Strawberry fields
Sunday April 18th 2021, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Food

Huh. I would link to it but it seems to only be in the paper copy tonight. Weird.

I still subscribe to the local newspaper. It’s one that got bought out by a hedge fund, which gutted its staff and sold its building and basically firebombed it, but it’s still the local paper.

Every now and then it justifies itself.

Because where else would they talk about winter strawberries being tasteless not because there’s no summer heat to sweeten them but because of the variety that produces then? And that UC Davis has been working on that and has just released two new winter strawberry varieties that actually taste good: the UCD Finn and the UCD Mojo to replace the tasteless Portola.

They used gene typing to figure out which genes did what they wanted and then old fashioned breeding to mix varieties that had more of those genes till they hit those two winners.

One will be dark red through and through, the other kind of a peachy orange.

I didn’t love the part where they said nobody sells berries by the variety so that while there aren’t many plants out there yet the distributors will mix the old with the new next winter and good luck.

The little geodes. We’ll have to crack them open.



Amber waves
Saturday April 17th 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Mexican Feather grass, as near as my googling skills can decipher it, is what the neighbors added when they relandscaped a few years ago; they had this clump that waved in the wind.

A year or two later they had five of them in a line as the breezes blow, quite a bit taller now, and then there was one that jumped the fence and was growing right in front of my pomegranate tree, shading out the bottom half somewhat. I debated what to do with it; it was allegedly pretty to some. Not my thing, but not bad.

In retrospect, I should have cut it down immediately. Note that the neighbors finally took out all of theirs this past winter. Mine had become a clump about ten or twelve inches across so dense in there that a bug I watched couldn’t crawl between the stalks till I’d cut open a path for it, with the inner circle dried, tall, and ferociously flammable-looking.

So I decided that today was the day and it had to go, all of it.

It defied my loppers (I need to replace them) so I used them to hold on tight and twist twist twist and that got small clumps to come away all at once. I spent about an hour at it.

The Australians consider it a dire threat and are trying to stomp out every single plant that might yet come up. Someone had mislabeled an import.

Green new stalks on the outside. It seemed like slightly sticky thick 3′ tall grass, jointed here and there. Right?

I wish I’d found that Australian link first. It seemed fine but when I went to pick the clumps up to throw it in the bin my hands running down some of the stalks got cut open fairly deep. I didn’t even realize immediately that yes, it was those stalks that bit me, not something mixed up in them–it hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to need gloves. I hadn’t ever before, but then I hadn’t ever actually touched the stuff much other than to push it out of the way so I could pick a pomegranate.

That single invasive plant filled the whole yard trimmings bin, which is about twice the size of our trashcan. I did not get the bottom of the clump out and I think it would take a stump grinder. I would spray it with vinegar to kill it off if it weren’t so close to my fruit tree.

I tried to get every seed poof floating away but you know I missed some somewhere. But at least I stopped the tens of thousands that the growing season would have produced.

The neighbors don’t know it snuck over the fence. I think we’ll leave it at that.



For real
Friday April 16th 2021, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family

Wait wait wait. I’m still back at “Bahbah” for bottle.

But “Grammy!” as she points at my face on the screen? “Grampa!” It both hit home how much of her babyhood we missed, and how she’s even more adorable every time. They all are.

But there’s nothing quite like a 20-month-old learning to talk and taking so much delight in it.

Just wait till we step out off of the concourse and into real life and our faces and voices match all those FaceTimes.



Happy Birthday!
Thursday April 15th 2021, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

One of my kids got their second shot for their birthday and our first iris bloomed in celebration. It’s a happy day.

Meantime, I’d procrastinated because they’re not due this year for another month: did anybody else feel like this? It was weirdly comforting to do the taxes. It made no sense. But it was all so familiar after all these years and I guess it felt like the old life back again. Or something. Am I just being pandemically weird?



