Peachy

It was time for my annual peach allotment, but sadly, no peaches were forthcoming. The peach trees in the family orchard were blighted this year, maybe by the same mystery blight that took out one of the apple trees last year, which had to be dug up and replaced. The peach trees did not require such drastic treatment, but they steadfastly refused to produce more than around 4 sad looking peaches.

I am sorry to report that the cherry tree, despite being isolated at the far end of the garden in its majestic net cathedral, was also blighty and similarly almost fruit-free. Of course the plague affected my favorite fruit trees. My siblings have acquired a second cherry tree, but it will take years to start producing fruit, assuming it escapes the blight.

So when Megan and I went to the Valley, we stopped in at Gowan’s more than century-old farmstand:

I got two little baskets of peaches:

That was more than enough to make a really good peach pie. Here it is before:

And after:

I usually make a lattice crust, but this time, I made a double crust, which presented a minor problem. When I make a double crust pie, I usually draw the fruit it’s made from to vent the pie. I learned this from my American grandmother. But I couldn’t figure out how to draw a peach which wouldn’t look like an apple. So I settled for a freeform star.

It turned out great. I enjoyed the annual treat.

A YEAR AGO: I got contact lenses again. And I have already stopped wearing them. Again.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jonathan and Rio went to the wilderness to truly experience the total solar eclipse.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Audrey made her debut. We lost her mother, Quince, earlier this month.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Men and women have different views on fashion.

Cheers

When I last saw Angelika in May, we talked about getting together with Megan at Ledford House. It’s not easy to get our schedules to match, but one afternoon, the stars aligned, and we met up on the beautiful deck overlooking the ocean:

We had much to celebrate: Megan’s birthday, mine, and the successful purchase at last of the property where Angelika and Elijah live. Hurray! Elijah himself stopped by to say hello on the way home, so we could congratulate him, too. We had a wonderful time, and I hope we can do it again soon.

We headed over to Megan’s place, where I did some shopping in the family garden:

I got some arugula, raspberries (red and golden), and snap peas. I love shopping in the family garden.

After picking the produce, we settled in to watch the new Downton Abbey movie, and I am pleased to report that it was as good as the first one. As soon as I heard the opening notes of the theme music, I could feel myself relax.

All in all, it was a great day.

A YEAR AGO: Doing research can be fun.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous Junapalooza.

TEN YEARS AGO: Being subpoenaed is nerve-wracking.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Megan started her ER career.

Garden

I was glad to be back in Hooterville, where I was enthusiastically greeted by the cats. The thrill of me wore off pretty quickly, though, and was almost immediately replaced by the wish to go outside and play, which they did.

I stayed inside, to unpack my things and stuff before tackling the litter box and feeding and watering the cats. The litter box looked like the Andes after my two day absence.

Once everything was restored to order, I headed over to the family estate to say hi to Megan and Rob (Jonathan was off on an adventure). Things are rocking and rolling over there. There are new fruit trees, including a second cherry tree now sharing the net palace with the original cherry tree:

You can see the original cherry tree in the background here, behind the rows of raspberries:

Strawberries are on the way:

It was a beautiful day to wander around the growing orchard:

admiring the blossoms on the trees:

Megan picked a bouquet for me of my favorite lilacs and the sweet peas we grow every year for Dad. These are called April in Paris:

April in Hooterville is pretty good, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some bad habits.

TEN YEARS AGO: The office cat at the jobette.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The eternal debate of time vs. money.

2020

Looking back on the year with 2020 vision…or 2020 hindsight.

I made a decision to keep this space free of politics and other unpleasantness. As usual, with any decision I have ever made, I am not sure I made the right one. I work at a medical clinic and could have written about what it was/is like to work in a medical clinic during a pandemic, but I don’t want to write about work and I am too frivolous for such serious topics. Also, I like keeping everything ugly at bay. This is my safe (and sparkly) space, for better or for worse, for shallower or shallower.

Despite enjoying escapist fare such as children’s books (the wonderful E.L. Konigsberg and E. Nesbit) and Agatha Christies, as well as re-reading classics like The Catcher in the Rye and the works of the divine Jane when there was no library access, the total of books read by the local library chairperson was a paltry 86, not much of an improvement over the embarrassing 82 recorded in 2019. I greatly enjoyed Elton John’s memoir, Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders, Ruth Ware’s One by One, Connie Schultz’s The Daughters of Erietown, and Alex North’s The Whisper Man. As usual, Stephen King with If It Bleeds and Michael Connelly with Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence did not disappoint.

