Lockdown day 22, wondering where spring went
Monday April 06th 2020, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden

So here we are, on our week–wait, it’s #9 now, isn’t it–of our personal quarantine, and I’m watching my apricot pits trying to hatch. Because life is exciting like that.

Two halves of a large kernel vs an actual, tiny sprout. It’ll be interesting to see if the one wants to be a giant and the other a dwarf or if that’s just this stage. (On my screen it’s cutting off the sprout in the dual picture unless you click on it. New update, don’t know how to fix that yet.)



General Conference talk
Sunday April 05th 2020, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Life

Jeffrey R. Holland had a son working on his PhD at Stanford and so for several years we got to know the son and his wife and little boy and every now and then his folks would fly into town to visit, so we got to know them a little bit, too.

That toddler would be a young adult now, but at age two he had the biggest cutest jowls and a surprisingly deep voice–he was his grampa’s mini-me, and absolutely adorable.

All that aside, here’s what his grandfather, one of the twelve apostles serving in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said at General Conference:

“When we have conquered COVID-19—and we will—may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger and freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty.

May we hope for schools where students are taught, not terrified they will be shot, and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice. The rising generation deserve so much more.
May we press forward with love in our hearts.”
Amen.


Lockdown day 20 amidst words of wisdom
Saturday April 04th 2020, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

It’s the weekend of watching General Conference. Potato-chip knitting time, simple, mindless–definitely not for the distractions of the ocean afghan, and so a cashmere cowl is now most of the way done.

The Tabernacle Choir’s songs are from sessions recorded back when it was safe for them to all be together, and the leaders are meeting in a small theater with no audience and sitting six feet apart. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is currently being led by a former heart surgeon and he acted earlier than most religious leaders in shutting down the meetinghouses and taking the local services online, too.

Two more sessions tomorrow, so I need to choose another skein from the stash.

How do you pick just one?



Lockdown day 19: silver lining edition
Friday April 03rd 2020, 10:23 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics

(My Page orange tree.)

I’ve heard others marveling over the same thing I’d noticed: the sudden, stunning absence of spammers that had been calling relentlessly all day long for years.

Their greed apparently finally veered too close to political wounds. Their latest scam had been trying to monetize the coronavirus: the new pitches were for fake testing, fake cures, fake insurance, anything people would be desperate to have in the pandemic that they could make a quick buck over and run.

Which could make the administration look bad, and we can’t have that, so the FCC–you know, the same FCC that under Trump thought that it was peachy fine to let companies both sell and throttle our data, that killed net neutrality–told those guys’ providers that if all overseas robocalls weren’t stopped within two days those American companies that were enabling them would lose all access to American telecom systems. Period.

And in our social distancing isolation, when the phone rings now, it’s actually a call you want to take, and you answer.

It had been that easy all along; the FCC just had had to want to do it.

May we never go back.



Lockdown day 18
Thursday April 02nd 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

We had two bad years in a row for peach leaf curl disease, and even though I’d used copper spray, one tree was dying and I gave up and replaced it with a resistant variety, and the August Pride…at least looked better than that. I decided to let it try for another year.

My artistic gardening friend James out of the blue decided that someone had done something good for him that was making his life so much better–so much so that he wanted to pay it forward, and he asked me if he could come over with his copper spray and do that job for my peaches?

Totally unexpected. Yes please thank you!

And look at that healthy August Pride now. Needing to thin all that fruit is a great problem to have.



Day 17: Don’t forget to do it
Wednesday April 01st 2020, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Life

Someone, somewhere out there had to have beaten me to it. Hey Google?

She did! Someone took John Denver’s song and changed it to You Fill Out My Census.

(We got the long form ten years ago; we got the short form this time and I couldn’t believe how quickly it was over and done.)



Lockdown day 16: moose edition
Tuesday March 31st 2020, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Lockdown extended to May 3, they announced today.

