Monday, February 15, 2021

My Apricot Hopes: from Jam to Stones to Little Trees

 I had hoped to make a trip to a few apricot orchards last summer. 

Spurred on by blog and cookbook author, Lisa Prince Newman, I had noted the location of some orchards in what people now think of as Silicon Valley, but it was not always so.  I grew up just north of the Golden Gate and remember a family jaunt to orchards south of the city.  Little farms that welcome visitors and have ripe cherries and apricots on the trees make a pretty indelible memory.  

Pre-covid, back in the last months of 2019 and maybe even a week or two in January 2020, I was imagining an early summer trip to Monterey County to visit friends on the coast south of Carmel. On our return home I had hoped  to wind our way to a few orchards I had read about.  Timing is everything with apricots; it is a short season and a fragile fruit, but the possibility of tree ripened apricots seemed within my grasp. 

Sadly, the 2020 apricot events had to be cancelled and family farms and orchards were not open to the public. Visiting our friends was not an option either. Our trip to the central coast is still a hope for another season. 

As the summer of 2020 unfolded, my gratitude for our garden and fruit trees grew, but I was wishing I had an apricot tree.  We twice had planted an apricot in our home garden. The first was one of the many fruit trees crushed by a neighbor's giant Cedar tree while we were renting out our house and working in Carmel. The tenants in our house telephoned to tell us of the fearful sounds as the huge tree fell on a stormy night. Thankfully the heavy trunk and long limbs had just missed the house. Everyone was safe; there was much to clean up but more for which to be grateful. 

We bought new young trees and made a Saturday trip north to plant them; but alas the apricot replacement was not one of those we found alive when we returned home a few years later.  While apricots are available in the markets, they are often either green or over ripe and generally pretty expensive.  So why didn't I promptly plant another apricot?  Let's just say it was a very busy and complicated time.

Imagine then, my delight, when in the shut-down summer of 2020 the oldest local fruit stand, which has grown over the years into a trendy expensive market, used a notorious social media platform to advertise organic apricots clearly at a "loss leader" price.  We donned our masks and headed down the road and were possessed of twenty-two pounds of blushing apricots within the hour. 

Oh, and they were good, those apricots, and we ate as many fresh as we could and made jam together in several sessions and felt pleased with the results and ourselves. 

Now I had a heap of pits. I just couldn't bring myself to toss them.  Many fruit trees grow best from cuttings, but having grown my favorite peach tree  from a pit that sprouted in my compost pile, I was pretty sure an apricot stone could yield a tree that would  carry on the most desirable traits of its parents. 

My favorite peach tree blooming last spring.
My favorite peach tree in spring 2020 bloom

 I knew that different seeds require certain conditions in order to germinate because as a child I had watched my father.  He would admire a tree in Golden Gate Park and gather some seeds and start experimenting.  He explained to me what botanists call stratification as a process of tricking the seed into waking up by mimicking the conditions of the seasonal changes of nature. I knew I had to wake my sleeping pits, stir them from their complacent dormant state. 

A quick search led me to the school of "youtube" where I found several generous instructional videos about  germinating stone fruits. One method was to put the whole pit in some soil in a bag and stick it in the refrigerator, while another proponent  said to remove the kernel from the outer shell and store them in soil in the fridge.  A third tree sprouter said to put bare kernels alone in a bag and store them in the freezer.  

So on July 27th, 2020 I did all three of those things. 

I could've checked them in August. I surely could have inquired on their well being in September.  Several weeks at low temp would have been enough to wake them, but it was October 13th before I rescued my bags of moist dirt and pits and brought them to the light of day.  The package of soil-less naked kernels is still tucked in the freezer, so that part of my experiment is on hold for now. 

I was excited to find that both whole and naked kernels were sproutingI planted two of each and labeled the pots on 10/13/2020

On 11/03 I repotted the two viable trees, they were both from whole pits.  I think that au natural is the best way to go.  I have continued to have success with additional pits from the whole pit bag.

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The other pots surrounding the trees have additional sprouters that I have since popped into soil.  If you try it, put the root poking out of the now cracked open pit facing down and keep them moist.  I have plastic egg crates over my pots to keep them a bit warmer but more importantly to stop the visiting squirrels from digging them up.  I have had fun gifting sprouting apricot seeds to nearby friends ... we all need something to watch grow in these strange days. And hopefully we can all look forward to apricots on our little trees, maybe three to five years down the road.  


Today, in between trying to find the hidden typos in this story of pits, cold dirt and hidden hope, I realized all these hopeful trees already need taller pots because they want to put down a nice long tap root, so I transferred them to bigger pots. 

