

I looked again a few days ago, just out of sheer curiosity. Four Winds had Kishus! And not only that, when he saw my enthusiasm my patient husband backed me up on it.

It came on my birthday today, four years to the day after the mango did.

This is how you properly celebrate flipping over the tens column. With enthusiasm over the growth and caretaking and offerings to come.



Still undecided and neither side’s conceding
Wednesday November 07th 2018, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Garden

The leaves producing food for it vs the tree producing food for us: it’s a race. There’s one last fig.



Crisp and sweet
Wednesday October 31st 2018, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Knit,Life

Just for this afternoon, I needed a project I didn’t have to pay attention to for the doctor’s office and I was fresh out. (Routine appointment, no worries.) Grabbed some violet merino/cashmere/silk Diamante I’d had Colourmart six-ply for me and cast on an hour beforehand and got enough done that you could tell what the pattern was going to be (and so it would be long enough that the curling bottom wouldn’t bug me–blocking will fix that later.)

I found myself sitting next to a fellow grandmother and knitter, a woman from India who loved watching my hands work as we delighted in each other. She was a treasure.

The doctor was the ENT whose love for taking care of his fruit trees had triggered my planting mine, and look where it got me now. Enthusiasm is contagious that way.

So I brought him a gift in a small Penzey’s box: one perfectly ripe, slightly funky-shaped rather small apple that had grown to fit the produce clamshell that had been squirrel-proofing it. I told him it was my final Fuji of the season.

He laughed in wonder, saying he’d picked his last Fuji in August!

Microclimates R Us, I guess.

It smelled perfect. I hope it was. There had been two, and we can tell you that the other had made it clear how good they were now.



Searsiously
Saturday October 20th 2018, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life,Mango tree

How hard is it to find a thing that works.

Plenty, turns out.

I spent several hours today researching and looking and trying to find a good heater for a small greenhouse. All I could find was cheap Chinese knock-offs that looked like the old tried and true but had dismal, awful reviews. Whatever happened to the ones built to last? To even work?

It finally hit me: Sears used to make good tools for the working man. You didn’t want to freeze in that garage with the door open to the world while you worked on that car.

And so I tried them, knowing full well their vulture capitalist CEO is trying to kill the company as fast as he can for what he can skim off the top and he’s certainly not putting any money into improving product lines.

Lo and behold. One color left: bright red. I can handle that. Stellar reviews. Hey. Happy reviews. One said, I tried all those others but this one actually works and actually keeps working.

So it will be my wistful wave good-bye to what once was, both Sears and decent appliance manufacturing standards, and it is on its way. Wish me luck.

All by way of saying, I’m going to have to let Eli gently down and tell him that (hopefully) I’m not going to be needing him to cover and uncover the mango tree when I’m out of town anymore: my husband told me he thought I should order that Sunbubble greenhouse and a good heater and not to have to worry about being here at the right time every single morning and night, flu or not.

Get the big one, he said. You know it’ll grow into it.

I finally let myself feel just how freeing that will be. The tree can just…quietly, on its own…do its own thing.

Christmas is coming early.

My husband’s the best.



Don’t read this at bedtime
Friday October 19th 2018, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

The little sugar ants love the sweet-selling mango blossoms. Individually, they’re kind of their size. It’s a toss-up whether trying to pick them off damages more of the fragile things than they do–but sprinkle some cinnamon on them and they fall right out of the tree.

Which has cut down on their numbers, but still, just about every day right now I’m out there taking care of a few more. Get the scouts to keep the hordes from ascending.

There were floral clusters in nine places now, the biggest at the top where there’s the most sun, smaller and newer ones below. I checked those out to be sure.

And had an impulse, as I walked back in the door, to check my hair to make sure I hadn’t picked one of those up while looking through the branches. Yeah, no, I’ve checked before and there never is–quit being bug-phobic.

A few minutes later Richard had no idea what I was shrieking about but he did what I said and instantly went running and came back with a fistful of eye drops. I couldn’t see. There was this left arm over my face and I wasn’t about to move it.

Just one? Take the lid off for me? I was desperate.

Then, You want another?

Please yes.

It had fallen out of my hair onto my eyelashes and tumbled straight into… I’d suddenly had an ant walking across my eyeball. When I instantly closed my eye it was literally six feet, under.

(This got me to go look it up: ants have not just stickiness but claws at the end of each of their legs. Oh joy.)

I promise you next time I will check my hair. Promise.



The big one, so it can grow
Monday October 15th 2018, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Garden

It would be a chunk, but maybe it’s time. I looked at these mango-tree-shaped plastic greenhouses last year but they were brand new with zero reviews and I wanted them to have a little more history first. Now they do. I do like the idea that even I could set one of those up fast–and I could take it down in spring and summer.

I’d have to get a different heating system that could handle the space, though (while not damaging that plastic.) But the tree wouldn’t need the daily babysitting, if this could work, and it would get every bit of morning sun to help ripen its fruit.

