October tomatoes
Thursday October 19th 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Garden

Two big tomatoes left (again) and just starting to turn color and then they’ll give it up. I’ve got two layers of birdnetting tents over them, since that worked for scaring the critters out of the zucchinis. (Don’t step between those! It’s a trap!)

The enormous six-feet-in-every-direction Sungold cherry tomato bush, on the other hand, is loaded with flowers and keeping the neighbor’s bees happy and has just a few fruits right now–I thought I was done picking but it got its second wind in that last heat wave.

The nights have been in the 40s. But we keep getting one more day.



Wasn’t it nice of him to invite a critter buffet
Thursday August 31st 2017, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

1. Found an obvious mistake made right at the beginning and that could not be fixed, frogged the whole thing, and started over with a different yarn. Same old same old pattern because it’s mistake-proof and right then I just needed that.

2. Bird netting, bird spikes, and covering bags didn’t do it this time–they got my one ripe fig last night that I was going to pick in the morning when it would be sweetest. Darn.

3. The story from a few years back is there was a young male mountain lion who followed the creek beds from the mountains to the valley across downtown and into a suburban neighborhood, where a UPS driver saw him near dawn near an elementary school and reported it immediately.

And then it vanished.

A quite-elderly golden retriever saved the day that afternoon about the time school was letting out when he announced his opinion of a cat trespassing in his territory. A little one he might ignore but this one just had no business being there.

A reporter was standing under a tree filing a story update that no, the lion still hadn’t been spotted yet. (Dude. Straight. Up…)

So this morning, again around dawn, a man across town who has fruit trees and a garden that had been being raided by raccoons in the night (and has my greatest sympathies) and who is on the board of the state’s Nature Conservancy heard noise outside and went out to try to do something about it.

There were wildly swinging branches in the redwood just over the fence, and redwoods are not flimsy things–

–and a deep growl.

Holy. Cow.

And then the lion’s cub, echoing Mommy and trying to sound fierce, too.

…Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about raccoons tonight, honey…

They’re still looking for them. Our city’s hero golden retriever has gone on to that great dog park in the sky. We’ve had lions before, but never one with young. Fish and Game is on it and the cops again guarded the children going to and from school.



All tied up in pretty boughs
Monday July 31st 2017, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Garden

I had some figs that were turning that sweet shade of brown suggestive of summer sugar coming in…

…And then I didn’t. I saw a Bewick’s wren diving out of there and up again to the fence as I approached, and they’re my favorites, but hey, guys. Clearly they were not impressed by my strategically-placed leftover birdnetting bits and leaning broken netting cage (to thwart leaps from the fence, but squirrels aren’t supposed to like them anyway.)

I had this yellow mesh bag and stuck it over one of the bigger figs–and it has stayed put for weeks now. Hey!

So I ordered more. I didn’t need big ones, just big enough to slip over each fruit and tug a little on the strings. Green seemed good; it would help disguise the ripening, right? I’m told (is it true?) that birds tend not to figure out when the green varieties are sweetening up. Mine are the aptly-named Black Jacks, though, so no such luck on that account. So maybe buying green would have been better, but this is what I’ve got.

Pro tip: if you search for mesh bags, soon you get Amazon ads for, of course, mesh bags thrown at you. I’m on to them now: the price in those ads was $2.66+free shipping, whereas when I clicked through the various colors offered, the price was suddenly about three times that plus shipping, and when I went back to the white that it had started me at, it, too, was now at the much higher price. Stinkers. Or, to be more charitable, bistro mathematics (a la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Note that now that I haven’t looked in awhile it’s down another 68c.

Anyway. So I went back to the window with the ad and clicked through again. There was the white again at $2.66 total. And here we are.



Second Hat Syndrome
Saturday July 22nd 2017, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift


Location location location. Sewn in February, about three feet apart. Now about 15″ high vs over 5′. I planted my tomato seedlings in what was a nice sunny spot last year, but I guess the tree nearer the smaller ones grew more than I thought.

But then I only had enough wire framing to keep the raccoons out of the one plant, so that works, right? And the guardian acanthus stalks are drying out fast.

Meantime, the second hat is done and the ends are about to disappear into them and then they will be tattooed with a “made with pride by…” label inside. Via a separate strand so that if the feel of it ever bugs them, they can simply tug on it gently till it comes out.



So how do you like them apples?
Saturday July 15th 2017, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The acanthus. I’ve had good luck with using the vicious stabby flower stalks as guardians of my tomatoes, going two stalks deep on every side. Two, because last year a raccoon pulled the first one away in the night, got a pawful, there was still another in its way and it never went near again. And two, to make the squirrels decide a leap is not worth the landing. With all the rain this year, some were as much as eight feet long. This is useful. (Just don’t accidentally touch them when you reach in for a tomato.)

