Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When Life Hands You Lemons?

This beast came off our Eureka Lemon tree on the back patio. I've never seen anything quite like it in the 20 years since we planted the tree.

With nine gnarly claws, the lemon seemed to warrant a photo-op.

Kind of reminds me of the citrus called "Buddha's Hand."

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Lillian and Sand Knock It Out of the Park

Mmmm, steak.

Some weeks ago, Lil and I were about to once again make a modified "Bloody Mary Marinade" for a tri-tip. However, we did not have any horseradish or Louisiana Hot Sauce on hand. So we collaborated and came up with our own.

First of all, the tri-tip ... the cut of meat has a long tail. You don't start with that. The second angle is about 30 degrees -- don't cut that way either. You want to cut your steaks from the tip that is more of a right angle. Okay, fine, next time I'll take pictures. You just want your cut steaks against the grain, because tri-tip can be tough. This particular tri-tip was only $2.49/lb, a promotional sale at the supermarket. Yes, I bought more than 20 pounds that day.

Even cut right, tri-tip steaks can be unpleasantly chewy, so you marinate them from two to twelve hours in advance, with:

Lillian and Sand's Excellent Marinade

2 cups tomato juice (16 oz.)
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
a few shakes of your favorite other hot sauce
a heaping tablespoon of sour cream
four or five big cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of your chef's knife or your meat tenderizer's flat side

Lillian and Bernie grilled the marinated steaks for a couple minutes on each side on the barbecue. The open flame does a fabulous caramelization on the edges.

They were so good that I don't know if I'll ever want to do tri-tip any other way again. Bernie says, "You will if it's raining."

*Photo is from public domain images. We ate all the steak before I could remember the camera.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Feathers of Autumn

The black phoebe was perched in our potted plum tree, putting his feathers in order when he spotted me standing in the doorway with my camera. He doesn't look too pleased about the photoshoot.

Autumn equinox was Friday; on Saturday the white-crowned sparrows showed up on the back patio, making tiny cheeps. Then one of them let out a loud territorial call, marking the change of season.

Bluebirds are gathering into loose flocks, dusting themselves here and there on the sidewalks and streets; blackbirds are packing themselves into huge flocks and swirling like dust devils above fields and trees. I hear the flights of geese overhead, and curlews, and kildeer.

It's Fall.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Conclusion of "Out with the Trash."

Back in 2003, I had an idea for NaNoWriMo 2004. I had completed Character Assassin (easiest NaNo ever) and was thinking about the next year.

It was a spite novel, to include as a character a person that I had known who was unpleasant. But what to build upon? 50 thousand words is a lot of words to indicate that someone I once knew more than twenty years before was an ass. And keep him anonymous, of course. I'm not above vengeance, but not prone to libel.

It was to be about him being a hog, but not to be "about him" per se, because I didn't have any clue as to why he was actually a hog. Instead I wanted to write about his household, because it had to be as unpleasant as he was.

By the time 2004 rolled around, I had a good idea of what I wanted to happen. The summer of 2004 I remember fondly because so many mornings, I spent chatting with my friend Wendy Robards about what the hog's spouse had to be to have put up with him for so many years. That foundational exploration lent the character Emily Storm Fatzer a strong emotional and reactive bent. I knew who she was, and how she would deal with Hog Mark Fatzer before I ever began the story.

At the end of November, 2004, I had a novel in my hands, Out with the Trash, and it wasn't bad. There were some minor edits to be made, and one big one, a chapter that just didn't seem complete.

Thirteen years ago, I knew I had to edit that incomplete chapter, maybe add another 200 - 500 words. Couldn't bring myself to do it.

It wasn't that I didn't love the story and the characters, it wasn't that I didn't know what to say, it was ... what?

I don't know, even now, when the chapter is complete and published in the Piker Press weeks ago, what it was that hung me up for so many years. But as of next Monday, Emily's story will be complete, and Out with the Trash will be a published novel online.

The illustrations for the story are from my photos of koi at a water garden store in Oakdale, California, and from our own pond out in front of our porch.

Many thanks again to Wendy Robards and my husband Bernie, for reading and suggesting improvements to the finished work.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer Bliss

Each year that I've grown corn in containers, by the time they are about four feet tall, I wonder if it's worth it. Corn wants a lot of water and fertilizer to develop well, and the last few years, California has been in a prolonged drought. Even though last Spring saw our reservoirs filled by rain, we still have restrictions on watering; that means that most of the water we collect from the sink or shower waiting for the hot stuff to come out of the faucet has to be carried out to the corn.

Is it worth it?

Then, by the time the corn is seven feet tall and corn silk begins to be visible, I wonder again if the investment in water is going to allow good formation of ears.

The tassel at the top of each stalk begins to shed pollen, and ears begin to show. I touch the silk, gently squeeze the ears. Is there any bulk in there? Is the silk drying out a little?

Time for a test: I peel back a little bit of the husk ... and there are white and yellow kernels, pretty as jewels in a treasure chest. The corn is ready.

And with the first bite of tender, sweet, fragrant front yard corn, I know that all the water was worth it, and that I'll plant more next Spring.

Friday, August 04, 2017


The piece leaning against the car is the first piece he tore off: the lid.

We bought a new garden shed for the north side of the house, and it arrived in an enormous cardboard box. I knew that I'd never be able to get the empty box into my car's cargo area to take it to the recycle center,  so I asked for some help breaking it down.

Kermit said that he'd be glad to assist me, and after jumping into the box, he dismantled it from the inside out. I think it took him 30 minutes.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


Not long after I planted my tomatoes out in the front yard, I was bullshitting with the owner of the empty house next door. "I got over 150 pounds of tomatoes last year, but I had a few unproductive vines. This year, I'm thinking I'll get 300 pounds of tomatoes out of here."

I hoped I wouldn't regret my words later, not wanting to be known as a bullshitter, even though I was in the bullshitting mode.

Then, as can be seen in the previous post, I had a record tomato picking day. A few days later, I added another 44-pound picking. And THEN, on July 3, I broke the record and picked 55 pounds of beautiful, beautiful tomatoes. At that point, I knew I'd get my 300 by the end of tomato season.

On the 28th of July, I hit my goal. 301 pounds of tomatoes from a small suburban front yard. 

 The vines are getting a bit weary at this point, and who can blame them? So I did a stout trimming on the indeterminate vines (Early Girl and Gladiator) and took off all the branches that are done with production or that looked like they would be unproductive. The Shady Ladies are still producing; they're not ready to be pruned just yet. 

I'll keep track of what I pick until the end of the season, of course. But no more bullshitting. I have no idea how many more tomatoes I'll get this year.

That's Kermit beside the tomatoes, being such a good, calm dog. And the picture of the yard is taken from the next door neighbor's yard -- a next door neighbor who will own the house starting tomorrow. Seems like a really nice guy, and he says his wife loves raising tomatoes. Wouldn't that be cool?