Dr. S.
Wednesday October 27th 2021, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

The eye department couldn’t fit me in all on the same day for all the testing they wanted to do in answer to my query Monday, so after going yesterday I came back today to see just the technician for that last test.

There was the standard question yesterday of, do you have any new allergies.

Dr. S. mentioned by way of reassurance that he’d gotten that same fiery red rash from that brand of heart monitor, but it had faded away after a few days.

We were having a mutually surprised moment: you needed one, too? (How could you be old enough..! Answer: we’re sort of not. But him even less so, and I at least have lupus as an excuse.)

He was fine, he assured me, they were just checking.

He was quite delighted with the homegrown pomegranate. “Look how BIG it is! I love pomegranates!”

Coming through the door on my return home this afternoon, the answering machine was just finishing up.

It was Dr. S.

He had gone over that visual field test’s results. (Immediately, clearly, rather than waiting till the end of the day to get around to the paperwork. He’d wanted me to know right away.) It had taken a little more energy for me to see the flashes on one side, he said, consistent with the optic nerve having been narrowed by what appeared about 25 years ago to be optic neuritis. It had changed since last time, but only a little. From all he could see, there was nothing to worry about–but come right in if anything changes or you have concerns.

And then his voice sounded more emotional than perhaps he’d intended. “I’ll see you in a year. Come back in a year. Thanks.”

A promise that he would be here and that surely I must as well.

I felt that.

I appreciated that, and wished he had held off two more minutes to call so that I could have gotten off the freeway and grabbed that phone in time to say, and you, too. All the best.

To life!



A good way to spend a day
Friday October 15th 2021, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

Twenty-one rows and the start of the third set of branches, a trip to Andy’s Orchard where I got some of the last of the fresh figs of the season–SO good–and some dried Blenheim apricot slabs for my mom, and a visit this evening by friends bearing homemade goodies.

I went outside and cut a pomegranate off my tree and told them to come back for more later–they’re good now, but they’ll keep ripening and get even better.

I sent them home with a bunch of those figs, too, because they love them as much as I do and there were so many in that box and it would be criminal to have them not be enjoyed at their newest and best.

Meantime, I’m hoping the (already stratified) cherry seeds sprout that their son decided needed saving for me because the cherries I gave them from Andy’s were so good a few months ago. They haven’t yet. They’re in nature’s time zone. I’ll just have to wait.



Holter here we come
Thursday October 07th 2021, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

We’re still in summer drought mode here and there was no plant at the edge of the porch whatsoever, much less a weed. Two days after the workers sprayed all that water off the roof, there were two and I immediately ripped them right out.

And then took this picture just to show what weeds are like in California. From zero to this at the end of its second day from seed (or roots I’d previously missed.) The invasives are always the fastest, and they were already close to grabbing your socks with prickly, snaggy, stabby seeds.

A happier but far slower plant is the Anya apricot that surprised and revived. This was taken exactly one week after the first hint of green showed. I need to  keep it warm and growing all winter (hopefully!), since it lost most of the summer to shock.  

Meantime, I made it to nine-something of my usual twenty minutes’ exercise last night, sat down, recovered for half an hour, tried again, stopped at five, sat down, and finally did a few more to top it off because I’m stubborn like that.

Which is why they’re having me come in tomorrow to wear a heart monitor for two weeks. Having to answer to you all meant I had to answer to me meant I had to answer to the cardiologist, so I did, and thank you.

And you know? If you turn that weed up there sideways clockwise, it would kind of look like the blood vessels on a heart. Of a green Grinch.



Things are looking up
Monday October 04th 2021, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The roof job began today. They had to clean it to prepare the surface.

I told the guy who came to the door that I hadn’t been up there to sweep (most of it’s flat) since the time I fell off it. He did kind of a horrified laugh and was okay with my not.

I had been told to move any plant pots out of the way and tried but turns out there really was no out of the way, there was only less so, as the roof dripped like a hard rain while the spray billowed out over the yard. I did at least get my water-sensitive apricots out of range of most of it. It went on all day. I could not get a photo to really capture the effect, but during several bursts it went clear over the fence to the neighbor’s.

