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The satsuma plum tree is, the woman at the nursery said, an old man plum tree now, and lacks resilience to fight disease. I didn't ask her to tell me why an old man instead of an old woman--after all, it has babies--I think I know. I think it is an old man because of drunken old classical Chinese poets, who write about plum trees frequently. I think the plums trees are Chinese poets.

Anyway, she says I should be preparing for its demise a few years from now (by buying a baby plum tree next winter so it will be bearing when my old man gives up the ghost), and coddling it fiercely in the meantime. That will mean pruning it generously to bring a lot of sun and warmth into the center of the tree and also to keep the whole thing in close reach I can practice more focused cleanliness next year and after.

The background: suddenly, four years ago, my plums started rotting instead of ripening. I tried various lesser measures, and I suspected a parasite, but having nearly eliminated the signs of that cherry fly, the rot was even worse than before.

I did manage to harvest a lot of plums though. I made nine jars of plum jam, three jars of plum butter (which is more concentrated and uses less sugar--it took the same quantity of plums to make the three jars of butter as the nine jars of jam), thirteen racks of dehydrated slices, three bags of frozen slices for cobbler, a fresh cobbler, and some stewed plums I ate with cottage cheese because in some ways I am an old-fashioned old lady. I did this wrapped around chemo day, too. That's misleading. Chemo day itself is not a low-energy day, because I get dexamethasone the day before and the day of. It's a steroid and makes me a busy girl, at least for some hours at a time until I crash.

I also had strawberries from Grey Bears and a handful of alpine strawberries from the garden so I also made four jars of strawberry jam, bringing that to eight with the strawberry jam from May. I think I am done with jam for the year unless we get a couple-few quarts of blackberries. These are eight-ounce jars and I think it may be a bit of a haul to get through a couple dozen of them.

The woman at the nursery said in general plants are having a hard time this year even though the drought is over. She believes the plants and the soil are just so stressed by the long drought that they can't just grow on their own the way they used to. She says she's coddling everything, feeding things more than in the past, watering them more than in the past, and that it's been harder to get things started. I must say that sounds a lot like what I've been experiencing--losing that Italian prune (which I'm going to try again with this winter too), my vegies just poking along, and my parsley! Which usually by this time of year is rampant, I've had to restart several times and it's barely poking along. This is unacceptable. A person needs plenty of parsley at hand. I've had so little this year, and now that I finally have enough to pick a little it just cuts right through all the weird tastes in my mouth and makes me feel much better.

I suppose the apple tree, which is also nearly forty years old, is probably also marked for senescence and death. I'll ask about that this winter and see what I want to do about it.

Today I trimmed the front yard roses and things. Advice to the young: roses are nice but they are overrated. You do not need their thorns and their overenthusiastic growth habits. There are many flowering shrubs which do not snag your clothes and make you bleed. You could consider growing salvias, passionflowers, abutilons, fuschias, or even hydrangeas if you don't mind hideousness or snails.

Other than that, I considered writing, and worked out what a sentence ought to be, and messed around online and snored a little. Monday I'm having a consultation with the sleep doctor but I wonder if that's premature? Because whatever my sleep problems are, they are surely different in some significant ways while I am undergoing chemotherapy.

Zluta is put out by not having had her morning walk, but it's honestly too hot for her, so she's not campaigning very vigorously. In an hour or so I'll take her to the dog park and that will satisfy her.

Oh, and an irreproducible (not really) recipe, just because I haven't done one for a while. It's potentially a kind of luxury dish, though it's also a leftovers-and-oddments dish.

I took five skinny little green onions and a scant scant handful of giant parsley from the yard, and I sauteed them in probably too much olive oil along with a handful of sliced mushrooms, some diced leftover lamb, some chopped Costco marinated artichoke hearts, a few canned garbanzos, and some frozen peas. When the green things were wilted, the mushrooms lightly browned, and everything else heated, I said it was done and I ate it up yum. It was nice and the parsley made me feel better.

I was getting all geared up to try to force more potassium in my diet because last week's blood test showed me a bit Low, but checking up on the significance of it reveals that low potassium and low serum protein pretty much just indicate that I've being taking steroids. I'm still going to gobble up a couple potatoes and bananas and things but I'm not stressing it any more.
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My left hand has been gradually becoming more insistant about the fact that it has a nerve entrapment. I want to say carpal tunnel syndrome because I had it before, and indeed had a release done on my right hand 37 years ago, but honestly it could easily be due to the mess in my neck vertebrae. This morning when I was sewing and I had to keep stopping and shaking out my hand and opening up my joints I decided it's gotten bad enough that I must address it this year if I can. So when I was doing my Week 5 checkup with the surgeon's PA, I mentioned it in passing as something I was going to need to deal with and he said "we do those too," which is a relief because I like these people and now I don't have to meet a new doctor. He was pretty sure we could get it done before the end of the year, which will mean that it will be free, because I'll hit my limit for the year on the first surgery.

