Day 78: Tree Urchins

Remember last week when we used a bunch of children to harvest plums? Those kids all escaped, so we had to get some more this week.

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Are there still plums in the tree? Um, is there still sand on the beach?

Up the ladder, ya scurvy urchins. After that ye’ll walk the plank.

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This should all look familiar by now. The kids do all the work in the plum mines and don’t have any fun at all, while he adults have a pleasant summer party. Brilliant.

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She’s got a sweet smile and some cold beer. I’m in love.

At about this time, one of them got away from us. She climbed the tree, and started eating the good plums and dropping the rotten ones on us. She was up in that tree for a really long time.
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Oh, clever monkey.

Then we hand all the kids knives and leave the room. They’ll be fine.

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This dog doesn’t give pony rides, but she’s so useful for cleaning up plum bits and stray food.

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We damaged a few of the urchins in the jam-making process, but also had one adult casualty.

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This battle was over quickly.

Random assertion: Any day spent in a tree is a day you’ll remember forever.

Steganographic data: 1802/0.6

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 72: Plum Day

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Harvesting plums is a lot of work, so today we bought some children.

The price was reasonable, and included a free dog. We made them work all day, and gave them nothing at all to eat.

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(Unless you count the french toast breakfast we cooked for the whole crew.)

The first part of the day was spent harvesting plums.

> Oh no, not the plum mines!
Quiet you. Back to work.

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No, you can’t have a ladder.

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One of the crew nearly started a plum fight.

Once they had collected enough, the harvest had to be hauled 18 miles from the yard to the kitchen, up a steep, winding, treacherous path. We lost a few of them here.

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Without any regard for safety, we handed them all knives and made them cut up all 50 million plums, to get them ready to go in the pot.

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It’s endless toil, and no talking or laughing allowed at all.

The cat decided to hide amongst the groceries.
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The kids all wanted to pour the boiling jam into the jars, so we didn’t let them.

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My muse made one of her plum tarts, but we didn’t guard it well enough. The little urchins overpowered her and got into it.

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We’ll do this again next week, though we may have to shop for some fresh kids. These ones are all tired now.

Random assertion: You can invite friends over to work all day, if you call it a party. This trick may not work the second time.

Steganographic data: 1838/2.1

Published in: on July 31, 2008 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)  
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Day 71: Grass Valley

About halfway between Sacramento and Reno, there’s a place called Grass Valley. When life’s too crazy, and you’re ready to be surrounded by mountains and trees and music and friendly dogs and good food, this is the place you’re looking for.

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Look out. The dogs are friendly, but they’re wet.

I’m lucky to have family in Grass Valley, and today is my Aunt Betty Rae’s birthday party. They told us not to bring anything, and we’re ignoring them. There are just too many plums.

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My muse sends me to get 25 of them so she can make one of her incredible tarts.
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There’s a small one custom made for me, to keep my paws off the big one. It’s kind like a decoy.

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“Hey stop opening the oven!”

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The big tart is intact. The decoy is not. She’s a smart one.

It’s a 2.5 hour drive to Grass Valley, but it’s easy. Mom and Dad can’t make it because they’re in the Alaskan wilderness, and that’s a much longer drive from here.

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There’s music, food, dogs, a dance floor, and a red lawn tractor.

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Run for your life, the toddler’s driving.

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There are three generations here. My cousins and I used to be “the kids” but there’s a totally new group of those now, so we’re “the middles.”

It’s a good place to be; we can still go jump off the nearby cliffs into the river, but now we can do it without supervision.

I’m going to stay in the “middles” group for as long as I can.

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As usual, everyone’s got excellent stories. That’s the best part, always.

While the party guests are distracted, there’s a heist. The security camera caught it, but not well enough to make a positive ID.

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Fortunately, the jelly bean was insured for more than they bought it for.

The loudest part of the evening comes when Betty Rae’s son shows up unexpectedly.

