The house that turned into a prune
Saturday August 14th 2021, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Life

There is a single-family home in Silicon Valley that’s actually under a million. It was surely a part of the area’s plum and apricot orchard past. No heat, no air conditioning, apparently no sewer nor septic nor running water, the front steps, porch, and the roof hanging over them are actively caving in, and they do not show you the inside.


The listing says its city says it’s historical. I think that ‘built in 1998’ is a deliberate typo to try to avoid attention and having it become officially registered as such, because it’s not on the city’s formal list yet and I’m sure the sellers and presumably future buyers are quite happy to keep it that way. This house was built by hand, board by board, it was lived in, it was loved, and my dad’s friend’s stepdad painted such things in his day. But in its third century it is emphatically a tear down. Ash wood to ashes, dusting to dust.

That stepdad was William Henry Clapp, who did Impressionist paintings in Paris with Claude Monet and then came home to Oakland to continue his work.

Some of the fruit trees showing in Street View appear to have been ripped out since, and that’s a shame, because that was the one good thing about the property.

But man. 863 feet. A 7649′ lot that backs up to the busiest commercial thoroughfare in the city. $749k.

I can imagine the photographer not quite daring to walk inside nor putting his weight on those boards.

I still want to know how it looked like to live in it, back in the day. What did the cabinets look like? The stove? Whether the oven was like Great Aunt Edna’s on Richard’s side, whom we visited in Idaho as newlyweds, who still had her mother’s big iron wood-burning range from when the railroad came through and totally made their pioneer town. Her family had water rights so the train tracks were brought their way.

She would reach her hand inside the oven to tell if it was the right temp for baking the bread yet. She crowed to us that when there was a power failure, all her neighbors knew they could still cook and bake over at her house. And did. She teased them for going all fancy and putting in those electrical ones that did all the work, even measuring the heat (which she could do as well as any machine known to kitchens) but which don’t work when you need warmth the most against a cold winter’s day.

Somebody’s Aunt Edna, by whatever name, lived in this little house, once.

Where it did not snow.

But the railroad was near enough to ship their dried fruit out into the world beyond.

They’re good for your eyes
Friday August 13th 2021, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Family

Lillian would like you to know she would like you to have a very, very good day. With carrots.

Thursday August 12th 2021, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Wildlife

I would have thought squirrel claw marks–but then I saw that beak jab. This one just wasn’t ripe enough yet to be dislodged from the tree that way like the last one was.

Citrus thorns alone hadn’t been enough to keep them off either of them.

So I tried plan B. And this time I succeeded in getting the clamshells to snap shut on both sides. In past years raccoons have pried those open, but since they haven’t been out there till now, whereas with my Fuji apples in previous years I had them out the whole season long, I guess the current critter crop hasn’t figured them out yet.

Which means I got to share a ripe fig with my husband this morning. It was delicious.

On a side note, the breaking news tonight at the Washington Post is that the FDA just okayed booster Moderna and Pfizer doses for the immunocompromised. My cardiologist has already told me he wants me to get one as soon as they okay it.


Wednesday August 11th 2021, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

This looks really cool. Let’s all go climb a redwood!

This is also looks like a nope nope nope nope nope. Note those protective horizontal lines: they don’t go down to each step, rather, they’re assuming you don’t stumble, slip, and fall through those large gaps.

A friend of mine grew up in rural Humboldt County among the redwoods, and–stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

God has always taught in parable form
Tuesday August 10th 2021, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Garden

39.5″ at six months old this week, more if it were straight up.

So I had it all protected like that where the cottontail couldn’t chew on it, but I mentioned the mockingbird that walked in at a gap between the ground and the cover and then had a panic attack when it couldn’t free itself by flying upwards. I woke up to find it thrashing around in there.

I let it go.

But the apricot’s top trunk was now bent and for the first time it wasn’t leaning back towards the sun and straightening up by the end of the day.

I’d been giving it quarter turns multiple times a day, it had had such a perfect form. I was proud of that like a parent with a kid in middle school band who can not only actually hit the notes right but does it every time. Show off. Teacher’s pet.

