An Unexpected Treasure at the Nursery

On a recent visit to SummerWinds Nursery, I rounded the corner to find this:

potted ficus with do not move tage

Potted Ficus carefully tied to a cart

They’ve pushed a shopping cart against a sheltered exterior wall. Resting on top is a potted Ficus, attached to the cart with twine. The warning is clear: Do not move!

So what is all the fuss about?

Potted ficus

Potted Ficus

Come have a closer look.

nesting Anna's hummingbird

Nesting Anna’s hummingbird

It’s a nesting Anna’s hummingbird, native to this part of California. She must be resting on eggs, generally two. The eggs incubate for about two weeks, then the young spend another three weeks in the nest.

There is something about a mama bird in her nest that makes my heart sing. I wanted to linger, but her comfort outstripped my desire to pull up a chair and just sit there all afternoon. I took a non-flash snapshot with my phone from a distance, then zoomed in when I got home.

On the subject of nests and homes, my older son is home from college for spring break. I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead with all three of my “men” in the house.

Ah, spring. Thank you for all these gifts.

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Vernal Equinox: The Garden Always Knows

I refer to my calendar each year to confirm the first day of spring. My garden needs no such reminder. While I’m busy planning in my head or on paper, my garden knows it’s time to spring forth. Every year it takes my breath away. I’m more steward, than gardener most days. I keep the weeds at bay, train the vines away from the sidewalk and trim away spent flowers or browning leaves.

In truth, none of these things are necessary. I like a tidy garden, so grooming the plants brings me pleasure. It’s also an opportunity to kneel on the earth, a way to feel connected to something magnificent. Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me.

According to The Farmer’s Almanac:

“On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun.”

Meteorologically speaking, March 1st is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Astronomically, the equinox is generally considered the start of spring. Today is the day that both hemispheres have exactly the same amount of daylight. That in itself is something fun to celebrate.

Come have a look at my garden on this cool, overcast, early spring day.

California poppy

California poppy, waiting to open. It’s our state flower

Cornflower bud

The first of the cornflower buds

Nigella bud

Nigella ready to bud. The bees love them.

Fuchsia freesia

Fuchsia freesia (say that three times)

curb garden spring

The narcissus stems make great supports for the budding sweet peas in the curb garden

three flowers in the curb garden

The beauty of threes

assorted freesia

Assorted freesia

mystery flower red

I planted this in a pot last summer and I forget what it is

yellow freesia and violets

Yellow freesia with violets at their feet

I have a bounce in my step and a racing heart. Spring, glorious spring. You never let me down. Are you ready for the changing season? Are you entering Spring or Autumn?

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The Greening of the Little Free Library

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We’re celebrating by featuring green-covered books, bookmarks and a few small craft kits in our Little Free Library.

…and a pot of gold at the end of the fairy garden rainbow.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

The Travelling Sketchbook Comes to France

Have you been following the travels of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Sketchbook? Lynn, who blogs at Tialys, has just published her gorgeous entry. She beautifully captures the essence of all of us in her piece as the sisters hold hands around the world, uniquely individual in hairstyle and dress (and yes hats) yet united by a love of art, craft and sisterhood. She also recaps the entries as the book continues around the globe.

Tialys

from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook 

Last year I mentioned that Anne Lawson, a talented botanical artist, instigated a sketchbook which would start with her in Australia and make its way around the World to interested parties who signed up for the project and, at each stage of the journey, a new entry would be made.  As everybody who signed up for it is a woman, it became known as ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook’.  I believe there have been others but this one – our one – began life in the Spring of 2016.

I cannot draw or paint to save my life,  nor have I ever attempted to write poetry,  but I knew that other media was acceptable so thought I’d join in for fun. Then I started dreading its arrival when I saw the standard of entries as they were added to the book then…

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Serendipity – Revisited

Back in 2014 I chose Serendipity as my word of the year. It’s a noun defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

I miss that word. It’s fun to say and wonderful to experience. Without so much as a backward glance, I’ve decided to welcome it back into my life. Who says you can’t choose a word of the year in March? After all the start of a new season is just around the corner.

