Lockdown day 67: one fish two fish red fish time for blue fish
Friday May 22nd 2020, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Knit

I found the perfect shade of bright royal blue in my stash, exactly what I’d been looking for, and oh good it was labeled worsted weight superwash. Neighborhood Fiber Co. Nice stuff from nice people. My grandson Mathias has a baby blanket made out of that.

But I just could not make myself start that next fish with it. It was both thicker and more densely spun than what I was working with and the difference was just too much.

But the color!

I spent the day again wishing for it to be back to when you could simply drive to the yarn store to ogle the options in person.

But I did not want to waste a pandemic day, because this is what those are good for, how I make myself feel good about the isolation: getting that project finished after its two year wait.

And yet I didn’t have what I didn’t have.

Finally, it became, oh forget it, just go with the Malabrigo that isn’t the best possible dreamed-of color but it is what there is and I knew how it would perform with its peers in the wash and that counted for a lot, too.

Kalida’s Washington Square wool will get its turn in its own project–speaking of which, two circular needles arrived from her today for Venn-diagram-knitting the next hats at a denser gauge. Needles, meet yarn. From Ball’more, Maryland.

And then, at long last, I just did it. I grabbed a Rios color that would be just fine after all and simply started that silly fish. As soon as I did I loved it, with a strong sense of relief at the perfectionist logjam having finally burst. Who knew. It was right there all along.

Meantime, the English Morello tart cherries are starting to grow hints of red here and there, and I will definitely wait for that color.

Lockdown day 56
Monday May 11th 2020, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

A few photos.

If you want to take pictures of squash blossoms, you have to do it in the morning: they shout Huzzah! to the new day and then step back to let the leaves do their big sugar-making job with the sun. This evening there was a second tiny zucchini growing, and I haven’t even gotten the plant in the ground yet. (I’m dithering: I’m liking having it on top of the old barbecue grill where the critters can’t get at it. Hopefully. But then it’s not a winding vine yet, either.)

Two picotee amaryllises opened up on Mother’s Day.

Fig, iris, apple in the back.

And best of all this last one.

Lockdown day 53: Won’t you be my neighbor?
Friday May 08th 2020, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

A few hot days, and quite to my surprise we had a third apricot seedling yesterday. I thought that thing was surely long dead in there, I’d been watering it since February and the other two had come up about a month ago a week apart but somehow I kept going. How cool is that! A new baby tree! I was not expecting that at all and it just worked out anyway.

Someday I’m going to be that neighbor who’s bugging everybody, trying to find kittens a good home, only they’ll be apricot trees. Really good ones.

It seems to be a vigorous grower like seedling #1; #2 is much slower, which I’m hoping means it will be naturally dwarfing, but I guess I’ll find out. If they need pollenizers (most don’t) then having visible differences early on is probably a good sign–given that they have one parent in common if not two. I may end up learning to graft so I can combine them on one.

So I was feeling pretty good about that tiny bit of green joy and I walked outside to get the mail and as I came around the corner of the sidewalk, standing in the front yard next door was a woman with an older woman just beyond her, daughter and mother, I assumed. Turns out they’d been looking at the house. Turns out our assumption that our neighbor’s buyer was simply in it to flip it was correct, and it was put on the MLS for the first time today after three weeks’ intense work that the place had badly needed.

Friday is the day realtors look over the new listings. There were two Tesla X SUVs between our houses.

I imagine they have to disclose that the place was originally red-tagged for mold and plumbing issues, because for all the markup it’s still below market. It needs serious and expensive tree work that can’t happen till after nesting season is over, but still. The place is gorgeous now.  It’ll sell fast.

So we chatted a little while and enjoyed each other’s company and now she knows that if she buys the place she’s got a friendly face next door. Looks like we’d have three generations there and young children to play with the ones across the street, and that would be so cool for everybody.

Never did see the guy on the roof again. Clearly, they were done.

Lockdown day 51
Wednesday May 06th 2020, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,History,Life

They are ubiquitous where I grew up, but here, you have to be willing to buy new bulbs every fall or dig the old ones up and store them in your fridge all winter and not mistakenly use them for dinner. They’re poisonous, so you really don’t want to make that mistake.

