Dig a little deeper
Tuesday December 30th 2014, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,My Garden

So we had strong hands to help, it had been 17 days, and you’re supposed to put it to ground between two and three weeks after its arrival. For us, today was the day it needed to finally claim its spot in the yard.

I knew it was cold and I knew it was windy. I did not know that tonight is supposed to be the coldest night of the year and 34 degrees, along with those 40 mph winds that have been going on–uncovered and Christmas lit, in its protected spot on the patio the mango tree had kept a good nine to fifteen degrees warmer than the surrounding outside temps.

At least it came tied to a stake taller than it was. “Put one of those big heavy black plastic bags over it,” opined my sweetie, and I did and the thing was just barely long enough to let me put gravel over the bottom edges of the plastic. Yes the bag is touching the leaves, which is a frostbite risk, except that there’s warmth under there. The remote-read thermometer that I put on the ground but away from any lights is saying 53. Outside air is 45, having dropped by three degrees since I started writing this while the other has not. Good.

I’m thinking a second string under there might be the way to go if this weather keeps up. But the mango and the mandarin will, hoping those covers hold in place, make it through this night.

(Baby photos to come as I get permission to share. They’re kinda busy over there. Can’t wait to take my own.)

Edited to add–it went down to 27 that night, as it turned out, and 24 the next.)

Finish your plate
Wednesday June 11th 2014, 11:21 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

The squirrels got one of my Yellow Transparents, almost ready to pick but still quite at the sour stage: I found a hollowed-out carcass of pale green skin, utterly deflated.

They actually ate the apple!  Rather than the usual one-bite-and-toss.  Maybe the lack of abundance got to them.

But what I care most about. Something big had climbed it again and bent it bigtime… I went back inside, grabbed the cinnamon, and shook it over my peaches both inside and outside the clamshells (not all fit in), highly aware that I should have thought of that sooner.

Checked back this morning and this evening and there was still a nice even dusting, untouched by so much as a breeze, on top of both plastic and fruit.

One more week, I just ask for one more week on that tree. I wonder if the cinnamonyness will permeate the peaches; with the Meyer lemons next to them, all I need now is a piecrust bush.

Not sure I want to ask how ovenbirds got their name, though.

Sunday June 08th 2014, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

We were out taking a walk this evening and went a square block further over than we have in awhile.

Someone else is living my dream. We had no idea this was there and we wondered how recently it got set up (probably very recently) but, we not only got to see one in person finally, it’s in our own neighborhood!

And it had a steady light inside so one could read the titles in the dark. Well done.

There was a couple inside the house it was in front of and it was pretty clear that, while they were trying not to be seen seeing us and we were trying likewise to respect their privacy, they were enjoying how thrilled we were.

So, so cool. And I’m wondering what titles we have that are good enough to offer up to it. (Hey, any knitters in the neighborhood? I mean, that don’t already have…because I know there are two and they do.)

Meantime, it hit mid-9o’s today and these plums declared themselves done and fell to the bottoms of their clamshells, and oh, the smell of sun-warm newly ripe fruit. I saw a squirrel looking longingly up at that tree, thwarted.

I want a bumper crop and I want to make jam and I want to leave it on a certain doorstep with a thank you note. (Grow tree grow!) Ah well. I might have to settle for something else, like, you know, knitting or something.

My grandtree
Wednesday June 04th 2014, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,My Garden

My Tropic Snow (link to wholesaler’s descriptions) has seven gorgeous peaches tucked inside the plastic clamshells, having thrown off early in the season any extras that were too much for such a young plant. I water, I fuss, I watch each day’s progress, they’re almost ready.

Got an email from the kids yesterday of the Eve’s Pride tree (link to retailer) I gave them as a housewarming present, with their okay. “Despite my best efforts at killing it” said the note with the photo.

Look at all those peaches! A dozen! Like mine, that’s a 17-month-0ld tree, pretty immediate gratification if you ask me. Cool! And you gotta love that 6’9″ vantage point.

My second thought was, if they let the baby see that those pretty pink balls detach from the tree they might get some help with the harvesting.

