The week after
Sunday April 30th 2023, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Mango tree

Before we left for Seattle ten days ago, the pomegranate tree still had some leaves in the bright light reddish gold of early spring.

Now they’re all a lush dark green and the first flower buds have appeared. I love how they mimic cacao pods at this stage.

The Anya apricot that germinated right before we left has started to sprout side branches.

Re the older woman who coughed at church last week: I didn’t see her.

But clearly one of the young men who’d been at the front had seen the whole thing because he wears a mask while breaking the bread for the Sacrament and had forgotten his today and knew just whom to ask. That there would be a ziplock in my purse with a bunch of new ones, readily offered.

I had actually taken it out while unpacking everything from the trip and yesterday thought, that needs to go back in there, and went and got it.

I was so proud of him. He was looking out for everybody, whether they noticed it or not.

It was my old friend Eli, who took care of my mango tree against the cold weather while we traveled when it and he were younger. Whichever college gets him next year will be very fortunate to have him.

One way to get a project done
Saturday February 18th 2023, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life,Mango tree

With all the microclimates around here, no matter what the weather sites say, after a really cold night you wait for the frost on the awning roof to start dripping down before you uncover the mango tree in the morning. That, and, somehow I just didn’t want to go out there this morning. But it had to be done. Be careful.

The top frost layer still had a bit of crispy crunchy glittery to it and I could feel the last ice crystals breaking as I pulled it off the lower layer.

Which was dry and felt cool rather than cold. Those old incandescent Christmas lights underneath are still doing their job.

But the top layer was heavy with liquid in whatever form, and I was putting my whole body into dragging it away from the mango to where it could dry out.

Which is why (and I know better, I’ve done this before) I was at the wrong angle with arms and legs opposite the direction I was leaning in when my foot caught a dip in the ground.

As I told Richard, my instant thought was Don’tfalldon’tfalldon’tfall as I tried to right myself in time.

And then you fell, he said, reasonably.

My back bounced off that vertical piece of the raised bed. But it wasn’t my head!

Ice. Immediately.

He was right, and I did, and I was a lot better off for it.


After dinner I said, I don’t see how I could have broken it.

Is the pain more localized now? he asked.

I wiggled my foot a bit. Actually, no, more diffuse, which makes more sense anyway because it was a twist not a smack.

Broken bones localize.

Yeah. Um, yay.

I found my old ankle brace but it’s still tough getting around. Elevate. Which means the UFO 1×1-stitch-switching intarsia hat that is a joy to give but a pain to make is now almost done. Yay!

Looks like four more nights of frost warnings coming up and then hopefully we’ll be done with that till, I dunno, maybe Thanksgiving?

Well hello there!
Sunday August 07th 2022, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Last year, the mango tree was fighting off a fungal infection. It had not liked the humidity buildup in the now-defunct plastic greenhouse and there were black tips in a lot of places; the perfume and intensity of what an Alphonso could taste like were only a memory and a hope.

It’s still recovering but a lot better than it was, and it set a large crop this year. For awhile. Oh well.

Tonight, quite to my surprise, I found two like this and a third almost as big at the back of the tree and some smaller ones that might well get there, hiding near the fence line. How in all these times had I not seen these?! I mean yes the foliage is thick, but.

Enough to share again if this keeps up! Go tree grow!

No, go that way
Monday January 31st 2022, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

I think the scrub jay chased the rabbit across the yard just because it could boss it around like that so it was fun. It’s a corvid thing.

Re less fun things: sometimes it’s just easier to hire someone else to do it. And so two men showed up today to spray my peach trees against leaf curl disease and another crew from the same company will be pruning everything shortly.

I noted one of them stopping first in apparent surprise and not moving from the spot, so I opened the door and called over to him, Yes–that’s a mango tree.

He told me, marveling, that the other guy had instantly recognized that it was. He looked like he was trying to memorize it–the long leaves, the tropically curving branches.

I answered the question he hadn’t quite asked yet by saying it had been under a plastic greenhouse when it was younger. What I didn’t say was, we’ve had the warmest winter since it was planted and I haven’t so much as had to cover it at night with frost covers but half a dozen times this whole season.

Including, as it would later turn out, tonight, just to be on the safe side.

After they left one of the rabbits tried to dig under the bird netting around the base protecting the mango from their teeth–they’ve always avoided it before–and the jay would have been proud of my wing flapping as I ran out there to chase the little fuzzbutt back across the yard.