But not to the local squirrels, who go straight for them as soon as they’re in the ground. I tried to plant some years ago and found it a lost cause.

But today brought a surprise.

One of my kids sent me a picture of two beautiful flowers in loud, random-brushstroke stripes, a petal on each curling and twisting while the others grew straighter, with the question, did I know what these were?


I said that historically, tulipmania in Holland four hundred years ago was set off by the search for specimens like these. They were gorgeous.

I went back to my afghan–I finished a fish, yay! I just need to tighten up the strands running behind so they don’t show–and thought about all the new random variants in a short time that made ordinary flowers into something never seen before, more beautiful, each as individual as the next, costly and highly sought after.

Caused by a virus.


Lockdown day 48: counting my peaches before they’re ripe
Sunday May 03rd 2020, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

The roasted radishes were definitely the way to go. Sweet, soft, no heat–and pretty.

This peach tree nearly died of leaf curl disease last year, but look at it now.


Lockdown day 45: purple irises
Thursday April 30th 2020, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus


 They were in this area, but this is not how they were. He must have quietly dug them up and replanted them. I thought he’d just cleared off the dead cover plants.

They were here when we bought the house, and over time they crowded themselves badly and then did a mass die-off in the drought–and have been steadily, slowly working their way back ever since.  They ended up kind of split down the middle into two bunches of randomness.

I thought it was so weird when we moved to California that everybody had a hired gardener. Doesn’t anybody work in their own yard around here?

Then I got lupus with extreme sun sensitivity, my husband threw his back out, and we ended up asking the neighbor’s how much he charged. (Fred’s cardiologist had made him retire.) It’s been good to have the help, and Elio’s a great guy.

I paid him extra last winter for something I didn’t feel was in his usual job description. He disagreed and tried to stop me. Dude: Take. The. Money. You spent the time, you did the work, you earned it.

Which is probably why the purple irises are now arranged in a perfect circle of green leaves and purple blossoms, with enough distancing to be social and healthy for a goodly while to come, placed just so between the apples and the fig tree. They are in their fullest glory and they have never looked better than they do right now.

Elio quietly offered up a gift in the barren winter dirt and waited for the day when I’d get to notice.

Lockdown day 43: with love from Dad
Monday April 27th 2020, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

The amaryllis bulbs that my dad gave me for his last Christmas have begun to come into bloom again, bringing cheer to our lockdown.

And it is not possible–I thought–but that last apricot seed in that last paper cup, the one that wasn’t doing anything but I couldn’t bear to toss because it hadn’t decayed away like seven of them had those times when watering them had left them exposed enough to see…had a tiny root showing today. After trying for what, two months? I thought I was just putting off the certainty of disappointment by not letting the cup dry out, but there it is. It lives.

I covered its brief uncoveredness quickly with just a bit of chicken-manure-enhanced soil and hoped. It would be so cool.

My dad adored Andy’s apricots.

Lockdown day 33: dig a little deeper
Friday April 17th 2020, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

It was so good. Definitely making that pumpkin cranberry sourdough again.

Also in the future food department: looking at my apricot, tomato, butternut, zucchini and watermelon seedlings, I was trying to figure out how to grow all those where there’s the most sun.

The edge of the concrete patio, for one.

My sister Marian has talked a lot about her gardening in cloth grow bags, which got me to go look. The county just shut down the nurseries and those are sold out on so many sites.

Someone on some review said the Vivosuns were the best they’d found, with a three year warranty to back them up.

Another brand was reported as ripping immediately out from the weight of the dirt coming in. I do not understand manufacturing something to be immediately thrown away in the landfill.

The latest of Vivosuns with the improved (maybe read: their decorative contrast color?) handles were sold out but the older version still beat the competition from everything I could find.

The price, the usefulness, the durability, the washableness, you could chase the sun around the yard (maybe, doubt I will) with those handles making them more portable: I bought the 5-pack of 15 gallon size on the idea that those would be big enough for both my tomato plants and, eventually, those teeny tiny apricot seedlings. Of which I have three and two, respectively.