Pinking outside the boxed
Saturday May 31st 2014, 9:16 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

A stick in the ground and a year and a half. It amazes me.

That middle peach didn’t fit in there, but the boxes clearly give the critters nothing to hold onto to get at it. Looking good.

(Moving slowly. Still a bit under the weather.)

Oh, and before I forget: a few really cool pictures here of the fledgling falcons among the skyscrapers of San Francisco (scroll over a few to that ninth one. Perfect.)  There were three females…and now there are two, who’ve had much better luck coordinating landing on a wing and a prayer.

Right there
Monday May 26th 2014, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Lupus,My Garden,Wildlife

The sun was almost gone. I stepped out the door to go water my tomatoes and blueberries.

A young dove was at the edge of the patio maybe six feet from me quietly pecking away below the feeder, but at my movement jumped off and waddled a few steps away in the yard, and then, with a better trajectory to the safety of the skies should it be needed, turned back to see. Feederfiller?

I played the blinking game. Predators are the ones who stare.

It went Oh okay, then, and did a little hop back up onto the patio towards me and resumed eating.

A finch flew in but flinched when I moved–and I heard the metal perch groan softly as the little bird’s weight left it. That has a sound? Who knew? The finch chirped a small scold as it left, and I heard that, too.  I wanted to hear it all.

A chickadee darted in briefly to the suet cage above my head as I continued to hold still, and then I carefully walked in a wide, slow path around the dove so as not to startle it away. Having begun to make friends from the same side of the glass at last, it seemed to me that the next time I might want to pull up a chair at my zero-UV hour with some sunflower seeds in my hand. Maybe, just maybe.

But for now I had to take care of my plants, too, before it got too dark to see that beautiful first blush of red on that plum out there.

How to actually get tomatoes after all that work
Monday May 19th 2014, 10:46 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

I had tomato seedlings disappearing. Poof.

The clue fairy finally struck. And so last night I shook out a little Sluggo, organic-gardening-friendly anti-slug pellets that promise to poison only snails and slugs and simply be iron to fertilize your trees. No harm to animals or birds.

One more seedling disappeared last night and one more looked like it had lost one and a half of its two leaves, a sad little sight I had seen again and again. But it was a whole lot better than having half a dozen plants gone in a night.

But the others! These things have just been sitting there not growing for two weeks despite water, sun, soil, even a record-breaking heat wave, just holding still staying the sprouts Janice had gifted me with. It was bizarre.

But this evening when I checked they had a second pair of leaves and of a good size, even–all in one day! As if they were completely different plants, twice the size, twice the leaves, even the stalks were thicker.  And yet it had been a fairly cool day.

All they’d needed was a good night’s sleep and a good day’s work.

It had been the snails all along eating the new growth each night on every single one–of the ones that had survived their destruction. Wow. And gee thanks to whoever released his French escargot to the wild in the 1800s that then took over the whole of California, I mean, gosh, gee, who could resist such tasty land lobsters, there must have been such a market.


I had an older store-bought plant ripening its first tomato yesterday and last night a raccoon or possum reached right under the NuVue pop up tent and stole it. (Hah! Amazon has stopped selling this one because of complaints.) I had worried ever since mine had arrived that they could.

For the record, mine came broken like some of the reviewers there complained about (wish I’d read those earlier) but it was usable, if lopsided, so I set it up anyway. I rather wish I had not.  I now have an ad hoc collection of whatevers on it trying to hold down those edges to protect the rest.

My blueberries, on the other hand, are under a Gardman Fruit Cage, which has a pipe across the bottom holding the netting down via the entire structure of the thing, and the worst that’s happened was one cane poked through the netting and an animal pulled it farther and snarfed all the berries and leaves thereon. I tucked it back in.

Time to use up a gift certificate and order another Gardman.

Fibonacci sequence
Tuesday May 06th 2014, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

Or close to it, as the stitch count added and added.

I had a moment of truth this evening: I was going to have to rip it all out yet again, I said out loud. (Why I haven’t been blogging about knitting the last little bit–you’d have had to cover your ears and hide the yarns.There were moments where planting innocent baby tomatoes and squishing water into resisting dirt saved us all.)

