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.



The English Morello
Sunday April 02nd 2017, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) mashes up with Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County) for April Fools here.

I rather wish I’d planted a semi dwarf rather than an ultra dwarf–it grows so slowly. On the plus side, we’ll always be able to reach the cherries and it’s starting its third year and I can still fit a bird netting tent over it.

Looks like we should get quite a few this year. It’s not even in full bloom yet.

(What I really want to blog about is how powerful Elder Holland’s talk in General Conference was Saturday, radiating love and compassion and inclusion, but I’m waiting for the lds.org site to be updated so I can find individual talks.)



The fix of the day at the break of day
Monday March 27th 2017, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Dawn today was officially at 7:00 am sharp.

After waking up at 5:30 because my subconscious was afraid I wouldn’t hear the alarm, at ten of I turned on the outside light, opened the door, and waved at the work van to let Mr. Chavez know I was ready whenever he was.

We walked around the house to the culprit and he quickly determined it was indeed the thermocouple. He showed me how he could tell this was so and noted the GE model and said it was particularly bad for those going out–his own, he’d had to do this twice already, every three years. So we would probably have to do it again, but meantime, the heater was built in 2013–it definitely had life left in it. He noted that some manufacturers have moved away from thermocouples altogether, for the next time we’re in the market. You’ll want to get one of those.

And then he got to it.

Well, as long as I was already outside at that hour I decided to do what I’ve known for a long time I should do but really really had no particular desire to get up early to do: I walked around the fruit trees and the–what are those big leafy plants along the raised border called again–and picked off the snails and crushed them. I’d done this at evening many times but wow, at the break of day is definitely when they’re out.

The copper tape around the base of the trees meant I only found two small ones in one tree where they’d climbed the grass over the barrier; the rest were in those big juicy green border-plant leaves.

As he worked they started heading downwards into hiding for the day, with me going oh no you’re not.

The trick is not to push your hair out of your face with the hand you pick them up with (this hand, snails, that hand, hair.) A few of them, um, panicked at being grabbed.

It was a near thing a time or two.

He finished up, I paid him, I waited the half hour he said to… And then another just to make absolute sure.

That was the best best best shower in a long time. Thank you Bernie Chavez.

(Washing machine repairman: Wednesday.)



Spring
Wednesday March 22nd 2017, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The hole the woodpecker made in the dead wood that ended up on the ground, leaving a tiny feather behind.

The tree with a bigger hole now.

The first peach of the season, on a tree hit by peach leaf curl despite my spraying copper; once was not enough. The first two were leafing out during the storms last month, and rain plus cold weather lets the disease attack the developing leaves.
The new healthy leaves are already coming in, and once they’re fully grown they’re impervious to it.

The other two vulnerable trees are leafing out and it’s been raining–but it’s also been warmer.

The Indian Free is happy as a clam, and should I lose one of the others I’m going to put in a Muir, which likewise is resistant and late-blooming.

The breba (spring crop) figs growing below the leaves.

And there are new flower buds today on the cherries and blueberries.

I love the happy anticipation at this time of year. It’s like a new knitting project with enough rows done that you can really see what it’s going to turn out to be.



Giving us the birds
Wednesday March 15th 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life

My baby Parfianka Pomegranate, the two-year-old Indian Free peach, and the yearling Baby Crawford that’s too young to let fruit but whose flowers will serve the other nicely.

And the first 8 oz skein of Washington Circle Worsted, done. (I might be able to squeeze one last row out of that.)

Two days of having the net down except for a few brief blips made for lots of knitting time. Also icing of hands.

As I was walking around the yard this evening, trying to capture these trees being young and small (or not so small in the case of the IF), I was surprised to see chunks of dead wood on the ground over there near the kids’ old climbing tree.

I don’t know if I have a photo for real or just in my head, but, when our kids were young the two older ones threw a long hose again and again up and over one of its upper branches (before it grew too big) and improvised their own swing out of it. Never mind that we had an old swingset at the time; this was way more fun. Because they’d made it. In a tree. Be like a bird. It was a playground unto itself in their childhoods.

As they got older and more in need of their individual spaces we added a bedroom too close to that tree and it gradually grew over it. Richard and I quite a few times heard the thud in the night of a raccoon dropping off a branch and landing overhead and ambling around, with paw prints in the morning across the bathroom skylight like a two-stage verification process.

