Whatever we do they’ll taste good
Monday March 16th 2015, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Lupus

The first day of blooming for the Stella cherry.

Caught another cold and slept very little last night but it didn’t stop me from doing more digging and planting this evening. The prep work for the Gold Nugget mandarin is done, other than that nicked water line. The one single zucchini/pattypan hybrid seed I sprouted inside is now out there giving it its all, hoping for not-too-cold nights. What the heck. I put more seeds down near the baby plant–we can sauté the flowers and skip scaring the neighbors with the excess.

The friend who’d recommended Black Jack figs has hers espaliered.

I waited for Richard to get his input. After digging a hole in the corner at the end of the row the Stella is on (which was fine with him) and then thinking no, I don’t want it there, I went back to our original plan, which was to put it in a pot to help limit its size with the least effort or at least to buy us some time till we decide to do otherwise while we see just how fast this thing grows. Turns out we’d had different ideas on where that pot should go so I’m glad I waited; he’s been so supportive and I’m trying to return the favor.

He most wanted it up against the back fence, thinking how about to the far right from the cherry picture.

I could so easily espalier it right there and ditch the ugly Costco fake-wine-half-barrel thing and that would work really well.

If I wanted to. Not sure I do. Fig trees are pretty and I want it pretty. (Okay, and I’ve never done anything remotely like espalier work before.) But we could always transplant later–the Stella used to be in that same pot.

So I took it over by the tea roses where he wanted. It took some work to pull its bulging sleeve off–it turned out the roots had grown into every molecule of space and where they’d hit bottom they’d curled around and back into the mass like a felted knitted thing. Planted like that, they would strangle themselves. They were already working hard at it. There was nothing for it but to cut them apart and pull as hard as I could, again and again, doing as little as possible and as much as I had to and separating them into roughly four solid clumps with a few stragglers and hoping that would be enough.

But at that point I was fast running out of daylight and a decision had to be made.

A stick in the mud in the pot. Plunk. It’ll do for now.

Half right
Sunday March 15th 2015, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

This is my favorite peach blossom photo so far, the Indian Free–just wait till there are hundreds of these all at once. I’m going to let the tree concentrate on establishing its structure this first year, no peaches, but for now I’ll share it with the honeybees. It’s too pretty not to.

Re the knitting. I had an appointment with the eye doctor Friday that I knew was likely to take awhile, so, needing a portable project I grabbed some yarn and needles on my way out the door.

Dark yarn does not go with dilated eyes when you’re trying not to make a mobius strip on your circular needles. I made a mobius strip. And that of course is one of the great things about knitting: if you don’t like what you did you can simply turn it back into anonymous plain yarn. Try not to raspberry at it in triumph while it’s getting all wound up about it.

When the doctor explained that having two early-stage cataracts was normal for people in their 50s and 60s I had this strong inner protest of But *I’M* not that old! Mercifully stifled almost as instantly by the common-sense thought that oh wait. Yes. Yes, actually, I am. Well, the one not the other but still.

I could really have put myself out on a limb there.

The Morello of the story is, it’s Pi day
Saturday March 14th 2015, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

Sweet cherries are wonderful but there is nothing like a sour one for pies.

I jotted down all the varieties and dates yesterday: Stella cherry, May 29-June 14, Santa Rosa plum, June 25-July 5, English Morello cherry? Right in between there at June 9-22, the best I was going to get. Those are average ripening times where the grower is in the Central Valley but it tells me what the spacing is so that I don’t have everything happening all at once. The other sour cherries ripened when my sweet Stella does and the English Morello needs a lot fewer chill hours to set fruit than some of the others–so. It was definitely the one.

Checking around, I ended up on the phone yesterday again with San Lorenzo Garden Center in Santa Cruz, where I got that glorious Indian Free peach a month ago.

Yes, they had one. Yes, they would hold it for me. I told them I would come today to get it.

What they didn’t say was that bare root trees were going to be half off today.

And so we set off noon-ish over twisting, steep, narrow Highway 17 with Richard (oh thank you thank you) at the wheel over the mountains (he’s a peach).

And as we went we discussed whether to get more than just that sour cherry. Having allowed as how a good fig was okay by him and with me saying I would want to keep it in a pot so it doesn’t take over the world–and we had the pot–we decided to see what we could see.

