About that size
Friday March 28th 2014, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

I have a ton of ends to weave in and some blocking to do to make it look a bit more polished. It’s a good problem to (finally!) have. Car pattern by Lucinda Guy from her Handknits for Kids book.

Note that I am missing one green stitch on the back of the car from her pattern and it made it more VW Buggy-ish. I crocheted a steering wheel and the first tire wheel in orange so it would better match Parker’s sweater but found I didn’t care for the effect and I put them aside and let it stay simple.

More apple blossoms open today and more rain tomorrow–work fast, little honeybees. (Not complaining! More rain in this drought!)

I frogged five times on that first armhole, trying to get the number of white and blue stitches picked up to match, trying to get the look just right–y’know, there’s a *reason* designers deserve to get paid; other than the car, I was winging it.

I took a break from it after finally nailing the first one just so just in time to see the Cooper’s hawk catch a dove and fly to the fence with it and stop there a minute, the tail of its meal towards me rather than the face (thank you). He watched me a moment as I took in the relative sizes of the two birds and then he flew to where he would be less in view of the thieving crows (who steer clear of my yard thanks to him, but one does not risk food in the wild.) If he has nestlings this early in the season they were well fed today.

As were we. Richard and I went out for ice cream at Smitten.

A toddler, old enough to run but not quite old enough to talk yet, was dashing back and forth between his daddy and the person behind there making their ice cream, giggling adorably over and over at the occasional puffs of dry ice from behind the counter that he could just barely tiptoe up to see. One, two…happy anticipation…There it comes again! and he would run back to his daddy’s legs and giggle some more.

I quietly eyeballed the kid, having finished the last of that ribbing right before we’d gone out the door: yeah–I think this’ll fit Hudson okay. A little big but not too. I think. Thank you, little one.

String along
Thursday March 27th 2014, 11:59 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Remember when AOL used to send everybody’s mailboxes Subscribe-Now! CDs? Snailmail spam?

That was about when someone told me that hanging those in my apple tree would keep the birds and squirrels away.  What I found, though, was that they ate the ones furthest from the CDs, then gradually worked their way over closer until there was just an apple or two but the process didn’t take long at all. Scary they were not. Then the last would be gone, too.

As often as not the strings the CDs had been hanging on would be quickly tangled in the limbs anyway, and I gave up on the idea and cut them all down and out of there.

I was snapping a few pictures this evening, trying not to make them look like all the others I’ve already shown you, but this stopped me right there, staring. It couldn’t be.

It was. One of those strings from long ago, with the tree grown around it–it’s embedded clear through the center of a major limb now and out the other side. It’s not very big, so it’s not likely to weaken anything, it’s just there.

And all these years I never saw it before. (!) All these times these past two years where I’ve been observing the growth and changes as close to every day’s sundown as I can manage it, and it had simply taken on the color of the branch it had become part of, had grown a bit stiff in the great outdoors, and was indistinguishable and I didn’t see it till it moved slightly in the breeze in a way a small limb would not.

It had become one with the tree it was stationed to protect.

Rain and hawk and fruit and friend
Wednesday March 26th 2014, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Food,My Garden,Recipes

More apple and peach photos… And I saw the hawk! After the downpour was over, swooping by almost unseen for his speed, then in full view, then five more almost-missed-that swoops, again and again. Protecting his nest?

A friend who’s an avid birder dropped by, and we pulled up chairs side-by-side and watched the show at the feeder as we chatted. She mentioned that her hawk never shows her anything gory, just feathers gently wafting in the breeze.  Ours too. “Oh, there’s your wren,” she added. But she just missed meeting Coopernicus.

And. After writing last night’s post about appreciating those who make it so our food comes to us and not wasting their work, I went in the kitchen, where I had a bunch of bananas that were right at that perfect point–and where they would be just past it in the morning and I knew it. Time to practice a little more of what I’d just preached.

I squeezed a Meyer lemon, threw the bananas in the Cuisinart, decided it needed a second lemon and certainly didn’t need any sugar and I whirred the thing for several minutes.

It came out with a texture like angel food cake batter. Curious. Warm, though, of course, after applying all that friction to it, so I put it in the freezer, remembering that my mom would do that and then take it out and whip it again briefly in the frozen state to break down any large ice crystals and call it done.

And then of course I entirely forgot my new sorbet all day so we still have something to look forward to.



Deep-seeded need
Tuesday March 25th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,My Garden

I looked all over that little cherry tree yesterday for any sign of future blooming and found nothing but leaves anywhere.

