Thursday, October 22, 2015

silk purse

Facebook friend Josh has challenged us: "If you please, let's hear your personal definition of Creativity." So far, twenty people have responded with answers from one word (sanity; happiness) to a short paragraph. I would respond but cannot limit myself to a single paragraph.* Josh has over a thousand Facebook friends, so this challenge may take a long time to run its course.

Josh's friend April comes very close to my definition with: "Putting pieces together in a previously unexplored manner, whether art, literature, music, et al." Profound, but I must say more.

For me, creativity is a compulsion to raise things (words included) and/or concepts to a higher level and, in so doing, change and enhance their meaning: looking for the sow's ears that can be worked into silk purses. My late friend Kay was trained as a clinical psychologist, so she knew a compulsion when she saw it. She also had the empathy to say to me one time that she understood how creativity complicated my life. 

On the other hand, Letty once said of herself (rather proudly I think): "I'm NOT creative!" This, on the way home from a Cub Scout event where we'd been doing crafts with the boys.

A while back I found myself pondering a cliché: "with all deliberate speed." It occurred to me that this legalistic phrase, made notorious as a sow's ear in the history of school desegregation, was a sort of paradox. By and by, my silk purse emerged as a short poem:

turns matter to energy
somewhere far away.
turns matter from noun to verb
producing energy I use today.
If you follow Joshua Frank Talbott's work, my speed and deliberation are sort of like his blue jay and dinosaur.

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*Facebook grabs your words away as soon as you hit enter, and this seriously cramps my style.

Friday, October 16, 2015

how sweet it is!

At the end of February, I planted stevia* in our little boysenberry patch. Somehow I had learned that boysenberries like to grow near tall herbs that will bloom and attract insects to pollinate the berries. Thus our berries' companion plants currently include not only stevia but also Italian oregano, mint, purple-flowered sweet marjoram, and garlic (chives and bulbs). In spite of this carefully controlled environment, 2015 has been a terrible year for boysenberries. In fact, I think I have harvested about three (3) berries and simply popped them into my mouth in situ.

I expected stevia and boysenberries to be great companions on our table as well as in the garden. I envisioned big bowls of berries sweetened with chopped fresh stevia leaves. We often eat strawberries that way, and I've been looking forward to drying and grinding some stevia leaves for sweetening hot drinks. Just imagine a sugar bowl full of dark grey powder!

Sadly, it's been harder and harder to find the stevia plant in our berry bed, because tomatoes** have pretty well taken over the space. Several times, Steve has gone out to pick stevia and come back empty handed, but I knew that the herb had grown tall and was hiding its green leaves between the stems of an overgrown tomato plant. So I showed Steve that, though the stevia's main stem was dry and brown, there were some healthy green stems and leaves farther up. In fact, I was delighted to find that the plant was topped with tiny white blossoms, and, as a great fan of edible flowers, I was eager to sprinkle them onto the strawberries. Naturally, I assumed that the stevia blossoms were attracting insects that would pollinate any berry blossoms they might happen to find.

I've harvested and dried a lot of herbs over the years, but have never seen anything quite like the way the stevia's thick main stem had turned brown. Maybe it was time to read up on how to grow stevia. Sure enough, the Bonnie Plants stevia page had this advice: "Stevia bears small white flowers in the fall. At this point, the plant stretches out and offers fewer good leaves for harvest. Trim off the blooms to keep the plant producing leaves as long as possible." An accompanying photo made it quite clear what to do.

Working sadly, I cut the brown stevia stem about eight inches above the ground and then made a fistful of cuttings from the green leaves. I carefully placed the cuttings in water and commenced to wait for roots to appear.

Later, I went back to the berry patch intending to cut back the tomatoes. Here's what caught my eye:

Surprise! It's a baby stevia growing up from the root of the original plant. How sweet it is! And how glad am I that I've learned the permaculture technique of leaving the roots of dead and dying plants in the soil instead of pulling them up.

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* As high fructose corn syrup and a plethora of artificial sweeteners are losing popularity among health-conscious consumers, stevia's continuing trendiness is ensured by such phenomena as the 7th World Convention on Stevia, held in Berlin in June by the World Stevia Organization. Visit for "a tale of incredible sweetness and intrigue."

** I'll save the explanation of this sad occurrence for another day, as I'm aiming for a happy ending right now.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

kinsey and me (too), part 2

Not much is said of the (too) in kinsey and me (too), part 1, unless you surmised that I too would stay awake to "read Nancy Drew mysteries on hot summer nights," as Sue, Kit, and Kinsey did. This post will go back and pick up on the 'me too' thread.

I have always felt a kinship with Kinsey Millhone, although I could never follow her regimen of running three miles a day (five days a week), and I have no training in martial arts or marksmanship. I appreciate to the fullest Kinsey's irreverence for most social mores and I endorse her minimalist lifestyle: small cars, a casual wardrobe (with one good black dress/tunic for emergencies), and readiness to travel at the drop of a hat. I love peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches, but am not addicted to the fast food Kinsey shamelessly devours in her car. Since high school, 3x5 index cards have been my preferred medium for important notes and lists, and Kinsey always carries a big bundle of cards in her shoulder bag.

Having spent memorable times in Santa Barbara, I enjoy the settings of Sue Grafton's novels. Her fictional Santa Teresa and neighboring cities including Colgate, Montebello, Perdido, and Cottonwood are thinly veiled versions of towns in the greater Santa Barbara/Ventura area. When Kinsey travels outside this area, 'real' place names are used: Reno, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Culver City.

Getting to know landmarks and characters through a series of novels makes a reader feel at home. This is true in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire and Caroline Keene's* River Heights, as well as in Sue Grafton's Santa Teresa. Kinsey's friends are my friends: lovable landlord Henry Pitts, restaurateur Rosie, confidante Vera, the enigmatic Dietz, and a cohort of officers from the Santa Teresa Police Department.

My kinship with Sue Grafton is simpler in a sense, but more complex in others. She was born in 1940, I in 1941; we came along at the tail end of the 'silent generation (1925-1942),'** born before Pearl Harbor yet shaped by our parents' experiences of the Great Depression and World War II.

I have watched Grafton age gracefully through book-jacket photos taken from 1983 to the present, and in each one she looks like someone I would meet at a community event or remember from my high school class of 1958. Just look at those dimples!

