Amber waves
Saturday April 17th 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Mexican Feather grass, as near as my googling skills can decipher it, is what the neighbors added when they relandscaped a few years ago; they had this clump that waved in the wind.

A year or two later they had five of them in a line as the breezes blow, quite a bit taller now, and then there was one that jumped the fence and was growing right in front of my pomegranate tree, shading out the bottom half somewhat. I debated what to do with it; it was allegedly pretty to some. Not my thing, but not bad.

In retrospect, I should have cut it down immediately. Note that the neighbors finally took out all of theirs this past winter. Mine had become a clump about ten or twelve inches across so dense in there that a bug I watched couldn’t crawl between the stalks till I’d cut open a path for it, with the inner circle dried, tall, and ferociously flammable-looking.

So I decided that today was the day and it had to go, all of it.

It defied my loppers (I need to replace them) so I used them to hold on tight and twist twist twist and that got small clumps to come away all at once. I spent about an hour at it.

The Australians consider it a dire threat and are trying to stomp out every single plant that might yet come up. Someone had mislabeled an import.

Green new stalks on the outside. It seemed like slightly sticky thick 3′ tall grass, jointed here and there. Right?

I wish I’d found that Australian link first. It seemed fine but when I went to pick the clumps up to throw it in the bin my hands running down some of the stalks got cut open fairly deep. I didn’t even realize immediately that yes, it was those stalks that bit me, not something mixed up in them–it hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to need gloves. I hadn’t ever before, but then I hadn’t ever actually touched the stuff much other than to push it out of the way so I could pick a pomegranate.

That single invasive plant filled the whole yard trimmings bin, which is about twice the size of our trashcan. I did not get the bottom of the clump out and I think it would take a stump grinder. I would spray it with vinegar to kill it off if it weren’t so close to my fruit tree.

I tried to get every seed poof floating away but you know I missed some somewhere. But at least I stopped the tens of thousands that the growing season would have produced.

The neighbors don’t know it snuck over the fence. I think we’ll leave it at that.



Not a figment of imagination
Wednesday April 14th 2021, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I actually googled yesterday re whether or not Black Jack figs produce breba crops, because mine never had; I’d seen a few tiny dark stubs over-wintering and gotten all excited about it till they’d dropped off in the spring, but that was it.

I found arguments about whether or not they were really only a seedling of Mission figs that came out bigger, but no answer.

I’ve been taking photos of that tree these past two weeks as the leaves have been coming out just because I love how they look, but I never saw any sign of fruit. Nor all winter. Nothing. And yet there are two of these today! Figs in April! The leaves haven’t even finished growing to full size yet!

This past winter felt long and chilly and yet it was the first one in memory where it never went down into the twenties. That might account for it.

I know brebas are supposed to have much less flavor and sweetness than the crop the tree puts the whole summer’s heat into.

But who cares when August is so far off. A roasted fig stuffed with cheese, maybe a little honey drizzled on at the last if it’s not naturally sweet… Okay, so, put something else in the oven with them to justify the time in there. Blueberry cake or something.

They’re so big already. I put some clippings from my husband’s last haircut around them to try to fend off the rodentry. Not right up against the fruit itself because I figure chances are good that any birds still nest-building are going to be thrilled to find those locks, but, in the vicinity.

Meantime, halfway around the house, the juncos are waiting for the Morello cherry leaves to hurry up so they can hide the nest they want to build.

It’s blooming slowly from the ground up.

Oh, and in case you needed it: Mick Jagger gave the pandemic lockdown a piece of his mind yesterday.



Abundance
Friday April 09th 2021, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Some photos came through. These are the Anyas I planted a bit later than the first set.

The one from last year, having not been nice and warm and inside at night and having to make do with the natural seasons, is playing catch up.

Grape Kool-aid got the first gray squirrel that attacked my Stella cherry on Wednesday to leave and not come back; then yesterday, a black squirrel tried and that time I Graped again and shook cinnamon on the limbs.

There has been no sign of a squirrel since. Which is great, because last year they were stripping those flowers just as fast as they opened. They only seem to do that with the cherries.