And then there was that notable year when the nocturnal black beetles that favored that type of tree dropped down through the heating vent and landed on my head at night. This was before we found out there were breaks in the heating system up there that gave them that pathway from the tree. OUT!!!

And so we cut that side of the tree off, and I would have told them to take it all–but Richard remembered the climbing tree days and he couldn’t quite bear to erase the thing.

Alright, so at least we got it away from our bedroom.

There is a big knot hole where one of the larger branches was taken out.

Between it and the house is where I found those chunks of dead wood.

When we bought this house, the sellers had cut down two white-fly-stricken Modesto ash trees (the third lived seven more years) leaving stumps about eight feet high. Why, we did not know–till we found we had woodpeckers nesting in the cavity just below the v-shaped top of one of them.

Richard was the first to notice it. And that the parent birds never flew directly to it; they zigzagged here and there, mostly over in the tall still-living tree next to it, before dashing into the hole at the last–where, from a respectful distance, the tall guy could put our children on his shoulders one by one to see the parents feeding their babies.

When we added on that bedroom, those stumps, very regretfully, had to go.

And now, around the corner on the other side of that room… There’s a hole gouged out that’s angled sharply down. I’m again not quite tall enough to see into it.

But there are thicknesses of leaves of the still-living tree directly above for the parent birds to catch bugs in and zigzag to their hearts’ content through.

He’s right. The tree stays. Or at least the bottom seven or eight feet of it, after nesting season is over.



Forget the knitting, hey, look! A pretty peach tree!
Sunday March 12th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The Indian Free has started blooming on the side of the tree towards Adele’s yard. I could have pruned more of those smaller branches out but everything fills out fast on that tree, it being a standard rather than a semi-dwarf, and I wanted the lower ones to grow just over the fence rather than having only the upper ones left which could end up towering high out of the neighbors’ reach. I want it to grow a lot more out than up. I’ll adjust it as it goes along.

Wildflower ground cover: oxalis.

A Cooper’s hawk landed in the middle of the fence this afternoon. There was a squirrel at either end of that fence, one standing still, one lying down, and neither seemed to know quite what to do–reminding me that the average lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is a single year. They’ll learn to be afraid of it soon enough.

The one lying down thought about it a moment and stood up with its legs stretched upwards rather like a cat, facing the hawk. It was an odd thing to do.

The hawk was not a juvenile. It was a male. Whether it was my Coopernicus who’s been around these last eight years or so I don’t know but observations will tell. The hunting pattern has definitely been different; he likely had a shoulder injury from sideswiping the window screen and learned to compensate by driving his prey into the windows to stun them. There have been very few window strikes this year–but then, I’ve mostly been seeing juvenile Coopers.

Knitting: I worked on Nash’s stocking and ripped it right back. I know how to fix a miscrossed cable, just, I didn’t do a very good job of it and rather than spend any more time fussing over it it was only four rows down so there you go. Rip.

Back to the receiving blanket.



Losing winter fast
Friday March 10th 2017, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

Another warm day, and now there are 17 green figs. Getting that tree out of that big Costco pot and moved into the ground (twice–the first spot was just too close to the fence) clearly didn’t hurt it any.

You can almost watch the new mango leaves growing in. Compare this to two weeks ago, when they were barely starting. (Around the trunk: cinnamon, because the ants have taken a sudden interest.)

The Mosaic Moon Lachlan cowl will be a lot brighter once it’s dry.

Back to Nash’s stocking.



72F
Thursday March 09th 2017, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

In the side yard, nothing but dormancy yesterday.

Today, a dozen tiny green figs, and those protective brown swirls split (on the other side on this one) to show leaves inside that were already green by the end of the day.

The August Pride peach, still blooming after three weeks.

All three of the tomato varieties I planted sprouted today, two to learn about and one familiar old wonderful Sungold. And the…(where did I put it. I was going to show you) Habanero peppers with no heat, there you go. Mr. Sulu, Wimp Factor Seven, full speed ahead! (Assuming they come up, too.)

Oh, and I did some of that anticipated me-knitting: a cowl in Lachlan from Mosaic Moon, not quite that colorway but close and in that soft silky yarn. Gorgeous. I’ll show it off when it’s done.



February showers bring March flowers
Wednesday March 08th 2017, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Garden

As the two early peach trees give way to leaf we have more coming up behind.

