Lockdown day 72: two carry on
Wednesday May 27th 2020, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The third, late-sprouting apricot seedling had a root coming out of the bottom of its paper cup with the pencil hole at the bottom. Neither of the others had had that at that size. I prepared a ten gallon pot and carefully tore away the paper constricting that nice full root structure and eased the damp ball in there–once this one got going it really got going. It had earned its new digs.

But the second one, which had come up a month earlier: the little one that had sent up a few sets of leaves and then stopped, that had made me wonder if I had a natural dwarf on my hands and how good a small-yard tree that would be if it succeeded. Cool, right?

But you still have to grow at least some. And it wasn’t doing that anymore.

It couldn’t handle the 90-95F heat we’ve had this past week and day by day despite anything I could do it gradually crisped and died.

Curious, I gently pulled it out of its pot to have a look tonight.

Wait, where was the kernel?

Somewhere along the way it had gotten jostled or something but broken off from the nourishment that’s supposed to send the shoot up and the roots down; with that support missing, it had still sent up leaves, it had still harnessed the immense power of the sun to add its tiny bit of oxygen to the earth, and it even had the tiniest nubs of roots trying to make it.

A little further down, there was the kernel, plumped and good and ready to help but unable to save it.

They both did the best they could for longer than I would have thought possible.

But I still have that plant’s two healthy tree-sisters, and they will show how apricoting from a perfect fruit is done.

Lockdown day 71: Andy’s Orchard
Tuesday May 26th 2020, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Is it good? Yes. So much so that I can’t wait to spend an hour and a half pitting and stirring pureed cherries over a hot stove on a hot day again? That I’m not convinced of.

Which is kind of funny, because one of the things I picked up at Andy’s Orchard today was dried tart cherries as well as fresh Black Tartarians so I wouldn’t have to use cranberries next time. But there’s still another cup of that puree, so we’re not quite done yet.

That was the first retail venue I’ve stepped inside of since the lockdown began. It was roped off and marked into in and out and one way going around, there was the plexiglass barrier for the clerk, and at the entrance a prominently-placed sign requiring masks.

Theirs were cloth with bright cherries against a black background. Will they have peach ones later? I’ll just have to come back when those come on.

Mine had bright fish. 

Lockdown day 69: a door gradually closing
Sunday May 24th 2020, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We got the news that our 95-year-old friend Betty is in isolation with covid-19.

Her lungs have gotten through all these years after being damaged by airborne specks of metal when she was a Rosie the Riveter working on planes in WWII.

As a woman completely blind since birth.

After the war, until new technology made her skills obsolete, she worked in a dark room developing x-rays for the hospital because the lack of light was no novel thing to her.

Then there was the time she told her husband he was too drunk to drive them home–she was going to do it. He could coach her through it but she was taking the wheel, and did, and told the tale with great delight forever after. (How far she actually got I have no idea.) She’d just always believed she could do just about anything anybody else could and was happy to try to prove it.

Past 90 and in a nursing home, she wasn’t always sure she remembered me but she always remembered Richard when we visited; he’d helped her with her computer (and as a visitor, he knew how to talk loud enough so that she could hear, which she needed more and more.)

I don’t expect we’ll ever get to see her again. I don’t expect to get to hear that laugh of hers again.

But I’m glad that I know what it sounds like.

Lockdown day 61: sourdough pancakes and driveways
Saturday May 16th 2020, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

I was curious.

So I beat two eggs, added in a heaping tablespoon of thick and only slightly sweetened Greek Gods yogurt, then scooped out between a half to maybe 3/4 cup of sourdough starter. That was it. Whisk.

I debated whether to make it into muffins, except the oven wasn’t hot, or pancake style. Let’s go for pancakes, with raspberries on the side on the plate. I melted butter in the pan since there wasn’t any fat anywhere else and it made for a good, crisp outer edge in contrast with the fluffy inner.

The flavor was so much better than your standard baking-powder version. I am definitely playing with that idea again. Feed the sourdough starter, pass the maple syrup–those were good.

The other thing is we finally got the ball rolling again on the driveway after seeing how fast a new one went in next door. I’d been avoiding it because of the hundreds of contractor cold-calls I’d gotten last time I even so much as looked online–proof that oh yes they do most certainly sell your private data.

I consulted Angie’s List.

One very nice guy came and he measured, discussed, said he’d need permission from the city to cut tree roots within three feet of the trunk where the walkway had been lifted and needed to be lowered back down, etc etc. Richard was inside on the phone walking my mom through troubleshooting her printer, so I was the one dealing with him.

When he got all done I glanced over at the new driveway next door and told him that it had been my inspiration for getting off my duff. “Someone’s flipping it,” nodding at the For Sale sign.

“They did it rough,” he said, wincing. You could just see him thinking, For all that work and all that money, to not do it right…

I like contractors who take pride in what they create and he suddenly had my full attention.

Lockdown official day 57
Tuesday May 12th 2020, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Life

Sometimes a comic strip can, in one panel, say it all.

For those who can’t or don’t want to click, including a disabled friend of mine, it offers big spikes on a graph for March and April for the words, sewing machine, webcam, Andrew Cuomo, flour, pangolin.

Underneath, a caption that says, I want to show someone from 2019 this Google trends graph and watch them to try to guess what happened.

Lockdown day 55: a jar ajar blinks
Sunday May 10th 2020, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

At first glance it had gone down fitting exactly into the space and there seemed no physical way to undo what I had just done short of tearing the plumbing apart.

Happy Mother’s Day to you, too, I thought at the rogue jar of jam. Nobody turn on the disposal. Because that would be extra fun.

