Chopped stick
Monday July 06th 2020, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

Lots of sawdust and sound today.

It’s so strange to look out the skylights and not see the silk oak a.k.a. grevillea tree anymore. There will be no murder of crows next spring when its weird orange flowers would have come on. It won’t be dropping any more major limbs on us. The new owner wasn’t risking it, and besides, whatever it may have looked like 70 years ago, it sure didn’t now.

The workers dropped large enough chunks of trunk to make the house jump, and sitting on the couch it felt exactly like the first jolt of the 5.4 quake that happened while I was in the same spot some years ago. I got up and took this picture through the leaves of my Chinese elm of the last nine feet or so of it (the yellow dead center there) before it too thumped down hard.

The old guy behind us breathed a sigh of relief and emailed me that he’d been cleaning up a bucket’s worth of leaves from that messy tree every single day for all the decades they’d lived here and now he won’t have to anymore.

My pear tree will have a much greater chance of finally blooming next year with all the new sunlight.

They took out the weed trees that were about to grow through the fence along our front walkway, too. I had had no idea just how shaded we had become until suddenly it was brilliance out there. My roses can make a comeback now; I’ve missed them. That fire hazard growing towards the sun and over my house that the insurance company was so upset over is gone. I miss them, but I don’t, and I won’t ever have to shell out big bucks to trim them straight up from the fence line to keep them happy anymore. Which, as I showed the new owner, would over time make them liable to fall on her house.

Gone. Done. Her yard will start over.

The tall ash in the background is in the yard next to Adel’s. It had a large nest this year, and I wondered if the hawks had moved there after the redwood vanished.

Last night, a Cooper’s swooped over our heads and up into that ash tree near that nest. Its young have surely fledged by now but territory must be announced–and youngsters like to stick close to home the first few months.

So they’re okay after all that came down today.

The owner of that house walked around the corner, talked to the tree crew a minute during their break, and got their business card. Hopefully for a different tree.



Put that down you know where it’s been
Sunday July 05th 2020, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Something I had wondered about all my life.

How on earth do you get fish showing up in every body of water you pretty much ever heard of? When the places are not connected at all? I mean, it’s not like fish fly.

The Washington Post reports that a carp, to take one type, can release a hundred thousand eggs.

So: some researchers fed 8,000 carp eggs to eight mallard ducks, and 18 eggs, it turned out, were still viable after passing through the ducks’ digestive systems one to four hours later.

By which point the birds could be miles away from where they ate that meal.

It’s as simple and logical as that.

Scientists are little kids who grew up and still wondered about duck poop.



The Babcocks
Saturday July 04th 2020, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

Our yard’s first squirrel-free, scrub jay-free peaches in two years. Very juicy.

And, frankly, rather flavorless. Being in a clamshell sped up the ripening process, I guess–they about fell into my hand–but not the sugaring.

But we got them and they were ours and there are more peaches to come that are protected by citrus-branch barbs rather than plastic boxes.



Pulling a raspberry
Friday July 03rd 2020, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Somewhere at a pick-your-own farm.

Lillian tried a few raspberries, pulled a face, considered, and then decided, Wait–I like these!

And then the basket was no longer in her reach. All in good time, love.



A little assembly required
Thursday July 02nd 2020, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

So, so, so much faster and easier, even if I have all that sewing-on to do. It did take me a few tries to figure out how to make the diamond shape with knitting into fronts and backs of stitches while not distorting the edges. Note to self: cast on two, not one to start, and then do a make one in between on that first purl row. You want to be working with an odd number so you can double decrease into a point at the top.

Right now everything’s curled up because it’s stockinette stitch on the loose.

I felt so virtuous getting this far along that I totally didn’t do the rainbow part yet–but Debby’s idea is definitely the way to go, and thank you, Debby!

The thing I keep thinking is that I’ve wanted to make character hats for the grandkids for a long time, and now I know how to do what I want to do for probably just about any design and it’s incredibly freeing. Sterling did me a huge favor with his request, and I sent him this picture with a thank you.



