Have all you want
Monday May 10th 2021, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

A chocolate torte went to my friend Edie, the second (I always make two) was for Donna.

Donna’s husband Clyde stopped by to pick it up and was reveling at the idea of being able to actually see friends in person again at last. He was delighted when I offered him Meyer lemons from our tree; we walked around the back to pick some.

He looked at all the fruit trees and happened to say, Y’know, the one thing I really miss is good dried apricots. You can never find them anymore.

I had been munching on exactly those all winter long to try to fend off pandemic pounds.

He’d grown up here when there were still Blenheim apricot orchards in the hills.

I dashed inside a quick moment, knowing time was pressing for him, and grabbed the pound box of slab Blenheims from Andy’s Orchard that I’d opened a few days earlier, not quite full but close enough in the rush.

He tried one. I told him I had another box and Andy’s was about to open for the season so I could get more, take them, enjoy.

He’d wished for these for so long. He finally knows how to find them. And Andy gets a new customer.

Man, that felt good.

If Donna wants one, too–his eyes lit up at the thought–one of my apricot seedlings is going to have a great yard to grow up in. The newest and tiniest (shown alone and for comparison) got a slow start but in the heat these last few days has grown its roots to over four inches long. It’ll do great. But whichever, they’re all good.



Old friends
Tuesday May 04th 2021, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

Constance’s work brought her back in town. Twice in two months after not seeing each other for probably ten years!

The plan was to sit in the shed again, but walking a few steps from the front entryway out of the air conditioning and into the blast of heat, we turned around in unison, going, just, no. She was fully vaccinated; I will be Thursday. Less risk to it overall if we go inside than of me being out even in filtered sunlight, right?

We sat in the living room distanced with me masked and her not so I could hear and spent a couple of hours swapping stories and catching up.

Man did it feel good.

She worried just a little about her Anya apricot seedling being babytreesat by her house sitter for a few days.

I figured if anything happens to it then I’ll know where the next one of mine should go.



Peace, Lily
Saturday May 01st 2021, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

The Peace Lily Afton sent me when my father died just opened up some new flowers. When the old ones start to fade it has sent up more, again and again.

It is a very patient plant. I’ve underwatered it, and it perked right up again when rescued. I’ve overwatered it, and it held on till I realized my mistake, poured the unseen water in the outer pot out, and then it was fine.

I’ve had it in an east-facing window this past year and a half, not knowing that’s exactly what it would most want.

And it has been a comfort these long months every time I see it, offering a sense of the nearness of friends, Afton, her Tall One, everybody, no matter how far away we all may be in our quarantines.

(Just now noticing, I really ought to take that brown stick out–the florist’s card is long gone.)

As for the human Lillian, she was upset that her brother got to do something she didn’t and he was getting all the attention for it, too, while she got told no when she tried to grab away what was clearly now a toy. If someone’s going to use that it was going to be her!

Thwarted.

As blog is our witness, someday we get to tell her that yes, she did, she cried because she didn’t get to scrub the toilet.



The bees and the birds
Wednesday April 28th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Wildlife

With blueberries, cherries, plums, apples, and peaches already underway and the pomegranate and mango blooming I was a bit overdue for watering the fruit trees and it got unseasonably hot at 83–they needed it.

So there I was as I got to work, wondering why I’ve never gotten around to paying someone to install a drip system and realizing it’s because I like the rhythm and the process in getting out there and paying attention to each thing I’ve planted.

It hit me from halfway across the yard.

Now *that’s* how I remember those mango flowers! They’ve been opening for weeks but the nights have been cold and the scent just wasn’t the intense perfume it had been. I’d wondered if maybe I did lose some of my sense of smell last year after all?

Apparently all it had needed was some heat. My tropical tree was absolutely reveling in it and telling the world that this is how it’s supposed to be! Celebrate! Bring on the honeybees! It was throwing a party for the hive across the fence.

The side door next door nearest both opened wide and I hope the neighbors got to enjoy it, too. It was absolutely heavenly.

On a falcon note: the San Jose nest got three eggs in their do-over and are quietly incubating.

Peregrines start brooding after the third egg arrives.

Which means when the San Francisco nest had their fourth egg it was laid late, hatched late, and has been noticeably smaller all along.

The parents feed the eyases first that try hardest to get to the food–Darwin at work–and the little one would beg and stretch right with them and fall over on his beak. He just wasn’t as steady and he could not get as high up there as the others. It’s like a short person playing basketball: you can have a lot of talent, but… He (a lot of us are assuming male; we’ll know Monday at banding) was usually the last one fed, and sometimes the meal was pretty scant by then.

