The night is young
Sunday January 08th 2023, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Garden

Well, that’s a no-frills pruning job. (Listening to the gusts of water coming down.)

Sungold, Black Krim, Mortage Lifter
Monday January 02nd 2023, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

So the neighborhood didn’t blow up. Suddenly that last tomato variety’s name up there has a different twinge to it… Thank you, firefighters.

The blue lines in the forecast continue: 5.95″ still to come between now and next Wednesday and it looks like it’ll keep going after that. This Wednesday and next Monday look to be like the big day we just had. Stay home.

Shasta, the biggest reservoir, is still only at 57% of normal and 34% full. Etc. But day by day we’re getting there.

As it was pouring down today, I opened my new Burpee catalog–now that it’s had a few days to dry out so you can turn the pages, and then I ordered visions of Spring.

I always think I should plant marigolds to protect my tomatoes from the squirrels, since they hate the smell of them, but I never do. With our overhangs, I don’t have bright window space for much and then it always feels like too late for a round two of starts.

20% off? (Enter code BSC23 till 6/30/23) A new color variant that I like? Strawberry Blonde. I ordered the plants, which I never have before, and I don’t care how small the marigold seedlings turn out to be when they get here: they’ll be actual plants, not wishes. This year those tomatoes are mine!

And I bought sunflower seeds. Their new Creme Brûlée. I mean, sunflowers this year of all years, yes, not to mention that with a name and look like that how could one not. Slightly burnt-looking stamens on the back catalog cover, reminiscent of what the Ukrainians have endured, but deeply satisfying to the eye, the heart, the birds: gorgeous flowers, absolutely gorgeous.

And, yes, the squirrels will be thrilled. Let’s see if I can get them to grow on the far side of the house from the rest.


Update: I just got a notification that a major tree is down and blocking one of the more problematical creeks. That’s an emergency, and the mayor of the next town (not sure if it fell to or from their side) is on it.

In a warm house
Tuesday November 15th 2022, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift

If I do a full repeat every day, I’ve been telling myself, I’ll have it done before the wedding.

Fully aware that if they do come to their cousin’s wedding, too, their luggage will be weighed down with baby gear while they’ll be wrangling a one-year-old and the last thing they’ll need is to have to stuff a whole blanket in. I should ship it.

But one takes the motivation and the deadline one has. So far, they know nothing about it.

I was pretty proud of myself for how much I’ve gotten done the last four days–it just had to get past that point where the bottom curls up against your hands like a toddler grabbing your legs and whining when you know all they need is a meal and a nap.

Today I did the most of all. Momentum and all that. I finally decided, okay, give the hands a break, put it down, you want to be able to do this tomorrow. Pace it.

That was when I looked to my left and saw what had been quietly waiting all day for me to notice. I don’t know how many times I’d walked right past it.

I had moved the bag just yesterday and there were a bunch of I thought roots: y’know, I really need to plant those…

That’s no root. All that (matching lavender!) color happened today. I almost missed it. I almost missed discovering how divine saffron crocus flowers smell.

I will need to remove those bulbs very carefully from that bag.

Tomorrow. It’s way too cold out there right now.


How long had that been there?
Wednesday October 26th 2022, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

There was a small flock. That was the tell.

Given the water restrictions, I only planted one tomato this year, and a Costco plant at that–meaning you take what they’ve got, and all they had was a determinate-type: they grow, they produce all at once, they die.

Personally, I’d prefer a few at a time across the summer, but lazy is as lazy buys.

It gave it its all, though it did space the ripening out just enough. See those dead yellow and brown leaves hanging down?

But since it was right there by the apricot pots I gave a little water to it each time, too. It was still alive. You never know.

It started with the surprise of a small new leaf after weeks without change. Then a few more.

And now it’s a whole plant full of bright little yellow blossoms dressed up for Halloween. Cool! (Let’s see if I can protect it from frost for the winter, but my back isn’t moving that thing quite yet.)

The flowers attracted the attention of a house finch, which clearly hopped in under a wobbly lower edge but couldn’t fly out at bird level but just bounced into the netting, and the more it panicked the more it wanted to go upwards to be safe.

None of which I noticed until I was surprised to see a bunch of finches out there where there was no particular reason for any of them to be–so I stood up and walked to the window to get a better look.

