Hanging out at the branch office
Thursday November 10th 2016, 12:08 am
Filed under: Life,Lupus,Mango tree,Politics,Wildlife

Slower growth than summer’s but still coming along there.

Meantime, the neighbors kept a compost pile for years near the other side of the fence from my mango tree.

They weren’t trying to be part of the amateur beekeeper trend, but one day a swarm liked that spot and moved right on in. I don’t think they try to harvest any honey, they’re just glad to be doing their part in supporting the population. Even if inadvertently.

Which, when they told me, explained why I get so many.

Now that the weather is chilly at night a few of those honeybees are getting their feet snagged on my frost covers again, not quite making it back to the hive for the night. Or sometimes it looks like they just got there when I arrive in the morning.

I can’t pull them off. Too close to the stingers and I don’t want to dismember the poor things. I don’t want to walk across the yard to put the cloths away and have a bunch of upset bees around me, either. So I give the underside of the cloth a good pat with an extra layer or three of fabric between us to free them, one by one; a flick if that didn’t do it.

It was good and sunny by the time it was warm enough for the day’s grand unveiling and I grabbed the big straw hat by the back door on my way out.

And so the usual routine. Six this time–off you go. Sometimes they fly free, sometimes they plummet, needing energy and warmth or (I hope not) dead. But always, always, they are ever so polite about it to the big human thwacking around their feet.

Most of today’s simply fell to the ground. The birds would soon be checking for snacks.

Stepped just inside as I shut the door behind me while reaching for my hat.

I had just long enough to wonder what burr-type thing had fallen from where to have landed on my hat or was it falling apart? My favorite! But I had seen no such thing moments earlier and it didn’t feel like broken straw edges.

Nor do straw edges bounce up and down in your hand in agitation as one’s hand closes to grasp them. Mine quickly opened and I stared, and one upset honeybee, very much invigorated and very much alive, made its quick escape to parts still unknown within the house.

And still it hadn’t stung me for all I’d put it through.

May I be as forgiving and slow to anger against the stings of yesterday’s election. I can only pray.



Blue to protect against the cold
Wednesday November 02nd 2016, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

Got to Cottage Yarns but didn’t find Rios skeins that were quite, quite what I wanted. I bought two anyway and took them home and waited before knitting so as to be able to see them with my project in both natural light and after sundown, from near and from far.

There was an element of gray to them that I just could not talk myself into. The project is brighter than that. Well, they’ll make great hats for somebody, then, that’s fine.

Kathryn did, however, have eight skeins of Rios in Cerezas, a red deepened with a bit of black that was absolutely gorgeous. It will be the afghan after this one and it made it worth the trip.

Meantime, last night when the temperature dipped to where the Christmas lights auto-clicked on on the mango tree, half of them were out. Nada. One rainstorm last year, all I had to do was unplug and re-plug to reboot and that was that, but not this time. This had never happened before and I was horrified: the whole back of the tree, and on our coldest night yet, but at least that one strand was okay. I couldn’t take off the cover to work on the other without losing what heat I had under there, so I threw a third layer of frost cover over and hoped for the best.

I searched online for opaque blue C9 incandescent strands, knowing I didn’t have any more and kicking myself for not having bought backup. You want blue because it puts the least light into the night while you’re trying to sleep–although I do have some green replacement bulbs at random, and a few blues that half the paint has come off of. (See how much brighter those greens are? Glad they’re not white!)

Thirty bucks shipping would get them to me in two days (and nights!) and nobody had them in stock locally yet. Yow. I passed for the moment.

The remote read a little colder in the morning than I would have liked but it stayed above 50F and the tree looks okay. The growth-flush areas were near bulbs that were still working.

This evening I carefully unwound that second strand off the limbs and brought it inside. Plugged it in. Nope.

I had an old strand of clear lights handy and plugged that in. It worked fine.

I tested a few of the blue bulbs on it. Worked. So I took every blue or green bulb off the dead strand and every white bulb off the good strand and switched. Threw the bad strand in the recycling, plugged in the other: okay, that, that, that, and that one, more replacement bulbs. (Meaning green. Hey, it makes it match the afghan on the needles.) Test. None of these are new; I re-replaced a few.

At last I was able to go back out there and carefully rewind the new strand back into the tree, trying to aim the lightbulbs where they wouldn’t touch leaves or limbs directly, just the wires.

The whole process took nearly an hour that I tried not to think of as lost knitting time. But this is when this needed to be done, before the sun went down, and you do what you must do.