My hero looked it over and thought up a plan. It involved bending heavy wires with pliers and getting them under it and lifting it out. Not as a single piece going down and across underneath (how, anyway?) and up again but more like the feet on a long stick figure.

I was, to the say the least, skeptical, but trying to be supportive like he was trying to be supportive, so we gave it a try. And then several more, with one holding the flashlight and one…

Not working.

I went looking for the tongs that had been used to retrieve something from behind the washing machine–oh look, it got washed and put back in the kitchen where it belongs, fancy that–and looked at it skeptically. There was no way there was room for that jar and those tongs together.

But when you have a plan B and you don’t have a plan C (that you want to consider) you at least try.

I utterly failed.

Not right away, not till the jar had dropped hopelessly back several times, but, HE DID IT!!! He got it out!!! We don’t have to call a plumber tomorrow!

Sometimes, when you really need a Mother’s Day present like that, you get to have it.

And an atrocious pun that my Dad would have roared laughing over.

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 50 tops it
Tuesday May 05th 2020, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Glancing next door from my kitchen this afternoon, there was a fire extinguisher.

On the roof next door. Just sitting there, nobody in sight.


A little while later I went to get the mail and heard a man arguing loudly but saw no one. Came back inside and looked out the window again.

The extinguisher was gone. His back was to me, his phone tight to his ear. I decided that given that he was not having a good day it might be best *not* to stand on a chair nor to open the door in order to get a better photo as the heated conversation clearly continued on, I mean, c’mon, leave the poor guy alone.

He was sitting on a very large canister.

Of gas.

On the roof.

To his left, that mostly-dead very tall tree.

These things do not play well together.

But it has a very large nest in it so you can’t cut it down right now.



Lockdown day 49: works of art
Monday May 04th 2020, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Anne couldn’t find my address so she had to rat herself out and ask. I’d ordered some Holz and Stein needles and a Mel and Kris deep-dish pie plate for picking up at Stitches back in February, which I missed due to a if not the virus.

So Anne had picked them up for me and waited for me to get better. But before we could plan it–we do not live close and the whole thing was heroic on her part as far as I’m concerned–the early lockdown was announced.

Today we became officially slightly less locked down.

The doorbell rang.

She had on a mask, I put on a mask, but these past few months have taught me that I lipread more than I think I do. So Anne stepped even further back and hung hers askew so I could see and we chatted a few minutes, which felt like heaven.

She brought me my needles, she brought me my pie plate…and she brought me a Mel and Kris yarn bowl as a surprise!

She had no way of knowing how much I’d wished for weeks that I had one while working on the ocean afghan–well, and forever before that, too. I finally gave up a few days ago and started doing the intarsia Kaffe Fassett style, where instead of trying to untangle whole balls of yarn as you switch sides at the ends of the rows you simply break off as long a length as you think you can manage and pull it and the next through again and again and again and just deal with weaving in all the extra ends. It’s faster and so much easier.

This is the yarn bowl I would have picked out if I’d been the one picking it out. It’s gorgeous. (So is the pie plate.)

Anne also brought the news that since so many of the festivals and art fairs they make a living at have been canceled this year, Mel and Kris are now selling online. Shipping is what it is because pottery is heavy.

Those pictures of the 8″ pan I make my fruit cobblers in? It’s labeled as their mini pasta.

Lockdown day 46: Eames-y mine-y mo
Friday May 01st 2020, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Life

My elderly next door neighbor went from being rescued by the paramedics after days on the floor to the hospital to a recovery center–to being picked up by her son and taken home with him to an assisted living place close to his house a thousand miles from here. She absolutely could not risk living alone anymore.

And then the facility went into lockdown due to the pandemic. It’s got to be rough. I miss her.

Plumbing, mold, landscaping–her house needed a ton of work, and assisted living is expensive.

Houses a good bit below market are unicorns here–it probably sold the first day and it surely made at least that part of her life easier.

I took a few pictures this past week as the entire front yard was stripped bare and then planted anew and sent them to her children, with the question, Should I share these with your mom, too?

It would probably be better if, for now, I did not, was the response–but please, send more, they’d love to see.

New driveway. New walkway. And oh thank you, they didn’t put in the pestilent non-native monkey grass that was a fad against the drought for awhile there.

Today, a truck backed up onto the sidewalk, given that the new driveway was still taped off.

And what did they bring down the gangplank of that truck in front of that 1950s modernist-style Eichler house?

Two perfect Eames rocking chairs, in style if not in actual fact.

I grew up in an Eichler style house and my parents had an actual Eames rocker. I saw one years ago at the Modern Art Museum in San Francisco and kind of laughed that something that had been so utterly ordinary to me was considered art–and yet of course it is. My mom rocked her spitting-up babies in theirs, but then, plastic is easy to clean up.

I feel a connection with the new neighbors already and I haven’t even laid eyes on them yet.

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 44: Sierra edition
Wednesday April 29th 2020, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Blame it on the mailman.

He left the next-door neighbors’ magazine in our mailbox. Well, that wouldn’t do.

And so I put on a face mask, washed my hands, cut an amaryllis that was opening up today, plunked it in a vase, and walked it and the magazine over next door.

After stopping in my driveway so the woman pushing her stroller could continue on past, but she saw me, chuckled, nodded, and rolled those wheels over into the car-less street.

The little dances we do.

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 42: rainbowwow
Sunday April 26th 2020, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Today is Mathias’s third birthday and we were supposed to be there to help celebrate. I admit it took me a couple of weeks to concede to reality and cancel the plane tickets.

His mom knew there wasn’t going to be a birthday party, not this year–but she had an idea while in an Indian grocer during Holi, the Festival of Colors.

The dog got rainbowed, too.