Parents simply won’t feed one that they don’t think will make it and there were murmurings of concern amongst the watchers. But they did, they fed him, he’s the spare to the heirs and there is no lack of pigeons in San Francisco so he’s gotten enough.

Today the mom flew in outside their nest box with a meal rather than straight in and it was the little one that hopped right out of that box and came for it, grabbing some himself when he thought she was going too slow.

The others perched on the edge, watching: how did he *do* that?! Finally, one hopped down and joined them, then a second, but the last one just stayed up there watching, not hungry enough to risk that very small leap.

Four hours later, they were all out of there and doing some exploring. Another meal.

Another week or two and the parents are going to drop the plucked prey in front of their grabby sharp-edged youngsters and make a break for it.

I typed that and immediately a new video showed up: that is not what the dad had wanted to do just now but that’s what happened. Have you ever seen a falcon do an eye-roll? It was hysterical. He circled behind them, trying to figure out how to get into the scrum as the meal in the middle got torn four ways. He gave up and left.

The mom flew in, looked the camera dead in the eye, like, Oh come ON, let’s do this RIGHT, snatched under there and grabbed the food away and started feeding the suddenly noisily begging babies acting like babies again.

There was just not much left at that point, though, so she was off on the hunt for more. Came right back and fed them again, this time with both parents there keeping an eye on their boisterous kids.

Who tried to flap their wings during their exploring, but with the feathers only barely starting to grow past the baby fuzz they kept flopping over like the little guy.

Who watched them and then did it, too.



Moderna part 2
Thursday April 22nd 2021, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Note: the camera’s particularly off on the upper right, sorry.)

Yesterday was warm but today was not.

Well good then.

I don’t own a lot of short-sleeved clothes because I’ve had sun-sensitive lupus a long time now, but there was this blue sweater with a darker royal blue cardigan that it looked good with and because of the perfectly-timed change in the weather, those two were just the thing for walking across the fairgrounds at the height of the afternoon.

And it was what I’d worn when I got my first Moderna shot. Don’t forget the big floppy gray wool hat that’s a little loose and really silly to wear that close to the stiff breezes coming off the Bay. I chuckled at myself as I made myself pick, yes, that one, heading out the door. I might have face blindness issues, we might all have half-face-blindness issues right now, but if I couldn’t recognize them at least I could make it so they could recognize me from a distance.

And that they did.

I saw one of them as I stepped out of the building afterwards and started around the corner and asked, Are you the guy I talked to last time?

He knew exactly what I meant (me, inwardly: Ah, I thought you were one of them) and he nodded, No–but he is, as the other stepped into view.

I thanked them again for taking care of so many people. I didn’t ask again if they’d been allowed their own shots yet; I know that California’s now opened it to everybody over 16, if you can find one, and workers at the site would be high on that list.

Do you like blue or brown? I asked the one I’d had that conversation with last time.

He laughed in surprise and puzzlement.

Sandwich ziplock bags: I pulled out three tightly squished Mecha Malabrigo hats, in Stone Chat, the most poetic name for a colorway ever, in Denim, and in–I don’t remember the name but I remember it took me a month to make myself finish it because it was gray and gray blue and gray green and gray purple in a gray month and at the time I was craving brights and flowers and colors and getting out of the house and enough of this quarantine already.

But I knew it would be exactly the right thing for someone someday so I even ran the ends in and now that someone was standing right in front of me and he loved it as he accepted that small bit of my knitting in utter disbelief.

I turned to his friend: And you? Which would you like?

Me, too?

He picked the browns of the Stone Chat.

I told them they were wool but they wouldn’t shrink in the wash–but they would get all fuzzy, so I’d hand wash them myself, but whatever.

Just then the third guy came over to see what we were talking about.

He, though, looked like this was sure one day when he needed someone to do something nice for him. Whatever was bringing him down, I wanted with all that I had to somehow make it better.

He didn’t get a choice on the color but he didn’t need one. He was blown away. It was enough.

Everybody needs a grandmother who loves them and knits for them, even if I’ll probably never lay eyes on any of them again.

We didn’t hug, any of us: we all knew there’s still that allotted two more weeks.

I left them to exclaim amongst themselves and try on their new hats and then once out of their reasonable response space the wind teased me and I was off chasing after my store-bought blindingly monster-brimmed floppy one that doesn’t protect you from the sun if it doesn’t stay on.