The tree is in a blue state now and it is protected from the harm the darkness had threatened it with.



On a rainy day with a sick husband
Thursday October 27th 2016, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

The Baby Crawford peach tree at nine months.

Saw the translucent outline of what was clearly the hawk on top of the awning, and as I watched his beak announcing he owned the place I thought, show me your beautiful self, c’mon.

A minute or two later he did a little swoop down right in front of the bird feeder and back up to the other side, a six foot leap for a thirty-one-inch bird but just enough for me to laugh in delight at his doing what I’d hoped for. As if I could tell him what to do. Right.

I watched a gray squirrel walking slowly across the near edge of my neighbor’s roof, turn to look our direction and suddenly race screaming away at the speed of life.

Listen, if the hawk were hunting it would have grabbed that cocky black squirrel on the fence that’s been trying to stare it down. Leap away into the orange tree? Nah, why bother.

The gray ones always seem to have more sense.

The Cooper’s headed off at last in the opposite direction, flying low and giving me a better view this time.

Meantime, a picture for Dani: my Alphonso mango, now 22 months old.

That single limb just to the left of the stake? (To which the tree is attached by pieces of old ace bandages, it outgrew the ties it came with awhile ago.) When I prune the new tip growth in the spring it’s going to grow a new limb for each one of those leaves, more or less. It will look like that cluster on the upper right and balance things out a bit.

The whole tree moved like a hula skirt in a Hawaiian dance with the wind that this storm came in on.

I’ll keep that stake there awhile yet. It does no harm.



Turning over a new leaf
Saturday October 22nd 2016, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

Didn’t even know this was hiding under those leaves over there. More new growth and it happened all on its own.

I managed to get four inches done on a cowl before I had to let myself go rest, but it definitely felt good to accomplish something.

And today my sister Marian’s daughter Carole married her Josh. I would have loved to have been there, but it was just not to be, not with these germs. I’m glad we got to meet him at my dad’s 90th in June.



We’ve had a warm spell
Friday October 21st 2016, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Day two, growing, greening, and there’s a new batch of discernible leaf stubs sprouting out at the base of the ones on the left.

Across the fence, the neighbor’s oranges went from green yesterday to a soft yellow today.



This time, I want it to bloom in the spring
Thursday October 20th 2016, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

After much debate back in July, I pruned one last branch of the mango tree towards the end of its flush of summer growth, thinking it would play along and get right to it.

Nope. It just sat there, stumped.

It was the only one that had had flower buds and I hadn’t wanted to cut them off, but they were five months late and still unopened. I’ve since been told that heat was the thing and that the tree hadn’t had enough of it over the winter. I’d worked at keeping it above 40F, knowing that below that kills the inflorescence; 55F was actually what was optimal for production. Okay, I will try my best this year. Change that auto-setting.

But here it is now mid-October and the tree is finally responding to that pruning. You see that cluster of leaves on the right? It looked like those tiny sprouts above it just yesterday, and it will want to grow to an 8-12″ long branch to start, with the other sprouts coming right after it doing likewise. It’s doing just what I wanted, just not when. Tender growth is vulnerable growth. I have me a bit of a challenge here.

Those two curled larger yellow leaves on the left? Those popped out right before we left for DC, where the Christmas lights triggered on with the temp but there was no cover at night because we were out of town and looking at the weather reports I was hoping it should be okay, and I confess I neglected to start the covering process for the season during the first two days we were home again.

Seven nights of colder than they wanted and their growth is stunted.

Last year I erred on the side of getting the tree more sunlight in the morning. This year I’m putting the double-layer frost covers on at sundown and keeping them on till the day warms up more (we’re talking 19 degrees’ difference between 8 am and 9 am today, with sunrise at 7:21) and I just ordered what will be a third layer of frost blanket. Greenhouse-ing it on the cheap.

Still learning.

(Meantime, the bug has gone to my lungs but it’s still just a cold. I’m glad for the comfort of knowing I got my flu shot.)



More energy, more got done
Saturday September 24th 2016, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Mango tree

Something was wrong towards the end of the spring–it wouldn’t turn off automatically anymore. I unplugged it and called it done for the season.

A little troubleshooting and reprogamming (thank you Richard) and the automatic mango warming lights are now back in business.

Meantime, I started this with a recipient in mind but as I worked I found myself thinking of someone else. Incessantly. How much she would enjoy it. It kind of annoyed me at first because I really was making it for–

–wait what. Am I supposed to be getting something here and is it just going right past me.

