Red orange, purple white purple yellow orange
Friday July 23rd 2021, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

We ran out.

I checked before I left, and yes, please, she’d always, always love a case from there.

And so I came home from Andy’s with a big box of peaches for her family and one for us.

But when I went to deliver theirs she had a particular thank-you in mind: Satsuma plums from her tree, an orange zucchini, a yellow cucumber, a purple onion, white eggplants, all from her garden.

There’s got to be a colorway in merino out there to match.

I exclaimed over the bounty; she said well I’d driven all the way down there and back, and we both came away feeling like we got the better end of the deal. But best of all: we’d had a chance to connect and say thank you.

Thank you Andy for that.


The jewel box
Wednesday July 21st 2021, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Twenty-nine inches! Six inches in nine days! With the height of the pot that new 54″ cage isn’t going to last very long. That’s fine, plenty of other things need to be kept from the cottontail.

The other thing that happened yesterday, after the tree crew left:

I had an appointment with the audiologist, trying to fine-tune the new aids and check the fit after the manufacturer had re-molded the painful left one.

Towards the end I pulled out a small cardboard box filled with paper towels scrunched a bit like decorative tissue paper and inside, a perfect Sierra Rich red peach.

She did this little gasp and told me, My husband and I were just saying we had to find a *good* peach!

I said that the paper towels were because she was going to need them.

So now they know where to go.

Toss it back to the grizzlies
Monday July 19th 2021, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

(Lillian ducking into the sunbeam.)

Back when Sam and her family lived in Anchorage, she took us to an ice cream shop, Wild Scoops, that sold local flavors including from fruits I’d never heard of. Salmonberries? Birch syrup? What kind of flavor is Fireweed?

So I ended up buying a cute little 2 oz jar of salmonberry jam as a souvenir to go with my scoop so I could taste that, too, and a small jug of birch syrup by mail after we flew home.

The syrup was okay. I don’t need to buy it again. The jam was sugar+pectin+an orange color to it but no berry flavor I could discern and other than the fact that it was a local thing and a novelty to us, there didn’t seem to be much point to it; let the musk ox and moose keep the berries.

Fast forward a few years. We were at a kiddy park with Mathias and Sam in Washington State July 5th where there was play equipment and a bit of grass surrounded by deep, lush trees and a short trail along the fenced perimeter.

Cherry trees! That’s why all the happy robins bouncing around! Clearly a holdover from when that whole area had been prime cherry and berry farmland a hundred years ago; the now-feral trees dangled Rainier-esque solid yellow and who knows what dark red promises mostly well out of even my 6’8″ husband’s reach.

But we managed to bend some branches downwards enough and we got some and shared them around and they were delicious. Sam pronounced that moments like these were why she was glad they had moved there.

She had already told us that blackberry bushes were the devil, that they ran rampant all over everything with their thorns: the Pacific Northwest’s version of kudzu with an offering but an attitude.

And then I pointed out a berry bush. The leaves were a lot smaller than the blackberries her husband had cleared away from their side of the fence at home; I wondered what they were.

Oh those are salmonberries, she said, a park ranger told us that.

Very small. Half the usual thumbcap depth at best of a red raspberry. Tasteless. Seedy.

And the color. Suddenly I knew.

Some garden catalog three or four years ago had had a spiel about a woman who’d found an abandoned farm that had had red raspberries and blackberries and had found something else growing down by the creek that she thought must be a hybrid of them of some kind. The thorns were a lot shorter. She’d taken some cuttings home. She’d tried growing her new variety in good soil, bad soil, sandy soil, clay soil, and it grew in everything! And now here they were offering this rare find to their customers! In high demand!

I’m a long way from being a knowledgeable gardener yet, so foolproof sounded good to me and I ordered one. I grew it in a large pot, because I do know enough to know that thorny berry plants like to take over the world and I wanted it contained.

I got a few stubby shallow little berries with not much flavor–well, any, really. I figured the critters had eaten them before they’d gotten ripe or big yet. Right? I kept waiting for them to grow into, y’know, proper raspberry shapes. They didn’t.

I got maybe two whole berries to myself last year, but this year the plant grew a lot more and produced more. But the fruit didn’t change at all.

