Crosby Stills Nash and squirrel. And John Denver.
Monday August 31st 2015, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Wildlife

The shawl: blocked. Done. I totally love it.

Remember the bubblewrap around the awning pole to keep the squirrels from jumping onto my bird feeder? It worked for months.

Yesterday, however, the lower two-thirds of it disappeared. What was left was still around the pole–but chewed on. What on earth eats bubble wrap?! I could not find the rest anywhere.

Till suddenly in the early evening there it was running down the fence line, a squirrel tripping over it each step as it glanced sideways at me with its mouth very full, looking at me like, I *know* you want this, it’s MINE now! It leaped into the tree in a sudden panic, struggled mightily to continue, snagged the thing and gave up and fled.

Oh now that looks lovely. (I apologized to my neighbors. They laughed and said they couldn’t even see it from their side.) That’s their tree growing straight over our property in front of the redwood, and under there is the 60-year-old corrugated roof to our shed gently blanketed in decades’ worth of redwood needles. There’s no climbing on that thing–it would collapse in a heartbeat. The limb lopper can’t reach. At least it’s not at the top of the redwood.

But I guess for the moment we’ll just have to let its freak flag fly.

Meantime, we got a card in the mail from the Census Bureau, which was doing a mid-decade test to see if they could move the whole process online. And so by force of law our household was to fill out their questionnaire at this URL by tomorrow, with a phone number to call if that weren’t possible, in which case they would send out an in-person census taker.

The thing checked out and yes they were actually them so I took care of it.

Richard walked in the door tonight to find me doing my best John Denver impersonation. Sing it with me: “I Filled Out Your Census!”

Trying to type with an icepack–but it’s definitely all good
Sunday August 30th 2015, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

Just one long row at a time, I told myself.  Then rest the hands for the rest of each hour–I didn’t want to push them into a more lasting inflammation than the little bit going on. There is not a single painkiller I can safely take.

Other than icepacks. Done.

On the hour I picked those needles back up again. Then I put them back down.

Yeah that all worked just fine till about 8:00 p.m. when I just kept pushing on through till ten with one nagging break to go read a newspaper article, because I was so close to being finished and I so wanted my inner vision to become real and accomplished and right there in front of me at long last. This one had been a long time coming.

I started this shawl during my cousins reunion trip over the Fourth of July–where I forgot my instructions so I just had to make it up as I went along.

Ad-libbing may be freeing but it’s also a whole lot slower: you constantly have to stop, take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going and how much yarn you have left and make sure it’ll be what you want it to come out looking like and that you’ve got the yardage to do it. Will it pinch in below the shoulders? Stop weigh count consider.

It made for slow progress. But it was becoming something new entirely and the closer it got the faster it was finally going and by the time I went to bed last night I knew exactly what every single remaining row was going to be and I was totally falling in love with it like never before.

It’s the lace weight that Melinda of Tess Designer Yarns surprised me with and it exactly matches a favorite shirt.

Tomorrow: cast off. Block.

Wear, with an inner thank you Melinda’s way every time.

“Oh sure, I could go!”
Saturday August 29th 2015, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

I was missing being able to eat a just-picked ripe peach or plum but wishing for a trip to Mariani’s was as close as I was going to be able to get. Today was not a turn for the better and I’m thinking I’ll take the doctor up on her offer come Monday of making sure I don’t have pneumonia.

I did have the one single Indian Free peach from my new tree that I picked about a week ago, maybe as much as a month early, to give the tree a rest and to thwart the critters–after all this waiting I thought it better that we get it imperfect than that the squirrels get it all.

Today: hey look–it had softened up and was ready. And so after all these months of anticipation, knowing we weren’t going to get it at its best, we cut it in half.

One side was white, the other a deep rosy pink. It was sweet enough and there were already nuances of flavors you don’t get from a grocery-store peach–wow, just wait till we get these at full ripeness. What a marvelous tree. This was already good.

But one very small peach. One could only wish for more.

Someone loves me. And the folks at Andy Mariani’s sent a get-well message home with the box.