Of course we need to have tests done to determine where the entrapment is. I'm hoping it's in the wrist because that is a simple, easy surgery with a great record. I know it's not the elbow because ulnar entrapments cause numbness on the little finger side instead of the thumb side. Andrew said neck entrapments cause numbness on the thumb side. I don't know what that surgery is like. Oh, and I haven't considered the shoulder joint: that can be the location of entrapments too. I hope not. Shoulders are complicated.

We didn't schedule the second knee today because the person who does that was out of the office, but when I told Andrew about my right leg buckling he agreed that it should be scheduled as fast as protocols and logistics allow. He thinks September, and maybe November for the other one. Then in January I'll be all fixed.

I also saw the physical therapist today and he had me do the stationary bike and a couple of resistance exercises with machines that have weights on them and also some stretches. At first I thought I couldn't do the bike--thought I had had a setback-but a minute and a half of pistoning back and forth as I warmed up and I was good to go for eight more minutes and my right leg didn't even complain, so I guess I'm closer to riding a real bike than I thought. I was thinking of going to dance class tonight just to say hello but I was too tired at the time. But my friend called from class and I got to touch base with her.

I also got prescriptions and groceries and I also had a bagel and also went to the fabric store where they were having a sale on rayons so I got a bunch of little pieces to make undershirts because I really love these little lightweight undershirts and I have given up on bras completely since the last time I wore one my breast swelled up and ached for days. And I finished my blue and white bandana border dress I made for my stepbrother's wedding. It's a wee bit dorky but I'm structurally a grandma and I get to wear wee-bit dorky clothes.  And then I was exhausted and I couldn't make jam even though I had a huge pot of plums picked from yesterday so I just cut them up and put them in the freezer so they won't rot between now and Sunday when I will have my first chance at doing it.

But tomorrow is the wedding and my hands are purple because while I bought gloves I forgot to wear them. So I have to soak and scrub them a lot beforehand.
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The latest attempt to split California into little bitty pieces has achieved a pile of signatures to turn in. I never did figure out how to complain about the deceptive signature gathering techniques being used in Santa Cruz. The man with the clipboards was asking people if they wanted to sign a petiution to allow local governments to outlaw fracking on their own. Only after the mark had the pen in their hand did he add "it will create six separate governments --"

So this morning I'm trying to fiund out. I don't know his name, and it was a couple of months ago that I interacted with him, but I feel that I must say something.

Headlines are that California residential water use actually increased in the month of May, but only in two places: the Los Angeles basin and the far northeast. The rest of us made cuts, the biggest being in the north coast. The central coast, which was already using less per capita water than most, cut ten percent more.

We were asked to cut twenty percent. (My house cut 36 per cent, but that was partly because we had a leak that we had been trying to fix and we finally fixed it)

So now the state's authorized fines for water wastage and has instituted outdoor water restrictions.

Well, good and all, but when I read what the Valley local governments were calling for as water conservation methods for their communities, I was kind of appalled at how minimal they were. They were asking for an end to midday sprinkling, for example. That crap's been off the table for decades in the Central Coast.

Last night there was a power shortage. It wasn't long, and it was really local, but it's the kind of thing that used to get a sentence in the local news roundup in the paper. When I went to see if there was any explanation on the Santa Cruz Sentinel website I didn't find it, which was a minor annoyance, but the "breaking news" local page had nothing that was actually local breaking news by any definition. Everything was human interest, several days old, and most of it was Salinas. The fact that the editor's mailto address had the domain of the Monterey Herald is not enough to explain this. They do still pay a couple of local reporters. But they aren't covering any breaking news. Let me be clear: although I went there to see if there was an explanation for my power outage, the lack of coverage on that issue was not what struck me. It was the lack of any kind of news whatever. Now, it's the geographically smallest county in the state aside from San Francisco, but demographically, it's above the median (number 24 out of 58). That's a quarter of a million people whose doings are of no interest to the local newspaper of record.

On another front. the "normal summer weather pattern" has been very moist here locally, advancing nearly to rain status. The normal summer weather pattern is fog (high fog in Santa Cruz) in the mornings and evenings, and sun in the afternoon. Usually we get one good rainstorm sometime in July. This is not that. This is more like the fog is heavier than usual, though still high in the sky, and is letting some of its moisture loose. The ground is getting wet, anyway, which is good.

Surprisingly enough, my plums are ready now, almost a month earlier than usual.

Wine notes

Sep. 1st, 2013 09:47 am
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Last year's wine was made from slightly underripe plums and it will have to age for a couple-few years before it can really be drunk.

This year's wine is two very small batches because I picked a bucket of plums and let it sit for a couple of days before I picked the other bucket and I meant to process them together -- but the first bucket had decided to go ahead and start fermenting with wild yeasts and it tasted pretty good for that particular stage (that is to say, it did not taste good in the sense that you would actually drink it, it just tasted promising). So I have them in separate primary fermenters (foodgrade plastic buckets), with montrachet yeast in the other bucket. If the wild bucket stops fermenting, I can either buy another packet of yeast or combine the two buckets, depending on what seems right at the time. At the moment I wouldn't combine them as they taste quite different (both pretty good). The montrachet bucket has a lighter, oranger color, and the wild bucket has a deeper, more maroon color. They taste and smell different, but they both taste very sweet and full at this stage (where not much alcohol has developed).