In addition to comfort viewing (The Rockford Files and Columbo), there were some amazing TV shows brightening my screen on these dark days: City on a Hill, Succession, Escape at Dannemora, Russian Doll, Unbelievable, Perry Mason (the new one; not the classic, which is also wonderful, but very different), The Morning Show, Dead to Me, Dash & Lily, Ozark, Bad Blood, Little Fires Everywhere, Better Call Saul, Emily in Paris, and Get Shorty. If you haven’t seen any of these, check them out. You’ll thank me later.

Other than that, here’s all the news I saw fit to print:

January: A quiet beginning to the new year, with no hangover and no particular plans. My beautiful commute. It still amazes me and reveals new joys. A seemingly endless supply of meetings.

February: The gift of a new cell phone from my sister, who was tired of not being able to text me at home. It took three visits to the Verizon Store to sort of get my data transferred. The nightmare of the kitties. A long story which was entirely my fault, and you know how much I love that. The kitchen sink was full of sewage again, and the power was out. Good times. Sunny days outside and pretty inside. A lovely day. And a lovely dinner.

March: An update on my bosses, the cats. Ignoring the ignominious time change with a look around the family garden. Close encounters with wildlife. In my case, the hare (thankfully) won the race. Remembering my beloved father on his birthday. A night in town. Of tires and take-out. Michelin-starred, no less. the take-out, not the tires (though they could have been Michelins). I was shocked and saddened to hear of my former brother-in-law Mike’s death, but thankful it was a peaceful one at home. Rest in peace, dear Mike. You were a wonderful man and will always be loved and remembered with joy.

April: Michelin starred take-out 2.0. Is it conceited that I prefer my own cooking? Maybe the starriness doesn’t translate well to the take-out genre. Mom? Is that you? The tale of the grandfather clock, more than 250 years and counting (the hours and minutes). Beauty is all around me. My blog turned 19! The differences between my weekday and weekend routines. Adventures in cooking.

May: Welcoming spring. I really enjoyed spring this year. It was so beautiful. The beauty of the season was darkened by the sudden and shocking death of a dear and long-time friend. Randy, I will never forget you or your smile that lit up a room. Some reflections on Mother’s Day from someone who will never be one and who had a complicated relationship with her own. There may be a connection here. Celebrating Dodge’s fourth (or so) birthday. He is such a beautiful, affectionate little guy. Never a dull moment for Megan, at work in the ER. The month ended with the end of the Beautiful Harriet, Megan and Rob’s much-loved 19 year old cat, just two days after Megan’s birthday. Harriet (then called Olivia) made her first appearance on my blog in December, 2001. She was part of our family for a long time and will always be missed.

June: Things were flourishing in the family garden. Of haircuts and hardware stores. A happy birthday for me…and for my beloved Clyde, who turned 10. A nice addition to the bedroom. Remembering the unforgettable Ginger, our childhood dog.

July: Celebrating the Fourth of July and both sides of my heritage. Also Megan and Rob’s 29th anniversary. Here’s to the next 29! Things were shady over at the family estate. Adjusting to a Kindle. I’m still a paper book girl at heart. Rob’s beautiful garden art. A delightful breakfast at the delightful Queenie’s. Some kitty adventures.

August: Things were rocking and rolling in the family garden. I think I did a better job of using produce this year. An unexpected operation for Stella. I’m glad to report she is fine. A lot of sadness in a short period of time in our little town. Time to start cooking with all that produce. The Evil Eighteenth rolled around for the nineteenth time. I was angry this year. I will never get over losing Dad like that. A heatwave, and remembering past summers. Trying to cool down with some icy adult beverages beside the ocean. Hello, darkness, my old enemy.

September: Rearranging the kitchen after my microwave gave up the ghost, as my appliances tend to do. Audrey being Audrey. Rob: always there to make my life better. Happy birthday to my amazing brother, Jonathan. The horror of wildfires. Getting my MacBook fixed, with all the fun that entails. And getting Wednesday repaired. Attacking the Closet of Doom, with Rob’s help.

