True Autumn

Well, it really is true autumn around here now, even with mild, sunny days. The nights are chilly and we've had some rain, here's hoping for more! The leaves are falling in earnest and Thanksgiving plans are in the works. I think I've finally found our pastured, heritage turkey, which will be killed on the farm the weekend before we need it. Pastured turkey is not cheap - $7/lb., but worth it in so many ways. I am anxious to try a dry brine on the bird.

Let's see, what's been happening at Poppy Corners? Last weekend we had some family friends over. The kids and I went around the neighborhood and collected fall leaves and seedpods, anything interesting we could find. Then we sat outside in the sunshine and each painted a watercolor of what we found. One of these is mine, two are from my kids, and two are from the other kids, all 6th and 7th graders. This was a fun experiment! We all look at the same things differently.

Adam has been in Opera mode all week, which will continue until December 7. Last night was opening night. It's been really fun for me to hang out backstage and geek out on the action. Here's a synopsis of Act II, which is when Adam is involved.

A great crowd, including children, has gathered with street sellers announcing their wares (chorus: Aranci, datteri! Caldi i marroni! – "Oranges, dates! Hot chestnuts!"). The friends arrive; Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet from a vendor, while Colline buys a coat and Schaunard a horn. Parisians gossip with friends and bargain with the vendors; the children of the streets clamor to see the wares of Parpignol, the toy seller.

After the kids follow Parpignol off stage, a marching band assembles backstage (!) and starts playing, then they march on stage and the kids follow them, party party party, and that's the end of Act II. The kids rush to shed costumes and makeup during the interval, becoming 21st century boys once again.

Yesterday, in between performances, Adam, chorister and friend Alex, and I went to a local artisan chocolate shop in the Mission called Dandelion. We've been there before for a private tour, and they are just incredible, sourcing chocolate from all different parts of the world and making it into 70% bars the old fashioned way, roasting and mixing and adding only sugar. We bought several bars with beans sourced from Liberia, where they are teaching former child soldiers how to farm cacao. Delicious, and for a good cause. I thought you'd get a kick out of the bathroom trash cans. This is San Francisco in a nutshell.

If you get a chance to look at Dandelion's website (just click on the link I provided above), there's an interesting blog post on the history of chocolate. Check it out!

We also spent a little time at Ocean Beach, right at sunset. There were plenty of kite boarders and people building bonfires on the beach. This is also San Francisco in a nutshell, foggy and beautiful.

After some games of tag, it was time to head back to the theater for another performance.

I've loved the whole experience: Listening to the leads warm up in their dressing rooms, chatting with the dressers as they work with the kids, sharing winks with the adult chorus backstage, learning the lingo of the Opera (the singers say 'toi toi toi' to each other, for luck), watching the leads come and go off stage, and of course listening to the great score by Puccini.

War Memorial Opera House, home of the San Francisco Opera

It's also a lot of time and energy, though, and that means that I'm too tired to do much work in the garden.  While I was looking the other way, the vegetable seeds germinated. Every time I plant a seed, I think to myself, "There's no way this is going to grow." But then they always do! It's like magic, isn't it? It's amazing that something so small has all that potential. Nature is always miraculous.

I refreshed the herb spiral/hugelkultur with new herb starts. I use fresh herbs in everything, so it's very worth it to keep the spiral producing. I added more chives, oregano, thyme, tarragon, parsley, marjoram, and sage, along with some chicken manure and compost. The mint, lavender, and sorrel are all going gangbusters (no surprise there) so they did not need refreshing. My rosemary is in a separate pot and is doing fine. Most herbs are perennial, so if I can protect them from frost, they'll last. The thing that I find a bit confounding about this arrangement is that it is decomposing in place - the hill keeps getting smaller - and I have to keep adding dirt. Meanwhile, a quick check on the wood that is forming the base of this hugelkultur shows that it hasn't decomposed at all, neither has the sawdust I put under there. Maybe I layered everything the wrong way. Anyhow, the herbs do fine here, as long as I give them extra dirt when needed.

Our list of projects for Thanksgiving week is growing. We're planning to build hoops over each bed, then place a row cover over those, to deter deer. We are also going to sheet mulch the other side of our property, where we've had various kid things for years - play structure, then trampoline. We'll mulch it to get rid of the 'grass' (mostly dead, as we didn't water over the summer), and then build more raised beds. I'd like to plant several manzanitas and a cherry tree in various parts of the yard. I also have a lot of trimming to do.

Hiking with the dog has been fun, sometimes muddy. November brings dramatic skies, with contrasts in bleak and glorious. The hills are not yet green, but there is potential for that, and soon.

A valley oak, perfectly situated in its surroundings