Ah, I see it, yes, they do that. Okay.

I walked outside and lifted the cage. Escape at last.

I came back in grateful once again for the example of simple birds, and at that, a type that’s famous for squabbling at birdfeeders.

But they are unwilling to see their fellow suffer alone. They feel compelled to be with it in its extremity. For as long as it takes.

Maybe it will work
Monday October 24th 2022, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,History

The best of my Anya apricot attempts. This was a kernel in my fridge two years ago. And now I know it’s going to be glorious to have in the Fall as well as at harvest.

Last night I was talking to my knitting zoom group friends and mentioned that the hat I was working on was the overall gist of the various patterns that someone in Ukraine had embroidered onto three blouses for me; that I wondered how, especially given current circumstances, I could get it to her in Kiev. I wanted to be able to thank her beyond words for all the hours she’d put in on my behalf.

But it had to be a small enough package that she wouldn’t get hit with customs duties. So, a hat.

Note that this is the same soft ball of Mecha that my granddaughter knitted herself a finger puppet out of.

We brainstormed ideas, with one person saying what about going through the embassy?

I have no idea. But I like that one, and I can try. That does make me want all the more to make one for every vendor there I’ve done business with; I can’t imagine what they’ve had to go through.

But only one of them embroidered by hand to order and knew who the recipient would be as she did so.

And I want her to have this.

Pom Poms
Tuesday August 30th 2022, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

I knocked my pomegranate tree over. Partly. My hose and I. It was very sudden: I woke up Sunday and went wow.

It’s juice-making time inside all those bright little reddening balls and clearly Saturday’s watering got slurped right up. There are no fruits on the back where it’s up against the shed, and so all the weight was towards the yard and there you go. See that oversized stake? It and all these branches you see leaning to the right were upright on Saturday. And they will be again once harvest is over.

The new neighbor’s little girl told me about the lemon trees in their back yard and asked to see the fruit trees in mine.

I told her she couldn’t just go back there, her mom had to know where she was. So she and her little brother and their mom all got invited over to see.

They’ve moved quite a few times and expect to again in a few years and the mom was wistful, telling me what kinds of fruit trees she’d like to plant someday–but what can you take with you, you know?

On a more practical note, she told me of a type of Chinese or Asian pumpkin (her description) that you cannot buy here. That she was trying to find seeds for so she could have them again. Like my apricot trees! she said. You want them you have to grow them if you can find even that, right? She was so happy for me that I got to have my Anya offspring.

I wished her all the best–and you know that the search for a source for her has begun. She’s only lived in the area a few weeks, and now I’ve got a list of the various specialty grocery stores she could try.

Not to mention, now I know which of my neighbors adores the pomegranates that we have so many of coming up. I can’t wait.

Wednesday August 24th 2022, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Squirrels do not get going at the crack of dawn and I hoped that at 7:30 a.m. they were still all nicely tucked in bed.

As if.

I came around the corner of the house yesterday to where the fig tree was, knowing they’re sweetest picked earliest in the day.

There was only going to be one ready. I had a clamshell snapped over it. There aren’t a lot this year. I had a bird netting tent sideways on the ground covering that lowest branch because it was too flimsy to safely hold the tent’s weight up, but at least it was something and there was a tea rose right to the side there.

Not that all that would do anything other than Rube Goldberg the access a bit. I am no Mark Rober.

It saw me before I saw it. The fig was knocked off the branch but inside the clamshell it hadn’t pried open yet as the squirrel tried to leap away–hitting the top of that tent from the inside.

Then the netting on the left, where the rose thorns were.

Then the netting on the right, and all three times it leaped for it as only a squirrel can: they can do seven feet from a standing position. So you know those whiskers were getting a little bent out of shape and its nose was feeling this.

Poor thing. I had certainly meant it no harm other than fig deprivation but it did occur to me that squirrels don’t learn from fear (or they would cease to be able to squirrel) but they can from, Well, *that* wasn’t fun.

It finally found its way out: it meant having to take a few steps actually towards me before it could get away from me. But if there’s a way to do something a squirrel will find it and it did.

That fig tasted pretty good.

