By their fruits ye shall know them
Monday March 31st 2014, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Wintertime cold (47 in the afternoon? Really?), wintertime rain, spring flowers at the door. Our utility bill that just came was surprisingly low so having already been a good girl and put on a second sweater I cranked up that heat completely guilt-free, quite glad for the new furnace. I ran the misdelivered mail next door and seriously wished for my coat as I chatted with the neighbor a moment.

I ripped out my buffalo yarn project completely and started over and am much happier with it.

And–a friend dropped by this evening. I’d told him my clamshell plan last year and he’d tried it on his Comice pears and actually gotten fruit off his tree at long last, just like me. He was thrilled. And even more so when we told him that we had a Comice too, now, that that was all I’d wanted for Valentine’s Day and that Richard had helped me plant it.

I did? asked Richard. Oh, that’s right, I did.

The guy was quite interested to hear me say that the squirrels had raided my Fujis in years past at fingernail size. Huh. Maybe his Fuji apple had set fruit after all. That early? He was going to go to Smart N Final and buy more clamshells and watch his now-blossoming apple tree like a hawk.

You can buy them? Smart N Final?

I was really glad he’d stopped by. So was he.

And they grow, and grow, and grow
Sunday March 30th 2014, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,My Garden

Fatigue with a twinge of lupus so you’re getting the easy post tonight: a bit of spring.

Got the peach tree photo by holding the camera high over my head and snapping a lot. Bigger and redder by the day. The neighbors are hoping we encourage the tree to, y’know, kinda lean thataway and over the fence and if we got this much growth in just one year it seems like it would take no time at all to. They were seriously considering planting their own as well, maybe a later variety.

Some friends were collecting clamshells, unbeknownst to us, and asked me at church today: did I want them this year too?


Michelle has already put in her request for peach pie.

All in good time, hon.



Wild thing
Saturday March 29th 2014, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

We were eating dinner when we heard it– “That was a bird hitting the window,” he said after a moment’s pause in response to my questioning look, and knowing the speed at which Cooper’s hawks fly that there was no chance, still, I got up and walked into the family room just in case.

And there he was, standing on my amaryllis pots just outside the window.

He doesn’t usually mind me, but reasonably enough he doesn’t like human movement towards him when he’s hunting (oh oops didn’t see him as fast as he saw me) and he took off for his favorite spot on the fence.

Japanese-style fans that accordioned together into a narrow sliver of possibility were one of the toys of my childhood, all those colors and designs hiding in there waiting to be opened and discovered. It’s like that every time Coopernicus flares his tail in flight: drab gray becomes vividly striped in white, straight becomes curved.

But even though he definitely had other things on his mind, he stopped a moment to look eye to eye with me. Even if from a little further away.

Remembering the twice now that he’s followed me to a downed bird, I turned to see if there was one below the corner window, but he already knew there wasn’t and that it had gotten away and with that he was off.

About that size
Friday March 28th 2014, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

I have a ton of ends to weave in and some blocking to do to make it look a bit more polished. It’s a good problem to (finally!) have. Car pattern by Lucinda Guy from her Handknits for Kids book.

Note that I am missing one green stitch on the back of the car from her pattern and it made it more VW Buggy-ish. I crocheted a steering wheel and the first tire wheel in orange so it would better match Parker’s sweater but found I didn’t care for the effect and I put them aside and let it stay simple.

More apple blossoms open today and more rain tomorrow–work fast, little honeybees. (Not complaining! More rain in this drought!)

I frogged five times on that first armhole, trying to get the number of white and blue stitches picked up to match, trying to get the look just right–y’know, there’s a *reason* designers deserve to get paid; other than the car, I was winging it.

I took a break from it after finally nailing the first one just so just in time to see the Cooper’s hawk catch a dove and fly to the fence with it and stop there a minute, the tail of its meal towards me rather than the face (thank you). He watched me a moment as I took in the relative sizes of the two birds and then he flew to where he would be less in view of the thieving crows (who steer clear of my yard thanks to him, but one does not risk food in the wild.) If he has nestlings this early in the season they were well fed today.

As were we. Richard and I went out for ice cream at Smitten.

A toddler, old enough to run but not quite old enough to talk yet, was dashing back and forth between his daddy and the person behind there making their ice cream, giggling adorably over and over at the occasional puffs of dry ice from behind the counter that he could just barely tiptoe up to see. One, two…happy anticipation…There it comes again! and he would run back to his daddy’s legs and giggle some more.

I quietly eyeballed the kid, having finished the last of that ribbing right before we’d gone out the door: yeah–I think this’ll fit Hudson okay. A little big but not too. I think. Thank you, little one.

