Sweater weather
Thursday November 14th 2019, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

We’re two months into the supposed rainy season, still watering the trees, hoping that we get lots of rain later to make up for what we’re having to draw out.

But at least today it was finally chilly and cloudy and it looked like a storm coming in. There’s none in the forecast, but having the sky finally not look like bright cloudless July helped restore faith that I just need to wait awhile. That and having to put on two layers of sweaters–which felt great. Thrift-store cashmere, I’ve missed you.

Pro tip: people who send theirs to the dry cleaners wreck the softness and then wonder what they paid all that money for and often enough end up ditching them. One good tepid-temperature soak in a no-dye no-scents liquid laundry detergent and gentle hand washing, a spinning out in the washer with the water turned off to avoid felting, laying the item out to dry, and there you go: the softness is back.

I give the sweater a good shake before putting it over the wide shower rod; if there was any shrinking, which happens lengthwise the most when it does, that’s enough to put it right.



Tuesday
Tuesday November 12th 2019, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Got coughed on on Saturday.

Woke up today feeling possibly a little feverish and took it easy, grateful for my flu shot.

I found a perfect, luscious little strawberry hiding away under a November leaf and proclaimed it my antidote. Yum.



Parfianka pomegranate, year three
Sunday November 03rd 2019, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

So how do you know when a pomegranate is ripe, I wondered?

I went looking for the answer several times over the last month or so, each time hoping to find someone who’d grown that particular type. And found this:

You can’t really tell by the color.

You can’t tell by the stem end.

If you get it wrong and let it stay on the tree too long, it loses some of its flavor. Wait. This was definitely news to me, because I planted my tree after tasting pomegranates from Jean’s that had been left in place till they’d begun to split open. I had never tasted anything like that in my life, and given her age I knew I might not again unless I grew my own. So I did, and wondered if I should leave them till they split open, too.

But they looked so good…

There were two fruits that had made it past the one inch stage (and our not watering while we were gone for three weeks in September when Lily was born.)

Heft it, was the advice I found: it should bulge and it should be heavy.

Define heavy?

It should be large.

It was. How large?

Tap on it and listen.

Oh great, good luck with that one.

Don’t pick it: clip it.

Okay, that I know how to do.

Michelle was going to be dropping by for dinner and I thought, one to try now, one to leave for later in our experiment. We’ll compare and know better what to do next year when there will be many more of them.

The verdict is, it was probably harvested just a little early, but the seeds came away easily (almost all of them anyway) and it was as good as anything from a grocery store.

But the thing that struck me was all those little bite marks and a long clawing on one side. So many times over the months it hung there that something stealthily approached, tasted that gorgeous red exterior, and then went, This is supposed to be food?? and let it be, leaving a mosaic pattern behind. At least once something larger tried hard to pull it away but it held on to where it needed to be to grow.

They never got past the tough exterior.

They never found the sweetness inside.

But we believed, and we did.



For naturalizing at home
Tuesday October 15th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life
The surprise from Afton: a gorgeous Calla lily in memory of my father, for which I am very grateful.

I chuckled over my little sister’s demand on Dad re waiting till after her son’s wedding was over with.

It occurs to me that he’d also waited for my family.

We flew to go see him in April, sure then that it would be our last chance. Even with the oxygen generator that was always attached to him, the ten steps it took him to go from his favorite chair to the kitchen table plunged his oxygen levels down below 80%, even to 70%, and he would shudder working so hard to get air into his lungs.

I was the one close person he knew who had been through oxygen levels like that and knew what it was like–but I’d been in a hospital bed, and I’d had it set off alarms with nurses coming to the rescue. He was doing all this on his own, and upright (getting down as soon as he could), and it was just unfathomable to me how he could do it. There were a number of times I simply held him as he wheezed.

I told him he amazed me. Because he most certainly did.

He spent more time in that chair after we left, and eventually Mom started bringing his meals over there.