I bought a hydrometer -- I don't know why I didn't before, it was only six dollars! I thought they were more like thirty, so I was dragging my feet. The way it works is that you measure the specific gravity before you start, and then when you finish, and by doing some easy math, you calculate the alcohol by volume. Otherwise, you don't know how strong your wine is without a laboratory.

Speaking of which, yesterday I opened a bottle of my 2007 "good effort" wine. That's the wine we took to River Run the last summer the nice fellow was alive and the winemaker said it was a good effort, which pleased me as being real praise from a winemaker -- not the elaborate praise you might shower on a person who you have no expectations for. Anyway, I thought it might have gone off because I didn';t store it well, but it was actually a bit better than I remembered, which is a point in the school of thought that says plum wine needs a lot of aging in general (I have seen opposing opinions online: I am now firmly in the pro-aging school). And it was pretty strong, too. We drank little sips, but I drank a few little sips, enough to account for a small glassful, and I was totally useless the rest of the day. I don't drink much, obviously, and I have always been a bit of a lightweight, but not to the point of going to bead at three in the afternoon and not really getting up till morning. Not having measured the specific gravity of that wine when it was on the must, I can't tell you how strong it really is, but it tastes like brandy.

And that leads me to another point. I have long wanted to make brandy. Ted had made a still at one point, but I don't know what happened to the pieces of it and I would be a bit scared of it now as the chamber was one of those bulbous glass laboratory vells. The Chinese and the Italians both make small pot stills (stainless steel and copper respectively) for less than two hundred dollars, but considering I'd make at the maximum a quart of brandy a year, this is definitely not a cost-cutting measure. So I don't know. Making one myself from odds and ends the way that people on the homebrew forums do looks equally expensive, especially since it entails welding!

edit: this year's plums are a bit overripe. I think that's a good thing in a plum wine.

Finally, apparently rhubarb wine is a thing. And apparently a potentially good thing, though you have to deal with excess acidity (not difficult, you use chalk). This is an interesting proposition to me because I have an ambitious little rhubarb patch which would like to remind us that the Triffids also were plants and were capable of taking over the world in a day or two. "Not that we're threatening you all, or anything," they say. "But look at our magnificent leaves, are they not big enough to clothe small children? And our mighty green stalks! We laugh at your cutting knife! We will have more and more of our shining green cohort every day!"

Yes, they are green, not red. Because I knew nothing nothing about rhubarb when I planted it for the nice fellow. If you care aboujt the color of your rhubarb, do your research and get a variety that is the color you are after, is all I can say about that.
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I cut down the watersprout that was coming from below the graft on the almond tree in time for the gtreencycle pickup, which leaves me free to fill the can again this week, which I definitely ought to do.

I had a lot of sprouted garlic, so even though they say to plant in October, I put them in the window box with the alyssum. Also I planted snap peas, pole beans, and yellow chard, in paper egg cartons and a pierced tofu box respectively/  The kale I planted a few weeks ago is still at the cotyledon stage, but they are tall cotyledons and ought to bedeveloping true leaves any minute. Naturally, the parsley is still thinking about whether or not to sprout -- it looks like three or four have decided to try it out, and the others are waiting to see how it works out. I had a lead on free kale starts, but I have so much kale in the egg cartons and more seeds after that, so I don't think I should follow up on it.  Give the other guy a chance, you know.

Really, six vegetables is pretty optimistic, considering that most of my yard is still suffering under the piles of construction debris. Anyway, my absent-mindedness in years past is serving me well this year, because I have all these seeds to plant. And yes, they all seem to be viable.

Speaking of peas, I have a two-pound bag of shredded iceberg lettuce from Grey Bears, so I have decided to make peas, lettuce and herbs soup, especially after reading that this would be a way to use up the three cups of whey I have after converting my roommate's sour milk into ricotta (I thought I was making yogurt but I let it get too hot so I got actually quite nice ricotta, which is probably better, given that ricotta is more expensive than yogurt anyway). It's quite simple, by the way: I had three cups of sour low-fat milk, to which I added a third of a cup of natural sour cream and two-thirds of a cup of natural whole milk yogurt, and then I let is sit for a while, and then I warmed it up and tried to keep the temperature in the recommended range but it got a little hot and it separated more than yogurt ought to so I warmed it up some more and then I scooped it into a napkin spread on a sieve and squeezed all the whey out. I tried to make "whey ricotta" out of the resulting whey, but there wasn't enough left. I realized afterwards that the whey that the blogs were talking about was from making cheese with whole milk, and not low-fat milk, so not the same thing really.

Am I an insuifferable foodie? Or just bored and poor? I only make jam from free fruit. I only made my own peanut butter (at home, instead of in the machine at the hippie store) because decent peanut butter reached six dollars a pound. (it was not an unqualified success -- the nice inexpensive peanuts from Trader Joe's apparently have a lot less oil in them than regular peanut-butter making peanuts)

When I pruned the plum tree I brought in some budded branches, but they haven't advanced much. The almond tree looks like it's thinking about bursting out any moment. It's not long until other people's plum trees will be blooming, but mine is always last, and so are my plums (they are not ready until August). I had a dream about racking and bottling the wine, and among my stepmother's effects I found a half-drunk bottle of my best year's product, and it tasted pretty good.