I wonder if the salmonella outbreak that has been affecting the birds has cut down the squirrel population, too. It seems like it.

Quite to my surprise I discovered the first pomegranate bud of the year. And while I was looking at it, I heard the loud cry of a large bird overhead that I didn’t turn around in time to see.

But there was a large feather on the ground a few steps behind me that most definitely did not come from a crow, where there had been none a moment before.

Even with the bird feeder down, even with the tall trees to either side of our property gone now, even with a new generation of Cooper’s hawk these last two years, it appears they still claim our yard as their own.

And that makes me wildly happy.



Samantha wrinkles her nose
Thursday April 08th 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The jiffy pots just weren’t doing it for those remaining seedlings anymore and I knew it.

I realized that it was lifting the bags of soil that had been stopping me.

So I didn’t–I left them propped up and scooped out dirt by the plastic flowerpot-full and took it to where I wanted it to go. All I’d needed was to just get started. It was slower, it got my hands in the dirt more, it was more meditative–and it got the job done.

Five apricot seedlings planted in pots, six if you include the one from last year. That should be enough to do some fine taste-testing of Anya’s offspring in a few years. Some got more peat than the others, some more planting mix, some, more topsoil; it got a bit random because hey, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just guessing.

There’s one last one whose roots haven’t started dangling out the jiffy bottom yet, ready and waiting for the friend it’s been promised to to plant as she pleases.

A quick house note: I am told that yes this kitchen does have a stove–it pulls down by the handles from the small oven above. Apparently it’s called a Bewitched stove, because the TV show of that name from my childhood had one like it. (Here’s the Graceland version.)

I love that this house has its original one still there and still working. Mechanical dials for the win!

I’d still remodel the heck out of that kitchen if it were mine. With some regret, because that thing is cool. I just wouldn’t want to be stuck having to try to use those tiny burners that I’m told were slow at a friend’s house and I would most definitely trip over them jutting out like that but only some of the time. My body just doesn’t do graceful.



Grow grow grow
Monday April 05th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden

The apricots in pots, the short, five-branched one and the tall–which, although the leaves kept growing bigger, had stopped producing new ones until its roots could likewise grow more to support them. So, you know, you’re planted now, hurry up!

I’ll move them into bigger pots next winter. Gotta start somewhere.

And then there’s the one from last year. I overwatered it one particular week last summer and it suffered and stopped growing. Totally my fault; I kept giving it as much when the weather turned cool as I’d been doing in the high 90s. Apricots do not like soaking their feet.

During the winter the top and a side branch appeared to have died off so I pruned it, little though it was, and hoped it might survive.

Note the pretty, glossy Costco pot I bought for it turned out to have had a red coat of paint slapped on top of plain plastic but which shredded off almost from the first time water touched it. Not cool. But so 2020.

Anyway, that Anya is only just now waking up for the season: those leaves at the top started to appear yesterday. But it was very much to my relief that it did wake up. I didn’t kill it after all!

Not to mention, I really want to be that extra year ahead. I want to begin to find out what we’ll get with these.

It always amazes me when a plant manages to recover from its deathplantbed and just keep right on going after all.



Black rabbit
Saturday April 03rd 2021, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

The first apple blossoms of the year.

And, on the right, the apricot that was just the tiniest beginnings of two leaves tucked way down in there a week ago.

One of the real estate sites somehow thought I wanted a cabin in Carmel. It’s absolutely adorable and comes with its own Rapunzel tower and I’d love to camp out in it even if my hair hasn’t gotten quite *that* long in the pandemic, but man, that is the most flammable house I think I have ever seen.

And on a different note, I did a fair bit of knitting today: it’s the weekend of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Gerrit Gong was one of today’s speakers, and he was reminiscing about his late father.

Whom we knew and adored. When his dad was blind from diabetes in his old age, his mother asked if I might knit her a scarf in angora: because her husband couldn’t see anymore, but he could still feel, and she thought it would be a blessing to him.

You bet I did.

 



Pot humus
Friday April 02nd 2021, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Woke up with a smile on my face. We have a date, at long last: seven weeks till we get to see who we want to see and go where we want to go.

