The universe found a way to get me my answer
Saturday August 26th 2023, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Garden

I’m subscribed to a fruit growers list that every now and then throws a link to a conversation my way. Not often. Sometimes I even click on it.

Today someone had a question: he had a new fruit tree that simply wasn’t growing beyond the barest hint of green and the vendor told him to mix 4 tbl dark molasses with 4 gallons water once a week. He did, and the tree finally started leafing out months after he’d planted it.

Was that the effects of the mixture? Or just, summer?

The answers he got: blackstrap molasses has a lot of magnesium which is a key part of producing chlorophyll. Calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins in there, they’re good for the tree and good for establishing the soil biome to support the new roots.

Also: coconut coir strips calcium and magnesium right out.

Also: that most of the people answering learned all this in the process of their or their neighbors growing a certain product that’s now legal in a few states and wanting abundant growth fast. If you’re doing it hydroponically you have to provide those nutrients.

There was bit about ‘bro science’ and ‘no but really’ back and forth.

Um, okay, then.

But that comment about coconut coir that someone just happened to throw out in an aside–that was a huge aha! moment.

My most favorite childhood Christmas present (after the bicycle with the saved-cereal-box-tops Tony the Tiger orange and black rubber handlebars that I raced down the hill and into a car with. Remember my green bike, Mom? It was the most perfect shade of shiny green any bicycle was ever made of, I loved it, sorry Dad had to spend so much of Christmas Eve night assembling it. Not that I’m digressing or anything) was a long grow lamp so I could have flowers growing in the basement. Peat starter pots were a given.

Peat, however, is a finite resource that has been disappearing rapidly and takes hundreds of years to regenerate and substitutes now abound. Park Seed sold me some made of treated cow patties. That was the first time I ever had to rip a pot apart to let the roots go free; one seedling’s never made it out despite an entire summer of being watered inside a larger pot. So after that, at the local gardening store, I bought…

…some coconut coir ones. And every Anya apricot seedling I tried in them died except for one that I rescued by peeling the pot away from it early on, since the pattern had by then established itself and nothing else had been changed.

And yet they had sold it at the gardening center so it should be okay, right?

It appears I was right. I knew it but didn’t know how to make sense of it. If that guy was right I’ve finally found my answer, but then I had already decided I would never buy them again.

Monday July 24th 2023, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Maybe five years ago I had an agapanthus plant that had sprouted in an unlikely spot. Nobody could see it. It was very shaded all day. It put out a short, sparse flower stalk, waving, Look at me!

Elio asked if I might want it over…there? Pointing out a corner that was quite bare, and I said, Sure!

He knew what he was doing.

It’s straight out the window and across the yard from here, just past the mango, with sun in the morning and shade later in the day, just right for it. And for me, for sure.

I thought a dozen stalks last year was wonderful, but look at that!

Meantime, I have finally gotten to the point where I snipped most of these ends off with a deep sense of satisfaction. There were about thirty four- or five- yard long strands across each row to constantly pull out from each other plus three solid balls, even if it doesn’t look like much here.

Now to go add a whole bunch more. But at least this side is simpler now.


Playing telephone
Thursday July 13th 2023, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

It was a bit of a cri de coeur: I had tried leaving individual messages, gotten no response, and finally wrote to the whole ward.

I have a tart cherry tree, I said, and I’ve been getting up early in the mornings to pick from it hoping to beat the risks of the low UV exposure at that hour and it’s flaring me and I absolutely have to stop. But it’s a crime to let those cherries go unpicked, and the last of them are ripe now.

Save me from me, I wrote. Email me first so we don’t get forty people with a handful apiece, but please, come get yourself some pie cherries from my tree. It’ll be hands-and-knees work, though, because the ones left are mostly down close to the ground.

The only answer I got last night was from a friend insisting she was going to pick them today–for me.

We agreed to wait to see if anyone else answered first. People were being too polite, not wanting to shove to the front of the line, I figured (I mean, how could anyone not be passionate about pie cherries, even if that first person wasn’t.)

I got two messages this morning: one from a friend who admitted she’d long wished she had a tree like mine and that sour cherry was her favorite pie, too, and she would dearly love to have them. Could she come by after her dental appointment?

That would be great!