String along
Thursday March 27th 2014, 11:59 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Remember when AOL used to send everybody’s mailboxes Subscribe-Now! CDs? Snailmail spam?

That was about when someone told me that hanging those in my apple tree would keep the birds and squirrels away.  What I found, though, was that they ate the ones furthest from the CDs, then gradually worked their way over closer until there was just an apple or two but the process didn’t take long at all. Scary they were not. Then the last would be gone, too.

As often as not the strings the CDs had been hanging on would be quickly tangled in the limbs anyway, and I gave up on the idea and cut them all down and out of there.

I was snapping a few pictures this evening, trying not to make them look like all the others I’ve already shown you, but this stopped me right there, staring. It couldn’t be.

It was. One of those strings from long ago, with the tree grown around it–it’s embedded clear through the center of a major limb now and out the other side. It’s not very big, so it’s not likely to weaken anything, it’s just there.

And all these years I never saw it before. (!) All these times these past two years where I’ve been observing the growth and changes as close to every day’s sundown as I can manage it, and it had simply taken on the color of the branch it had become part of, had grown a bit stiff in the great outdoors, and was indistinguishable and I didn’t see it till it moved slightly in the breeze in a way a small limb would not.

It had become one with the tree it was stationed to protect.

Rain and hawk and fruit and friend
Wednesday March 26th 2014, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Food,My Garden,Recipes

More apple and peach photos… And I saw the hawk! After the downpour was over, swooping by almost unseen for his speed, then in full view, then five more almost-missed-that swoops, again and again. Protecting his nest?

A friend who’s an avid birder dropped by, and we pulled up chairs side-by-side and watched the show at the feeder as we chatted. She mentioned that her hawk never shows her anything gory, just feathers gently wafting in the breeze.  Ours too. “Oh, there’s your wren,” she added. But she just missed meeting Coopernicus.

And. After writing last night’s post about appreciating those who make it so our food comes to us and not wasting their work, I went in the kitchen, where I had a bunch of bananas that were right at that perfect point–and where they would be just past it in the morning and I knew it. Time to practice a little more of what I’d just preached.

I squeezed a Meyer lemon, threw the bananas in the Cuisinart, decided it needed a second lemon and certainly didn’t need any sugar and I whirred the thing for several minutes.

It came out with a texture like angel food cake batter. Curious. Warm, though, of course, after applying all that friction to it, so I put it in the freezer, remembering that my mom would do that and then take it out and whip it again briefly in the frozen state to break down any large ice crystals and call it done.

And then of course I entirely forgot my new sorbet all day so we still have something to look forward to.



Deep-seeded need
Tuesday March 25th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,My Garden

I looked all over that little cherry tree yesterday for any sign of future blooming and found nothing but leaves anywhere.

And yet today, after a little bit of rain…well there you go now.

Meantime, I pulled the big Costco clamshell of red seedless grapes out of the fridge to make pink orange juice with: rinse a big handful and throw them in the blender with the fresh-squeezed. Bananas and mango juice add-ins optional.

The grapes, imported from Chile, had faint waves of the very slightest dust across their curves, as if they had been rinsed in the field but not quite enough. There is never any question that I’ll wash them too and definitely say a prayer over my food, but, somehow the unexpected sight instantly connected me to people far, far away from me.

Walking down the rows in a vineyard. Cutting the clusters off, putting them in wooden crates perhaps, again and again, hard work in the sun, never getting to meet the people they would be feeding by their labors. Do they ever wonder about us?

I suddenly felt duty-bound to them not to waste a one. Here, have a smoothie with me, I’ve got another two pounds to use up this week and I don’t want to let a single grape go bad. Oh wait–I could freeze them like ice cubes–there you go.

And rather than just asking a quick half-thought blessing on my lunch, I found myself thanking Above for those individuals and asking Him to take good care of them, whoever and wherever they were out there. I don’t know them, but He does.

And I found myself profoundly grateful that they do what they do.

And in my own backyard…
Monday March 24th 2014, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Family,My Garden

The cherry tree has woken up over the last week or so.

The older-than-us Meyer lemon keeps on offering more.

The olive tree is feeding the squirrels and jays, and judging by the wildly-flailing tails and paws and leaps to safety, the tastiest parts are at the outermost tips of the very flimsiest branches. *headdust*

The plum tree set a fair amount of fruit despite being rained on during most of its blooming, while the apples are holding off just, just a little bit for the late rains expected this week. Starting tomorrow! (Oh thank goodness.)

The pear tree is slowly stirring and coming to.