And yet today, after a little bit of rain…well there you go now.

Meantime, I pulled the big Costco clamshell of red seedless grapes out of the fridge to make pink orange juice with: rinse a big handful and throw them in the blender with the fresh-squeezed. Bananas and mango juice add-ins optional.

The grapes, imported from Chile, had faint waves of the very slightest dust across their curves, as if they had been rinsed in the field but not quite enough. There is never any question that I’ll wash them too and definitely say a prayer over my food, but, somehow the unexpected sight instantly connected me to people far, far away from me.

Walking down the rows in a vineyard. Cutting the clusters off, putting them in wooden crates perhaps, again and again, hard work in the sun, never getting to meet the people they would be feeding by their labors. Do they ever wonder about us?

I suddenly felt duty-bound to them not to waste a one. Here, have a smoothie with me, I’ve got another two pounds to use up this week and I don’t want to let a single grape go bad. Oh wait–I could freeze them like ice cubes–there you go.

And rather than just asking a quick half-thought blessing on my lunch, I found myself thanking Above for those individuals and asking Him to take good care of them, whoever and wherever they were out there. I don’t know them, but He does.

And I found myself profoundly grateful that they do what they do.

And in my own backyard…
Monday March 24th 2014, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Family,My Garden

The cherry tree has woken up over the last week or so.

The older-than-us Meyer lemon keeps on offering more.

The olive tree is feeding the squirrels and jays, and judging by the wildly-flailing tails and paws and leaps to safety, the tastiest parts are at the outermost tips of the very flimsiest branches. *headdust*

The plum tree set a fair amount of fruit despite being rained on during most of its blooming, while the apples are holding off just, just a little bit for the late rains expected this week. Starting tomorrow! (Oh thank goodness.)

The pear tree is slowly stirring and coming to.

The peaches continue one after another after another in the expected sequence of future ripening.

The three blueberries are in their dogcrate of a cage. Sit! Stay!

The Fuji has four flowers open  and the other apple almost has its first….

A little rain, and we’ll take all we can get. A little sunshine.

I look forward to being able to tell the grandkids to go pick whatever they want when it’s ripe. And still there there will be room to run around and play in as they get bigger and the trees do too. And to climb on.


The first day of Spring
Thursday March 20th 2014, 10:49 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Here it was two days ago. No flower buds.

The Fuji apple tree was coming more and more alive this past week, sprouts of leaves increasing a good half inch a day, while the Yellow Transparent sat there looking glum and dark and dead as winter.

Then yesterday the very first signs of buds began above those Fuji leaves (but with no stems to speak of 24 hours ago, look at that!) and I thought, well I guess the two apples won’t start blooming a day apart like last year.

But yesterday there was also the tiniest stirring of life on two branches of the Yellow Transparent, finally: a swelling at the tips just there and there that looked like they might open up into greenness at any minute.

Only they didn’t.  They turned pink instead and divided up into buds, that fast (last picture).  And there were more of them, clusters in a race with the Fuji’s with baby Transparent leaves as an afterthought. Quite a different growth pattern. Curious.  I can’t wait to take a picture of both of them in full flower, and I wish I could share how heavenly they smell when they do.

Why did it take so many years for me to really get into growing my own fruit when it’s so easy? Plant a stick and let it take it from there. I let the critters stop me. Not anymore.

Last year I learned that I need to snap those clamshells on the sweeter Fujis from the moment the apples form. I’m going to need to find a lot more of the things in the next two weeks. It’s a good problem to have.

And if you don’t want to fuss with the produce clamshells, I’m told that the wildlife leaves a friend’s Granny Smiths completely alone. All their family has to do is pick them.


The great wool giveaway
Wednesday March 19th 2014, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life,Lupus,My Garden

Something nibbled on a one-inch peach, found it terrible, and went for a second. Time for the clamshells.


I met her boss briefly a year ago. We had just flown back from my mother-in-law’s funeral and my daughter was on a two-day bereavement leave, but there was something she needed at her office and I drove down there with her–it was a time of needing to simply be together as a family as much as possible before ordinary life took over again. Such a strange thing that would feel like.

He came downstairs along with another co-worker and, as I quickly put my knitting aside and rose to my feet, they introduced themselves to me and warmly offered their condolences. I came away glad she worked for them.

Today  found me driving her back to that office: the boss was transferring to another country (home, for him) and there was to be a surprise going-away party for him and she didn’t quite feel up to that drive and back.