So, brilliant me, I thought hey, let’s try threading some of those stalks through the Fuji leaves to defend the plastic clamshells. I so much want to be able to have my grandkids pick their own apples at Grandma’s again.

And it worked. For two days.

Thursday evening I came outside and stopped right there speechless.

I didn’t even know I had that many clamshells. The squirrels had presented me a museum installation of them all over the ground beneath that tree and had named it The Inbox. Still with apples inside (except two that must have bounced just right.) There will be no apples from those fruit spurs next year, either.

All I can figure is, when they couldn’t stand on a branch next to the clamshells to try to pry them open, they simply leaped straight at them until they broke off and fell out of the tree–where they still couldn’t get at them, so they tried the next one. And the next. And the next.

I had two that were wedged in too hard and those were still up there.

Uh, today, not so much. Down too, with one branch inside, one whole branch outside. They even knocked down another I didn’t know I had because the leaves had filled in around it.

There is one, count’em, one, clamshell left in that whole tree. Today.

So… What on earth do you do with a whole lot of way-underripe apples? These were supposed to be picked in September and October.



Still new at all this
Wednesday July 12th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

Another “this, now this” pair of pictures. July 4th to July 12th. The Alphonso mango tree is loving the summer sun and heat.

But it suddenly hit me today that by this time the last two years I’d carefully unwound the Christmas lights so that there would be no chance of the tree growing into the cord or becoming inextricably tangled.

Um. I think I need to wait until the new growths are hardened off a bit before I dare mess with them, and as long as they’re red they’re not done growing–and there are a whole bunch more just now popping out into view.

Maybe this year I just leave the lights be?

But I so love how the tree is filling out.



And the new leaves’ red glare, the fronds bursting in air
Tuesday July 04th 2017, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

The last rays at sundown were coming through the window right on that drying merino/silk cowl (Scrumptious 4-ply yarn by Fyberspates), showing the radiant deep purple hiding in that dark navy. I ran for the camera, but in the steps it took me to go down the hall and back the light was gone.

You can almost see it.

The mango tree has sprouted like crazy just since two weeks ago.That top branch grew from ending at that last big green leaf to seven new branches popping out–and that’s just the one cluster. From this morning to this evening, it went from looking like a solid poof from inside the house to discernibly separate branches: they are stretching up and out at two to three inches a day.

All the flower stalks that had the tiniest suggestion of buds when we left town to help when Mathias was born–it got too cold for them while nobody was home to cover the tree at night and they gradually turned black, so I think there will be no crop this year. The rest of the tree is doing fine. And who knows, it might surprise me yet.

(Cute hat and matching socks–hey, they match the mango!– from longtime online knitting friend Susan Schutz.)

 



Memo: While You Were Out
Friday June 23rd 2017, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Recipes,Wildlife

Cooper’s hawk. Adult. Right there, intently watching my patio and back door as I came around the corner of the yard from trimming back the kids’ old climbing tree that had been shading my tomatoes a bit.

I stepped quickly back behind the house–but I think my startling it cost it its dinner. Sorry about that.

I came inside a few minutes later with  these Yellow Transparents. It is a sign of how different things are this year, drought-wise, that I still have plenty on my tree, proof that the squirrels don’t touch the tart stuff unless they’re starving: this year they have better options.  (Whatever they are out there, starting with my California Coffeeberries).

A little apple juice, four small quartered apples, cover, zap five minutes, cool, scrape off the skins and voila! Apple sauce for two.

And a Mathias picture just because.



The Royal treatment
Friday June 16th 2017, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Quick, before the cherries were gone for the season. We’d both been craving more cherry pie and there’s only one place to get good enough ones to make it out of. So I headed down to Andy’s Orchard.

I left at 1:30 but it was already a long stop-and-go drive on the way down; whether it was the Bay Area emptying out for the weekend or (reading the police blotter in the news later) the stolen car an hour before, I don’t know.

Now, my hubby has never been an apricot fan so I only buy myself a few at the grocery store every year or so and I’m always disappointed when I do. And yet, knowing that Andy only grows what tastes good and he only picks and sells it ripe, I bought two pounds of the old heirloom Blenheims. Why wait a whole ‘nother year to give them a try? And then I added two pounds of Royals to compare to (pictured). They were huge!

Plus Bing and Rainier cherries and some Gold Dust peaches because hey–that had been the point.