With this image in mind it was fun to spot Grafton's dimples on the face of evil Edna Shallenbarger, an embezzler who skips bail to appear in X. Kinsey tells us: "She smiled with her lips together, creating a dimple in each cheek. The effect was curious. Malice surfaced and then disappeared" (pp. 154-55). I sensed that Sue Grafton has used her dimples to great advantage throughout her life, and I now I will continue to look for dimples on the faces of characters in her fiction.

It's tempting, but I do not intend to count the ways that reading Kinsey and Me has informed -- and will continue to inform -- my reading and re-reading of the Kinsey Millhone mysteries, but I do want to comment on the 'me too' effect in Grafton's X. Don't worry. No 'spoiler alert' is needed.

X is set during a serious drought that lasted from 1986 to 1991, and all the households in Santa Teresa are being asked to cut back voluntarily on their water use. Henry Pitts is trying hard to comply by taking out his thirsty lawn, putting in a drip irrigation system, and learning about gray water. At times I felt like I was reading my own blog:

Weather pundits warn that California's drought is not over . . . . Water-saving measures abound: days and hours (minutes!) of watering time are severely limited, cities pay $2.00 per square foot and more for residential lawn removal, and courses in xeriscaping appear in college extension catalogs. People joke about the 'water police.'
But where Henry's compliance is still voluntary, we in Culver City have moved to the mandatory level. A fine of $250 will be levied any time we are caught running potable water outdoors, at times other than before 8:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays. One neighbor in particular likes to phone the water company whenever she spots a violation.

From time to time I have written about my preoccupation with organizing our household effects. Sandra Felton, one of my current gurus in this area, recommends a regimen of three C's to use when decluttering: consolidate, containerize, condense. Following this procedure, I am currently consolidating and containerizing a vast number of things -- mostly yarn and other craft supplies -- into an indexed series of Bankers Boxes (about 30 so far, with no end in sight).

When Kinsey talks about assembling Bankers Boxes I once again feel that I am astride that fine line between fiction and fact. Kinsey uses her knowledge of Bankers Box construction (and deconstruction) to find an important clue about X's worst villain, and I can see just exactly how she did it. Luckily, I don't think I'll need to follow her example. But who knows? Someday I might want to conceal the details of a secret yarnbombing project. Where better than between layers of cardboard in Box Y?

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* collective pen name of a large group of underpaid ghostwriters working through the Stratemeyer Syndicate to create the Nancy Drew mystery series. 

** "too young to see action in World War II and too old to participate in the fun of the Summer of Love." See NPR's How Generations Get Nicknames.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

kinsey and me (too), part 1

Years ago, on the advice of a friend, I read G is for Gumshoe, Book 7 in Sue Grafton's alphabetical series of Kinsey Millhone mysteries. Soon thereafter I doubled back to A is for Alibi and kept with it through W is for Wasted -- the last few titles via my Kindle e-reader. Naturally I pre-ordered Book 24 ([is for whatever]), but what was I to read while I waited?

I noticed that Amazon's Sue Grafton page offered a book of short stories, Kinsey and Me, and so I ordered it even though I prefer longer fiction. The first half of Kinsey and Me features Kinsey Millhone, solving cases lickety-split within the rigid confines of the short-story format. The second features a fictionalized Sue Grafton, coming of age in Kentucky as 'Kit Blue' (née Conway) and coming to terms with the transitions in her alcoholic parents' self-destructive lives. The 'Kit Blue' stories were written during the decade following her mother's death. 'Vanessa' "died of an overdose of sleeping pills after extensive surgery so that the cause of death was probably listed as Despair" (pp. 273-74).

Besides the two groups of stories, Grafton presents three excellent essays which, for me, establish her credentials as a writer of elegant nonfiction. There's a preface in two parts: first describing the important differences between the mystery novel and the mystery short story, and then laying down a rationale for the writing of the more personal second part of the book. Between the two parts, "An Eye for an I" traces Grafton's own development as a reader and writer of crime fiction, alongside a detailed analysis of the genre. Finally the introduction to the second group of stories delves into the relationship between Sue, Kit, and Kinsey, starting with their largely unsupervised childhoods, free to read Nancy Drew mysteries on hot summer nights.

No doubt I could go on forever comparing and contrasting the parts of Kinsey and Me, but I'll stop with a couple of observations about style. The second half is written at what your English teacher would have called 'a higher level of diction' than anything you'll ever see in a Kinsey Millhone novel or story. It's a treat to witness Grafton take flight onto this more abstract level, but it's also a treat to see her come back down to the straightforward level on which Kinsey moves. I think the difference in style and tone is based on the fact that Kinsey is always moving into the future whereas Kit is always moving into the past.

I loved all the stories and essays in Kinsey and Me, but they would not keep me occupied until Book 24 finally downloaded itself onto my Kindle. Again, what was I to read?

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) rarely disappoints, and the Trollope group on Facebook was discussing his one-volume novel Miss Mackenzie in July and August. I read it quickly while waiting for the group to begin its discussion, and signed up to write summaries for the last three chapters (28, 29, and 30). BTW this was the first time I have been able to stay in sync with the group schedule, and I greatly enjoyed the leisurely second reading, enhanced by comments and background material from other readers. I shared some info on aspects of Victorian life -- mourning attire and dinner-party service à la russe, for example -- and am looking forward to the group's next project.

Just as I stepped away from the rarefied atmosphere of Miss Mackenzie, Sue Grafton's X appeared on the menu of my Kindle Paperwhite. There was no 'is for' clause in the title. Grafton takes up this issue in a USA Today interview:
I first thought of using 'X is for Xenophobe' or Xenophobia, which suggests a fear of foreigners, but alas, not one single foreigner materialized in the course of the writing," Grafton says. "There's a box of files with an X on the lid, a Father Xavier, a married couple whose last name is Xanakis, and a missing painting of a xebec which is a three-masted sailing vessel, but none of these seemed to encompass the whole. Finally, it occurred to me that since I was the one who invented this 'rule' about '…is for…' I was surely entitled to break it.
Let's wait for another day to talk about reading X with the new insights afforded by Kinsey and Me.


Monday, August 31, 2015

dragon fruit? it's really cereus!