Saturday November 06th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knit,Mango tree

I looked at the forecast and did a sudden oh, right, I have to get in the habit of doing that again, and ran out with a bright flashlight and got the mango tree double-covered for the night to protect the fruit. Winter might come after all.

Meantime, a Ravelry link: my hands don’t love knitting cellulose fibers but that would be worth it. There are no instructions, just a seat-of-the-pants this-is-sort-of-how-I-did-it.

I think I could kluge that.

It’s fabulous. A beaded lace dress with a solid bodice, using an oak lace doily pattern that Lacis in Berkeley published eons ago for the skirt, sleeves, and inset. Make it A-line and floor length and it would be a wedding dress for the ages.

Kaethe Kliot, the founder of Lacis in Berkeley, knit doilies as cotton tablecloths to sell to American soldiers to send home after WWII and saved just enough to emigrate. She established a shop and museum and essentially a bookstore for all things lace, run now by her daughter, last I knew. She collected very old doily patterns including the ones she’d used and published them in several books so they wouldn’t vanish from history.

That dress took one of those doilies back to tablecloth size and showed what it could do. Wow.

So don’t be an idiot
Tuesday November 02nd 2021, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

(Edited to add: First mango of the year. When it falls off the tree it’s telling you it’ll be ripe in about two days.)

My friend Heather from our old Purlescence days posts a query on Facebook every Monday: How’s your heart?

Yesterday I responded that I’d just read the summary of the two-week heart monitor and that it had instantly given me the earworm, Play That Funky Music Live, Boys. (Okay, I just looked it up. All these years it was white boy, not live, boy. ‘Live’ should work too given its origin story, except that it doesn’t at all. They would never have had their one-hit wonder my way.)

A little tachycardia, with my lightheadedness reports matching the tachy times. Which makes sense. Apparently if it constantly goes off before enough blood gets in there it’s not sending enough when it does.

My family practitioner asked me last week if I’d had any episodes while on the monitor like the one that had made them put me on it?

I said, Just one: much much much more minor. (Plus all those other little times that didn’t count, and they didn’t.)

Oh good! She was so glad that that at least would be documented.

One string of nineteen beats of tachycardia. Way, way better than an hours-long episode and the distinct certainty that I was not standing up and walking across the house and getting in the passenger side in the middle of the night, I couldn’t do it. I was just going to breathe deeply and hold on.

Whatever was setting all that off seems to have settled down now, and having only seen what he’s seen the cardiologist isn’t worried.

I need to gently remind him that I’ll take any soothing words and run with them–if he ever wants me in the ER if it does XYZ, he has to tell it to me straight.

Except that his nurse already did in no uncertain terms. When I left that note describing the night before. Good for her.

They got to see it again
Tuesday July 20th 2021, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

Today the tree crew came, the same one that six years ago cleared out all the random stuff that was threatening the fence along that whole length of it. We needed a do-over. It was a big job. (Reading that old post, a pomegranate and mandarin and sour cherry did go in there, the fig went to the other side of the house.)

But the first thing the original two had done that day was to make a beeline for my three-month-old stick over there and exclaim, That’s a mango, isn’t it!

Today there was a third man on the crew.

I added a request to the job over the phone yesterday and Chris the boss-man showed up to make sure everything was understood and while he and I were meeting up out front his guys were heading for the backyard ahead of us.

Those two had something they really wanted to see. It WAS still there! It had lived! Look how big it is! Look at all that fruit! (I’m sure that there was also a, Look how different the yard is now and how much all the new stuff has grown!)

Chris and I joined up with them as the three of them stood around the mango tree happily talking about it with the new guy taking it in. I lifted the two biggest ones on the fence side and they’d already seen it: “Yes, yes!” excitedly.

I know that at least one of them had grown up around mango trees.

That added request was to cut back that tall tree over there so that it didn’t shade it in the afternoon. They were on it. (I thought I knew what type it was but I just googled it and nope, I’ve been calling it the wrong thing forever. Never mind then.)

They did a great job.

There were no ripe mangoes to offer them yet, but at least I had the next best thing: perfect peaches from Andy’s, and the look on the face of the first guy to eat his while the others were finishing putting equipment away… Most definitely a hit.

And now there are no more branches hanging over the house and we are ready for the roofers. But first the termite guys.

No hawk in here
Monday March 29th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

A bit of warm weather and the mango buds that have been closed tight for so long are beginning to respond: some clusters are starting to set fruit, some are just now lengthening and opening up.

