Category Archives: Musings

What I see and love.

Come again another day

Rain came yesterday like the breaking of a spell.  I woke up to wet pavements and dripping eves and stood on my deck inhaling the damp cool air and thanking whatever front had pushed away the high pressure system that has hung over us for so long, with its record high temperatures and desert humidity.  The years-long drought is fearsome enough, but this time we added to it what seemed like a year with no winter.  Day after day with temperatures in the seventies and eighties may seem like paradise for awhile, but not when I need a cool wet season to plant my orchard, and rain to keep the soil moist so their roots can grow before the dry summer.   Yesterday’s rain, over by noon, wasn’t much, but it brought hope along with it, the possibility that conditions had changed and that it might stay cool and even rain again sometime soon.

Benjamin Franklin and Obamacare

“We are, I think, in the right road of improvement, for we are making experiments.”

“God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say, ‘This is my country.'”

I think he would have approved of the Affordable Care Act.

Blue State Graft

February and early March are dormant grafting season.  For several years I’ve been involved in a statewide group of people interested in preserving rare and interesting types of fruit-bearing trees.  In the late winter various chapters hold scion exchanges at which people can buy rootstocks and collect twigs (a.k.a. scions — hence the name of the exchanges) of different varieties of fruit to graft onto them.   Around here, backyard orchards are a pretty popular hobby; in the early spring, public libraries hold classes on how to graft fruit trees, and our local chapter puts on a grafting clinic, with demonstrations and some one-on-one help.   I’ve learned the basics of grafting, and every spring now I build a few trees of my own.  I have quite a flock of them, many in pots, waiting for the day when I can finally plant my fantasy orchard.

Early this month I grafted four kinds of pears and two of apples, and a nectarine onto rootstocks and started some fig cuttings indoors.   A couple of weeks later I grafted a couple of twigs of Golden Delicious apple from one tree of mine onto another.   The antique pears have wonderful French names:  Buerre Hardy, Conseilleur a la Cour, Duchesse de Comice.    Because I’m not skilled and don’t have confidence, grafting for me is slow and fiddly.  It also carries a frisson of danger, because grafting knives are as sharp as razors.  I cut myself at least once each season; this year it was a nasty slice in my forefinger.  I’ve come to believe that grafts won’t really take unless you shed some blood as a sort of sacrifice.

My daughter and son-in-law bought bare-root trees — avocados, apples, a pear, a mandarin, a lime — for their new house.   I could probably do that; these days nurseries sell an amazing variety of trees.   I don’t know, though; there’s something satisfying and enlightening about learning a skill, seeing my homemade trees  grow and  bear fruit, and absorbing the lore of rootstocks and graft types.   It’s an ancient art, and it feels right to be part of another generation carrying it forward.




Little dog in the rain

Several times recently, as I’ve walked from the bus to work, I’ve seen a man walking a cocker spaniel. I never notice the man, and I couldn’t tell you what he looks like. All I really notice is the dog, who is, like most cocker spaniels, attention-grabbingly cute. Cockers generally have dark soulful eyes, but this little guy’s eyes are deep and tragic, dark as dead coals in his blunt little face and full of sorrow, like windows into all the darkness of the world. This morning it was raining, and he was walking out in a neon yellow dog slicker, complete with a little hood.

Accidental landscaping

This is the time of year when the earliest fruit trees, the plums and cherries, begin to flower. Ordinary street trees suddenly become bouquets of complex pink blossoms, and backyard trees spill sprays of pale flowers over fences. And far away from any streets or houses, wild plum trees dot the hills, white lace against the dark oak and manzanita.

Winter in a Mediterranean climate

We live in one of a small number of places in the world with a Mediterranean climate, which means, among other things, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. In our part of California, winter feels much more like spring. In the cool air and the rains that fall after six months of dry air, heat and sun, little tender green grasses, sorrels, and mints blanket the wet earth. The hills turn from bitten gray-brown to loden and then emerald green. The dark mornings and early nightfalls of the December holidays and the letdown period of January aren’t a time of cold, stillness and snow, but of renewal, with frosty mornings and brisk days. Deciduous trees are bare, but paperwhite narcissus and a few roses are blooming in my yard, along with winter daphne, and on my walks I see occasional winter iris, grape hyacinth, and crocus.