Parfianka
Thursday July 09th 2020, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Mango tree

I’ve told this before, but for those who haven’t yet read it: My friend Jean planted a pomegranate tree and two years later brought a half a paper grocery bag’s worth of fruit to church to share that was bursting open, breaking itself into pieces that made it easy for lots of people to get a sample (outside). *She* thanked *us*, saying there was way more than she could eat.

I had never tasted anything like it. I wondered if I’d ever tasted an actually ripe pomegranate before, or was it just the variety (she didn’t remember the name.)

A few years later I got to tell her that she was why I’d researched descriptions and taste tests and planted my own, a Parfianka, the favorite of not only a whole bunch of people online but the owner at Yamagami’s Nursery. I never would have done it had I not tasted hers first and found out what I was missing. She’d definitely earned a thank you.

Mine was a cute little $10 end-of-season-clearance what-they-had-left thing in one of those 4x4x10″ sleeves. Jean was 80 when she planted hers and she clearly started with a more established specimen. Makes sense.

Time and sun and water and dirt and the little one got there just the same. It fascinates me how the tree just keeps on randomly throwing out new flowers with the fruit in various stages, keeping the feeding station open for the bees and hummingbirds.

Jean is 94 this year and I think others will be bringing her pomegranates inside to her. I hope she gets to see them fully ripe again.

And one of my mangoes, too: two more months. I would not make her wait for an Alphonso, knowing she misses the Hadens of her childhood in Hawaii but her late husband even more, but I hope to help her discover something new to love and partake of just like she did for me.

I don’t dare risk bringing one to her in this pandemic, but if her daughter okays it I’ll pass one along through her.



Chopped stick
Monday July 06th 2020, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

Lots of sawdust and sound today.

It’s so strange to look out the skylights and not see the silk oak a.k.a. grevillea tree anymore. There will be no murder of crows next spring when its weird orange flowers would have come on. It won’t be dropping any more major limbs on us. The new owner wasn’t risking it, and besides, whatever it may have looked like 70 years ago, it sure didn’t now.

The workers dropped large enough chunks of trunk to make the house jump, and sitting on the couch it felt exactly like the first jolt of the 5.4 quake that happened while I was in the same spot some years ago. I got up and took this picture through the leaves of my Chinese elm of the last nine feet or so of it (the yellow dead center there) before it too thumped down hard.

The old guy behind us breathed a sigh of relief and emailed me that he’d been cleaning up a bucket’s worth of leaves from that messy tree every single day for all the decades they’d lived here and now he won’t have to anymore.

My pear tree will have a much greater chance of finally blooming next year with all the new sunlight.

They took out the weed trees that were about to grow through the fence along our front walkway, too. I had had no idea just how shaded we had become until suddenly it was brilliance out there. My roses can make a comeback now; I’ve missed them. That fire hazard growing towards the sun and over my house that the insurance company was so upset over is gone. I miss them, but I don’t, and I won’t ever have to shell out big bucks to trim them straight up from the fence line to keep them happy anymore. Which, as I showed the new owner, would over time make them liable to fall on her house.

Gone. Done. Her yard will start over.

The tall ash in the background is in the yard next to Adel’s. It had a large nest this year, and I wondered if the hawks had moved there after the redwood vanished.

Last night, a Cooper’s swooped over our heads and up into that ash tree near that nest. Its young have surely fledged by now but territory must be announced–and youngsters like to stick close to home the first few months.

So they’re okay after all that came down today.

The owner of that house walked around the corner, talked to the tree crew a minute during their break, and got their business card. Hopefully for a different tree.



Blenheims
Tuesday June 30th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

We wore masks, we socially distanced, we stayed outside and only to say goodbye did she have her kids stand in the doorway for us to see each other and wave hi-‘bye. I hadn’t seen them in two years, but even the then-toddler still knew full well that I was her old buddy and she made my day.

Jennifer had invited me to come see her housewarming present in full production mode. She’s done a great job with it.

I got sent home with a goodly number of apricots and now I need to figure out the best way to save some for when the season is over.