And now that size is sold out. I just barely made it.

Gardening supplies: they’re the new toilet paper.

Lockdown day 30: looking up
Tuesday April 14th 2020, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

A little bigger, a little greener, and then stepping outside, the columnar apple has started putting on a show. Yesterday these blossoms opened up at the bottom branch, tomorrow there will be more at the top. 

And then there was this.

You could see the curve of the haunch up against the trunk, the dark tip of the ear, the angle of the jaw with its head turned a bit towards the neighbors behind.

No way.

I stared and stared and then stepped just inside the door to get Richard’s attention and camera and second set of eyeballs: Was that? No, right? Tell me it’s not? That *is* where it would want to be this time of day, that is the shape it would be, that is how it would want to melt into the branches mostly out of sight. (Where squirrels give new meaning to fast food.)

He came out and looked and saw what I saw and went huh…but maybe not. Nah. Couldn’t be. He went back in, grabbed a monocular (how does he always have just the right equipment for the moment? He said no it wasn’t, it wasn’t binoculars) and gave it a better look and then handed it to me.

Okay, then. Man.

Just half an hour later the shapes were the same but the interplay of light and shadow had melted the ear back into monotone brown, the line curving along the haunch had disappeared, and our mountain lion had melted back into simply being the Chinese elm with the weird angles and turns the tree trimmers had cut it into two summers ago when the insurance company required it not to go over the house anymore.

Plus the way it had grown since then.

You had to step outside at just the right time and maybe just the right time of year for it to briefly come alive as something entirely different. Brigadooning?

As for how it acted the part, though, it gave a pretty wooden performance.



Lockdown day 27
Saturday April 11th 2020, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Those Anya apricots. I saved ten pits last summer.

I knocked over one of the paper cups the middle of last week and when I went to gently put everything back in…there seemed at first to be no sign I’d ever planted anything in there.

Did I somehow miss that one?!



At least I had that one big, healthy one about to sprout. And then seven days ago, an actual sprout in a second cup.

But I checked a few others and they’d rotted away, too, so I quit looking and just kept watering (not too much now!) and figuring I’d give it another week–again, and likely another one after that; maybe all they need is warmer weather?

I transplanted the big one split wide open and its healthy, strong root into a bigger pot with better drainage.

I do not know how that killed it, but it died.

At least by then I had the tiny second one throwing out leaf after glorious little leaf.

I went to bed last night grieving Brad’s death hard. So not the ending to the story we’d expected. Thank you for all your comments, it helps more than you know.

And–as long as I was wishing things had turned out different–I wished I’d gotten more than one healthy actual apricot seedling after all that hope and expectation and effort. Not that it mattered; I just wanted it. Like a two year old who’s going to go pout in the corner over not getting a marshmallow.

I woke up this morning and somehow the first thing I did was walk across the house over to those pots.

Where there was very new and completely unexpected life. A sprout! It had no color to it, the future leaves were just tiny bumps on a tiny stem and it could have just been a fragment in the potting soil, but no, it was real and it was not there last night and I grabbed the paper cup out of the windowsill and put it outside in the new sunlight of the day. (Under a bird netting cage. Its little homemade ICU.)

Not ten minutes later I thought, wait, I need a picture.

Already it had taken on a tinge of green. Can you see it? Already it was starting to respond to the sun and creating sugar for its roots below. That fast.

And I bet I can tell you what it’s going to look like a week from now.

We’ll see how it goes, but right now it feels like a gift from Brad. It helps.


Lockdown day 24
Wednesday April 08th 2020, 6:27 pm
Filed under: Garden

Birth of an apricot tree, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In a little paper cup.

It’s growing faster than the afghan these past two days, but never mind.

Lockdown day 22, wondering where spring went
Monday April 06th 2020, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden

So here we are, on our week–wait, it’s #9 now, isn’t it–of our personal quarantine, and I’m watching my apricot pits trying to hatch. Because life is exciting like that.