Outside my daughter’s favorite Fire Island Bakery before she moved out of Anchorage there were these gorgeous trees with berries in clusters ranging from bright red and matte to shiny and black. I took pictures and tried to find out what they were and wondered if the bakery ever put them to use? Were they edible? I saw no sign of them except outside on those trees. I thought you weren’t supposed to plant fruit trees in town for fear of attracting brown bears? (Fun fact: Brown bears are not quite grizzlies: genetically they are, but they’re the ones living off salmon near the coast and they’re 25% bigger than their inland kin.)

I finally got curious to go look hard enough–ie, thank the lockdown for that. I don’t know if these are the May Day variety or a less invasive one, but, they are chokecherries. Good for attracting birds for the customers in the cafe to watch while munching their incredible tartes.

Repels moose. (And surely doesn’t attract bears either, though they didn’t mention.)

Except the ones who are winter-hungry enough or young enough not to know better around a nasty-tasting plant that is by no means native to Alaska and crowds out their favorite willows that are.

Those limbs and leaves are full of cyanide and those ruminants in particular are perfectly designed to get the fullest effects quickly.

Chokecherry trees are popular because they stay pretty and unchomped there–until the day you wake up and have to figure out how to get a huge Agatha Christied moose off your lawn.

If you want moose sausage, stick to roadkill.



Lockdown day 15: work from home edition
Monday March 30th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Lupus,Wildlife

This actually happened last week but I had to decide to tell it on myself.

The suet cake holder is hanging from the underside of the middle of the porch awning; no squirrel has so much as attempted to reach it, ever (if you don’t count the one that bounced a little going across up there, peered over the edge and gave up.)

There is a tall metal toolbox directly below it which no rodent can climb. A mover put it there last year after his dad’s estate settled and trying to wrestle it into a better place is something we would have to hire someone younger to do, so there it has stayed; it was that or the living room at the time and no thank you but at least it wouldn’t get rained on there.

So this is how it has been for six months now, with me feeding only the birds and nothing else so much as sniffing in its direction. Still, I tended to buy the chili-oil-infused cakes just to be on the safe side. I draped a thick but old 3×6 wool rug over it that is no longer quite nice enough to be at our doorway, giving the birds a better surface to hop around on and nibble fallout from while protecting the box. Every now and then I shake it out over whatever in the yard maybe needs some fertilizer. What else you guano do, right?

When the initial quarantine order came down I only had a few cakes left and the bird center was shut down–I was stuck with ordering from Amazon, but at least I was going to buy the same brand, not some knock-off that had who knew what. (Later, the bird center would be deemed Essential Functions and allowed to deliver to your car in front of the shop. Which I have yet to do.)

The ones mixed with peanuts seemed like a good thing for nesting time of year and to attract more types of birds, right? So I ordered a case of those.

I put the first one out there: one big fragrant four and a half inch square of come-and-get-it. Somehow my husband made himself a peanut butter sandwich shortly after.

I heard something and looked over to see a huge gray squirrel that had made the massive leap successfully and was gauging how to get from there up the rest of the way to that suet. I hadn’t so much as seen one cross my yard in awhile and I was just astonished to see one right there!

I burst through that sliding door after it got caught and noisily didn’t want to open as immediately as I wanted it to, while I yelled, YAAAH!!!! GITOUTATHERE!!!

It took a flying leap and away. I set up something I hoped would be a barrier along the far edges and came back in, not wanting to spend too much time in the sunlight–lupus and all that.

To the sound of my husband in the middle of a work conference call right then, and having just apologized and explained to his co-workers, the familiar voice of one of them, chuckling. At both me and my husband’s embarrassment and totally understanding. A couple of others were chiming in, laughing.

Oh… Hi, Gary…

The next time I put a suet cake in I broke it and put the two halves side-by-side in the holder so that from the phone lines through the trees over yonder it doesn’t look like there’s much left in there worth bothering with, much less falling over backwards with a cinnamon broom landing on your head like the second time it had tried. Into the stored frost covers. It was cushioned.

No more squirrels.