Not a figment of imagination
Wednesday April 14th 2021, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I actually googled yesterday re whether or not Black Jack figs produce breba crops, because mine never had; I’d seen a few tiny dark stubs over-wintering and gotten all excited about it till they’d dropped off in the spring, but that was it.

I found arguments about whether or not they were really only a seedling of Mission figs that came out bigger, but no answer.

I’ve been taking photos of that tree these past two weeks as the leaves have been coming out just because I love how they look, but I never saw any sign of fruit. Nor all winter. Nothing. And yet there are two of these today! Figs in April! The leaves haven’t even finished growing to full size yet!

This past winter felt long and chilly and yet it was the first one in memory where it never went down into the twenties. That might account for it.

I know brebas are supposed to have much less flavor and sweetness than the crop the tree puts the whole summer’s heat into.

But who cares when August is so far off. A roasted fig stuffed with cheese, maybe a little honey drizzled on at the last if it’s not naturally sweet… Okay, so, put something else in the oven with them to justify the time in there. Blueberry cake or something.

They’re so big already. I put some clippings from my husband’s last haircut around them to try to fend off the rodentry. Not right up against the fruit itself because I figure chances are good that any birds still nest-building are going to be thrilled to find those locks, but, in the vicinity.

Meantime, halfway around the house, the juncos are waiting for the Morello cherry leaves to hurry up so they can hide the nest they want to build.

It’s blooming slowly from the ground up.

Oh, and in case you needed it: Mick Jagger gave the pandemic lockdown a piece of his mind yesterday.



Listening to baby birds
Tuesday April 13th 2021, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The San Jose peregrines seem to be trying again after losing every egg, this time using the nest box–although we won’t know for sure till the clutch actually arrives.

San Francisco, meantime, had three hatch and then at last the fourth egg decided to get with the program. The youngest and littlest always seems to be the last one fed but it does get fed.

The surprise to me in that longer video was hearing a dog bark. That skyscraper nest is 33 floors up!



Antsy puttering
Monday April 12th 2021, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Life

More apple flowers, because the day around here wasn’t about much more than watching the plants grow. But they are pretty.

I woke up with the thought that next week, I get my second jab, and two weeks after that I get to actually go out and do things! Like, y’know, go to Trader Joe’s and see what all the new stuff is now! The three-ingredient chocolate mints. I miss them. Go to yarn stores!  Or get an almond pastry at Copenhagen Bakery. Or or or.

Letting that longing come unleashed became a little too much fairly quickly, not helped in the least by the news of the day in Minneapolis, so I quietly put all that aside and went and immersed myself in laundry and the like around the house. It always needs to be done anyway. Keep busy. Breathe deep.

With a whole lot of praying for a whole lot of people out there. There is so much we have to make so much better.

So glad that at least the guy in his Army uniform in Virginia survived his encounter with racist cops, but it was a near thing.



Time to get out the juicer
Sunday April 11th 2021, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Food

I’m wondering whether the branches on this tree that are hanging down so hard will snap back upright after they finally get all that weight off them. This is my Gold Nugget mandarin’s first real crop and it went all out, especially on that side. Which is looking really funny: like a Pez dispenser for oranges.

And on another note, I wonder. A creme brulee torch is for creme brûlées but this guy seems to think they’re for cheesecakes?

Seems a little odd… And great fun.



A possum’s rear end
Saturday April 10th 2021, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Got up this morning, walked across the house, looked out the window–and after a moment of not wanting to miss this at all and of it moving very slowly down the top of the fence, sniffing all the way, I ran for my phone. Tried to get a photo from the window on that side of the house. Nope. So I ran back to the family room just a moment before it disappeared into the neighbor’s yard behind us.

It was big and it must have been a female: during the spring, mama possums are out during daylight hours looking for extra food. They’re not rabid. They’re hungry. I’m just glad that with all the future fruit on my trees (not to mention the ripening oranges) that she decided my yard would not provide.

