Tag Archives: Pride of Madeira

We drink hogwash, and play.

This morning I drove on many narrow and winding roads that I’d never been on before,
on my way to the coast to meet Pippin’s family at the oyster farm.

 

On the way there, I lost cell service, and lost my way, but until I realized how late I was going to be, I was oohing and aahing at the scenery and hoping to take pictures on the way home. After that, I just drove as fast as I could and made myself carsick.

But I got there, and pulled up behind the familiar black van; Pippin and the children were standing next to Highway 1 looking for me, and Ivy ran up and declared, “It’s stinky!” With that we began our tour of the Hog Island Oyster Company. Hog Island is an island in Tomales Bay, where these oysters are raised, several million every year.

 

< < Oyster shells are put to good use
in the parking areas.

Isn’t that an interesting crack-like body of water? It can’t be a fjord, because this is California. The San Andreas Fault, which is “a transform fault–where plates pass one another like cars on a two way street,” runs in a line down the middle of the bay. This classic photo (at left) of a displaced fence shows what happened as a result of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and why rock formations on the east and west sides of the bay are so very different. Earthquake country! Here is another map of the area if you want to get your bearings. It is the county just north of San Francisco.

Oysters really like to grow here, because of the particular mix of fresh and salt water, the currents, temperature, and the rich variety of plankton. The farmers keep constant and close tabs on everything, including bacteria, temperature, and those plankton. The plankton are counted every week! Here’s a chart they use when they are looking through their microscopes at the seawater samples:

(Sorry, I was also looking at it upside-down.) We saw samples of different types of oysters such as French, Pacific, Atlantic… As you might guess, the Pacific oysters are what they grow the most of here. Oysters naturally grow and fuse together and if left to themselves will eventually form a solid oyster wall in the water. Farmers have to be stirring them up all the time or breaking them apart to keep them growing in the most usable form, and a typical smallish Pacific oyster takes one and a half years from seed to harvest.

baby oysters found on the ground
“wild” oyster

These farmers typically harvest 60% of what they plant. There are frequent quarantines for a few days every time it rains, or if a strange bacterium is found in the bay. Regulations come from the government at both federal and state levels, and they can conflict and cause delays that have nothing to do with safety. You can be pretty sure that the oysters you buy or eat here are fresh and safe, but oysters are like Petri dishes if you drive a couple of hours on a warm day, carrying them home in the trunk of your car. With all of the possible complications in oyster farming, I’m surprised that they aren’t more expensive to buy.

The oysters here are raised in bags on a line under the water, and the bags are frequently flipped to jostle them and keep them from growing on to each other. These are a couple of bagsful just harvested.

We did get to eat a few oysters, too, and several other delectable things from the picnic café right next to the barn where they are sorting. With all the variableness of growing conditions and regulators’ decisions, oyster farming is not consistently profitable, so many farmers have branched out and are operating restaurants as well, from which they can earn a somewhat more steady income. Here in Marin they have a lot of clientele from Marin County and the East (San Francisco) Bay.

The little café has barbecue grills where you can cook Hog Island’s oysters in your own way if you want, while looking out at Tomales Bay and the birds. We didn’t use those, but we did eat raw oysters with lemon and Hogwash — this establishment’s version of Mignonette sauce; barbecued oysters, burrata cheese, and trout with roe. Our guide’s son preferred to put the Hogwash on his bread or to drink it straight up. Truly, it’s good to have bread with a meal like this, for sopping up the juices of everything.

Pippin and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the wildlife and the child-life,
and the multicolored buildings of this historic town of Marshall.

After all that fun I said good-bye to everyone and drove home by myself. Sprinkles of rain accompanied me all along my leisurely drive, but not so much that I couldn’t take take pictures. Right across the road from the oyster company were bushes that looked sort of like broom to me… but not quite.

When I got home I found out it is gorse, of all things, like in the English stories. This cousin of broom is not native, it’s terribly invasive and undesirable, and a fire hazard to boot. Broom has leaves, and gorse has prickles! If you want to know more, this article about Gorse the Invader is very informative.

