Summer Arrives with a Brutal Heatwave

Summer solstice is just two hours away. It officially hits this coast at 9:24 pm Pacific Time.

Unfortunately, a brutal heat wave arrived over the weekend, ushering in summer in San Jose with a three-digit preview: 104 F (40C).  We don’t have central air conditioning at home, so one day we escaped for a few hours to a mediocre movie, just for the excuse to sit in a cool theater for a few hours. All three kitties dragged themselves around the house from spot to spot to benefit from the ceiling fans and the cool tile floor. The heat really crept up on us.

In the past, heatwaves lasted for three days, then cooler temperatures prevailed. This week, however, it’s going back up again, expecting to peak at 101 F on Thursday. They’ve called a heat advisory along with a request to turn off all unnecessary appliances between noon and 9 for fear of over-stressing the grid. Good times!

I added ice cubes to one of the bird baths, and we’re keeping the other one topped up with rain water from the tanks.

I halfheartedly pulled a few weeds that stubbornly grow between the ground cover making them hard to reach. Every time I hear them snap, I know they’ll be back the following week.  Honestly, though, it’s just unbearable to be outdoors for long. My peace garden is in terrible shape. Even with extra watering the baby tears turned brown. What a sorry sight.

What’s up with the weather in your neighborhood? For my southern hemisphere friends, you’ve reached the shortest day of the year. It’s all up hill from here.

The Summer Solstice is Upon Us: Check out the gorgeous graphics and photos in this article. My favorites are the mobile pics at Stonehenge and the rainbow map of North America.

Tips for Planning for a Power Outage

Excessive Heat Warning: Public Alert

 

 

 

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Time with Tessa and the Last of the Sweet Peas

Our Tiny Tessa is relaxing and getting used to her new surroundings. She’s sleeping on top of things, rather than hiding under the bed. She met Lindy (who hissed once and left the room) and she met Mouse (who did the same). We’re giving the resident cats lots of TLC, letting them know they’ve not lost their standing.  I haven’t lived with a kitten for nearly thirty years. I’d forgotten how tiny they are and how energetic and curious. She’s a delight.

Tessa on Bob the Cat pillow

Tessa meets Bob the Cat…sort of

My friend Barbara Oertli painted this picture of her ginger cat, Bob, eyeing a squirrel on her deck. Since I’m out of wall space, I ordered a print on a pillow through Fine Prints America.

It took several attempts to get this shot. She’s always in motion. She nearly threw herself off the edge of the bed yesterday, jumping into the air and then backward. She’s keeping us happy and alert.

Outdoors, my beloved sweet pea garden has come to an end for the season. The self-seeded, rain-enhanced jungle, as one of my neighbors called it started folding up shop at the end of May. Sweet peas don’t like the heat so after the temperatures creep, they’re done. Interestingly, I have one more small plant in the back garden, blooming in a raised bed. It’s the only one I actually planted (versus self-seeded), which makes me wonder if staggered planting might extend the crop. I’ll see how much longer this one lasts and I’ll let you know.

It’s taken many hours pulling the dead vines from the ground, while at the same time collecting some of the seed pods. I also tried to save the cornflowers awhile longer, as the flowers are still blooming and attracting the bees. The birds love their seeds as well, so though it looks a little sad and droopy, it continues to provide for the birds and the bees.  Mike helped me tie the plants together to keep them from flopping over. Mouse sat with me while I pulled weeds along the walk way, then went under the cornflowers for a nap. Oh-oh.

I’m working on keeping him indoors when I can or supervising his time in the garden so that the birds have a fighting chance. I also experimented by putting a few of the cut flowers across the limb of a tree. The birds continue to come for the seeds, and surprisingly, the bees are taking nectar as well. There is always something to learn in the garden.

Check out the nectar pouch on that bee

Today was trash/recycle day. I waved at the crew as they took away the piles of spent sweet peas along with some trimmed branches and weeds. The city converts it into compost while at the same time diverting it from landfill.

There is so much happening in the garden all at once. Pumpkins, corn and sad little tomatoes are the main summer crops. I planted a pair of basil plants, too. Last year I planted them at the same time, but the basil bolted before the tomatoes were ready. This year I waited, only to be vastly disappointed in the tomato plants. I bought a six-pack of them before leaving for my trip in early April.  Two months later and they’ve barely grown.  This far into the season, I may go back and find larger plants that are further along so I can hedge my bets.

New clients, the end of the boy’s school years, a tiny kitten and home projects are keeping me a bit busier than I would like, but I’m still managing time in the garden every day.

Here in the northern hemisphere the summer solstice is just two weeks away.  I can almost taste that first red, juicy, vine-ripened tomato.

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Halving The Fairy Garden, Doubling Down on Peace

Miniatrue Buddha

Miniature Buddha

The dictionary defines peace in a couple of ways:

“freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility” or “freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.”

My personal mantra for attaining peace is a mixture of what we all learned in kindergarten coupled with the moral philosophy of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Simple, eh?