But I caught it and got it back on and it had helped do what it had been needed for. It was enough.



Amber waves
Saturday April 17th 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Mexican Feather grass, as near as my googling skills can decipher it, is what the neighbors added when they relandscaped a few years ago; they had this clump that waved in the wind.

A year or two later they had five of them in a line as the breezes blow, quite a bit taller now, and then there was one that jumped the fence and was growing right in front of my pomegranate tree, shading out the bottom half somewhat. I debated what to do with it; it was allegedly pretty to some. Not my thing, but not bad.

In retrospect, I should have cut it down immediately. Note that the neighbors finally took out all of theirs this past winter. Mine had become a clump about ten or twelve inches across so dense in there that a bug I watched couldn’t crawl between the stalks till I’d cut open a path for it, with the inner circle dried, tall, and ferociously flammable-looking.

So I decided that today was the day and it had to go, all of it.

It defied my loppers (I need to replace them) so I used them to hold on tight and twist twist twist and that got small clumps to come away all at once. I spent about an hour at it.

The Australians consider it a dire threat and are trying to stomp out every single plant that might yet come up. Someone had mislabeled an import.

Green new stalks on the outside. It seemed like slightly sticky thick 3′ tall grass, jointed here and there. Right?

I wish I’d found that Australian link first. It seemed fine but when I went to pick the clumps up to throw it in the bin my hands running down some of the stalks got cut open fairly deep. I didn’t even realize immediately that yes, it was those stalks that bit me, not something mixed up in them–it hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to need gloves. I hadn’t ever before, but then I hadn’t ever actually touched the stuff much other than to push it out of the way so I could pick a pomegranate.

That single invasive plant filled the whole yard trimmings bin, which is about twice the size of our trashcan. I did not get the bottom of the clump out and I think it would take a stump grinder. I would spray it with vinegar to kill it off if it weren’t so close to my fruit tree.

I tried to get every seed poof floating away but you know I missed some somewhere. But at least I stopped the tens of thousands that the growing season would have produced.

The neighbors don’t know it snuck over the fence. I think we’ll leave it at that.



Collaborative
Wednesday April 07th 2021, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Seven miles instead of 75. It delays his being fully vaccinated by five days, but still. I conferred with him and then grabbed it. I also immediately canceled the original. The site said Sutter would offer it as a first shot to someone else and asked that that be made possible as soon as we could, which was only reasonable.

Immediately after I finished that up, the doorbell rang: my friend Constance, who lives hours away these days (there’s a shawl in my book named after her.)  She had been in the area on a work assignment and was stopping by on her long drive home.

We ended up on chairs in the shed. It was trash day but for obvious reasons I had not put the bin back right away. This gave us a spot that was outside, as one should in a pandemic, under a ceiling-height roof and with sides, as my lupus needs to be out of the sun, and it was perfect enough of a spot for visiting that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that a whole lot sooner. Anyway. We had a lot of catching up to do after not seeing each other in person for too many years.

And then I sent her home with a 5 gallon fiber pot full of new topsoil and peat moss and a baby Anya apricot tree to put in it, kind of a grow kit. Just add water. After you get it back out of your car.

And on a totally different note. My late father, a modern art dealer, would absolutely have howled. Sometimes the art world can get a bit precious, and that poor innocent couple who picked up a brush from somewhere in the spilled paint on the floor and scatterings of paint cans and such in front of the mural and added their touch to what they thought was a public-invited graffiti project, well…wouldn’t you?

(When in doubt read the little white box on the wall next to the art in the gallery, but never mind.)



Alliums among us
Saturday March 27th 2021, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

I have this plant that grows next to the house. I didn’t put it there; it was a surprise. It simply showed up one spring and every one thereafter, leafing out of the ground and then sending up a purple flower stalk next to the walkway. I had no idea what it was. It never spread–it was just the one plant. For easily twenty years now.

Last year there wasn’t much of a flower to it at all, which made me realize how much I’d been looking forward to it. Oh, well.

This year, the rainy season is nearly over and we’ve gotten about a third of normal. Dry dry dry. My allium did come up under the sidewalk light as always but it’s tiny, with no sign of any flower to come, but at least it’s still alive.

I ordered some cream with my groceries. I had a craving for making chocolate tortes. I wanted to run the beaters, melt the chocolate into the cream, mix the one spoonful I like to make of leftover ganache into my hot cocoa the next morning, all of it.