It felt celebratory to pick up the topsoil I’d ordered from the local nursery; I wasn’t going to risk my back lifting them before that drive to Antioch. Even if I’d ordered the half-size bags for caution’s sake.

And now there are two apricot seedlings in good-sized but not huge pots for them to get a good start on life in and they look glorious.

One bag done. A second is in the back yard.

There are eight (!) more of them because, uh, I think I overdid it. Like, a lot. The guy just barely managed to fit them into my Prius and I should have paid the $55 delivery fee for their strong young men to come bring them and stack them up wherever I might ask because some things you just can’t weigh in terms of the equivalent number of bags that that would work out to and hey lady did you realize you’re starting to get on the old side, but, oh well. Too late now. They are totally smelling up the inside of the car because I forgot to get the dolly and found my limit for one day and had the good sense to stop.

But those two trees are finally where they should be for the next year while they grow their roots a bit. They’d so needed it. They’d stopped producing new leaves until their roots had somewhere to reach to, too, and now they look so good. And it makes me so happy.

Guess who forgot to take their picture as I was taking them in.



Anticipation
Wednesday March 31st 2021, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Garden

From the peach that bloomed first: I even made myself thin them like I’m supposed to. They say six inches apart but the tree didn’t cooperate, so I figure, Eh. Five. Call it a size 6 Petite.

It was in the low 80s today and the previously dormant-looking sour cherry went, Hey! My kind of weather! Alright!

 



Peachy
Wednesday March 31st 2021, 10:24 am
Filed under: Garden

A few flowers for your day. The other peaches have enough left hopefully to pollinate this Indian Free.



Anya check-in
Sunday March 28th 2021, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Garden

Saturday’s picture. Middle pot on the right, we’ve got a root but no stem yet. The green in the lower left has doubled today.

Apricots don’t like their roots sitting around soaked, and they’re starting to show out the bottom, so I need to figure out the best medium for the next stage of planting. Do I put them in something they’d have to be moved out of later in the growing season, something small enough that I could deal with when my back is being antsy, or do I protect the roots by putting them in something larger that they’ll stay in for a good year or two at least?

The fabric pots are great for getting a plant to create a strong root system because they’re constantly being air-tipped when they reach the edges and creating new side roots in response.

But the roots do grow through the bottom, which would be hard to extract them from, so you’d want to go bigger rather than smaller. Or use something more solid. Even if that makes it harder to chase the moving sunlight or to move them away from the wild rabbit’s reach at night.

Or I could just stop overthinking it, plunk them in whatever and tell’em good luck. Don’t forget the eggshell pieces around the stems to thwart the snails.



Alliums among us
Saturday March 27th 2021, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

I have this plant that grows next to the house. I didn’t put it there; it was a surprise. It simply showed up one spring and every one thereafter, leafing out of the ground and then sending up a purple flower stalk next to the walkway. I had no idea what it was. It never spread–it was just the one plant. For easily twenty years now.

Last year there wasn’t much of a flower to it at all, which made me realize how much I’d been looking forward to it. Oh, well.

This year, the rainy season is nearly over and we’ve gotten about a third of normal. Dry dry dry. My allium did come up under the sidewalk light as always but it’s tiny, with no sign of any flower to come, but at least it’s still alive.

I ordered some cream with my groceries. I had a craving for making chocolate tortes. I wanted to run the beaters, melt the chocolate into the cream, mix the one spoonful I like to make of leftover ganache into my hot cocoa the next morning, all of it.

The new next door neighbors, as it turned out, do indeed like chocolate and are not allergic to dairy.

She opened that door in excitement before I could even knock.

She’d had to work today and it had been a long hard day and then she’d just gotten home to my message. Not five minutes later I would get a text saying how good that torte was.

And as I kind of floated down the sidewalk, there it suddenly was.

Wait. Where did you come from? What…?

It was a new allium. With the tips of its unusually short leaves just brushing the sidewalk. There had been so little water there was almost no stalk, either, but there it was, radiant in the late sunlight.

And it wanted me to notice.