The peaches continue one after another after another in the expected sequence of future ripening.

The three blueberries are in their dogcrate of a cage. Sit! Stay!

The Fuji has four flowers open  and the other apple almost has its first….

A little rain, and we’ll take all we can get. A little sunshine.

I look forward to being able to tell the grandkids to go pick whatever they want when it’s ripe. And still there there will be room to run around and play in as they get bigger and the trees do too. And to climb on.


The path in the woods
Sunday March 23rd 2014, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A circle of trees estimated to be 400 years old, growing from a shared original base close to the ground: a fairy ring that the little ones squeezed into and climbed around and through in wonder. Redwoods close behind, a trampoline hanging by chains from far, far overhead in the bay laurel (here’s a picture of one), made into a swing in the shade big enough to lie down on and look up at the branches.

Flowers for butterflies. Monarchs in summer. A little wooden bridge over a now-dry creekbed.

A friend our parents’ age was widowed not long ago and, knowing that we too are from the East Coast, invited us over tonight to see her southern dogwood tree while it is in full bloom. I wish I had thought to take its picture. I did take hers but sent it only to her.

We had dogwoods growing wild in the yard where I grew up, small slow-growing shade-loving trees under taller canopies, and I miss them. There are vanishingly few of them to be found here.

Her tree was the most magnificent specimen I think I’ve ever seen. It has grown in her yard a long time.

She planted it.

She is a weaver.

A young family had been invited too, a chance for her to get to know some new people, and their little children loved exploring her woodsy back yard with her as their guide.

When the three year old got too close to the rails on that little bridge I put my cane out straight to hem him in a bit, and his four year old brother just in front of him grabbed it gladly as his guide forward and for steadying comfort in the deepening dusk. Sticks and little boys just naturally go together anyway. I walked very carefully to make sure it didn’t fail them in any way.

It was the family I’d brought the blueberry cake to and the baby, having figured out I was okay, played peekaboo with me with great glee.

She shared cookies and lemonade with those blossoms just outside the window as the sun called it a day. When the little ones finished theirs, she showed them the path around the kitchen, the living room, and back again to the dining room so that they could run in giggling circles as we talked.  We picked up the baby a few times when his feet didn’t quite go as fast as his eyes did while trying to keep up; he stayed happy. He has just started to babble. We were charmed. We had such a lovely, lovely evening of it.

Sometimes all we need to do is simply get together.

No morcellation
Saturday March 22nd 2014, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Non-Knitting

Stumbled across an article in the New York Times vitally, and I use that word literally, important to women dealing with potential surgery for fibroids or more.

There are quite a few comments there by Hooman Noorchashm, the doctor who started the raising of the alarm. He is facing losing his 41-year-old wife, also a doctor, the mother of their six children, because her OB/GYN did what has become a standard surgery in that specialty: laparoscopy with morcellation of the fibroid. Far faster recovery, tiny little scar, back to work much sooner, what’s not to love.


Dr. Noorchashm, a surgeon himself, points out that morcellation is not done by any other surgeons in any other specialty–and for good reason: it not only breaks up the offending tissue and sucks it out, but it also spews it widely within the abdomen, and if there is any cancer lurking in those cells it’s suddenly everywhere and in the bloodstream.

Which is what happened to his wife. Her fibroids could have been removed intact and sent to pathology and instead she was suddenly an instant Stage IV leiomyosarcoma patient.

Leiomyosarcoma, he points out, is incurable and a fast death.

It is also what my mother-in-law died of a year ago. She was told that maybe when they did her hysterectomy years ago they missed a few cells which turned into ovarian cancer, but they found that that wasn’t quite what she had.

Going by the commenters on that article, it is believed in the leiomyosarcoma community that that misdiagnosis as ovarian accounts for quite a few of the cases of what MomH had, which our family was told was a highly rare disease.

Maybe not so much. Dr. Noorchashm says it’s one in 400 to 1000 of the fibroid cases that go to surgery and that every one of those cases could be treated by intact removal. Or have it go like his wife’s case. The cells might lay dormant for years and then suddenly go wild or they might get right to it, but either way it is not treatable at that point and invariably fatal. He is agitating, with good cause, for morcellation to simply cease to be done. Size of incision is not the purpose of surgery, he points out.

There’s a lot more in there about the economics of the device manufacturers and of some hospitals’ requirements that doctors do so many to keep their privileges to use those machines. There is even a morcellation procedure that encases the tissue but it is much less often done.

Patients are typically not told that the surgeon intends to do morcellation during their procedure nor what it means. A patient commented that it was not on their Informed Consent list. Patients need to know. If the doctors aren’t changing their methods to keep up with the new information, the patients need to stand up for themselves and ask and then tell them no.