I didn’t put it together but I should have: Sam was expecting, Sam was very high risk, and he wanted to see her through it with his prayers added into the mix and he wanted to see pictures of her baby alive and here and well and both of them having made it through. He wanted to be part of that.

And so he quietly held on for them, too.

Dad’s obituary.



My greenhouse
Saturday October 05th 2019, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Garden
(There you go.)

It’s Conference weekend where the Mormon church leaders address the members and I finished the red baby hat and knit a good half of a cowl as we watched the Saturday sessions. I’ll add a picture I took of them when the silly thing makes the transition from my phone to my reluctant other-big-company account.

Meantime, the plastic tore away from the zipper on the Sunbubble and I put off and put off going through the hassle of trying to get the one-year warranty honored. Some companies make that as unpleasant a process as possible. The time limit was coming right up though and it would be too stupid to just ignore it, so I finally went to Wayfair’s chat help yesterday.

Their one request was for me to send pictures while they waited.

I thought, it’ll take hours for my old iPhone to get them through but what can you do so I went outside, snapped them, and sat back down at the computer with a small Help me? sent upwards in a snatch of prayer.

I did a doubletake as the photos showed right up. It quite made my day. Thank You!

The help desk apologized for making me wait, and it was two, maybe three minutes while I was left wondering if they were asking a manager for permission or denial or what.

Instead it was because they were checking the inventory and setting up the paperwork. Good to go! They sounded like they so enjoyed a job where they got to do the right thing and make people happy in the process.

My new Sunbubble is arriving next week. Not just a new cover, the whole thing is being replaced.

This first-time customer came away definitely happy.



Tomato monster
Friday August 23rd 2019, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden

What I was noticing was the Big Boy tomatoes under the bird netting that were growing bigger and not being eaten by critters. Yay.

Also, that there seemed to be one area in which the plant hadn’t sent up a major branch.

It had been trying all along, I found out tonight, but the netting had caught on it. But it couldn’t stop it. It curled back down and up and around again as the leaves tucked in tight. I cut and cut and cut away at that netting to let it out to see the world.

All those intertwined loops. I think it knitted itself.



The best comes after the longest wait
Tuesday August 13th 2019, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Looking around as things ripen and beckon, I got it half-right last summer: I did need two layers of bird netting for the figs. One to go over the small tree, yes, but the closer-meshed one heaped at the base to keep smaller critters from being able to squeeze in and climb up from below.

The over-netting is held down by old oven racks, a heavy doormat, and reinforced by some flower pots in front of that mass of mesh.

Those flower pots got shoved aside last night. Skunk? Raccoon?

Every fig was still there. I had another perfect one this morning. Soon I’ll have enough at once that I’ll need to stuff them or wrap them and roast them and make a supper out of them and still we’ll have some to share. At last.

To quote Andy Mariani: August is the Sunday of summer.



The first ripe Black Jack of the season
Monday August 12th 2019, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Fresh figs: Nature’s fruit geodes.



Unexpected comfort
Sunday July 28th 2019, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

I called my folks and standing there phone in hand was looking out the window when there it was.

I hadn’t seen so much as a bud much less a stalk when I’d watered the amaryllises a few days ago nor did I ever spot it through the window. It was hiding behind quite a few leaves.

I brought it out to where we could all get a better look at it.

On a side note: going to Andy’s Orchard yesterday, my daughter and I were in a long heavy traffic jam and went oh right, it’s the Garlic Festival in Gilroy this weekend. Cool. I can say that yes, I have tasted garlic ice cream, thank you Gilroy! Those people were going to have a good time, but we were quite happy to cut out of that part of the freeway early.

The news tonight is absolutely beyond comprehension.



Round two
Monday July 15th 2019, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden

The pomegranate tree, making a comeback from losing all but the one fruit–to the 113F heat wave last month, the wind storm, or the critters, I’m not sure.

Nine buds. Two flowers. And the one big green fruit forging ahead, showing them how it’s done.