He knew that was his cue but he totally caught me off guard:  “But didn’t you use Frog Free yarn? You gotta use Frog Free yarn, y’know!”

I laughed, and it helped as I frogged a day’s worth of work for the third time. In silk (which I had held onto tight so it wouldn’t all go flying off the needles.) On size US 4s (3.5 mm.) All that carpal tunneling for the feels-overrated-right-now Learning Experience of it.

It was just that one missing stitch in the sequence, but it was at the beginning of the sequence and it changed everything and I refused to fudge it. You will see this pattern later, but not before it’s proven itself perfect over and over. Um, that means I have to be, too, and, um. (I’ve already knitted this shawl before. It’s already gorgeous and the pattern just needs confirming. Come ON, Alison!)

And darnit, I began with the right number of stitches the first time, on Saturday, if only I’d seen it.

Meantime, I got more tomato seedlings planted.

I started over. I counted right. I got the sequence right. I got it past failure mode, and we are back in business here. Man, does it feel good.

Sweet sixteen
Monday May 05th 2014, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Lupus,My Garden

No stem cells were harmed (nor found) in the making of this picture.

Meantime, Janice  (Rav link) posted on FB that she had started her tomatoes a tad late,  but hey–and now she had way more seedlings than she could use. It seemed a shame to dump all that potential into the compost heap, did anyone want them?

A day later, nobody had taken her up on it so I said sure.

She dropped them by on Saturday, whereupon I learned a new use for the produce clamshells that are too shallow for my fruit trees–what a great idea!

Saturday and Sunday evenings were busy for us but tonight I finally had some no-UV time at home.

Last year I started my own tomatoes from seed, too, and dutifully thinned them down to one per pot but totally picked the wrong individuals: the sorriest one never got above 10″ high no matter how I tried to coax the darn thing. Big Boy my foot.

And that is why I bought Costco tomato plants a month ago and got them in the ground with bird netting rather than planning on hauling pots inside away from the squirrels once they set fruit. You need the outside heat for sweetness anyway. I wanted real homegrown tomatoes at last!

Tonight with easily 50 seedlings wanting to grow up, as the sun rapidly faded while I was trying to decide mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest plant of all, I hedged my bets and put two per pot in some of the pots. We’ll see how that goes as they grow and show themselves and I get more ruthless, but still: I filled sixteen pots. With two more seedlings plunked in the ground behind the Costco ones that have already set fruit (good luck, guys) because, well, the more the merrier.

Let me grow these up just a bit and then, or now if you want, if you’re local and you’d like an heirloom tomato plant let me know. Seems I have a few extra.

You can just taste it
Sunday May 04th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

Two blueberries a day. It’s early in the season and the plants are only a year old. On this one variety they definitely turn color fast once they’re ready to go and suddenly they completely stand out from behind the bird netting, begging, pick me, pick me: two perfect, big, blue, berries, as if the canes know to pair them off like that for us, and so for the third or fourth time now, Richard smiled tonight as I proudly handed him his portion from the garden. With a fair amount of bemusement on his part as he held the tiny thing between his much-larger-than-mine finger and thumb.

There was never such a perfect little snack.

He would agree on that description.

Pop-up add
Wednesday April 30th 2014, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,My Garden

The tomatoes were untouched and the cinnamon seems to be, too.

And the 52″ bird netting pop-up tent arrived at the store and we picked it up this evening. We’re a bit too tired and it’s too dark to set it up tonight, but we have it, along with a monster bag of potting soil for the seedlings that are coming.

And best of all I heard back from Janet’s (the UCSF researcher’s) mom about her cap. She loves it. I had said that if it turned out to be too big, wet it down and put it in the dryer for two minutes. It was, she did, and she says now it’s perfect.

And who knew–she’s a knitter! I wish her all the best on her journey forward however it may go.

Green tomatoes
Tuesday April 29th 2014, 11:08 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Bought some tomato plants at Costco a month ago, and given the half a dozen or so green globes on them by now it seemed high time to finally, y’know, plant them in the ground….