We couldn’t find the cherry. Any cherry. We asked for help. The guy looked awhile just like we had and being distracted with multiple people loaded a tree on our cart while I was over looking at mandarins, and as I headed back and looked askance at the height of that thing Richard was going, Uh, the tag says this is a birch.

Oh right. Sorry, he said. (Off with the birch.)

Nope, I checked again, the cherry was definitely not in Plant Hold–and just as I started to say wistfully that we had come from over the hill for it I found it over there with the other bare-roots still but with a tag on it: Sold. With my name and phone number. YES!

By now someone else was helping us out and she asked me (it was quickly clear to her I was the one most vested in this) what shape I wanted: central leader or vase?

I had my opinion but she’s the expert so I told her how I wanted to block the neighbors’ windows as it grew: Vase, said she, and pruned it on the spot. “You’ll need spacers,” looking at the angles on those limbs.

“I have spacers.”

She smiled and nodded.  She found a small broken root I would never have noticed and trimmed it off and we were good to go.

Black Jack figs were the variety most recommended to me by a friend who grows several types in our area and so the only one I was interested in. They had a beautiful one. Score.

I was hoping to find a Kishu mandarin. Turns out they’d sold the last one for the year a half hour before we’d gotten there and the growers themselves were completely out of stock.

Having gotten the Page tanangelo I wanted last summer, I wanted a tangerine for Richard, one without grapefruit parentage.

Gold Nugget starts producing after Page is done and not only is the fruit marvelous, it waits on the tree throughout the summer for you to get to as it suits you. (Squirrel netting here we definitely come.)

The surprise of the day was the total. The cherry tree? All of $12.50. The fig? $10. The mandarin, a new, patented variety, was also on sale, and at $25 was the splurge of the day.

$12.50 for organically grown sour cherry pie for life, sweetened with the tangerine juice to come. Not a bad way to celebrate 3/14/15.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to see that cherry in the ground where it’s been looking so bare. The roots were wide–this is good–but it took more work than I expected. (I knew about that old water pipe now. I did not know about that olive root the stump grinder had missed.) I definitely earned my good night’s sleep tonight.

The Gold Nugget will go in that second hole over where I nicked that pipe Thursday night but there are only so many hours in one Saturday and we didn’t get that repaired quite yet. No hurry, that tree came potted.

Monday I’ll get back to work.

Apple, Pi
Friday March 13th 2015, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

Remember last September when I lifted Parker up high to pick the last two apples off our Fuji tree?

Turns out he sure did.

So last weekend while we were at their house he had his mommy cut him up an apple, sliced across the equator so he could pick the seeds out and offer them to me. He was telling me I could plant them. He offered me the other half of the apple but I let him eat mine, too. He likes apples. He likes picking out the seeds. So that was fine by him.

Kim explained so I would be clued in as to what a gift I was being offered.

Parker is totally sold on this idea of apple seeds growing into apple trees and then apples growing on those trees and starting the whole apple cycle all over again. Turns out he’s been saving all his and burying them down in the ground while taking walks, at the park, wherever it looks to him like it might be a good spot. Might take awhile but he’s ready to see it happen and he’s getting them started and knowing that I too like apple trees, he wanted to share the possibility with me of my making my own, too. From his seeds! So it would be our tree together!

My plate got cleared from the table by one of the menfolk who’d missed that conversation while I was trying to find something to take them home in to plant because how could I not. (The coin part of my wallet. That would have done it. Didn’t think of it fast enough.) I was thinking I would send him pictures as one sprouted and grew in a little pot and we would see where it went from there. (Not worrying about chill hour needs yet–what variety was that?)

Gone. Oh oops.

To my relief Parker took it as no big deal. There will be more apples to eat. He’s on it.

Overly gushing
Thursday March 12th 2015, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

Did more research on various tree possibilities and wanted to be ready for when we get them.

At 6 pm I started digging near where the olive used to be. At one point I positioned the spade upright as if it were a trunk and went back inside and sat down and looked over: yes, that will block the view of the neighbors’ windows just right, I don’t have to redo. That one’s the project I most want done.

Despite the amount of old decorative gravel needing lifting away it had gone fairly easily, and so as long as I was being ambitious I started in on the next spot. I wasn’t planning as big a hole this time, just enough to get something in there and let it take over from there. (Read: there was a lot less organic material and a lot more packed clay in the second area–it was a lot harder to get through and no matter how much I enjoy working in the dirt, I was tiring fast. Lots more rocks, lots more clipping away of old roots, too. Maybe I could do enough tomorrow to add soil amendments.)