They knew
Sunday June 28th 2020, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

The Zoom church meeting: Dave was one of the speakers. The kid I watched grow up in New Hampshire, and such a good man.

He told a story from his teens that I hadn’t heard before, one that probably happened the summer after we moved away.

His parents had signed him up for a week at an interfaith camp in Boston. He did not want to go. He did not want to get out of the car when they got there. He argued, but they insisted.

The experience was life changing.

He was one of two Mormons in the group and the other was a girl he was friends with, so it was nice to find out he’d get to spend some time with her, anyway.

Midway through the week, after they’d all started to get to know each other a bit, they were told to divide up by which church they belonged to, and for this next exercise they were not to talk to anybody but the ones in their group. At all. Just talk amongst yourselves only.

Some kids had a big group and lots of people to find out more about, for Dave it was just him and his friend–

–and there was one girl sitting alone. All she could do was watch everybody else interact, and maybe listen as best she could. Okay.

The leaders kept not calling an end to the exercise.

After two hours, that poor girl was just too overwhelmed with the enforced loneliness while everybody else was enjoying themselves and in spite of I’m sure her best efforts in front of everybody, she started to cry.

Dave said it was the African-American kids who immediately did what he’d wanted to do all along: they instantly rushed to her side. They knew what it was to feel alone in society and they weren’t going to stand for it one more minute, and as soon as they did so so did Dave and his friend.

They were expecting to be scolded for not following the directions of the exercise.

To their astonishment, the adult in charge of it answered, What. Took. You. So. Long.



Wheelchairs for cars
Wednesday June 24th 2020, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

After they towed the car away they sent the email that said that there’s a 2-4 week national backorder on catalytic converters, one assumes because so many are being stolen.

And then I saw the other email. Had it been from anyone else I would have laughed and looked for the gentlest way to say no. But it wasn’t just anyone else.

Did I do commissions? A co-worker was having a baby and he thought it would be so freaking cute to be able to give the baby a hat that matched the logo of the project they were working on.

I won’t post that logo here but picture a circular, slanted rainbow with an animal’s face in the center.

A cat, he said.

A dog: a boxer on a summer day, I said. Those cheeks. That tongue hanging out.

A teddy bear, Richard glanced over and said.

A freaking pain in the neck, my needles said. The guy had no way to know.

I didn’t answer. I simply held yarn after yarn up to the computer and then compared amongst them to try to come up with the best combination. At this point there’s a lot of leftovers from that afghan project, and though worsted weight is not my first pick for baby clothes it’s what I had that had those colors and was machine-washable, soft wool. Soft enough for a baby.

Intarsia in the round. You knit right to left. The colors change left to right. Get to the end of the first row and the yarn at the color change is now on the other side away from you, so you wrap one (thank you Nancy Weber for teaching me how to knit socks years ago!) so it doesn’t make a hole and you go back to where you came from on two circular needles inside a Venn diagram because the hat’s too small to use just one. So there’s that variable, too.

When UPS knocked on the door when I was at a row and needle change it took me a moment afterward to figure which juncture, which direction, and which yarn.

You change colors in the back so it doesn’t show. Except there is no back during the knitting that way. It shows. And it shows worst and is the most messed up at the start of the rows at the orange/yellow, exactly where the mutt’s face is supposed to be centered–no hiding it at the back of the wearer’s head.

I was planning on stockinette and the gauge thereof. I had garter instead–which made it too big, but if you use that as a folded-up brim to hide half the animal it will…make a great peek-a-boo toy. After the baby gets old enough not to cry when it falls down and covers its eyes and it doesn’t want it to and it can’t yet do anything about it.

Let me get the rest done before making pronouncements.

The upper part gets to be stockinette because having just done four hours of this mess and not loving the result I was getting antsy. It was time to start the face.

I picked up a sewing needle and ran the new contrasting colors back to the starts of their sequences, ready to knit again, no turning. So there. There will be no give to the hat there but something had to give for me.

So many ways it’s not up to my standards. And yet, and yet, the silly thing is growing on me.