A few days of its staying put–okay, lean *this* way now!–made no difference.

So I staked it. Now, a couple weeks ago we had a bit of a windstorm and I knew it was prompting the tree to thicken and strengthen its trunk and that having it sway hard like that was good for its structure, you want that knowing it’s going to be supporting hanging weight when it gets older–but this time, no. I wanted it to go back to the pattern I’d worked so hard at creating.

Nature laughed again.

Actually, it did help a little bit.

Today I took off the soft strand of white aran merino and the pencil-thin pole it was tied to to see what the newest leaves at the top would do.

It doesn’t really matter; wherever it gets up to at the end of the season will be pruned off during the winter to allow the sun into the center, to teach light and sweetness to all the apricots to come wherever they may be, not just the privileged ones growing furthest outward. The fruit holding on closest to the strength of the trunk will taste wonderful, too: it just needs to be out of the shadows. Let me set it up right for them, too.

And to keep the tree’s height within reach rather than just telling future longing eyes, oh no, honey, that’s beyond the likes of you.

And then there’s the Anya’s little seed-sister trying to run as fast as the big kid and wanting you to know it’s grown an inch and a quarter since the last time it was measured and just you wait till next year when its growing tips are new and alive! It’s going to grow up big and strong!

Do the right thing
Monday August 09th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Man, they’re not messing around. Finally.

Sutter Health sent out an email: all their healthcare employees must be vaccinated by the end of September.

Meaning, since it takes a month to become fully vaccinated with the more effective two-shot types, knock it off and get started now, and if you don’t, well, the state has decided the same thing, too, so you won’t find any another healthcare job in California unless you do right by your patients. Just do it.

And: all hospital visitors/people helping patients must show proof of vaccination to enter any of their hospitals or have had a negative test within the previous 72 hours, with documentation in hand. They specifically say they do not do the rapid test. And their clinics have outpatient surgery centers and are legally hospitals.

There may be limited exceptions but you’d better have a really really good reason and you will not bluff your way past. If your partner is having a baby and you haven’t been vaxxed or tested? Sorry, Dad, you’re not coming in the doors, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like having a swab scrape the inside of your head repeatedly–remember, babies sometimes come late. Or early. They specifically call out expectant parents and tell them what the deal is. You won’t see your wife and baby till they get checked out of the hospital if you haven’t done due diligence to prepare for their safety and well-being, not to mention the hospital staff’s.

About time. Overdue, but at long last they’re making the irresponsible more responsible for their choices.

Sugar splurge
Sunday August 08th 2021, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

I needed to use up that cream so even though we definitely didn’t need to eat such a thing, a recipe for Instant Pot creme brûlée got the better of me.

I even found where the rack to the thing went back when I was moving everything out of the termite guys’ way. Separated the eggs, started whipping the yolks, reached for that cream and opened the carton.

Holy moly guys nope nope nope.

So I fudged it. 2% milk with melted butter? I wasn’t at all sure of this, so only a tablespoon’s worth of the fat we suddenly really didn’t have to eat but hey we’ll see what we get. Seven minutes on low pressure, half an hour on natural release, ta daaah…


What we have, I told him, is hot egg nog. But it’s cooked!

Well? He asked. Where is it? I’d like some! (Have I mentioned I love that sweet man? He’s a trooper.)

He also got almond meringues from the egg whites because if you’re going to do Christmas in August in the kitchen you might as well go full-on weird.

Those turned out to be worth repeating.

Almond meringues:

Four egg whites, beaten till frothy with about a quarter teaspoon cream of tartar, then 3/4 c powdered sugar and a tbl or so of plain sugar, then when that gets to pretty stiff peaks, beat in 1/3 c almond flour and quickly start doling it out on parchment paper over a cookie sheet. 275F, and the original recipe I totally fudged from because I didn’t have slivered almonds said 35 minutes but I left them in longer, didn’t hear the beep, don’t know how long it was, but I still put them back in for another five.