Man that one had a thick jaw. And belly.

I went and put my phone back.

Darn if the thing didn’t come back this way again the moment I did, this rat/pig thing the size of a large cat. They have opposable not thumbs but back toes for climbing and I suddenly had no doubts it had stolen as many of my apples as any raccoon.

Maybe. Looking them up, it turns out that for an animal that big they still only live two years on average. I’m guessing their play dead defense can be very helpful to the right predators.

This time it turned right at the T-intersection of fences and went along the backyard of the good folks next door. Again it was moseying along, sniffing (being nocturnal, they don’t have great eyesight) and in no particular hurry.

Again I ran for the phone. Again it slipped just beyond clear sight as I raised the camera.

We’d created ourselves a little game, hadn’t we.

Brown/gray vague blobs blending into the trees in the distance through multiple panes of glass. I managed to find them in the photos.

Which will be added when the computer quits playing possum with them. So you get mango flowers instead.



Abundance
Friday April 09th 2021, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Some photos came through. These are the Anyas I planted a bit later than the first set.

The one from last year, having not been nice and warm and inside at night and having to make do with the natural seasons, is playing catch up.

Grape Kool-aid got the first gray squirrel that attacked my Stella cherry on Wednesday to leave and not come back; then yesterday, a black squirrel tried and that time I Graped again and shook cinnamon on the limbs.

There has been no sign of a squirrel since. Which is great, because last year they were stripping those flowers just as fast as they opened. They only seem to do that with the cherries.

I wonder if the salmonella outbreak that has been affecting the birds has cut down the squirrel population, too. It seems like it.

Quite to my surprise I discovered the first pomegranate bud of the year. And while I was looking at it, I heard the loud cry of a large bird overhead that I didn’t turn around in time to see.

But there was a large feather on the ground a few steps behind me that most definitely did not come from a crow, where there had been none a moment before.

Even with the bird feeder down, even with the tall trees to either side of our property gone now, even with a new generation of Cooper’s hawk these last two years, it appears they still claim our yard as their own.

And that makes me wildly happy.



Samantha wrinkles her nose
Thursday April 08th 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The jiffy pots just weren’t doing it for those remaining seedlings anymore and I knew it.

I realized that it was lifting the bags of soil that had been stopping me.

So I didn’t–I left them propped up and scooped out dirt by the plastic flowerpot-full and took it to where I wanted it to go. All I’d needed was to just get started. It was slower, it got my hands in the dirt more, it was more meditative–and it got the job done.

Five apricot seedlings planted in pots, six if you include the one from last year. That should be enough to do some fine taste-testing of Anya’s offspring in a few years. Some got more peat than the others, some more planting mix, some, more topsoil; it got a bit random because hey, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just guessing.

There’s one last one whose roots haven’t started dangling out the jiffy bottom yet, ready and waiting for the friend it’s been promised to to plant as she pleases.

A quick house note: I am told that yes this kitchen does have a stove–it pulls down by the handles from the small oven above. Apparently it’s called a Bewitched stove, because the TV show of that name from my childhood had one like it. (Here’s the Graceland version.)

I love that this house has its original one still there and still working. Mechanical dials for the win!

I’d still remodel the heck out of that kitchen if it were mine. With some regret, because that thing is cool. I just wouldn’t want to be stuck having to try to use those tiny burners that I’m told were slow at a friend’s house and I would most definitely trip over them jutting out like that but only some of the time. My body just doesn’t do graceful.



Collaborative
Wednesday April 07th 2021, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Seven miles instead of 75. It delays his being fully vaccinated by five days, but still. I conferred with him and then grabbed it. I also immediately canceled the original. The site said Sutter would offer it as a first shot to someone else and asked that that be made possible as soon as we could, which was only reasonable.

Immediately after I finished that up, the doorbell rang: my friend Constance, who lives hours away these days (there’s a shawl in my book named after her.)  She had been in the area on a work assignment and was stopping by on her long drive home.