I got home at long last and savored one of those perfect Rainiers. And then, out of curiosity, I picked up one of the Royal apricots: got to get going on those, right? I zapped its halves in the microwave in part because I wanted to see what kind of sauce I could make out of it. I pulled the peel away.

What was left tasted like–a peach. Nearly. But all its own. I’d had no idea apricots could taste like this. I’d had no idea what I’d been missing. None. Glorious. Wow.

Resisting the impulse to run go plant another tree…



What a day
Wednesday June 14th 2017, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Politics

My thanks to the Muslims in Grenfell Tower who, observant of Ramadan, got up early to eat before the day’s fast and so were awake to alert their neighbors in that tower last night–which had no building-wide fire alarm and no sprinkler system–and saved many lives.

One building inspector in the US marveled that that place would have been out of code here as of 1920. (I confess I haven’t yet searched to see if his date holds up.)

Praying for a full recovery for Steve Scalise and the others shot at the Congressional Republicans’ baseball warmup this morning, and I am in awe of those who ran to stop the gunman who was far better armed than they. They are heroes, too.

I love that Steny Hoyer from my home state of Maryland told the cameras that Scalise was his good friend and he was praying for him. Full stop. There was no mention of how very different their politics are. That had no place.

In California, as of a few years ago, there is a law and a process whereby one can petition a court to have someone not be able to have a gun: someone convicted of domestic violence, someone who has proven a danger to others or themselves; there has to be a good reason. That petition if successful kicks in the equivalent of a restraining order against the person’s having a gun in their possession for a limited period of time. I believe it passed after the Santa Barbara mass shooter, who was mentally ill and whose parents begged everybody they could think of to intervene, to help them keep their kid from doing what he planned on doing but were told no because he hadn’t actually committed any crimes yet–he just wanted to. They were frantically driving up from LA to try to stop him but they were too late.

The new law has held up in court. It can be done. If you want this to be true in your state, too, you know what to do.

On a more cheerful note: I took a deep breath and took in my happy place a moment. Apple tree to the left, peach to the right, lemon out of sight to the far right, plum tree straight ahead. and all the others around.

And baby pictures. The Little Hunk. They change so fast.

 



Blink and you’ll miss it
Thursday June 08th 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus,Politics,Wildlife

While I watched the Comey hearing…(full YouTube video.) There is nothing like observing their faces along with their words and intonations. (What on earth was Cornyn doing with his hands the whole time he was talking?) I kept half-hoping someone would call John McCain an ambulance–he   s  p  o  k  e    in slow motion, made no sense, (the ex-FBI chief is not addressed as President) and looked like he was having a serious medical event like a transient ischemic attack or a diabetic crash.

So. Five (!) hawk sightings today, including one I got to see coming straight towards me, its neck not so white, its chest solid and buff: an adult.

However many there are in its young family, it rules, and the crows and ravens have disappeared from my end of the block as of late.

What’s completely new is a mockingbird that has suddenly decided that the larger scrub jay has no right to my back yard–and the surprise that the bossy overdressed blue corvid loses every time. After being the bully of the bird feeder forever, threatening the songbirds while stealing far more than it needs to or even can eat, it was quite surprised at getting its comeuppance and having to run for it, not casually but for real, with the smaller mocker twirling around in serious chase above the elephant ears. Not learning a thing, the jay had to dash for cover again and again, the other right at its back. A brilliantly-colored tanager on the other side of the fence took courage for the first time and gave it its own “And STAY out!” over there.

Tempted to name the mocker Comey.

Meantime, two days ago when the sun was safely low–the lupus/UV exposure thing–I knocked on the door of the little kids across the street so they could get a chance to come see the doves in the nest. I was sure if we waited a few more days the fledging would be over and I remember how much my kids loved to be lifted up to see the baby birds back in the day.

But the family was probably out in the back yard and didn’t hear me.

Yesterday we had those two doves side-by-side up there, the one no longer attempting to hide from me under momma’s wing, but again no one was home across the street till the sun had sunk altogether.

Today there was no one home on top of that ladder and no dove in sight.

Oh well. Next year.

I looked again shortly after, though, and there the two were, fluttering upwards in no particular alarm at my coming around the corner, rather as a matter of teaching the young What One Does while telling each other about me. (Old enough to fly: check. Good.) One stayed in sight about six feet past the young pear tree and I took its graduation portrait.

And when I blinked, like all good mourning doves it felt compelled to blink back. It’s one of the most charming things about them.



I just need a few more days here
Thursday June 01st 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Looking over at the sour cherry tree, when, Wait–those branches shouldn’t be wiggling when the wind isn’t blowing–Hey! (A sudden scramble of black fur.) OUT!