Chocolate notes
Saturday August 07th 2021, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food

The last batch of chocolate I made really didn’t temper. Day by day you could see the lines of some other crystalline structure spreading and deepening: we had polka dot chocolate. Tiny little circles all across, more so than any previous batch I can think of.

Except for half of this bar and most of that one that tempered very nicely. Go figure.

But it turned out that that made a perfect version for crumbling chocolate over his yogurt because all those tiny polka dots fell apart from each other in perfect round tiny bits.

Which meant–I mean I knew we were getting low, but–

You ate all the–we don’t have ANY chocolate?? We NEVER don’t have chocolate!!

Okay, actually, we did, but it was all chocolate chips and wafers for cookie baking and most of it was from before we bought the melanger. Still usable for that but not what you’d munch on.

Even with a migraine, he put up with the noise again. Desperate times. The interesting thing to me was how painfully loud it didn’t sound this time: I guess I’m getting used to the new hearing aids after all; I had thought the recruitment effect was almost gone and having that going made it clear that it’s not quite, but almost. It was loud, but it didn’t hurt. This is a good thing.

Twenty-one bars and a batch of Hershey’s kisses-looking ones in a silicone mold because I made an extra half pound this time (now how did that happen) and it had to go into something.

So we’ll see how it goes. But we’re not out of chocolate anymore.

Note to self: Chocolate Alchemy’s Organic Blend #3 of cocoa nibs (preroasted, though I usually roast my own) is so good–and then it has a sharp acidic zing at the end. We like it but not everybody will. Strong stuff.

Fruit in the desert
Friday August 06th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

The first late summer fig. I was amazed that I’d missed seeing it turning brown the day before. I was more amazed the critters hadn’t seen it either.

Figs are hard to get into those plastic clamshells because it’s hard to shut them around them, and they’re not great anyway because the things don’t breathe and the fruit gets hot so the texture ripens before the flavor does and it just hasn’t proven the best solution. (I mostly use them on the apples, they seem to be best for that.) But that’s what I had. That and the citrus spikes, which were already out there. I debated going and grabbing one.


Paper. It breathes. It hides. Right? Cut the bottom open to widen it so you can slide it over and the fig can still get some sugar-producing sunlight while no beak could reach that far down. Let’s try it!

And for 24 hours it actually worked.

Then in a total rookie move I went outside just real quick in the afternoon to check if the fig was fully ripe yet–and whichever bird it was saw what was beneath and saw what I did and saw how to get at it. No squirrel touched those spikes. Mockingbird or scrub jay, take your pick. It was probably gone the moment I stepped back inside, but I know it was fast.

So now I have to think up something else for the next one, but it was worth a try. Tape?

Meantime, shared by Andy’s Orchard, here’s an article on Native American peaches in the Southwestern desert from before most Natives had ever heard of white men.


I sure did a double take, how about you?

Four Corners, the Grand Canyon, before their trees were cut down as part of the plan to decimate Natives’ food sources and culture. Peaches. Not quite like ours–they had more nutrition. From seeds from the Spanish near the Rio Grande centuries before that were quickly spread north across the tribes.

A few were not found and survived. A descendant of the man who protected them is working on bringing them back to more of her people.

I asked, Do you/will you grow any of these?

Andy’s Orchard (presumably Andy himself) answered, More research needed.

But as one of the reporter’s sources noted, those would give great root stock for growing other varieties in the desert, too.

Someone put heart and soul into that one
Thursday August 05th 2021, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Life

This house. Absolutely gorgeous. All that woodwork. The curving swirls in the granite at the fireplace! The details in the wooden staircase! The interior-courtyard greenhouse just waiting for a mango tree! I only saw it because my cousin in Arizona pointed it out and said she would move there in a heartbeat.

She’d have to arm wrestle me for it.

Okay, so there’s the obligatory ’50’s pink bathroom. I say it’s earned its quirk. Besides, Heidi says she’s already lived in an older home that had one, so as long as we’re daydreaming I’m claiming dibs.