October: Rob was working hard on the Closet of Doom. It’s still a work in progress. Summer seemed to be endless. A delightful visit with a friend. I hope we can do that again soon. Yet another crown for our princess. My ex John adopted a pregnant stray cat. Meet Willow, Peach, and Daisy (I named Daisy)! Doing some project cooking.

November: A road trip to beautiful Anderson Valley. Problems with the heater. Megan started an exciting new side gig at prestigious Stanford University! An update on Willow and her kittens. Getting my third crown was about as fun as you’d expect. I hope it’s the last one, but fear it won’t be. What would I be like if I had a different name? Trying to find the right blanket was harder than you’d expect.

December: The Christmas tree went up a little early this year. And the kitchen sink needed a minor procedure. Some lights in the darkness. Best friends. Memories of Christmas past. A quiet Christmas.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey for another year, or staying with me for another year. Here’s to a brighter New Year for all of us!

Garden

Summer is in full swing at the family estate. Apples are appling:

Peaches are peaching:

And pears are pearing:

There are more zucchini than we know what to do with – suggestions welcome – and strawberries, herbs, and raspberries galore. Peppers are close to being ready, and we were able to pluck a few Sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse. The San Marzanos are further away from ripeness and the saucepan, but the Meyer lemons are ripening nicely. I picked one and put it in my pocket after sniffing the stem end. It smelled amazing.

We are between lettuce crops now. The old ones are too old and bitter and the young ones are too small. So there’s more lettuce in our future, as well as in our past. I’m thinking of harvesting green coriander seed from the blooming cilantro. It’s supposed to be amazing.

I’m so lucky that I have access to the family garden. It’s further away than it used to be – 20 minutes each way, instead of 2 minutes each way – but I’m trying to shop there more often and enjoy the fresh produce while we have it. It’s already getting darker in the mornings, and summer is slipping by.

TEN YEARS AGO: The view from my bed at the old house. I still love that place.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Overheard in the city. And a couple of random Calamity Suzy epispodes. That’s how I roll (out of a hammock).

Art

When Megan and Rob first moved onto the family estate, I thought the space they had marked out for their backyard was huge. How could they need all that space? And it all had to be fenced, which is not an inexpensive undertaking, especially if you do It in a way to deter most deer and rabbits.

Fortunately, fencing, like the installation of the shade sails, is a one-time expense. And it’s worth it to keep some animals out and others in. For example, Megan and Rob recently had to go to the county seat, which takes most of a day, and they left their door open and the garden gate closed, so Star and Stella could hang out inside on the couch or outside on their special beds, sunning and shading to their hearts’ content in total safety. Much better than being stuck in the car all day, especially since it was over 100 that day in the county seat and probably about 80 at home.

Over time, they have added to the space, with plants like Erica’s beautiful rose:

And more recently, the shade sails, a necessity when you live on the Sunstroke Savanna.

Rob has made his mark on the place, with his beautiful artwork. I love the swallows:

And the tentacles of a creature apparently living below the earth:

Not to mention the gigantic lizard:

I remember Megan telling me that there was a lizard taking up most of her table earlier this year, and I can see why.

Rob also created a kinetic sculpture on the gate, because that’s how he rolls:

I said it was something like a weathervane, and Rob attempted to explain to me why it wasn’t, but my two brain cells were not up to the science-y challenge. They rarely are.

It’s been fun to watch the evolution of the place as it becomes more and more like home for Megan and Rob.

A YEAR AGO: I was pretty busy.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The graceful and athletic Roscoe. I will never stop missing him.

TEN YEARS AGO: A visit from Jessica. I will never stop missing her, either, though she is alive and well and thriving in Portland with her mother.

TEN YEARS AGO: Dog fights and car thieves. You know, the usual.

Shade

I often call the family estate The Sunstroke Savanna. There is basically no shade, and it’s hotter than that it was at my old house (a mere quarter mile away) or my new one (about 12 miles away, but still in Hooterville). As is the California way, it is also significantly colder there in the winter than it is or was at either of my houses. I would often go over there in the winter to find a hard frost or ice when there was none at my house.

Megan and Rob decided that they needed some shade at their place. They bought some shade sails to go in their capacious back yard:

Megan said that when she ordered the shade sails, he didn’t think about how she would hang them up. The answer was that Rob cemented in poles and strung the sails on wires. In fact, he was shopping for these supplies when his car broke down and he needed rescuing a couple of weeks ago. So everything is built Rob tough. Of course the sails will come down for the winter.