Dog-eared
Wednesday July 01st 2020, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Knit

This is totally a factory reject. I’m embarrassed to even show it. The only reason I didn’t frog it three inches in is that I’d spent four+ hours on the darn rainbow, with the backwards intarsia and four needle ends flopping around.

It actually looks semi-okay on the other side. Why I managed not to make that the right side, I…have no explanation. Maybe I thought we’d flip the brim up. But babies hate hat brims flopping down over their eyes when they don’t yet know how to get them off and to stay off, and I do not aspire to make babies cry.

But what fascinates me is how putting the ears down like the picture I’m working from vs putting them upwards like a bow feels like it totally changes the gender of the silly puppy somehow.

The guy mentioned this was supposedly a cat.

With a boxer face?

That extra stitch of white to each side above the nose was me saying no you silly it’s a dog—but by that point I already knew this was not going to be the one so I might as well do what I want.

So. I got to this point last night, put it down in front of me, and considered.

I have more than one row of brown between the tongue and the which-side-is-the-right-side-this-time color change weirdnesses. I could cut the bottom of the brown, carefully undo the next row up while easing the stitches onto my needles, and re-knit going downwards, with the half-stitch jog sideways that would give it.

Not sure why I don’t want to do that, but I don’t want to do that.

So I spent a long time just looking at it and thinking what my options were.

I could i-cord racing stripes to cover those hideous joins. Which totally doesn’t work for the intended purpose of the hat of logo-matching for the mama.

Which is why today I picked that brown yarn up again and have half the upper section (it should have been the whole thing) knitted again. I will knit the face parts separately and sew them on, and if there’s anything I find I don’t like, changing it will be almost nothing to do when you do it that way.

I will make the features smaller this time.

I will pick up the bottom stitches, one color section at a time, and slant-knit downwards.

I think I’m showing you these pictures so you’ll understand what a screaming relief it will be when I produce a decent version–and as a reminder that even good knitters can make truly awful things when they’re first figuring out how to do something new. Intarsia in the round is usually a no, just, no.

But now I can see how to make some really fun hats for my grandkids, so I definitely got something out of this.

I may make great big floppy Ludo-the-Saint-Bernard grandpuppy ears and give the new hat the old ears. Maybe I’ll even make that i-cord.

Or maybe at that point, just for a little while, I’ll throw that thing in a corner with energy, pick up my sea creatures afghan, and thank it for being an easy project. Which it is not. But as intarsia knitted flat, it is now.



Blenheims
Tuesday June 30th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

We wore masks, we socially distanced, we stayed outside and only to say goodbye did she have her kids stand in the doorway for us to see each other and wave hi-‘bye. I hadn’t seen them in two years, but even the then-toddler still knew full well that I was her old buddy and she made my day.

Jennifer had invited me to come see her housewarming present in full production mode. She’s done a great job with it.

I got sent home with a goodly number of apricots and now I need to figure out the best way to save some for when the season is over.



Story time
Monday June 29th 2020, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Life

This is from Chris S, who gave me permission to share it.

————-

The story:

There is an inner city mission in Hamilton Ontario called the Wesley Centre.  It is part of the United Church of Canada and is supported also by area United churches. It is an ever evolving mission.

The minister will come to a church at their request to talk about the work being done. About 10 or 12 years back the minister at that time came to speak to the congregation. He had a children’s story I don’t think anyone has forgotten.   The young ones came to the front and he sat on the floor with them – no microphone, just talking to them.

He talked about the families he works with. He talked about birthday parties and birthday gifts. Then from his big backpack he pulled a stuffed sheep and gave it to one of the children. He talked about the families a bit more and how they shop for food, then pulled another stuffed sheep out of the bag and gave it to the same child. He talked some more about the families and how they shopped for clothing, and again pulled a stuffed sheep from the bag and gave it to the same child.