I feasted my eyes on Tomales Bay, cattle, mustard and more mustard, and clumps of calla lilies like you only see on the coast. Often next to a driveway to a dairy farm, a few bulbs were planted long ago and still thrive and expand on benign neglect under the foggy skies, growing into an irregular and wide swath that contrasts in the loveliest way with the green grass. These patches never will appear where I am able to pull over and snap their picture. Pacific Coast iris dot the fields on such narrow stretches of road that it would be dangerous for me to walk back from a turnout in an effort to frame them with my camera.

My favorite Pride of Madeira (echium) is in bloom, too!

As you can see, I did eventually get home, filled with knowledge and images — and oysters!

The hummingbird and I

Sweeping up, trimming dead leaves, feeding, transplanting…. I love it all. This afternoon I managed to spend a few hours working in the garden and though I accomplished only a fraction of what’s needing done, every little bit helps, right? Back and forth I went from the greenhouse to the strawberry barrels, from the garage to the patio, carrying blood meal or seaweed food, a lavender plant in a pot, the pruners or a trowel or a trug in which to put the trimmings.

In the morning before I even came downstairs I was listening to the birds, and when I looked out the window of my bedroom I got a nice view of the snowball bush that has begin to bloom. And when I aimed my camera a little bit to the right of that, it shows you the table where we will sit over tea when you come to visit. After touring the garden, of course!

As I was eating my breakfast I noticed a hummingbird checking out the Pride of Madeira, or echium candicans — that’s because the blue flowers have finally started to open!! I hope lots more flowers will follow, to fill out the bloom properly.

Both kinds of rockrose, cistus, have opened now, and both are heartmelting:

Below, heuchera and blue-eyed grass:

My big rose geranium that I keep by the back door, in hopes that I will brush against it when I pass by and catch some of its scent, was terribly overgrown and gangly. I trimmed it severely and brought in a few stems to put with pincushion flowers on the kitchen counter.

All that was in the back garden. When the light was waning, and I had put away my garden tools but not my camera, I went to the front and saw that in the last day an asparagus stalk had suddenly made a sharp turn and was coming on to the sea holly.

Isn’t he a brave fellow to cozy up to such a prickly girl?

I missed my walks by the creek today, and visits with weeds. I don’t have to work hard to enjoy those wild plants; they take care of themselves and I never have a thought to remove them from wherever they are growing. But they also aren’t as satisfying to me as all my demanding cultivated flowers and vegetables! I’m looking forward to more work and pleasure tomorrow.

Where is home, and where is Heaven?

Sooo slow I am in fully returning to Being Home. Though I suppose I never will be living in my house in quite the same way as before, having sojourned so distantly, and changed in God only knows what ways. I grew older, for sure. But maybe I grew younger, too?

clean air, vineyards and mustard bloom

I was so surprised, when I walked in the front door on my return from that other world, to see that I have wood floors. At that moment I didn’t feel the lack of windows and light, but only felt the warmth and welcome that my house had held in trust for me all those weeks, even though I had learned to live happily with hard and cool marble floors, and the strange light coming through a multitude of windows, reflected off the Arabian Sea and filtered through smog.

It’s taken me nearly three weeks just to fill and start up the fountain again. The finches were having to make do with winterized nyger seed, that is, frozen and thawed, rained on and packed down into a brick at the bottom of the feeder. But I fixed those things today and looked around some more at the garden. Rosemary is blooming and the fountain is now tinkling.

I just learned that Swiss chard is also called silverbeet!
Jerusalem Sage
Pride of Madeira with no blooms yet…

Do you remember Miss Grenadine? She was a gift from Mr. Glad. She kept watch over my bedroom while I was gone, and still does during the day:

I had lunch with my goddaughter last week. She and her husband lost their house in the fires that ravaged our area last October. A day or two after that dreadful event, she texted me, “Wherever our family is together, that is home.”

I understand some of that. Ever since my husband passed from this earthly life three years ago this month, I have felt most at home when I am with my children, wherever a few of us are gathered. I don’t think I would feel this way if we didn’t all agree on this: though we’ve been supremely blessed in this life, it’s not satisfying in itself, no matter what beautiful place you live in and with what dear humans.

At this moment I’m thinking about things homey and cozy (or cool, as we preferred, in Mumbai), but of course concurrent in all of our lives is pain and suffering. Wherever I go, I bring myself with my sin-sickness, and I carry in my heart the burdens of those whose suffering seems to me hardly bearable. But in every place, Christ is. He is the one who makes the atmosphere sweet with the scent of flowers or the affection of our children. He is always giving us Himself.