Flour power
Friday August 28th 2015, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Pansy cookies. Seriously. I have to try these. Only, would you trust a flat of pansies from the garden center to be pesticide-free? We seem to be quite out of homegrown this year… (With a shout-out to Margo Lynn for the link.)

Got any Morello that?
Thursday August 27th 2015, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Still not free of fever at night, still sick, but today I could do stuff. (Yeah, I watered the trees Tuesday because I had no choice. It was a near thing, though.)

Today I saw a green pop-up ad selling olives and I wasn’t buying–I went out there this evening, clippers in hand.

When the tree guys stump-grindered the last of that dying olive tree, there was this wide, deep pile of sawdust afterwards. Not long after I planted my sour cherry in the middle of it and hoped.

It’s still this tiny little thing.

In the last month somehow clusters of quickly-hardening stalks have risen from the dust in a half-circle at the outer perimeter there. The first time surprised me; after that I kept an eye out and got to them earlier. I put large rocks where they’d been but wait a week and up they come again, sometimes in a new spot.

It’s not much of a contest, though, especially the ones trying to work their way out from those rocks. But it does make me wonder how much the English Morello has had to fight for root space–and it came with a broken-off major root. You don’t get first pick on bare-roots in March. But I did get my tree.

And so, wearing a flouncy silk skirt that I put on this morning to make myself feel better even if my body didn’t just then and knowing I was clothed ridiculously for working in the dirt (but eh, it handwashes), I got the tips of those clippers down below the soil line and just cut cut cut.

Because if I stopped and rested and changed I knew I might not get it done.

And then here’s the amazing thing: in March it was all yellow layered flat flakes of sawdust there. What was coming up in my hands was a well-crumbled rich, rich black soil any gardener would leap to have.

I think that sour cherry is going to end up just fine.

Got to stop
Wednesday August 26th 2015, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Politics

On air. As the reporters interviewed.

I am not by any means someone who feels there is no place for gun ownership. My husband and sons were taught at a rifle range at scout camp when they were younger. Grizzlies will happily eat you in Alaska. Etc.

But the blunderbuss and frontier of colonial days is not what we have now and our laws need to reflect current reality–and technology. If that requires a Constitutional amendment I’m all for it, although I will point out that before the current makeup of the Supreme Court the original version did the job quite well.

Parents cannot legally leave small children unattended but in Virginia a toddler by law can shoot a gun as soon as he is able to hold one up long enough to do so. Any size magazine. Cheers.

The thing about politicians is that by being voted into office they have a little more power than the rest of us do and we willingly give them that power.

And then some of them claim they have none because, y’know, peers. Or they sell it, or at the very least sell us out.

When someone invented a gun that could only be operated by its owner he got blasted by the NRA and sent death threats. Here was a champion of the Second Amendment who was threatening the income stream of the other gun manufacturers–because you wouldn’t want to have to, y’know, pay for any kind of licensing agreement on his invention.

Death threats. For trying to make guns safer.

There is now on average a multiple-victim shooting every day in America.

Every single politician who has voted for there to be zero restrictions whatsoever on guns is choosing to be complicit in those murders. Full stop.

Bug zapping
Tuesday August 25th 2015, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I was watering one of the peach trees tonight and standing maybe three feet from the Meyer lemon when movement right at the near edge of it caught my eye.

The only time I’ve ever seen a California Gnatcatcher up close before was when one was fleeing crows and struck the window, falling onto the sidewalk. Joe Lerma saw it happen, the guy working that day installing our new furnace and ductwork, and the little thing’s recovery awhile later meant the world to him. Good guy.

Right there three feet away, then another, then another, a trio flitting through my dwarf lemon with more dancing just over the fence.

It felt like having that Disney Snow White thing down just so.

They were apparently eating the mosquitos that had been trying to home in on me. Hey! Cool! Help yourselves! An ant on that leaf? Dessert.

The lemon tree must have been the perfect spot for them: lots of dense thorny cover to zip in and out of.