Megan is hoping to put in some plants that will twine around the poles and make them look prettier, especially when the sails are down. Plans are also afoot to put up fairy lights and add some movable curtains on the west side to shield us from the hottest rays of the sun on the hottest days.

There are already lounge chairs for humans, and more importantly, lounge beds for Star and Stella. Things are looking beautiful and everyone is enjoying the shade, from the dogs to the humans (and back again).

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise shower.

TEN YEARS AGO: Painting the old house.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some random wit.

Garden

The loss of The Beautiful Harriet put everything else out of my mini mind, and I forgot to tell you about my visit to the family property a couple of weeks ago, now known as the good old days when we still had Harriet.

It was still early-ish in the season, but lettuce:

herbs, and strawberries:

were ready already.

The trees were flaunting peachlets:

And pearlets:

The raspberries (in the foreground) were flourishing, though not yet berrying, and the cherry tree (in the background) in its majestic netting cathedral had a good crop of still-green cherries.

Inside the greenhouse, we scared a lizard, who fled into the tomato starts. I am pleased to announce that the Meyer lemon tree is doing quite well:

The flowers smell enchanting, and Megan says the fruit is delicious. I’m looking forward to trying one.

The lemon blossoms weren’t the only things that smelled good. The peppermint striped rose Erica gave us before her departure smells as incredible as it looks:

There is deer-defying lavender on the other side to discourage nibbling:

Looking around the garden with my sister reminded me of how Dad and I used to walk around his garden in Wimbledon before dinner, with a glass of wine in hand, admiring the plants and flowers and seeing what had changed from the day before. I had such a good time catching up with Megan and Rob that the time flew by, and before I knew it, I had been there for two hours. I also managed to get a sunburn. Silly me! It was worth it, though.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Audrey did not enjoy her trip to the vet, and I did not enjoy the bill. We never do.

Birthday

It wasn’t just moving day, it was Megan’s birthday. So I left the cats and The Mess behind to go and celebrate at the family estate. After a long day of moving all my worldly goods, my brother was making burgers and Rio was making salad. Jonathan had already made a lemon tart the day before, so everything was ready to celebrate. When we all had a glass of our homemade cider in hand, I made a toast:

“Forty-eight years ago today, I was called down to the office at school. When I got to the office, the principal told me I had a little sister. I skipped back to my classroom and announced, “I have a little sister!” All the girls went, “Yay!” and all the boys went “Boo!!”

Our brother laughed, saying that he wasn’t happy at the time to have yet another sister, but he certainly doesn’t feel that way now. I am nine years and nine days older than my sister, who was supposed to be born on my birthday. Instead, she came home from the hospital on my birthday. She’s still the best present I ever had. Here’s a picture of us the year I turned 21 and she turned 12:

After dinner, we took a look around the garden. The late rains did not seem to harm the orchard, where pies are in progress:

There are tons of cherries on the tree in the carefully netted cathedral, more than we’ve ever had before:

It should be a good pie year.

There’s a new Meyer lemon tree in the greenhouse (far right):

We’ll see how that does. It would be great if we can make it happy there. I love Meyer lemons.

It was a long day, but a good one. And I am thankful for my family and friends, even more than I usually am.

Road Trip

Megan mentioned on a Friday evening that she was planning to go to the thriving metropolis of Willits on Saturday to get pepper plants and tomato plants for the greenhouse the boys just built:

Willits is 30 miles inland from the Big Town (though it takes a good hour to drive those 30 miles*), making it much warmer in the summer (and colder in the winter), so they have a wider variety of heat-loving starts for sale there.
I decided that I would go with her, a decision that seemed reasonable after a couple of adult beverages on Friday night, but a less attractive prospect on the following day. I did manage to get up, though later than intended, and threw together pineapple salsa to go with the chicken enchiladas I did not have time to make before heading out the door.

We made our way past the ocean and the mighty redwoods, the road curving around and around, climbing up and back down again. It’s such a beautiful time of year, with the fields full of wildflowers in every color and baby calves, lambs, and foals. The steep, rolling hills are still green from the winter rains, and pooled with the deep shade of gnarled live oaks. Grapes are putting out their transparent green leaves on the dark vines.

