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.



Squirrelocity
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.



Blenheims
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.

Progress.

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.



Checking the apricots after it hit 96F
Friday June 10th 2022, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Garden

The two survivors of this year’s apricot plantings. The really nice one promised to Eric and Aubrie, front and center here with the new reddish leaves coming in at the top.

And then there’s this one. It is actually still alive, marginally, but all it’s done since its first five leaves came out is to lose two of them. We could call it an inch tall if it stood on its tippy toes. It was going to go to some friends, back when it was sprouting and showing promise, but… Good thing I decided to make it prove it was worthy of them first.

Basically, this is going to be my year for saving Anya kernels rather than giving seedlings other than the one.

Two people that I know of got two baby trees each from kernels I mailed them last fall and theirs are actually growing. Good. They got the right seeds, then.



Don’t land in this tree yet
Wednesday June 01st 2022, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Last year’s Anya seedling that only got six inches high all year has been spending this season catching up, so I transplanted it into a much bigger pot yesterday to give its roots room to stretch. I was pleased at how completely it had filled out its 14.5″ one, with everything growing thick and straight down (that was a lot of roots! What a change since April!) and nothing twirling around the bottom yet. But just about to. Good timing.

If I knew for sure that one of these was going to have the apricots I’m hoping for I’d just plunk it in the ground and be done with it. But we’re still at the experimenting stage.

Over here to the left of those is the one planted this year (in another 14.5″ pot) that I haven’t given away yet: it definitely wants to be another tall one. It’s supposed to be for the friends who are moving (the ones with covid right now), but realism might require I simply save and mail them kernels after next month. I sent them the photo and said either way works fine by me. (While thinking, if it’s going to stick around here for awhile it needs a big pot, too.)

The tall one from last year? I let it get too dry a few weeks ago because I know they prefer dry over soggy, but I overdid it. Its leaves wilted a bit, it recovered quickly and survived just fine–but I seem to have killed off the growth tips because there have been no reddish new leaves popping out since, whereas there have been on the others. So its year-sibling might catch up to it after all.

Well, that’s one way to dwarf them.

I’m understanding better why apricots are usually grafted onto peach rootstocks: the resiliency. I might have to learn a new skill.

Let me add a video here of the peregrine eyases, a male and a female this year. Today was the first time the mom dropped the prey and took off from the mad scramble and let them feed themselves. There was a UCSC student on camera time and he added captions for fun on the food fight.



Nestmate
Saturday May 21st 2022, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Seed stitch, 251 per row for the border, and it is slow going but it’s going.

Meantime, part of me has been thinking I really should reapply the grape Koolaid to protect my cherries.

And yet. Let the baby mockingbirds finish learning how to fly.

This morning I saw one that was regressed two days from what I’d seen before: when the parent flew off it hunched down to try to pull off this wing/leg/leap thing; after all, it had managed to land on the fence, but again and again an almost, then a nothing doing. Hunch/unhunch hunch/unhunch. I stopped counting after ten of those. The six inch jump where the top of the fence banistered upwards was way more than it could see over or dare try to get up to.

Then a parent flew in to feed it, and as soon as it flew off the other came right in and did, too, none of this you’re a big kid now–they babied this one. And it seemed to have more down left.

Not the same fledgling. I was sure of it.

The question was settled for good this afternoon when I saw all four of them: the parents feeding the baby on the upper fence and the one I’d become familiar with standing in its usual spot on the slightly lower portion, watching and clearly hoping to get in on this, and a parent did fly over from the one chick to the other.

And then dove into my cherries. Even if they eat mostly insects in the spring while new bodies are developing and fruit in the fall, hey, a little fast food for the kids, right?

I got a couple of clusters into one of those Costco egg carton-ish mango containers for now because I want to get at least some of them turning darkest red for us. When I no longer have babies begging I’ll work harder at discouraging the birds–besides, those parents are doing a great job keeping the squirrels at bay and squirrels don’t eat a meal, they strip a tree. So incentive to keep the mockers hanging around is not a bad thing.

Bugs on the fruit are the best bird baby formula, though. Help yourself.



Room service
Thursday May 19th 2022, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

That one looked a little different and caught my eye so I stopped what I was doing to watch a moment.

Nope, it wasn’t injured–it was just being a toddler. I don’t think it had ever walked on a flat surface before.

