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April 16, 2007

Grapevines from Mary Pope-Handy's yardBeautiful flowers and fruits are emerging all over town. Spring is truly here in The Valley of Heart’s Delight, the old moniker for Silicon Valley.

At our home, things are blooming too. One side of our backyard has an herb garden (oregano, chives, rosemary and sage) and rose bushes. Cherry tomatoes and strawberries will be nearby soon. The other two sides have fruit trees and vines.

Jim, my better half, has been trying to grow grapes (Thompson seedless) for a few years (one year, our black lab chewed through the base of our sole vine, which was three years old and about to bear fruit at last – after that, he planted multiple vines to improve odds). He has five grapevines now, all thriving, and three of them will be giving us fruit this year (it takes awhile).

Naval Orange Tree in Jim Handy & Mary Pope-Handy's  yard makes great juiceThe honeybees and huge, scary looking black bees are very busy around our orange tree in particular (we also enjoy a lemon tree, a peach tree, an apple tree, an apricot tree and Jim’s now trying to grow a Bacon Avocado tree too). When guests come to visit from out of state, they are led to the orange tree to pick the fruit from which their morning juice will be made. Recently my sister was here from western Massachusettes for a few days. They had three feet of snow back home while she was here. We had 75 degree temps and fresh squeezed orange juice! (Of course, she can gloat about the affordability of housing and I go quiet.)

Nondescript lemon tree in our backyard. Breed unknown, but not a Meyers Lemon.Something really nice about our neighborhood (Belwood of Los Gatos) is that the folks who live here are very friendly and often share (and swap) fruit. Yesterday Jim went up a block to Mike and Anna’s home and gave them a big bag of our naval oranges. He came home, in turn, with a large bag of their tangellos. In winter, folks just a few doors up, Rick and Sheena, come by with Persimmons. I think we owe them some citrus fruit, now that I think of it.

Our roses are not quite up to speed, but as I walk Bella, our big black lab, up to Belgatos Park, I notice a lot of the neighbors’ roses are looking good. Here’s one I took the other day of one on Bacigalupi Drive. Isn’t it just gorgeous? My grandfather used to have about 150 rosebushes at his home at Pasatiempo (near Santa Cruz, CA) and they always remind me of him. We have, I think, about 15 of them at our house.

The Los Gatos Creek trail is abloom too. My son found a site online with a lot of great photos of flowering plants there. Take a look!

Now I have to say that it’s Jim, not yours truly, who takes care of all the plantlife. He’s even an enthusiastic member of the Rare Fruit Growers Society. They swap branches for grafting and such. (I know when he’s been to a meeting because I find sticks in my refrigerator.) Jim does a great job. We don’t have a large lot (8000 sf and our single story home takes up most of it so the backyard is tiny) but he gets a lot of fruit and so on out of it and he makes our roses gorgeous.

My mom, Pat Pope, was a Realtor for 40 years and she was someone who would insist that it’s better to focus on your strengths. One of her favorite lines is one I’ve adopted as my own where housework and yardwork are concerned. She used to say, with a smile and a glint in her eye, “I’d rather sell a piece of dirt than scrub it.”