Super blooms
Thursday February 08th 2024, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

I bought these bulbs in early Fall of 2000. I will always know when. The bag was a mixture of types and I should have realized they wouldn’t all bloom at the same time for the look I was hoping for, but over time I’ve been just as glad. All these years of mostly drought and a few of heavy winter rains later, they just keep coming up, staggered by both time and its inadvertent spacing rather than a tidy row all at once.

And every year they remind me.

I had so been looking forward to having them blooming along the walkway.

Then my car got rear-ended and slammed into a third car and the world spun around and it wouldn’t stop. Bright and shiny things were RIGHTTHERE at my nose and dull things were far away and my eyes tried to argue but my brain would collapse my left side.

That speeder had taken a lot away from me but he was not going to take away my daffodils. I got down on my knees and with my left hand held onto the ground (held it up, it felt like) that wanted to smack me in the face and with the right hand I dug down and planted. It was frustrating, it was hard, it took a long time, and my brain didn’t know whether to throw up or just cry.

But then there was the satisfaction that I had done it. I had planned it, I had made it happen, I had done the work no matter how hard it was to do and I was going to get to see flowers every spring. Tulip bulbs, I had learned, were total squirrel catnip but daffodils they won’t go near.

My eyes gradually learned how to overrule my brain. Balance is still tactile and visual and a cane is my extra sensory perception mode, my left side still sometimes goes wonky–bump me from behind where I can’t see you coming and we’ll have our own sudden game of Calvinball.

There was the extreme drought year where I got leaves but only a single blossom at the end of the walkway–and it disappeared while we were at church. The then-toddler’s mom laughed with me years later when I told her where he’d absconded with it from.

These were knocked down by Sunday’s huge storm. They picked themselves right back up–not bolt upright but neither are the flowers smacked face down in the mud any more, either. They want to be seen.

While the next patch is getting ready to open up. There will be another bunch after that, and another after that.

They are a forever reminder of the passing of time and how good life has been. Even that was worth it. It has to be, it’s not like I had a choice so it is, but, it actually is.

It helped me learn which way up is.

No ice
Saturday January 06th 2024, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Happy Birthday to my sister!

It’s finally getting down to cold enough tonight that I had to cover the mango tree for the first time this season. This has never waited till January before.

Meantime, last Labor Day I mentioned heading to the Kings Mountain Art Fair via the shorter route that I’d forgotten I’d promised myself I would never drive again, even more so with part of the northbound lane, it turned out, having fallen down the mountain from last winter’s storms. This is the much easier road I took home with much better visibility.


And yes that’s an origami-style (totally stole that description) Tesla Cybertruck that that guy probably made history when he hit. I’m picturing the high school basketball chants of, We are #1! Hey!

Poor kid…

Sounds oakay by me
Sunday November 12th 2023, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Garden

This is really cool: Virginia has been having its citizens collect acorns and other seeds from a list of wanted tree species. You bring the seeds, (unfortunately they seem to be done for this year), they’ll get them started growing and then distribute the trees to replant formerly forested areas.

Here’s another one, for the DMV (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) Potomac River area.

Found one for Sacramento, CA, and state-wide, here. Note that Re-Oaks specifies only acorns collected from within California, and that’s probably true of most states.

I wonder how many others have organizations like this?

No-spray fruit trees
Friday November 03rd 2023, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Tuesday night I heard… I stopped a moment. Something out there. There it was again. And again. I finally stood up and stared blindly out the window into the dark and the noise stopped.

Heard something rattling around Wednesday night, ten-ish again, and walked a few steps outside this time. It stopped.

Thursday night I said to Richard, You know, if that was a skunk, that was really stupid of me. He allowed as how yes, we would have a problem if it were in that case. I said *I* would have a problem and that it would have been acceptable for him to tell me I was sleeping in the tub that night–vinegar, right?