Spurred on by the fact that someone is bringing her surplus heirloom seedlings over on Saturday for me to grow a bit bigger and then share around the neighborhood. Well then. (Speak up if you want some.)

And so I did tonight. Knowing full well that even though squirrels don’t even like tomatoes, in our dry climate if not others they’ll steal every one for the juice inside–and then helpfully put the leftovers on top of the fence so you can have the rest, right?

I have a 52″ bird-netting tent on order via Home Despot.

Once I had the muddy soil packed back around them (always plant tomatoes a little deep–they’ll grow new roots from wherever the stem touches dirt) I poured cinnamon powder in a long circle around them.

In the morning we shall see if there are any paw prints. Or, hopefully, not.

Water you think?
Wednesday April 23rd 2014, 11:15 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

Look! A clamshell tree in full fruit! Eighteen, I think, many covering more than one plum. It does give an interesting visual of the pattern of where the fruit set: the tree bloomed during a series of downpours and the center was clearly the most protected from washing out.

There would be just a few more clamshells if I had them, but the critters haven’t found all the uncovered fruit–yet. The diurnal ones will the moment a touch of color gives them away against the green background. For now, without sweetness to add to the temptation, it was probably an extra disincentive to have a few branches collapse and drop the raccoon to the ground last week.

XKCD shows how we could get young people with really good sound systems in their cars to helpfully distract the squirrels and crows away to the street.

Actually, what I really should do is buy a motion-detector-activated sprinkler system set to go off at night.  Our neighbors who once gave us 40 lbs of plums from their stately old tree before we planted our own say theirs works (and clearly, it does.) It’s just the $8888/pair/on sale hearing aids vs the chances of a good dousing that gives me pause there.  Not to mention I can just picture Richard waking up to the sounds of zapped scavengers at dark o’clock.

Hmm. Yes? No?

Cinnamon covered
Friday April 18th 2014, 10:50 pm
Filed under: My Garden

I’m dying to show some pictures but the latest blog-platform update doesn’t seem willing to do anything but straight text so far. But my amaryllises are starting to bloom–21 stalks’ worth! Something to look forward to, anyway.

Meantime. Last Christmas Trader Joe’s was selling ornamental brooms of branches of the cinnamon plant. They smelled heavenly, they were only a few bucks, and I bought one.

I didn’t read the tag till I got home, though–it warned not to let it touch the paint on the walls or this surface or that or that and I wondered how I got myself into this? But hey, cinnamon. I kept it.

I would later read that it’s a natural pest repellant: critters don’t like it and ants will avoid it.

I found ants crawling up my baby cherry tree a few weeks ago and as my friend Phyllis points out, they bring mites that damage the trees to farm them for food. When we bought this house it had an elderly cherry tree dying of an infestation.

I put that broom across the rim of the big plant pot and the ants vanished and did not come back. The tree looks great.

I wished I had more of those branches, although the obvious thing is that of course in effect I do, I have a big Costco thing of cinnamon sticks, that should do, too.

In the last two days I found two clamshells and six peaches downed around my early peach and needed to do something, stat, before I lost the rest. Oh wait, the cinnamon broom! Put it where there’s actually going to be a crop. So tonight it is resting against the peach trunk and I’m hoping that that skunk that announced itself last night (probably while arguing with the raccoons over my fruit) will think it has met its smelly match.

And they grow, and grow, and grow
Sunday March 30th 2014, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,My Garden

Fatigue with a twinge of lupus so you’re getting the easy post tonight: a bit of spring.

Got the peach tree photo by holding the camera high over my head and snapping a lot. Bigger and redder by the day. The neighbors are hoping we encourage the tree to, y’know, kinda lean thataway and over the fence and if we got this much growth in just one year it seems like it would take no time at all to. They were seriously considering planting their own as well, maybe a later variety.

Some friends were collecting clamshells, unbeknownst to us, and asked me at church today: did I want them this year too?


Michelle has already put in her request for peach pie.

All in good time, hon.