Still new at all this
Wednesday July 12th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

Another “this, now this” pair of pictures. July 4th to July 12th. The Alphonso mango tree is loving the summer sun and heat.

But it suddenly hit me today that by this time the last two years I’d carefully unwound the Christmas lights so that there would be no chance of the tree growing into the cord or becoming inextricably tangled.

Um. I think I need to wait until the new growths are hardened off a bit before I dare mess with them, and as long as they’re red they’re not done growing–and there are a whole bunch more just now popping out into view.

Maybe this year I just leave the lights be?

But I so love how the tree is filling out.

June 12 vs 21
Wednesday June 21st 2017, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

Y’know, sloshing the brain around in four falls in four days is just not a great idea. I’m putting me on timeout.

Meantime, the mango tree is sprouting in the 88-106F heat wave this past week. The leaves that were red on the 12th have turned green and the new shoots from then have new half-grown red leaves now. (Second picture taken at a brighter time of day.)

The thicker the trunk grows, the hardier it becomes against future cold.

Trying to scare up a little dinner for them?
Thursday April 13th 2017, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus,Mango tree,Wildlife

That time before sundown, when the squirrels have turned in for the night and the birds have the feeder area to themselves. When the UV level is zero and the outdoors is mine. I really like it.

It’s also when the temps start dropping enough that it’s time to go cover the mango tree for the night.

There are two steps to this: the first, covering the top of the two stakes with bubble wrap rolled and taped together, both to protect the frost covers from tearing on the ends and to lift the covers above the close-to-budding parts of the tree–they are growing straight up now but will droop down later to support their (hoped-for) fruit as it grows. (No President’s Day storms to whip them all off the tree this time, okay?)

I opened the door to start the preliminaries, scattering a dove and a junco. As I walked across the yard, I saw a large gray wide-winged bird well overhead, flying from the direction of the redwood in Neighbor A’s yard across us to the silk oak in Neighbor B’s yard.

Several years ago my kids gave me a Cornell Labs book for Christmas that not only listed American bird species, it had a recording for each, and the one for the Cooper’s hawk was said to be of one defending its territory or nest. (From a researcher wielding a mic, no doubt.)

A prolonged protest as I neared the mango, which stands next to where the hawks like to perch on the fence: it let me have it.

And I *heard* it!!! It was pitched two notes higher than Cornell’s but that sequence and length were unmistakable. (From Wikipedia: the males are higher-pitched than the females. Curious.)

I walked back across the yard and likely out of its sight under the awning, then reappeared again with the first frost cover and walked back towards the little tree–and again it demanded I know that I was intruding and this would not do. And I imagine it wanted its dove back.

It was coming from the redwood tree, quite close. So there were two present, then. Cool.

I got the cover over, then the second, but decided I would check the weather report and put off doing the third layer for now and let them be. (I did end up adding it later–it’s cold out there.)

After all this time I finally got to hear my Cooper’s hawks! And I think I know where they’ve moved their nest to this year, now. Away, at last, from where the corvids congregate when the silk oak is feeding them while the hawk chicks are being raised. Good.

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.

If a tree falls in a suburb…
Tuesday January 10th 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Mango tree

A few years ago an enormous old eucalyptus tree, one of many in a long line on the hillside, fell across the expressway near Richard’s office at morning rush hour and fortunately hit no one. We saw it from the other side of the divided road, which was heavily littered with smashed bits from the top. Meantime, southbound traffic doing 45 would just crest the hill and there it was right there–we saw the first few terrified drivers doing abrupt u-turns in front of it and heading back going the wrong way, knowing it was rush hour and the speeds and the danger and the cops got that direction shut down immediately. I was impressed.

I have kept a wary eye on those tall flimsy trees on rainy days ever since, and part of another came down at evening rush hour today: again, the authorities hadn’t gotten there yet when we went by, and since traffic could make it around that one it surely wasn’t on the immediate list this time. They are swamped.

We waited at the next light ahead just barely out of the reach of yet another, which was leaning hard over the lines of cars below as gust after gust threatened to javelin us all with it. It felt a lot like being in an east coast hurricane. That trunk was not upright anymore. I do not expect to see it still standing come the morning.

And we’ve got it easy. We have power and heat and no flooding. They’ve clocked winds at 173 mph and there’s water everywhere: we haven’t had this much rain from Oct 1 to this date since 1922. A mudslide on Highway 17 near Richard’s aunt took out the road and an ABC7 news van (and it amuses me that none of the other news outlets identified it as such, only ABC7 did, whereas it was very clear what it was. But I guess you don’t give a boost to the competition? I mean, that’s a heck of a way to get a scoop. I can just imagine, Here comes the mountain right there, do you see it Bob? Bob? Apparently nobody was hurt, so it’s easy to joke about.)

We are not near a creek and this is a good thing right now.

Tomorrow, when it hopefully stops raining for a bit, I will go put the new (it came! Yay!) remote-read temperature sensor with the mango tree and go back to my happy old habit of glancing up at the monitor on the wall every time I walk by to see how it’s doing.