On Friday, I posted cereus fruits, and on Saturday morning I walked out our front door to find our next-door neighbor talking with another gentleman on the sidewalk beside our cereus. The other gentleman kept saying something about dragon fruit.

I was in a hurry to get to our local fiesta, where I would be volunteering at the garden club's booth, so I didn't hang around to participate in the discussion. But dragon fruit kept nudging my brain and at last brought up the memory of a TV cooking show I'd seen where professional chefs were challenged to prepare an appetizer using dragon fruit. Yes! The picture in my memory matched a picture in my previous day's blog post: the fruit just splitting open and showing a wedge of something black and white.

Throughout the fiesta, I was thinking of dragon fruit. I couldn't wait to get home and do some googling. Info, of course, abounded. If you are already a dragon fruit aficionado, you may want to stop reading right now. But what I'm writing about is not so much dragon fruit per se as my delight at being set straight on something new that applies to my gardening efforts. I find it endlessly fascinating to explore the gaps between what I think I'm growing and what may eventually grace our table.

Here's the overview. Dragon fruit (aka pitaya) come in about four types, based on the variety of cereus that bears them. Our tree-like cactus produces bright red fruit shaped like hand grenades; inside they have black seeds distributed evenly through white pulp. Others, grown from plants with trailing stems, have pointed green scales (making them look more dragon-like) and may have either red or white pulp; the ones with red pulp are juicier and not as sweet as the ones with white pulp. Finally, most of the dragon fruit grown in Southeast Asia have yellow skin with green scales; again, pulp may be white or red. All are low in calories and high in antioxidants.

I found not only an account of the cooking show I'd seen last year, but also numerous videos on how to eat a dragon fruit. These ranged from a raucous piece by Chef Buck (must I warn you about the 'adult' language?) to a comprehensive farm-to-table presentation by a clean-cut young representative of  Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida. The latter offers to have dragon fruit delivered right to your door. 

The idea of delivery raises the question: "How much does dragon fruit cost?" Again, there's a range. Chef Buck got his for $5.99 a pound, and this seems to be the low end. Amazon will send you a box of 3 -- the kind with green scales and white flesh -- for $28.95. Since most dragon fruit sold commercially weigh about a pound each, this is actually about the same price as the $10.00 per pound you're likely to pay in the upscale supermarkets (Whole Foods, Sprouts, Bristol Farms). Local farmers' markets offer them for as low as $7.00 per pound.

Today Steve and I counted four small dragon fruits on our tall cereus. With these and the possibility of an additional four or five from more recent blooms, I don't think we'll make a killing in the dragon fruit market. These are for home consumption, and while we wait for them to mature (probably not until November) we can start collecting recipes. On second thought, maybe just a small wedge will suffice for starters.

Friday, August 28, 2015

cereus fruits

Last Saturday, Steve's former colleagues Louise and Marsha came by to pick him up for an event. They were fascinated by our huge cereus,* which happened to be bearing a number of fat buds as well as some spent blossoms in various stages of dilapidation. We speculated about whether any would turn into fruit. Since Louise is a faithful reader of this blog, I started talking about a post I'd written last year about the fruit that had formed then. Louise said she hadn't seen it, so I thought I'd look it up and send her a link.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, my search was fruitless. I could visualize the photos I'd taken of the cereus fruit, but evidently I'd never even started a draft of the post or uploaded the photos into the draft. Some of the words I'd intended to use were still floating around in my head, but none had been written.

It was easy to find the photos, which I'd stored on the Internet on August 22, 2014. Let's look at them:

On the left is an unripe cereus fruit, and on the right a ripening fruit. The black things on the ground are dead blossoms, and the holes in the blossom ends of the fruits are where the pistil hung for several days after the other parts of the flower had dropped off. I know it's hard to believe that the darker fruit is the unripe one, but bear with me here.

The stem end of the ripe fruit shown above has fattened up to strengthen its bond with the plant, and the fruit shown below has started to open up. I think it looks like some weird hors d'oeuvre (tomato stuffed with cream cheese and poppy seeds?), or maybe 'Pac-Man' rudely talking with his mouth full:

At last, the final shot, where our Pac-Man appears to be frothing at the mouth:

Steve bravely tasted the gooey substance and said it was quite sweet. I'm grateful that he lived to tell the tale and that Louise told me she hadn't read it.

Am I chagrined that I had not brought this story of plant procreation to light last year? Not especially. I think anyone who is serious about writing has a mental stash of texts, and sometimes there's a fine line between those that have actually been written and those that exist only as phantasms. 

For years I struggled to write a poem about the phenomenon of gardenias blooming in our garden in November and, after a lot of over-intellectualizing along with references to Platonism and Victorian literary theory, I came up with this haiku:

                  Spring bloom in fall month 
                  draws wonder and suspicion
                  yet smells sweet as June's.

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 * This venerable plant has appeared in two previous posts on this blog -- it's cereus (August 2012), and cereus business (November 2013)  -- but, as in so many of my botanical and horticultural ramblings, it merely provided a vehicle for other subjects: procrastination, the importance of theme in writing, the poetry of Thomas Gray, etc.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

return of the sisters

Fantasy and failure marked my gardening efforts in 2010. I bought a plethora of seeds, set out innumerable tomatoes, and reaped almost nothing. Perhaps my most pathetic failure was the Native American three sisters tableau (corn, beans, squash) I started in the front garden, where only the pervasive, quasi-perennial scarlet runner beans (SRB) survived to haunt me this year.

Older and wiser, I sorted my seeds this spring and found many from 2010's shopping spree. All these, along with any purchased before 2014, have gone to the landfill to sprout or rot as conditions allow. I envision a tangle of SRB infesting someone's moldy sneaker.

Last fall, as you may be aware, I had an epiphany on the value of companion planting, and this, followed by my attempts to grow chayote squash and my success with Peruvian red lima beans (I try to remember to pronounce it LEE-mah, but cannot overcome my central Ohio heritagein the general area of LYE-muh). Thus when I transplanted three struggling chayote plants to where they could climb a south-facing wooden fence, I purposely created a pre-Columbian environment for them by giving each one a companion Peruvian lima bean. Additional pole beans and cukes have joined the party, which may also accommodate a few stalks of corn when all is said and done.