The other came in a few minutes after the first, from N’s daughter, saying, That’s my mom’s absolute favorite, I’d love to come pick them for her.

Several hours after I’d heard from her mom, I told the daughter that I’d completely forgotten till that moment, but, I had wire racks from old ovens around the base of the tree after seeing a ground squirrel next to it: they won’t come up where they can’t dig down, and I didn’t want it chewing on the bark and roots. Those might be rough on her mom’s knees.

That was it, she was coming with her kids. She called her mom and then told me they were on their way over.

Meantime, I was on the phone with the doctor’s office and they said I needed to be seen but I needed to have a covid test first, and not just a home test.

The daughter took pictures of her kids holding up their treasureboxes of bright fruit with the cherry tree as background and it just made my day.

They held some out: did I want any?

(Always, of course, but I had so much in my freezer.) I opened the door a crack, trying not to breathe in their direction: No, I’ve got plenty, thanks, though!

They left, I sent out a note to the ward saying the cherries were picked and thank you everybody, and I headed off to the clinic.

The grandmother read that and dashed over, hoping she hadn’t lost her chance to at least get some. Turns out she had missed that phone call.

Richard had been in a meeting and I hadn’t interrupted, so he didn’t know that the daughter had come by; he just met the grandmother at the door (trying to keep his distance because of the covid exposure), and a moment later found her crushed, saying, It’s stripped. They’re all gone.

(While the daughter had been going, Mom, answer your phone…)

And everybody’s having a good laugh over the whole thing now.

Oh, and the covid test? It was negative.

Raptor captor
Sunday July 02nd 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Creme Brûlée is not a tall sunflower variety, maybe two feet if that, but it’s sure a pretty one. I expect it’ll be right up there with tomatoes on my must-plant list forevermore.

Meantime, our falcon fledged yesterday and had to endure the indignity today of being rescued next to a pool (update: where she bumped into some glass), being scooped into a produce box, taken up in an elevator, and released on the roof of her native building to start over. Looks like they sprayed her with water to calm her and keep her from immediately taking off in a frenzy of fear at the releasing.

Instead, she looked up at the guy like what the heck are you and what am I expected to do about it?

Someone had fun writing the captions to the video and that’s some pretty impressive camera work there.

But I also want to note, she flew up, well up, on her second day of flying. That’s a really good sign. Even if she got tired and swooped down past the backs of some highly oblivious swimmers.

Thanks, flower!
Friday June 30th 2023, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

Got to the next color change on my project, went looking for what should go there, found it–and…I hadn’t scoured that yarn that day I did all those others. I hanked it, but cleaning the mill oils off was supposed to be the next step. It is now dutifully sitting in hot soapy water. Any dye that’s going to crock, do it now.

Just when it was starting to feel like hey, this is beginning to come out right after all, I have to sit and wait.

So let me distract us with my first-ever homegrown sunflower. Variety: Creme Brûlée.

Oh and? If I ever again decide to do a big intarsia project with doubled yarns, take me aside and just y’know quietly scream AREYOUOUTOFYOURMIND in my ear? And yet, and yet. Not all of them are doubled, and it is so going to be worth it.

Sudden thunderbolt as I type: this thing needs a sunflower! That’s why I bought that orange! Of course it does!

Play ball!
Thursday June 29th 2023, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

(This was Tuesday’s post that somehow never made it out of draft stage.)

If the third one opened yet, then the opening was facing the density of leaves and I missed it–but it may yet, we’ll see. (Update: it’s taller and bigger but not opened yet.) Monday offered us the second philodendron flower.

Also Monday: a mockingbird grabbed a cherry, flew halfway to where I was sitting on the other side of the window, and kept taking a hard stab at it as if cracking open the pit inside and then leaning its head way back to swallow bits of soft cherry.

(Pro tip, bird: you don’t have to work at it that hard.)

Each time its beak came back up, the cherry came up along with it, arced in the air, and then bounced on the ground. Stab, arc, bounce, stab, arc, bounce.

Today it had clearly learned that it had a new game: it wasn’t eating this time, it was trying to get this red thing to do the superball dance with it again.

But this one was either past its prime or deflated by having already been a meal.

I said bounce! pounced the mocker.

Rollll… (dud)


Okay kinda sorta that time but not really; oomph from the bird, none from the fruit.