I just hoped they weren’t holding a family wake for Jim next door with those familiar cars there. It would, um, kind of put a damper on things.

But it wasn’t just power washing, there were scrapings and gougings and a lot of hard, loud work going on.

Having seen all my fruit trees, one guy mentioned mid-day that the years of collected leaves up there were really great for the garden; did I have a compost pile? Did I want this?

I knew full well that the company wouldn’t have to pay for the time or space to remove them if I said yes and I still said yes because his enthusiasm for the possibilities of how good this stuff was got to me. So now I have bags of almost-composted stuff, all nicely bagged and piled up by the pear tree, where it most could use it. I just didn’t expect to have quite so many–wait. Yes. I kind of did. Anyway, there are a lot. I’m hoping I can transmit some of that enthusiasm to fellow gardeners out there. Have a bag. No, no, I insist.

It sounded sort of like a dentist’s drill up there.

The actual new roof will begin in two weeks and take two weeks to get done along with the wood replacement, if their schedule holds to what they told me.

One of the things the building contractor will be doing at the same time is replacing all the skylights and the wood they’re sitting on–which is really good, because the one in the big bathroom now has a crack going around the edge on three sides that was not there last night. Had it made it to the fourth it would have fallen through to the floor.

I can’t hope for no rain, I just can’t, but next to the tub is really not a kosher way of taking a shower, not even on a drip system.

We’re getting there.

Two of them were cleaning up the debris on the edge of the back patio at the end and I opened the slider and said, I don’t need to water my tomatoes today.

They turned, saw where those were, and laughed, No. You don’t.



To life!
Wednesday September 29th 2021, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

After a week of watching that last fig slowly, slowly gain color and ripen as the leaves started to curl and turn yellow with the summer ending, Monday I finally got to eat it, wistful that that was going to be it for the year. You wait so long. They’re so good. And then they’re over so fast. (Usually, those Black Jacks are so big that I split them in half and share but this time he went, No, you love those, you have it.)

Yesterday evening I went outside and there, top and center and very obvious on my not-big tree was another last fig. I did quite the doubletake. It’s not like I hadn’t looked before, and now it was copying last week’s surprise peach! All I can figure is that it had had a leaf curled around it hiding it that had blown away. I knew there had been a fig there but I’d thought it long gone. How had the squirrels missed this?

Anyway, it was delicious, and I looked around the garden with a grin thinking, Okay, what’s next, guys? I mean what, an October cherry?

I kid myself.

And then.

Several months ago I gave one of my Anya seedlings to a friend who lives in a hotter area nearer Sacramento, and last night she regretfully told me her baby apricot had not survived the summer heat there.

I had one that I’d tested a self-watering system on before we flew off to see grandkids for the Fourth of July, only, the setup was in place on a day that hit 100F. It was a water bottle screwed into an absorbent clay piece going into the soil near the roots–which sounded great, but it appears I, um, cooked them. That bottle got hot! The seedling dropped every leaf and the top turned black and I was glad I’d only tried it out on one of them.

Every now and then I zapped a bit of water its way with the hose out of sheer stubborn unwillingness to allow it to be dead. For three months. Nada.

A few days ago I was thrilled to finally get to wear a sweater again. Well, so much for autumn no matter what the fig tree or my sweaters may think because today we started a new heat wave. Again.

And…

…Look who showed up for the party. The top is still just as dead as it ever was, but every node where there had been a leaf is now sprouting the beginnings of a whole new branch. Overnight.

I sent that photo to my friend, hoping she hadn’t tossed hers?

She had not. She was thrilled. We are hopeful.

I have no idea if I can get mine to stay leafed out all winter? If I keep it right up against the house? Except that the contractors finally gave me dates and they want everything away from the house that can be moved and it’ll be about Halloween when they’re done.

We’ll just have to find out. Onward to next spring!

 



Parfianka
Sunday September 26th 2021, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

Every time I look at one of my pomegranates I think gratefully of Jean, whose sharing is why I had to grow some, too. She’d planted hers as a gift to the future when she was 85. She didn’t remember what variety hers was, but if I had to guess it would be the one that was the favorite of the highly-knowledgeable owners of Yamagami’s Nursery. Mine is.