At the garden center, we loaded up on practical greenhouse plants for Megan and pretty flowers for me. There was hardly room for us in the car, so it was a good thing we hadn’t brought the dogs this time, even though it was Star’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday, Star (seen here exploring the greenhouse):

To be fair, Megan did buy special birthday treats for Star to share with her BFF Stella (seen here lounging in their garden beds):

so it’s not like we didn’t celebrate this auspicious occasion.

We picked up some extreme takeout at El Mexicano and headed home. It was a good day.

*We recently had some folks coming to the Big Town from Sacramento for a meeting. Needless to say, the drive took much longer than they expected. When they texted that they were just leaving Willits and would be there in half an hour, we all laughed uproariously. It took them nearly an hour and a half. It takes me about an hour.

A YEAR AGO: A surprisingly life-affirming flat tire

FIVE YEARS AGO: A less than delightful Monday the 13th.

TEN YEARS AGO: How to turn $20 into crack.

Sprung

Spring has definitely sprung. The overachiever is flaunting what is probably its final flower of the season:

as the outdoor garden tries to catch up. I noticed that the jasmine is budding, if not blooming just yet, and that the peony bush is making an appearance. I should probably get out there and do some fertilizing and maybe even some watering, though we are due for rain later this week. I guess I can’t always rely on the Almighty to do my chores for me.

There have been a couple of warm days already, including a couple where the temperatures were in the 70s when I got home, so they were probably around 80 degrees during the day. I had the balcony door open on those nights, and on one of them, I must not have closed it completely, since I woke up to a suspiciously quiet house.

The unusual quiet was due to the house being temporarily cat-less. They had sneaked out at some point during the night. When I turned on the back porch lights, there they were. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see them, especially Clyde. Though Audrey is the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, I will likely never get over the loss of Clyde’s brother Roscoe and I never want to go through that again.

My recent carelessness was not limited to the home front. At work, I went to put my library book* in the car. I tossed my bag onto the passenger seat and closed the door, leaving me holding the book and realizing that I had locked my handbag in the car, since my habit is to press the door button rather than the zillion dollar key fob in the hopes of not having to replace it.

So there I was, holding the book instead of the bag.

Fortunately for me, EMS is always close at hand. Even more fortunately, EMS was at our friend Lu’s nearby house, hanging out before her night shift. She was kind enough to bring me a spare key. I was on a conference call, and Megan dropped the key on my desk, observing, “Dork”, before getting back to her regularly scheduled life.

Sad, but true. It may or may not be a coincidence that I drove the 30 year old heap today. Even I can’t lock the keys in it, since it needs a key to lock the door from the outside. Sometimes you have to Suzy-proof your life.

*I have been asked to attend the next library Board meeting with a view to joining the Board. They seem to be fooled by my faux adult exterior, at least so far.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering Mom on her 85th birthday. Miss you, Mom!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful breakfast at Queenie’s. There is no other kind.

TEN YEARS AGO: Yet another Calamity Suzy day. This year’s looks pretty good by comparison, actually. At least I no longer have to wear nylons.

Ins & Outs

The outdoor flowers may be underperforming, but the indoor amaryllis has been picking up its slack.

The overachiever amaryllis has a third bloom on it, whereas the underachiever managed one blossom and was long ago put away to rest and recuperate and hopefully bloom next year. In its defense, though, it did jump off the shelf in despair – or was it pushed? – and that affected both the lifespan and overall jauntiness. I’m sure being right next to the overachiever, flaunting its seemingly endless and giant flowers, didn’t help either.

The line between indoors and outdoors is always somewhat blurred at Stately Suzy Manor, which is one of the reasons that Mark was performing surgery on the somewhat odd kitchen sink drainage system one sunny afternoon.

My house was hand built by a hippie back in the day. He was an artist and eccentric, who bent all the redwood himself by hand to create its characteristic upside down rowboat shape:

So you will probably not be surprised to hear that the kitchen sink drains into a sort of cement pan under what I rather optimistically call the back porch, though it is in fact just some wooden slats hammered together, seen here being modeled by our lovely spokescat, the Adorable Audrey Grey:

The outside shower also drains into this, and then into a pipe that snakes its way invisibly (which is somewhat surprising) to the nearby woods, where it empties into a ditch. I am guessing that the indoor shower might also hook up to the exit pipe at some point, though I’m not sure. The indoor bathroom was a later addition after the house’s architect went to the great drafting board in the sky.