But looking at the map, we live in the only area in the state with a statistically zero percent chance of a wildfire, and with a friend waiting by the minute for an evacuation order from the Bootleg fire, that is no small thing. Gridley is near Chico and Chico is where the evacuees headed to from the Paradise fire.

We would for sure have room to take a bunch of them in there, though.

(Edited to add: and the library is across the street and down one, there’s a grocery store next to that, and the local Mormon Church is across the street at the end of the block with another grocery store in an easy walk from there.)

Kindness is everything
Wednesday August 04th 2021, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Lupus

Got the state auto fee bill in June, paid it pronto, but it came with the every-other-year requirement that the car be smog-checked.

It’s a freaking Prius, guys. It’s a ULEV (ultra low emissions vehicle), it’s not… Okay, arguing with them in my head, now c’mon, has that ever worked out yet? Alright then.

It’s also still a pandemic, and I knew my husband couldn’t take the time off work and I knew it meant I would be sitting outside for far longer than I ever, ever do, especially in summertime. I was just mentioning to the cardiologist yesterday about going completely blind on the left for two weeks after five or ten minutes of June sun exposure years ago.

So I put it off till I couldn’t anymore.

At least the place has a–what do you call a drive-through metal pavilion the size of a small school bus? You’d park under it to keep the snow off your car in, say, Wisconsin. You for sure don’t see a whole lot of those around here, but this place had one.

It was up against the building and there were four distanced chairs and a bench set up under it. Three people were already waiting, but my only other option was going to be somewhere with no roof whatsoever. The sign said “Be seated and an attendant will be with you shortly,” so, okay then.

There was only one guy. And he was not coming shortly nor was he attending to anyone.

About 45 minutes later he did finally finish one guy’s car, then two more, and at that point I was next and two more had joined the wait.

At which point I was the only one wearing a mask.

The worker did walk past us a few times because the door to the office was behind us.

He avoided eye contact. He avoided conversation. He was covered in tattoos, all but his face. And to say he was not happy was an understatement–one of those times coming out of that office he looked like someone you’d be afraid would suddenly pull out a gun, he was that angry. At what, I have no idea.

But I do know the two who came after me had struck up a conversation about cars and the one guy was making roll-his-eyes comments about the wait. This was after he’d had some frustration about not being sure if he should comply with the sign, go to the bay and announce his presence, just wait, or what, while the new arrival had assumed he knew when he didn’t either.

I figured, you come to a place that doesn’t do appointments and you take what you get and you plan on that. You read the sign and sit like it says. RTFM, guys. And yes this place used to have a TV blaring in the office for your wait but, covid.

All five of the others looked at my MadTosh knitting (thank you Our Local Yarn Shop in Olympia, WA) during their waits like, oh if only…

My heart went out to the guy trying to take care of everything with no help and people kibitzing as if he couldn’t hear over the traffic. It’s not that they were being terrible or mean, it’s that the previous set had done a bit of that too and it can’t be fun to have to listen to that all. day. long. while you’re working hard, alone. It didn’t help that his dog was there with him (it was apparently in the room behind the office) and the dog was barking almost nonstop while he periodically tried to quiet it while the machinery did its thing. Sometimes he even succeeded.

The grandmother in me totally kicked in. I wanted to give the poor guy a break, so I made a point of looking up and noticing him with my eyes, smiling a bit when it felt right, simply acknowledging his humanity every time he went past (which was only a few times.) I had no idea if he even saw that.

When it was my car’s turn about 80 minutes in, I apologized about the deafness and he had no idea about facing the person so they can lipread (no, no mask) and he didn’t but we muddled on through.

But here’s the thing: when he handed me my paperwork and car key a half hour later there was this moment of

I’ve been sitting here staring at the monitor

I don’t know how to describe it

like he was acknowledging my humanity back and trying to figure out how to say thank you but there were no words so he was just silently glad for having been offered a bit of an emotional break in his day. Something had eased.