I said I would sit in the car and quietly knit for however long, no hurries. I cracked a back window–it’s the warmest day we’ve had in awhile–and she looked askance at that and said we can’t have you exposed to the sun like that. (Re the lupus.) Come on in the lobby. He won’t see you and he wouldn’t recognize you if he did.

Oh, ask I, intrigued, does he have face blindness? (Too? Like me?) But how many women does he know with gray hair and a cane and, this is the big one, *knitting*? There? I didn’t want to give away the surprise.

She wasn’t about to diagnose the guy but she assured me it would be fine and said he would never recognize nor even see me and so I cranked the window back up and found myself inside on a nice leather seat near the door where you could see people coming down the stairs or in the front door or out from the hallway off to the left–same chair as last time.

But I was prepared. I didn’t just have my knitting. I had my Time magazine. So I could go, y’know, incognito like that. Only, as I pulled it out of my purse, apparently I had just recycled this week’s (the truck came today, it’s gone) and kept last week’s because I have a great visual memory like that. Checking the cover? Oh. Darn. I flipped through a few pages, thought oh well, put it back and pulled out my knitting. A skein of Jacques Cousteau from Madeline Tosh, the one I bought at the MadTosh shop in Ft. Worth when we went to visit with my mother-in-law for the last time, actually; it was my souvenir skein from that trip.

Wait. I think that’s? But no, he didn’t look my way at all. Huh. The idea that I would recognize someone a year later after only seeing their face once was very highly unlikely anyway, so, okay, not.

Michelle showed up awhile later having clearly had a great time. And laughing, because….

…Hi, Michelle, I saw your mom downstairs!

He’d gone out the front doors for just a moment, forgotten his badge, had had to go to the security guy a few feet away from me and ask permission to go back in to work–the guy had chuckled and waved him on in, he was hardly a stranger–and there I was, right in my spot, I think with even the same color yarn as last time, knitting away.

Totally busted.

Rewinding all the blue squiggles
Wednesday March 12th 2014, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

Every single day those peaches are bigger (she wrote, distracting herself from the yarn for a little while). There really were honeybees out and about in January. I planted those trees loving the idea of how much whole generations after me were going to be picking fruit off my trees, but I gotta say, though, the near-instant gratification part is pretty darn cool too.

Okay, back to the second edition of that shawl that was nice but never quite just how I wanted it. I’ve spent a chunk of the day going over the numbers and the stitches (rip. rip.) wondering who ever thought I was any kind of designer–while holding in mind Stephanie’s chapter about how the only way to be a writer is to sit oneself down and make yourself write. Just do it. And so I have been. (Thank you, Stephanie.)

Zip it
Wednesday March 05th 2014, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

The first peach of the season–there, right above the ladder as the camera aims. Then I looked closer and there were several more, like under that leaf to its right, which somehow only shows up if you click on the photo. I’ll see how they grow the first little bit and then thin them down to just one or two. I type that hoping the little tree can really do it in its second year. Squirrel-busting clamshells here we come!

Finished the Water Turtles-riff shawl I was working on, grateful I’d gotten that second Silkpaca skein yesterday–I did need it.  I was knitting it alongside a larger skein of the same 70/30 baby alpaca/silk blend from Alpenglow. To quote Kathryn at Cottage Yarns when she saw the two together, “Oh, that’s gorgeous!”

Okay, after ditching mid-row a vest I was wearing for one with buttons, I have a random question to throw out there: am I the only one? Or do you avoid wearing jackets or sweaters with zippers down the front while you knit so that you don’t catch the yarn on the teeth?



New beginnings
Tuesday February 25th 2014, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,My Garden,Wildlife

The plum tree mid-bloom. Such a flimsy looking little thing and yet it will soon offer so much fruit. I got a note from a friend that she was saving plastic produce clamshells for me: ready to thwart the raccoons and squirrels again?

Oh yes please thank you!

And to help keep the smaller critters at bay… Yesterday Coopernicus perched on the fence, watched me for several minutes, then spread his wings wide and swooped right on over right next to the window.

Got any snacks under that picnic table?

Afraid not. They all fled awhile ago, hon.

Today I saw him on the wooden box–how did he get there without my seeing him coming!? Oh wait. That’s a hawk’s specialty.  Then he fluttered on over to the back of the chair there, looked at me and said something tongue in beak: I can only guess it was along the lines of look, lady, some of my best hunting is in that alcove and if you don’t fill the little feeder there as well as the big one I’m going to have a harder time keeping my lady fed in style.  Can you help me out here?

