Tomato monster
Friday August 23rd 2019, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden

What I was noticing was the Big Boy tomatoes under the bird netting that were growing bigger and not being eaten by critters. Yay.

Also, that there seemed to be one area in which the plant hadn’t sent up a major branch.

It had been trying all along, I found out tonight, but the netting had caught on it. But it couldn’t stop it. It curled back down and up and around again as the leaves tucked in tight. I cut and cut and cut away at that netting to let it out to see the world.

All those intertwined loops. I think it knitted itself.



The best comes after the longest wait
Tuesday August 13th 2019, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Looking around as things ripen and beckon, I got it half-right last summer: I did need two layers of bird netting for the figs. One to go over the small tree, yes, but the closer-meshed one heaped at the base to keep smaller critters from being able to squeeze in and climb up from below.

The over-netting is held down by old oven racks, a heavy doormat, and reinforced by some flower pots in front of that mass of mesh.

Those flower pots got shoved aside last night. Skunk? Raccoon?

Every fig was still there. I had another perfect one this morning. Soon I’ll have enough at once that I’ll need to stuff them or wrap them and roast them and make a supper out of them and still we’ll have some to share. At last.

To quote Andy Mariani: August is the Sunday of summer.



The first ripe Black Jack of the season
Monday August 12th 2019, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Fresh figs: Nature’s fruit geodes.



Unexpected comfort
Sunday July 28th 2019, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

I called my folks and standing there phone in hand was looking out the window when there it was.

I hadn’t seen so much as a bud much less a stalk when I’d watered the amaryllises a few days ago nor did I ever spot it through the window. It was hiding behind quite a few leaves.

I brought it out to where we could all get a better look at it.

On a side note: going to Andy’s Orchard yesterday, my daughter and I were in a long heavy traffic jam and went oh right, it’s the Garlic Festival in Gilroy this weekend. Cool. I can say that yes, I have tasted garlic ice cream, thank you Gilroy! Those people were going to have a good time, but we were quite happy to cut out of that part of the freeway early.

The news tonight is absolutely beyond comprehension.



Round two
Monday July 15th 2019, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden

The pomegranate tree, making a comeback from losing all but the one fruit–to the 113F heat wave last month, the wind storm, or the critters, I’m not sure.

Nine buds. Two flowers. And the one big green fruit forging ahead, showing them how it’s done.

The neighbor’s pomegranate tree has fruit ripening every winter, so I know we’re good however long these take.



How to deal with gophers
Monday July 08th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Ten more rows and it’s done, ten more rows and after a hundred+ hours of work it’s done and that’s my excuse for not fixing this silly sideways picture tonight… Seed stitch rows, but there are only ten of them and you can do anything if it stops at ten rows. Ten more rows and it’s done…

Meantime, Bill’s (the guy in yesterday’s post) late dad is the person who, twenty-five years ago, told me about gopher plants and where to find the seeds. So I went to the little ’60’s-hippie-holdover Uncommon Ground place (now a high-rise) and bought some from a man who was serious about gardens in a way that I in no way was at the time. It was a little intimidating, though I’m sure he only meant to be helpful.

They’re biennials, which means they do all their flowering and seeding the second year. And boy do they. Their roots give the gophers the equivalent of poison ivy and they stay away, so, two years for the price of one.

I planted a few. I got one particularly big one and then some more joined it.

This is after having followed another neighbor’s advice and having stuck my hose in the ground to flush them out to get them to move on. The only thing that did was make my Californian water bill jump by a hundred dollars that month. Yow.

So, the gopher plants.

They seemed to work. Cool.

And then they got determined to take over everything, which would not do. One must take them out carefully. They’re not overly friendly above ground to people, either–wear gloves, you don’t want to find out you’re one of the allergic ones.

So I spent a few years discouraging them from coming back and eventually all that ran its course and was over. (With the exception of one plant nine years ago.)

I did, however, see evidence of a gopher again near my fruit trees in 2016 and fought them with the newly-Internet-approved cinnamon sprinkled down every hole and cinnamon sticks on top to be emphatic about it, and that seemed to work, too. This year’s new peach got planted in a gopher-proof wire cage (bought there along with the tree) to be on the safe side.

I haven’t seen any sign of them since the mountain lion came through the neighborhood. Although, truthfully, a hungry raccoon would probably go after them, too.

Look what I just found popped up behind my Fuji apple.

It’s late and it’s small but it is standing guard and I know if I let it, it will soon command an army.

Um, let’s not this time.

On a side note, just for fun and so that I can find the link again: an Alexandra Petri column on state flags that made me laugh.