Yet here we are in a fractious and complicated world, trying to keep our heads up and our eyes open. I struggle finding the balance between remaining informed and drowning in the daily assault of depressing, maddening and unwelcome news.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been mentally planning a miniature peace garden. While it’s true that merely being in the garden is peaceful and uplifting, I wanted something more. I craved a touchstone for my own inner peace.

I started with a miniature Buddha, long a symbol of peace and enlightenment. I discovered my Buddha on a website dedicated to gardening in miniature.

Alyssum, Thyme, Baby Tears, Buddha

Buddha surrounded by sweet Alyssum, Thyme and Baby Tears

I bought a pair of shallow, glazed pots in a soothing green at a local shop.

miniature peace garden

Peace garden on the deck near our front door

Buddha sits under a tree of Lemon Thyme, with Alyssum on each side. I carpeted the rest of the garden in cool Soleirolia soleirolii also known as baby tears. Other than the boulder-sized stones, the rest of the items came from my fairy garden stash.

The cool colors and the lovely honey-scented  Alyssum are a balm to the nerves. As the summer wears on, the Alyssum will fall softly over the edge of the pot.

Across the log bridge you’ll find a small bench at the top of a path, and a few blue glass stones to suggest water.

Miniature Peace Garden

Across the bridge, a cool pond and a bench for quiet reflection

A simpler version of the fairy garden, reduced by half, sits on the wall along the walkway. Our Little Free Library is undergoing some renovations, so the books are temporarily in a purple bin.

Fairy garden and Little Free Library

A smaller fairy garden, moved to the front of the garden; our Little Free Library undergoing a renovation; LFL books are in the purple bin

This small garden brings me moments of peace. I hope visitors will gather a moment’s peace as well during these trying times.

I’m sending hope and light and love out into the world. Without them I’d be lost.

Miniature peace garden at dusk

Miniature peace garden at dusk

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Communal Sweet Peas

My bountiful sweet peas are enjoying a bit of celebrity. They continue to grow taller, fuller, and more fragrant by the day, attracting comments from neighbors and friends.  I had a chuckle the other day when my petite neighbor passed the house on the sidewalk, momentarily disappearing behind the tall vines.  When she reemerged on the other side I smiled. Who knew that a garden overflowing with delicate and fragrant flowers could be so uplifting?

Sweet peas embrace the Chinese Pistache

If I were still ten-years-old I would build a fort in the middle of the sweet peas. There would be a secret entrance and everything.  As it is, I can no longer reach the center of the garden, where a few tall weeds are thumbing their nose at me.

A tangle of sweet peas, Nigella, and cornflowers with a few of the natives peaking through

Since returning from my travels, I’ve cut sweet peas for a friend’s birthday and as a thinking-of-you posy. Today I took small jars of flowers to my Pilates classmates. I’ve filled bottles and jars with the sweet blooms, accompanied by cornflowers and Nigella buds for a bit of greenery.

This is the first time I’ve used my “From the Garden Of” stamp. It came in a small box with a green stamp pad and a small, green pencil.

A close-up of my gardening stamp

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, so a neighbor asked if she could cut some flowers for her son’s teacher. It’s wonderful sharing the bounty.

I chased a bee with my camera, but to no avail. He had places to go, flowers to pollinate.

A blush of pink: a new color this season

The original starter seeds were a gift from my friend Kelly. She thoughtfully included purple so that my sister Sharon could also enjoy them when she came for a visit. I’d never planted sweet peas before so I made a novice move and planted them in the spring. The plants fizzled, so Kelly and I surmised that they didn’t like the conditions in San Jose. Eventually we let the front lawn die off and replaced the area with native and drought tolerant plants.

As far as I can tell, the process of turning the soil in the fall, followed by a generous helping of rain awakened the seeds. They spread all over the garden, jumping the sidewalk and making a run for the street. It’s hard to convey the joy I get from this garden.

The sweet peas won’t last through the summer. One major heat wave will be their undoing. My Canadian friends can keep them going for the summer, but in semi-arid San Jose, the flowers wilt in the heat like me. Knowing this makes them all the more sweet.

The last two days have been insufferably hot in the Bay Area. We’re within three degrees of breaking a heat record for this time of year with 87 F (31C) predicted in San Jose. Fortunately the weather is cooling off by the weekend so we can sleep comfortably once again.

I hope this week’s heat won’t send my sweet peas packing. Last year’s crop lasted through June. I’m working hard at living in the moment, remaining mindful, while enjoying that subtle fragrance wafting through the evening air.

Jars of sweet peas decorated with vintage seam binding and my new “From the Garden” stamp

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While I Was Away

Traveling is a wonderful treat.

So to is the homecoming.

While I ponder how much to share about my visits to Atlanta, Virginia, DC and New York (no one wants to plod through someone else’s holiday pics) I do want to share my garden’s amazing transformation while I was away.

Being gone for nearly two weeks as spring got under way gave me the unique opportunity to see everything with fresh eyes.  What a treat! Will you come have a look?

I’m gradually reading through your blogs, so please bear with me. I’m looking forward to catching up.

 

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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