The frosting on the cake
Saturday March 20th 2021, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

(With the weekly apricot progress picture.)

Some had flowers in their gardens too good to only keep to themselves.

Some offered to bake. And it’s always more fun, not to mention safer calorie-wise, to bake for others.

And so we had a drive-through Relief Society party (ie for the women’s organization) at the church parking lot. You stop your car–sometimes it was a line–you say from a safe distance your preference of type of cupcake, everybody with masks on, or whether you’d prefer flowers to calories; one person brings your choice to you (if a cupcake) in a little box with a heart at the top so it won’t smush all over the inside of your car or make you have to hold it while you’re trying to drive, several people at social distances away from each other are bringing more to other cars and nobody breathes on anybody.

So-and-so pulled in to park and could you move just a bit so they can get out. Sure.

We could actually some of see each other’s faces for real for the first time in over a year and we did chat a bit from there; not too long, more are coming, we let them have their turns.

Man, did that feel good.

The response to the original query was such that not only did I get a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache and cream cheese layered in the filling, I was offered to take a random one home to Richard along with a blue hydrangea stem.

His turned out to be vanilla. With sprinkles. Which made me laugh. Our kids memorably swooned over sprinkles on a cake someone brought us when they were, well, kids.

All the leftover cupcakes were going to end up on the one family’s doorstep if we didn’t rescue them.  No! It’s okay! Him, too! Take one!

After tasting mine, I understood the danger. Man, that was good.



Figgety
Thursday March 18th 2021, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Garden

I gave it six years. Even though an earlier volunteer had produced a single fig seven feet off the ground the same season it had sprouted out of the ground: whoosh! But it was clearly going to be big and was already pushing the fence down. Out.

But this one, not a sign of fruit ever. It was a nice enough looking plant so I kept hoping, but the Black Jack I bought on pie day that year was the one has given me several hundred figs while all this one could do was sit around and look pretty.

Turns out fig trees sometimes come as male specimens.

What we got was a lesson in root swirling in pots. (It was growing in a narrower one than what I set it down in a moment to snap its photo.) Kind of a potholder weave look to them, isn’t it. (Or Marilyn Monroe trying to hold her skirts down over the grate while her hair goes flying.)

My Black Jack is starting to leaf out for the new season and over here, there’s a newly freed-up pot waiting for an apricot seedling to spend a year or two in. Max.

 



Learning by doing
Tuesday March 16th 2021, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Garden

And now there are six. The two new apricots, including the one that was just a little curl coming out of the ground last night, already have their second leaves.

But there was a squash sprouting whose root was growing down the side of the plug against the plastic tray and never got the memo to get inside and it tried for a few days to be rooty enough–and then the whole thing died.

So tonight when I found an Anya was starting off its root at the edge like that I took another plug, put it up against it there, and wedged them together outside of the tray. Not too hard. We’ll see how it goes.

Note to self and to anyone who hasn’t planted theirs yet: point the pointy part of the kernel towards the center of the plug. I didn’t on all of them.

Meantime, courtesy of Anne, a physicist vs a squirrel. Whee!



The sequence
Monday March 15th 2021, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Garden

Sunday I checked a set of apricot kernels that didn’t seem to be doing too much yet and, actually, one of them had a thick taproot coming out the bottom that hadn’t been visible the day before–not only that, the tip was starting to look darker–it needed a place to grow to, fast, so the plug went into a larger jiffy pot as a bit of a stalling tactic: I’ll go to Yamagami’s for bags of soil after we get our covid shots.

Twenty four hours later I had a new sprout.

Twenty hours after that, it is on its way.

Okay, I wrote that, and then I stumbled across a conversation with a guy who’d not only saved but had grown about 40 Anya kernels and at their fifth year wrote up the characteristics of what he had. Every one of them was really good, some closer to the original Anya than others but every one at least double the brix of your average grocery store apricots. (Explanation of brix here.)

It’s not just the sweetness, though: it’s the depth and nuances of flavor.

It made me feel really good about all those kernels I sent out. Nobody’s going to get a clunker, they’re all going to be great.