The Baby Crawford that I planted last January after being introduced to the variety at Andy’s Orchard (*man* those are good!) Its first blossoms opened yesterday.

The Indian Free peach aimed at the neighbors across the fence, to their enthusiastic encouragement: its first blossoms opened today. Pretty good timing there.

And the darker Babcock? Sunday. And yet these will all ripen in different months.

The mango tree is growing like crazy on one side–so much so that I need to find a way to brace it: it’s starting to lean. Some pruning would help but I want to wait first to see if we’ll get more blossoms on it. It lost all of its dozens of baby mangoes in the big storm but it looks now like it’s trying to make up for it.

So much happy anticipation. So glad I planted all these.

The cherries, figs, apples, and pear: dormant for just a little longer.



So hurry up already by taking it easy
Wednesday March 01st 2017, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knit,Lupus

Randomness:

Woke up in the night aching and wondering how on earth the bed got so painfully hard–oh. It’s a fever, and oh fun, the brainstem doesn’t want me to breathe on my own (not an entire shutdown, but too close), so, an autonomic nervous system flare to go with. Same old same old, diagnosed fifteen years ago with a blood pressure reading of 63/21 during a tilt table test. Y’know, that’s the lupus symptom I like the least.

But then I did okay today and am hoping that that’s the worst of it.

Meantime, a closeup of the flowers on one side of the second peach tree, with the third, fourth, and fifth peaches soon to burst out in tandem while the honeybees next door were zooming all day around their hive near the fence like electrons around a nucleus, radiant in the sunlight.

Maybe I can get the latest purple cowl off the needles tonight–there are only a few rows’ worth of yarn left in that skein.

We have tickets for our friend Russ’s concert Saturday  that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and I really need to be fine by then.



Shark it to me shark it to me shark it to me shark it to me
Tuesday February 28th 2017, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

Photo: our Santa Rosa plum doing a popcorn impersonation.

Meantime, me: (suppressed grin, sheepish look on face) I think I blew it.

Him: (intrigued–okay, what’s up) You blew it?

Me: Um. Yes. (And then I spilled.) The insurance broker? They send out an email every month that’s a drawing for tickets to a game. A few times a year I hit reply, which is all you have to do to enter, and I, um, won. Got a nice note from Chris with it, since we’ve been his clients for lo these thirty years now. The Sharks game.

Him: Two tickets?

Me: (Well of course.) Yes. (Thinking, Sharks. That’s hockey, right? It is. Right? Yeah, I’ve seen the logo, it is.)

Comes with better parking and premium seats and I guess we have to go now, huh? It’s okay, I promise to only bring a small knitting project.



Meanwhile, nature just kept quietly doing its thing
Sunday February 26th 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

Tomorrow, unlike today, I will get a chance to sleep in if I still need to to recover from Stitches. So glad I got to go.

I was too tired to knit but snapping a picture of the August Pride peach at its peak and the mango tree was something I could do. The latter surprised me when I finally took off all the covers today and found it had started to flush over the weekend, and I am hoping to see new buds soon.

I had had to leave one cover on all day Friday and Saturday because it was still too cold when I left for the Convention Center and would be when I got back.

Some of the buds just to the left of here were nevertheless blackened by cold (I guess one layer hadn’t been enough) and I needed those–the tree is much heavier towards the fence and is leaning a bit. It’s still staked, though, which helps; the tie in place these days is a bit of ace bandage, nice and soft and with some give to it.

There will be growing and pruning in the season ahead and it’ll all even out.

And knitting. Lots of knitting. Stitches yarn is always the best yarn because it’s what you wanted most after seeing thousands and thousands of skeins and from the dyers in person.



Spring begins
Thursday February 16th 2017, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Finished the last multicolored, multi-yarn row tonight at long last. Plain edging to go. My thanks to the elderly volunteer at the clinic who watched me work as I waited for a prescription to be filled this afternoon and told me, appreciatively, That’s a big project!

He made my day. It’s funny how much unexpected little moments like that can help.

Meantime, some peach flowers: the August Pride tree and its wide-petaled blossoms just starting to open and the Tropic Snow with its deeper pink, slightly frilly ones.

And looking at my phone, I forgot to post this! I had some of my friend Kathy‘s dog’s fur out on the patio for nest-making material and snapped this Bewick’s wren right after it gathered a beakful.

In the shape of a heart. It was on Valentine’s day. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my phone.