I’d forgotten the paper lunch bags for people to take the splitting chunks of seeds home in while wearing their Sunday best that day. Thoughtful, and so very much something she would do. No pomegranate juice on the carpeting at church.

I keep thinking, now I just need to find me a shimmery silk/merino yarn in dk or worsted weight in exactly those shades of red because I just really like it.



Small gifts
Thursday September 23rd 2021, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Wednesday is my tree watering day.

My last Indian Free peach fell into its protective clam shell about two weeks ago and I thought oh okay that one’s definitely ripe. I searched through the leaves and found no more, and figured, well, if there is one, the squirrels and jays will find it.

My routine has changed from four minutes per tree with the hose–you get deeper watering than you do with a drip system, I’m told, so I do–to three last year, to two this year plus an extra minute the next week if I see leaves going yellow, which a few have done. Maybe this winter we’ll get more rain.

It was nearly sunset by the time I got to the Indian Free, the late-season peach I’d planted so it would grow over the fence towards the neighbors where the wife has dementia to give her a place of fruit and restfulness and her husband a break. Earlier in her disease she had wished for there to be one that grew over to them so I’d bought another tree and made it happen.

Standing underneath it and looking up I couldn’t believe it. I ran inside to get my phone for the camera, came back outside, couldn’t find it–oh there it is!

I tried. I debated seeing if Richard could reach it, and then simply ran for the fruit picker.

It fell gently right into it. It was quite small, but it smelled like only a fresh-picked peach can.

Now, that particular variety isn’t supposed to get leaf curl disease but the tree nearest it did this past spring and it got a mild case, too. I had read that it not only damages the leaves, it can ruin the fruit.

Every peach from that tree but one this year, no matter how ripe it smelled or looked, was brown and starting to rot around the pit. We had our biggest, least-squirreled crop, except, we didn’t, and I was glad Andy’s farm was still here if I couldn’t enjoy my own.

So.

The day after offering Jim and his wife (not the dementia patient) peaches from Andy’s and hearing back that they had plenty, thanks, hours after the surprise at suddenly losing Jim, against all odds and long after the tree was supposedly done for the year–holding that hose and suddenly looking up, there was this one small, perfect little peach. From above and then into my surprised hands.

It felt like a gift from Jim, and I could just feel him smiling.

I want to share it with her. I’m afraid the center will be a disappointment, and I can disappoint me but I sure can’t do that to her right now.

She had told me they had enough for now. She’d had no idea what the morrow would bring.

Maybe the story will be comfort enough. Maybe I should take it to her and risk it. I just don’t know.

I put it in the fridge. It’s still there.



Maybe it’ll even grow
Friday September 17th 2021, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden

I figured if I wanted those cherry and apricots to sprout in September, I’d better put them outside in the sun during the warmth of the day–and keep a careful eye on them to make sure they don’t dry out, which those tiny plugs do fast, and that they don’t get too steaming hot inside their mini greenhouse setup. And to remember to bring them back into the warm house at night.

I planted those last Saturday. This is Friday. Remembering when it took me from January to April for anything to come up the first time I tried this two years ago, one of the Anyas stunned me this morning by starting to swell open and showing a bit of white growth. There’s no way that’s supposed to happen yet! But I’ll definitely take it.



Maxwell’s smart
Monday September 13th 2021, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

Note to self: Saturday is when I planted the four Rainier cherry pits a friend’s kid had saved for me because they were so good, along with two of my five Anya kernels. Yes that’s out of season, but they had chilled long enough to stratify and I think I needed to make a declaration of hope towards the future against the twentieth anniversary of 9/11–and I so want to be able to give that twelve-year-old a cherry seedling of his own in thanks for his wishing I could have cherries that good all the time.

There’s also a possibility that his family will move away in the next year, so I knew I needed to hurry. They’re the ones who polished off my favorite apricots at my request because we were leaving town to see grandkids for the week, and they saved the kernels so I could plant some more.

But those cherries from Andy’s farm! He had to save their pits for me, too, even if his mom wasn’t so sure–and so it was just the four.