The birdnetting tent wasn’t enough. So I leaned old metal racks around it and bird spikes, with frost covers stuffing the spaces between and then spritzed the covers in grape Koolaid solution, aiming a bit at each fruit, too, as best I could. With apologies to the birds, whose lungs are irritated by the stuff, but the squirrels don’t like it any more than they do. I don’t mind feeding songbirds. I do mind destructive rampaging that leaves the crop (such as it is on my little tree) on the ground, wrecked and spat out.

Grape and only grape works.

And at that the squirrels’ search for a way in became fruitless.

(Edited the next day to add, well, that didn’t work–those cherries were ripe and they wanted in enough in the morning. So I uncovered the whole thing in the morning and picked all that was left. A pie just came out of the oven (multi-pitter, here.)



Coffeeberries
Thursday May 18th 2017, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife


There’s a row of plants against the fence that have been here since before us. They bloom in clusters of small white flowers in early spring and despite the fact that I didn’t water them through the drought, they hung in there just fine. The birds love darting in there and I’ve often wondered just how many nests I could find if I could actually get in there.

They’ve been growing like crazy after all this winter’s rain–and while I was pruning them back a bit tonight I looked down into the density.

I think I’ve seen a few random unripe berries a few times before, but wow, where did all these come from?!

So then I had to finally go find out just what those plants are. I’ve wondered long enough.

California coffeeberry. Found it. Named after the appearance of the coffee plant but not actually having anything to do with such a thing. It’s a native, sustaining the native birds, unlike the murderous alien Nandina/heavenly bamboo sold by nurseries everywhere whose berries kill cedar waxwings and robins. This is a prettier and far more useful plant. The deer don’t like them, the birds do, they’re beautiful and the flowers are sweet. The snails clearly avoid it, and since we are within thirty miles of where some idiot 49er released his French escargots into the wild during the Gold Rush to go do their thing, that’s huge.

You water it the first year or so and it takes it from there.  It’s not a grayish desert plant like so many local natives: it’s actually green, something my East Coast-raised eyes crave.

I knew I had a nice row of plants. I appreciate them a whole lot more now, now that I know what they are.

I wish the previous owners were alive so I could thank them.



The casting on part
Friday April 14th 2017, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

One and a half to two feet apart, the garden guide said.

I dug seven holes for my tomato seedlings a little closer than that tonight, tucked back there in the side yard. I stood back to assess: having thoroughly gophered the area, I needed half a dozen more if I’m going to plant all those little jiffy cups (some are already in bigger pots) and where on earth are they going to go? Blues, Sungolds, Pink Brandywine…

Marigolds around them, the stinkiest ones you can find, are supposed to deter squirrels but mine are still in seed form. I don’t think that counts.

Sure, you lose some tomato plants or at least I lose some tomato plants every year in the early stages (three out of my four blues are already gone) when the snails like them (I have copper tape for that now) and the squirrels take an experimental chomp and then spit the broken bits out. (Grrr.) Still. Thirteen survivors? I may have overdone this.

I gave the spade another good strong push and accidentally bounced the handle off my face. (Not too hard.) I ran out of daylight. Plant tomorrow. I’m done.

——–

(I posted this and then went to see if Stephanie had posted yet.

She had. She had found the words at last. That is a love letter for the ages to bless us all.)



Cheaper than cotton
Wednesday April 05th 2017, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

At upper left, the branch the squirrel twirled around. The tent and the cinnamon are doing their job at keeping it away now.

Meantime, drying, a tunic sweater that was too vivid and too orange for my neurons–but it was a return with $200 knocked off the price. And the fit was so perfect.

I gave it a gentle wash and then put about a heaping teaspoon of black dye in the dyepot, got it up to a good simmer, and gave it my constant attention for a half hour and then another five minutes just to be sure it had gotten enough heat.

The camera notwithstanding, it is darker than shown and there are no blotches, no streaks, just an even dyeing throughout–and best of all, it’s much softer than it was. I’m guessing that the manufacturer cut a corner and didn’t wash the spinning mill oils out of the yarn they were using. That surprises me, given where it came from. It was a cashmere sweater but its hand was not anything to particularly want to write home about, and I’m guessing that’s why someone returned it.

Now, though. Wow. This is what they could have been selling, what they actually were selling, but how will their customers know that? Dry Clean Only does such sweaters no favors, either–it harshens the fibers. A gentle hand wash in lukewarm water is always the way to go. (And doing so can recover a dry-cleaned one.)

Now it feels like what it should have all along. Those goats had reason to be proud and I’m glad I took the chance on it.