Then, being that kind of smart, I went outside in the dark and put an unused bird netting cage against where I saw a bright red orb on the ground. Carried a flashlight that time, at least.

Tonight my little nocturnal friends were out there two hours early. Party at eight. Guys? You’re getting louder.

I flipped on the outside light this time–why I didn’t those other two times for the life of me I do not know, oh wait, yes I do, it was after the neighbors’ bedtime those times–and waited a moment to let them take in this new variable.

And then I went outside and collected all the bird netting cages. The tomatoes are all done for anyway (oh wait one wasn’t) and grabbing the first of those, walked toward the pomegranate tree.

A short quick noise and another. I took another step forward.

Now, notice here that I’d been walking around out there backed up by the bright porch light and whatever it was had decided for all that time that I wasn’t a threat nor, apparently, even an interruption. That offers a suggestion as to what it was. Yow.

Then suddenly there was the skittering sound of a small-ish critter bouncing off who knows what in its scramble to get away back through the shed, the one whose outer edge was left so conveniently lifted high by the departed redwood tree.

Okay then. As long as you’re gone now… I managed to get the house-facing half of the pomegranate surrounded with my makeshift barrier; should have done all that by daylight awhile ago but I’d thought we had a few more weeks to go on those and I’d wanted the fruit to get every bit of sweetening sunlight it could this late in the year.

They say the way to tell if pomegranates are ripe is the color, if they’re heavy, and if you can see the bulges of the arils inside pressing against the shell. (I still think this one needed another week or two but once it’s split you have to grab it before it rots.)

I say it’s when the tree is issuing so many invitations to the wildlife that you’re risking a fight between the raccoons or possums and the skunks every night.

The skunks always, always win.

Except tonight.

Lazarus squash
Monday October 23rd 2023, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Garden

Fall came for a week (late September, I think) and then ran for the hills. It hit 92 last week, 75 today.

Which means my shriveled dying squash plant is suddenly starting over with new leaves and flowers about to burst out.

This 21″ Anya apricot seedling wasn’t planted till June (way late!) and is growing a half an inch a day still, while another one several years older is shedding leaves for Fall.

And then there’s this other one, which got off to a bad start but didn’t seem to quite be dead even after it dropped all its damaged, deformed leaves, so I kept watering and hoping. It was one I’d started in a coconut coir pot before I learned that that medium deprives the seedling of the potassium and magnesium it needs to produce leaves.

I pulled away what I could of that pot inside the planter some time ago.

Suddenly it’s pushing out new and perfectly formed ones. The tiny bit of green at the bottom only started today; the bigger ones started I think Thursday.

Cool nights and warm days–perfect apricot weather!

It’ll be interesting to see when they decide the daylight/nighttime balance isn’t because it’s Spring.


Well that explains it
Saturday October 21st 2023, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Don’t know if you can read it, but the Washington Post had a fascinating article on how plants under attack communicate with each other and fight back, blocking germs, making things taste bad for bugs, etc.

Several people in the comments highly recommended the book, “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by a Native American who’s a botany professor. As someone who almost majored in botany, the descriptions were too compelling to pass up and a copy is now on its way here.

If any of you’ve already read it I’d love to hear your take on it.

Meantime, I can just picture the first brussels sprouts plant in the row shouting out to its peers as the harvester comes through, I’m a goner! Save yourselves! and the rest going, We’re on it!

If you don’t like them that must be why.

The universe found a way to get me my answer
Saturday August 26th 2023, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Garden

I’m subscribed to a fruit growers list that every now and then throws a link to a conversation my way. Not often. Sometimes I even click on it.

Today someone had a question: he had a new fruit tree that simply wasn’t growing beyond the barest hint of green and the vendor told him to mix 4 tbl dark molasses with 4 gallons water once a week. He did, and the tree finally started leafing out months after he’d planted it.

Was that the effects of the mixture? Or just, summer?

The answers he got: blackstrap molasses has a lot of magnesium which is a key part of producing chlorophyll. Calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins in there, they’re good for the tree and good for establishing the soil biome to support the new roots.