Coming winter light levels are why I only experimented with two apricots to see if I could get a jump in growth on next year, but the cherries? Every one.

I have this secret ingredient for after the Root Riot plugs help them sprout…

I mentioned to Michelle that the Anya apricot grown in lobster compost from Maine totally skunked the other seedlings in height and growth after I’d tried different soil types. Five and a half inches (oh but it tried), 24″, and then 43″ for the Maine event. Such a stunning result.

My child for whom evolutionary biology was her favorite undergrad class cocked her head a bit, looked me in the eye, and cracked, I *assure* you they did not evolve in the same environment! (Wikipedia link to the Fergana Valley along the Silk Road.)

Well, no. But it just goes to prove that everything goes better when you’re serving lobster. The stone fruits are just the cherries on top.



Figs and peaches
Friday September 03rd 2021, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

About this many a day now. Early September in the garden.

Which reminds me, I ought to be opening up the first pomegranate soon to see how the little geodes are coming along.



Hamming it up
Tuesday August 17th 2021, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I ordered some metal bird spikes. I had no idea what I was in for.

There were reviews saying be careful assembling these–and they were right. Those V-shaped pieces will fight you to the death when you’re trying to squeeze them so as to fit into the base and if you let up, if you look away, you’re going to have the back of this skewer coming like a flying mousetrap at your face. I got this third piece halfway in, stopped to take its picture, and before I put the phone down it poinged hard back out of there at me. Wearing glasses was a very good thing and its aim was bad. I’m fine.

I got the one strip assembled and there are fourteen more to go and I am checking the height of the apricot against the cage it’s growing out of and procrastinating putting the rest of them together.

But here’s the thing: I bought them to keep the rabbit out of that seedling but, one strip being pretty useless for that, I balanced it for now on top of two clusters of figs that were starting to turn color. I was out of clamshells so why not try.

The birds haven’t touched anything on that fig tree since. Nuh uh. Not going near that.

Do they know what pigeon spikes are? Can’t they tell it’s only in this one spot? The plastic spikes I used to have, they pretty much ignored.

Three days later, it’s still true. I have ripening figs all over the tree, a goodly number not in clamshells and they’re still left alone.

I went out to check it over tonight–and suddenly remembering that eyes in taller trees were certainly on me as I leaned into that tree, eyes that wanted to know how to thwart that menace, I pretended to be punctured for just a moment there.

That’ll teach’em.



Turning the Page
Monday August 16th 2021, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

We got our first single Page orange (background story in link) last year.

After a freeze months ago it dropped a lot of leaves and I thought that at long last it was giving up the ghost. But nope, somehow it has sixteen little green reminders that Christmas is coming. It may drop some, it may not, but this is by far the most productive it’s ever been. I wanted to show it to my Mom, given all the memories attached to that variety, so here it is.

Meantime, a listing. Your own castle! Ramparts! Cathedral ceilings!

Looking at the guy in that costume trying very very hard to go viral, I remembered a friend in high school who carefully constructed a coat of armor. Steve had everybody he knew save the tear-off tabs from their cans of soda, back when those were constructed that way, and he sewed and wove them together, curl side outwards. It was quite impressive and memory says it took him over a year to do.

I wish I could put Steve’s up against this guy’s standard Disney version to see how they compare.

Um.

Dude. The bed? Like you can peel yourself out of that thing before any woman on the planet has walked away laughing herself breathless?

I’ve never before seen a listing demonstrating that the shower actually works. He looks a little rusty at this.

It gushes about how many tens of thousands of bricks were laid to make that weird weird house that please don’t notice doesn’t have heat. (Then how do you even get an occupancy permit?) But! A few rooms have wall-unit AC! Pass the ogre ravioli, willya?

All I could think was, but don’t they know they have volcanoes nearby and that bricks crumble in earthquakes?



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

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

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

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

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

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

 



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

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

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

I let it go.

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

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

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

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

Nature laughed again.

Actually, it did help a little bit.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Wait…

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

And for 24 hours it actually worked.

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

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

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

Peaches.

I sure did a double take, how about you?

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

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

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

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

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