So occasionally the pipe gets plugged and backs up into the cement pan, which in turn smells less than delightful. Mark basically snaked out the exit pipe and dug the ditch a little longer and deeper and everything was back to what passes for normal around here after he sluiced out the cement pan.

Needless to say, the dogs were extremely interested in the grossness of it all, as dogs are. They spend a fair amount of time at my house, greeting me when I come home from work and cruising by for petting when the mood strikes them, and I have gotten quite attached to whole herd of them, from the grande dame Luna to giant puppy Kovu.

While Mark was working on the drainage system and shooing the dogs away (or attempting to), he told me that he is planning to move to Southern California. He has a thriving business selling succulents on the interwebs, and says the plants will do better in a warmer climate. He is hoping I can take over responding to customer emails and maybe write a blog for him.

I’m happy to do that, but I am really sad to lose Mark and his family:

as my neighbors. I love knowing we are there for each other. Mark’s sister-in-law and her husband will still live here, but it won’t be the same. I will really miss the dogs, too. The thought of their not being there to greet me – and to keep the property safe from monsters, as they do with their patrolling – makes me sad.

I guess we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I will enjoy my neighbors’ friendship and pet the dogs as much as I can.

Flowering

As March draws to a close, it continues its wintry ways, with late-season rain – though probably not enough for a Miracle March this year – and chilly temperatures. It’s been frosty, even at the coast, and the last storm we got was the stormiest of the season. Maybe it’s a last hurrah and I will wake up one day to find it’s 80 degrees out.

I took advantage of a break between the storms to have a look around the garden.

The many tulips I planted so hopefully last Thanksgiving have dashed those hopes. It’s nearly April and so far I have one, rather mutated tulip:

which I have been calling The Lone Tulip of the Apocalypse. The other plants haven’t budded at all, though they have stunted leaves. Something clearly went wrong, though I don’t know what. What I do know is that I did not get the flowers and color I hoped for in February, when you really need it.

The usually reliable orchids have barely begun to bud:

Normally, they flower in February and look beautiful for several weeks.

The red camellia bush has finally produced two very shy blossoms:

but that’s it so far.

The volunteers, however, are doing just fine. These pretty blue flowers just appeared under the Japanese maple. They may be hyacinths:

They certainly smell wonderful.

And these pale little daffodils, or possibly narcissus, have been blooming for several years in the wine barrel that also houses the jasmine vine:

I am pleased to report that the purple honeysuckle is very happy in its present location, right beside the jasmine. They have exhibited exemplary teamwork, with the jasmine climbing up to cover the balcony railings, and the honeysuckle slowly spreading across the lattice to hide the garbage and recycling bins from sight, if not from bears and dogs. So at least one of my garden dreams more or less came true.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely visit to the South Coast.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ugh. Divorce paperwork.

TEN YEARS AGO: A book report.

A Look Around

Sunday morning dawned quite beautiful, as you see above. I took advantage of the rare situation of being home in daylight to take a look around the garden.

I planted the tulips in a more timely manner, I think around Thanksgiving. They are sprouting up, but my plan to have flowers in February seems to be foiled again, looking at the size of them so far:

Maybe I need to plant closer to Halloween than Thanksgiving to make my floral dreams come true.

The orchid is doing just fine without my intervention, with at least two flower spikes that should blossom soon:

And the volunteer daffodils in the jasmine planter in the front of the house are right on schedule:

And the overachieving amaryllis is about to pop into flower:

At the rate it’s going, the underachieving one will blossom around my birthday. Again, I thought I planted them early enough, but apparently not. I was hoping for flowers at Christmas, or at least in time for the Saddest Day of the Year.

As I took the coffee grounds out to the compost, robins were hopping around cheerfully, and frogs were peeping, both sure signs of winter. I never did get the water buckets filled this year. It’s like I was in denial about winter – welcome after the heat waves last fall – and power outages, since there were so many last year and lasted so long. So far, we haven’t had any major storms this season, or much rain for that matter, at about 14 inches. I’m hoping I can get through the rest of the winter with the power on and no need for buckets. A girl can dream!