Where the chayotes had originally been planted along a north-facing fence, I have gone almost whole hog with the three sisters concept: corn, bush beans, miniature pumpkins, and yellow crookneck squash. I say "almost whole hog" because half of the bush beans are edamame, native to Japan. According to Wikipedia, "The earliest documented reference to the term edamame dates from the year 1275, when the Japanese monk Nichiren wrote a note thanking a parishioner for the gift of edamame he had left at the temple." Pre-Columbian, indeed! Could it be that beans, carried along by the south-bound immigrants who grew them and passed them along to the Conquistadors, were brought to the Western Hemisphere via the prehistoric land bridge from Asia? But, if so, why didn't they take the edamames?

"History ain't what it used to be.*" When most of us were in school, American history started with Columbus, east was east and west was west, and we knew where our beans came from. 
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*I'd like to attribute these words to someone, but the best I can do is refer you to Another History Blog. If you think Yogi Berra said it, you're close. His words were similar in style but different in content: "The future ain't what it used to be."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

nasturtiums restrained

In April of 2012, I learned that the 'Weed Watch' campaign includes nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) among the species NOT to plant if we are to "Stop the Invasion" of plants that "fuel wildfires, degrade grazing land, contribute to soil erosion, clog streams and rivers, and increase the risk of flooding." Therefore I have exercised considerable restraint in allowing nasturtiums to appear in my garden. In winter and spring I let them take over the strip devoted to herbs and veggies and climb to the top of our chain link fence. When peas, beans, and tomatoes need the space, I rip the nasturtiums out and let their bouncy seeds fall to the ground, where they will almost immediately germinate. This 'second coming' of nasturtium plants is thinned repeatedly but allowed to play their traditional role as companion plants to attract pests away from wanted plants.

In the photo below, you can see how this works. Two well-camouflaged green worms appear to be relaxing on the nasturtium leaf at upper left, possibly dreaming of the day they will morph into white moths. Meanwhile the tomato leaf at upper right remains untouched.

Though it shows oregano, tarragon, and marjoram to good advantage, I do not like this photo. The sun was so bright that all I could see on the screen of my smart phone was my own reflection. I showed the worms and the photo to Steve, and he wisely offered a solution: "Why don't you take off the leaf?" Why, indeed? So I carried the leaf and its little sunbathers inside and placed them on a piece of band music. What a lovely setting:

After snapping this photo, I gently placed the nasturtium leaf, worm-side down, in a compost digester. A couple of hours later, the worms had vanished while the leaf was virtually unchanged.

Though I often choose a politically correct option when facing a moral dilemma, I feel no guilt about harboring nasturtiums. I have repented my old way of letting them run rampant, but I have have never believed that, in the context of my urban, self-contained garden, they would "fuel wildfires, degrade grazing land, contribute to soil erosion, clog streams and rivers, and increase the risk of flooding." Even so, I keep an eye on them. A good way to see a flower or two.

This photo, taken earlier this morning before the sun hit this part of the garden, shows at least two nasturtiums keeping watch over some small Swiss chard. Unfortunately in this case the pests seem to prefer the chard.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

year of the bean

I haven't blogged about growing beans since June of 2010, when I wrote look at them beans in the misguided state of euphoria I experienced after getting scarlet runner beans and hyacinth beans to grow on our chain link fence. By January of 2012, I had given up my fascination with hyacinth beans and their alleged magic, and today I view the scarlet runner bean (SRB) as a threat to civilization as we know it.

When I re-read look at them beans this morning, I was astounded to see that I had bought four SRB plants as soon as we finished putting up the fence in 2009, and had saved the seed to plant the next year and, indeed, just about every year since. In other words, all the SRBs I have grown here are descendants of four plants. I still love to see their blossoms appear on our side gate:

The huge pods, however, attract a thick powdery mildew that fills me with fear and loathing. The photo of the ungainly specimen below was taken after I had cut the vine at ground level so that the nearby leaves had totally shriveled:

The green leaves at the right belong to a much better variety of bean, the Worcester Indian Red Pole Lima (aka Peruvian Lima), grown from seed I had ordered on line from Amishland Seeds in 2012. According to Amishland's descriptive catalog, the Incas dried these beans and ground them into flour. I let them dry on the vine and then use them to make soup or stew along with other veggies, usually spiced with East Indian sambar masala. I enjoy the juxtaposition of a pre-Columbian New World bean with an Old World spice.

When I ordered bean seeds from Amishland Seeds, they were offering a promotion: one free variety with four. How could I resist? I don't remember which was the free one, but I was delighted when I received five packets of 10 seeds each in the mail: Peruvian Lima, Amish Gnuddel, Lazy Wife, Anellino, and Cascade Giant. Of course I should have planted them right away, but for some reason I waited till fall of 2014 and then chose the Peruvian Lima.

It was in fall 2014 that I first planted veggies following the principles of companion planting and crop rotation. Previously I had relied solely on aesthetic principles: if I had four boysenberry plants, I spaced them evenly along the fence. Same thing with tomato plants and bean or pea seeds. It didn't work very well, and so last fall I moved the boysenberry plants into the same section of of the bed. But beans are supposed to be good companions for any other veggie, and besides they 'fix' nitrogen. And so I started my saved SRB seeds and my new Peruvian Lima seeds indoors in toilet paper tubes and planted them evenly all along the fence in November or December. They soon started producing tiny white and yellow blossoms:

Fortunately 100% of the Peruvian Lima seeds germinated, and they turned out to be extremely prolific. I pick some dried pods practically every day, and when I get enough to cook I make sure to save at least 15 for seed. Here's today's harvest:

Of those saved for seed, some have become companions for chayotes, and some for gourds. Because the seed pods 'shatter' when mature, some have come up volunteer on both sides of the fence. I cannot imagine planting a garden without Peruvian Limas, though I've learned that boysenberries dislike pole beans. I took out all the pole beans from the berry patch and I think the problem was competition for space on the fence. Anyway the boysenberries are looking happier, even with tomatoes encroaching a bit.

What of the other four Amishland bean varieties? Due to my having aged them so long, the germination was spotty at best. I currently have ONE Amish Gnuddel plant, THREE Lazy Wife plants, and THREE that may be either Cascade Giants or Anellinos. A report on their progress, if any, must wait until another day.

