Sunday, April 29, 2012

 These teenies are a new variety of tomato for me: Burpee's Big Daddy.

Billed as bearing fruit with the classic Big Boy taste (arguably the best flavor) but with built-in disease resistance, they're just this year being offered as seed. Well, I've given them a try.

I have a thing about tomato plants: I love the smell of them, the fruit of them, the crazy exuberant growth of them. I could no more resist growing tomato plants than I could stop making my own tortillas. What would my yard be like without tomato plants? A wasteland, that's what. Tomatoes are a must-have.

The problem I have with tomatoes is this: I can't resist them. As a result, I usually end up with more tomato plants than I actually should have, but as that number is not fixed ... well, how many cats should a crazy cat-lady have in her house, anyway? Fifty is certainly too many, but four -- is that too high a number? What about six, if she keeps the catbox clean?

The Marglobe Ladies
From seed, I have some of the Big Daddy plants, and some Marglobes (they produced so nicely late last year); I have a bush Goliath tomato in a half-wine barrel (it has six tomatoes on it already); I bought two Romas for Bernie (he eats tomatoes now, after 58 years of hating them!).

But we were at the supermarket last week, and there on the shelf was a tall and rather straggly-looking beast called "Steak Sandwich." I walked away from it, knowing that I had enough plants.

Two days later I refrained from going back over to the store to buy it, but it was preying on my mind. Day before yesterday, we went to the store to pick up a few things, and I was drawn to the shelf of tomatoes. There it was, the very plant, unbought by any discerning shopper.

I rode home, the Steak Sandwich on my lap.

I knew it was an excessive number of plants for our gardens, but I could not pass up the chance. "It was meowing at me," I told the family.

Late yesterday, Alex and I discovered a horde of volunteer tomato plants coming up in the front yard planters, from compost which had junk seeds in it.

With a big grin, I turned to Alex and said, "Look! Kittens! Aren't they adorable?"

Seriously, I have to be done adopting tomatoes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


 This happy face was the first of the cosmos to bloom.

None of these plants were planted; they came up on their own from their parents' cast seeds or bulbs.

The cosmos' parents were from a six-pack that our local hardware was giving away last May; every Thursday, any woman shopping there could have a free six-pack of flower plants. I chose cosmos one week, and their seeds fell to the deck around the pool and were subsequently swept by Bernie to the no-man's land beneath the grape vine. This spring, the cosmos children leaped up in joy to have their own planting in the earth.

I gathered all the freesia bulbs from the disintegrated wine barrel that used to sit under the Japanese maple ... but missed some seed that opted to grow. Who could bear to tear them out? If they proliferate,  I can't deny them. One tiny stalk, yet they perfume the air around for ten feet or more.

 This creature is the image of its parent plant from last year, which was in itself a volunteer. I love nasturtiums, with their zesty smell (and you can eat them in salads) and bright colors, but they can get out of hand in their second and third generations. Red Splotch here has already traveled six feet in multiple directions, looking for optimum sunshine. I do admire its purposefulness and ingenuity, but am keeping a close eye on it so that it doesn't kill the Japanese maple or rip out the foundations of the house.

Life, in its beauty, does not have to be ordered, or orderly. Sometimes it is crazy productive, other times just has a little stage time to wave, do its tiny dance, and be  gone, committed to memory by a few fortunate admirers.

I try to remember that I'm one of those volunteers of the earth, too, that I was not cultivated to specially produce great super-market sized fruit or florist-quality proliferation of out-sized blooms. (Maybe my mother would stamp a foot in her failure to make me an astronaut, a neurosurgeon, or a Nobel Prize winner, but oh, well, Mom, I didn't want to sit in the fertilizer in the hothouse, after all.)

These poppies, which I never planted, but were on this land before I bought it, survive and grace our Springs each year with their gaiety, their color, and their will to survive, year after year. They produce seeds, and let them go; they don't worry about whether the seeds will get to the big garden, or just sprout from cracks in the brick deck.  I love them, and take heart in them, and call them sisters;  no one knew what I would become in my life, and maybe what I have become is simply a drifting volunteer, changing from season to season, what the climate decides is right.

My volunteers shout to me not to worry about the future, because what will grow in the earth next season is likely to have some tremendous beauty in it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sometimes you just point the camera and click -- and hope for a usable photo. This was one.

That dang warbler was singing up a storm, but of probably ten clicks, this was the only one that revealed the bird, as it has a habit of moving to a different branch every three seconds. (This is a trait that helps the bird be safe from hawks, foxes, snakes, and soul-sucking photographers.)

There are a number of warblers in this area, and I was not readily able to identify the name of this one. The bird book I have, rather after the fact, noted that the various species do interbreed, sometimes making identification difficult. Perhaps this specimen is the offspring of star-crossed lovers, wishing for rusty stripes on his chest or screaming yellow patches beneath his wings and on his rump, one or the other, giving him a solid identity.

And in the mean time, both Bernie and I fell ill of a damned cold, which lays one low and makes one wish for death to visit soon; in addition, the Tenth Anniversary Issues of the Piker Press (what the hell was I thinking, inviting former contributors to rise to the occasion and submit again?) are crushing me with the work load; and the horse had to be exercised to offset the chance of colic ... let's add to that the furniture being rearranged due to Joan Maria's arrival in seven weeks, and a sudden scooty urge to refinish a coffee table (it's looking great, pics soon) and polyurethane three art boards, three coats apiece, and the gardens -- my cukes are up! My volunteer cosmos are opening their first buds! -- the days have flown by wickedly quickedly.

My novels screech at me for attention, my dog needs a severe brushing and a bath, and my toenails must obtain a trimming before Mass tomorrow. How the hell am I supposed to find my way to boredom as a Senior Citizen?

Cheryl, I know you're out there; I read a first chapter on an essential watercolor technique book that says the first thing you have to apprehend is the stretching of paper. Soak it, flatten it on a waterproof surface (hence my polyurethaning the boards) and then tape it up for work. I'm not convinced of all this, but I shall give it a crack in weeks to come.

In the mean time, I had hoped that I would not have to take cold medication tonight, but my sinuses have cast their ballots against my plans, and their proponents have lit bonfires and staged protests.

Drugs it is.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Try To Pick One Thing ...

... Of all that has happened since the last post.

How to proceed?

There's been the insanity of trying to keep up with the Piker Press 10th Anniversary issues and their glorious presentation of many talented authors, the wild and wooly weather that has given us flooded gardens and a much-needed boost to the Sierra snowpack, a new movie to review, major furniture movement in the house, a potato orchard, new submissions to the Press over and beyond the Anniversary issues, a 37th wedding anniversary, a shivering traumatized dog after thunderstorms ...

Oh yes, and then add in cooking and laundry and exercise and scoping out bits of Modesto as I researched old St. Stan's church so as to move on to the next phase of Loon and Donkey, one of the novels I'm working on.

Today was allegedly the last day of crazy rain, hail, thunder and lightning (and unbelievably, snow, on the topmost peaks of our mountains to the west) ... I know we could use still more snow in the mountains to the East, but I (and my tomato kittens) would prefer some clement weather until next November.

Tomorrow, Bernie and I embark upon a tour of artists' studios in this area. I'm looking forward to this event very much, but find myself resenting the time that will be taken from working on the Press.

It will all work out.