Lockdown day 14 ends week six of our personal quarantine
Sunday March 29th 2020, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Food

I baked these yesterday.

They were supposed to be for the freezer for bites for breakfast: chocolate, eggs, hazelnuts, sounds pretty healthy, right?

Only, the freezer is still waiting and I walked in the kitchen this afternoon to–wait. Wow.

So now there are two.

(Turns out I needed two pans for one chocolate hazelnut torte recipe and I only had the one, so the other half of the batter became an 8″ cake which is as yet untouched. Because it looks too big and caloric to break into. I know, I know…) 

 



Lockdown day thirteen: Uh, not quite
Saturday March 28th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

My grandson, turning three soon, was gifted a bird feeder by a family friend, and the kids sent us a video of all the songbirds flitting on and around it.

I said something about attracting hawks, too.

They sent this picture from their back yard.



Lockdown days eight through twelve
Friday March 27th 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Last summer I bought some apricots at Andy’s Orchard that did not taste like any apricot I had ever had in my life. Not only were they sweet, there was a richness and a depth and spiciness and indescribable something and wow were they good. And this from someone who had once thought apricots were kind of meh–but having read a little about what Andy had now, and having tasted his Blenheims, I had to give the new varieties a try.

Someone he worked with had spent decades going into some of the more dangerous parts of the world where they’d originated, trying to discover what that particular fruit was meant to be. He collected the pits and brought the best home to see what might grow in the very different climate of near-coastal California.

He sold a few trees to Andy, but they are not for sale to the general population.

And yet, the pits from the ones I marveled over were going to be at last halfway from one of those trees and the other parent was at the very least going to be something Andy grew and you know that that meant it would be something you’d be glad to have.

And so I looked up how to sprout apricot kernels.

There was a consensus that they had to be kept chilled in the fridge for months. From there the advice diverged wildly: one writer was adamant that they must be sprouted in the fridge as well, another that you needed a heating pad. One said wrap them in wet paper towels after the winter chilling (I couldn’t see how the rot sure to come would help anything), another said soak them overnight.

I soaked them overnight and wondered if I’d drowned them all and would have to wait a whole ‘nother year to try.

I tried a few days of having small pots of soil in the fridge with two of them and then thought, okay, that just really doesn’t work for my household, you know one of us is going to knock dirt all over in there, nuts to that.

The house is a bit chilly and I think our old heating pad got tossed about twenty years ago.

I’ve been watering them for a month. My tomatoes have their third set of leaves but those apricots did not come up. I had planted them after my fevers ended and my cough was subsiding to give me something to look forward to and how long was this supposed to take, anyway?

I resisted the temptation to dig one out just to look at it.

Three days ago a root appeared down the side. Next the split edges of the kernel pushed just slightly above the soil line.

Where they still are. But thicker, and turning green under the skylight and you can just see that it’s getting its strength together so as to be able to hold up a whole baby tree once it pushes itself the rest of the way out of there.

There’s a second pot that looks slightly different, like it might show soon too.

But this one was marked as the one that had been the biggest seed and now it’s the most vigorous earlybird and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m gonna need me some bigger pots. I do have one new one waiting. But the lockdown.

At some point I’m going to be trying to find someone to adopt my spare apricot seedlings, like trying to give away a litter of kittens–just, bigger, right?

That’s the hope, anyway.



Lockdown day eleven
Thursday March 26th 2020, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Friends

They decided to go for an evening’s walk.

Our phone rang: We’re turning onto your block and wanted to see your faces and we were wondering if we could talk through your window just to say hi a moment?

SURE!

So that was our dose of humanity for the day and it was so good to see them.



Sprung a little freer on day ten
Wednesday March 25th 2020, 7:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We started the afternoon with a hailstorm but it let up.

Four o’clock is still working hours, from home or no, plus the driving time to get there. Only two other people had publicly responded to the idea. I had this small terrible fear that the whole thing was going to be a bust.

Park on the east side of the street right before where you turn onto ours, Catherine had said: no parking is allowed there, so there won’t be any other cars in your way.