The new next door neighbors, as it turned out, do indeed like chocolate and are not allergic to dairy.

She opened that door in excitement before I could even knock.

She’d had to work today and it had been a long hard day and then she’d just gotten home to my message. Not five minutes later I would get a text saying how good that torte was.

And as I kind of floated down the sidewalk, there it suddenly was.

Wait. Where did you come from? What…?

It was a new allium. With the tips of its unusually short leaves just brushing the sidewalk. There had been so little water there was almost no stalk, either, but there it was, radiant in the late sunlight.

And it wanted me to notice.



Rising
Sunday March 21st 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I offered a neighbor an apricot seedling and found out she grew up on an apricot orchard and has a bountiful tree in her back yard, to our mutual delight at the shared enthusiasm.

Meantime, two people in two days asked a variant of what came down to the same question, when I thought about it: what are you not doing that you wish you were?

One of those wanted to know if I was knitting anything, and I admitted I hadn’t been of late; there’s no happy anticipation of making someone’s day, no way to know who needs that pat on the back. I guess we all do right now.

Well, huh. I couldn’t fix everything, but there is now some cranberry pumpkin sourdough rising overnight in the kitchen, the smell of cinnamon on my fingers, and I am looking forward to the smell of it baking filling the coming morning.

It’s a start.



The frosting on the cake
Saturday March 20th 2021, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

(With the weekly apricot progress picture.)

Some had flowers in their gardens too good to only keep to themselves.

Some offered to bake. And it’s always more fun, not to mention safer calorie-wise, to bake for others.

And so we had a drive-through Relief Society party (ie for the women’s organization) at the church parking lot. You stop your car–sometimes it was a line–you say from a safe distance your preference of type of cupcake, everybody with masks on, or whether you’d prefer flowers to calories; one person brings your choice to you (if a cupcake) in a little box with a heart at the top so it won’t smush all over the inside of your car or make you have to hold it while you’re trying to drive, several people at social distances away from each other are bringing more to other cars and nobody breathes on anybody.

So-and-so pulled in to park and could you move just a bit so they can get out. Sure.

We could actually some of see each other’s faces for real for the first time in over a year and we did chat a bit from there; not too long, more are coming, we let them have their turns.

Man, did that feel good.

The response to the original query was such that not only did I get a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache and cream cheese layered in the filling, I was offered to take a random one home to Richard along with a blue hydrangea stem.

His turned out to be vanilla. With sprinkles. Which made me laugh. Our kids memorably swooned over sprinkles on a cake someone brought us when they were, well, kids.

All the leftover cupcakes were going to end up on the one family’s doorstep if we didn’t rescue them.  No! It’s okay! Him, too! Take one!

After tasting mine, I understood the danger. Man, that was good.



A bucket of Kernel Standards
Monday March 08th 2021, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Ellen was wondering how best to plant her newly-arrived Anya apricot kernels at the very moment I was scrolling through my phone, got distracted, and butt-dialed her. She FaceTimed right back and we both had a good laugh. The answer is, I don’t know what the precise depth one should plant those is but I do know I had to tear the top of the Root Riot to get a kernel in–they’re latex and peat moss if I remember right, kind of an odd combination–so I didn’t put mine in very deep, afraid they would have a hard time fighting their way out.

As they swelled to sprout the kernels kind of worked their way upwards slightly and the seedlings have the split-open sides angling upwards from the surface like flower petals.

And it worked just fine.

Plant and root both will be growing from the pointy end of the seed.



Covid covetings
Sunday March 07th 2021, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The closer we get to being vaccinated, the harder it feels to wait. I’m trying not to be antsy.

We had a great time Facetiming with the northern grandkids today–but Lillian wanted us to BE there, not just be pictures that interacted with her.

With you all the way, baby girl, with you all the way.

The state is allocating doses by county and has decided that ours having had the best compliance and the fewest cases and deaths with ample resources to deal with the illness means we’ll be the last to get the vaccine.

Which feels a little like punishing the well-behaved, but on the other hand there are so many people whose circumstances put them in so much more need than us. We can simply stay home and wait a little longer.

We’ve proved that.

But I do not blame the friend younger than I who drove into the next county and got his first shot. I so get that.



Not an angora
Monday March 01st 2021, 12:01 am
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

Someone in a breakout room after Zoom church said something to me about someone’s video and I explained about not hearing well without closed captions.

