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.



There are fewer squirrels, too
Tuesday June 19th 2018, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

An idle wondering followed by an inner, oh, come on, now. Yeah they never found those, but give me a break. Those animals are born to wander and wander they do: they’re long gone.

The peaches, look at those peaches. I hadn’t thinned them anywhere near what they should have been (though I did some) but I’d figured the critters would take care of that and they weren’t likely to leave me much anyway, right?

A very few have been nibbled on. The rest are–well, there they are.

Oh wow, that was almost a year ago. Okay, so I really had no reason to connect it with my untouched fruit. Even if the mountain lion and her cub growling in that guy’s redwood across town were never seen again. He was someone who’d tagged mountain lions in his job and said he’d seen people walk right by a bush one was hiding in and they never knew it–that generally they’re really quite shy around people.

Well that’s comforting.

The neighborhood listserv was talking about the county saying it was a coyote that had gotten someone’s cat and someone else chimed in that she’d seen a mountain lion in her back yard two weeks ago at (wait–that’s close to us!) and another (probably the same one) had been seen over on this street.

Blink.

Well the problem with our well-fed urban raccoons and possums and skunks was that they had no predators around but lots of food to choose from.

Apparently now so does a very big cat.

You know, I have this weekly chore of watering all the fruit trees starting after dinner and continuing till dark, seven minutes per tree seventeen trees, going in and out repeatedly, and I did that tonight.

But I confess to being a little skittish standing under the bigger older ones as the light was almost gone. At least I had a hose in hand. Part of the time.

Maybe we’ll finally get around to installing them a drip system.



You put dead-looking sticks in the cold ground and just a few years later they do this
Tuesday June 12th 2018, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Garden

Lots of June sun, a few hot days–and suddenly everything’s rushing to ripeness.

Even the mango tree has decided to try again for a crop this year.

Judging by how much time the birds spend not coming to the feeder, I’m guessing the hawks in the redwood are a big reason why my fruit has been pretty much left alone. The cinnamon I sprinkled on top of the fence near the peaches didn’t hurt any, either; a squirrel will not step in it, not if it can help it.



Pie in the sky
Wednesday May 09th 2018, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Garden

Sour cherries on my young English Morello tree, abundant in number for the first time.



Such cute little plants
Friday May 04th 2018, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Garden

I succumbed, November or December or thereabouts, to the glowing description in I think it was a Burpee’s catalog of perfect springtime strawberries, while reminiscing about the early June mornings when my folks would take us kids to a pick-your-own farm, bringing home stacks of boxes of just-pickeds.  The jams and puree we would process for the year to come. How intensely strawberry the car smelled and then the house did, for days. How good those berries tasted warm and straight from the sun, so far removed from the puncture-proof stuff in the grocery stores.

Well, those were cute little plants in that box. I’d forgotten they were coming. I figured either the winter or I would kill them in no time; the people who grow strawberries always seem to be passionate about them and I just wasn’t. I didn’t dare be. I was still waiting for my raspberries to do anything in their pot, planted there to contain the prickly canes from taking over the world. Raspberries can be a ton of stabby work if their roots are allowed to ramble.

And yet on their third year they still sulked in that pot, a few leaves and, eh. So I figured I just wasn’t much at container gardening.

And yet those three baby plants decided to be a second opinion. Strawberries! I quickly put one of the bird netting tents over the pot, and so far, so good. I have conditioned my critters not to believe there could be anything of interest in those Costco pots. Heck, I conditioned *me.*

Having been totally shown up by the newcomer, the baba raspberry is suddenly about to burst into bloom for the first time. It’s still small but maybe it can be mighty after all, too, in taste if not in quantity quite yet.

I hope. I’ve only got a catalog description to go by so far.



Turning a twirl into a sun dance
Wednesday May 02nd 2018, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Garden,Life

One may have noticed: I like amaryllises. I collect amaryllises of every kind. Pictures taken today.

Mine bloom year after year, sometimes skipping years but at this point I have so many bulbs that who would notice? Our climate isn’t warm enough to plant them in the ground so they stay in pots under the translucent patio awning, surrounded by the warmth of the house on two sides. They like shade. Warmth makes them happy. They like this spot.

Occasionally you lose one to age or winter temps or whatever. How to tell for sure: if you touch a dormant bulb and it crumples between your fingers into nothingness, it’s gone. If it holds solid at the center, no matter how many crisped outer layers there are, there’s still life in there–it just needs to be cared for and given a chance.