So I stopped and said a prayer and let myself just feel whom it was supposed to be for: person A or person B? (Or anyone else, for that matter.) There’s no point in offering them ones they wouldn’t love as much. Or made of a fiber they can’t wear, maybe?

Person B.

Why it makes a difference, I have not a clue, and they’re both getting something from my needles. Switched, is all. And that’s fine.



Bubble wrapping
Friday September 16th 2016, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

Reading that book yesterday got me looking again…

It seems to be a new product, as far as I can tell. But it’s designed by actual gardeners for actual gardeners by a company that does actual customer service.

Meaning today I finally found what looks like it would be a great greenhouse for my Alphonso mango tree, The Sunbubble. The unusual shape is perfect.

The smaller version would be plenty for now. The bigger one would be more of a challenge to heat but the tree would have longer to grow into the space before having to be kept to that size, and it makes more sense to just buy the one and be done.

As long as we don’t go out of town when it’s cold I can keep on doing my two layers of frost covers every night over the Christmas lights thing. The idea of a greenhouse would be to be able to leave the tree on its own for more than a single daytime. I once left it for five days with a single frost cover over it because it (hopefully) wasn’t going to hit freezing–and even with the claim of 85% light transmission with just the one on, the leaf color took a major hit for a month.

Being able to pop that big thing right over its head, stake it down, and be done once and for all is highly appealing regardless.

I sent them a question re heating issues… To be continued.



Needs some new blue bulbs
Monday September 12th 2016, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

(Almost finished this hat project, putting it into its ziplock for the night.)

It’s probably a little early, but it was chilly this evening, and I figured if I needed a jacket, it needed a little something, too. And so I officially inaugurated the fall season by plugging in the newly reinstalled Christmas lights on the mango tree. Our own little constellation shining in the night.



Walked off the job
Friday July 08th 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

Five days later… I can actually see the difference across the yard from day to day. That set of three branches growing from one in Sunday’s picture? This is just the one that was at the back.

The older new leaves are greening up fast.

The long branch at lower right: it’s got a whorl of leaves about 2/3 up (even if they somehow vanish to the camera), which makes it the perfect place to prune it early next year to trigger another flush of growth in time for fruit to happen. (Having learned…) Lots of leaves means lots of new branches from the spot. Ten is my record so far.

Had a male California quail (video) wandering around the patio for the first time this year. A squirrel was incurably curious but pointed its tail hard at the intruder while straining its body away just as hard, nose stretched nevertheless towards this strange big bird in spite of the fear it was signaling: what WAS this thing?!

While the quail likewise was afraid of it but eventually, following a seed trail, got too close in spite of itself–at which point the squirrel flipped over half-backwards while the quail jumped hard the other way.

That didn’t go so badly. The squirrel wanted one good sniff from closer up now: Will it bite? Does it peck? Is it a bird? Can I eat it?

At that the quail took its deely-bopper headbanger ornament (*why* did evolution do that to it?) and announced with its feet we were done now.



Growing
Sunday July 03rd 2016, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

Six days later… 

My mango tree had two branches when it arrived in December nineteen months ago, twelve by the end of last summer, and it looks like we’ll have forty-five by the end of this.

(Fruit next year, then, right? Right, tree?)

All tucked in: the afghan now covers the feet if you don’t pull it too high up in your lap.

 

 



Woke it up
Tuesday June 28th 2016, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

I gave up on sweet-smelling flowers, much less fruit, and pruned the mango a lot last week. It looked so shrunken afterwards but it was overdue. It was supposed to have ripening mangoes by now. It was just sitting there, the limbs getting a bit longer but nothing else, when last year, it was starting to flush in January. January!

Three weeks ago I did, reluctantly, prune just two branches, my first time ever, baby steps towards seeing whether that would change anything. Oh boy did it. One, and actually one that I did not, almost immediately sprang into the flush of growth you see here–but the other one I pruned is shaded by the rest of the tree and is still taking its time.

Now, how you prune a tree when you don’t know what its long term growth patterns are is a mystery. What I’ve seen in its first 18 months: the trunk goes up. Then it curves over. Then the branches hang down in the winter. Then they do a wavy curl back upwards in spring, and whether they harden that way or not, whether the new sprouts that showed up at the top in the last two days will continue upwards for long, I don’t know. It’s not a trunk–it’s a puzzle piece.

Cut the branches to about two feet long the first two years, Fairchild Gardens says.  Okay.

The reddish new growth on the lower left of the tree? I’d read that the trick is to cut just past where there’s a grouping of leaves rather than a single one. I did. There are five new not leaves but full branches from it. I like that rate of return.