Also: coconut coir strips calcium and magnesium right out.

Also: that most of the people answering learned all this in the process of their or their neighbors growing a certain product that’s now legal in a few states and wanting abundant growth fast. If you’re doing it hydroponically you have to provide those nutrients.

There was bit about ‘bro science’ and ‘no but really’ back and forth.

Um, okay, then.

But that comment about coconut coir that someone just happened to throw out in an aside–that was a huge aha! moment.

My most favorite childhood Christmas present (after the bicycle with the saved-cereal-box-tops Tony the Tiger orange and black rubber handlebars that I raced down the hill and into a car with. Remember my green bike, Mom? It was the most perfect shade of shiny green any bicycle was ever made of, I loved it, sorry Dad had to spend so much of Christmas Eve night assembling it. Not that I’m digressing or anything) was a long grow lamp so I could have flowers growing in the basement. Peat starter pots were a given.

Peat, however, is a finite resource that has been disappearing rapidly and takes hundreds of years to regenerate and substitutes now abound. Park Seed sold me some made of treated cow patties. That was the first time I ever had to rip a pot apart to let the roots go free; one seedling’s never made it out despite an entire summer of being watered inside a larger pot. So after that, at the local gardening store, I bought…

…some coconut coir ones. And every Anya apricot seedling I tried in them died except for one that I rescued by peeling the pot away from it early on, since the pattern had by then established itself and nothing else had been changed.

And yet they had sold it at the gardening center so it should be okay, right?

It appears I was right. I knew it but didn’t know how to make sense of it. If that guy was right I’ve finally found my answer, but then I had already decided I would never buy them again.

Monday July 24th 2023, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Maybe five years ago I had an agapanthus plant that had sprouted in an unlikely spot. Nobody could see it. It was very shaded all day. It put out a short, sparse flower stalk, waving, Look at me!

Elio asked if I might want it over…there? Pointing out a corner that was quite bare, and I said, Sure!

He knew what he was doing.

It’s straight out the window and across the yard from here, just past the mango, with sun in the morning and shade later in the day, just right for it. And for me, for sure.

I thought a dozen stalks last year was wonderful, but look at that!

Meantime, I have finally gotten to the point where I snipped most of these ends off with a deep sense of satisfaction. There were about thirty four- or five- yard long strands across each row to constantly pull out from each other plus three solid balls, even if it doesn’t look like much here.

Now to go add a whole bunch more. But at least this side is simpler now.


Playing telephone
Thursday July 13th 2023, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

It was a bit of a cri de coeur: I had tried leaving individual messages, gotten no response, and finally wrote to the whole ward.

I have a tart cherry tree, I said, and I’ve been getting up early in the mornings to pick from it hoping to beat the risks of the low UV exposure at that hour and it’s flaring me and I absolutely have to stop. But it’s a crime to let those cherries go unpicked, and the last of them are ripe now.

Save me from me, I wrote. Email me first so we don’t get forty people with a handful apiece, but please, come get yourself some pie cherries from my tree. It’ll be hands-and-knees work, though, because the ones left are mostly down close to the ground.

The only answer I got last night was from a friend insisting she was going to pick them today–for me.

We agreed to wait to see if anyone else answered first. People were being too polite, not wanting to shove to the front of the line, I figured (I mean, how could anyone not be passionate about pie cherries, even if that first person wasn’t.)

I got two messages this morning: one from a friend who admitted she’d long wished she had a tree like mine and that sour cherry was her favorite pie, too, and she would dearly love to have them. Could she come by after her dental appointment?

That would be great!

The other came in a few minutes after the first, from N’s daughter, saying, That’s my mom’s absolute favorite, I’d love to come pick them for her.

