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.

All in a day’s growth
Thursday November 10th 2016, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

And a day later, wait, are those flower buds on the new mango branch? In November?! The camera kept wanting to focus on everything but them, but clearly, this week’s unseasonal warmth has been good for the tree. Several growth buds that looked completely dormant yesterday swelled an inch today. 

Whatever this other plant is, its scented flowers always begin when the rains come and I love it.

And the afghan keeps coming slowly along.


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.)