Note to self: next time knit a slanted panel, knit another picking up the side of the first as you come along, then another, till at the last you pick up from both sides and close the circle.

I finally answered his email after I got this far along with it: I said, no, I don’t take commissions.

But actually, I was going to surprise you with a doorbell ditch but I’m not there yet and I didn’t want to leave you disappointed all night, wondering. It’s far from perfect. But it’s coming.



A baby tree finds its way home
Tuesday June 23rd 2020, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

In between the insurance company calling, the adjuster calling, Enterprise calling, Enterprise picking me up, Enterprise filling out the paperwork and sending me on my way in a minivan, and the company the insurance picked to fix the Prius calling about the tow truck they’ll send to get my car…

Ruth and Lise were going to Yamagami’s Nursery. Where one must wait in line in the sun to go in: only so many people are allowed in under continued lockdown procedures at this Essential Business, you must wait till someone comes out, etc etc. Which is why I have not been able to go. After buying a bag of potting soil somewhere else years ago that turned out to be, somehow, plain sand with just the smallest bit of dirt mixed in, I am quite loyal to the place where I know I get the best of everything and it is what it says.

Did I want anything?

I made sure they knew I am by no means on their way. Did they still want to?

Absolutely!

Ohmygoodnessyes! Thank you! I had vegetable plants so root bound they were starting to look sick. I’d ordered fifteen and twenty gallon fabric pots so that I could plant them where they’d have lots of root space without having snails disappear them overnight, all I’d needed all this time was some good soil. For two months. And I wanted to help keep my favorite place in business.

My friends–I met Ruth via knitting at Purlescence years ago–are fruit tree enthusiasts and the reason for my Black Jack fig: they’d told me that in our climate that was the best-tasting of their three.

I showed them around the back yard. They exclaimed in recognition as I named variety after variety, most fondly, the fig. We geeked out together over the thought of picked-first-thing-in-the-morning sweetness.

And I sent them home by way of thanks with one of my two Anya apricot seedlings. They were thrilled at the offer. I was thrilled; it absolutely felt meant to be. I had always known I would give one away and had been trying to figure out who it might best be, when suddenly as we were planning all this there was no doubt.

You cannot, as far as I’ve been able to find, buy that variety tree at retail. You can only plant a kernel and hope it’s true to its parent, and here I’d given them a year’s head start on the process.

They were very very pleased.

And now my own Anya is happily planted in the oversized pot that had been waiting for it. It should last it for several years. I was surprised at how big its root structure already was.

(The watermelon and squash plants were so grown into their clay pots that I finally had to shatter them carefully against the concrete to free their grip.)



Not as planned
Monday June 22nd 2020, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The plan this morning was, I was going to the pharmacy and then swinging by the hardware store that has the fan I’d paid for waiting to be picked up.

I got in the car. I turned it on. Everything was fine. I put it in reverse.

Screamingly NOT fine as I backed up.

I looked around for the drag-racing cars or motorcycles with no mufflers??

I put it in gear and it somehow got louder, loud enough to shake the steering wheel–I bet they could hear that car a half mile away, and a neighbor out walking stopped and stared at it like, holy cow. I got it back in the driveway, smelled the burning, came in and told Richard and called the police.

The thieves who’d stolen the catalytic converter had left a few spare parts in the driveway. They can get a few hundred for the rare metals, while replacing the thing costs about three grand. I’d read that older Priuses are a particular target and you can pay to have a metal plate added to try to thwart them, but earlier reports had said (erroneously) that ’07 models weren’t affected so we hadn’t spent the $300 to weld such a thing in there.

Later reports included our year, though.

But it’s easy not to spend a lot of money on something you’d never knowingly use if you bought it. Plus there was the guy quoted who’d had that done and they still got his car a second time.

Those moments felt like the day of the 1987 Loma Prieta earthquake: I knew this could happen, I knew it was a possibility, I knew it was possibly even a likelihood if we kept the car long enough but I just didn’t ever quite know that it could be *today* that we would have to go through it. Three grand. Three grand. Three grand. For that old but low-mileage car that has served us so well and so long. (Heck, we’re still on the same 2/3 of a gas tank as early March if not February. I guess we’ve taken our shelter-in-place seriously.)