I had my iPhone in my pocket for the timer function re my hose and when I pulled it slowly out and aimed it at them they allowed it. I snapped away, trying hard to get them and that hummingbird that zoomed into the almost spent flower I had nearly cut down not five minutes earlier but had left for that very reason.

I know there’s one and I think there were two gnatcatchers in this photo. Tiny little birds. All cheer, no fear.

Doorbell-ditched chocolate
Monday August 24th 2015, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Two friends wanted to come by a couple days ago and I had to tell them that between the deep cough and the fever, they really didn’t want to be here.

Then Richard, on the edge of the bug and not wanting to infect anyone just in case, didn’t show up at church Sunday either.

This afternoon I went to go get the mail and there at our doorstep, wrapped together in twine in a bow, were these two bars of chocolate and a get-well card containing an offer to run any errand I might need done while I’m down. Note that the Chocolove so far has been opened, sampled, and exclaimed over–definitely buying that one myself first thing. We will taste-test the second one tomorrow and stretch out the anticipation a bit: life is good.

A huge shout-out to Courtney and Alice and how could I not feel better after that?

Out on a limb
Sunday August 23rd 2015, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Wildlife

It was a three steps back kind of day. A little discouraging, and the fever had begun to come in cabin flavor too.

And yet, when I had to crash and go lie down again, look who fluttered in. Same as yesterday: a dove in the camphor tree outside the clerestory window, keeping watch over her little flock by day. I watched her consider a few spots, then walk over to where there’s this little horizontal leg in the limb where it was just right. She turned around and around there, checking out all angles, just making sure of her safety, then back to facing me.

It was a good spot. She stood there a moment, then quietly settled down on her feet. She let her wings relax to brush the limb and then she simply shared the day with me for a good long time, however long I might need her, it felt like: she had all the time in the world.

When my first attempt at a picture was a complete whiteout she even let me walk closer for a better one, although she did lift her wings a bit.

Then she let it be.

It was strange and normal and lovely all at once, and I am grateful.

The interweb
Saturday August 22nd 2015, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Wildlife

I knew that some birds collect spiderwebs for the cushioning and great tensile strength those give their nestbuilding.

I knew that many songbirds with a failing nest, i.e. where none of their young in the spring survive, will mate again and raise a second set of young in the summer. And so starting last week I started noticing the occasional finch here and there acting as if it hadn’t quite nailed this landing thing yet–and I’ve been watching one yesterday and today doing feed-me begging that females do when choosing a mate and new fledglings till their parents start turning away from them. I’m assuming, given the date, it was a fledgling bugging her dad.

What I hadn’t quite put together was that the number of spiderwebs on my floor-to-ceiling glass on one and a half sides of this room just explodes in tandem with when those birds need that resource: in the early spring, the sides of the windows are always suddenly quite covered and everyone from Bewick’s wrens to chickadees to finches want a piece of it. Then when nesting seemed to have settled in in earnest this year (instead of two flirting Bewick’s wrens there was only ever one seen at a time, the other clearly minding the eggs) I cleaned the windows. Just like I do every year, only for the first time I was paying attention to the timing of all this.

They stayed clean.

And then suddenly all at once about a month ago the view out was looking like it was dressed for Halloween again. I resisted the strong temptation to clear it out immediately.

There are not as many young as in the spring, but they’re there. The scrub jay knows it, too–he’s suddenly testing to see if I’m still on his case, trying again to scare them into a collision for an easy meal and has to be reminded he’s no longer welcome here now that he’s learned to mimic the hawk’s hunting.

A bird in the squeezing talons of the Cooper’s hawk simply stops breathing. With a crow-beaked scrub jay? Brutal, inept, stumbling stabbing for as long as it takes as the smaller bird struggles and suffers. The hawk has no other menu. The jay certainly does.

But it speaks the language of territory and this territory is mine and it sees me. OUT. I open the door and it doesn’t even try for the fence line, it’s over it and away. This week, though, with me spending a lot of time sick in bed, I’ve simply let the feeder go empty several times and let the flocks disperse. Easiest way to manage it.