I don't mean this post as instructions for growing stone fruit trees, there are many sources available with more and better information.  I'm just saying hello and sharing a little project that buoyed my heart of late.  I hope you're finding ways to keep as much of your life on track as possible during these prolonged and challenging days of covid related restrictions. It is so easy to get derailed.  


February 15, 2021***UPDATE***13 little trees and growing.




Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Saturday, August 31, 2019

In the Western Hills ...a poem

For my friend who has painted many wonderful images...a word picture
for Daria…


In the Western Hills

The road rises
through gullies
edged with wild seed flowers
Queen Anne’s Lace
bobs high on slender stems 

Atop the rise, on both sides
Black cows graze in golden grass.
Yellow headed daisies 
poke through the white lace umbels
Sunshine in a sea of clouds. 


August 2019
Jeannette


painting by Daria Shachmat

Monday, January 14, 2019

Today, while it is Yet so Called

Yes.  Pressing on. 
One step at a time. 
“At a time.”
The morning routine is fraught with awareness of time.

How often is time noted by mortals as “fleeting”?

Youth, at play, absorbed in doing-exploring-being, does not take note of time.

Those of us older than a child,  those who’ve passed into the realm of self consciousness, also can dwell in deeply immersed doing, but in retrospect are often aware…“Time got away from me.”  

Or, did I get away from time? 

So much time does get away, and then we splash in pools of memories, murky little puddles though they may be.

I have muddled in my own and others' memories at near expert level, looking for that jigsawed piece that could  finish the puzzle laid out on today’s flat surface.  What could -should -would such completion mean for tomorrow? 

But fragments of time gathered again, like crumbs of bread brought back to the baskets after all have been fed and are satisfied, speaks not only of brokenness but of the whole always fragrant and new. 

The invitation is ever emblazoned on the morning: ”...today, while it is yet called today...” 


Monday, December 24, 2018

The Madonna and Child


by Sebastiano Conca ( 1676-1764)




Such a lovely depiction this is...in the years I was privileged to see it daily, it never failed to touch me. 

Joyous Christmas Tidings 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Book Review: Americans and the California Dream by Kevin Starr

I read Kevin Starr’s Americans and the California Dream very slowly, in small passages and with no sense of pressure over a period of 8 months. 

It’s not a chronology of large happenings, but rather a record and Starr’s literary cultural analysis of what others thought and wrote in and about the California of 1850-1915. Starr had, as his vantage point, substantial historical knowledge and a native son’s heart for ferreting out the antecedents of subsequent events and dynamic on-going consequences intended and otherwise. 

In Starr’s words from the last page, he selected "acts of definition, moments when vision and event betrayed their interchange, and the aesthetic pattern and moral meaning of social experience became clear. History grants few such occasions.” (P. 444) 

I construct a timeline for myself as I read any history. As much information as I am able to retain, dates often escape me. Starr presents his narrative as an ”act of memory” rather than a classic or linear analysis. It might help some readers to read the final page reflections in conjunction with the introduction to avoid what some reviews express as frustration with and disappointment in this approach to history. 

Any study of people, time and place is best done through the politics, history and literature of the period. Starr’s book is best read as an adjunct to both linear historical documentations and first hand accounts, journals and essays of the time.  I have read many of the accounts to which Starr refers with some notable exceptions. I have never been able to read Gertrude Atherton and Starr’s assessment of her outlook helped me understand more clearly why I have resisted both her “history” and her novels. “For the sake of the establishment myth, and for the sake of her own role as a writer in that establishment, Gertrude Atherton did her best to sustain an illusion…” 

And then there is a book to which Starr has alerted me that I plan to seek out. California Coastal Trails, a Horseback Ride from Mexico to Oregon, by J. Smeaton Chase, was published in 1913. Mr. Starr says that past, present and future converge in this elegant narrative and he likens it to an elegy and yet Chase shares his hope. In Starr’s words, “In 1913 California-as-nature yet seemed capable of coping with California-as-history.”( P. 438)

Kevin Starr researched and wrote with hope himself and his work is testament to his belief that commitment to California does not preclude scrutiny, nor does admiration always blind one to her faults. Americans and the California Dream is work to read, but it is a worthwhile work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Body of the Earth


The body of earth,
our patch of garden,
makes mottled pears and
raspberry red juice run up thorny vines.
Flat white flowers turn
into strawberries.

Slowing down
time will come
a flutter of falling leaves,
short waves of heat,
strong winds,
migrating birds.
The fruits of summer,
stung by the wasps,
bitten by the squirrels,
will be gone.

Today the figs are still plumping
purple lines of sugar.
Apples sun their cheeks
for just a bit more color.

I like them all best
standing on the skin of dirt,
eating them before they know
they have been plucked.