No AC and now our car’s been destroyed by thieves and we only have the one. I was feeling quite sorry for myself.

The cop was, to my relief, wonderful. Insurance wasn’t going to go anywhere without his input.

And then: Anne showed up at our doorstep with not one but two fans to cool us down. Surprise!

And then: I found myself throwing the door open a little after she left and exclaiming, Joe!! I’d finally been allowing myself to hear that he’d said Tuesday–or Wednesday, if he could get the… (Scolding myself, Don’t only pay attention to the Tuesday part because that’s the one you liked, hon.)

And it’s only Monday.

Joe explained that with the just-in-time manufacturing that I wish companies would realize how much it alienates their customers, turns out it was going to be two weeks to get that model blower motor.

He was almost apologetic as he said that this brand and this brand are owned by the same company and the parts are interchangeable–just the names printed on them are different. But he had, he’d found an identical one by the same company/different name on it that would fit just fine and was that okay with me?

Two weeks vs right this very minute? Is this a trick question?

Anne’s fans did their thing while the AC caught up. She laughed via text, If she hadn’t brought them over we’d have had to wait two weeks for that motor, right?

The car insurance gave me a claim number and will get back to me tomorrow about it. No questions were answered yet except that a rental is covered in our policy.

I googled and found an article saying that with driving way down because of the pandemic, it claimed that most of what car insurers are dealing with right now is catalytic converter thefts. Yow. Maybe that meant ranked in terms of the costs to the companies, though.

We really ought to own a fan, meantime, and I think that when I finally get to Ace with my story they won’t mind that it took me so long to pick it up.



To you to you to you for you to you and you
Wednesday June 17th 2020, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

My neighbor said she was picking her plum tree and did I want some?

I’d love!

Don’t return the bag, she told me, just come on over and pick it up from outside the door. (She is not someone you want to potentially expose.) So I did, and was tickled that it was from Medecins Sans Frontiers–Doctors Without Borders, and anybody who’s read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee for years has probably helped donate to the over a million she helped raise for them. It did not surprise me that those neighbors were involved with MSF, too; good people.

We both have Santa Rosa plums, and yet every single year hers from her much older tree on a bit of a rise from mine always ripens a week ahead.

Meantime, Jeremiah gave a gas barbecue grill to David when he moved in April and now David is moving and he offered it and our old one is long dead and other-Dave volunteered his truck and time to get it to us after calling this afternoon to confirm. Dave and his daughter rolled it on back to the patio under the Chinese elm.

A small-world aside: I knew Dave when he was a teenager in New Hampshire when we lived there and we are all definitely old friends.

Would you like some homegrown plums, I asked by way of thanks.

His face lit up. “YES!” His daughter looked pretty happy about it, too.

And he wanted to see our fruit trees, so I took them on a tour of the yard.

He was intrigued by the mango. When I said it really needs that Sunbubble off it for the summer, the lack of air flow at the back has let a fungus do a bit of damage, his instant response was, We can do that!

It’s about fifty pounds, I warned.

C’mon! We can do it! And so before Richard could even step outside to help the three of us undid the stakes and lifted it and Dave had it over the mango and set it down over there and insisted on putting at least a few stakes back in so it wouldn’t balloon away just for fun before we can get it taken apart.

I got my first real good unobstructed look in two years at the entirety of that tree and what it had grown to and how the Sunbubble had to some degree restricted it, plus that one shoot straight up at the center where the greenhouse’s ceiling had been highest. There is definitely some pruning coming, and I’ll be able to reach that now without a wall in the way.

But it’s done, it’s done! And we have a new-to-us grill! I had something to send them off with in thanks (freely admitting the plums had come from next door.)

I need to find out if the first David likes plums, too.

Jeremiah, I’m afraid, is way too far away now to share ripe ones with.

And I need to thank the neighbor again for making a whole other family happy, too.