At the end of things, The Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” And the lost will say, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.
― C.S. Lewis

March colors, surprises and celebrations.

ceanothus blue so hemI took a long walk around the neighborhood this morning. If I had brought my camera, I’d have more pictures to post, but then the prayer and exercise benefits of my outing would have been greatly reduced, so I don’t regret not thinking of it.

I noticed fuzzy chamomile plants close to the ground, and the cobalt blue ceanothus bushes such as we used to have at our former property. Many types of ceanothus grow wild in California but you can also buy them at nurseries. The picture above shows the color that is blooming around here right now.

pine cone forming 3-15 March is the month of our wedding anniversary, which makes it the month that we have many times made day or weekend trips within northern California to celebrate. Usually some blue bushes are flowering in the places we are visiting, and we are outdoors a lot walking or looking from highway overlooks. Maybe this is one reason that blue flowers have long been my favorite.

For example, Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), which I first noticed decades ago in Big Sur. It can grow in our county and we even had one on our church property for a while, but they must not thrive here. The picture at bottom I took last year in Cambria.

P1120593 forget-me-not 3-12-15
forget-me-nots in the garden

At home this morning the pine cones that are forming in our big tree caught my eye. It seems to me there are double or triple the number of them that have grown there before — or maybe it is just my imagination.

P1120545crp

Is there some climactic condition that could cause this, say, severe drought that makes the tree feel that it is dying, and ought to get busy and reproduce? I’ll have to ask the children if their memories are different from mine. I still don’t know what kind of pine this is. The task of finding out needs to go on a project list that is buried somewhere here. It will be a small project just to find it.

P1120548 cones

The children I want to consult with, all five of them, will be here celebrating with us this month – we’re letting them do the traveling this year. It’s not like the early years when we had to get away to be alone. Nowadays being alone is the usual thing, and we are thrilled when any kids converge on our house.

Mr. Glad and I sat in the back yard this afternoon, on a bench in the sun. If I have many more days in which I accomplish both a walk beside a creek among the trees and sitting in the sun, I may find that I don’t need the Christmas lights that are still shining around my kitchen window.

sourgrass 3-15 crp

While we were relaxing and facing my potted plants, it suddenly dawned on me that sourgrass was living and blooming in the miniature rose pot. When did he move in? I don’t remember having sourgrass anywhere on our property in all the 25 years we have lived here. Maybe a bird dropped in a seed.

Another new thing is the Christmas cactus in bloom. The story behind my cactus is long: Friend May and I had both admired the mother cactus in our friend Jerry’s house for decades. It was a prolific bloomer and it was a huge potted plant on wheels, taking up a space about 4′ x 4′, with most of that measured out by long arching stems. When Jerry moved to a retirement home 3-4 years ago, May gave me a big chunk of his cactus plant with roots.

But I don’t have the wall of windows Jerry did, or any sunny and convenient indoor place for houseplants, so I moved my piece of cactus from place to place outdoors, and under the eaves in the winter. I made many cuttings from it and managed to give at least one away before they died of neglect. Last month my sister told me that her grandchild of the Jerry cactus was blooming beautifully on the central California coast, which was a big relief to me — my guilt at not providing a nurturing home for my adopted child was assuaged by knowing that the next generation was prospering.

first Thanksgiving cactus bloom 3-15 JerryNot a week later I walked past the corner of the utility yard where my poor peaked plant would have gone unseen as usual if its flower buds hadn’t glowingly called up to me, “Look at us!” I was shocked and blessed no end, and quickly moved “her” to a sunny place. Now that my cactus has shown a desire to perform, I am endeared to her in a new way and have named her “Tylda,” after Jerry’s late wife.

pride of Madeira cambria 14

This site tells how to care for these plants, and it showed me that this one is not a Thanksgiving cactus as I had previously thought, but a Christmas cactus. It also says that they require cold temperatures to spur them into blooming. So perhaps it’s not a bad thing that I left it outdoors. I’m thinking of ways that I can be a better houseplant owner in the future.

But this month, it’s the outdoor plants for me, and I do enjoy whatever colors they are dressed in when they bloom. But especially blue.