Blessed were the five year olds
Saturday July 06th 2019, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life

We lost the earlier pomegranates to, as far as I could tell, the serious windstorm we had in the spring, so it was nice to see some new ones starting out.

And then I found this big one hiding.

Looks like something straight out of New Orleans, doesn’t it?

But the story of the day is that Michelle stopped by and, wanting an ingredient she can no longer buy at the much-missed Milk Pail, asked if I’d like to go to the little boutique grocer in the other direction with her?

Sure! Haven’t been in there in ages!

But then I found myself needing to do just one thing before we left, and then another, and oh that, too, while she waited patiently. It’s not like we were going to be gone a long time, she could have pushed me. But instead, it was a happy, No hurry.

We compared notes afterwards and turns out that as I dithered, both of us began quietly wondering if we would run into someone. There was something of a sense of anticipation.

We were almost done in there when there was this sudden three-way exclamation of surprise and recognition and arm-throwing-hugging and joy, pure joy.

Ginny, retired now, is a master teacher and all four of my kids were extremely fortunate to have her. Me, too, for that matter. For just one example, I learned from my oldest the visual rule of three in a composition. She mentioned it to me as an oh everybody knows that as she pointed out its elements in her drawing.

Now, I’m the daughter of an art dealer, I spent several summers of my childhood museum-hopping across the country with my family, and I had somewhat intuited it but had never had it explicitly spelled out in my life. The moment was a revelation to me.

Ginny taught my five-year-old who taught it to me: the eye is pleased with images it can divide into threes subconsciously. This is why a photo that is split straight in half looks off, somehow. Why two-button polo shirts always feel wrong. You need an odd number. Starting with three.

Which is why I tried to fix the pomegranate photos above because hey, Ginny’s probably going to see those, but the program burped. Never mind.

She wanted to catch up on each of the kids, and me, and I wanted to on her and her twins-plus-twins grandkids. I told Michelle the story of going to the fifth grade teacher’s funeral and afterward, a tall man who was carrying an easel with a flower arrangement to help put it away started approaching us and Ginny gave me a heads-up that we needed to get out of the guy’s way.

I said, Ginny. That’s my son.

The shock and exclamation of delight and at 6’9″ he wasn’t a kindergartner anymore, wow!

Michelle grinned.

Turns out Ginny recently lost one of the great friends of her life, and we grieved with her. I wish now I had asked her a whole bunch of questions about her friend and I certainly should have, but I was trying not to take up all of her time in the middle of a narrow aisle in a store when she surely had other things to do.

I think of all the children, and all their parents, to whom she has made all the difference in the world. The classroom where, when a child needed to calm down, they got sent to the little curtained off enclosure she’d made where they raised butterflies, where a Monarch they had helped sustain from its earliest stages could land on their shoulders and another on their outstretched hands when they just needed a moment alone like that.

I wonder how many adults out there now are looking back on those days and planting milkweed. To befriend life back. She taught us so well.



They did it!
Monday July 01st 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

A great big pot of applesauce with a very small blond boy standing over it, grin big and hand wide as if about to do an exuberant splashdown into that tasty goop: it’s not my kid so I’m not putting his face here, but it was a great photo and it made my day.

I passed Ellen’s recommendation on to the mom of the Victorio Strainer so she doesn’t have to cut the seeds out next time, and then promptly ordered one myself so we could both use it when the Fujis come on. My mom used to have something like that all my growing up, only big, metal, and heavy,  essential to her for getting tomatoes to the right texture for chili sauce; my tomatoes have started turning color (bird netting was applied today) and I was feeling nostalgic. Mom, what’s your recipe? I know you told me thirty years ago…

Plus, all those apple seeds.

So we will try out that new toy and hopefully it will last for generations like Mom’s. Thank you, Ellen!



Jenna
Sunday June 30th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Yellow Transparent apples. I wrote a little note detailing how we’d come to have such a tree–a dwarfing rootstock grow-back after the main tree had died–and what the little things were like.

Great for applesauce. Terrible keepers–three days at the max but only in the fridge, one to two on the counter. Mushy. Small. Once a big commercial variety, now very rare (with good reason) but if you want a cooked apple, they taste good.

And then I posted that on the ward chat.

One person responded, and she said that as a matter of fact she’d been thinking of making some applesauce; she’d love to bring her little boys and come pick apples, what a cool idea!

They were all hers.

I think, when she and her husband laid eyes on the tree, that they were maybe wishing they had some competition, but hey.

And so this young couple and two adorable little toddlers ages 1 and 3 were here this afternoon with their padded bag and together we picked those apples. I added a few Meyer lemons and newly-ripe plums, because I could.

The one-year-old picked up a Santa Rosa plum, took a bite, and tossed it.