——-

Edited to add just for fun: dolphins with mirrors.



Apricots and cobblers and good friends
Tuesday June 09th 2020, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

What my Anya apricot seedlings get to be when they grow up! When they’re not about three inches tall.

This Blenheim was a housewarming present, before I’d even heard of Anyas, and every year Jennifer sends me a picture to show me how it’s coming along. (Looking at the date on that old post–wow, this is only its third year.)

“So many apricots,” the email said. She asked for ideas on using them all up and I sent her my two favorite fruit cobbler recipes; her kids are going to love all the extra desserts.

She does indeed have sourdough starter and I told her we’d finished off that recipe tonight and were quite sorry to have it all be gone.



Official lockdown day 76
Sunday May 31st 2020, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

The backstory on the pie: my daughter was looking at the strawberries we’d gotten from Andy’s Orchard and dearly wished for rhubarb to complete them. But one only goes to the grocery store these days when it’s a necessity and we didn’t even know where to find it now that our old source is gone.

Friday night, knowing none of that, my friend Catherine said she was picking more rhubarb from her garden than her family could eat and offered it to all on the ward chat–with the one request that if you take it you eat it.

I had an order already in for the Milk Pail Saturday morning produce pick-up from their warehouse: you pull up, you roll down the window, they swing in the bag of random plantliness, no choosing, just a good price and far fewer hands between you and the farmers.

So: there, then Catherine’s.

Where I opened the back door to see for sure. It looked like chard, but no, it was indeed kale, and my sweetheart has strong opinions about kale, as in, why would anyone do that to a perfectly good meal?

Poor little unloved kale, you look good to me, and part of me almost didn’t but it felt right and I put the little foundling in its green bio-friendly bag on Catherine’s doorstep as I picked up the waiting rhubarb.

And went home and sent off an email explaining why she was going to be finding it there and that I hoped it had found a good home.

Which she didn’t see for a few hours–but she did see the kale and had no idea how it had gotten there.

What she answered is that she had found it and gone ?!!!!? She had just then been finishing the last kale in her house. She loves it, she loves that particular variety of kale the most, she eats it all the time and she was quite sorry to be out of it to the point of debating risking an unnecessary run to the store just to get more.

Just like we almost had for rhubarb.

And there it just shows up right at her door just like that.

And already there were the pictures of the rhubarb strawberry pie: we’d used it all up.



Lockdown day 75: Blessed are the peacemakers
Saturday May 30th 2020, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History

In Kansas, there was no violence nor looting. The people holding up the sign demanding End Police Brutality–were the cops.

In Santa Cruz over the mountains from here there was a peaceful demonstration that stayed peaceful. The chief of police, with no riot gear and no back up, met with the protestors and took a knee right along with them.

Meantime, my friend Catherine offered rhubarb from her garden and asked only that it actually be used. So I got it home and a few hours later teased her about my strawberry celery pie.

Note to self: mixing the flour/sugar mixture with the fruit and letting it soak in for awhile and then stirring again before putting it in the crust was absolutely the way to go. Never again just pop it straight in the oven.



Lockdown day 71: Andy’s Orchard
Tuesday May 26th 2020, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Is it good? Yes. So much so that I can’t wait to spend an hour and a half pitting and stirring pureed cherries over a hot stove on a hot day again? That I’m not convinced of.

Which is kind of funny, because one of the things I picked up at Andy’s Orchard today was dried tart cherries as well as fresh Black Tartarians so I wouldn’t have to use cranberries next time. But there’s still another cup of that puree, so we’re not quite done yet.

That was the first retail venue I’ve stepped inside of since the lockdown began. It was roped off and marked into in and out and one way going around, there was the plexiglass barrier for the clerk, and at the entrance a prominently-placed sign requiring masks.

Theirs were cloth with bright cherries against a black background. Will they have peach ones later? I’ll just have to come back when those come on.

Mine had bright fish. 



Lockdown day 69: a door gradually closing
Sunday May 24th 2020, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We got the news that our 95-year-old friend Betty is in isolation with covid-19.