At this point, the frost covers are doing double-duty as just a bit of protection from rain-overdosed roots. Yeah. As if.

And if the sky holds its breath long enough we’ll go up on the roof and see if we can find out what made that nice loud boom up there. No sign of fallen tree that we can tell from the ground, and besides, we already cut down all the ones that threatened to two years ago.

On our property, anyway.

Oh wait, there is that one last one that could have grown over the house again by now. Guess what it is? A thick trunk, but, a eucalyptus.

The post office guy, part two
Saturday December 24th 2016, 12:01 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Mango tree

Random count-the-fruit-on-that-branch photo. The flowers are starting to drop in tiny stars on the ground below.

Richard dropped me off at the clinic this afternoon, where I hoped the doctor would tell my hand was all healed while he headed off to the airport to pick up our daughter.

I was knitting when the doctor came in. That part of my life is nearly back to normal.

Nope. The bone in the knuckle isn’t done yet: five more weeks. But the pinky is healed and I can now take the velcro off when I’m showering or washing my hands. Good, because those things are sponges–after the last five weeks, they were getting pretty rank. I got a new set and spares.

Richard and Michelle picked me up and we took our famished daughter out for a quick bite before dragging ourselves out grocery shopping for the weekend.

I wanted to go to the nearest place and be done with it. She said, you know, that huge Safeway (in the next town over yonder) has more stuff that I can eat.

And so that’s where we went.

Which is how we ended up in the same store at the same time as the guy who’d given up his place in line at the post office. He saw me before I saw him and he stopped right there, his face lighting up in recognition and delight. I did the same.

It was enough. We held each other in our eyes for just long enough–and then, with a nod, carried silently on, with him not wanting to interrupt my daughter next to me but both of us sure to have a merrier Christmas or whatever holiday one might wish for for having had that moment.

He had no way to know what had happened the day after he’d seen me–the c-spine, the ER.

But he got to see that yes, I was using a walker. And I could get across that store now, supported and safe. It had all come together. And I got to see how happy that made him.

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.

Stanford Hospital
Monday December 12th 2016, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Life,Mango tree

It is safe to say it did not get better in the morning. Walking into church, all the colors and the movement and the people and I could barely walk holding onto the cane and Richard both as every muscle kept trying to give way on me. I, um, scared a few people. They felt better after I promised to go to Urgent Care afterwards.

Home first for a moment to get ready because I knew it would be a long wait, where I looked out the window and went oh right and got the silly mango tree covered for the night. Somehow the green (can’t call all of it grass) and the stillness in the yard soothed my firing neurons and it wasn’t too hard. I wanted to be the one to do it.

We headed out.

The doctor at Urgent Care, prodding around: Does this hurt?

Yes, up a bit–here.

Then he said the last thing I ever expected to hear: Do *not* move your head. You might have broken your neck. He called for a c-spine and told us we had our choice of ambulance or having Richard drive me, but recommended the ambulance, but in no way was his facility equipped to deal with this–go straight to Stanford. He would call ahead and let them know.

As Richard put it afterwards, to justify me in my decision and help me feel better about it, If he was sure it was broken he wouldn’t have given us options. The c-spine was on and we skipped the $300 co-pay.

The ER took me immediately in, no waiting.

And then, as one always does there, one waits.

I was glad I’d brought reading material because I wasn’t sure how I was going to knit like that.

The young doctor was highly pleased and relieved to be able to come back and say that the CT results were negative: no broken bones, no bone fragments in the brain, the diagnosis was a pulled muscle in the neck and a concussion.

This was very good news at this point and we all knew it. He took that c-spine off me and at last my neck could relax after holding the one position for hours. I told him I’d been wondering how I was going to be able to wash my hair in the morning and he chuckled. I still don’t know how one does it when one doesn’t get to take it off so fast.

But it will be a good long while before I’ll be in any shape to drive anywhere. Given what could have been, I can live with that.

And the mango tree glows its quiet, warm blue in the night.

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.

On opening day
Thursday December 01st 2016, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

And so it begins.

You can almost see the little dots of purple in those tiny things.

It’s been colder, though, (37 out there right now, 59 under the covers) and I haven’t seen any honeybees on the frost covers in the morning this past week. But if they’re looking for flowers they surely know right where to go. Does it make any difference that the neighbors let the hive that set up camp in their backyard keep all its honey for the winter?

Meantime, the artificial vs real tree debate has been settled. By a beaver. In a dollar store in Maryland. Reaching up to the fake ones, taking a sniff, and declaring a definite opinion on the subject.

(Yes, but no allergies and no massive baby spider hatch-out like that one year. Time to roll ours out and set it up.)

Hey, you, strand it over
Monday November 21st 2016, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

I did a smart thing: I ordered two strands of blue Christmas lights last week as backup. I debated just buying spare bulbs but there was no telling how old my strings were; they could have been around decades (and probably had.) Might as well play it safe.

