Always the first
Friday February 10th 2017, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Garden

A few days up in the 60s and nights in the 50s, nice and warm, and the Tropic Snow peach tree declares it spring.

(Meyer lemon in the background looking a little waterlogged after all this rain. Today was the tail end of one storm and yet another is coming next Thursday-Sunday.)



You’re grounded
Tuesday February 07th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Two years ago, there was this space, tucked between the fence and the end of the house, where I really didn’t think there would be enough sun for a fruit tree. But visually for us and in terms of not shading the other trees it would be a good spot.

We hadn’t planned on buying one for back there anyway but, hey, there it was. (I had, though, wished for one enough to ask my friend Ruth, who grows multiple types, what the best tasting is for our microclimate.) We were at the nursery way over in Santa Cruz an hour away because they were the only ones that had my English Morello sour cherry, which was going in at the opposite end of the yard, we got a Gold Nugget mandarin orange to go in near it because hey, we were there, bags of soil, yes, and then Richard heroically said to me, Is there anything else you want before we go?

It was the tail end of bare root season and everything was half off.

Seriously? Could I…?

And then his answer, as I marveled over the $10 price tag, of, Yeah, I like figs!

Coooolll…

And so I gave my impromptu new Black Jack tree an edge: I propped it up two feet sunwards by way of planting it in a giant Costco planter. That way if all else failed I could move it. I told myself the roots would be contained to help keep the tree small, but the variety I’d bought was a small one anyway.

Fifty figs its second year says it definitely gets enough sun back there. And it can reach upwards all on its own now.

Man, it felt good to see that (ugly–I confess it now) brown plastic finally kicked out of the picture and that trunk surrounded by good, rich dirt. It had earned the right to be permanently planted. No, I didn’t dare risk something that awkward, heavy, and with all the potential to smack my head on–I got some help and then stayed out of their way.



On the day the first peach bud showed the first bit of pink
Sunday February 05th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Those huge wings doing a tight u-turn right in front of the window across the patio–even I heard the whooshing air from inside, a split second after the panicked dove hit the glass. The Cooper’s coming in caught it before it could so much as fall to the ground among the elephant ears and somehow then still headed out the other way again within that same space.

A cloud of prey feathers drifted into the yard as the hawk clutched its dinner tight and away. Those will disappear quickly, and have already started to. Nests must be built and babies must be cushioned.

Judging by the peregrine falcon reports coming in, our Cooper’s should be starting to lay and brood very soon.



The osteopath
Thursday January 26th 2017, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The two black velcro ties holding my right pinky and ring finger together are officially history.

I had the baby blanket project in my lap when the quite-young doctor came in to review the new x-rays–the heavy project he’d specifically told me ten weeks ago not to work on for five weeks and then when the hand still wasn’t fully healed I think it was supposed to be just assumed that knitting would still be on hold for five more.

Yeah good luck with that one. The first five were eternity enough.

I told him of my elderly friend who had lived to see her baby tree produce, how good her pomegranates were, and that I had planted my own this morning–and I couldn’t resist adding that I’d pulled a whole lot of old gravel away down to the good soil (and had replaced a wide swath of it with more good soil.) I’d marveled that there was any possibility that this little thing could possibly come to provide the harvest Jean’s had in such a short period of time but I was willing to find out.

And clearly there was that baby blanket and it was not a small thing. He laughed and said it was pretty and added something to the effect of, clearly you’re going to do what you’re going to do. He did make sure my hand had been okay with all of that.

Well, yeah, mostly (shrug). That got a grin out of him. He made me promise to come back if there were any problems.

What I didn’t say was the careful untangling of the tightly felted roots once they were out of that plastic sleeve and the fact that I’d planted the tree three times: no, that’s not quite it (dig), that’s… umm, almost but (dig) there, third time’s the charm. That’s how I wanted it to look from over here as it grows, got it. That’s it!

There is such an element of joy to starting a creative project that will still be creating and giving of itself a hundred years from now.

I can just picture the young doctor and his wife descending on Yamagami’s after my enthusiasm: What was that variety? Parfi..? Parfianka…? Yes, that one!



Al would have loved this
Wednesday January 25th 2017, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life

(Photo added in the morning after a little more work.)

Where a gravel pathway was laid down, oh, 50 years ago or so, the rocks run deep.

And then there was that tree trunk. When we cut down a bunch of scraggly trees and started relandscaping a few years ago I had the tree service leave this one tall stump at over six feet–I wanted the Ladder-Backed woodpeckers to be able to have old dead wood to find bugs in.

I never saw a woodpecker touch it but the squirrels sure liked their express lane offramp from the fence. Various birds liked to play king of the mountain on it to scope out the view of their feeder.