That’ll teach me
Saturday August 20th 2022, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Garden

I was in and out moving the hose every three minutes, taking care of my fruit trees, and had just found the ripe late summer peach in a clamshell with great delight–when I felt something.

There was a snake hanging down in the side of my hair.

Oh right, the rubber ones. Silly snake.

Peach bodyguards
Wednesday July 13th 2022, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

I went out quite early this morning after seeing remains of peaches on the fence to see how my trees were doing, and three black squirrels–Momma teaching her young where the food was?–suddenly burst out of the leaves and scrambled for the hills.

I took the useless produce clamshell they’d somehow pried open and put it on another peach, hoping that one would have better luck. Went inside for the grape koolaid squirter and went at’em again because, oh well, it was something to do.

Walked back inside, wishing hard. Stepped out of the room, stepped back in, and now a big gray squirrel was sprawled on top of the bird netting cage over my single tomato plant not even far from the door, trying to figure out how to get to those. I gave it a what-for too and scared it away, took a deep breath, and headed inside yet again.

They had stayed away for so long. I wanted them to stay stayed, darn it.

There was almost like a tap on the shoulder.

I had long, long since forgotten that when the moving van had shown up with boxes near to the ceiling and halfway across the living room with my late parents-in-laws’ belongings (we were expecting a set of china for a daughter and not much more), that amongst all those items were what I took to be child toys. Really ugly child toys. From the father-in-law who once painted a homemade plaster of paris ornament as an orange Jack-o-lantern and proudly hung it on the Christmas tree every year when my husband was a kid.

My MIL, I am told, carefully made it so that that would be the thing most likely to break the next time the cat pulled the tree over, but it never worked.

Why, DadH, why, and I put the bouncy little crawly ickies over by the kid zone toy basket in the family room to let the grandkids tease each other with them. Or something.

Look. At. Those. as I strode across the room.

DadH had been an avid gardener.

Rubber snakes. Coiled. Two with mouths wide open and eyes fierce, with forked tongues sticking way out.

DUUUUUUH….!!! Thanks, Dad!

If I’d gone looking for them I would never have found them but there they were right there on top demanding to be noticed.

There are none in the Baby Crawford tree. No point anymore, although at least I’d picked one early to make sure we would get one single one. And that’s all we got. There are two snakes in the August Pride peach and one in the Thomas Jefferson-named Indian Free (as in freestone), which are small and hard and green for now.

I went out tonight to check.

The peaches are being left in peace again.

I haven’t seen a single squirrel since the snakes went out there.

Thank you, Dad, you’re a genius.

Hose and a
Saturday July 09th 2022, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Man it feels good to have that roof done. Our year on the waiting list is not a rare thing around here.

Now that I knew they wouldn’t all show up and get in each other’s way, it was time to make an appointment with the stump removal guy so that we can finally redo that section of fence that fell. There’s a board about four by six feet covering the spot but only by the grace of dog has he not shown up on our side but the one time in his puppyhood when his owner learned he likes to dig. I’m sure he could jump it, for that matter.

My pear tree is in that corner.

I dragged the hose over there tonight–yup, still doing that–and as usual made a point of not looking towards that board and into the neighbors’ back yard.

Their dog has learned over time that this is mine and I am here and he is there and we’re all cool with that.

Turning the spigot on, I said quietly to myself towards that brindled medium-large I-don’t-know-what-breed, wherever he was, I know you want to water this tree. But I’m going to.

Still working, still working, still…
Friday July 08th 2022, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Garden

A little pre-Civil War history on the naming of a particularly good cherry: an insult commandeered as a compliment.

Meantime, I guess one peach got missed by the grape Koolaid? Because it’s taking all the beak bites while the others have been left alone, for a week now. And I am leaving it exactly like that so it’ll continue to. The Erva cage, unstaked to leave it deliberately rattle-ly under paw, is keeping the raccoons and possums from daring climb the trunk.

We are actually, finally, for real getting critter-free and bird-free peaches!

My cherry amour
Saturday July 02nd 2022, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

So it turns out that the way to get me to finally pit over three pounds of small sour cherries at once that have been sitting in a mixing bowl in the fridge for days is to do it first thing in the morning in an old nightgown, sipping hot cocoa on the side. Spurts of juice turning your hair pink? No matter, you’re taking a shower after this anyway. Juice stains down the front? In that aging Black Watch plaid, who could tell? Or care?