They’d sold me a salmonberry plant and didn’t even know enough to know that that’s what it was and I certainly didn’t. But there is no question. I recognized that plant and that fruit in that park because it was growing in my back yard and knew that it was only a matter of time, and a brief time at that, before I’d be ripping mine out.

All those pretty leaves it took so long to bother to produce.

I confess I’m still giving it (increasingly brief) sprays of precious California water to keep it alive. I guess it’s just plain hard to assassinate a plant you’ve nurtured, even one that would rather stab you than feed you.

And then it all had to go and roll around in the mug
Sunday July 18th 2021, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Food

Used the optional plain Greek yogurt because I had some. Danger danger Will Robinson, no talk of egg/peanut/yogurt will make up for the fact that it came out a cross between cake and mousse and was very good at a time when I’m trying to avoid random acts of dessert-type baking. (I put in 2, then 2 more, then 1 more teaspoon of sugar in each, so, 5 tsp and not their artificial sweetener and they did not come out super-sweet.)

But really, justifying that as lunch–protein, yeah, that’s it!–when we could have had peaches if we’d wanted something sweet. Actually we did that, too.

My husband is innocent. Me, not so much.

(Coming back to add: a few days ago the county asked everybody to go back to wearing masks in indoor public places again and today nearly everybody at church was doing so. I’m so glad.)

Which color do you want?
Saturday July 17th 2021, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

I gave Phyl and Lee their choice of Andy’s red peaches or yellow as a thank you for driving us to the airport. (I’d waited a few weeks because the later in the season, the more flavor.) The reds were marked as cling; they opted for the yellow Santa Barbaras and I sent them off with not quite a whole case, since that seemed like a lot to them. (Then I tried one of the Sierra Rich reds and the pit came away like what was the big deal supposed to be.)

A few hours later my doorbell rang: the friend who’d watered my garden while we were away, surprising me with a small box of plums and peaches after a trip to, you guessed it, Andy’s Orchard. The first white peaches we’d tasted this year. Loved it.

On the knitting front: when I booked the trip, I wasn’t sure of the kids’ work schedules so I scheduled our flight home to arrive in the late evening. Tuesday the holiday was over, their normal life took over and we were on our own, free to play tourist and wander around for the day.

So we did. I’ve mentioned the drawbridge in Seattle.

But the other thing is that we stumbled across a yarn store, parked the car, and went in.

(Side note: it’s a good thing us good little Mormons Googled when we saw this other place as we drove by because “Skep and Skein” was NOT a yarn store. It was a tavern and none of us would have had the faintest idea what to do with each other had we walked in.)

So we drove on (wait–we’ve already been on this road, hey, Waze!) and saw another sign.

There is always room in the luggage for a souvenir skein, I told Richard as we were getting out of the car, but it was going to be tight. We walked into a charming little brick Tudor and met just the nicest owner.

Hmm… I went to see if I could find something to show her shop to you and discovered that she has the same name as my sister’s best friend growing up. Here’s the article. Our Local Yarn Shop, OLYS for short. I’m not seeing a date on when it was written–but Laurie told me that a pandemic three months after she opened had not been in her business plan.

Wow. I absorbed that a moment. And you’re still here! I pronounced in triumph.

Yes, I am! she answered happily. But she allowed as how it had been a near thing for awhile there.

Meantime, she had a steady stream of customers, some of them clearly old friends, and each time someone wanted to ask something or stepped behind me in line to be rung up I stepped out of the way and waved them forward and let her chat with them and take care of them because they were going to be in a position to come back and I wasn’t and I wanted her to have every success. I really liked this lady.

She gave her store its name from the fact that she sells yarn from sheep from local farms with the name of each animal on the skein. Which is cool–but they were in natural and muted colors, and they were lovely, but right now I needed color color color to entice my fingers to get back into really knitting again.

I came away with this Manos and a Madeline Tosh that hit just the right notes and they just barely managed not to fall out of my overstuffed purse in the airport.

I told Laurie the story of visiting my in-laws in Texas and having one of my readers here ask if she could come pick me up and take me to her knitting group night while I was in town. Sure!

And how I was absolutely gobsmacked to find us pulling up to the doorstep of the original Madeline Tosh shop. I met the owner. I got to meet her! Turns out that wasn’t her name, she’d named it in honor of her favorite aunt. I tried not to be too embarrassing in my fandom.

