Maxwell’s smart
Monday September 13th 2021, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

Note to self: Saturday is when I planted the four Rainier cherry pits a friend’s kid had saved for me because they were so good, along with two of my five Anya kernels. Yes that’s out of season, but they had chilled long enough to stratify and I think I needed to make a declaration of hope towards the future against the twentieth anniversary of 9/11–and I so want to be able to give that twelve-year-old a cherry seedling of his own in thanks for his wishing I could have cherries that good all the time.

There’s also a possibility that his family will move away in the next year, so I knew I needed to hurry. They’re the ones who polished off my favorite apricots at my request because we were leaving town to see grandkids for the week, and they saved the kernels so I could plant some more.

But those cherries from Andy’s farm! He had to save their pits for me, too, even if his mom wasn’t so sure–and so it was just the four.

Coming winter light levels are why I only experimented with two apricots to see if I could get a jump in growth on next year, but the cherries? Every one.

I have this secret ingredient for after the Root Riot plugs help them sprout…

I mentioned to Michelle that the Anya apricot grown in lobster compost from Maine totally skunked the other seedlings in height and growth after I’d tried different soil types. Five and a half inches (oh but it tried), 24″, and then 43″ for the Maine event. Such a stunning result.

My child for whom evolutionary biology was her favorite undergrad class cocked her head a bit, looked me in the eye, and cracked, I *assure* you they did not evolve in the same environment! (Wikipedia link to the Fergana Valley along the Silk Road.)

Well, no. But it just goes to prove that everything goes better when you’re serving lobster. The stone fruits are just the cherries on top.



Figs and peaches
Friday September 03rd 2021, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

About this many a day now. Early September in the garden.

Which reminds me, I ought to be opening up the first pomegranate soon to see how the little geodes are coming along.



Hamming it up
Tuesday August 17th 2021, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I ordered some metal bird spikes. I had no idea what I was in for.

There were reviews saying be careful assembling these–and they were right. Those V-shaped pieces will fight you to the death when you’re trying to squeeze them so as to fit into the base and if you let up, if you look away, you’re going to have the back of this skewer coming like a flying mousetrap at your face. I got this third piece halfway in, stopped to take its picture, and before I put the phone down it poinged hard back out of there at me. Wearing glasses was a very good thing and its aim was bad. I’m fine.

I got the one strip assembled and there are fourteen more to go and I am checking the height of the apricot against the cage it’s growing out of and procrastinating putting the rest of them together.

But here’s the thing: I bought them to keep the rabbit out of that seedling but, one strip being pretty useless for that, I balanced it for now on top of two clusters of figs that were starting to turn color. I was out of clamshells so why not try.

The birds haven’t touched anything on that fig tree since. Nuh uh. Not going near that.

Do they know what pigeon spikes are? Can’t they tell it’s only in this one spot? The plastic spikes I used to have, they pretty much ignored.

Three days later, it’s still true. I have ripening figs all over the tree, a goodly number not in clamshells and they’re still left alone.

I went out to check it over tonight–and suddenly remembering that eyes in taller trees were certainly on me as I leaned into that tree, eyes that wanted to know how to thwart that menace, I pretended to be punctured for just a moment there.

That’ll teach’em.



Turning the Page
Monday August 16th 2021, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

We got our first single Page orange (background story in link) last year.

After a freeze months ago it dropped a lot of leaves and I thought that at long last it was giving up the ghost. But nope, somehow it has sixteen little green reminders that Christmas is coming. It may drop some, it may not, but this is by far the most productive it’s ever been. I wanted to show it to my Mom, given all the memories attached to that variety, so here it is.

Meantime, a listing. Your own castle! Ramparts! Cathedral ceilings!

Looking at the guy in that costume trying very very hard to go viral, I remembered a friend in high school who carefully constructed a coat of armor. Steve had everybody he knew save the tear-off tabs from their cans of soda, back when those were constructed that way, and he sewed and wove them together, curl side outwards. It was quite impressive and memory says it took him over a year to do.