Mockingbirds do this thing where they bend down in front a bit and lift their wings up high and then out wide behind in a two-step dance, very formal and ritualistic, and the thinking is that they do it to flush bugs out so they can quickly skewer them.

Or they’re trying to mimic a DeLorean, but never mind.

So this little one had made it up to the fence–meaning it had flown up, not just fluttered down, this is good–and it was waiting for its parents to bring it breakfast.

One flew in, checked that it was okay as the baby started begging, or maybe just told it, hi, I know, I’m working on it, no I don’t have any yet, and flew off.

Hey!

So it started trying to hunt like its parents up there on that bugless fence but it looked more like uncertain jumping jacks while trying not to fall over on its face. Raise those wings more, kiddo, don’t fluff up your chest. Lift. Out. Lift. Out. Like that. Only bend this much.

It didn’t trip over its own feet walking in the direction Momma had taken off in but it looked like it came close a few times.

Suddenly she appeared again diving into the mango tree, grabbed an ant or maybe a nice big earwig (I saw them on top of the frost covers when I had to use them last week) and brought the kid a bite after all. Yay! She waited while he ate it, then flew to the neighbor’s tree across their fence.

A few more wobbly steps and wing gestures that really didn’t do it and then suddenly–our little one did it! It flew! It overshot and had to grab at the last just before it fell off the fence, but it made it there below her tree.

Just then Poppa showed up with an impressive whole beakful of bugs for the kid and stood there a moment as if stumped: Right here! The kid was just right here, I know it! Where did he go!

Eh. He looked around, gave up, and ate most of it himself.

This afternoon the sun was shining brightly off the new feathers of–that had to be our kid again. In the exact same spot between the mandarin and the mango. Waiting to be fed again, calling for food, finding and eating the one Dad had dropped.

I checked my Sibley’s: yup, the young ones have light brown speckles on their upper chests. So that explains that.

I wanted to see if a parent would come this time, too.  I know they do keep a close eye on their fledglings.

A minute or two and then our baby flew to exactly the spot its momma had this morning in that tree. Still overshot the landing a bit but the flying was definitely steadier and definitely better at going upwards. The parents flitted back and forth, all was well, and I returned to what I was doing.

My first few mango bud clusters this year and even the new stems supporting them were chomped to a total loss.

And then our mockingbirds noticed the buffet. The flowers that came later have been gorgeously bug-free.

I hope the mockingbirds nest here next year, too.



Be fruitful
Wednesday May 18th 2022, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Garden

My Parfianka pomegranate, planted January 2016. The leaves aren’t east coast green but the gaudy reddish orange is fun. (My camera obscures the blossoms a fair bit, sorry.)

The leaves on my fig tree are noticeably smaller than normal, and I counted a dozen little nubs of future figs tonight whereas by now there should be a lot more.

The flowers on my apples, sweet cherry, plum, and peaches were small and surprisingly sparse, but the sour cherry carried on like normal.

The New York Times marveled recently that after all this practice at conserving water, all those warnings that there is no leeway in those reservoirs, Californians used more this past January than the year before, not less.

And my reaction was, DUH. Given climate change, we were trying to keep our much-needed trees alive while there was zero rain in most of the rainy season; we were hoping that past patterns for a last-minute March storm surge would hold. They didn’t. I only watered mine once a month during the winter, three hose minutes equaling 27 gallons per tree, and they’re letting me know it wasn’t enough. Normally I don’t have to at all.

Even this close to the Bay the leaves on my tall trees are going, Where’s my groundwater?

If you live where water is not a problem and you have the sun and any kind of space to garden, this might be a good year to plant one.

There’s a patch of public land by a ramp to an overpass leading over the commuter train tracks not far from here that would be great for guerrilla gardening, if rain could somehow be a sure thing again. Someone once planted daffodils in part of it, which was so charming, but they’re gone now. Someday I want to sneak a pomegranate in the biggest area because they bloom so much for so long for so many to drive past, and then they top it off with fruit that only the most determined critters bother. Or a lemon tree–no raids by mammals or birds on those. Or something, the good rain willing. Something that doesn’t need much babysitting.

Not this year. But I’m not giving up hope. I’ll leave the nursery tag on a limb so the city will see what it is, chuckle, go okay, and leave it there.