Sure, right on it.

And on a side note: my father the art dealer has a really cool column up that I thought I’d mention. Cecil B. DeMille, when remaking his Ten Commandments movie in color, commissioned a painter to envision fourteen scenes for him to work from, and all these years later Dad immediately recognized and confirmed for the owners who that painter was, the scenes having been left unsigned. The same who painted George Washington in the famous “Prayer at Valley Forge.”

Here, I’ll let Dad tell it.

Friday February 14th 2014, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

(Okay, it’s not at all as close to the fence as that photo makes it look.)

We bought a huge pot last fall on closeout at Costco, and on a wistful whim I bought a big bag of soil there too earlier this week; maybe the cherry tree needed more, right?

It was Stitches weekend a year ago that the water heater blew and my transmission did too. One of the things we talked about while deciding whether to try to replace the car right away was how, way back when we only had the one, that uninterrupted quiet time together at the beginning and ending of the work day was something we had actually missed in the years since.

Let me report that it has worked out okay most of the time. (The commute being under four miles does help.) Although, there have been days.

We were almost to the office this morning when Richard said that the one problem with this today was that he couldn’t sneak out early to go buy me roses this Valentine’s.

I said wistfully that actually, I’d really rather have a Comice pear tree than roses. (And I knew they are by far his favorite pears, too.) I had bought that pot talking about a mango tree, waiting for the season to change to where it wouldn’t possibly freeze en route from Florida, but when it came down to it, we both preferred the other, didn’t we?

We did.

We could plant it in that pot in that spot in the back where the tree guys are going to take out a dying cypress after nesting season is over; we could get a year’s head start on growth and then tip it into a hole there later. Or even just leave it in the pot to help keep it small. I already know the neighbors on both sides of that corner are hoping for bigger and over the fence.

And so it was decided. I called Wegman’s Nursery–and yes, actually, they had three, still. I headed over there mid-afternoon. Forgot my sunblock (BAD lupus patient, BAD!) but remembered my hat and I wandered around the place and finally (with help) found the fruit trees in a side yard there.

The Comices looked great, with one particularly thick and sturdy and strong-looking. *Very* nice–I was impressed.

The guy helping me asked if I wanted the (flimsy) pot it was growing in? It would be an extra five bucks. It wasn’t much and I said no and he grabbed the tree and shook the thing off–and all the soil away from the roots. Oh. It was still dormant so he pruned it for me and wrapped the roots carefully up in a plastic bag, pulling the handles tight around the trunk. Laid it across the back seat of my car once it was paid for.

But in the pruning, he lopped off the top, which included a big side branch and looked like a new bare-root tree unto itself and rather than have it be tossed, I asked if I could have it? I mean, I could plunk it in water and hope it sprouted roots, couldn’t hurt to try, right?

The guy chuckled and handled it with the reverence he did the tree itself. This was someone who clearly likes what he does for a living. But he did say that the tree really needed to be planted today, or at least not to let the roots dry out, but, plant it today. I promised him I was going to.

My friend Sally pointed out to me that the little one wouldn’t have the same rootstock, and she’s right, so I checked: the graft they used is supposed to help limit the future size of the tree, although one could prune anything to whatever.  Okay. I know that you can buy rooting hormones but I don’t think I’m that invested in it–so if you’re local and you want to play with it and see if you can turn it into a free tree, let me know and it’s yours. Must supply own partridge at Christmastime.

The pot needed holes drilled into it and the drill needed charging up. Richard took me out to Smitten to pass that time well: order the most excellent ice cream and watch them create it in front of you, frozen by nitrogen. The Tcho‘s chocolate is the first chocolate ice cream I have ever tasted that does that flavor really, really well. It was our first time there and definitely not our last.

Home again, there was drilling and sweeping away of plastic curlicues and flashlight holding and dumping in of guano-covered gravel that had been under some of the trees out back for stability as the Comice gets heavier and hauling of soil and watering and pushing out a well in the pot and planting and more soil and more watering and tamping down around the root ball and wishing there were more to put in there.

We will buy more soil tomorrow. Right now those roots are moist and protected and looking good.

My sweetie gave me my long-wanted Comice pear tree for Valentine’s and helped me plant it and I am beyond thrilled.

And: when I picked him up at work, he was standing outside holding a vase with red roses and baby’s breath and loving my disbelieving laugh of, How did you pull that off?! Google Express? (But they don’t do perishables, I thought, but maybe for Valentine’s?!)