About a month ago I kind of toggled the thing a little, thinking it should be well rotted by now and better to take it down than to have it fall.

It held solid.

I’ve wanted a pomegranate tree ever since our friend Jean shared from her two-year-old one last year. She had planted it at 88 and gotten to share the fruit. I had never before tasted one picked when it was so ripe that the thing had started to burst open; I know it partly depends on variety (she didn’t remember what hers was) but I’d had no idea they could be like this. If we were going to start our own, this is bare-root season.

Yesterday I worked down through all that gravel–it went to nearly a foot–and started turning over bare soil below at last.

And asked Richard when he got home what he thought about that placement.

Well, if I liked it. He personally would have preferred it further back…

Your house too. It needs to make you happy, too. I reminded him that I’ve wished I’d planted the Tropic Snow peach a few feet further right and it was too late now and I didn’t want to make that mistake again. I wanted to do it right this time.

Today I went off to Yamagami’s. The Parfianka is a taste-test favorite and has seeds that are both quite small and quite soft–meaning, okay for me post-op, and it helped that one of their staff had previously told me it was his favorite.

When they saw me with my walker, one of them dropped what she was doing and took me right to where that particular variety pomegranate was, and then, seeing that it would be hard for me to do, she not only pointed out good specimens but reached to the back and pulled several out from there as well as the front and put them down on the ground in a row for me to choose from where I could see them all individually. She helped me get a really nice one, and had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been able to risk reaching for it for fear of losing my balance into the lot of them. I was and am grateful.

That stump was in the way of digging where Richard wanted this to go–and you can’t risk having it fall on the new tree, either. I thought, after all the rain we’ve been having, maybe it made a difference? And again I tried giving it a tug.

It came away, not in a fast collapse but rather slow and measured and easy to aim. Well THAT worked!

With that out of the way I started pulling away rocks again. And it was fascinating: just a few feet away, yesterday’s had been jagged. Most of these were smoothed, rounded, far easier to deal with. Still, it was a lot of work and enough for one day. And I’m glad now I did two holes because both will have good soil for the tree to grow into.

Pleased at the depth and width, I declared it done and went off to get Richard.

Tomorrow the prime planting soil from Yamagami’s goes in. Tomorrow I plant my new fruit tree in Al’s memory. I can’t wait to tell Jean.



Peach tree notes
Wednesday January 18th 2017, 12:02 am
Filed under: Garden

(Photo added in the morning: first round of pruning done, probably need to do more.)

Something this newbie learned this past year (I should have asked Al first): don’t put birdnetting over a standard-rootstock fruit tree. That’s what my Indian Free peach is because that’s all that variety came in from the grower, which means it gets very tall very fast.

Which also means it quickly got caught up in and strangled and twisted by that birdnetting, and getting to the branches without destroying the netting before harvest thus defeating its purpose proved impossible. And then the tree kept growing like crazy, lifting the black mesh well out of reach.

So the tree didn’t get its summer pruning but it needed it more.

The larger critters tore the netting open in the night and got my peaches anyway. So much for that. The plastic produce clamshells worked much better so I am definitely going back to them. This year I will staple paper bags over them to hide sight and smell of ripening fruit with a little hot pepper at the bottom in case they try anyway. Thwart one, thwart two, thwart three.

My pruning shears were not enough for this one–I had to get out the pole pruner. I didn’t think to take pictures before, and after over an hour at it the sun was too far gone. But I do have that tree Ground Hog Day’d to a year ago. More or less. It looks much more robust than then.

To prune, you have to look at each branch: there are tiny buds, and where they are on the limb shows you which direction the tree will take it after you cut right above one. You want it to go left? That one pointing left. Right? The one down here. None facing exactly the right way? Probably not quite as much sun that side.

What I wanted most for it to do was to grow over the fence towards Adele, even though I cut off half of several branches that were already close to doing just that. But they were too young and too flimsy; they needed to thicken before getting too long, otherwise, they could break from the weight of a single fruit. I voted for Most Likely To Succeed and trimmed them back by half. I also wanted there to be ones far enough down, height-wise, for her to be able to get to when they’re laden with ripe peaches dripping with juice. Off with its heads. Out not up.

Two trimmings in particular, I was curious and stood them upright on the ground. They came up to my nose.

Here’s the story of my planting that peach for Adele. And wow, that picture, it was so little two years ago.



I know what you’re thinking
Tuesday January 17th 2017, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Conversation at dinner tonight with a completely random interjection, not even looking at them:

“That’s not pussywillow, you know.” (Suddenly envisioning pink feline hats with long fine hanging strands of knitted green leaves as a visual pun, but never mind.)