Also: Andrew Marvell has been talking to my lemon trees. My, I have a lot of lemons. I have not counted them, but they seem as numerous as my mother in law's used to be, and she used to get a thousand lemons a year. These are not quite ripe, in general, but they have dropped a huge number of nice ones. That's unusual, and I think it is because of people trying to reach the best ones up top and knocking some off. My next door neighbor on the other side has carte blanche to use as many as she wants, and she is short like me and getting frail. Anyway, my kitchen has rather too many lemons in it at the moment, especially considering I still have a lot of marmalade left from last year.

head thing notes: I found a forty-six dollar check from the last time I was on unemployment a year and a half ago. It was good for a year. . .
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There is an illustrated children's book called "The artist" in which the characters are mostly dogs. It's a horrible, horrible book, and I wanted to write about what is so very wrong with it, but I can't find it with an internet search because -- well, it's called "The artist."  And so are a jillion other books and movies.

So, the book gets off without a scolding from me because I can't find it, but you know what?  Nobody's going to say "Well, Lucy hates it, but she makes it sound interesting, I guess I'll check it out," either, and as far as I can tell the book has died a lonely and obscure death.

It did deserve it, though.

On another front: I have a new spot to pick wild plums, and therefore over four kilos of plums . . . but I can't find any canning lids despite the fact I know I have at least two boxes somewhere, so I hope the plums keep till tomorrow night.
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Probably boring. Just daily stuff. )

Anybody local-ish have any use for thirty to forty year old stereo equipment in okayish condition (dusty and neglected but they worked okay last I paid any attention to them)?  There's a couple of newer pieces also.
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I collected about two liters of blackberries along the Arroyo Seco path by University Terrace Park today, and came home to make jam.  I almost lost it from spacing out.  But the jam, while too thick, is not burnt.  There's burnt jam on the bottom of the pot, but the rest of the jam tastes good (not amazing).  I think I should make another batch with the berries from Emma's house.  Also, since I am not scheduled at work this week, I think I should get strawberries and make strawberry jam for Emma.  And that will be pretty much it for jam.  Well, and lemon marmalade.  I'm not making apricot jam this year, because except for the strawberries I have a policy of not buying fruit for jam this year.  I've used wild plums and blackberries, and I can use my own lemons.  I decided that jam is not the best use for the Satsuma plums.  I have plenty of other projects for those.  And for the apples.  I used to think home canned applesauce was kind of a waste, but I ate all my applesauce last year and wished I had made more, so I suppose I will make more this year.  If the apples and pears at Emma's house are any good this year -- last year they weren't, and I don't know why -- I can do something with them too. 

I also have figs coming along, but Zack will account for all of them in desserts he makes for the Wednesday night game meeting at Connie's house. I have been dropping by there for a half-hour or so after I walk the dogs at Ocean View park, which has a little hillside path leading out of the dog area.  It overlooks the river and the Boardwalk on the other side, which is quaint and nostalgic for me because Ted and I used to live near there for a few years and when we worked at the Boardwalk we used to go there by crossing the railroad trestle near there.  You're not supposed to take your dogs offleash on the little hilly path but I had gone there several times and met several other offleash dogs there before I even saw the sign.  So I ignore it.

We spent two hours at the berrying today.  The dogs actually got bored after a while and came and stood around me with eager expressions -- like, Can we go do something else now? But when other dogs came along the path they were happy.  I think that's the only place in Santa Cruz city where you can take your dog offleash and get in a mile-long walk.

I'm killing time because I'm getting Emma at about one o'clock in the morning and I didn't put myself to bed earlier and now there's no point.    She's essentially working a double shift this week, and by double I mean double. I did that once -- I worked spinach season at the freezer plant and ten hour days at the small leather goods factory.  I did it because it seemed romantic and I thought it would only be for three weeks because spinach season was really short.  But it went on for more like two months and I was really wiped.  And then one year when I didn't get a teaching job and I was subbing half-heartedly and we were pretty strapped Ted worked as a manager at a fast food joint at the same tinme as he was a cook at the University.  He did it for a few months and then I put my foot down, because while he was doing that I couldn't get a real job because there were the kids and all the stuff around the house to take care of and he was exhausted all the time and I had to take care of him, too.  Most people who moonlight for a long time take on a part-time job for their second job, not a full-time one.  But Emma's only doing this for a week, fortunately. 

I always think in ":we" instead of "I" when I think about doing things or going places, even though "we" has to mean me and the dog(s) nowadays.  Sometimes I remind myself of that Star Trek Next Generation episode where they captured a single Borg soldier and he was completely freaked out about being separated from his pod or whatever it was called. 

I'm all sticky from handling the blackberries. 