He grinned. “They were selling them in the cafeteria. For a reasonable price, even!”

So was my tree. Make that, so was our tree.

I’ve got me a good one. Just the best.

Start with a stick and some dirt. And a pot if need be.
Wednesday February 12th 2014, 11:18 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Today marked the first flower on the last peach tree (okay, more a bud that will be open tomorrow) and the first flower on the plum tree. That makes four fruit trees in bloom, the cherry and apples still to go, and two of the three blueberry bushes covered in buds. Seven of these were planted last year.

I don’t know why I didn’t do more of this ages ago. Planting something that will create great food simply because that is what it lives to do and watching it grow is just the coolest thing.

I still need a Comice pear in there.



Ch ch ch ch changes
Saturday February 01st 2014, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

It’s not just one or two blossoms anymore, it’s several branches. I’m beginning to be able to see just how gorgeous my yard is going to be in Spring in a few years as these trees grow up.

We were talking to Sam last night and I was marveling to her that we had flowers. On a peach tree. In January!

She did one of those shake-your-head-ruefully-while-laughing moments, and answered, Let me tell you: WE’VE got things in bloom. A type of shrub and a type of tree, dunno what they are yet, but, yes, they’ve got flowers on’em.

Me, stunned: In *ALASKA*?!!! In *JANUARY*?!!!

She affirmed: In Alaska. In January. We were warmer than Florida, so, I guess… But…yeah. They’re blooming. It’s the weirdest thing.

California gold
Saturday January 25th 2014, 10:56 pm
Filed under: My Garden

A Polar-opposite Vortex. We’ve had our second week of daytime temps in the high 60’s and even 70, 71. Balmy, record-breaking, but also in that this rainy season so far has had the least rainfall in 434 years. Local nurseries now advise a weekly watering of the fruit trees, something we never have to do this time of year.

The buds are beginning to swell on the one-year-old peaches (in January!) with over a hundred of them on this Tropic Snow, my earliest variety.

The plum, cherry, and apples are still dormant. Daylight hours still matter so far. So are two blueberry plants, with the third with lots of little white petalled fists in the air yelling Me, ME! at the teacher. Pick ME! Soon!

Someone explain to me why the green plant back there on the right didn’t die back like it does every winter. Not the oxalis, the, the (it’ll come to me about an hour after I call it a night.) It didn’t even blink. Last January when I planted the peaches I was trying to remember exactly where that stuff was going to be come spring because the bed was bare.

It’s playing Calvinball with me.

It’s going to be an interesting year.

Frog frog frog frog frog and then jumping on over
Saturday October 12th 2013, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,My Garden

Six hours. The magical number was 203, and it took me six hours of ripping and redoing to stumble my way there, but when I got there and it looked good it was such a long-waited-for moment of I DID IT!

The silk/lycra and the baby alpaca held up perfectly through all that.

Meantime, I got out of the house: a package arrived for Michelle and she invited us to bring it on over and see her new place. I was quite looking forward to it. We got to meet her roommate Michelle, who came home while we were there, and it’s clearly a happy place to be; we’re very pleased.

But it was amazing to me how exhausting it still was simply sitting in a car and then climbing the stairs over there. Eh. Day by day.

Our Michelle had some homemade cookie dough in the fridge and offered us ginger cookies if we didn’t mind waiting for them to bake, and my sweet husband’s instant reaction was, Your mom didn’t bring her knitting.

I laughed. We waited. We talked. We savored.

Then this evening: the neighbors are doing some repair work on an old part of the fence and they have part of it open at the moment. I went to water the fruit trees and found myself trying not to breathe near them but still, they were out in their back yard working, there we were, and too rarely do we get a chance to talk to those good folks. And so we did. I told them about the long wait and the apples at last.

I don’t know that Adele had ever seen my back yard before. We talked peach trees (there, and there…) I will try to get the Tropic Snow to grow towards their yard, and they might well plant one themselves; I promised it would be well pollinated. Lorings don’t need pruning? Cool!

And then I went inside for the scissors, came back out, and quietly snipped the shipping tape on a box and picked them a large, ripe, juicy Fuji. I know how good it is; we ate the other one of that pair yesterday.

Thus there are now two boxes left and then we’re done for the season.

I called near the opening, wondering; were they still out there? She stepped into sight and about squealed with delight–she too has childhood memories of picking apples in the Fall in Virginia. It was a treasure to her, too, my box-misshaped offering, a memory made on the spot.

Next year, hopefully, now that I know what to do, there will be a lot more to share around.