This is someone who’s known me for 34 years but she was astonished, and tried to explain how watching a video works. You just listen! Like we’re doing right now! Not noticing that I’d asked for repeats quite a few times while trying not to dominate the conversation by my deficits.

I explained that my hearing aids need to be replaced, my audiologist just retired, and with the pandemic I just haven’t gotten out there. I have to make do with these for the moment.

Still she stayed baffled, and hearing-splained it to me again how simple it was: you turn on the video and you listen to it. While I was sitting there thinking, wait what? Are you okay?

Then later she said something that was even more off–such that for the first time I found myself counting up to figure out how old she was (80 can’t be too far off) and wondering how her family is doing if this is becoming their normal. Huh.

It was that or be offended. Actually I confess I was, while trying hard not to be–not so much for myself but because I knew it could hurt a friend who has a lot on her plate right now.

It helped that the woman was struggling to remember if she was getting this right. She wasn’t.

I shot off an email to my very patient friend Afton and tried to be over it.

And then the doorbell rang.

It was a new couple from church whom I’d only seen by Zoom with their young son: they had baked us some bread.

I had seen their son helping his mom working on that loaf at the end of the Relief Society Zoom because that’s when the meeting was and they wanted to get it to us before dinner and the timing was what it was, but I didn’t know any of that.

The kid had the bread. The dad was holding…

…A beautiful, big, tawny-colored rabbit about the size of a Maine Coon cat. Who was absolutely chill with having a complete stranger pet it behind the ears and down its soft back. I asked if I should have it sniff my hand first like a dog would want and they said, No, just go ahead and pet him, he’s cool.

Little tufts of light and dark blondnesses wafted into the air.

I mentioned the spinning wheel and the hair scrunchy I once made from a friend’s dog.

They got pretty excited and there are now definite plans to comb the rabbit. It’s not a long haired one but we can make do.

They had no way to know they had totally saved the day. The worry over that thing someone had said who probably really isn’t responsible for it anymore? It went poof with the lightness of bunny fluff floating on the breeze.



Thank you, Ruth
Monday February 08th 2021, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Eleven years ago Scrabblequeen Ruth very generously gave me her treadmill so that I could get my exercise while doing the no-sun lupus thing. For which I have been very grateful and I have put it to use day after day year after year–if nothing else, I had to make it worth what to me was her sacrifice.

Starting a few months ago, the belt gradually got a little off-center, but it didn’t seem to hurt anything.

Two weeks ago it was suddenly slowing down intermittently just enough to risk throwing me off it and then it would get going again. A few days later it jammed. It started up again, jammed again, and with that I turned it off afraid of burning out the motor and went and googled treadmill problems.

I think we can fix it, or at least, he can.

We haven’t, though. I am intensely grateful for how much good that exercise has done for me for all this time.

But let me try this a bit longer first.

It wasn’t till I stopped using it–while still having the habit and the need to–that I let myself fully consider the thing.

The floor holds still.

My compensation for my destroyed sense of balance is purely tactile and visual and the treadmill is a distinct challenge on the tactile feedback part. I got good at it–but it required constant paying attention to where and how my body was so as not to fall, and you don’t want to on one of those. There’s more than one way to get tired.

Race-walking in circles entryway/living room/family room/kitchen/dining, I find I’m free to walk faster and take longer strides than I dared before and am comfortable doing so for a lot longer–it’s so much easier for the three-dimensionally-challenged. In these two weeks I’ve doubled my exercise time without having planned to.

But none of that would have happened had that machine and even more, the generosity of the gift behind it not gotten me to establish that good habit in the first place.



Feed His sheep
Sunday January 24th 2021, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Finished a hat last night.

One thing said in church today was that in this time of so much isolation, write someone a note. Reach out.

And so a note showed up on the doorstep next door, thanking the neighbor for opening the door to my daughter at 11:00 at night so that we could retrieve our groceries that had been dumped there, and with the note, a plate of homemade biscotti by said daughter. Who took great delight in going over there again, and then in anticipating their coming home to the surprise.

They were gone all day. They called to tell us that that plate of excellent cookies had been devoured the moment they’d walked in the door.

Second thing said in church today: one of the members had splurged on some food that was to be a particular treat for the husband, who’s been working covid cases in the ICU for long, long hours–but it got stolen off their porch.

The first reaction was anger and upset; the second was, but what if it was because someone is hungry? Because there are a lot of people going hungry right now. She tried to do a little something about it.

The end result was–well, it made the local paper.

And now excuse me, I’ve got me some more note writing to do while there’s a little time left in the day.