Now when the stump grinder guy was here a few days ago, he found a black plastic water line that my husband had put in years ago. He was afraid of hitting it and for him to continue he needed me to write and sign a note absolving him of all responsibility should it go off. That was certainly reasonable and I did so. Worst case would be having to turn off the water to the house till Richard got home–I wanted those stumps gone and I wanted to be able to replant.

No problem, there was no breach, and when I went out later I found it pulled up out of the ground from here to here and tossed towards the fence and out of the guy’s way.

So I knew where it was.

I didn’t know there were two.

And yes, I hit it. There was a sudden small but intense geyser that just missed my $8888/pair hearing aids. What I still didn’t know was that there was a live electric wire just past that line well under that dirt and that I was lucky not to have severed that too, much less touched the water and electric together. Yow.

They had been run underground there by the guy whose house we bought 28 years ago. Power to the decades-unused/unworking-I-think timer box that I simply never notice (box? What box? Ooooh. That explains it.)

Richard’s take on it was that the guy seemed to have used probably the cheapest material he could and finding a match was going to be interesting. We were able to turn off the outside water to that side of the yard and that did shut it off.

Well, I can plant in the one spot for now….

That first hole better be big enough for whatever roots come home because I now know what runs past there. Digging that deep through that clay the entire length of that pipe to pull it out, with that power line–nope, not me.

But I’ve been marveling ever since: so *that’s* why I made that first hole so far forward from the fence. Who knew.

On the fence
Wednesday March 11th 2015, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Lupus,Mango tree,Wildlife

My daughter-in-law two days ago: “I love that stage where they’re learning to talk.”

Gam-ma (as Hudson calls me, in two separate words): “Me, too!”

Meantime, back home where things are quieter, the bird feeder had been empty an hour or so while I waited for the sun to get lower; I filled it right before cooking dinner and then we ate.

Meaning the flock was hungry and staying away and then a fair number would all have been coming in at once, starting, often, with the doves. And meaning we were out of sight of the windows when they would have been doing so.

These things do not go unnoticed.

Dishes begun, I had my hand on the door to go out in back when I realized all too late that there was the Cooper’s hawk right there smack dab in the middle of the bare-these-days fence line. The only time I’d seen him of late was when he flew directly overhead last week as a crow dive-bombed him, apparently actually striking once, while its mate chased and chastised and two others joined in half-heartedly from the side but swooped back away before getting any too close. I know they go after him if he’s got a meal in claw and I know they badly want to own his nesting tree next door. If you chance to see a large dark bird swaying unsteadily at the tippy-top of a tall tree, likely it’s a crow or raven playing king of the mountain. But for all their swagger they dare not fly as high as the raptors soar.

He was having none of that. No stealth tonight. This was an in-their-face declaration: I own this. The finches had fled but he had stayed–food was clearly not what was on his mind.

Only, I was moving right at that door and he saw me coming before I saw him.

The moment hung in the air, eye to eye, me surprised and mentally apologizing. I want more hawk sightings, not fewer.

He lifted his wings and was off across the yard in no particular hurry (and I know how fast he can go when he wants to) and in no fear. But there are certain protocols a wild thing must abide by.

And on a smaller scale.

There was yet another honeybee on the frost cover as I took it off the mango tree this morning, but this one was healthy and alive. How do you help a thing that will sting you for it, but I batted once gently at the back of both fabric and bee and it was freed to go.

Yesterday’s flower is nearly spent and its center is beginning to look like these already. The young tree may shed these soon or they may grow to all they could become. I remember Dani exclaiming, when he was encouraging us to plant this tree, “If you don’t try it you will never know!”

I love that I get to find out. And then, finally, to know.

Catching up a bit
Tuesday March 10th 2015, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

Madison. Hudson with a hammer, but I find I got no good pictures of Parker (thought I did). Hudson had given up his pacifier recently but with a cold he wanted that extra dose of comfort back for the moment and found one.

The stump grinder came today and our yard is now ready for whatever comes next. The big root I planted the Indian Free peach over? The six feet of it that showed above ground (I think it’s the same one, despite the distance between) is all gone now, along with the last of the trees taken out last week. All wood chips and mulch now.