At first the kids just smiled, but you could start to see the wheels turning for all of them and the disappointment at not being given a toy.

I think it was the 4th sheep that made the youngster try to give it to one of the other children. But the minister said “oh no that is yours, you keep it”.

More stories about the families and a sheep or two later the youngster said “why are you giving me all the toys?  The other kids should get some too.”

The minister asked him why he was worried about that when he was obviously getting the best deal. The youngster frowned and said “because it’s not fair when we are all the same but some get nothing “.

Bingo.

That led to a little discussion about how some are given much, some are given little, some work hard, some aren’t able to work – all the things that differentiate families in the “real world”.

And that led to a little discussion about how we can all try to change the things that aren’t fair so that everyone has what they need.

I saw those same youngsters a year or two later raise money with a bake sale and soliciting donations (they did the work) to provide hockey equipment to a girls team in northern Ontario who had nothing but desperately wanted to play.

Our Sunday school started a project called “magic penny”, nickels now that pennies have gone the way of the dodo. Once a month we sing a special song and the youngsters take the offering plates around the pews collecting change. It goes to a special fund and every 3 months whatever is collected goes to a charity the children choose. We have given money to a horse rescue, the food bank, a cat rescue, Heart and Stroke, all kinds of things. There is quite often close to $1,000 a year.

I still see those original youngsters looking at the world differently and working for things they believe need to change.

Fifteen minutes of story time can really make a difference.

Chris S



They knew
Sunday June 28th 2020, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

The Zoom church meeting: Dave was one of the speakers. The kid I watched grow up in New Hampshire, and such a good man.

He told a story from his teens that I hadn’t heard before, one that probably happened the summer after we moved away.

His parents had signed him up for a week at an interfaith camp in Boston. He did not want to go. He did not want to get out of the car when they got there. He argued, but they insisted.

The experience was life changing.

He was one of two Mormons in the group and the other was a girl he was friends with, so it was nice to find out he’d get to spend some time with her, anyway.

Midway through the week, after they’d all started to get to know each other a bit, they were told to divide up by which church they belonged to, and for this next exercise they were not to talk to anybody but the ones in their group. At all. Just talk amongst yourselves only.

Some kids had a big group and lots of people to find out more about, for Dave it was just him and his friend–

–and there was one girl sitting alone. All she could do was watch everybody else interact, and maybe listen as best she could. Okay.

The leaders kept not calling an end to the exercise.

After two hours, that poor girl was just too overwhelmed with the enforced loneliness while everybody else was enjoying themselves and in spite of I’m sure her best efforts in front of everybody, she started to cry.

Dave said it was the African-American kids who immediately did what he’d wanted to do all along: they instantly rushed to her side. They knew what it was to feel alone in society and they weren’t going to stand for it one more minute, and as soon as they did so so did Dave and his friend.

They were expecting to be scolded for not following the directions of the exercise.

To their astonishment, the adult in charge of it answered, What. Took. You. So. Long.



The convert
Saturday June 27th 2020, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

My husband was sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be a Mormon missionary in France in the late 1970s.

Where there was a chocolatier on practically every corner, as he liked to describe the cities there.

When we were dating in college I had no idea what his problem with Hersheys was nor why one would want to eat what seemed like excessively bitter bars. But he knew what a dark chocolate from good beans could actually be, and despite the dearth of those in the States he eventually won me over to the dark side.

And so it seemed that celebrating our anniversary in great chocolate was the way to go.

Dandelion on Valencia Street in San Francisco, it turns out, takes orders via smartphone and lets you pick up at the door.

They have a talented pastry chef as well as their excellent small-batch chocolate. Anything you get there, it’s going to be good.

We got a parking space just one storefront away. That never happens.

This being very much the city, lots of people walked by, not as many as pre-pandemic but still not a few, and a few sat at the tables set up out on the sidewalk.