Another project I want to do is to take cuttings from the prune tree in Emma's yard, because those are very nice and you don't see that variety around here.  Most of the fruit in Emma's yard is suffering horribly.  I suppose it's from neglect but I have seen neglected fruit trees that had better and more abundant fruit.  I don't see any sign of disease: just mostly empty branches, and last year most of them except for the plums and blackberries did not develop much flavor.

She's ready!  I'm going to get her now.

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Tomorrow I get my students back, and their babies.  Rumor has it I will have two new babies -- possibly more later?  I looked at the class list with the teacher of recford but she has an ELD (English language development, pullout support for second-language learners, what we have instead of bilingual education nowadays thanks to the Texan influence on education)  class on the same roster and she didn't know who was who, and she was told she had six teenaged mothers out of the lot.  I recognized two returnees, of whom one has her child in preschool.  I also know I have three babies who aren't in her class, so four babies and also one girl I think is supposed to be on that list but I don't recall seeing her name (hmm.  She ought to be on the list).  She was sort of frantic because she also has two thirty+ -student classes in the same room and it was currently set up with one big horseshoe table which could fit maybe twelve students.  It's big enough for the desks she needs but as of Friday it needed a lot of work to get there.

So Saturday Frank and I stripped the plum tree.  I decided against making wine this year because the plums didn't get all that sweet or flavorful.  But when I started processing the plums for jam, cans, and drying, I noticed they were pretty good.  Just as well about the wine though because by the time I did strip them there were not enough good ones to make a whole batch of wine.  But now I have eight jars of tremendously wonderful almost black satsuma plum jam -- tastes more like blackberry, really: six pints of canned plums to eat with cottage cheese: and five trays of dried plums.  Also a plum clafoutis (kind of.  Sliced plums, a tad of thinned plum jam as a kind of gklaze, topped with a thin layer of custard that turned totally magenta in the cooking and a sprinkle of almond meal and a tiny bit of sugar)and a jar of plum syrup and another bowl of plums.  Also I made banana bread with three of my frozen bananas and a bunch of last year's dried fruit and mostly almond meal and a but of that weird "white" whole wheat flour (not very good flour, but it's okay in banana bread where you don't notice the flour anyway).

This year I have also canned eight jars (mostly 24 ounce jars) of tomatoes and three pints of tomato juice and five jars of escabeche (chiles and carrots in vinegar --mostly carrots because that's the part of the escabeche I actually like) and eight jars of peaches and ten jars of pears, and I have dried several batches of other sorts of plums and four trays of pears. And I made eight little jars of "wild" plum jam (the tiny yellow round ones from around the corner) I want to do another six jars of tomatoes and probably half a dozen each of bread-and-butter pickles and garlic dill pickles.  Then I think I'll put up a dozen or so jars of applesauce and maybe apple juice as well.  I'm munching on the dried apples I made a few years ago: they have softened some and now they're suddenly delicious, so maybe I'll dry some of the apples too, just not make them as crispy as I did before when I decided I didn't like them.

Also.  Got my friend Paul over and we pruned the apricot tree to a faretheewell because it hadn't gotten pruned properly in a while and it only fruits on new wood.  Hopefully we did it soon enough and there will be a lot of apricots next year.  Mostly pruned the plum tree too.  Have to bite the bullet and spray everything really well this winter.


I got the loan on the house restarted and it looks very good indeed.

And interest rates dropped again since January so even though I think I'm tacking on Frank's tuition for this year the whole thing will still cost less, and will result in lower monthly payments especially after I immediately pay off every last debt I have.  And Zack will start building as soon as we have the money for materials, and will move in during the spring, and that will be a load off my mind.

And -- as usual -- the loan officer's daughter was a classmate of Frank's.

Today I am officially off work but I am finishing putting my room together for tomorrow!  Also getting my whooping cough booster and mailing that damned Clue game to Glen.
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The deck is paved in almond blossom petals.
It's raining all over the apricot blossoms.
There are double plum blossoms, bright pink, at work, and single wild plum blossoms, white, blooming all over the crazy hedge person's fence on Chestnut Street (locals: you're at Chestnut and Laural, on Chestnut, across from 7-11, and walking towards downtown. The next place beyond the faux-Victorian three-townhouse deal is the crazy hedge person's place. There's a tall fence made of every kind of scavenged fencing and some things which are not even fencing, with all kinds of plant life growing over the top, through the boards, and up from the sidewalk. Salient among these are the wild plums which are blooming now, and some curly aloes, and what I think are baby avocadoes. And, of course, acacia).
The flowering quince has largely recovered from her ravaging: that is, it's blooming all over again, but its branches are still ugly and if it ever stops raining long enough for me to notice I will have to trim it severely.

And Sim City keeps crashing just when I get the city going good.
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I made another batch of peach leather, this time not as a side project to canning peaches. Yield: one big mesh orange bag of windfalls makes five trays of peach leather. Remember to line the trays with the drying mesh and the parchment. The mesh orange bag is for selling ten pounds of oranges, but peaches are much denser than oranges because of their respective peels. Connie still has too many peaches and I don't know if she wants me to make them into things. She could do peach wine, I suppose. I'm not going to. Anyway, lots and lots of them are windfalls, only really good for leather and sauce and stuff.