Several hours after I’d heard from her mom, I told the daughter that I’d completely forgotten till that moment, but, I had wire racks from old ovens around the base of the tree after seeing a ground squirrel next to it: they won’t come up where they can’t dig down, and I didn’t want it chewing on the bark and roots. Those might be rough on her mom’s knees.

That was it, she was coming with her kids. She called her mom and then told me they were on their way over.

Meantime, I was on the phone with the doctor’s office and they said I needed to be seen but I needed to have a covid test first, and not just a home test.

The daughter took pictures of her kids holding up their treasureboxes of bright fruit with the cherry tree as background and it just made my day.

They held some out: did I want any?

(Always, of course, but I had so much in my freezer.) I opened the door a crack, trying not to breathe in their direction: No, I’ve got plenty, thanks, though!

They left, I sent out a note to the ward saying the cherries were picked and thank you everybody, and I headed off to the clinic.

The grandmother read that and dashed over, hoping she hadn’t lost her chance to at least get some. Turns out she had missed that phone call.

Richard had been in a meeting and I hadn’t interrupted, so he didn’t know that the daughter had come by; he just met the grandmother at the door (trying to keep his distance because of the covid exposure), and a moment later found her crushed, saying, It’s stripped. They’re all gone.

(While the daughter had been going, Mom, answer your phone…)

And everybody’s having a good laugh over the whole thing now.

Oh, and the covid test? It was negative.

Raptor captor
Sunday July 02nd 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Creme Brûlée is not a tall sunflower variety, maybe two feet if that, but it’s sure a pretty one. I expect it’ll be right up there with tomatoes on my must-plant list forevermore.

Meantime, our falcon fledged yesterday and had to endure the indignity today of being rescued next to a pool (update: where she bumped into some glass), being scooped into a produce box, taken up in an elevator, and released on the roof of her native building to start over. Looks like they sprayed her with water to calm her and keep her from immediately taking off in a frenzy of fear at the releasing.

Instead, she looked up at the guy like what the heck are you and what am I expected to do about it?

Someone had fun writing the captions to the video and that’s some pretty impressive camera work there.

But I also want to note, she flew up, well up, on her second day of flying. That’s a really good sign. Even if she got tired and swooped down past the backs of some highly oblivious swimmers.

Thanks, flower!
Friday June 30th 2023, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

Got to the next color change on my project, went looking for what should go there, found it–and…I hadn’t scoured that yarn that day I did all those others. I hanked it, but cleaning the mill oils off was supposed to be the next step. It is now dutifully sitting in hot soapy water. Any dye that’s going to crock, do it now.

Just when it was starting to feel like hey, this is beginning to come out right after all, I have to sit and wait.

So let me distract us with my first-ever homegrown sunflower. Variety: Creme Brûlée.

Oh and? If I ever again decide to do a big intarsia project with doubled yarns, take me aside and just y’know quietly scream AREYOUOUTOFYOURMIND in my ear? And yet, and yet. Not all of them are doubled, and it is so going to be worth it.

Sudden thunderbolt as I type: this thing needs a sunflower! That’s why I bought that orange! Of course it does!

Play ball!
Thursday June 29th 2023, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

(This was Tuesday’s post that somehow never made it out of draft stage.)

If the third one opened yet, then the opening was facing the density of leaves and I missed it–but it may yet, we’ll see. (Update: it’s taller and bigger but not opened yet.) Monday offered us the second philodendron flower.

Also Monday: a mockingbird grabbed a cherry, flew halfway to where I was sitting on the other side of the window, and kept taking a hard stab at it as if cracking open the pit inside and then leaning its head way back to swallow bits of soft cherry.

(Pro tip, bird: you don’t have to work at it that hard.)

Each time its beak came back up, the cherry came up along with it, arced in the air, and then bounced on the ground. Stab, arc, bounce, stab, arc, bounce.

Today it had clearly learned that it had a new game: it wasn’t eating this time, it was trying to get this red thing to do the superball dance with it again.

But this one was either past its prime or deflated by having already been a meal.