I laughed and explained that if you pit them and blenderize them, the skins are tart but the interior is sweet and it makes an effect like tart cherry jam.

As they were leaving and I was thinking of all. those. little. apples. she was going to have to core and peel (they asked if I use the skins in apple sauce, and I said I do in apple butter) I stopped her going by my front door and asked her to wait just a moment.

I dashed inside, pulled out the electric apple peeler and asked if she’d like to borrow it for a week?

The relief in her voice as she said YES! Thank you!

–Yeah, I should have offered that from the get-go.



For every spring forever after
Wednesday June 26th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

The friend who got a Blenheim apricot tree as a housewarming present sent me a picture of her tree with beautiful yellow fruit on it and told me she’d let her kids pick the first and ripest today and how joyful an experience it was for them all.

It completely, totally made my day.



Five pounds and more still on it
Monday June 24th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

I procrastinated picking them: I wanted my sister- and brother-in-law to see my little tree at its prettiest.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because I didn’t know just how deep a red those tart cherries could get to nor how big they could be nor just how good. After all, I’d only ever gotten a few in the tree’s young life and those had been picked early (it turns out) while trying to thwart the birds.

All I can guess is that putting sunflower seeds in the feeder for the first time in several years enticed them to eat that instead of my cherries; there were very few bites and the tree was loaded like it has never been before and it stayed loaded. Give it a few years’ growth and I’m going to have to ask friends to come help pick some for themselves. I don’t think they’ll mind. Fresh tart cherries are very rare in California–for a hundred years it was a given that there weren’t enough chill hours to grow them here.

Actually, some varieties, it turns out, you can. English Morello for the win.



Purple Wonders
Tuesday June 18th 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

I have just a trio of strawberry plants in a planter as an experiment; they were a bit of a splurge and I wanted to see how they would do before I got more. Starting in January or February we get the occasional amuse-bouche from them: one for you, one for me. Or maybe we split an only. They aren’t terribly big.

June, though, is a strawberry’s favorite month.

My sister-in-law wanted to see how the yard looks like these days, so once the sun got low we did a little walk-around, her face lighting up again and again as I said our first pomegranates ever were beginning, our first good crop of tart cherries is about ready, we’ve got tomatoes kind of scattered around to test where the sun is best like the one hiding behind that sweet cherry over there.

She didn’t remember that we had a mango, and was intrigued.

Mandarin, cherry, peach, lemon, plum, fig, apple, pear…

“Is this where you fell?”

“Stepping over that, yes.”

Coming back she glanced at that pot, saw what I had not and exclaimed, “Oh! Strawberries!” A red one was peeking out from the leaves, and I lifted the netting tent off and handed it to her, looked around and found two more. That would make one for Richard, one for her, one for me.

I was going to take them inside and rinse them first (one pretends to be proper when one has company) but hers looked clean and she popped it right in her mouth, just like I do.

She stopped right there with a look on her face almost to pain. I was suddenly afraid she’d gotten a bad one–there’s a reason they call them straw berries and I don’t have any straw. I’ve lost a few to them sinking into the dirt and looking perfect on top while rotting out the bottom after a watering.

Quite unsure, I asked, “Is it good?”

She swooned. “Now THAT. Is a STRAWBERRY!!!”

Which is how she got the other two.



Skidmarks
Monday June 17th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

The good news is I got all the trees watered.

The bad part was stepping out of the tall raised bed that runs the length of the back, having my foot skid out from under me and going over and down.

Some people do tattoos. I do a more temporary cherry and plum version.

Meantime, I popped one of these in my mouth and confirmed that I do need to start picking them. I held off, though, so my sister-in-law could get to do it too when she gets here tomorrow, if she wants. Pie, anyone?



A quick note after celebrating our friend Lee’s birthday
Saturday June 15th 2019, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

My sister-and brother-in-law are arriving this coming week.

Ripen fast, guys.



Protecting others is the right thing to do
Thursday June 13th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

(Dwarf hydrangea from a florist, a gift a few years ago from my friend Edie that has naturalized beautifully in my yard.)

One of my friends had someone hijack her FB post to take it on an anti-vaxxer rant.

Which helped me walk away from the whole thing and go finish that fifteenth long afghan row of the day.

But while I was knitting, just amazed yet again that someone would be so afraid of autism that even if vaccines caused it, which they don’t, that they would be willing to hurt or kill my child or theirs or anybody on chemo or any child too young for their shots–to try not to have to parent a kid who saw the world differently? Huh?

And then the sudden thought. I know from a friend with a severely autistic son that statistically the people most likely to have an autistic child already have one–there is a clear genetic component.

But still, the question I might ask the next such person is this: If someone came up with a vaccine to protect against developing autism, would you give it to your child?