Monday, June 15, 2015

poppy progress

In spring surprises . . ., posted on April 22, I lamented the total absence of California poppy blossoms or even buds in our front garden, yet "darling buds of May"* finally appeared and produced four lonely blossoms -- one at a time. Last Saturday, June 13, I photographed the laggard fifth. Somewhat darker than official state-flower standard, it had descended from the plants in a four-inch pot of mixed-color poppies we'd bought along with a pot of standard poppies at least four years ago at the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Meanwhile, the previous four blossoms had produced mature seedpods, and I started thinking about how best to ensure a good crop of poppies for 2016. It shouldn't be difficult, with the strong possibility of a rainy El Niño season ahead. I decided to pick two pods and scatter their seeds, and leave two to scatter their own seeds naturally. Here are the harvested two:

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but these pods seem to me to be longer than most, and so I included the quarter as a gauge of their size. Thomas Jefferson, our horticulturalist president, would surely approve, and the coin's 'heads' position invokes his blessing on the experiment. The pod on the left, BTW, is from the only one of 2015's new plants that has bloomed.

Finally, I used my thumb nail to open the pods onto the manila file folder where they had posed for their picture. The seeds rolled easily into the folder's central crease, which would have made it easy to pour them into a container.

Over dinner, Steve and I debated the merits of waiting for rain before scattering the seeds. He finally convinced me that the remaining pods wouldn't wait for rain before they opened. Feeling a bit like I was feeding the birds, I flapped my manila folder over a bare but well mulched patch where several poppy seedlings had appeared in February and March. If birds do eat any of the seeds, of course each one will be replanted along with a small portion of organic fertilizer.

Now to let nature take her course.
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*Shakespeare's Sonnet #18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?")

Saturday, June 13, 2015

holey calandrinia!


Two years ago I wrote about "white gardenias . . . mingling with cerise calandrinias" as bedfellows in our front garden. Above at left is a photo from that post. Below, at right, is a photo I took last Saturday, June 6:

The most obvious difference here is that the second gardenia hasn't opened yet, but let's look more closely at the two calandrinias. A honey bee graces the upper one, camouflaging herself cleverly against stamens and stigma, while a perfectly round hole in the lower one (look at 10:30) suggests that a less beneficent insect has come and gone.

It took me several days to figure out what had happened.

Early last week I was sitting at our little bistro table, contentedly watching a calandrinia blossom bob up and down on its long stem. I noticed what appeared to be a white spot on one of the petals. Closer inspection revealed that the spot was actually a hole framing a white object in the distance, possibly a white car parked on the street. On Friday (I can identify the day because there are trash bins at the curb), I spotted the ultimate calandrinia perforation: six holes spaced evenly among the flower's five petals. Each of the larger two was about 1/8" in diameter, while the smaller four averaged about 1/16" in diameter:

On Saturday, the day after sighting the holey calandrinia shown above, I decided to survey the entire calandrinia population: possibly eight flowers open at that time, each one on a long, separate stalk. That was when I found and photographed the one-holed blossom shown at the top of this page. None of the others seemed to be afflicted. The perforated calandrinia shown above had folded up and been replaced by the bud that's peering over its shoulder in the picture. But wait! There was something strange about that new flower. A little yellow-green grasshopper was perched on it. I tried to take a picture, but the insect was too fast for me. I was happy to have scared him away from a flower that was still unscathed, but strongly suspected that he would return as soon as my back was turned.

My next stop, of course, was the Internet, where I Googled 'grasshopper damage.' I learned that not all grasshopper damage consists of small holes, and that not all small holes in leaves and flowers are made by grasshoppers. Industry-standard grasshopper eradication, moreover, requires more than one season, as an expensive fungus must be made available when eggs are hatching in early spring. The pesticides favored by organic gardeners -- bacillus thuringiensis (b.t.) and hot pepper in a soap or wax base -- do not claim to deter grasshoppers. Maybe some of the damage to the kale in my little vegetable garden has been caused by grasshoppers rather than the cabbage worms I've been trying to fight with alternating applications of pepper spray and b.t. We live and learn.

I also learned that the best biological control for grasshoppers and many other insects, especially in a small-scale operation, is a little flock of chickens. My friend Michelle has four or five 'rescue' hens who spend much of their time hunting down and devouring insects which are then converted into delicious eggs. I don't remember whether Michelle has any calandrinias, but if she does I'll bet they aren't as holey as mine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

spring surprises: the wild and the tame

In long dry spell, I touted my high expectations for spring 2015's showing of California poppies: "big drifts of California poppy seedlings have appeared in our cactus and succulent bed and, for the first time, in our parking strip. I have committed myself to keeping them alive until they can bloom and set seed for 2016." To meet this commitment, I have actually started watering our front garden beds for about 10 minutes, using city water from the hose when no saved rain water or 'gray' water is available, in any week when there has been no rain. That is, most weeks, but only ONCE a week!

On April 11, I returned from Idaho to find NO poppy seedlings in the parking strip and NO buds on any of the old or new poppy plants in our cactus and succulent bed. It was obvious that Steve had kept up the new watering regimen, for volunteer sweet peas were sprawling seductively over the phased-out freesias in our bulb bed and the struggling sweet alyssums in the parking strip.

I was not alone in my disappointment over the 2015 poppy season, but I did not know it until last weekend, which is when Antelope Valley's wildflowers are supposed to be at their peak of bloom and when the annual California Poppy Festival takes place. On March 17, a local television station had reported that acres of poppy blooms had been destroyed by a "record-breaking late winter heat wave."

Fortunately, California poppies develop a strong perennial taproot which enables them to survive an annual spring trampling by tourists, followed by a long hot summer when they typically go dormant unless they happen to grow close to the coast as ours do. I hope that at least some of my 2015 seedlings have made taproots and that 2016 will be a better year for poppies.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying my best-ever showing of volunteer sweet peas. I have not planted a sweet pea seed since 2011 but they continue to come up because I pick very few of the flowers and then use the spent vines (along with their mature seeds) as mulch. One might fear that sweet peas would be trampled in the parking strip, where people walk to and from their cars every day. No doubt a few have succumbed, but when they start blooming everyone (dogs and toddlers included) gives them a wide-enough berth, even if they're hanging out over the sidewalk to bask in late afternoon sun.