I wish I could put Steve’s up against this guy’s standard Disney version to see how they compare.

Um.

Dude. The bed? Like you can peel yourself out of that thing before any woman on the planet has walked away laughing herself breathless?

I’ve never before seen a listing demonstrating that the shower actually works. He looks a little rusty at this.

It gushes about how many tens of thousands of bricks were laid to make that weird weird house that please don’t notice doesn’t have heat. (Then how do you even get an occupancy permit?) But! A few rooms have wall-unit AC! Pass the ogre ravioli, willya?

All I could think was, but don’t they know they have volcanoes nearby and that bricks crumble in earthquakes?



Forensics
Thursday August 12th 2021, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Wildlife

I would have thought squirrel claw marks–but then I saw that beak jab. This one just wasn’t ripe enough yet to be dislodged from the tree that way like the last one was.

Citrus thorns alone hadn’t been enough to keep them off either of them.

So I tried plan B. And this time I succeeded in getting the clamshells to snap shut on both sides. In past years raccoons have pried those open, but since they haven’t been out there till now, whereas with my Fuji apples in previous years I had them out the whole season long, I guess the current critter crop hasn’t figured them out yet.

Which means I got to share a ripe fig with my husband this morning. It was delicious.

On a side note, the breaking news tonight at the Washington Post is that the FDA just okayed booster Moderna and Pfizer doses for the immunocompromised. My cardiologist has already told me he wants me to get one as soon as they okay it.

 



God has always taught in parable form
Tuesday August 10th 2021, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Garden

39.5″ at six months old this week, more if it were straight up.

So I had it all protected like that where the cottontail couldn’t chew on it, but I mentioned the mockingbird that walked in at a gap between the ground and the cover and then had a panic attack when it couldn’t free itself by flying upwards. I woke up to find it thrashing around in there.

I let it go.

But the apricot’s top trunk was now bent and for the first time it wasn’t leaning back towards the sun and straightening up by the end of the day.

I’d been giving it quarter turns multiple times a day, it had had such a perfect form. I was proud of that like a parent with a kid in middle school band who can not only actually hit the notes right but does it every time. Show off. Teacher’s pet.

A few days of its staying put–okay, lean *this* way now!–made no difference.

So I staked it. Now, a couple weeks ago we had a bit of a windstorm and I knew it was prompting the tree to thicken and strengthen its trunk and that having it sway hard like that was good for its structure, you want that knowing it’s going to be supporting hanging weight when it gets older–but this time, no. I wanted it to go back to the pattern I’d worked so hard at creating.

Nature laughed again.

Actually, it did help a little bit.

Today I took off the soft strand of white aran merino and the pencil-thin pole it was tied to to see what the newest leaves at the top would do.

It doesn’t really matter; wherever it gets up to at the end of the season will be pruned off during the winter to allow the sun into the center, to teach light and sweetness to all the apricots to come wherever they may be, not just the privileged ones growing furthest outward. The fruit holding on closest to the strength of the trunk will taste wonderful, too: it just needs to be out of the shadows. Let me set it up right for them, too.

And to keep the tree’s height within reach rather than just telling future longing eyes, oh no, honey, that’s beyond the likes of you.

And then there’s the Anya’s little seed-sister trying to run as fast as the big kid and wanting you to know it’s grown an inch and a quarter since the last time it was measured and just you wait till next year when its growing tips are new and alive! It’s going to grow up big and strong!



Fruit in the desert
Friday August 06th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

The first late summer fig. I was amazed that I’d missed seeing it turning brown the day before. I was more amazed the critters hadn’t seen it either.

Figs are hard to get into those plastic clamshells because it’s hard to shut them around them, and they’re not great anyway because the things don’t breathe and the fruit gets hot so the texture ripens before the flavor does and it just hasn’t proven the best solution. (I mostly use them on the apples, they seem to be best for that.) But that’s what I had. That and the citrus spikes, which were already out there. I debated going and grabbing one.