I will continue to resist, volunteer, and make my voice heard, but I’m also going to focus on the positives, the synergies and the serendipity in life, no matter how small.

Here are a few that make me smile.

I enjoy playing Words With Friends, a kind of online Scrabble. Most of my friends are high-scoring players, so though I often lose, I’m improving and enjoying the challenge. I played the word “Tui” in a game with my smart and clever friend Mary Elizabeth who wasn’t familiar with the word. Then a few days later she found these gorgeous tea mugs. Serendipity! ) Thank you once again, ME.

tea mugs New Zealand Tui

New Zealand Tui mugs from Mary Elizabeth

About a year ago, Marlene who blogs at In Search of It All sent me a stunning, machine-embroidered gift. Isn’t it lovely? I debated turning it into a pillow or framing it, so I just let it be for a while. Then I realized that the colors worked beautifully with a small throw pillow in the some-times guest room. (It’s my son’s room but he’s mostly away at college). I ironed the edges and hand-stitched the embroidery to the pillow. Perfection! When my son came home from college for the summer, I planned to store the pillow in a closet. On a whim I took into our bedroom. Serendipity! The colors go beautifully. Thank you once again, Marlene.

Marlene's embroidery

Embroidered panel, left, made into a pillow and modeled by Mouse the Cat, right

The third and far less interesting moment of serendipity arrived in a large plastic bag. It was part of the packaging for our new printer. Long story, but I’ve been meaning to make a cover for a mobility chair that lives in the garage along with dust bunnies and bugs. I bought it for my mom in her declining years to help get her to her medical appointments. I kept it after she passed and my sister was able to use it when she first returned from Iowa (she has MS). Last year it came in handy for outings when I was recovering from surgery. And I’ve loaned it out several times to a neighbor who’s had many surgeries herself.

So back to the printer bag. It’s an odd size, wider than a large trash bag but not that tall. On a whim I tried it out on the mobility chair, and you guessed it, serendipity! It’s the perfect size and shape. It saved me the trouble of making one, it kept the plastic bag out of the landfill, and I like that it’s clear.

mobility chair

Mobility chair with custom-sized cover

So how about you? Do you look for these special moments in your life?

PS

Lindy wanted to be including in this post. She insists that this shoe box is the perfect size for her girlish figure. Ah…serendipity?

WordPress Needs a Scratch-and-Sniff Feature

Spring: when the birds sing, the flowers bloom and the intoxicating scent of the garden can bring you to your knees. I snapped photos today, with Mouse the Cat at my heals. We’ve been inhaling the tantalizing scent of freesias scattered throughout the garden.

mouse with flowers at his feet

Mouse tries out a new pair of shoe buckles

Freesia are native to Africa, named after a German botanist and now growing in San Jose. They get around.

yellow freesia

Yellow freesia

I bought a bag of assorted colors several years ago, and they’ve come back bigger and better every year. So far I’ve seen yellow, red and white (my favorite) but I think a few purple ones will be up soon. I took a handful to a friend today with a few sprigs of asparagus fern. The wonderful scent lingered in my car even after they were gone.

red freesia

Red freesia

white freesia

White freesia near the walkway

Freesias, sweet peas and daffodils

white freesia

Freesia toppling over the walkway

white freesia curb garden

Freesia in the curb garden

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could press your nose to your screen and drink in that scent? Perhaps one of those twenty-something technical geniuses will develop a scratch-and-sniff like feature.

The hyacinths are also up dusting corners of the garden with their potent scent.

purple hyacinth

Purple Hyacinth (William of ‘William and Kate’)

hyacinth

Pink Hyacinth (Kate of ‘William and Kate’)

It’s no surprise that even manufactured scents try to borrow from nature: rose-scented perfume, lemon-scented dish detergent and lavender-infused essential oils. Nothing tops nature.

