Pulp friction
Wednesday May 12th 2021, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

I’d been wondering for awhile if the very overloaded branches hanging straight down on the Gold Nugget mandarin would bounce back up once the weight of all those oranges came off them, or whether after growing that way for so long they were stuck like that.

Turns out they did rebound nicely.

My back suggested I stop picking at seventeen pounds, with about three more to go; not bad at all for a young tree.

Michelle cut, I pushed down on the juicer. After we all drank some, there’s nearly a gallon in the fridge and we haven’t even done all the picked ones yet.

I’ve decided it’s a kid-friendly variety: not tart, really, just sweet (but not too much.) A bit bland. Maybe I should have picked them in April? This is the first time we ever got enough to juice, we’re newbies at this.

But it is the one type of orange that gets sweet even if it doesn’t get the amount of heat that other varieties need to do so, and if we want tart, hey, there’s a Meyer lemon tree right across the yard.

I found that fingertips dangling down in our little 1980s machine did a good job of collecting the pulp into one spot as the juice continued to spin out of it. Grab it out and go for the next one.



All ears
Tuesday May 11th 2021, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Lupus

I’m trying out that lobster shell compost. It was black and velvety rich and finely crumbly in the hands and you could just hear the plants swooning. I mixed it in to about 60% organic bedding soil and pretended I knew what I was doing. (I only buy organic after getting soil from Costco a few years ago that was full of little green plastic beads.)

The youngest Anya seedling is the guinea pig. It’s pretty dwarfed in that 15 gallon fabric pot but given the vigor of its roots I didn’t want it to grow through my 5 gallon in a month, seeing as how it is, in fact, a tree.

On the other hand, it’s too heavy now to move it much. So it’s in a good spot because it had to be.

The fabric pots dry out fast, but the other apricot that’s in one is looking really healthy and happy. They do not like soggy roots so those are a good counterbalance to my tendency to overwater based on the fear that I can’t go out in the bright summer sun to rescue them before evening’s safer UV levels.

The bigger thing is: I finally went to the new audiologist today. It felt so strange to just go do a normal errand out in the wild like that.

She was a peach. And she was thorough. I’ve been dealing with hearing aids since I was 27 and never before has someone tested to see how well I lipread.

There was the standard man’s voice speaking words into one ear, then the other, where you try to repeat each word back. She chuckled at one guess: “Well, that’s creative.”

But then, taking her mask off from the other side of the thick glass, with the lighting not super good for it from my view, she went through what was clearly the same list of words as I sat in the anechoic chamber–and I zipped right through those with confidence. Only had two I didn’t quite get. It was absolutely revelatory to me. I had NO idea I was that good at it. I knew how much I need to see people’s faces, but…!

She examined my hearing aids and said they were eight iterations ago, and now they can do all these other things.

Cool. That’s what I was there for. My old ones sometimes turn themselves off randomly and are clearly at the end of their lifespans.

When she said Oticon would take two weeks at their end, I asked if I could pay for overnight shipping? I want to be able to hear grandkids sooner rather than later. She checked into that and, yes, they could do a rush job on the whole thing, sure.

A week from Monday my cracked ear mold will be history, I will have much better background noise cancellation, and we’ll see how it goes.

And even with that rush she charged me about $1500 less than the last time/last guy. Nice.

As she was writing things up, there was a computer screen next to me with two audiogram charts (no name visible) with five slightly wobbly lines that curved up a bit and then down again with Xs and Os marked along the way for right vs left ear, but these other lines too were marked for–tympannometry? I don’t know, and five seems odd when you’re talking ears but that’s what was there.

When she got done, I motioned towards the screen and said, “It looks like middle school band members trying to read the music.”

She glanced at it and guffawed. “You ARE creative!”



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.



Parfianka
Friday May 07th 2021, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

The Parfianka pomegranate at four years four months. It’s much denser than last year.

There’s a pomegranate tree in the neighborhood that is the first and for a long time was the only one I’d ever seen growing; it has a twisty scraggly trunk that is bare for five or six feet and then there’s this big poof on top that gets wispy looking at the edges as the season goes on. I don’t know how old it is, but we’ve been here 34 years and it was always there.