It took about an hour, and when I finally put the now two and a quarter pounds of cherry guts into the freezer there was a keen sense of satisfaction that come Thanksgiving or Christmas, when I really really miss summer and the taste of sour cherries (which right now I do not) I can pull that right out and make a pie out of it, and not a small one either, and it will be glorious.

As I said to Richard a few days ago, I planted the tree, I watered the tree, I picked the tree, we eat the tree.

There are probably two more pounds on it. I’d been saving them for Eric and Aubrie, but it became one thing too many for them as they cleared stuff out to get ready for their move and it had become clear that simply showing up on their doorstep with processed cherries was even going to be too much.

They stopped by last night to give me their houseplants and left for their new life this morning and I will miss them dearly. But: they are looking for a house near my oldest sister. Cool.

I checked tonight. The cherries are not falling off yet. The cool weather these past few days surely helped.

Monday for the next round, then.

Saturday June 25th 2022, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

My friend Jennifer who got a Blenheim apricot tree as her chosen house-warming present not too many years ago invited me to come on by to help pick some of those apricots today.

There’s been this pandemic.

I would not have recognized the tree, it was so big and so loaded with fruit. Wow! I almost didn’t recognize her kids. They change so fast.

She worked the picker while I reached up to get ones that were too high for her kids so that they could have the lower ones to be proud of helping out with. The tree intermittently tossed a few good ones down to the littlest and the kids added to my basket again and again. There was love and happy Brownian motion and scampering and me dropping an apricot under the car oops and her little daughter scrambling to retrieve it for me and a good time was had by all.

I remembered what her husband had said years ago: how, when they were engaged, she’d gotten a diagnosis that could mean their time together might be very very short. It might mean that he’d never get to be a dad like he so much wanted. And yet, what he most wanted with his life was to be married to her.

They stood by each other through the worst from the first. A recovery and years and four kids later, they are living happily ever after and sharing the depth and strength of that love. Simply being there today felt like such a privilege.

I happened to be walking towards my front door from my car with that basket just as the new mailman pulled up, the second time I’ve actually gotten to see his face (the first time being yesterday while you were here, Anne.) I held it out and offered, saying my friend and I had just picked them off her tree. He took as many as his hand could hold, so clearly he was a fan, so I offered him more and shifting the first to his other hand he did, he took two more.

With just the happiest smile on his face. It surprised me but it made my day, too.

Jennifer got us off on the right start with the new guy.

Here, have some chocolate, feel better
Saturday June 18th 2022, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

Dandelion Chocolate has a superb pastry chef on staff, and they’ve started including an allergy-friendly vegan lemon poppyseed option.

So tomorrow being Father’s Day, Michelle took us into San Francisco for pastries and hot chocolate to celebrate early. We even found a parking space! We started the day off right.

Watering the fruit trees this evening, looking at the last of the sour cherries at the top and the first of the peaches coming on, the hose got caught on a rock about a foot across and it took some effort to get it off but it flipped and rolled a bit and out of the way and that was that.

Of course that means the next thing that happened was that I tripped over it because it was not where my subconscious expected it to be. You would think… This time my wrists caught me an inch or two above the ground and saved my face and teeth. No emergency dentist this time.


I have a new determination to hire someone to install a better watering system, no matter how much I enjoy my weekly evenings of taking care of my trees.

Morello tart cherry color?
Monday June 13th 2022, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

English Morello tart cherries for a pie, second round of ripening.

Did I get them pitted yet? I did not. But I did knit a good start of a cashmere cowl and two and a half rows on the coral reef, which goes so slowly that I have committed myself to a row a day. Minimum. Even if that row takes an hour. That way I don’t get discouraged and I do get to see progress.

The colors themselves say hey come play with me! That brilliant Matisse blue is toned down somewhat by what’s within it and they’re brightened by the Matisse.

Meantime, I have suddenly and in great delight been requested to make a baby blanket for the best-friend-of. So now I know what my plain-knitting respite project from the craziness of the colorwork is going to be after I finish that cowl; I just have to pick which yarn it’s going to be.

How do you ask someone what various colors might mean to them culturally when you want it to be a surprise?

To be continued.