A YEAR AGO: The muddy beginning of the Great Trenching Project, yet to be concluded.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some random notes.

TEN YEARS AGO: Meet the neighbors! Or not…

Gardens

Sometimes I wonder how many people actually live in Hooterville. The official population is 168, due to the lack of enthusiasm for responding to the last census. Many people move to Hooterville to escape the World and the Man, and are displeased when either or both trespass in their place of refuge.

This reluctance to participate led an unwise and unwary census worker to knock on my sister’s door before noon, which is like knocking on most people’s door at 2 am. Megan greeted this intrusion into her few hours of sleep with a lack of enthusiasm that made the census avoiders look like rabid fans. The census taker soon saw the error of her ways in trying to strongarm Megan into anything and fled whence she came. I doubt if she’ll ever be back.

In the meantime, our actual population remains a mystery, and even Hootervillians like myself don’t know how many houses and people live down the dirt roads that branch off the Ridge. Mine alone has five houses. But I do know that Hooterville is full of hidden wonders, like the collection of doors and accessories just down the Ridge, and also a hidden garden.

The hidden garden is also a nursery, laid out in lovely “rooms” among the redwoods. I was delighted to see an actual lawn:

I immediately wanted to take off my shoes and walk on it in my bare feet. I can’t remember the last time I walked barefoot on grass, though it was probably at Dad’s house in Wimbledon. My stepmother was always horrified at this behavior, since she associated bare feet with being poverty-stricken instead of lawn-loving. I always wore shoes in their house, even though I never do at home, even in winter.

I loved the look of this industrial metal fountain in the midst of a structured looking, almost formal garden:

And the little archways giving way to sunny vistas:

I don’t know what this plant is, but it’s interesting looking:

I like outer space looking plants. There were banks of natural looking plants and flowers, too:

Plenty of inspiration to be found there, even for an underachieving gardener like Self. I have not done much with my garden this year, though things have done pretty well with my more or less benign neglect.

The fuchsias are flourishing (say that three times fast):

Whatever this plant is, it’s doing nicely in its wine barrel:

I managed to save the orchard cactus, which looked like it was dying, but is now almost outgrowing its basket:

Rob moved the purple honeysuckle from the side of the house to the front, where I am training it to cover the lattice which is supposed to hide the garbage and recycling cans (at left):

I may finally get my fantasy of vines covering the lattice with flowers. The jasmine I planted for that purpose grew up instead of across, so I’m hoping the honeysuckle will fill in that part. Time will tell.

A YEAR AGO: Making cider by hand from our own apples. A dream come true!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Audrey and I get check-ups.

Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

Whether

“I’m the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.” — The Whether Man, “The Phantom Tollbooth”

Well, our whether has varied widely over the past week.

Last weekend, it hailed up a storm – about half a dozen of them on the same day. Inside the house, the light had that eerie whiteness I associate with snowfalls back east, and I had the heater on all day (despite the horror of the $355 bill to fill the propane tank just days before). The cats were fascinated by the sound of it against the roof/walls, and I was fascinated by the look of it against the glass ceiling of the back “porch”:

dusting the scenic path to the compost pile:

and piled up in the potted plants by the side of the house:

It was almost as exciting as when it snowed a few years ago. When I went to bed that night, it was still piled up in the terra cotta pot.

Whereas this weekend, I have all the doors open in my little house and the sun is shining. The cats are scarce. I did a cursory inspection of the garden, and both the orchids and the tulips are budding, but not in bloom. Once again my tulip efforts can be rated a fail. I promise myself that I will plant them again in November to get flowers in February. Usually the orchids start blooming in February, so I have no idea why they are such slackers. Same goes for the camellias, which have steadfastly refused to bloom at all.

I will enjoy the sunshine and the break from the seemingly endless rain and try not to think about the horror of the time change. It was nice driving to work in the light while it lasted.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful bee-themed event at my friend Monica’s delightful shop.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful visit from my friend and neighbor, Jim.

Muddy

I finally got around to clearing up the worst of the storm damage around my house.

Several good-sized limbs had been removed from trees, and a couple of smallish trees were uprooted. I dragged the corpses out of the way and into the remaining woods. I didn’t rake up all the smaller fallen pieces, though, because we all know that there are more storms and more mess to come.