Cut where there’s a single leaf you’ll get a single branch. Or so they say.

But I found for the first time and bought a pair (and you do need two layers) of bigger frost covers for the coming winter, and I mean big, like, ten feet tall big. So now I don’t have to worry about it growing larger this year than I can keep protected.

I didn’t prune all the branches (see last photo). Maybe there’s still some last flowering hope? The bees so ardently love those blossoms, and so do I, and now that I know my next-door neighbors have a beehive, I can only imagine what their honey could taste like.

Whatever. I think my tree is suddenly going to be much, much fuller. Next year we will have mangoes.

 

 

 



Alphonsos from Dani and his mom!
Saturday June 18th 2016, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Mango tree,Wildlife

Dani, the instigator of my mango tree, came over with his love Svetlana with a special gift from his mother in India: actual fresh Alphonsos, sent from the tree he’d grown up with so that we could know what we had growing out there.

He took them out of the jar of rice he’d carried them here in, showing us the traditional storing method. “Here, smell this!”

A deep, wondering (will it smell like last year’s blossoms?) satisfying whiff… I am in awe that he was willing to part with them.

He told us his mom was as enthused as he and I both are that my tree is growing here and doing well. Even if the weather’s been too cool and the tree too young this year for it to produce yet, it did bloom last year. So next year. Now that I know that warmth makes a difference in inducing flowering from the buds, not just in protecting them from harm, I may buy a plastic greenhouse cover for it. There’s one with a zip-down window to keep it from overheating.

We took them outside and showed them the tree and Dani took video, I think to introduce us to his mom, although in the few seconds he had it going I didn’t figure that out fast enough to tell her thank you. To Dani’s mom, if you see this: Thank you so much! And to Dani and Svetlana, Thank you to you, too!

I reiterated my promise that they will get one of our very first mangoes. I can’t wait to share back.

A little more on Alaska: I’d been disappointed I hadn’t seen the twelve-foot grizzly we’d been told was on display at the airport; the kids had said it’s to warn the tourists not to be stupid.

While we were waiting for departure, our last chance, there it was after all. Look closely: past its glass display case there’s a row of seats and at the end closest there’s a man sitting hunched over his cellphone, not knowing he’s being used for scale.

Other than that we did not, to our knowledge, go near a bear. We did, however, see one single crow: at the edge of a bay, fearlessly divebombing the backside of a retreating bald eagle that had flown low over the boat we were disembarking from.

Nope, not a fishing boat, guys, sorry.

More on that tomorrow.



Change is slow, steady, and an absolute certainty
Monday February 15th 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

I knew, and yet finding this old photo it suddenly felt like I hadn’t known at all.

The mango tree February 2 last year and now. One year. And hidden in all those leaves, the ends of the branches are steadily working towards a big new burst of growth. My frost covers are barely holding it in at night as it is. 

Okay, that got me to look. Another startled surprise: hey! They’re selling much bigger ones than they used to (84×72 was the max I found last year), alright then, we’re good!



There be dragons
Sunday February 07th 2016, 12:01 am
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Mango tree

She’s recovering from surgery after breaking a hip but you can’t keep a good woman down–she was going to be ninety and by golly we were going to have a celebration. I think she told the doctor he had to okay it and well, hey, how could he not, then?

So celebrate we did. Ninety and a day. It was quite the party. Old friends came from Oregon for it, her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren came in from everywhere all over. The grandkids blew up balloons one by one to create this dragon that stretched far around overhead while the little greats gleefully popped as many as they could get their hands on. Hey, guys! (as one of the young parents told me afterwards.) Not all of them!

Balloons and tape (and a little hanging wire) can become this?! Creativity is a magical thing.

One of the grandchildren told me, I know your daughter! She was in grad school in Ann Arbor when we were!

And in the slide show there was a photo of Jean and her husband with Conway and Elaine that got me right there. It took me by surprise how fiercely I missed those three, mixed with my gratitude that we still have Jean.

I asked one of her sons if he remembered them and he said why yes of course. I told him their granddaughter had grown up and gone off to college and met and married my son and they had three children now.

That just made his day. Small world.

Jean grew up in Hawaii and misses the fresh-picked mangoes of her youth; she’s an avid gardener and has tried several times to grow them here but always lost the trees to the cold. She’s content now to cheer me on and I love that it matters to her how mine does.

I just figure she can’t go anywhere till I’ve finally had a chance to offer her one.