We ended up on chairs in the shed. It was trash day but for obvious reasons I had not put the bin back right away. This gave us a spot that was outside, as one should in a pandemic, under a ceiling-height roof and with sides, as my lupus needs to be out of the sun, and it was perfect enough of a spot for visiting that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that a whole lot sooner. Anyway. We had a lot of catching up to do after not seeing each other in person for too many years.

And then I sent her home with a 5 gallon fiber pot full of new topsoil and peat moss and a baby Anya apricot tree to put in it, kind of a grow kit. Just add water. After you get it back out of your car.

And on a totally different note. My late father, a modern art dealer, would absolutely have howled. Sometimes the art world can get a bit precious, and that poor innocent couple who picked up a brush from somewhere in the spilled paint on the floor and scatterings of paint cans and such in front of the mural and added their touch to what they thought was a public-invited graffiti project, well…wouldn’t you?

(When in doubt read the little white box on the wall next to the art in the gallery, but never mind.)



Grow grow grow
Monday April 05th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden

The apricots in pots, the short, five-branched one and the tall–which, although the leaves kept growing bigger, had stopped producing new ones until its roots could likewise grow more to support them. So, you know, you’re planted now, hurry up!

I’ll move them into bigger pots next winter. Gotta start somewhere.

And then there’s the one from last year. I overwatered it one particular week last summer and it suffered and stopped growing. Totally my fault; I kept giving it as much when the weather turned cool as I’d been doing in the high 90s. Apricots do not like soaking their feet.

During the winter the top and a side branch appeared to have died off so I pruned it, little though it was, and hoped it might survive.

Note the pretty, glossy Costco pot I bought for it turned out to have had a red coat of paint slapped on top of plain plastic but which shredded off almost from the first time water touched it. Not cool. But so 2020.

Anyway, that Anya is only just now waking up for the season: those leaves at the top started to appear yesterday. But it was very much to my relief that it did wake up. I didn’t kill it after all!

Not to mention, I really want to be that extra year ahead. I want to begin to find out what we’ll get with these.

It always amazes me when a plant manages to recover from its deathplantbed and just keep right on going after all.



Happy Easter!
Sunday April 04th 2021, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Someone in the neighborhood was having an Easter feast with several cars’ worth of attendees. Probably all vaccinated, right?

Still, it left me with a sense of, oh, if only.

I texted Happy Easter to my kids. In response we got a photo of one exhausted toddler sound asleep mid-dinner in his high chair and some FaceTime with his 18-month-old cousin who, having discovered this wondrous indentation right there in the center of her, had to show us her discovery of having a belly button. As every not quite entirely verbal yet baby that ever was has done for all of time. While her big brother made sure she had enough jelly beans. This was clearly Jelly Beans Day, to her amazement, holding some out in our direction. She opened and got help closing the little plastic egg halves again and again.

The St. Bernard, as always, refused to hear her name coming out of a screen because she knew that’s just not real. She got to her feet and walked away.



Black rabbit
Saturday April 03rd 2021, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

The first apple blossoms of the year.

And, on the right, the apricot that was just the tiniest beginnings of two leaves tucked way down in there a week ago.

One of the real estate sites somehow thought I wanted a cabin in Carmel. It’s absolutely adorable and comes with its own Rapunzel tower and I’d love to camp out in it even if my hair hasn’t gotten quite *that* long in the pandemic, but man, that is the most flammable house I think I have ever seen.

And on a different note, I did a fair bit of knitting today: it’s the weekend of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Gerrit Gong was one of today’s speakers, and he was reminiscing about his late father.

Whom we knew and adored. When his dad was blind from diabetes in his old age, his mother asked if I might knit her a scarf in angora: because her husband couldn’t see anymore, but he could still feel, and she thought it would be a blessing to him.

You bet I did.