Speaking of mess, the clean up process was rendered messier and more challenging by Mark’s latest project. For reasons unknown to me, but presumably known to Mark, he decided to dig trenches to bury the electrical lines:

in the rainiest part of the year. This does not seem like a great idea to me, but then my knowledge of both trench digging and electrical systems is limited at best.

Burying the electrical wires that festoon our houses and surrounding trees does seem like a good idea, though, since they a) look terrible and 2) are more likely to come down in a storm, leading to further power outages. So I am willing to put up with the extra muddiness:

for now. Hopefully the mud will be graveled over when the project is finished.

While I was out there, I took a peek at the rest of the garden. The daffodils are beginning to poke through the soil:

as are the tulips:

I think I planted the tulips too late again – I should have done it around Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I always want them to bloom in February along with the daffodils, but they really show up around March. Though March is the secret winter month no-one ever talks about.

The camellias still don’t have flower buds. They have never bloomed. I must be doing something wrong here. The main point of having them is to have flowers in the winter. I should ask Lichen about this. On the bright side, though, both of the orchids have flower spikes:

so they should be blooming pretty soon.

All in all, the garden came through the storms pretty well. Hopefully the rest of the winter won’t be too bad.

A YEAR AGO: A couple of coincidences.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gorgeous shoes to covet.

Hand Made

I saw a dream come true.

Years ago, my siblings scratched and clawed an epic 80 foot by 80 garden out of the pygmy and the scrub. The next year, they added an orchard, bringing the whole thing up to a palatial 13,000 square feet.

The orchard includes peaches, which is how you make the world’s most expensive peach pie, plums, cherries, Asian pears, and many different kinds of apples, which is how you make the world’s most expensive cider.

After years of pruning and care, the trees finally produced enough apples to be ciderized. There was some debate about when to pick them. Too early, and there wouldn’t be enough sugar. Too late, and they’d be falling off the trees and/or breaking branches because of the weight of the fruit. Eventually, the day came, and crates and crates were picked by hand.

Then our good friend Clayton came up with his trusty, theft-proofed van, which was loaded up with freshly-picked apples:

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and driven over to Rio’s new estate, which she could not have bought at a better time. Not only did it provide mountain lion free lodging for Clayton, it also provided the perfect venue for cider making.

We took over the studio building with the car port, setting up tables with cutting boards and knives off to the side, and the press itself in the place of honor in the middle.

We had a tub of water just outside. First you wash the apples in the water, then put them in buckets to bring them to the chopping block:

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It was sort of gourmet apple filling!

There the apples were chopped in half and put in bowls:

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eventually being tipped into the wooden hopper of the cider press and milled by hand:

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As a storm gathered its strength and started howling outside the carport, Jonathan observed that even if the power went out, no electricity was required, since every step of the process was done by hand, even wheeling the pomace to the compost pile:

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After the bucket was full of crushed apple, a wooden lid was fitted into it and it was pressed down to extract the rest of the juice:

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It took all day, but we pressed nearly 40 gallons. It was nice to think that we were doing it the same way it had been done for hundreds of years.

Jonathan saw it as a tribute to our English ancestry, since cider is such a tradition in our father’s homeland. I often used to drink cider with him at the pub with his old dog Jesse sleeping peacefully at our feet.

When we planted the orchard, we hoped that one day we would be able to make our own cider from our own apples, and that dream came true on a stormy Saturday, with all of us together, celebrating the past, the present, and the future, all together.

A YEAR AGO: Our good friend Paul was here. And I got up close and personal with my buddy, the Moon.

The Inconstant Gardener

hello
The Garden Says Hello
With the luxury of an extra (unpaid) day off, I decided to do a couple of things in the neglected garden.

Fortunately, it’s done pretty well without much attention other than watering, and probably not enough of that. The rust garden, for example, looks just fine:

rust
I snipped a couple of dead fans off the palms:

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I also cut back the hostas, so they will bloom again in the spring. I am still promising myself that I will put the special fertilizer on the camellias so they will bloom this winter.

In the meantime, the Egyptian lilies:

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and the geraniums are picking up their slack:

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The Japanese maples are still providing a splash of color:

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though I noticed the big green one is changing color and will soon be shedding its leaves. It’s hard to believe that winter is coming when it’s 90 degrees in your house, but when it get here, the 90 degrees will seem equally unreal.

A YEAR AGO: The times were a-changin’.