I racked the wine on Monday. This was eight days after putting it in secondary. It tasted, Frank said, "like Smirnoff ice." That is, it was sweet sweet, and kind of harsh tasting, but probably not very alcoholic. It was a raspberry-magenta color, and less murky than before, because it had left a pink smear on the bottom of the carboy (and the extra-wine jug, which is also fitted with an airlock and so therefore is getting almost the same experience as the carboy), but it is still opaque. I guess it must have some translucency because it looks less murky than before. It's rapidly fizzing yet. The nice lady at "Portable Potables" says we should let it get as alcoholic as we want it to be, and then kill the yeast with Campden tablets and adjust the sweetness. I like sweet wines more than I used to, but we'll see.

Emma's Jason's mother has too many Asian pears and I don't like the recipes for them I find online, but they make nice tasting juice. My too many apples are still coming online. I still havde some thinking to do. I think I may take Robyn's too many Asian pears and my too many apples and, surprise, make wine of them. Since I won't make cider. I do have another carboy so I can handle another five gallons of juice.

There are too many grapes coming along but not enough, and not consistently enough, to manage anything spectacular. I'm thinking odd bunches of raisins, maybe. No, I can't just eat them. There are too many. We will also have too manypomegranates this year and I really don't know. The pomegranate liqueur was good but we just aren't big liqueur drinkers.

Those are my fruit progress notes for September 5, 2007.

Also: I have pruned the plum tree way down. I have done almost half the work of pruning the apricot tree way down, including removing the stump of the diseased branch. I have initiated work on the apple tree, thinking that I'd really like to borrow a guy with a chainsaw because I have to remove some large stuff. The almond trees are going to be a big deal again. I'm planning a big attack on the pomegranate after the fruit is done, but I can do all that myself because the pomegranate is all small limbs except for a couple which are close to the ground. I need a new limb saw: Ted says the old one is too dull, and I don't think we can afford to have it sharpened (they have complicated teeth). Also the grape needs severe discipline, and a real arbor, not the haywired one of plastic piping and twine. I also pruned both lemons.

And the lemons need feeding.
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Let's see. Canned plums, check: plum jelly, check. Chinese plum sauce, check: dried plums, check. Plum wine: in primary fermentation. Nice fellow will move to under apple tree tomorrow. I think there are enough good plums still on the tree for me to make more of the plum sauce (it's really good, though it's a color that would frighten you if you came upon it unexpectedly, or in a dark alley), or maybe that plum thing that personhead dragonet2 gave me the recipe for.

Sadly, after spending hours trying to figure it out, I do not have a name for the troubles the plum and apricot tree have. But I do have a remedy, short of euthanasia. So I have a plan, more or less, around that.

Plum madness ends just in time for apple madness to begin. Let's see: I have I think seven quart and three pint-and-a-half jars I can put apple juice into. I do not think this is a good year for me to make cider. Well, it could be. Dried apples are stupid, unlike dried plums which are cool. Apple butter, good, applesauce, better. Apple pie is wonderful. The only problem the apple tree has is worms, which I have been treating faithfully with codling moth traps to no avail. I don't think it's brown apple moth, because the moths I saw were different looking in ways I cannot remember.

Speaking of euthanasia, did I mention that the old refrigerator, which I have roundly hated for the last several years of its life, finally gave us an excuse? The fan motor gave out, or went moribund, anyway, and started making loud noises and stinking up the place with that burnt-motor smell. If your refrigerator does that and you like your refrigerator, you have it fixed. But that refrigerator had tiny cracks all through its structural plastic, and almost everything nonessential was broken: crisper drawers, the shelf that sits on them, door shelves, door handle . . . it was just hideous.

So we got a new one from Sears. We could not afford it: but we're breaking out the last bit of savings anyway to send the boy to Prague, and there's enough left over to buy the fridge. The nice fellow believes to the bottom of his soul that having black appliances is worth an extra fifty dollars, so it's black. To bore you with more details: it was the smallest non-stupid model they had -- 18.2 cubic feet (I know, those of you from countries where they use rational measuring systems are thinking, "what's next? is she going to give the energy usage in poods per fortnight?" but hey, I just live here). It was the least energy-greedy model they had. And let me tell you another effect of a Republican administration: several years ago when I first started daydreaming about replacing the refrigerator, the models that were on display at the Sears store were markedly lower in energy usage across the board than the ones available now. And they varied more. There were more sizes and there were more different options. Now most of the refrigerator models are humongous and take too much energy. One improvement is the almost-universal glass shelf instead of the annoying wire ones. They all had split shelves, which I think is a good thing. The vegetable drawers are tiny, though. I think a large head of cabbage will not fit in one. So I have retained one of the plastic bins I was using to replace the broken vegetable bins in the old refrigerator, and I've put it on a shelf and filled it with leeks, cabbage, carrots, and celery, the things that don't fit into the bins. Also went online and ordered an extra door shelf to put little jars of mustard and pickles and stuff on.