And to think two or three years ago I was in an OB/GYN’s office debating whether to have fibroid surgery. We decided to see if a little more aging would take care of it, and it did. I had no desire to have my abdomen opened up yet again even a little bit and the gynecologist wasn’t pushing it.

I had no idea….

I’m trying to help get the word out to make sure that others do.

Hopefully that’s that
Friday March 21st 2014, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Spent the day in the car and later working on one. I think I’ll duplicate-in those couple of stitches missing on the tailgate (charts…) when I tighten up those wheels.

Even with an official ground-ship label from the seller, you can’t send lithium-iron batteries back without the covers to all the connectors. And we’d lost one when we were opening the box up before we knew one of the batteries was a dud.

Last night Richard tossed out some ideas of where I might be able to replace the little thing. Wait–the Batteries Plus people ought to be the best bet, even if they’re a hike, but hey, said he. They’ll recycle the old batteries anyway so you might as well try there.

I went down there today and the guy smiled and said, You’ve been here before.

Yes, I smiled back.  Then when I pulled out of my pocket one of the covers that I still had and explained my dilemma, he and the younger guy chuckled, no biggy, the younger guy dove into a box right next to him and he pulled out two. I asked how much I owed them and they waved me away and said it wasn’t anything. “It’s $140 to me,” I told them gratefully; now I could return both.

When I got home I found he’d given me two sizes, and the first one I tried was close but it just wasn’t quite it. The second? Perfect. Covers went on, I taped them down for good measure like one site had said you had to do for safety, took the things in the original boxes within the box back to FedEx–and stumped the clerk.

My printout of the barcode for them to print out the shipping label wouldn’t scan. She didn’t know what to do. She was about to turn me away. I had one of those moments where I had the bright idea when I needed it rather than afterwards and I asked if I could forward Martin’s email to an email address for the store, and there was one and she scanned the thing from her own machine and that worked. No charge to me was very nice.

Assuming Starkpower finds no fault with our handling of the batteries–and they absolutely shouldn’t–we are finally finally done with that expensive chore. (Now to finish the taxes…)

Meantime, Purlescence last night thankfully had one last skein of the Cascade Longwood green that I used on Parker’s sweater and I could finally get going again on Hudson’s matching birthday sweater. I could have used the leftover orange from Parker’s digger for the car, and maybe should have, but as a Prius driver somehow going green seemed the way to go.

Maybe I’ll add a sun?

The first day of Spring
Thursday March 20th 2014, 10:49 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Here it was two days ago. No flower buds.

The Fuji apple tree was coming more and more alive this past week, sprouts of leaves increasing a good half inch a day, while the Yellow Transparent sat there looking glum and dark and dead as winter.

Then yesterday the very first signs of buds began above those Fuji leaves (but with no stems to speak of 24 hours ago, look at that!) and I thought, well I guess the two apples won’t start blooming a day apart like last year.

But yesterday there was also the tiniest stirring of life on two branches of the Yellow Transparent, finally: a swelling at the tips just there and there that looked like they might open up into greenness at any minute.

Only they didn’t.  They turned pink instead and divided up into buds, that fast (last picture).  And there were more of them, clusters in a race with the Fuji’s with baby Transparent leaves as an afterthought. Quite a different growth pattern. Curious.  I can’t wait to take a picture of both of them in full flower, and I wish I could share how heavenly they smell when they do.

Why did it take so many years for me to really get into growing my own fruit when it’s so easy? Plant a stick and let it take it from there. I let the critters stop me. Not anymore.

Last year I learned that I need to snap those clamshells on the sweeter Fujis from the moment the apples form. I’m going to need to find a lot more of the things in the next two weeks. It’s a good problem to have.

And if you don’t want to fuss with the produce clamshells, I’m told that the wildlife leaves a friend’s Granny Smiths completely alone. All their family has to do is pick them.


The great wool giveaway
Wednesday March 19th 2014, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life,Lupus,My Garden

Something nibbled on a one-inch peach, found it terrible, and went for a second. Time for the clamshells.


I met her boss briefly a year ago. We had just flown back from my mother-in-law’s funeral and my daughter was on a two-day bereavement leave, but there was something she needed at her office and I drove down there with her–it was a time of needing to simply be together as a family as much as possible before ordinary life took over again. Such a strange thing that would feel like.

He came downstairs along with another co-worker and, as I quickly put my knitting aside and rose to my feet, they introduced themselves to me and warmly offered their condolences. I came away glad she worked for them.