If you're interested in the history of my efforts to grow sweet peas, see you, gregor mendel (2013), paltry in pink (2012),  a plethora of purple (2011), and perennial sweet pea (2010). In the oldest of these postings, I expressed the utterly misguided opinion that: "The frilly, fluttery annual sweet pea is a prima donna with a short, spectacular life. I expect her perennial cousin to be a somewhat frumpy but more dependable companion." So where have all the perennial sweet peas gone? Back to the east coast where they grow wild, I guess.

What flower seems tamer than a sweet pea? And yet it is going wild for me while the quintessential wildflower resists my attempts to tame it.
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P.S. (added April 23): I was so excited about sweet peas sprawling along the ground and encroaching on the sidewalk that I failed to notice one that had climbed up through the lower stems of a five-foot jade plant:

In the photo, the sweet pea blossom looks white against dark green leaves and crispy brown flowers (another heat-wave casualty). It's actually a very pale pink. I'll deadhead the jade plant and everything will look better.

Monday, April 13, 2015

better mousetrap?

In spite of regular visits from a comprehensive pest-control service and a cleaner devoted to rodent control, we often find evidence of mice in our pre-WWI Idaho farmhouse. In addition to the professional interventions, Steve has stuffed openings with steel wool and spray foam. But with an unmaintained  five-acre field (former pasture) just south of the house, we should not be surprised by an occasional mouse, especially in the kitchen.

During my most recent stay in Idaho last week, I spotted a half-full bottle of canola oil sitting in a kitchen cabinet. I noticed that the bottle had no lid. Thinking that the oil must be rancid, I was grateful that I hadn't used it in the home-made banana-nut muffins I'd served at a get-together for in-laws and cousins. Then I sniffed it, and it didn't smell quite right. Finally looking down into the bottle, I saw two small mice snuggled into the bottom. (Maybe there were three, but who's counting?) 

Over the years, I've come upon dead mice in various stages of decomposition, but usually they have been dry and crispy. These were plump and artificially healthy-looking, rather like a friend who was on steroids to counteract the ravages of chemotherapy.

If I'd had a lid for the canola oil bottle, I'd have screwed it on before trashing the bottle and its grisly contents. Instead I improvised a lid with aluminum foil, tied the whole thing inside a small plastic bag and carried all the contents of our tall kitchen waste basket to the outdoor bin that would be picked up the following Monday morning.

In retrospect, or while experiencing "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" ala Wordsworth's Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, I was able to put two and two together. If mice liked canola oil so much that they would crawl into a small opening and drown in it (finding it "to die for" as people say), why could I not use an open container of canola oil as a mousetrap?

So it was that I set  a bistro glass half full of canola oil on our sink counter when I left the farm last Saturday. An attached note asks anyone who finds dead mice in it to empty and replenish the glass from the large bottle at hand. A stainless steel mixing bowl with about 2" of canola oil in it is sitting outside in a spot where our pest-control specialist has trapped a number of mice. Finally, I placed a small, half-full canola oil bottle between a heavily infested shed and the spot where we park our car.

If this is, in fact, 'a better mousetrap,' I welcome the hoards at my door.

Friday, April 10, 2015

bread pudding: an edible time machine

A couple of days ago I made some bread pudding. Here's a photo of it, as 'staged' for use in a workshop on re-purposing later this month:

For purposes of the re-purposing workshop, the idea here is that the stale bread on the left may be re-purposed into the bread pudding on the right via the recipe on the card. The knife has also been re-purposed. Steve's brother Al made and attached the hand-carved wooden handle after their mother partially melted the original plastic handle. I love this knife and use it often in our old Idaho kitchen. It fits my hand perfectly and feels much better than a plastic knife handle.

Now I have to admit that the photo is a bit deceptive. There's no bread in the 'bread pudding' on the right. The carb component consists entirely of banana-nut muffins I had made the previous week. They contained enough sugar and butter that I was able to cut back on those ingredients.

Whenever I make bread pudding, I think of my Grandma Talbott. As I learned years later, what she made was actually 'bread-and-butter pudding,' where the bread is not cubed but thickly buttered, and each slice cut into quarters before being placed in a pyrex baking dish and covered with custard ingredients (milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla) before going into the oven. Grandma performed some special twist of the wrist when she put the buttered bread into the dish, and every time I make bread pudding I visualize this ritualistic movement.

Grandma Talbott assembled her bread-and-butter pudding on an enameled kitchen table, where she also rolled out pastry and noodles. In retropect, I think Grandpa Talbott must have shortened the table's legs for her. She was 4'11" tall, and he (a six-footer) adapted many things to her size. These things included her car, where a carpeted wooden box, made to fit the space exactly, enabled her to reach the pedals.

These reminiscences of the 1940s are the first to come to mind when I make bread pudding, but they're not the only ones. During the 1990s I sang in a choir which offered a lavish dessert reception  after their annual Christmas concert. My contribution was usually a persimmon bread made with fruit from a neighbor's tree. Steve would slice the bread very thin and arrange it on a platter in beautiful concentric circles. One particular year, probably 1995, the bread began to curl as soon as it was sliced. By the time we reached the concert site it was absolutely inedible -- dry as a bone and hard as a rock. Retracing my steps, I realized that I had not put in any fat. I'm not sure why I didn't just throw the bread away, but later I was glad I didn't.

The day after the concert, I attended a committee meeting where I told some friends about my persimmon bread disaster. "Make bread pudding!" said Marilyn. She went on to tell about a recent visit to New Orleans where she and her husband had attended a cooking demo by renowned chef Emeril Lagasse. He told his audience that any baked goods (cookies, cake, biscuits, etc.) could be used in bread pudding along with fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, or whatever one had on hand. New Orleans being New Orleans, Emeril probably topped the pudding with a bourbon sauce.

That night I made bread pudding with my failed persimmon bread and it was wonderful. There was enough fat in the recipe to rejuvenate the dry persimmon bread, and there was enough spice in the persimmon bread to flavor the bread pudding nicely. Chopped nuts enhanced the texture. I shared the bread pudding at a holiday potluck the next day and received rave reviews. Re-purposing, indeed!

I have to say something about the word pudding here. Americans generally expect pudding to be a viscous dessert, always served cold in a small bowl, and usually made with a Jello or Royal pudding mix (instant or regular). Bread pudding is pudding in the British sense of the word, which, in the U.K., is a synonym for dessert.