I was looking around this evening and I found one perfect dark blueberry and brought it happily in for Richard. Who, after I handed it to him, popped it into my mouth with a grin.

The Babcock and Indian Free peaches are confirming that they will indeed bloom together, as we need them to. They are going to be glorious in spring in the years to come–I wish I could let you all inhale the sweet essence.

I had never seen a mango flower before in my life. Now I have. (The red dot is the top of a thermometer.) There is a whole new sprig of buds that wasn’t there last week.

We left the frost cover on while we were out of town to keep up the warmth at night, figuring one day of lower light wouldn’t harm the tree but one or two cold nights would. I’m sorry to say another honeybee snagged its toe in that cover and died.

So my putting the thing well away from the plants during the day has been a good idea. It also means the bees really want those mango flowers.


And home again
Monday March 09th 2015, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Hoping the new try on the email finally fixes it.)

Madison at ten weeks is learning to smile.

Parker was disappointed that once again, we were not going to be at their house forever. His grampa explained to him that last time he had wanted us to stay longer, so this time we stayed an extra day for him.

Oh. And at that he decided not to cry that we were leaving him again but to be happy that he’d gotten what he’d asked for.

He went quietly off to bed rather than taking us to the airport, but Hudson came with us, with me sitting in the back next to him, and as we approached the airport his defiance of our being about to go away took the form of him teasing me, Yuh bag guy! (You’re a bad guy!)

No, I’m a good guy!

(Grin.) Yuh bag guy! (Tee hee!)

We got one last peek-a-boo game with him grinning ducking down into his carseat, hugs all around, a wave, and we were off to catch our flight. Which was delayed an hour, or as I put it, We win!

Bed after 1 am. Yawn.

(Edited to add, after LynnM’s and DebbieR’s comments: my email is up! It worked!!)

Snowed over
Friday March 06th 2015, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Wildlife

I have finally seen, in the wild, a snowy egret in the breeding plumage that gave it its name and nearly caused its extinction a hundred years ago. It was preening, showing off quite nicely.

While standing on top of a light pole over the freeway during the rush-hour crawl. Urban wildlife.

Meantime, my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes recommended by my sister went from a bit of curled-over emerging white to green leaves flung upwards in a Ta daaah! all in the course of the day, totally beating out the Brandy Boys. See what Janice started last year?

(Still working on that email problem. My apologies.)

Fig get about it
Thursday March 05th 2015, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

The email’s been wonky for a few days and despite some work by the resident geek last night it failed altogether–so if you didn’t hear back from me, I apologize, and we’re hoping (again) that it’ll all be good to go by morning.

The trees, however, were not stumped; when the grinding crew is ready they’ll let me know.

Years ago we had a volunteer fig right up against the fence on the far side of the yard and it grew from seed to two feet above that fence and with a few actual figs on it all in a single season. But it was already proving that living, growing wood is stronger than dead planks and that had to be the end of that.

That same year, the neighbors over thisaway whose house we now have a better view of had a fig sprout up, too, and they, too, reluctantly had to take it down. The birds just don’t quite plant them in the right spot. They never did get around to planting one of their own, after all, a whole tree makes for a whole lot of fruit and of taken space.

I’m remembering that tree and looking out the window here to the unaccustomed view of their upper windows and thinking, y’know, we could probably fix that visual opening, or at least the part I most want to, in one season. Maybe, with the requisite pruning, two. And I know they like figs. I want a variety that’s somewhat dwarfed so as not to be too much trouble keeping it down to size, to about the height that other one got to. You just need the right thing planted in there.

A local gardening and knitting friend says she has several and her Black Jacks are the best. “Naturally small” tree, says Dave Wilson.

But nothing is set in stone, much less dirt yet, and there is definitely room for more than one tree anyway. Making me wait a few more days where all I can do is learn more and ask more is probably a good thing.

Tree day
Wednesday March 04th 2015, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

The first thing the two tree guys did, to my surprise, was to make a beeline for my Alphonso in great excitement. “That’s a mango, isn’t it!” as they took in the possibility that such a thing could actually grow here.

A taste of home, I wondered?

“See how the cord is tangled in the growth here?” (Looking back up at me.) “You need to set up a frame of something to hold up the lights, not on the tree.”