I did a dumb thing: after I took a few photos of the new growth and buds here, here, and here too now, I decided to replace a bulb that was out. Sunset was about 35 minutes away, plenty of time.

The old bulb didn’t want to come out, nuh uh–and suddenly there was a slightly coiled wire exposed, the metal base was still firmly attached down in there, and a definite pop sound as two full strands of Christmas lights died. Poof. Gone. The promise of staying lit when just one bulb goes bad doesn’t apply if you blow the fuse.

The controller in the box was peachy fine. It was just the strands.

I had one good hand (and the thought of, oh, my osteopath isn’t going to like this) and suddenly not much time. I had to carefully undo all those waggly bulbs (let’s not add broken glass to this mess) and wiring from everywhere and get them out of there, trying not to pull off any of the self-entangled leaves. I lost two. Open the new shipping box and doublecheck that they really did sell me outdoor lights like I’d paid for–yes–and get the new lights worked back in there.

You don’t want bulbs directly touching branches. You wish they didn’t have to touch leaves, either (good luck with that) since they brown where they do (see bulb imprint at the bottom of that second photo)and you don’t want wires crossing or bulbs touching At All.

I figured letting heat rise was, as it had been before, a good idea.

And then I snapped one more picture.

The second stake and the bubble wrap are to keep the frost covers off the buds and the covers from being punctured.

I got my three layers over the tree for the night a minute or so after sunset.

The kicker is that my setup had had the mango at 72 last night when it was 45 outside: I really hadn’t needed that one bulb at all. But it’s just as well gone. The muted glow out there is at long last all blue rather than a kluged mess of green and blue, making it quieter visually in the night.

My hand is whining a bit.

And I’m a-gonna order me some more strands. And bulbs.  Gotta have backup. You never know.

Thursday November 17th 2016, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Ortho dr. early tomorrow re that fracture.

It’s 39F already at 10:15 pm and my mango tree has new buds today and is a happy 62F. Those first mangoes will melt all of this away in an instant.

Went to a baby shower tonight and wondered why on earth I don’t have a stash of baby hats for such occasions. Now that I know I need to I plan to do just that once I can.

Assault of the earth
Thursday November 17th 2016, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Life,Mango tree

Typing left handed.  Slipped on mud in dark do still have teeth after picking/spitting mud out of them iced hand didn’t help called urgent care got told yes come got there apologizing for coming in four min before closing they splinted swollen finger–bones look okay though why did they ask about my head oh right of course they gave me info on head injuries and it took till just now to remember the word radiologist. Wasn’t in. Will call.

And Richard is my hero. Took good care of me.

Rueful.  Not what I planned. But the new Rios Solis yarn came with the mail about 7 pm and it’s a wonderful match: now I can finish that baby afghan and I wound the first one up immediately right before I went in the backyard because it’s really getting cold and an extra frost cover was going to be a necessity. (I did get it over the tree.)

Oh wait.

p.s. Earlier this evening while doing the first covering up the mango for the night–at sunset, reasonably, when there was enough light–I moved a board away that had been part of a border along the edge of the plants but had come loose with exposed nails (how did it get turned nails side up?) and I decided it had given up all pretense of being decorative, it was a hazard. Out.

And that is why, three hours later, I landed on soft mud only. My face would have landed right at those nails.


UPDATE 10:20 am. They called a few minutes ago. Fracture of fifth knuckle.

Make unto thee no raven images
Sunday November 13th 2016, 12:12 am
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

The crows and ravens and I have an understanding: they do not land in my yard.

And they don’t. They tend at breeding season to test me as to whether this is still true, I chase them off when they try just once, and that’s that. Every year.

I’ve wondered if they had a sense of smell, and have often thought surely they would have to; how else could they scavenge? And so I found this really cool article on the whole subject of birds and smell and how oh yes they do, and why historically it was wrongly thought that they did not.

So. Two days ago to my great surprise a raven landed not only in my backyard but not at all far away from me and where I could see it out the window. Right there. Hey!

And it was staring at the mango tree while standing nearest to where the buds are.

I went outside to declare just whose territory this was in language I knew it understood and as it took off, two more–hard to tell if they were crows or ravens, their height was near the top of the redwood–were cawing loudly and flying towards me. That is definitely one type of bird I can hear.

I waved my arms and the closest veered instantly away over the neighbors’ just short of the fenceline.

Right. As if I could touch it from where I am. The second was coming up just behind where the first had, I waved my arms again and it veered sharply away, an instant replay, and they all went silent.

Mangoes have the most intensely scented, marvelous flowers of anything I’ve ever grown–mine bloomed just once a few months after I planted it and I’ve been wanting ever since to smell that glorious scent again.

The new, tightly closed buds have no smell–to me.

But as far as I can tell, that raven wanted to see what its nose said it had to have enough to risk my seeing it standing there.

Glad I saw it out there. Don’t know if it works on ravens but it might be time to start the fake dead crow at last.