So I've been enjoying re-purposed banana-nut bread pudding for breakfast, and thinking about the theme of my blog. It occurs to me now that the theme I've been belaboring in my recent series of posts on Chayote Chaos does not have to be my only theme. A wide range of topics can and should express a wide range of themes. I'm thinking about how things happening in the present so often evoke the past and how, when this happens, my blog becomes an evolving memoir with a focal point that shifts from present to past and back again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

chayote chaos, part 4

In our last episode, I described my discovery that growing chayotes along an old and termite-damaged north-facing fence could destroy that fence and, possibly, a neighborly relationship going back almost forty years. In Mending Wall, poet Robert Frost has some ironic fun with the conventional wisdom that "Good fences make good neighbors," but I will stand by it (yes, pun fanciers, the wisdom and the fence).

A 1980 article in Mother Earth News showed me the error of my ways, and I am eternally grateful that MEN chose to put their back issues on line. But just think how much trouble and grief I'd have saved if I'd found the article last fall! Author Elizabeth S. O’Neill, a home gardener in California's central valley, has wonderful advice about sprouting chayotes:  
. . . locate a market . . . where chayote is sold in late fall. (It doesn’t matter if the fruit has been in cold storage and plastic-wrapped.) 
Buy several ... put them away in a dark, cool (not frosty) place . . . and wait. The seed sprout will emerge and lengthen in the darkness. By February it should be approximately six inches long.
 Then, if your area — like most parts of North America — isn’t yet frost-free, put the sprouted chayote in a pot . . . (Should you live in a zone, like ours, that usually stays above freezing in February, you can simply plant the germinated fruit wherever you want it to grow.)
So now it's apparent to me where I went wrong. I started in early (not late) fall, bought a net of three (not 'several') chayotes, and could not wait until February for the sprouts. Potting was totally unnecessary in our beneficent climate zone.

Oddly, O'Neill does not mention waiting for roots to appear before planting chayotes, but I learned about roots when I took my next step: transplanting the chayotes to a narrow strip of ground along a newer, sturdier redwood fence along the north side of our property. Steve had collaborated with our north-side neighbor in building this fence: digging post-holes to sink the four-by-four supports in concrete, attaching horizontal two-by-fours near the top and bottom of the four-by-fours, facing each section with one-by-sixes, and painting the whole with a wood preservative. No termites here, though they dominate an old wooden shed on the neighbor's side. Good fence, good neighbor. Good place to grow a bumper crop of heavy veggies.

BTW, O'Neill's article lists chayote's many names: 
They are known as christophine or mirliton to Caribbeans, chocho to Madeirans, pipinella to Italians, and pipinola to Hawaiians. (The plant’s scientific name is Sechium edule, but most North Americans call them 'vegetable pears.') 
Pipinella is my aesthetic favorite, but who wants to write or read about pipinella chaosPipinella pitfalls, perhaps, but I'm not going to change titles in midstream. Pipinella sounds more like the name of a female character in a Mozart opera anyway.

I hope you sense that a happy ending will follow closely upon my description of transplanting the chayotes to a spot where they can thrive. Part 5 of this lengthy narrative will, I hope, bring closure and satisfaction.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

chayote chaos, part 3

Remember when I was talking about the theme of getting things right, in part 1 of this series? Now you're going to find out how my experience with chayote squash made me question whether it's ever possible to learn the truth about anything.

Having watched a youtube video about how to sprout chayotes, I felt quite confident when I set two of them -- purchased at a supermarket, not stolen -- in a sunny spot to sprout. After waiting for weeks and then buying two more chayotes at Downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market, I decided it was time for more research. Trying the same approach with the second pair, I reasoned, was something like throwing good money (79¢) after bad ($1.98). And so I went back to youtube and watched someone put a chayote into a brown paper bag and stash it in a cool dark place, coming back in a few days to find a bag full of leafiness. Aha! Here was a new approach I must try. Not having a paper bag of the right size to hold all four chayotes, I located a cardboard box that was just right for three. It fit nicely on a shelf in our cool dark linen closet. This was the point at which we ate one of the supermarket chayotes.

"Where are the links to those two youtube videos?" you are probably asking. Ordinarily I like to give my readers a lot of helpful links, but obviously these two were not helpful. In fact, I didn't see or read anything worth recommending until after the three chayotes were planted in the garden.

So . . . back to the linen closet. I think it's time to simplify this narrative by naming the fruits. ONE of the chayotes starting sprouting nicely after about a week; let's call it C1. Another (C2) showed no signs of any change, but one of them (C3) was seriously shriveling. I looked at more youtube videos, hoping to see something about how chayote roots were supposed to develop. What I saw was chayotes being put into pots with their flat, unsprouted sides down and soil drawn up around them. Most of the top sides were uncovered.

It must have been late December by now, because this was when I announced on an on-line forum that I had put two of them (C1 and C3) in pots and put them on the back porch where they'd get some sun and possibly put down some roots. I don't remember whether C2 stayed in the linen closet or not.

On January 8 or 9, according to my forum, I planted C1 next to my neighbor's fence. It was gratifying to see that a long tap root had developed and was supplemented by lots of hairy feeder roots

C3 was set out a couple of feet from C1 on January 13, while C2 remained in a pot on the bathroom window sill until February 2.

Meanwhile C1 was reaching for the top of my neighbor's fence. This fence, which starts where our chain link fence stops, runs along the south side of our property. Her ex-husband built it at least 20 years ago out of wooden two-by-fours resting on the concrete walkway to their back yard. He finished the fence on their side with a stucco covering painted to match their house Because we wanted to grow vines on our side, we covered it with white plastic trellis through which we can see some termite damage which, though it has been treated by an exterminator, has weakened the fence to a certain extent.

It was AFTER all the chayotes were planted along this north-facing fence and AFTER I'd proudly told our neighbor that they would soon come spilling over the top (fortunately she likes chayotes), that I found an article in Mother Earth News of November/December 1980: "Growing Chayote." According to a teaser right after the title:  "Growing chayote is a great option if you live in a warm or tropical climate. Once established, a single plant can bear 50 to 100 fruits a season." The article also states that individual chayotes fruits can weigh up to a pound each. In other words, I was about to subject an old,   weakened fence we didn't even own to a potential load of 300 pounds, plus the weight of the vines. What was I thinking?