I’d known that for a long time but hadn’t figured out what to do nor how to make it work as the thing grew, but as he said that he could see it dawning on me: “Like a tomato cage,” I answered, turning to look at the (too tall for my frost cover, that one won’t work) very heavy cylindrical one across the yard that a friend had made us. I got it now: it didn’t have to be perfect forever, it just had to work well for right now.

“Yes.” And then the older guy wanted to know, re the tree, “Where did you buy it?”


He both laughed and winced–a little hard to zip over there to check out the specimens, okay. They wanted to know about the temperature setup and the fact that you still have to put a frost cover over every night–Christmas lights for the heat, though, eh? And I wondered how long it would be before they’d be growing their own. I mentioned that we’d planted it the day before a 24 degree night, but hey, look. They approved.

A neighbor over thataway was having tree work done too and the younger guy and one of theirs apparently recognized each other and stopped to say hi across the fence in what was clearly a happy moment.

And then they got down to work.

The dracaena palm–out. The privet–out. The buckthorn–out.

There was a volunteer juniper bush, not very big yet but I was clearly not a fan–the guy motioned through the window at me and held a section upward, questioning? Yes?


Alright! One whack of the chainsaw and it was gone and good riddance to the prickly little beast.

Then came the olive. It was to be trimmed downward a quarter and the deadwood cut off.

Except, with everything else out of the way we could finally get a good view of it and that really left nothing but trunk and a bit of froth and I didn’t see how it could survive–it had been near dead as it was.

Chris the boss man happened to stop by right as they got to that point, in just the most perfect timing; “How much to just finish it off?” I asked.

“A hundred fifty.”

I called Richard. Alright then. Out with it.

They cleaned up the job site, Chris having already gone on to the next, and that was that. The stump grinders will come later.

I never, ever, would have thought we could get that much sun in that part of the yard. Never. It has always been in dark shadow. But the afternoon sun was reflecting so brightly off the now-bare fence that my eyes complained. (But then, I’d spent too much time outside–I’m just glad it wasn’t June.)

We’ll have to plant something right away to fix that. Now that I know it’s got direct sun from 2:00 to sundown, and I’ll watch tomorrow to see how many more hours it will be, we have a whole lot more possibilities than we’d thought. Pomegranates, mandarins, a fig kept very small… We’ll see. They could easily grow there, and I never would have thought.

A squirrel perched on the empty fence line, staring, demanding that his personal escalators reappear, darnit.

All in good time, little guy, all in good time.

Bzzzzz bzzzzz bzzzzzzz
Tuesday March 03rd 2015, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

This is going to be hard. I like having that green outside the window, and it will take a few years for the new to fill in the blankness.

It shades the neighbor’s garden and our solar. It needs to be done.

The first time the tree people put us on the schedule, I both had the flu and was passing blood–just not the day to deal with one more thing nor to be around anyone. I’m fine now, and they called asking if tomorrow…?

Nesting season has begun but there are no discernible nests in that tree; that chickadee I saw with the moss was heading to some place beyond the fence, as have all the others as far as I’ve been able to tell.

I will replace it immediately with a dwarf citrus that will never get much higher than the fence, even if we never prune it.

We are also taking out a small volunteer palm whose roots threaten both the garage and the neighbor’s redwood. Out.

Chainsaws in the morning.

Ready to go
Monday March 02nd 2015, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

It’s lined. It’s thick. It’s plain. It’s simple. It’s in a good guy-type color.

And at long, long, long last, it is done for my brother who, when he moved to Colorado, there was hail the first week big enough to dent his car–in August! So he needed something wind- and snow-proof to the very best of my abilities. Merino and silk, 50/50, four layers when you fold up the brim. Merry Christmas, Morgan.

Although, they might need such a thing in Huntington Beach near Los Angeles, too–where, as they described it, people in shorts and Ugg boots were throwing snowballs today.

To weave a strong, soft nest
Sunday March 01st 2015, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

An elderly friend moving into assisted living last year gave me her old amaryllis bulb that had come covered in decorative dried moss, telling me I’d be able to get it to bloom again. I can only imagine how it was for her to give up her garden and I hope to bring her flowers from it to brighten up her new place.

I left the moss in the pot with an eye towards spring.

It has been discovered, as I knew it would be. And so the Chestnut-Backed chickadee announces it
 is nesting season as she builds a new home of her own.