Most were wearing masks. The ones who were not kind of stood out. Only one person, tall, white, older, male, looked like he dared anybody to call him on it–he was swaggering down that sidewalk.

What struck me was how alone he looked.

Richard, picking up our hot chocolate and pastries, found himself being crowded at the door and turning and saying, Six feet! Figuring there had to be some pushback from someone for their risky behavior if it was ever going to change. He was protecting me (I was in the car) and he was protective of the people trying to keep that business in business.

Personal space. Masks. It’s just not hard, people, look, all those others were managing it.

I tried the S’more: a crisp homemade perfect deep chocolate cookie with a large homemade marshmallow on top that barely held in a lake of molten newly-made chocolate that I’m not sure had any sugar added to it at all, but as you bit into it and the melting marshmallow, creme brûlée made divine was somehow the description that came to mind.

I had no idea you could create something built on that concept that tasted that good. Wow.

This honeymoon story.  Melting marshmallows for the anniversary for sure. And there was a potency of skunk outside the house after midnight last night, and although it was not close enough to pet it this time, I think we celebrated our 40th right after all.



Waited a year for those
Friday June 26th 2020, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Anya apricots. Picked this morning, since I’ll have to wait about five years for mine. Worth the trip to Andy’s Orchard, and I got some early-season peaches and cherries, too.

Out of curiosity, I added some raspberry honey from The Honey Ladies, which surprised me by being my new favorite right up there with their less-sweet poison oak blossom.

All the employees were wearing lined black face masks with room for a filter, with a motif of red cherries with green stems and leaves,  and they had some for sale. Very reasonably priced. Very soft. Quite happy with mine.

Got home, walked in the door, walked in the kitchen, rinsed a good handful of those cherries and put them in a small bowl in front of my husband, who dove enthusiastically into them as his meeting and his screen continued.

Looked out the window and thought, there’s always a possibility of snails making it up the pot to my baby tree. So I’m saving the kernels again, out of curiosity if nothing else: a year ago I found two very differing methods of sprouting them, and somewhat against my better judgment followed the one that had you submerging them for 24 hours after their winter in the fridge.

It seemed a good way to rot them.

It was.

So I’ll try the damp paper towel thing next time, because, science!

(P.S. What would you do for your 40th when you can’t go anywhere?)



A case of those
Thursday June 25th 2020, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Life

Not having been raised by an art dealer, my husband did not know who Frida Kahlo was. Nor the word unibrow that her self-portraits helped make famous: one single one across her face from beginning to end.

Lands End started selling face masks with some silver in the cotton for its antimicrobial properties.

Which reminded me that there had been a Kickstarter a few years ago for a start-up that wanted to sell cotton and silver sheets, extolling their virtues for one’s health and comfort at length but offering them only in taupe. Eh.

I bought two pillowcases to test drive the concept. When they came, they were a graygreenbrown shade that I would never ever have bought had I known. But I was stuck with them.

If I were sewing masks, which would be virtuous but it’s just not been my thing so I’m glad other people do, cutting up those pillowcases would give them a chance to finally live up to their potential. Anti microbial is in right now. Someone might actually like the color; you could use them as a lining layer.

Meantime, the blue ones Lands End was offering that day sold out in the few hours between when they shot out the announcing email that they had face masks now and when I looked. I sprang for a package of the plain white. Anti microbial is good.

They came.

I guffawed when I saw the package. For those of us in the flatlands, there’s only one thing that looked like.

I’d be wearing a unibra on my face.



Wheelchairs for cars
Wednesday June 24th 2020, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

After they towed the car away they sent the email that said that there’s a 2-4 week national backorder on catalytic converters, one assumes because so many are being stolen.

And then I saw the other email. Had it been from anyone else I would have laughed and looked for the gentlest way to say no. But it wasn’t just anyone else.

Did I do commissions? A co-worker was having a baby and he thought it would be so freaking cute to be able to give the baby a hat that matched the logo of the project they were working on.