I saw three other cars when I got there. And then another. And then another. Okay, good. So there we all were, just out of sight of their house but blatantly out of place to the older guy crossing the intersection in front of our line. Of which I was inadvertently at the head because I’d started to overshoot–I’d thought their street was a little further down.

So. No point in having his day be anything but better, I figured.

I had used a piece of cardboard as a backing, taped a piece of plain white paper on top, and Sharpied on it, Happy Birthsday J and J! Just the right size to hold up at a driver’s side window.

I held that sign up for the perplexed pedestrian and he broke into a big grin and gave me a thumbs-up. Alright then!

I don’t think he’d seen what was on the other cars. He’d just been looking at mine.

One, they’d spray-painted–on a sheet maybe?–and had affixed it somehow to the side of their car to make a really big banner. Another friend had used grocery bags to make paper-cut-out words. Someone else back there had–I dunno, I didn’t get a good look other than bright pink and sticking out. None of us had been able to go in to a store for anything you could buy, none of us had had quite 24 hours’ notice, we’d all kluged it from whatever we’d had, which made it all the sweeter. Or we’d simply come. Which is what mattered most.

The twins’ dad just happened to go for a little walk. It was 4:00. He waited a moment, checking his phone, and then waved us over.

And so our parade began.

There were easily a dozen cars by then.

Now, I’d never done any such thing before and I was kind of winging it there but I drove at pretty much walking speed and held up my sign and Happy Birthdayed from inside my car.

They’re thirteen. They did what new teens do: they smiled back, they got all embarrassed, and they headed for the front door to escape with their mom calling after them.

Parked cars on both sides keep it a tight line driving down that street so, eyes back to straight ahead for me.

It’s a cul-de-sac, and as I got to the bulb at the bottom of it another elderly man stepped forward–right into the middle of it, quite deliberately in front of me. He didn’t know who I was or all those other cars way up there but none of them looked familiar, this was not our neighborhood, and he wasn’t having this intrusion. Didn’t we see the No Thru Street sign? Hello? The lockdown? Whether he was saving space for his grandkids to come out and play dodgeball or what, who knows–but I again held up that Happy Birthsday! sign.

Ah, okay. He gave a little smile back, waved like the other guy had, and stepped out of the way.

Coming back the other way, making space for the ones still coming meant I was really going slow this time.

Catherine was just joyful as she recorded video of our going by. Her girls were closer to the street now, by the twin flowering trees that had been planted out front when they were born; they were looking out at all the cars and people with a look now of, Wow. Cool. Thank you.

They’ll be telling the story of their 13th birthday to their grandkids someday. It was great fun.



Lockdown day nine looking forward to day ten
Tuesday March 24th 2020, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Actually, this was Sunday’s rain but it gave us an encore this afternoon.)

Someone on the church chat asked for ideas on keeping kids amused.

I mentioned that my sister-in-law’s granddaughter turned four and there was supposed to have been a birthday party. Oh well.

What ended up happening instead is that her daughter-in-law took said granddaughter out to the front lawn–and a parade of cars went by! Each with a parent at the wheel and a friend holding up a Happy Birthday sign enhanced with preschooler artwork, the kids waving and cheering at each other.

One kid rolled down her window before her mom could stop her, but then the wheels on the bus went round and round and kept on slowly going, so, not too much exposure there.

Catherine read that.

And that’s why I get to be one of the ones surprising her birthday-girl twins tomorrow. Quick, I need me some cardboard. This generation seeketh a sign.



Gauging the squirrelocity
Monday March 23rd 2020, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

About this time every year the next door neighbors work outside picking the last of their oranges with their telescoping fruit picker.

They were our kids’ semi-adopted grandparents, their own having gone off to college when we moved in on our oldest’s fifth birthday. We went to their 50th anniversary party enough years ago that I can no longer put a date to it.

They have been active and with it and engaged in the community for so long. But this year, at long last, the oranges, at least the ones facing this side of the fence, have stayed.

Well, until those moments where they don’t.