The tree got a bit leggy after spending too long under the ash-damaged and -darkened greenhouse. The surprise is that the buds seem to have come through the winter better with just the Christmas lights and the endless rounds of cover/uncover with the frost blankets than with the heater and Christmas lights and the Sunbubble. It’s a lot less electricity, too.

But it requires I be home every day at all the right times morning and evening checking the sun vs the cold and doing the origami thing with that big piece of white fabric (and the next and the next.)

Funny how I seem to have been able to manage that this past year.

We lost a bunch to cold spots but many more grew to replace them. I think it’s going to be a good year for showing friends what a local Alphonso mango, the best of the best and not heat treated for import, tastes like. I hope so.

Those dense leaves must look quite inviting even if I mess with them twice a day. All that motion and upward flips of green after a bird flitted in there could only mean that it was starting to set up a nest in there.

All we can do is hope the warmer nights hurry up so I can leave them alone to raise their young in peace. We’re getting there.

Tuesday January 26th 2021, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

The cold did in most of the mango buds in November, with a few die-hards holding on but still closed. On a warm summer day it would take a few days, not months.

You can tell the tree has born the weight of a half dozen layers of frost covers at night this winter. The lights are on under there but the tree’s gotten so dense it’s hard to see them, and I’m not going to prune until it’s warm enough for it to recover from the process. We are so out of its natural zone.

On the other hand, we had three warm afternoons last week: 76 in January is unheard of.

The mango’s reaction was, Now THIS is what I’m talking about!

I have never seen that many new leaves in one cluster before. There are new limbs and future flowers coming out just below it, in a spot that does not take the weight of the covers so it should all be safe. We might get some fruit this year after all!

Sunday September 20th 2020, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,History,Life,Mango tree

My mango variety drops its fruit just before they’re fully ripe, and I’ve learned that if you just slightly brush the bottom of one with your fingertips and it falls into your hand, you got it when it was ready to let go.

Two were like that while the fire sky had been gray or worse for three weeks. They were good, but the intensity of the perfume was not at all up to last year’s–they’d needed that bright direct sun the ashes were filtering out.

The third and last one that had survived what the winter had thrown at the tree waited till there was bright sunshine again for several days. It was very small, but held great promise in the palm of my hand.

Like Alphonsos do, it needed a few days indoors. I put it in a beautiful hand thrown rice bowl from my friends Mel and Kris which displayed it with the majesty it deserved.

And man, was I tempted. More than I’d like to admit. I’m not proud of that.

But I was hopefully going to get more mangoes in future years.

There is never enough time, there is not much time, there is hopefully as much time as she and her family need. Her granddaughter gave her a new great-granddaughter this weekend, and there is joy.

I checked with her daughter, who assured me that there was a caretaker there who would open the door; just tell her I’m Jean’s friend from church.

There was no plan whatsoever of my going in and actually seeing and risking her, but I could at least hand something over to them from there.

I had a card that popped up a bouquet of paper flowers for this lovely master gardener. The woman who shared her pomegranates that are why I have such a tree in my yard too, now, having never known before what a pomegranate was really supposed to taste like. Who was eighteen when she witnessed Pearl Harbor, and lived.

Twice she had tried to grow mangoes like back home. Twice the trees had died in our cold. She knew what a homegrown mango could taste like. If only.

At 94, she finally got to have one again.

And I suppose the fact that the sky took away a little of the perfume and presumably (like my figs) some of the sweetness (although it still smelled wonderful), she gets to still believe her childhood Haden ones were the best.

Thursday July 09th 2020, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Mango tree

I’ve told this before, but for those who haven’t yet read it: My friend Jean planted a pomegranate tree and two years later brought a half a paper grocery bag’s worth of fruit to church to share that was bursting open, breaking itself into pieces that made it easy for lots of people to get a sample (outside). *She* thanked *us*, saying there was way more than she could eat.

I had never tasted anything like it. I wondered if I’d ever tasted an actually ripe pomegranate before, or was it just the variety (she didn’t remember the name.)

A few years later I got to tell her that she was why I’d researched descriptions and taste tests and planted my own, a Parfianka, the favorite of not only a whole bunch of people online but the owner at Yamagami’s Nursery. I never would have done it had I not tasted hers first and found out what I was missing. She’d definitely earned a thank you.

Mine was a cute little $10 end-of-season-clearance what-they-had-left thing in one of those 4x4x10″ sleeves. Jean was 80 when she planted hers and she clearly started with a more established specimen. Makes sense.

Time and sun and water and dirt and the little one got there just the same. It fascinates me how the tree just keeps on randomly throwing out new flowers with the fruit in various stages, keeping the feeding station open for the bees and hummingbirds.