I love having a functional refrigerator and refrigerator light.

Now, if I can get the dishwasher freed from its prison, fixed, returned, and defended from groat, I will be happy.
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I was thinking that what's going on with my trees is plum pox.  There is only one treatment: eradication.  Which means sanitary removal of the trees as soon as the plum is stripped.  But according to everything I've read there is no plum pox in California and nobody expects it any time soon.

Then what I thought was that what both the apricot and the plum have is xylella fastidiosa, which is a bacterium spread by the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which is sort of like a leafhopper and sort of like an aphid. The disease is "phony peach disease" -- I don't know why "phony," except that maybe some people use phony to mean unacceptable or puny, not just to mean fake.  But that's not a real likely thing either.

There is brown rot on the plum, but that's different.  For one thing, it's treatable!  For another, it really does appear to be a second problem.

Or more: I think I may have a virus, and more than one fungus going on.  We have a choice of turning the back yard into a surgery or removing the trees to begin with.

Currently, though, I think I'm going for trying to cure the trees.

On a related front, I've been working on getting the primary fermentation going all day.  Seriously, I didn't even get dressed.  But I did make a straining bag, teeny tiny stitches by hand because I was annoyed by the sewing machine.  It fits perfectly inside the bucket!  And I treated the plums very carefully with campden tablets and cut the weird looking parts off them.  The bucket is going under the apple tree, carefully shielded from bugs and detritus and direct light, so I can tend it without being enclosed in the fumes!

Oh, and there's endage in sight for the nerdy gay romantic comedy.   Really, this time.  I've got notes and everything.
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I think my plum and apricot hybridized this year. The apricots and plums were both milder in flavor. The apricots never got to the melt-in-your mouth stage. The plums mostly have a dapply, pluot-looking skin. They're right next to each other. Most years they overlap in bloom time, but this year they overlapped a lot more. I keep hurting my head trying to figure out whether the F1 generation is the fruit on the original tree or the fruit from the tree that comes from that fruit. This is because I am vague.

Plum and apricot taxonomy: order rosales, family rosaceae, subfamily prunoidiae, genus prunus, subgenius Bob subgenus prunus, and _then_ section prunus for plum and section armeniaca for apricot, my plum being salicina X "Santa Rosa" and my apricot being "Blenheim."

Anyways, I'm up to my eyebrows in plums. So far:

1 quart of dried plum wafers (not prunes, which are prune plums dried whole)
2 quarts of canned plums in apple juice
6 half-pints of low-sugar plum jelly made from the leftover plum/apple juice, low-sugar pectin, and sucralose-sugar blend
and buckets and buckets to be made into one five-gallon carboy of wine: I believe that doubling the batch was part of my problem in the past (we're using montpelier yeast this year. Ellie at Portable Potables says we should ferment the wine dry, then kill the yeast with campden tablets and introduce enough sugar to sweeten the wine to taste.)
and I'm going to make Chinese plum sauce, and plum chutney, but only a little bit of each.

Notes about these things.

If you measure out four quarts of raw plums, plus about a pint or so extra, and you do a hot pack, you will end up with two quarts of plums and about 12 oz extra, and 5 cups extra juice, if you heat the plums in about a quart and a half of apple juice. And the jelly you make from the extra juice will not taste quite plummy enough but will be a very pretty color. If you use one and a half cups of sucralose and two and a half cups of sugar to five cups of juice it will be about the right sweetness but the sucralose-bitter is a bit more prominent than perfect -- not enough to ruin the jelly, though: but next (mast) year, if you do this, (1) use eight quarts of plums for the canned plum stage and a quart of apple juice: (2) cook the plums a minute less: (3)use one cup of sucralose to three cups of sugar.

Four dehydrator trays filled very tight with .3 cm or thereabouts slices of plums makes a quart of dried plum wafers.

Also, we're getting a new refrigerator today so I have to make the house navigable (i.e., move laundry and furniture and clean the old refigerator out). It has glass shelves, supposedly sturdy parts, and to please the nice fellow, it's black.

It's Day 14, and the last two days I have been losing my focus, and I bounced up three pounds, which leaves me at a 19 pound loss (4 since Day 1), but grr. Today I will struggle to regain focus. It's hard to handle all those plums without eating them, though.  And I keep thinking of sandwiches, though I can't honestly say I crave them exactly.

Oh, and:  a thickish letter from Prague arrived yesterday.  In Czechlish!  With information!  And a formal invitation!!!  To take a test and have an interview.  He must be at the testing place at 8:00n in the morning on Sept. 12.  That's less than a month away. . . . (not enough time for his job to pay for his plane ticket and hostel stay, and the money he's getting from the Shadowrun people won't be enough and dog knows when it will come,  so I guess we're it again)

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Well, that was fast. I'm up to the last chapter again. I've added maybe as much as 3.5K, removed no more than 1K (it's looking like it will come in just under 85K, which I think is good for this kind of fluff. And yes, it's fluff). I'm stopping before I get to the part that I was having trouble with, because I want to be fresh when I do it. Of course I have other things to do today too -- not including going to work. I tweaked my back so badly washing tubs for primary fermentation yesterday morning that I can't go to work and pick up babies today. But I have to harvest plums anyway, or they're gone.