The neighbor’s pomegranate tree has fruit ripening every winter, so I know we’re good however long these take.



How to deal with gophers
Monday July 08th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Ten more rows and it’s done, ten more rows and after a hundred+ hours of work it’s done and that’s my excuse for not fixing this silly sideways picture tonight… Seed stitch rows, but there are only ten of them and you can do anything if it stops at ten rows. Ten more rows and it’s done…

Meantime, Bill’s (the guy in yesterday’s post) late dad is the person who, twenty-five years ago, told me about gopher plants and where to find the seeds. So I went to the little ’60’s-hippie-holdover Uncommon Ground place (now a high-rise) and bought some from a man who was serious about gardens in a way that I in no way was at the time. It was a little intimidating, though I’m sure he only meant to be helpful.

They’re biennials, which means they do all their flowering and seeding the second year. And boy do they. Their roots give the gophers the equivalent of poison ivy and they stay away, so, two years for the price of one.

I planted a few. I got one particularly big one and then some more joined it.

This is after having followed another neighbor’s advice and having stuck my hose in the ground to flush them out to get them to move on. The only thing that did was make my Californian water bill jump by a hundred dollars that month. Yow.

So, the gopher plants.

They seemed to work. Cool.

And then they got determined to take over everything, which would not do. One must take them out carefully. They’re not overly friendly above ground to people, either–wear gloves, you don’t want to find out you’re one of the allergic ones.

So I spent a few years discouraging them from coming back and eventually all that ran its course and was over. (With the exception of one plant nine years ago.)

I did, however, see evidence of a gopher again near my fruit trees in 2016 and fought them with the newly-Internet-approved cinnamon sprinkled down every hole and cinnamon sticks on top to be emphatic about it, and that seemed to work, too. This year’s new peach got planted in a gopher-proof wire cage (bought there along with the tree) to be on the safe side.

I haven’t seen any sign of them since the mountain lion came through the neighborhood. Although, truthfully, a hungry raccoon would probably go after them, too.

Look what I just found popped up behind my Fuji apple.

It’s late and it’s small but it is standing guard and I know if I let it, it will soon command an army.

Um, let’s not this time.

On a side note, just for fun and so that I can find the link again: an Alexandra Petri column on state flags that made me laugh.



Blessed were the five year olds
Saturday July 06th 2019, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life

We lost the earlier pomegranates to, as far as I could tell, the serious windstorm we had in the spring, so it was nice to see some new ones starting out.

And then I found this big one hiding.

Looks like something straight out of New Orleans, doesn’t it?

But the story of the day is that Michelle stopped by and, wanting an ingredient she can no longer buy at the much-missed Milk Pail, asked if I’d like to go to the little boutique grocer in the other direction with her?

Sure! Haven’t been in there in ages!

But then I found myself needing to do just one thing before we left, and then another, and oh that, too, while she waited patiently. It’s not like we were going to be gone a long time, she could have pushed me. But instead, it was a happy, No hurry.

We compared notes afterwards and turns out that as I dithered, both of us began quietly wondering if we would run into someone. There was something of a sense of anticipation.

We were almost done in there when there was this sudden three-way exclamation of surprise and recognition and arm-throwing-hugging and joy, pure joy.

Ginny, retired now, is a master teacher and all four of my kids were extremely fortunate to have her. Me, too, for that matter. For just one example, I learned from my oldest the visual rule of three in a composition. She mentioned it to me as an oh everybody knows that as she pointed out its elements in her drawing.

Now, I’m the daughter of an art dealer, I spent several summers of my childhood museum-hopping across the country with my family, and I had somewhat intuited it but had never had it explicitly spelled out in my life. The moment was a revelation to me.

Ginny taught my five-year-old who taught it to me: the eye is pleased with images it can divide into threes subconsciously. This is why a photo that is split straight in half looks off, somehow. Why two-button polo shirts always feel wrong. You need an odd number. Starting with three.