Along the fence, our jasmine vine is in full bloom, inviting me to linger under its shade. I hope it survives the abuse it will get when work boots hit the ground. It’s time to replace the fence.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine vine

curb garden

Curb garden with daffodil and freesia

daffodils in the curb garden

Narcissus: 1) Daffodils; 2) Mouse the Cat

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. Jean Giraudoux

So what do you think? Could “scratch and sniff” be the wave of the future? Mmmmmmm

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After the Flood: San Jose Residents Show Up, Clean-up, and Find Creative Ways to Help

It’s been two weeks since the Anderson Reservoir overflowed its banks in San Jose.  After a series of punishing storms in our rain-parched state, there was simply nowhere for the water to go. Reservoirs filled, then overflowed, flooding roads and then neighborhoods in the low-lying Rock Springs neighborhood. When the banks overflowed, the reservoir had reached 105.5% capacity. The water level was almost 4 feet (meters) above the top of the spillway.
We learned over the weekend that:

More than a decade ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considered a $7.4 million project that would have protected the Rock Springs neighborhood from last month’s devastating floods. But it concluded the project was too costly — and refused to fund it.  Source: San Jose Mercury News

Setting aside for a moment the human suffering caused by the flood, Santa Clara County says the cost of the damage is approaching $100 million, “some of which is the tab for repairing dozens of cars and more than 80 housing units with major damage in the Rock Springs neighborhood.” What heartbreak for people, many of them low-income, elderly or disabled, to be displaced from their homes. Lots of finger-pointing ensued: why weren’t they evacuated sooner? Why didn’t the city warn people living in the neighborhood of the risk? The answers seem lame: “we didn’t want to alarm them.” Instead, the waters rushed in, damaging homes, cars and meager possessions, with toxic waters overflowing the banks with contaminants gathered in the floods path.

The better story here is the outpouring of help from the residents of San Jose. Over 2,000 showed up for the first Saturday to help with major cleanup. My friend Jim Reber is hosting a fundraiser for his birthday, requesting donations towards the cleanup of Kelley Park. There’s a photo of the damage to the tea house on his fundraising page. My friend and artist Lexi Granger listed several pieces of art, discounted them, and donated 100% of the proceeds from her Etsy shop to flood victim relief.

Kieu Hoang, a billionaire businessman, donated $5 million to the fund set up by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The fund will distribute money to nonprofits providing emergency financial assistance and other support to those displaced by last month’s flooding.

This past weekend, Mike and I  volunteered for flood cleanup at nearby Kelley Park, home to a beautiful Japanese tea house and tea gardens in San Jose.  Flood waters reached that too, sending water, mud, silt and debris across the park, over the pond and into the tea house.  The work was physically exhausting and not all together comfortable, but we felt good to be doing our small part. We had to wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and closed-toe shoes, along with masks and goggles, provided by the city. Along with the flood debris, the receding waters deposited poison oak and poison ivy spores throughout the park and could lead to problems if we weren’t careful. After an orientation, we walked to “area ten” with a group of volunteers. Mike shoveled silt and mud from the walkways. I picked up trash (mostly plastic!) and pulled weeds along the pathways.

I volunteered for a few hours last week doing flood relief outreach at Sacred Heart Community Services.  Sacred Heart is one of four major charities tasked with serving flood victims. I placed phone calls to folks on a list of 350 registered flood victims, providing them details for seeking financial assistance. It was slow work, but with a number of volunteers we worked our way through the list. The worst of the flood damage happened in one of the poorer neighborhoods, and sadly many of the residence have nowhere to go. Two shelters remain open at a couple of community centers. Three homes are red-tagged meaning they are a complete loss,  where as yellow and green have some access, but no necessarily power or fresh water. In short, it’s a mess.

If you live in San Jose, here are ways to get involved:

The City of San Jose:  Help in Disaster: you can register as a volunteer and let them know when you’re available to help.

Sacred Heart Community Services: They’re providing outreach to flood victims, as well as distributing personal items (toothbrushes, shampoo and other toiletries), clothing, blankets and food. They have volunteer positions in the clothes closet, food pantry, sorting, phone banking, data entry and other opportunities. They will provide an orientation first. Thereafter you can sign up for shifts on their website.

Start a drive in your community, among friends, neighbors, or co-workers for blankets, bedding, food or hygiene items.

Details of Flood Recovery and available resources.

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