Two halves of a large kernel vs an actual, tiny sprout. It’ll be interesting to see if the one wants to be a giant and the other a dwarf or if that’s just this stage. (On my screen it’s cutting off the sprout in the dual picture unless you click on it. New update, don’t know how to fix that yet.)

Lockdown day 18
Thursday April 02nd 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

We had two bad years in a row for peach leaf curl disease, and even though I’d used copper spray, one tree was dying and I gave up and replaced it with a resistant variety, and the August Pride…at least looked better than that. I decided to let it try for another year.

My artistic gardening friend James out of the blue decided that someone had done something good for him that was making his life so much better–so much so that he wanted to pay it forward, and he asked me if he could come over with his copper spray and do that job for my peaches?

Totally unexpected. Yes please thank you!

And look at that healthy August Pride now. Needing to thin all that fruit is a great problem to have.

Lockdown days eight through twelve
Friday March 27th 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Last summer I bought some apricots at Andy’s Orchard that did not taste like any apricot I had ever had in my life. Not only were they sweet, there was a richness and a depth and spiciness and indescribable something and wow were they good. And this from someone who had once thought apricots were kind of meh–but having read a little about what Andy had now, and having tasted his Blenheims, I had to give the new varieties a try.

Someone he worked with had spent decades going into some of the more dangerous parts of the world where they’d originated, trying to discover what that particular fruit was meant to be. He collected the pits and brought the best home to see what might grow in the very different climate of near-coastal California.

He sold a few trees to Andy, but they are not for sale to the general population.

And yet, the pits from the ones I marveled over were going to be at last halfway from one of those trees and the other parent was at the very least going to be something Andy grew and you know that that meant it would be something you’d be glad to have.

And so I looked up how to sprout apricot kernels.

There was a consensus that they had to be kept chilled in the fridge for months. From there the advice diverged wildly: one writer was adamant that they must be sprouted in the fridge as well, another that you needed a heating pad. One said wrap them in wet paper towels after the winter chilling (I couldn’t see how the rot sure to come would help anything), another said soak them overnight.

I soaked them overnight and wondered if I’d drowned them all and would have to wait a whole ‘nother year to try.

I tried a few days of having small pots of soil in the fridge with two of them and then thought, okay, that just really doesn’t work for my household, you know one of us is going to knock dirt all over in there, nuts to that.

The house is a bit chilly and I think our old heating pad got tossed about twenty years ago.

I’ve been watering them for a month. My tomatoes have their third set of leaves but those apricots did not come up. I had planted them after my fevers ended and my cough was subsiding to give me something to look forward to and how long was this supposed to take, anyway?

I resisted the temptation to dig one out just to look at it.

Three days ago a root appeared down the side. Next the split edges of the kernel pushed just slightly above the soil line.

Where they still are. But thicker, and turning green under the skylight and you can just see that it’s getting its strength together so as to be able to hold up a whole baby tree once it pushes itself the rest of the way out of there.

There’s a second pot that looks slightly different, like it might show soon too.

But this one was marked as the one that had been the biggest seed and now it’s the most vigorous earlybird and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m gonna need me some bigger pots. I do have one new one waiting. But the lockdown.

At some point I’m going to be trying to find someone to adopt my spare apricot seedlings, like trying to give away a litter of kittens–just, bigger, right?

That’s the hope, anyway.

Lockdown day three
Wednesday March 18th 2020, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Knitted a little, should have done a lot more.

Last year’s volunteer Sungold tomato plant, bursting into bloom all over after the rains, hanging off the remains of the one that would have been four years old had it made it through another winter. I guess it didn’t mind being a toddler but it did not want to sign up for preschool.

A close-up on the Indian Free peach.

This being pick-up day, I happened to step outside to bring the bins back from the curb at about 4:00 and saw my neighbor several houses away. She waved her arms and shouted hello and I waved back and it felt wonderful to see another human being out there. We’re all a little starved for contact.

And while everybody’s working from home and relying on their networks, Comcast went out. This post via my phone.