Jean is 94 this year and I think others will be bringing her pomegranates inside to her. I hope she gets to see them fully ripe again.

And one of my mangoes, too: two more months. I would not make her wait for an Alphonso, knowing she misses the Hadens of her childhood in Hawaii but her late husband even more, but I hope to help her discover something new to love and partake of just like she did for me.

I don’t dare risk bringing one to her in this pandemic, but if her daughter okays it I’ll pass one along through her.

Lockdown day 52: afghan on lockdown
Thursday May 07th 2020, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Knit,Mango tree

Why was that one strand so thin…

Oh. Oh rats. It was Arroyo, ie about 300 yards per skein vs the 200 yards per 100g skein of the Rios, and it looked it, and I stopped, found a similarly-dyed skein online in the right weight–judging by the picture, wish me luck–ordered it from across the Bay, nice and close by, put the afghan away and hoped.

I really wanted to work on it.

And went out and checked on the mango tree because I needed that.

So the plan is: I’m going to get the new yarn, weave a strand around over and through kitchener style over all the existing stitches in that grouping–ten, I think–and then work the original strand back out of there with the replacement already in place.

Or maybe it would be simpler just to undo the entire three rows but I don’t want to. 


The Alphonso
Sunday March 08th 2020, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Flowers, fragrant flowers everywhere. At least one honeybee  found its way through the door.

I found more new buds this morning, which means they’ll be coming ripe at staggered times rather than all in a rush at once.

There goes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail…
Wednesday February 12th 2020, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Mango tree

(Here’s a better picture of the mango.)

I watched a cottontail rabbit jump into and out of the Costco-sized planter my strawberries are in. That, to my regret, answers my question as to whether it was too tall for it. (Well, duh.)  I went to head it off.

Cottontails (says Wikipedia) like to duck into the same sheltering spot every time, which makes it easy for hawks to sit and wait, but it would have had to have cut across in front of me so instead it went straight to–

–the hole past the raised bed under the corner of the fence dug out by one of the nocturnal regulars around here. It would only have done that if it knew it was there and it knew what to expect on the other side.

I immediately boarded up the spot, with mental apologies to the gardeners next door for the return of the goods. It’s got cute twitchy ears, at least. Have fun.

That was yesterday, and today I was trying to figure out how to confess to them.

Until, whoops, guess what was munching on the weeds where the grass used to be.

I think this one was smaller. And yes, it ducked into its usual spot in the coffeeberries. I think the one that went up and over and down to the hole over thataway was going to the spot *it* knew to run to, because it definitely seemed bigger, and it seemed slightly darker–I don’t think it was the same one.

Please tell me we’re not about to have a whole crew of rabbits. I keep marveling at how they could even be here, 65 years after this area was developed and fenced off.

But note that in neither case did they run for the mouth of the mango cage where all that sweet flowering scent is coming out of. So far so good. Yay.

Hurry up, tree!
Wednesday February 05th 2020, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Mango tree

My Big Boy tomato plant from last year finally froze to death. The Sungold under the eaves is still blooming. House warmth for the win.

Monday night and thereafter, I had to turn on the heater under the Sunbubble at dusk for the first time all winter; the Christmas lights just weren’t enough. For so long it was simply about keeping the mango comfortably above freezing, but now we need to protect the more vulnerable flower buds that are bursting out all over.

This is just the top of the tree because I can’t step far enough back in the greenhouse for a better shot.

The tree’s gotten big and the crop will be a lot more than last year’s three fruits.

My friend Jean grew up in Hawaii and misses the Hayden mangoes of her youth. She tried three times to grow her own but always lost them to the cold and she has cheered my tree on with great enthusiasm ever since she found out about it.

Last year’s three went to Dani who instigated the whole thing and whom I’d long promised the first fruit to, Eli who helped take care of the tree numerous times while we were out of town before we bought the greenhouse, and the last one for, well, us.

This is the year the first one is supposed to be for Jean. Jean, who once brought a paper bag of ripe pomegranates to church from her two year old tree that were such a revelation that I’d planted my own, a Parfianka, having never known before what a ripe pom actually tastes like. (The stores can’t sell them when they start to split.) Jean, who loves seeing pictures of how my Alphonso is growing, it’s really doing it, it’s surviving here! It’s blooming!

Today’s her 94th birthday.

The last few months she’s been pretty much bed-bound.

I don’t know that it’s fair to ask her to hang around till this big plant of mine finishes doing its thing in six or seven months but I’m still going to remind her I promised.