Anyway. So here’s the Manos in a potato-chip-munching mindless-knitting stitch that works so well with multicolors by scattering each little shot of color hither and yarn.

(Edited to answer Anne’s question for everyone: it was this yarn. My skein was a little more saturated than the one they show.)

Apricot-sized peaches
Friday July 16th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

Anne stopped by yesterday and got a tour of the trees. We both noted a couple of chewed peaches on the ground–so much for the critters being good about staying away.

I ended up sending her off with a Baby Crawford and an August Pride to let ripen at home; that’s when she was here and even if they weren’t absolutely as perfect as they could be it was definitely better her than the squirrels. She sniffed them and exclaimed over the peachy smell.

That was a good reminder to me to appreciate rather than wish for more. I needed that, and I should have given her more. They just didn’t quite seem to have bragging rights in them yet and I allowed that to hold me back.

But in truth, the Baby Crawfords were already sweet and the yellow was coming in and if it were a commercial orchard they’d have been picking them. Richard and I decided last night that the right thing to do would be to pick all of those in the morning, because once the critters start going after your fruit it disappears fast.

I missed three, it turns out, but I got the rest. (I’m giving the less-ripe tree next to it a little more time.) Stem side down after I snapped this picture and a paper towel over them for ripening, as one does, but it only seems to take a day or two on the few I’d already tried and they were surprisingly good.

But at that size they weren’t going to last us very long–and more importantly, I owed a box of Andy’s peaches to the friend who drove us to the airport two weeks ago at an hour when he would have preferred to have still been asleep.

And so I did, I have boxes now from Andy’s: his big peaches to give our friends and to last us past the weekend, and an older box with mine in it looking cute. Cut them in half to share and they’re a bite each. But a good bite.

Stone fruit from fruit stones
Saturday July 10th 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Better photos: 2020’s plant, above, started slow and pale and short like that little one and one side branch and the top of the original trunk died by the end of the summer. And yet it survived my overwatering and look at it now.

Two from 2021, below. The taller one grew over half an inch in today’s heat. It’s going to outgrow the cage I have over it when I’m not taking pictures and it’s too fragile for the birds to perch on it yet so let me figure that one out.

I had a trio of mockingbirds, probably newly fledged teenagers, horsing around on the apricot and tomato cages today and over on that peach tree when I wasn’t looking.

By the way, if anyone wants some, I have some new Anya kernels now. They of course haven’t gone through the necessary three months of refrigeration yet before they can germinate.

Five got promised to someone today. I have some set aside for my sister, and the rest I’ll either try to sprout or if anyone reading this wants to try (or try again) let me know and I’m happy to share.

Meantime, a still-cute-sized August Pride peach got rescued from the mockingbirds. And then I zapped the ground around the trunk with an update of the grape Koolaid solution to say hey no guys those are mine.


Tree geodes
Thursday July 01st 2021, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Knit

Dani, whose cheerleading enticed the planting of my mango tree, grew up with two Alphonsos in his yard in India.

They died a few years ago and he told me his mother was devastated.

When I said in a conversation yesterday that we had to get her a new one he said an unseen seed had survived and is now growing back and she was quite happy about that–and I am, too.

That got me to go look. Here’s what you get when you do that. Mangoes come in two types, monoembryonic and polyembryonic. Polyembryonic seeds produce multiple seedlings out of one seed and all will be clones of the parent–except one, and it will be visibly weaker or stronger than the others depending on whose experiences you’re reading on the ‘net. But mostly you get to straight-up replant what you’ve already got and experiment with the outlier. Turns out citrus do that, too.

Alphonsos are monoembryonic. You know what one of the parents is, you know how good it is, but there are no guarantees.

The nearest mango tree to mine that I know of is in Fremont and I’m sure there are no bees making that grand leap across the San Francisco Bay to my yard way over here–I’m pretty darn sure my sweet little Alphonso is a virgin. Still, it apparently means that whatever could sprout from its single-plant seeds could be anything from the tree’s genetic history.

His mom’s seedling is almost old enough now to fruit and soon she’ll find out. I’m really hoping she gets a great one.

Mine tried to fruit in December, lost them to the cold, but bloomed some more and persevered and now it’s covered with them. It takes months longer for them to ripen here than in their native climate but they’re getting there.