Which is why I tried to fix the pomegranate photos above because hey, Ginny’s probably going to see those, but the program burped. Never mind.

She wanted to catch up on each of the kids, and me, and I wanted to on her and her twins-plus-twins grandkids. I told Michelle the story of going to the fifth grade teacher’s funeral and afterward, a tall man who was carrying an easel with a flower arrangement to help put it away started approaching us and Ginny gave me a heads-up that we needed to get out of the guy’s way.

I said, Ginny. That’s my son.

The shock and exclamation of delight and at 6’9″ he wasn’t a kindergartner anymore, wow!

Michelle grinned.

Turns out Ginny recently lost one of the great friends of her life, and we grieved with her. I wish now I had asked her a whole bunch of questions about her friend and I certainly should have, but I was trying not to take up all of her time in the middle of a narrow aisle in a store when she surely had other things to do.

I think of all the children, and all their parents, to whom she has made all the difference in the world. The classroom where, when a child needed to calm down, they got sent to the little curtained off enclosure she’d made where they raised butterflies, where a Monarch they had helped sustain from its earliest stages could land on their shoulders and another on their outstretched hands when they just needed a moment alone like that.

I wonder how many adults out there now are looking back on those days and planting milkweed. To befriend life back. She taught us so well.



They did it!
Monday July 01st 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

A great big pot of applesauce with a very small blond boy standing over it, grin big and hand wide as if about to do an exuberant splashdown into that tasty goop: it’s not my kid so I’m not putting his face here, but it was a great photo and it made my day.

I passed Ellen’s recommendation on to the mom of the Victorio Strainer so she doesn’t have to cut the seeds out next time, and then promptly ordered one myself so we could both use it when the Fujis come on. My mom used to have something like that all my growing up, only big, metal, and heavy,  essential to her for getting tomatoes to the right texture for chili sauce; my tomatoes have started turning color (bird netting was applied today) and I was feeling nostalgic. Mom, what’s your recipe? I know you told me thirty years ago…

Plus, all those apple seeds.

So we will try out that new toy and hopefully it will last for generations like Mom’s. Thank you, Ellen!



Jenna
Sunday June 30th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Yellow Transparent apples. I wrote a little note detailing how we’d come to have such a tree–a dwarfing rootstock grow-back after the main tree had died–and what the little things were like.

Great for applesauce. Terrible keepers–three days at the max but only in the fridge, one to two on the counter. Mushy. Small. Once a big commercial variety, now very rare (with good reason) but if you want a cooked apple, they taste good.

And then I posted that on the ward chat.

One person responded, and she said that as a matter of fact she’d been thinking of making some applesauce; she’d love to bring her little boys and come pick apples, what a cool idea!

They were all hers.

I think, when she and her husband laid eyes on the tree, that they were maybe wishing they had some competition, but hey.

And so this young couple and two adorable little toddlers ages 1 and 3 were here this afternoon with their padded bag and together we picked those apples. I added a few Meyer lemons and newly-ripe plums, because I could.

The one-year-old picked up a Santa Rosa plum, took a bite, and tossed it.

I laughed and explained that if you pit them and blenderize them, the skins are tart but the interior is sweet and it makes an effect like tart cherry jam.

As they were leaving and I was thinking of all. those. little. apples. she was going to have to core and peel (they asked if I use the skins in apple sauce, and I said I do in apple butter) I stopped her going by my front door and asked her to wait just a moment.

I dashed inside, pulled out the electric apple peeler and asked if she’d like to borrow it for a week?

The relief in her voice as she said YES! Thank you!

–Yeah, I should have offered that from the get-go.



For every spring forever after
Wednesday June 26th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

The friend who got a Blenheim apricot tree as a housewarming present sent me a picture of her tree with beautiful yellow fruit on it and told me she’d let her kids pick the first and ripest today and how joyful an experience it was for them all.

It completely, totally made my day.