Anyone with any experience with such things, greenhouses, heaters, please let me know.



Grab motivation wherever you can find it
Tuesday August 21st 2018, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Huh. It worked this time. Those clay flower pots seem to have done their job.

This was green yesterday. Another ten hours of ripening and I’m looking forward to picking this for breakfast. (While trying not to hope too hard.) Really, I should leave it a day past that but we’ve seen how that works out.

Meantime, twice today a squirrel took a sniff in the direction of the mango tree and then a step or two towards the side of it where the new mangoes are growing; up till now, they’ve taken a comically wide swing around to avoid the smell of the tree. The latex in the sap, I’ve been told.

But this was something different and it looked like maybe it could eat those and it wanted to know.

Cinnamon and foot stomping and at least this tree I can see from the front of the house.

I have another large white netting cover ready. It cinches at the bottom. I’m just not sure yet that works with the Christmas lights.

Meantime, I tripped uphill this evening and landed on my hands and decided that if they were going to feel sprained or sore in the morning I’d better get lots knit now while I could, and did for nearly two hours and the baby blanket said thank you. (I think I’ll be peachy fine but I’ve got the icepacking going just to be sure.)



The fouls of the air
Monday August 20th 2018, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

The bright white birdnetting over the little fig tree was rocking it out as if Aretha Franklin herself were the soundtrack. There was no way to see what was underneath from there.

2:00 pm, whose health matters, the lupus patient’s or the critter’s?

Yeah you know what I did. Grabbed the hat. Maybe all that smoke in the air will deflect the UV.

It was a mockingbird, caught between the layers of netting–I’d added backup after the scrub jay had done this. How on earth did it get *in* there?!

I opened one side, but of course it wasn’t going to come near me. I went to open the other side and the first fell back down to the ground. The bird snagged a wing exactly where the jay had; I considered the size of its beak and the fervor of its fear while reaching to pull the stuff away from it but that was enough to motivate it to extricate–and it resnagged over to the right, over by the bird spikes (supposedly) protecting a fig.

It was screeching fowl language at the top of its lungs all the while.

Then suddenly all was still and silent as I peered through the reflective white coating–where did it go? How did it get out? When did it get out? The answer was, it didn’t, and suddenly we were in round two.

After several minutes of this it found that one good spot I’d had waiting for it and escaped.

So what I wonder now is, is it dumb enough to try that again? Go eat a cherry tomato, fer cryin’ out loud.

I weighed down the bottom of the netting with flowerpots.

I found myself unable to just sit and knit after that and checked out the bathroom window at the far end of the house (the only one you can see the tree from at that funky angle) again and again to make sure that was that.

So far, as far as I can tell, so good.

All I want is a half dozen palm-size fully ripe Black Jack figs picked first thing in the morning for full flavor, filled with a little Brie and roasted. Or straight off the tree: fig tartare.

If you see any at your Costco let me know.



Calla called, cowl could
Saturday August 18th 2018, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Lupus

Afton (should I say Other Afton, or Local Afton) told me last week she’s about to move to Denver.

Denver is going to be awfully cold to a Californian. So I made it to Green Planet on Thursday (while I could still buy this yarn), started Friday night, got right back to it first thing in the morning and by this afternoon had two skeins of Chalet in this cowl and called it done. (It was densely knit, too, before water touched it, but I still think it’ll give her some good warmth. The photo is less than half of it.)

Ran to Trader Joe’s this evening, where they had small pots of flowering plants out front; I did a quick visual skim so I could keep going and ignore them–but that darkest-pink-to-purple calla lily jumped up and down and refused to let me not pay attention to it.

Wait. That’s IT!

I’d been looking for it for a long time without quite knowing what I was looking for–and with my sun sensitivity, it’s hard to go browsing at nurseries.

I’ve had a large chestnut-brown ceramic pot near the front door ever since my friend Sheryl gave me several when she moved. Two have long been used. The third was very heavy, and when we found it had a crack in it it seemed like an announcement of, well that’s where that goes, then, and it’s a good thing that’s a good spot because even empty it was too heavy to safely move it again and it was far too nice to just toss it because of that.

I just never came across anything that felt like the right thing to put in it. It seemed kind of dumb to have this big empty gorgeous pot just sitting there, and it was, but if I was going to put the effort into keeping anything alive it needed to be something that constantly drew me to it.

It was pretty dark by the time I dragged the bag of soil from the back yard and got this all tucked away in its rightful new place, where it will bloom and the bulb will spread out to fill the space for years to come.

I’d been waiting for it for a long time.

 

 



They were just helping
Thursday August 16th 2018, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I remember wondering as a kid how on earth a measure of fruit–or Peter Piper’s famously pickled peppers, for that matter–could come in…pecks. Who thought of that word and put it in that context? So strange.