But darn if I’m not sitting here after all these back and forth emails wondering what kind of seedlings I might get, too. To find out, I could grow one in a pot, on the patio, on wheels to pull it out from under the awning to full-on sun and back again against the house at night, you know, what I’d originally envisioned as a way of managing a tropical here before Dani insisted I must, must let it grow in the ground and allow it to become what it’s meant to be.

We were both right. It’s much more of a tree and far more prolific that way. Mangoes are deep-taproot types.

So–if I kept and planted an Alphonso seed (space-wise, one would be enough) I could do it planter-on-wheels style, and then gift the tree away once I know the fruit is good. Because by then I’ll be more than happy to give away the impossible amount of excess from my own tree as it is. Hopefully.

Since our rainy/dry seasons are reversed, I asked Dani about watering it, I mean, I’d been doing it once a week all this time so I must be doing something right? He asked his mom.

Oh okay. Twice a week for the summer it is, then. Maybe that’s part of why it took them so long to ripen.

The all the people after so long of no people day
Monday June 28th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Holly was in the area and dropped by this morning. I was expecting to offer her some cherries. I was not expecting a gift of her cross-stitching and stood there quite agape before she even got past the entryway. A photo will be added when it comes through but none could possibly do it justice. So much talent and love in that piece!

Then Chris the contractor came. He found damage the previous people hadn’t–he’s thorough. I mentioned needing the roof replaced and that I hadn’t heard back from the company that I know he’s worked with previously: because they not only did our roof 27 years ago, but when we needed someone to fix the mistakes our remodeling contractor had left behind, that big roofing company had recommended we hire Chris. And we were very glad we did, and wished we’d known about him the first time around.

I asked him, Will they do a job for me a lot faster if you’re the one asking? (Because the roofers around here all have long waiting lists right now.)

Oh yes. And then he detailed how their working together would mean the sealing around the edges wouldn’t have to be done twice and he could lower his bid by that amount.

Then he left, and after lunch my friend Nina showed up. She had never gotten around to trying out Andy’s Orchard herself, though she’d certainly enjoyed what I’d brought her, but at long last it felt like it was time and she had time and let’s go! She called in an order for a case of Blenheim apricots, picked me up, and I showed her the way.

They had Anyas. They had Anyas!!

Friday, the young employees at the farm store thought they were over for the season, but no, they’d still had more to pick. I didn’t miss out for a whole year after all! Thank you Nina for getting me back there!

And I saw my old friend who’s worked there for the past two seasons for the first time this year.

I bought three pounds and almost, almost bought a whole case, too, except, that’s a lot of apricots. I’m wishing now I had, just so I could go around to a bunch of friends and say, This is what I’ve been talking about!

I did a taste-testing: Friday’s (second) Yuliya apricot box (most of which went home with Holly) vs the Anya. Both of them John Driver varieties from Silk Road areas of the world. I’d never seen both at the same time before.

The Yuliyas are sweet and quite juicy, although with a skin that is surprisingly a bit tough. The Anya I tried could have used another day but it still totally beat the other hands down with its spicy complexity, not just sweetness, and definitely a thinner skin, one that didn’t distract from the rest of the experience. I swooned and fell in love with my favorite all over again.

Now what do I do with those Yuliya kernels I saved from the first box. Probably let them go so they don’t get mixed up with the Anyas. I’m told Yuliyas need pollinators and the Anya row is next to the Yuliya row at Andy’s, so… If anyone wants to rescue them let me know.

Well that was easy
Sunday June 27th 2021, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

A couple we know called and asked if they could drop by; they’d been baking and had some snickerdoodles to share.


So as we were visiting, I mentioned having this rootstock-regrowth Yellow Transparent tree whose apples were ripe and needed to be processed into apple butter or applesauce; they’re great for those and mushy and terrible for eating out of hand.

They would love to!

And so the four of us found ourselves outside picking apples as the sun headed down. They said how many should we take and I said, the whole tree–please? (It isn’t very big.)They laughed. They got all but the smallest that just weren’t ready to go.

Apple butter needs apple cider–so much better than mass-bottled juice. We had some, thank you Trader Joe’s.

They went home happy to have a tasty project to work on with their boys and we got to be done with that tree for the year. They’ll have four sets of hands coring those apples, and you don’t even need to peel them for apple butter, especially not those super-thin skins that give the variety its name.

And the snickerdoodles were delicious.