I found a lot more cherries on the tree that had been picked and pecked and pickled by the process of having been investigated but not taken.

That’s okay, there are plenty more, and that was just too fun to watch.

Start-up enthusiasts
Wednesday June 28th 2023, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

He was running late, but at least that would get him past rush hour for the long commute home.

Friends of ours moved far enough away that they were able to buy a house, one with enough land to plant a goodly number of fruit trees, is the plan, after they clear out the neglected overgrowth.

They are really excited about it but didn’t know where to start.

He works nearby, and today was an in-office day and that was perfect: she’d been hoping for one of my apricot seedlings for awhile and it was waiting for her.

He picked my brain while we picked cherries together. You want the squirrels not to devour everything? Plant sour cherries, tart apples, and see the Indian Free peach there? The downside is it needs a pollinator. The good side is that not only are the peaches great, not only is it resistant to leaf curl disease, but the peaches are sour during the growing–right till the very last when at ripening they turn sweet and the squirrels take awhile to catch on that the rejects are the good ones now.

Also: that row of bushes? That’s California coffeeberry, and the tiny fruits are supposedly edible but bland (never tried it) but a big food source for the birds that like to nest in it where they’re protected from the hawks. The Bewick’s wrens take cover in there, and since they are mostly extinct now except in the Bay Area, I’m pretty protective of them.

And then we talked hawks: mine, and their red-tailed family they love to watch. Cool!

Clearly it’s been a good move for them and their young kids, even if I miss them.

I told him Morgan Hill is a hike for them, but if they want to sample the best stone fruit varieties before planting, Andy’s Orchard is absolutely the place to go.

They will be there.

Drilling rights
Friday June 23rd 2023, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Garden

I looked to see if there were more yesterday and did not see any.

Today the philodendron flower that had made me want to crack bad jokes about my photo being over exposed wrapped itself demurely back up–and two new buds showed up right behind it. It will be interesting to see if we can get two blooming at once.

Anyone want to try one?

The thought occurs that I could harvest them and freeze them till I find someone braver than I. (Runs to go see if it’s in my “The Fruit Hunters” book of rare delectables. Nope.)

Years ago we put two vivid blue five gallon water containers outside for earthquake emergencies, and since those are not the most beautiful thing to put in your landscaping and you’d want them out of direct sun anyway, we hid them under the leaves of what we affectionately call the man-eating plant growing out of a cut-out in our back patio and under the awning.

I tried to move them out of the way for the camera this time. The first, no problem. The second?

I couldn’t budge it. The plant had grown a leg of trunk right over it and rendered it absolutely immobile. I quite expect it has found a way inside it. Desert plants find their water and make it their own, and this one once drilled a small root right into the house. Got rid of that one and sealed up the hole pronto.

To be continued.

Grieving quietly in the garden
Thursday June 22nd 2023, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life

Can you hear me, Major Tom

…For here am I sitting in my tin can

Far below the world

Planet earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do…

–With a prayer for the families of the men lost in the Titan. And all those at sea in the Mediterranean.

Somehow, today my philodendron decided to bloom. This is not something it did the first twenty or maybe even thirty years we lived here.

It sent up a bud a week or two ago (see the shriveled yellowing stalk above and just to the left in the second picture) but that one never opened up. This one did, and its spadix (the peeled banana part) leaned out around noon, following the sun, straightening back up again after its rays moved on past.

The site in that link says the fruit is toxic but that the flower part actually does taste rather like a banana.

Cue the Hey Mikey! Life cereal commercial of my youth: I’m not going to try it, YOU try it! Where’s a Mikey when you need one.

And then I planted some seeds. I hadn’t been planning to, but the phrase, To life! just kept demanding it of me. To life. Know the loss, feel the grief, but honor their memory by never stop looking forward.




The more the merrier
Saturday June 03rd 2023, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

When the new neighbors moved in, I was talking to the mom one day and told her, looking up at our Bradford pear street tree (pictured), that it was just a stick in the ground protected by stakes when we bought the place.

And see that ginkgo? I asked, nodding towards the tall gorgeous tree two doors down from her. That was a year old when we arrived with our small children, I told her. We’ve gotten to see that grow up, too, that much in just these many years.