Wait…

Paper. It breathes. It hides. Right? Cut the bottom open to widen it so you can slide it over and the fig can still get some sugar-producing sunlight while no beak could reach that far down. Let’s try it!

And for 24 hours it actually worked.

Then in a total rookie move I went outside just real quick in the afternoon to check if the fig was fully ripe yet–and whichever bird it was saw what was beneath and saw what I did and saw how to get at it. No squirrel touched those spikes. Mockingbird or scrub jay, take your pick. It was probably gone the moment I stepped back inside, but I know it was fast.

So now I have to think up something else for the next one, but it was worth a try. Tape?

Meantime, shared by Andy’s Orchard, here’s an article on Native American peaches in the Southwestern desert from before most Natives had ever heard of white men.

Peaches.

I sure did a double take, how about you?

Four Corners, the Grand Canyon, before their trees were cut down as part of the plan to decimate Natives’ food sources and culture. Peaches. Not quite like ours–they had more nutrition. From seeds from the Spanish near the Rio Grande centuries before that were quickly spread north across the tribes.

A few were not found and survived. A descendant of the man who protected them is working on bringing them back to more of her people.

I asked, Do you/will you grow any of these?

Andy’s Orchard (presumably Andy himself) answered, More research needed.

But as one of the reporter’s sources noted, those would give great root stock for growing other varieties in the desert, too.



C’est une bunny day
Monday August 02nd 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

You have to get up early if you want to see the bunny.

Only, this time I stopped and simply watched it for awhile to see if it would try to get past the netting over my tomatoes and squash or chew on the cherry or scout for that unripe pomegranate whose weight brought its branch to the ground.

None of those.

It was scouting out the spots where my watering the trees had allowed a pocket of weeds to stay green here and there–and for good measure the dried weeds. A long straw of the invasive decorative grass that the neighbors planted that wants my yard too (and that I had missed in my efforts to pull all those out) disappeared bite by bite and then the seeds dangling off the end were dessert and at last it was gone. It looked around for more.

It had never occurred to me that the weeds and their seeds were what it was living off of.

Nice. I think we might be friends after all.

But this evening I did pick the first reddening tomato, just in case.



You play the hand you’re Delta
Saturday July 31st 2021, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

(Three feet.)

I drove through smoky skies yesterday, so much so that approaching the airport I could barely see the plane in the air much less make out whose it was by the coloring. When the sun glinted off it was when I was sure it was there.

At about that point on the way home, I was suddenly sneezing. This is not something you want to do at freeway speed and I got in the far right lane and tried to keep it as suppressed as possible, but it was one after another after another. I got home, got inside, it calmed down–and then my nose suddenly gushed.

For hours.

I just didn’t get it. I was perfectly healthy at noon.

By the time I went to bed it was just a bit of sniffle, so, yay for that, at least.

In the morning I was still stuffed up and so I reluctantly called dear friends whom we were going to be celebrating a birthday with tonight and bowed out. I was quite sorry but you never know. It was just not worth the risk nor the worry. Richard got to go, he’s fine, and Phyl got her peaches, at least.

Was it the smoke? Was it something that had been in someone’s house whose ashes made my lungs go nuts? Was I actually exposed to covid and had a short cloudburst of it? I’ll never know, but I’m almost over it already. Which makes me think it was either the smoke or my immune system yelling, Hey, I know you, get out of here! Because colds don’t do one-day stands.

I’m still going to do Zoom church in the morning. Friends don’t put friends at risk.



Zucchini divas
Saturday July 24th 2021, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

We have had a trio of young mockingbirds for days, teenagers teasing their nest mates as far as I can tell.

But today the first tomato got its first tinge of pink. And suddenly there were eight of them! Mockingbirds do not come in flocks. This time there was more chasing out of territory, mixed with perching all around my veggies.

But they did not find their way in yet.

One, however, had learned that if it stood on top of the square-metal-cage’s netting where it was a bit loose and bounced up and down, it could get close enough on the downbeat to snag a blueberry. I was so impressed that I figured it had earned it.