Mine, at four, is more a bush so far but it’s determined to turn into a much bigger tree than theirs if I don’t prune it a lot. So I have been, but I probably would have planted it a little farther from the house if I’d known. It’s fine, though.

I learned this year to my surprise that the wood doesn’t feel stabby during winter dormancy. You can really get in there. It does by now, though.

The fruiting all happens on new wood, and of course when you prune you get multiple branches growing where there had just been one.

Isn’t it nice that the tree makes the job a lot easier at the time when pruning it would make it much more productive for the coming year?



The Maine idea
Monday May 03rd 2021, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Garden

The things you stumble across on the internet.

A guy in New England who bought this stuff by the truckload for his farm raved about it and said it had become popular enough that it’s now sold by the bag to everybody.

Lobster compost? I thought hey why not. If nothing else I’ll have the swankiest dirt in town. And so for the sheer novelty of it all I bought a bag.

I confess my back’s been antsy and after I managed to get the box over the front step when it arrived–I thought it was coconut water, oops, wrong return address–I haven’t yet hefted it over to the back yard. And I’m not about to open it in the house. My nose wants to know what it smells like in there, but only out there.

I just hope the raccoons don’t tear the heck out of my trees trying to get to the seafood.



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.



Wait, wait, me, too, me, too!
Tuesday April 27th 2021, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Garden

There was still this tray of half a dozen apricot kernels sitting there and most had clearly declared they were not living up to their potential or, frankly, at all, but there were a few that looked like, welllll, maybe if you wished hard enough.

So still she persisted.

I realized Saturday they’d almost dried out while I was sick in bed after my second shot–but not quite. Just a bit of water couldn’t hurt. Right? (How long have I been doing this while those others have been moved into bigger digs twice now?)

I could not believe my eyes today. The white on the back of that seed half on the right is mold; that thing was supposed to be dead but the inside kept insisting on being green.

Leaves! A stem! Look, and an actual root down there! Those were not there yesterday, but they are today!

And there might even be another one soon. But we’ll see.



A good day
Saturday April 24th 2021, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Garden

Today was much better, just like everybody said it would be; thank you.

Meantime, the English Morello cherry is slowly blooming from the bottom, where there are already tiny cherries, on up to the top, which hasn’t all opened up yet.

We have our first mangoes of the year. And the Fuji apple tree just keeps on opening new flowers.

It’s a whole new year.



Eggcellent
Monday April 19th 2021, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Peaches, coming along.

The thorns that came out from the rootstock of the Page orange, now guarding the figs and allowed to grow (to a point) for that very reason.

It still always surprises me somehow to see not just anticipated and hoped for but actual fruit growing out there.

Oh and: Grace the falcon laid a new egg this morning before dawn. Inside the nest box. Where her second clutch will be safe.



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.



Not a figment of imagination
Wednesday April 14th 2021, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I actually googled yesterday re whether or not Black Jack figs produce breba crops, because mine never had; I’d seen a few tiny dark stubs over-wintering and gotten all excited about it till they’d dropped off in the spring, but that was it.

I found arguments about whether or not they were really only a seedling of Mission figs that came out bigger, but no answer.

I’ve been taking photos of that tree these past two weeks as the leaves have been coming out just because I love how they look, but I never saw any sign of fruit. Nor all winter. Nothing. And yet there are two of these today! Figs in April! The leaves haven’t even finished growing to full size yet!

This past winter felt long and chilly and yet it was the first one in memory where it never went down into the twenties. That might account for it.

I know brebas are supposed to have much less flavor and sweetness than the crop the tree puts the whole summer’s heat into.

But who cares when August is so far off. A roasted fig stuffed with cheese, maybe a little honey drizzled on at the last if it’s not naturally sweet… Okay, so, put something else in the oven with them to justify the time in there. Blueberry cake or something.

They’re so big already. I put some clippings from my husband’s last haircut around them to try to fend off the rodentry. Not right up against the fruit itself because I figure chances are good that any birds still nest-building are going to be thrilled to find those locks, but, in the vicinity.