Chayote chaos indeed!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

chayote chaos, part 2

After the explosion of fluff described in chayote chaos, part 1, I decided it was time to go out and actually buy a couple of these beautiful veggies. Chayotes were being sold for 99¢ each at an upscale supermarket nearby. I chose the ones I judged most likely to sprout soon, though the blossom ends of all the chayotes on display were pretty tightly closed. 

Returning home, I set my chayotes in the same spot where I'd cleared out the pile of unwanted fluff from my stolen pseudo-squashes and, once again, waited for nature to take its course.

I didn't record any dates for these activities, but I know that it was still early fall when I bought the two chayotes. When they hadn't sprouted by the middle of November, I started thinking that, like much supermarket produce, they'd been treated with some chemical that would keep them from sprouting. 

Throughout October and November, I was regularly visiting L.A.'s venerable Grand Central Market in connection with a yarnbombing project, and so I purchased two shriveled chayotes at one of the produce stalls. I was charged 99¢ a pound, and so these two chayotes, which looked like they might sprout any minute, cost a total of 79¢. While much of the market has been gentrified in recent months, the produce stalls continue to offer sad-looking produce at bargain prices.

You may wonder why I kept buying chayotes in pairs. Well, one of the things I thought I knew about growing chayotes was that there are male and female vines, and you had to have one of each gender to get the proper pollination. We happily ate the freshest-looking supermarket chayote, and I decided to try to sprout all of the remaining three. It made sense to me that a ménage à trois would improve our chances.

It was not until December 29, 2014, that I made this note in an on-line forum that I frequent: ". . . put two sprouted chayotes into pots, and put them on the back porch in hopes they'll put down some roots."

Why oh why had the sprouting process taken so long? Perhaps we'll get to that in Part 3 of this chronicle of chaos . . .

Monday, March 9, 2015

chayote chaos,* part 1

Theme (in the literary sense of the word) was the subject of it's cereus!, a post from August 2012 where I not only defined a theme for this blog but also illustrated the point by describing my astonishment at learning that a large cactus in our front garden was not a euphorbia but a cereus. (BTW, to understand the sheer gravitas of the piece, it helps to know that cereus is a homonym of serious.)

When I wrote it's cereus! I was reading The War of Art, a book about writing by the prolific novelist Steven Pressfield. Pressfield convinced me that I needed a theme for this blog. Not a subject, a theme.** After discussing the issue in detail, I made a sort of announcement:  "At last I think my major theme is 'getting things right.' Often this means simply learning something new, but it is the kind of learning that frequently requires discarding a preconception."

Last fall, when I started on a quest to grow chayote squash, I began to question whether "getting things right" is even possible. I had heard that chayotes were easy to grow in our climate, and I'd seen them sprout spontaneously from their blossom ends if they were not cooked in a timely enough manner. Little did I know that I was on the brink of vegetable chaos.

I had first eaten chayotes during the late 1950s, when my mother discovered them and quickly made them a family favorite: lightly steamed and served with butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Steve likes to grill chayotes after lightly brushing them with olive oil. Today I think this is the best way to prepare them, as it brings out their natural sweetness while cutting our intake of saturated fats.

In recent years I had seen chayotes growing locally on people's fences, and so I thought it would be fun to steal some, let them sprout, and plant them in our garden. Unfortunately I made this decision in the fall, and the fruit was substantially shriveled. The stems were tougher than I thought they'd be, and they exuded a sticky white goo that I'd never seen come out of a chayote. I furtively picked three and brought them home. Setting them under a skylight on our back porch, I waited for nature to take its course. It took a long time, but rather than producing a green stem, each one of them exploded into a mound of fluff. It was like dandelion fluff but the seeds and their silken parachutes were much larger.

At this point, I might have simply concluded that crime does not pay, but I chose to wade even deeper into chayote chaos.
to be continued . . .
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* I urge you to visit if you have any questions about how the word chayote should be pronounced. The plant, a native of Central America, was called chayohtli by the ancient Aztecs, upon whom the conquistadores imposed latinate orthography as well as so many other arbitrary standardsI must confess that the title of this posting is a silly attempt to imply an alliteration that is purely visual unless we want to think about how chaos should be pronounced in ancient Greek. Maybe some other time?

** The difference between subject and theme is dear to the heart of every serious student of literature, and is well defined in a brief document created by the National Park Service, of all people. Oh, that all government agencies would be so diligent in training their employees to understand language and culture!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

long dry spell

On January 17, 2014, the California Governor's office released this statement
With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today proclaimed a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions.
Drought conditions indeed! 

I posted only two items on this blog during the thirteen-month period from December 2013 to January 7, 2015: 

  • fring 2013 (December 3, 2013) celebrated the after-Thanksgiving rain of that year; and
  • when media collide (February 9, 2014) contained absolutely no references to gardening or water. 

Oddly, during POSToccupations' long dry spell, I remembered the 'fring'* piece as being my most recent one, possibly because I visualized the accompanying photo of tiny jade-tree blossoms.

In 2014, heavy rains came right after Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, filling and refilling our rain barrels. No longer feeling like T.S. Eliot's "old man in a dry month, waiting for rain," and thinking "thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season,"** I ventured out to find not only the violets one would expect, but also morel mushrooms! Here was something I felt motivated to tell the world about, and so I wrote my first blog post of 2015 at last.

Weather pundits warn that California's drought is not over, in spite of the heavy rains. Water-saving measures abound: days and hours (minutes!) of watering time are severely limited, cities pay $2.00 per square foot and more for residential lawn removal, and courses in xeriscaping appear in college extension catalogs. People joke about the 'water police.'

Meanwhile, big drifts of California poppy seedlings have appeared in our cactus and succulent bed and, for the first time, in our parking strip. I have committed myself to keeping them alive until they can bloom and set seed for 2016. 'Gray water' from the washing machine will make this happen, and possibly extend the morel season through St. Valentine's Day.

Is there a metaphorical equivalent of 'gray water' that a person can call upon to keep blogs flourishing? Time will tell. In Tree at my Window, Robert Frost spoke of a parallel between "inner" and "outer" weather. I have thought of a parody -- Drought at my Doorstop -- but will endeavor keep the dryness at bay.

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* fring is the word I coined in 2010 to indicate the spring-like season (the first spring) that starts with Southern California's normal fall rains.

** Gerontion (1920), first and last lines.
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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License