Interesting: if you put the phone’s camera right up to the netting you get its shadow in sharp lines looking like it’s draped directly on half the plant, whereas the actual netting is those blurred-out thicker edges perpendicular to the squares below.

While the flowers demand, never mind all that, look at ME.



Unreal estate
Thursday July 22nd 2021, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The late afternoon shade disappeared into the wood chipper. Thirty inches. The apricot tree is on a roll!

Meantime, I know it rains a lot in Portland and I can understand wanting the kids to be able to play inside as well as out. They do have a nice play set outside.

But, but, that picture # 12.

Someone hung a child’s swing from–tell me that’s not track lighting? With metal hooks into it to the metal chain to the swing? What could go wrong? (No, don’t spill that juice box!) With it set up exactly so that a little kid’s feet can gleefully help you clear that table and that puzzle you’ve just finally put the thousandth piece into.

Note that the other metal hooks don’t have swings (anymore?)

I have questions.

 



Toss it back to the grizzlies
Monday July 19th 2021, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

(Lillian ducking into the sunbeam.)

Back when Sam and her family lived in Anchorage, she took us to an ice cream shop, Wild Scoops, that sold local flavors including from fruits I’d never heard of. Salmonberries? Birch syrup? What kind of flavor is Fireweed?

So I ended up buying a cute little 2 oz jar of salmonberry jam as a souvenir to go with my scoop so I could taste that, too, and a small jug of birch syrup by mail after we flew home.

The syrup was okay. I don’t need to buy it again. The jam was sugar+pectin+an orange color to it but no berry flavor I could discern and other than the fact that it was a local thing and a novelty to us, there didn’t seem to be much point to it; let the musk ox and moose keep the berries.

Fast forward a few years. We were at a kiddy park with Mathias and Sam in Washington State July 5th where there was play equipment and a bit of grass surrounded by deep, lush trees and a short trail along the fenced perimeter.

Cherry trees! That’s why all the happy robins bouncing around! Clearly a holdover from when that whole area had been prime cherry and berry farmland a hundred years ago; the now-feral trees dangled Rainier-esque solid yellow and who knows what dark red promises mostly well out of even my 6’8″ husband’s reach.

But we managed to bend some branches downwards enough and we got some and shared them around and they were delicious. Sam pronounced that moments like these were why she was glad they had moved there.

She had already told us that blackberry bushes were the devil, that they ran rampant all over everything with their thorns: the Pacific Northwest’s version of kudzu with an offering but an attitude.

And then I pointed out a berry bush. The leaves were a lot smaller than the blackberries her husband had cleared away from their side of the fence at home; I wondered what they were.

Oh those are salmonberries, she said, a park ranger told us that.

Very small. Half the usual thumbcap depth at best of a red raspberry. Tasteless. Seedy.

And the color. Suddenly I knew.

Some garden catalog three or four years ago had had a spiel about a woman who’d found an abandoned farm that had had red raspberries and blackberries and had found something else growing down by the creek that she thought must be a hybrid of them of some kind. The thorns were a lot shorter. She’d taken some cuttings home. She’d tried growing her new variety in good soil, bad soil, sandy soil, clay soil, and it grew in everything! And now here they were offering this rare find to their customers! In high demand!

I’m a long way from being a knowledgeable gardener yet, so foolproof sounded good to me and I ordered one. I grew it in a large pot, because I do know enough to know that thorny berry plants like to take over the world and I wanted it contained.

I got a few stubby shallow little berries with not much flavor–well, any, really. I figured the critters had eaten them before they’d gotten ripe or big yet. Right? I kept waiting for them to grow into, y’know, proper raspberry shapes. They didn’t.

I got maybe two whole berries to myself last year, but this year the plant grew a lot more and produced more. But the fruit didn’t change at all.

They’d sold me a salmonberry plant and didn’t even know enough to know that that’s what it was and I certainly didn’t. But there is no question. I recognized that plant and that fruit in that park because it was growing in my back yard and knew that it was only a matter of time, and a brief time at that, before I’d be ripping mine out.