And I have no doubt he did better at dealing with his other customers after that because he’d felt that and felt seen in that moment.

To my surprise, so did I.

Heart to heart talk
Tuesday August 03rd 2021, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Life

Warning: medical stuff ahead.

Adverse reactions to the covid vaccines are required to be reported. That’s one of the side effects of its having emergency approval, and I’m guessing possibly a contributing factor to why they’re still provisional.

From what the cardiologist said today, mine clearly was. As it should be.

He came with the latest studies on why a booster shot might be needed, telling me that the Pfizer is 95% effective when it’s given, which is phenomenal for a vaccine, but for people who got it back in January, in the face of the variants that have emerged since, it’s now 39% effective. April means I’d be at 65% now, according to the ongoing testing coming out of Israel, which has been serious about studying this disease. (While I thought, that explains Lindsey Graham, who is both older and got his in December.) Note though that the long-vaccinated are still almost universally protected from dying of covid or even serious illness so far.

The good doctor made it clear he wants the FDA to get to work and fully approve the shots now so that it can get on with approving doing those boosters, which for now one cannot get.

He was also clearly feeling me out to see if I would want one, and the answer was, autoimmune flare or no, emphatically yes. And yes it was a pretty serious flare in reaction to the second shot but it petered out fairly quickly. It was nothing like how extremely, life-threateningly sick I was in February 2020.

That was the answer he was clearly hoping for. He wouldn’t have to worry about me, then. (Note that there were two old women in his waiting room who were wearing their required masks under their noses. While waiting to see a doctor for their hearts. It’s a struggle.)

And then.

With all the hard work of moving heavy stuff for the termite guys, I confessed to episodes of sudden shortness of breath and almost passing out a few times and being forced to sit down fast. It resolved so quickly that he would have dismissed it as not being cardiac related.

And yet I do have a history of cardiac involvement. Virtually all lupus patients eventually do. I’m sure I freaked out the termite guys with one, just one cardiac cough while they were working–they had no way to know it was just a reflex.

He looked at the chart: precisely ten years since the last echocardiogram and stress test. Time to do it again, just to be sure.

I said, what if I’m fine and it’s a waste of time because it shows nothing?

He looked at me and didn’t quite laugh out loud and said, Then we’ll be glad!

Well okay then.

C’est une bunny day
Monday August 02nd 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

You have to get up early if you want to see the bunny.

Only, this time I stopped and simply watched it for awhile to see if it would try to get past the netting over my tomatoes and squash or chew on the cherry or scout for that unripe pomegranate whose weight brought its branch to the ground.

None of those.

It was scouting out the spots where my watering the trees had allowed a pocket of weeds to stay green here and there–and for good measure the dried weeds. A long straw of the invasive decorative grass that the neighbors planted that wants my yard too (and that I had missed in my efforts to pull all those out) disappeared bite by bite and then the seeds dangling off the end were dessert and at last it was gone. It looked around for more.

It had never occurred to me that the weeds and their seeds were what it was living off of.

Nice. I think we might be friends after all.

But this evening I did pick the first reddening tomato, just in case.

Bar none
Sunday August 01st 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Life

Another plain hat waiting for the moment when I’ll want the ends to already be run in. Soft and warm and wool and washable.

I woke up feeling fine this morning but church by Zoom was clearly the only way to go, just to be sure.

And then we got an email: the (unnamed) unvaccinated boy who was reported last week to have tested positive after going to Scout camp had carpooled there with another unvaccinated kid, who is now sick with covid.

Between them they’d exposed a whole lot of people. (The email didn’t say that. It didn’t need to.)

It asked that, of the kids who’d attended that camp, only the vaccinated ones come to in-person church.

Those two would have been old enough to have gotten at least their first shots–I do not understand why vaccination was not a requirement, although, on second thought, it may well be that it was.

I read a comment today where someone saw a long line of young people and went around the block out of curiosity to see what it was they were lining up for.

It was a pop-up vaccination clinic.

They noted that the bars in town had with one accord decreed that you must now be vaccinated to enter.