Today  found me driving her back to that office: the boss was transferring to another country (home, for him) and there was to be a surprise going-away party for him and she didn’t quite feel up to that drive and back.

I said I would sit in the car and quietly knit for however long, no hurries. I cracked a back window–it’s the warmest day we’ve had in awhile–and she looked askance at that and said we can’t have you exposed to the sun like that. (Re the lupus.) Come on in the lobby. He won’t see you and he wouldn’t recognize you if he did.

Oh, ask I, intrigued, does he have face blindness? (Too? Like me?) But how many women does he know with gray hair and a cane and, this is the big one, *knitting*? There? I didn’t want to give away the surprise.

She wasn’t about to diagnose the guy but she assured me it would be fine and said he would never recognize nor even see me and so I cranked the window back up and found myself inside on a nice leather seat near the door where you could see people coming down the stairs or in the front door or out from the hallway off to the left–same chair as last time.

But I was prepared. I didn’t just have my knitting. I had my Time magazine. So I could go, y’know, incognito like that. Only, as I pulled it out of my purse, apparently I had just recycled this week’s (the truck came today, it’s gone) and kept last week’s because I have a great visual memory like that. Checking the cover? Oh. Darn. I flipped through a few pages, thought oh well, put it back and pulled out my knitting. A skein of Jacques Cousteau from Madeline Tosh, the one I bought at the MadTosh shop in Ft. Worth when we went to visit with my mother-in-law for the last time, actually; it was my souvenir skein from that trip.

Wait. I think that’s? But no, he didn’t look my way at all. Huh. The idea that I would recognize someone a year later after only seeing their face once was very highly unlikely anyway, so, okay, not.

Michelle showed up awhile later having clearly had a great time. And laughing, because….

…Hi, Michelle, I saw your mom downstairs!

He’d gone out the front doors for just a moment, forgotten his badge, had had to go to the security guy a few feet away from me and ask permission to go back in to work–the guy had chuckled and waved him on in, he was hardly a stranger–and there I was, right in my spot, I think with even the same color yarn as last time, knitting away.

Totally busted.

Tuesday March 18th 2014, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

First, a side note: Starkpower immediately resolved the battery-shipping issue. Good people.


The alarm was blaring and it was dark and, wrenched half-awake, it took me a moment to figure out what on earth was wrong with that stupid thing. It had no business going off like–oh. Right.

We piled in the car and drove through traffic and across the Bay as the sun rose, and since I wasn’t the one at the wheel I got a good view of a peregrine falcon (!) perched on a light pole at the edge of Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge. Saw a red-shouldered hawk on another one. Coming back later, there was a snowy egret near the edge of the tide in the breeding plumage that gives it its name, wings held out just enough that I got to see such a sight for the first time in my life. Glorious.

We made it to the Park and Call at the airport just as she was walking out from her plane, her old college friend happily married off now. I leaped out and grabbed her bag for her and swooped it into the trunk. Um, on the second try because I’m a klutz like that. I got back in behind where I’d been so that she could recline the front seat and give her back a break  after her flight.

Dropped Richard off at work so I could take her to her doctor appointment later in the morning because, as early as we got up, she got up a whole lot earlier, while jet-lagged, too, not to mention the whole major-pain thing still going on for her.

I was thinking ruefully a few minutes ago that with people coming over tomorrow I didn’t get much done today, much though I wanted to; I’ve been just too tired.

But you know? Actually, I did. A lot.

NASA aims
Monday March 17th 2014, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

(That title is a pun for the locals. And the peaches, they are growing by the day–click on the photo for a closer look if you want.)

A very loud aircraft was suddenly somewhere very near this afternoon and the birds, who usually ignore such things, took flight.

The big, aggressive fox squirrels have tiny ears set way back. And so the big forward ears on the small gray squirrel under the feeder conveyed to me that she was as much the shy retiring type as such things ever are.

And when that loud penetrating rumble started up she turned right around and faced the clear source of that angry sound: me.

She held her paws together tightly in front as if clutching a handbag. Frozen in place.

The birds flitted back and started heedlessly flinging little pings of safflower seeds and hulls down around the little squirrel; they bounced around her on this side and that, just missing (boing!) again and again.

Finally one made a direct hit on her tail.

There was no response, no startle or sudden distraction of tail-cleaning, just a continued steadfast staring at me.

And then I stood up to go do something a moment and she leaped high with a twisting sideways bounce in a way they only do when a predator is right on them–but then in the rest of the run to the tree there was this slowing-down of oh, right…it’s Feederfiller. I remember her… All stomp no chomp.

And I went back to my sweater project, clutching my purls myself.