After gleaning these from the ground (which, truth be told, is an easy way to harvest) with, if you turn them over and around, a single beak mark in each, I think I get it now.



Halfsies?
Tuesday August 14th 2018, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I got my first fig two days ago, and it was just about a breakfast unto itself. I’d almost forgotten how enormous Black Jacks get.

There were two more that would have been perfectly ripe today and I was quite looking forward to them. Halve them, put some Brie in the center and put in the oven to roast… Just one more day’s heat to make them perfect.

Yeah well and early this morning one was snapped right off and this was the other, quite hollowed out and nearly all gone–I was going to have to work harder than that.

So I did. (I also chucked this and washed my hands a good one after the photo–who needs raccoon spit contamination?)

I happened to look out the back window this afternoon to find a squirrel twirling away on a branch. But they don’t even like figs! Well maybe now they do. How did it… I scared it away, but by the time I grabbed a hat and a sun jacket and came around the outside of the house to reset that netting it was back at it again.

So I worked a little harder on covering the survivors up. That had worked up till then and I wanted it to keep working.

I at least got better netting this year: it’s heavier and it doesn’t glom on and tear things as if it had been glued to the leaves.

I sprinkled chili flakes liberally. More stabby acanthus stalks. Then I got some of the older stickier netting and pulled it over any gaps.

And that was that. No more sign of squirrels. Success.

Till I walked out this evening to see if everything had gone as well as I’d thought.

Somehow the scrub jay hadn’t gotten the memo that the bird netting had been reinforced. It had managed to get in there between the two layers but it couldn’t find its way back out in its sudden emergency and it really really wanted to as I approached. Its blue wing appeared to snag on I couldn’t see what while the rest of it fought furiously to get free, with me two feet away and the netting between us. It felt just like my finches had the moment before it had stabbed them to death, awkwardly and too slowly because it’s not good at being a predator.

Neither am I. I gave it a verbal what-for just to reinforce whose figs those were and at last it found that one open-enough spot, burst out of there and zoomed up into a tree. Okay, good, you didn’t damage yourself.

More acanthus stalks. Spiky spiky spiky. Although that’s more a mammal thing. (Picking a splinter out.)

More hopes of getting the best-tasting figs in the world, ie picked fully ripe at the break of day. I’ve waited a year for this.

If nothing else there are still some very green ones to give me time to plot my next move.



Quoth the raven, Nevermore. Nor a first helping either.
Wednesday July 18th 2018, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I did a doubletake this morning: how on earth did THAT get there?!

Maybe it was a possum or raccoon hunting a mouse hiding under the frost cover?  It had been dragged a good way across the patio and was chewed on and peed on where whatever it was had finally freed its leg from it.

Or maybe its dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the August Pride tree with ripening peaches, I had bird netting pushed in on one side (I’ve learned not to put it on top of a growing tree–peaches have scrawny limbs and they grow too deformed with the netting) and frost covers that had been dragged to catch as many burr-type weed seeds as possible, tucked around the trunk to keep critters from having firm ground to stand on much less any kind of comfortable. Lots of stabby acanthus stalks for good measure.

It ain’t pretty but you can barely see it from the windows, so there’s that (or so I tell myself. Don’t look.) Note the (stuffed) crow standing guard, no longer ‘dead’ but perched on top of the, um, valance. The squirrels have definitely been avoiding its threatening beak even though it hasn’t moved for days. They don’t even want to run down the fence line in its direction: a few steps and then a freak-out and a leap towards the neighbors, again and again. It’s very gratifying. There are no peck marks in the fruit, either.

Clearly a living dead crow works better than a dead dead crow.

One frost cover there had been trampled last night, too, a branch broken most of the way off the tree–but all thirteen peaches are still there. It’s a small crop on a small tree but I’ve worked hard for it.

Rock a bye baby… Something probably did not have fun landing on those stalks. They are the porcupines of the landscaping.

I added a lot more acanthus and some of the dog fur my friend Kathy had given me a few months ago for nesting birds.

The peaches took on more yellow today. I even gave one a slight, wistful tug, but no, August is their name and August is what they want. They’re supposed to look like this.

Two more weeks. Wish me luck.

—-

p.s. Pachelbel’s Canon played with rubber chickens. Because of course.



Pot, meet soil
Sunday July 15th 2018, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Garden

There were a few of the sour cherries left that were well past due.

I found this one flying the green flag of surrender today. It charms me more than I can say.

Him: Are you going to let it grow?

Me: Of course!



Flower power
Monday July 02nd 2018, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knit

The physics of knitting. Cool stuff.

Meantime, the little miniature hydrangea that my friend Edie gave me several years ago is holding its own against the encroaching coffeeberry bush, blooming in both sun and shade. I love that what had been a small tender potted plant from a florist actually held on and thrived out there even after a stump grinder took out the olive roots right by it.

It is small but it is determined to live up to what it was meant to be.