I won’t post that logo here but picture a circular, slanted rainbow with an animal’s face in the center.

A cat, he said.

A dog: a boxer on a summer day, I said. Those cheeks. That tongue hanging out.

A teddy bear, Richard glanced over and said.

A freaking pain in the neck, my needles said. The guy had no way to know.

I didn’t answer. I simply held yarn after yarn up to the computer and then compared amongst them to try to come up with the best combination. At this point there’s a lot of leftovers from that afghan project, and though worsted weight is not my first pick for baby clothes it’s what I had that had those colors and was machine-washable, soft wool. Soft enough for a baby.

Intarsia in the round. You knit right to left. The colors change left to right. Get to the end of the first row and the yarn at the color change is now on the other side away from you, so you wrap one (thank you Nancy Weber for teaching me how to knit socks years ago!) so it doesn’t make a hole and you go back to where you came from on two circular needles inside a Venn diagram because the hat’s too small to use just one. So there’s that variable, too.

When UPS knocked on the door when I was at a row and needle change it took me a moment afterward to figure which juncture, which direction, and which yarn.

You change colors in the back so it doesn’t show. Except there is no back during the knitting that way. It shows. And it shows worst and is the most messed up at the start of the rows at the orange/yellow, exactly where the mutt’s face is supposed to be centered–no hiding it at the back of the wearer’s head.

I was planning on stockinette and the gauge thereof. I had garter instead–which made it too big, but if you use that as a folded-up brim to hide half the animal it will…make a great peek-a-boo toy. After the baby gets old enough not to cry when it falls down and covers its eyes and it doesn’t want it to and it can’t yet do anything about it.

Let me get the rest done before making pronouncements.

The upper part gets to be stockinette because having just done four hours of this mess and not loving the result I was getting antsy. It was time to start the face.

I picked up a sewing needle and ran the new contrasting colors back to the starts of their sequences, ready to knit again, no turning. So there. There will be no give to the hat there but something had to give for me.

So many ways it’s not up to my standards. And yet, and yet, the silly thing is growing on me.

Note to self: next time knit a slanted panel, knit another picking up the side of the first as you come along, then another, till at the last you pick up from both sides and close the circle.

I finally answered his email after I got this far along with it: I said, no, I don’t take commissions.

But actually, I was going to surprise you with a doorbell ditch but I’m not there yet and I didn’t want to leave you disappointed all night, wondering. It’s far from perfect. But it’s coming.



A baby tree finds its way home
Tuesday June 23rd 2020, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

In between the insurance company calling, the adjuster calling, Enterprise calling, Enterprise picking me up, Enterprise filling out the paperwork and sending me on my way in a minivan, and the company the insurance picked to fix the Prius calling about the tow truck they’ll send to get my car…

Ruth and Lise were going to Yamagami’s Nursery. Where one must wait in line in the sun to go in: only so many people are allowed in under continued lockdown procedures at this Essential Business, you must wait till someone comes out, etc etc. Which is why I have not been able to go. After buying a bag of potting soil somewhere else years ago that turned out to be, somehow, plain sand with just the smallest bit of dirt mixed in, I am quite loyal to the place where I know I get the best of everything and it is what it says.

Did I want anything?

I made sure they knew I am by no means on their way. Did they still want to?

Absolutely!

Ohmygoodnessyes! Thank you! I had vegetable plants so root bound they were starting to look sick. I’d ordered fifteen and twenty gallon fabric pots so that I could plant them where they’d have lots of root space without having snails disappear them overnight, all I’d needed all this time was some good soil. For two months. And I wanted to help keep my favorite place in business.

My friends–I met Ruth via knitting at Purlescence years ago–are fruit tree enthusiasts and the reason for my Black Jack fig: they’d told me that in our climate that was the best-tasting of their three.

I showed them around the back yard. They exclaimed in recognition as I named variety after variety, most fondly, the fig. We geeked out together over the thought of picked-first-thing-in-the-morning sweetness.