All those pretty leaves it took so long to bother to produce.

I confess I’m still giving it (increasingly brief) sprays of precious California water to keep it alive. I guess it’s just plain hard to assassinate a plant you’ve nurtured, even one that would rather stab you than feed you.



Apricot-sized peaches
Friday July 16th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

Anne stopped by yesterday and got a tour of the trees. We both noted a couple of chewed peaches on the ground–so much for the critters being good about staying away.

I ended up sending her off with a Baby Crawford and an August Pride to let ripen at home; that’s when she was here and even if they weren’t absolutely as perfect as they could be it was definitely better her than the squirrels. She sniffed them and exclaimed over the peachy smell.

That was a good reminder to me to appreciate rather than wish for more. I needed that, and I should have given her more. They just didn’t quite seem to have bragging rights in them yet and I allowed that to hold me back.

But in truth, the Baby Crawfords were already sweet and the yellow was coming in and if it were a commercial orchard they’d have been picking them. Richard and I decided last night that the right thing to do would be to pick all of those in the morning, because once the critters start going after your fruit it disappears fast.

I missed three, it turns out, but I got the rest. (I’m giving the less-ripe tree next to it a little more time.) Stem side down after I snapped this picture and a paper towel over them for ripening, as one does, but it only seems to take a day or two on the few I’d already tried and they were surprisingly good.

But at that size they weren’t going to last us very long–and more importantly, I owed a box of Andy’s peaches to the friend who drove us to the airport two weeks ago at an hour when he would have preferred to have still been asleep.

And so I did, I have boxes now from Andy’s: his big peaches to give our friends and to last us past the weekend, and an older box with mine in it looking cute. Cut them in half to share and they’re a bite each. But a good bite.



Small world
Wednesday July 14th 2021, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

I was looking for this page comparing Anya seedling characteristics vs their fruit and somehow ended up instead at the gardening forum page that had the link that I’d originally found it from. For a heartbeat I was disappointed. Then I decided to re-read it anyway.

Only, this time, while recognizing that familiar thread, I did a sudden doubletake because, wait, if that internet name is the guy’s initials and his unusual last name–!!! and I squinted at the tiny photo–it IS! That’s Cassie’s husband!

Yay for photos on Facebook, because I’ve never met the man, only my friend who married him after she moved away from here a dozen years or so ago.

So I sent her a note. I said, He wrote that two years ago but that has to be him and I have no idea if both of you have any interest whatsoever but if you seriously do, I’ve got some seeds and you’re welcome to a few.

She wrote back quoting her stunned husband: “Those are like GOLD!” He’d so wanted to try, but the four hour drive each way to Andy’s to buy apricots while raising kids and running a small business, there was just no way, he’d finally given up on the idea because it was never going to happen.

And then Google gave me a page that was not the page I was looking for but was the one where he needed me to be to find him and actually see him this time. I don’t have a lot of kernels, because Anya season overlapped with our going out of town, but a few are coming their way.

If I gave you some for this growing season and they didn’t make it, you’re not the only one and it’s okay and let me know so you can have a do-over if you want it.



Bamboozled
Tuesday July 13th 2021, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

From Drew51, writing on a garden forum six years ago:

“Reminds me of the fact that Bamboo flower about every 120 years. 95% die after flowering. About 10 years ago a very popular bamboo hit that 120 mark, and thousands of clones throughout the United states flowered and died. Young plants, small plants, big plants, old plants. All the clones flowered, the wood knew its age!”

Me: Given that bamboo requires solid concrete poured 18″x24″ wide and deep to keep it from punching through, say, the floor of your garage if it’s growing next to the house, maybe a do-over on the landscaping like that is not so bad.

Meantime, I found a spot on my scalp a bit forward of my skin cancer scar and got it seen today. The doctor declared it early enough and not a problem enough that she simply froze it.

My head has gone cryogenic.