Her lungs have gotten through all these years after being damaged by airborne specks of metal when she was a Rosie the Riveter working on planes in WWII.

As a woman completely blind since birth.

After the war, until new technology made her skills obsolete, she worked in a dark room developing x-rays for the hospital because the lack of light was no novel thing to her.

Then there was the time she told her husband he was too drunk to drive them home–she was going to do it. He could coach her through it but she was taking the wheel, and did, and told the tale with great delight forever after. (How far she actually got I have no idea.) She’d just always believed she could do just about anything anybody else could and was happy to try to prove it.

Past 90 and in a nursing home, she wasn’t always sure she remembered me but she always remembered Richard when we visited; he’d helped her with her computer (and as a visitor, he knew how to talk loud enough so that she could hear, which she needed more and more.)

I don’t expect we’ll ever get to see her again. I don’t expect to get to hear that laugh of hers again.

But I’m glad that I know what it sounds like.



Lockdown day 68: opening doors
Saturday May 23rd 2020, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

So there I was in the early evening when the sun and UV levels were low enough, watering the fruit trees, setting the timer, moving the hose again, going in and out.

The slider has a broken roller and sometimes it’s iffy but it was totally behaving itself, and I was silently remarking to myself how nice that was.

Until suddenly it jammed and that was it for the night. Aargh.

Beep beep beep. Three minutes and 27 gallons per tree, time to move it to the next. So I went out the front and around the house to the next peach and thought, eh, a little extra exercise, right?

And then I considered a moment: was it shorter to go back around again or through the gate to the front door on the other side? Maybe that. Why not. So I opened the gate–

–and who was parked in front now but the hopefully new neighbor-to-be. We waved hi enthusiastically at each other. She said something out the window, so I went around to our door, grabbed a face mask, and dashed back out to get to know her and meet her daughter and answer questions about the neighborhood.

The mom opened up: “I’m looking for a community.”

I told her about the annual block party with the street closed off and the rented bouncy house to keep the little kids amused and contained while the adults pull out the grills and barbecue.

And about how the neighborhood had rallied together when a developer wanted to put 42 houses on the I think it was .6 acre lot in the next block and the neighborhood had rallied around and had demanded the land go back to the school district. Enrollments were back up these days and once land is gone it’s gone, and that used to be the playing field for the elementary there (which has since reopened)–and in the end, the school district listened to us and they did!

I had to excuse myself after several minutes for fear of drowning my tree, ran, moved the hose, and came back out. This time the daughter was standing by their gate and wanted to know why it wouldn’t latch. She asked about the plants and the trees and I told her the story of the stabby juniper that the old neighbor and I just couldn’t get to stay cleared out–till the young man across the street hooked up the stump to the back of his jacked-up truck and revved it right out of there by the roots. VRROOOM!

They still have a contingency on the house. It’s still not a done deal. But they really want it. And I really want them to get it.

I would never have known they were there if that silly door hadn’t jammed. Thank heavens for irritating favors.



Lockdown day 64: New neighbor. Maybe.
Tuesday May 19th 2020, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Picture taken a few rows ago.

Somehow a few darker purple stitches came out in a line that makes the fish looking like it’s making a tight-lipped face. I may duplicate stitch over a few to break them up and make the odd stitch more random.

Taking the recycling bin to the curb this evening, I got to meet the woman who put an offer on the house next door and her realtor.

The neighbor on the other side was coming over to introduce herself, too, and she chatted with the buyer while I chatted with him; he asked me if I’d like to see the place and I said, Sure!

He’s a birder with arborists in the family, so he was thrilled at having me point out where the hawks have nested in those trees–and he knew from the get-go what he needed to advise his client re what work should be done to trim them back to safety. And now, why one had to be sure there were no raptor fledglings left when they do.

Looking over the otherwise cleared-out back yard, I told him she could plant any kind of fruit tree she wanted and would likely have a pollinator from across the fence for it. He grinned.

It’s not a done deal, there’s a contingency, but I came away really hoping she gets it and I think she came away really hoping all the more, too. I can’t wait.