I filled the feeder today and was up to watching the birds awhile.

It’s about time to start cleaning those leftover cobwebs. They’ve served their purpose. Give me a few more days.

Friday August 21st 2015, 10:54 pm
Filed under: History,Life

France. High-speed rail, 554 passengers on the train.

I am in awe of the two American soldiers who had a bad feeling about that one guy, heard him loading an automatic in the bathroom and when he came out shooting, clearly planning to start at the back of the train and kill his way forward, jumped him along with another American and a Brit and despite being unarmed and despite being shot at and stabbed, they succeeded in wrestling him to the floor and getting his hands tied behind his back with t-shirts.

One account said the soldier who was stabbed in the neck had run ten meters towards the shooter’s gunfire.

Wow. Just, wow.

Prayers for all those injured and a huge thank you to those good men for being willing to put themselves on the line for everyone else.

Um, moving right along…
Thursday August 20th 2015, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life

Richard remembered the Zofran (an anti-nausea med) prescribed the last time we went through this and I managed to get it down and avoid the whole IV fluids thing. The fever has settled down too. Yay.

DebbieR’s comment about her finger puppets at work was the perfect comic relief, and thank you. Richard found himself remembering back to the time years ago when he was in a meeting at work and someone was having quite the meltdown over something of no consequence: and so without even thinking, parental instincts and all that, he reached into his pocket for one of the baby’s pacifiers and flipped it over to the guy.

Um. Oops. Sorry…

(I just asked him, who was that guy? He told me. Ooooh, yeah, okay…)

Wednesday August 19th 2015, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Lupus

We were all the way to the Aquarium Saturday before I realized I didn’t have a face mask in my purse. I usually do. I like to just go live a normal life as much as the next person so I didn’t think much of it.

I don’t do crowds very well, do I. Pass the grapes (zinc content in a healthy delivery package) and orange juice.

Determinate or indeterminate, no way to know yet
Tuesday August 18th 2015, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

There was this volunteer tomato plant that showed up the last day of June, and I wish I’d taken a picture of it before sunset today–it’s bursting out the sides of my 36″ netting tent and covered in tiny yellow blossoms against the dark green leaves, very pretty. The first few clusters have grown up.

Cherry tomatoes.

I saw a glimpse of orange and lifted that cover to reach a bit blindly under the thicket of leaves for the first ripe ones–I’d never bothered to stake the thing in any way. I figured if one came right off in my hands it was ripe if not it wasn’t. That was a good one, and wait, here comes another, and another… I was surprised to get a range from ripe to greenish from that cluster but they’ll all be fully orange soon enough–clearly these don’t cling to the stem for dear life quite like my others.

They are the two on the left.  They’re larger than my Sungolds. I ate the ripest right there on the spot and noted that it had less flavor, less sweetness, was a lot more like store-boughts, but still, homegrown and they are (thank you vertical trampolines) squirrel- and pecking-free. Probably not the plant’s fault, come to think of it–you don’t get the sweetening effect of the sun when they’re hidden deep under there.

The other volunteer tomato, being up against the raised bed, it was like marking off a child’s growth against a doorjamb: I got to watch its height change. By the day. Four inches below, then four inches above the top of the planks across the weekend.

It’s starting to bloom too now. The first clusters of buds could be cherries…but there aren’t as many of them set together. The critters did get some of my heirlooms last year. Curious. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Done and over with
Monday August 17th 2015, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I had crossed off the word grandmother where it listed family history on the check-in form and the technician asked me about that.

“It was my great-grandmother. My sister corrects me that it wasn’t breast cancer, it was colon cancer.” (As much as anyone can tell from 107-year-old accounts and the fact that our grandmother was eight when her mother died.)

I asked her to be careful–“I don’t want *you* to get squished.”

“Oh, it’s happened.” A rueful chuckle.

And then, “Your doctor will let you know the results in a day or two.”

A mammogram before age 40 with no history of breast cancer in her family either saved my sister-in-law’s life a few years ago. Don’t put it off.