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It’s easy to tell that this is her favorite birthday present.

By the time we head home we’re tired, full and smiling.

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Random assertion: Stories can be used as currency anywhere in the world. Collecting good ones is a way to save for a happy retirement.

Steganographic data: 1834/0.8

Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Day 65: Plums and a Guitar Pick

There’s a very old plum tree in our yard, which produces excellent and tasty golden plums. Last year, the tree produced so many plums that we made 80 jars of jam before we decided to stop.

This year it looks like there are almost twice as many. That’s just trouble.

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Next weekend is Plum Day! We’re going to invite nieces and nephews over and out them to work.

Today my muse and I are doing a private mini plum-day, just making a few jars from some plums which are ready. Picking the plums is easy. The tree throws them at you, ripe and ready for eating.

It takes about five plums to make a jar of jam. You cut them up, weigh them…

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…add pectin, boil and stir, add sugar, boil and stir…

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…and then the boiling jam gets poured into jars, and there’s a lid-sealing-inversion process, and you’re done.

Here are the first six jars from this year’s batch! These will keep for years, unless they all get eaten, which is the plan. Everyone at Plum Day will take home some jam.

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There are so many plums that we start to get creative. My muse makes a great tart, but this year she’s trying something new as well.

When Joshua’s mom visited from Singapore last year, she brought us some terrific star anise, along with a ton of other tasty spices. My muse is using the star anise to make some big jars of spiced plums. She’s got a secret recipe for everything.

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I think they’re beautiful, and they’re going to be ultra-tasty for sure.

After we’re done, my muse heads out to tea with Alyssa (who just moved back from Hawaii) and Manisha (who’s just moved to India) for some girl-time.

Random assertion: The world..

> Wait wait not so fast! What about the concert?

Oh right, Secret Plan 162.

It didn’t go at all as I expected. The robot might have worked, but as I was sitting there testing it, something came up just at that moment on the ticket site. Two seats, front row, and the price is good, but they’re waaaaaay over on the side. Still, not bad, so I got them.


At least it’s near the emergency exit.

But wait… what’s this? The Mountain Winery (if you haven’t seen a concert here, I’d recommend it) rebuilt their whole concert area just a week ago, and the seating plan has changed. …so it turns out those seat numbers are actually here, in the new layout:


Holy moley, she’s going to freak.

And the show is tonight.

So there we are. I didn’t even tell her about our seats until we sat in them.

She did get to meet him, and it turns out he’s a really nice guy. Heck, after meeting him in person, I can see why she likes him so much. Friendly and high class. And even I can tell he’s hot.

She also swiped his guitar pick, and got him to sign her tank top (watch those hands mister).


If he wants that guitar pick back, he’s going to have to come ask her for it.

Cleverness: 5%
Luck: 168,000%
…but I still get the credit and the thank-you kiss. That worked.

Secret Plan 162 is complete, and a success.

Random assertion: The world is physically shaped by the questions we ask. To test this, ask a lot of questions and see what happens.

Steganographic data: 1840/3.5

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 10:57 am  Comments (3)  
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Day 35: Plums and the Salt House

My muse is working from home today, so I spend the day around the house as well, mostly working on the irrigation robots in the yard.

Remember I mentioned Plum Day was coming? Check this out.


They almost look like bunches of grapes, but they’re massive clusters of ripening plums.

When the day comes, we might invite a bunch of the nieces and nephews over and let them help (read: run amok).

It’s hot today (92 in the city), so the cats are training for the day when synchronized napping becomes an olympic event.

Late at night it’s still 82 degrees, so we head to Salt House. Not for dinner (though their food is awesome), just drinks and little cold dessert, and so my muse can flirt with Rory, the bartender. He takes good care of us.

Random assertion: The three all-time greatest inventions of mankind might be fire, penicillin, and minimalist summertime fashions. Hooray for all three.

Steganographic data: 1868/1.4

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 11:19 am  Comments (1)  
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