So this one bulb was shriveled and shrunken but just solid enough that it wasn’t tossed but it wasn’t coming out of dormancy either. Maybe it just really wanted any hint of winter to be over first. At some point on that crowded picnic table a thriving amaryllis got put on top of its pot and it was forgotten.

The turning of the season, the leakage from the one above being watered must have been enough. The fact that we were gone for five days means the changes snuck past unnoticed.

I caught a glimpse of red today at pot level and went, wait, what? I stepped outside and lifted off the one I hadn’t even noticed was sitting on top. When did I do that?

And there, underneath, was a stalk curling tightly around in a half circle against the inside rim of that lower pot with a big bright half-flower trying mightily to open up, resting on the edge. There was a leaf, too, one which had gotten no sun and yet was trying to grow out from underneath its burden.

This picture was taken ten hours’ worth of sunlight later: the stalk has risen mightily, the first blossom is fully open and the second is getting there and there is even already some green in that stalk and (you can’t see it) its leaf. Sky and light!

But before it was discovered, the only energy available to it to grow and thrive with came from what it had within it.

And in the end, that was enough to make the rest work out so that it could share what it was meant to be with the world.

Isn’t that just the most gorgeous shade of red?



The back 40 (inches tall)
Monday April 23rd 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Garden

From this three years ago, a new whip trying to leaf out again after being stripped bare every night for two months by Japanese beetles, to now. It survived when I thought it might not and this year it is finally really showing us what it’s meant to be.

And just wait till those cherries start appearing!

Rereading that old post, though, I’m quite amazed that that tree is on a standard rootstock–I thought it was an ultradwarf like the sweet cherry. I mean, it certainly grows like one! Slowly. Huh. While the other one, which is a little older (but has to reach a little more for its sun), is at seven feet. Go figure.

The honeybees were happily and peaceably buzzing in the flowers. There’s at least one on the left in the close-up, down in the petals.



You just get them started and then they take on a life of their own
Saturday April 21st 2018, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Plums and peaches. It still amazes me, this whole concept of putting a dead-looking stick in the ground in the winter and a few years later having a nice-looking tree offering the best-tasting fruit.

Newly finished: a cowl in garnet Dona superwash extrafine merino that I expect will find its way home tomorrow. What I once did not know is, each little diamond contains the growth pattern of a pear tree.



While the hawk flew by
Thursday April 19th 2018, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Done and drying: I do like that Anniversario colorway.

As the English Morello tree holds up a sign to the honeybee highway: Will Bloom For Cherries.

 



Stilettos
Wednesday April 18th 2018, 12:14 am
Filed under: Garden,Life

This is the time of year when the weeds go to seed here. They come up in January before the grass (which still tries) and choke it out, then dry up when the rains stop.

Except, the rains haven’t stopped, so they are really going to town. Pretty little purple flowers were starting to carpet half the back yard. Charming–if you don’t know.

A friend responded to a tree company’s offer of “free mulch!” and found himself with an entire truckload dumped on his driveway. After several weeks of hard labor trying to get it to his back yard and spread around with his little kids sort-of-helping, he finally cried uncle and begged the teenagers at church to rescue him. They came, and some of their parents, and got it done.

There’s no way I was going to do that to them or me.

In a moment of desperate inspiration, then, the light bulb went off. I have all those frost covers.

I spread them out across almost the entire infested area. I came close. I held the edges down with anything I could find. I should have done this way sooner but I thought of it when I thought of it.

Well, that’ll look pretty to all those airplanes flying up there.

I kept them in place for a week. Sorry, bees, but hey, the cherry and lemon trees are blooming.

My lawn mowing guy was coming today so I gathered the covers up last night, curious to see the result.

You could tell exactly where they’d been: there were short weeds and there were tall weeds, in squares. They’d suddenly put all their energy into trying to outgrow this barrier to their sun and energy. The covers didn’t black it out–they were designed not to–but laid out flat rather than tucked around, there was a double layer everywhere.

I saw just a few clusters of stiletto-sharps.

I was very pleased with myself. It made it worth putting up with a frankly ugly view out there during the experiment.

And then tonight I went to go put a frost cover on the mango.

Oh.

What stabby seeds there were had been velcroed onto the covers. Well, that works, too, I guess.

(On the phone over an hour now with Turbo Tax, trying to figure why our returns appear not to have been transmitted by them last week. Fun times. Glad I asked why there had been no confirmation.)