I said bounce! pounced the mocker.

Rollll… (dud)


Okay kinda sorta that time but not really; oomph from the bird, none from the fruit.

I found a lot more cherries on the tree that had been picked and pecked and pickled by the process of having been investigated but not taken.

That’s okay, there are plenty more, and that was just too fun to watch.

Start-up enthusiasts
Wednesday June 28th 2023, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

He was running late, but at least that would get him past rush hour for the long commute home.

Friends of ours moved far enough away that they were able to buy a house, one with enough land to plant a goodly number of fruit trees, is the plan, after they clear out the neglected overgrowth.

They are really excited about it but didn’t know where to start.

He works nearby, and today was an in-office day and that was perfect: she’d been hoping for one of my apricot seedlings for awhile and it was waiting for her.

He picked my brain while we picked cherries together. You want the squirrels not to devour everything? Plant sour cherries, tart apples, and see the Indian Free peach there? The downside is it needs a pollinator. The good side is that not only are the peaches great, not only is it resistant to leaf curl disease, but the peaches are sour during the growing–right till the very last when at ripening they turn sweet and the squirrels take awhile to catch on that the rejects are the good ones now.

Also: that row of bushes? That’s California coffeeberry, and the tiny fruits are supposedly edible but bland (never tried it) but a big food source for the birds that like to nest in it where they’re protected from the hawks. The Bewick’s wrens take cover in there, and since they are mostly extinct now except in the Bay Area, I’m pretty protective of them.

And then we talked hawks: mine, and their red-tailed family they love to watch. Cool!

Clearly it’s been a good move for them and their young kids, even if I miss them.

I told him Morgan Hill is a hike for them, but if they want to sample the best stone fruit varieties before planting, Andy’s Orchard is absolutely the place to go.

They will be there.

Drilling rights
Friday June 23rd 2023, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Garden

I looked to see if there were more yesterday and did not see any.

Today the philodendron flower that had made me want to crack bad jokes about my photo being over exposed wrapped itself demurely back up–and two new buds showed up right behind it. It will be interesting to see if we can get two blooming at once.

Anyone want to try one?

The thought occurs that I could harvest them and freeze them till I find someone braver than I. (Runs to go see if it’s in my “The Fruit Hunters” book of rare delectables. Nope.)

Years ago we put two vivid blue five gallon water containers outside for earthquake emergencies, and since those are not the most beautiful thing to put in your landscaping and you’d want them out of direct sun anyway, we hid them under the leaves of what we affectionately call the man-eating plant growing out of a cut-out in our back patio and under the awning.

I tried to move them out of the way for the camera this time. The first, no problem. The second?

I couldn’t budge it. The plant had grown a leg of trunk right over it and rendered it absolutely immobile. I quite expect it has found a way inside it. Desert plants find their water and make it their own, and this one once drilled a small root right into the house. Got rid of that one and sealed up the hole pronto.

To be continued.

Grieving quietly in the garden
Thursday June 22nd 2023, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life

Can you hear me, Major Tom

…For here am I sitting in my tin can

Far below the world

Planet earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do…

–With a prayer for the families of the men lost in the Titan. And all those at sea in the Mediterranean.

Somehow, today my philodendron decided to bloom. This is not something it did the first twenty or maybe even thirty years we lived here.

It sent up a bud a week or two ago (see the shriveled yellowing stalk above and just to the left in the second picture) but that one never opened up. This one did, and its spadix (the peeled banana part) leaned out around noon, following the sun, straightening back up again after its rays moved on past.

The site in that link says the fruit is toxic but that the flower part actually does taste rather like a banana.

Cue the Hey Mikey! Life cereal commercial of my youth: I’m not going to try it, YOU try it! Where’s a Mikey when you need one.

And then I planted some seeds. I hadn’t been planning to, but the phrase, To life! just kept demanding it of me. To life. Know the loss, feel the grief, but honor their memory by never stop looking forward.