Frank went to work today! He's working for an ambulance company which is not as good as the one he wanted to work for, but better than the one he worked for before. (also, the pay? very bad. But it's not nothing) He'll be working in Santa Cruz, meaning (1) he doesn't have to commute any long distance to get to the hospital and (2) he doesn't need to and therefore can't move out -- he's not making enough to move out anyway. And it's less than a month before he's supposed to go to Prague for the test/interview, so he won't have saved enough to go and we'll be sending him somehow. He'll be getting paid for that last Shadowrun supplement any day now, but that's half a week's wages in real money. Most of his pay for that is cred in Shadowrun circles, which can be combined with a sawbuck to get you a sandwich.

I absolutely cannot tell if my romantic comedy is in the slightest bit funny. Isn't that sad?

Thanks everybody who commented on finding rss feeds for blogs on Blogger. I haven't been able to follow through on any suggestions yet, but I have some ideas.
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The nice fellow turned off the water to work on the loud noise the pipes make when the toilet is flushed (I don't say "hammering" because it doesn't fit the description the do it yourself people use for that syndrome). But he didn't manage to fix the problem and the water stayed off.

What water had he laid by?

Well, there was a bucket of used bath water I had set aside to flush the toilet with because if you flush with the bucket there is no noise. There were two half-liters of water in the drinking pitchers. And there are about four gallons of water set aside in plastic containers with a drop of bleach, for disasters (we should have much more).

Emma and Keith (who is going to law school in two weeks! I get my couch back!) went to the corner store and brought back four gallons of bottled water.

Real-time blogging: I just told MC there is no water for baths or laundry. He's been here kind of too much, but I have to give him a little slack as he is actively pursuing jobs that might in aggregate end him up with enough money to get a room somewhere and get him out of my bathtub for good.

My current theory about the lightheadedness is that it will go away when I get my new glasses which ought to be here Real Soon Now. The eye guy said that he wanted to put a prism on one lens because the muscle imbalance between my eyes has increased markedly. I have noticed some eye strain, but I only realized that's what it was when the eye guy talked about it.

The Healthnet haelth coach lady looked up the alcohol phenomenon and it looks like, yes, mere fumes from wine can interact with the gabapentin to cause the effects I have noticed. I think I have to make other plans for the plum tree, then, because when I make wine, I am exposed to alcohol fumes in a much greater concentration than I experienced on Saturday at the wine bar. Oh, didn't I tell that story? Saturday was the quarterly Passport Day for the Santa Cruz wine region. Wineries open up to the public and have tastings of things they don't usually do. The nice fellow loves this, and goes every time, and usually brings home something nice from River Run, which has become our very most favorite winery of all. Saturday I was kind of wrecked and didn't go on the primary run, but I did walk with him over to Beauregard on the wharf. I didn't drink any wine, because of the one-sip incident a few months ago, but I did smell it, and a couple of them I put my tongue to the surface of. Nevertheless, when we left the place, I felt drunk and I swayed when I walked and I knocked a wine glass off a table.

Oh well, it's an imperfect life.

I've got half an hour to finish my quota for the day.

just stuff

May. 12th, 2006 07:49 am
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1. The Namenda (anti-dementia drug) is working for Gloria. She's much more with-it that she was a week ago. However, this is not a magic cure, and the inevitable direction of things is the same.

2. Frank had a ride-along with the fire department yesterday (for his EMT recertification). The students were advised to take treats with them for the firefighters. Frank took his signature pecan pie. One of the firefighters said "Hmm, do you know how to make a chocolate mousse cake?" and gave him the recipe. I'm thinking, if there's an opening in the fire department, somebody might say, "Hey, this is the guy who brought the pie!" (he also got a good evaluation for his professionalism and stuff, too)

And also, the captain who signed off on him is a local celebrity -- Brett Taylor, who has a Salsa and Latin Jazz public radio show and mcs a lot of music events -- the all-city kids' band concert (by which I mean, not a single band recruited from the best players in the district, but every band from all the schools, elementary on up), the all-weekend free outdoor concert in the street put on by the Cabrillo Music Festival (which, I am told, is a world-class event, but I've never been to the festival proper yet, just the outdoor thing), stuff like that. He's an impressive guy, too, smooth deep voice and fine to look at. Yes, he's a fireman, so of course he looks good, but he's also especially handsome, with really dark skin and just a really nice twinkly-eyed expression. He came to my Spanish class and did a presentation, too.

3. It looks like we're going to have a good plum crop after all, but not much in the way of apples, and I didn't for a moment think we'd have many apricots after the severe pruning we did last year (part of which happened by accident: I accidentally broke a major branch and had to trim it all the way back instead of just taking off this sucker I was trying to get)

4. It's really summer by my usual measures except the grass is green.

5. I'm considering doing more vignettes for Afterwar from the refugee's POV, mostly to make it longer, but I'm thinking I might be able to develop some of the things I have regretted not getting to.

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