She has now seen how in the fall the ginkgo’s profuse leaves turn a brilliant yellow, as if radiating back to the sun all that had come to it during the growing season. It is gorgeous.

Her house had had a messy, sickly, kids’-ball-eating street tree (sorry, kids, we tried, maybe the winter winds will blow it out of there) but the former owner took it out years ago and it was never replaced.

Yesterday, to my surprised delight, it was.

There is a beautiful new ginkgo tree in her front yard and she and her kids will get to watch it grow up and get to say to some new young family moving into the neighborhood some day, We planted that.

I like how the cherry is asking, Y?
Friday June 02nd 2023, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

Note to self: twelve now, with 159 and 166 grams including the 36g paper cones left on the two at the end of the repeat plus a purl row.

The mockingbirds were flying into the Stella tree for the first time yesterday, the heads-up that the cherries were starting to turn red. My mom reminded me of the grape-and-only-grape unsweetened Koolaid spray to keep birds away from fruit, and I armed a bottle tonight.

And then didn’t do it yet. The raccoons seem to think it’s fruit punch bowl time when that stuff shows up and I don’t have an Erva bunny cage around the cherry trunk yet. Eh. Tomorrow morning. (Do I type, in an old nightgown so I don’t care if the wind blows purple stains on it? And before I wash my hair.)

p.s. I thought this one was looking like it would start to come up today. By comparison, the other sprouted last Wednesday. Grow little apricots grow! 

Seedling stuff while I wait for that yarn
Sunday May 28th 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Garden

We will start off tomorrow by delivering a baby apricot tree to a good friend. This one’s actually on its second year: it only got a few inches high last year, just a tiny little green sprig of hope, and then its growth tips died for the year (I think when we went out of town.) I kept watering it because you never know–and it really took off after breaking dormancy this spring. It pleases me no end. 26″. And now Becca gets to watch it grow up.

Contrast that to this one planted this February. 11″ high. You’d think they’d be about the same, but no, not at all. So it really does pay to keep taking care of them when they disappoint.

And then there’s this little guy, planted a month ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one start off with ten leaves all at once like this. This morning there wasn’t much of a stem to speak of; tonight, there definitely was. Having killed off two this year, maybe by overwatering, (plus the one I knocked upside down, pot and all–oops), I’m thinking, Just. Keep. Growing…

A day in May
Friday May 26th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The tenth: done.

We have the first tomato flowers of the year. (Photo taken through netting, thus the blur.)

Re the peregrines: while the sub-adult was in courtship with the adult, a male adult flew in and took over mating duties for a single day while the teenager sat over yonder and cried audibly in camera range at being ousted. But there was no fight, because the adult male didn’t think he was old enough to be competition yet–and then was never seen again. Avian flu, we don’t know.

So the female went back to accepting the sub-adult because that’s all she had.

And so I wonder…

Of the three eggs she laid, only one hatched and it’s late enough by now that there is no expectation the other two will.

Maybe he wasn’t fertile yet after all. We’ll never know.

(Today’s video here.)

Wednesday May 24th 2023, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

I planted a handful of Anya apricot seeds after we got back from Seattle a month ago and today the first one finally sprouted. Those baby leaves just delight me to no end.

The sideways-design idea? Yeah, lace stretches every which way and all that, but laid flat like that it’s 72″ wide and 27″ long. Or 33″. Or more if you hold it up and its weight pulls it down, but either way, I’m thinking I’m doing this much again and calling it done.

Or (looking the dimensions up) I could do a bit past that and call it a twin size. Should I really want to?

Almost halfway
Tuesday May 23rd 2023, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

Another same but not quite the same picture: seven. One half pattern repeat like that is 3252 stitches per day.

English needs a word for when there isn’t peer pressure but you treat yourself as if there were for your own advantage in order to accomplish something. Keep it up, it’s working! Thanks!

Meantime, our enormous tropical-looking I forget the name but we’ve always called it the man-eating plant with its scaly trunk undulating on and above the ground like a Chinese dragon has sent up a flower bud wrapped up inside that thick corn cob-y thing. Past experience says that it will open up for less than a day and only partly exposed to view, facing the sun.

And now I know where we put the blue outdoor five gallon emergency water container. It was tucked under that thing so as to be out of the way and out of sight. Worked, too!