Afterwards I baked this recipe with some of Andy’s Yuliya apricots after all that talking about fruit and desserts. Why not, it’s our you-crazy-kids day from when we were 21 and 22. One more year till we get to be Life, The Universe, and Everything!

But then we could call it cherry Garcia (his favorite)
Wednesday June 23rd 2021, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Pitted (shown), sugared, nuked, cooled. Trying not to think about adding ice cream to it.

With a cherry on top
Sunday June 20th 2021, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

(Last week’s photo. They’re darker now.)

I Huck Finned her over by the fence.

Friends of ours dropped by with a jar of homemade strawberry jam and a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread by way of excuse for coming to say hi.

I asked them if they’d like to pick some sour cherries.

Sure! said Phyl.

I’ll wait, said Lee with a smile, sitting down to visit inside with my husband.

I had been daunted by the number of cherries still to go on that tree. They are small and they are many. But being able to offer something she was quite delighted to have felt great. We went through the leaves looking for the darkest reds together and between us we got her enough to maybe make a batch of jam, which is what she was aiming for, and since she’s putting them straight in the freezer for now, that’ll give the tree time to ripen more of them for her.

I’m pretending I’m not hoping for a jar. But I think I will mention I’ve got some Ball 4 oz mini jam jars taking up space in case she needs any.

English Morellos
Friday June 18th 2021, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

I was trying to pick only the darkest ripest ones, but the sun was going down, the going was slow, and it was getting harder to be sure and I left the rest for another day. And because there were so many of them.

I would say there are at least two full 5 quart bowls’ worth left on that little tree.

It still amazes me that you can plant a stick in the ground in the winter and a few years later wonder what you’re going to do with all this fruit.

With cherries on top
Monday June 14th 2021, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Suddenly there are so many. This is pretty much just one branch and after I picked a bowlful of the ripest.

I quickly squished the seeds out without fussing with any pitting gadgets; they were small and soft and gave way quickly. Sprinkled some sugar on, zapped for two minutes, threw it in the blender, all very quick. A tart sauce made just sweet enough, put on diced mangoes.


Dad would be glad
Saturday June 05th 2021, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Today would have been my dad’s 95th and even though he was allergic to chocolate, he loved it and we love it, so it seemed a good day to celebrate, and, yeah. We got in the car to head to Mutari in Santa Cruz. Richard pulled up Waze on his phone just to be sure everything was cool road-wise.

Nope nopity nope. Bad accident. (Turned out later that friends of ours were stuck for three hours in that mess, and one can only pray for the people who were hit.)

Michelle turned and headed north. Dandelion here we come!

We even scored a jar of their dairy-free fresh chocolate/freshly roasted hazelnut spread that was sold out online. For that, she forgave my asking about Imagiknit a few blocks away, and so we came home with four unexpected skeins of Malabrigo Mecha, too. Make more art! Yay!

And then after we got home.

Richard’s glasses came in and he needed to go to Costco to pick them up; did I want to come?

Not overly, and I dragged my feet a little; Costco on a Saturday?

It turns out it wasn’t too bad, actually, but as I started in the door their guy called out after me.

“I’m with him,” pointing at Richard.

“No, you can’t come in without a mask.”

“Wha…Ohmygoodness, I’m sorry, I forgot, here let me grab mine” (fishing it out of my purse while the guy was offering one from the store.)

He was apologizing, saying they make him say that–and then added, “Some people, you know, they think it’s mostly a hoax.”

The way he said it made it clear he was one of those who thought they were probably right.

I found myself telling it with a keen sense of love for this good man I’d seen working there for years, so that it came out almost joyfully, “I had Covid. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. There was one day there where my oxygen was so low that I knew if I moved a single muscle I’d be out–there was just none to spare. I’m so glad I survived! I had long-hauler syndrome, and after they gave me the vaccine it was gone just like that!” snapping my fingers. (It took about a week, but a week is nothing after a year of that.)

His face was a mixture of wonderment and relief as he took all this in. Somehow the incoming crowd had thinned just then so that he had that moment to have that conversation and to consider what I’d said. On a Saturday, no less.

“It’s real?”

I nodded, answering, “I am SO glad for the vaccines!”

As I walked off I was smiling and he was really smiling, like he was finally at peace. He finally knew what to do and it was clear he’d made the decision. He was going to get his, too.