And I sent them home by way of thanks with one of my two Anya apricot seedlings. They were thrilled at the offer. I was thrilled; it absolutely felt meant to be. I had always known I would give one away and had been trying to figure out who it might best be, when suddenly as we were planning all this there was no doubt.

You cannot, as far as I’ve been able to find, buy that variety tree at retail. You can only plant a kernel and hope it’s true to its parent, and here I’d given them a year’s head start on the process.

They were very very pleased.

And now my own Anya is happily planted in the oversized pot that had been waiting for it. It should last it for several years. I was surprised at how big its root structure already was.

(The watermelon and squash plants were so grown into their clay pots that I finally had to shatter them carefully against the concrete to free their grip.)



Not as planned
Monday June 22nd 2020, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The plan this morning was, I was going to the pharmacy and then swinging by the hardware store that has the fan I’d paid for waiting to be picked up.

I got in the car. I turned it on. Everything was fine. I put it in reverse.

Screamingly NOT fine as I backed up.

I looked around for the drag-racing cars or motorcycles with no mufflers??

I put it in gear and it somehow got louder, loud enough to shake the steering wheel–I bet they could hear that car a half mile away, and a neighbor out walking stopped and stared at it like, holy cow. I got it back in the driveway, smelled the burning, came in and told Richard and called the police.

The thieves who’d stolen the catalytic converter had left a few spare parts in the driveway. They can get a few hundred for the rare metals, while replacing the thing costs about three grand. I’d read that older Priuses are a particular target and you can pay to have a metal plate added to try to thwart them, but earlier reports had said (erroneously) that ’07 models weren’t affected so we hadn’t spent the $300 to weld such a thing in there.

Later reports included our year, though.

But it’s easy not to spend a lot of money on something you’d never knowingly use if you bought it. Plus there was the guy quoted who’d had that done and they still got his car a second time.

Those moments felt like the day of the 1987 Loma Prieta earthquake: I knew this could happen, I knew it was a possibility, I knew it was possibly even a likelihood if we kept the car long enough but I just didn’t ever quite know that it could be *today* that we would have to go through it. Three grand. Three grand. Three grand. For that old but low-mileage car that has served us so well and so long. (Heck, we’re still on the same 2/3 of a gas tank as early March if not February. I guess we’ve taken our shelter-in-place seriously.)

No AC and now our car’s been destroyed by thieves and we only have the one. I was feeling quite sorry for myself.

The cop was, to my relief, wonderful. Insurance wasn’t going to go anywhere without his input.

And then: Anne showed up at our doorstep with not one but two fans to cool us down. Surprise!

And then: I found myself throwing the door open a little after she left and exclaiming, Joe!! I’d finally been allowing myself to hear that he’d said Tuesday–or Wednesday, if he could get the… (Scolding myself, Don’t only pay attention to the Tuesday part because that’s the one you liked, hon.)

And it’s only Monday.

Joe explained that with the just-in-time manufacturing that I wish companies would realize how much it alienates their customers, turns out it was going to be two weeks to get that model blower motor.

He was almost apologetic as he said that this brand and this brand are owned by the same company and the parts are interchangeable–just the names printed on them are different. But he had, he’d found an identical one by the same company/different name on it that would fit just fine and was that okay with me?

Two weeks vs right this very minute? Is this a trick question?

Anne’s fans did their thing while the AC caught up. She laughed via text, If she hadn’t brought them over we’d have had to wait two weeks for that motor, right?

The car insurance gave me a claim number and will get back to me tomorrow about it. No questions were answered yet except that a rental is covered in our policy.

I googled and found an article saying that with driving way down because of the pandemic, it claimed that most of what car insurers are dealing with right now is catalytic converter thefts. Yow. Maybe that meant ranked in terms of the costs to the companies, though.

We really ought to own a fan, meantime, and I think that when I finally get to Ace with my story they won’t mind that it took me so long to pick it up.