“It’s not?” He was surprised.

“I told you I pruned the peaches.”

Y’know–saying scion-nara to the overgrowth and all that.

——

(Side note to LynnM: I tried sending to you from my Gmail account and it too elicited the rejection message saying your server doesn’t accept messages forwarded from other addresses. But that wasn’t one, it was straight from Google’s own servers, and thus the resident geek says that the problem is with your email server. Hope this helps some?)



So far so good
Monday December 19th 2016, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

We’re not quite yet down to the 28F degrees (and 56 under the mango covers) of the last few nights but it’ll come close again.

Happy as a clam under there.

Most of the flowers are supposed to be male, but it looks there’s been no shortage of female ones.

We have baby mangoes.



Crunch time
Tuesday December 06th 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Outside: 35F and going down. (Mango tree: 62F.) I have no doubt this will be our coldest night yet and the mandarin oranges are shivering under their covers, too.

I got a good laugh at my own reluctance to head out for a grocery run–hey, you, didn’t you used to live in New Hampshire? A little perspective check in the video from Montreal: five cars in the snow that got rear-ended by a long bus that got rear-ended by a pickup that got rear-ended by another bus that got rear-ended by a cop car that–

–and you can hear a voice yelling, “Hey! Get out of the car!”

And the cop did, just before the snowplow doing that same long no no no don’t! skid with its tires turned uselessly thataway (c’mon guys, steer into the skid and then away!) smashed the officer’s car.

Drive carefully out there, you all.

And to the Californians: keep an extra sweater or jacket in your car, willya? You never know when someone else who isn’t prepared for real cold is going to need it.



A scarf for a tree
Sunday December 04th 2016, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Mango tree

Wool knee socks, leg warmers, two layers of wool sweater, scarf, double-thickness handknit wool hat, fingerless gloves, warm jacket–and still I was a bit chilled on our walk tonight. I grinned at Richard, Almost feels like New Hampshire again, right?

He snorted, Not quite!

Me: I knew that would make you guffaw!

The covers over the mango were, as always, held down with a collection of rocks with no air gaps as far as I could tell, held down along the dripline out from the trunk so as to protect the roots. What I did was to go grab a few old covers that were now too small to go over and tucked them in a line going two-thirds of the way around that outer perimeter on the ground. A few rocks on those too so that they wouldn’t end up impaled at the top of the redwood in the middle of the night–just to stay on the safe side.

It turns out that just that little change made the whole thing seven degrees warmer. That’s a lot! And it didn’t cost any extra electricity or put any more weight on the flowers under there.

A combination of, well of course, and, who knew. And–why didn’t I try that sooner? (I’m still a little mystified that it made that much of a difference, but hey, I’ll definitely take it.)



Spreading out the season
Saturday December 03rd 2016, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

The purple becomes orange. I love how the center of the tiny flower looks like a floating votive candle with the petals doing an exuberant Ta-Daaah! around it.

There was a tiny, narrow black streak notching one of the big flower branches this morning, maybe an eighth of an inch long but a sign of cold damage. There, in the center cluster growing almost straight down, above the upper light (they’re not touching) at the next group up. You can’t see it? Good. That branch needs to become strong enough to hold up the weight of a growing mango. I think we’re okay.

A minor part–by no means all–of one of the tomato bushes died overnight, and it looks like it dipped to 32 degrees at that one spot. I still hold some hope of having new tomatoes carrying over into the spring like they sometimes do in southern California.

This happened today on the side of the mango that had been dormant. Whether all the bud ends will actually produce flowering, not just leaves, I guess I’ll find out, but it’s clear they’re each taking their sweet time.

A steady supply of fruit rather than all of it happening at once sounds good to me.



T-day 2016
Friday November 25th 2016, 12:03 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Thanksgiving dinner was at Aunt Mary Lynn’s up in the mountains, with cousins, bouncy little kids, old folks, and us middle types in between.

A widowed elderly neighbor whose daughter had recently died needed the noise and the joy and she relished all the sounds of small children playing, laughing right along with them. She walked carefully in their presence, though, and as far as I know did not hold the heavy, wiggly baby. Jean was a bit stooped and a little frail looking–and she was a treat to get to meet, and when she mentioned something about her persimmon I got her talking about fruit trees.

How many do you have?

Oh, about twenty.

We could really talk fruit trees here! She really knew her stuff.

But she admitted that she doesn’t do so much with them these days. (Yeah, I wouldn’t want her on any ladders either, that’s for sure.)

She did all these years, though, and to every thing its own season. It’s okay. She’s got one of those fruit picker things for reaching stuff, and oh, yes, me, too.