Meantime, halfway around the house, the juncos are waiting for the Morello cherry leaves to hurry up so they can hide the nest they want to build.

It’s blooming slowly from the ground up.

Oh, and in case you needed it: Mick Jagger gave the pandemic lockdown a piece of his mind yesterday.



Abundance
Friday April 09th 2021, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Some photos came through. These are the Anyas I planted a bit later than the first set.

The one from last year, having not been nice and warm and inside at night and having to make do with the natural seasons, is playing catch up.

Grape Kool-aid got the first gray squirrel that attacked my Stella cherry on Wednesday to leave and not come back; then yesterday, a black squirrel tried and that time I Graped again and shook cinnamon on the limbs.

There has been no sign of a squirrel since. Which is great, because last year they were stripping those flowers just as fast as they opened. They only seem to do that with the cherries.

I wonder if the salmonella outbreak that has been affecting the birds has cut down the squirrel population, too. It seems like it.

Quite to my surprise I discovered the first pomegranate bud of the year. And while I was looking at it, I heard the loud cry of a large bird overhead that I didn’t turn around in time to see.

But there was a large feather on the ground a few steps behind me that most definitely did not come from a crow, where there had been none a moment before.

Even with the bird feeder down, even with the tall trees to either side of our property gone now, even with a new generation of Cooper’s hawk these last two years, it appears they still claim our yard as their own.

And that makes me wildly happy.



Samantha wrinkles her nose
Thursday April 08th 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The jiffy pots just weren’t doing it for those remaining seedlings anymore and I knew it.

I realized that it was lifting the bags of soil that had been stopping me.

So I didn’t–I left them propped up and scooped out dirt by the plastic flowerpot-full and took it to where I wanted it to go. All I’d needed was to just get started. It was slower, it got my hands in the dirt more, it was more meditative–and it got the job done.

Five apricot seedlings planted in pots, six if you include the one from last year. That should be enough to do some fine taste-testing of Anya’s offspring in a few years. Some got more peat than the others, some more planting mix, some, more topsoil; it got a bit random because hey, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just guessing.

There’s one last one whose roots haven’t started dangling out the jiffy bottom yet, ready and waiting for the friend it’s been promised to to plant as she pleases.

A quick house note: I am told that yes this kitchen does have a stove–it pulls down by the handles from the small oven above. Apparently it’s called a Bewitched stove, because the TV show of that name from my childhood had one like it. (Here’s the Graceland version.)

I love that this house has its original one still there and still working. Mechanical dials for the win!

I’d still remodel the heck out of that kitchen if it were mine. With some regret, because that thing is cool. I just wouldn’t want to be stuck having to try to use those tiny burners that I’m told were slow at a friend’s house and I would most definitely trip over them jutting out like that but only some of the time. My body just doesn’t do graceful.



Grow grow grow
Monday April 05th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden

The apricots in pots, the short, five-branched one and the tall–which, although the leaves kept growing bigger, had stopped producing new ones until its roots could likewise grow more to support them. So, you know, you’re planted now, hurry up!

I’ll move them into bigger pots next winter. Gotta start somewhere.

And then there’s the one from last year. I overwatered it one particular week last summer and it suffered and stopped growing. Totally my fault; I kept giving it as much when the weather turned cool as I’d been doing in the high 90s. Apricots do not like soaking their feet.

During the winter the top and a side branch appeared to have died off so I pruned it, little though it was, and hoped it might survive.

Note the pretty, glossy Costco pot I bought for it turned out to have had a red coat of paint slapped on top of plain plastic but which shredded off almost from the first time water touched it. Not cool. But so 2020.

Anyway, that Anya is only just now waking up for the season: those leaves at the top started to appear yesterday. But it was very much to my relief that it did wake up. I didn’t kill it after all!

Not to mention, I really want to be that extra year ahead. I want to begin to find out what we’ll get with these.

It always amazes me when a plant manages to recover from its deathplantbed and just keep right on going after all.