We drove home just in time to have our nephew Ryan and his wife, visiting her folks from New York City, over for an hour or so before they had to head back; they had to leave early in the morning. Ryan lived at our house for one summer while courting her and it’s deeply gratifying to see them so happy together. We had a great time.

And having gotten my cast off yesterday but told to wear it when I might fall or be out and about and need the protection, my balance was a little more wobbly than usual and it stayed on most of the day. I’m with Jean.

But it’s really nice to be able to leave it at simply two fingers velcroed together when I want to. And the velcro ties fit inside the splint, so, no losing those. Yay.

And a blessed, grateful day it was.



We’ll see how it goes
Friday November 04th 2016, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Tomato blossoms. In November. After all, someone’s got to feed the bees.

Re the afghan, I decided this morning that I couldn’t reconcile myself to the idea of the slightly misshapen areas that short-rowing would create. (For the non-knitters: doing a lot of short rowing at once is how you turn the heel of a sock. You get to a certain point in the row and turn and go back the other way without ever finishing the whole row, repeat as needed, then go all the way across eventually, making kind of half a pouch. For the afghan I would only have done that for a pair of rows at a time.)

I decided I had two choices–knit the thing with three sets of needles going while trying not to drop a whole lot of stitches, with smaller needles at the sides, or simply knit the sides mindfully and tightly as I go.

So I’m knitting the sides tightly. I’m also realizing they were knit more loosely not just because of their being a different stitch but because it’s so easy to zoom across the simple parts.

I was asked if it’s a pattern that’s out there already, and the answer is that I fudged one of Barbara Walker‘s color work patterns (I think it was that book, could have been the first treasury) and winged it after playing with a swatch. The afghan as a whole is nobody’s pattern but mine, to the best of my knowledge. Maybe it should stay that way, but if that ribbing does work out okay after all I’ll let you know.



The decoy
Tuesday October 25th 2016, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

As the butternut vine grew it outgrew the birdnetted pop tent and so I had a series of them covering it along the way.

One had a single squash inside it apart from the others, and though the prickly acanthus stalks worked as a tent edging for some time, after it rained those turned soggy and the squirrels finally braved squeezing past them to get inside there. Chomp.

It was really too early to pick it then, and I knew if I removed it they’d go after the others. So this one became the sacrifice. But I made them entertain me for it–seeing a squirrel inside a cage while stealing the food I worked so hard for has a certain bemused karma aspect to it.

In the last two days they started in on the bulbous end and once they tasted that they went after it hard. Who knew squash guts were the best part? It looks halved and scooped now and the whole process fascinates me, seeing what they like and how fast they do what. Call it my science experiment.

The remaining three ripe butternuts were where the plant was basically over for the season and I picked them this morning. I left the mangled one uncovered now: Have at it, folks.

Meantime, this afternoon I filled the bird feeder, turning it upside first to shake out the last of the previous batch of safflower; you don’t pile seed onto that last bit again and again, for sanitation’s sake you always start over. It’s about to rain, the birds seemed to know it, let’s get a good meal out here for you guys, too.

McDonald’s for doves. No waiting for the finches up there to kick some down.

A minute or two later I looked up again to see them scatter, in flight each a strong gray rib along a suddenly-opened, invisible Chinese fan in the air, the finches below playing the part of the more colorful paper linking them together as the points at the bottom of each segment–and there was the Cooper’s hawk, doing that familiar tight U-turn mid-air, not before the window but in the center of the yard. It pulled its prey in tight at the far end of the curve, and so once again it knew where the other bird was going to be for him to reach behind it with his feet just so even at the moment he presumably couldn’t see it: he plotted his trajectory against the dove’s perfectly. Those big talons would tighten and that would be it.

The only proof it had actually even happened in that tiny blink was a small poof of feathers settling down right below that point.

Squash. Served.



Winter blooms
Sunday October 23rd 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Garden

There’s a Dutch company that in the summer lets you pre-order monster amaryllis bulbs at far, far less than retail and the bargain is especially so if you check the box that allows them to choose when they want to ship them to you. Sometime in October. Or maybe November. I picture it as, Oh no, quick, they’re sprouting, get them out of the warehouse, stat!

Surprise me.

And so July browsing brought me a box Saturday and now I suddenly have to actually deal with it.

A pound and a half on the biggest–it’s as big as one of Andy’s peaches! Its first two flower stalks have already begun and another bulb is coming up right behind. They are begging to be planted.

I have a bag of good soil. I just need the flower pots: preferably good, sturdy, heavy stoneware ones to counteract the weights of all that they’re about to be up against. I had several that would have been perfect and I allowed them to be where the squirrels managed to pitch them off the outside table and shatter them. So there must be new ones.

One more reason to kick this cold to the curb fast.