Super-Blooms and Valley Views

I worked for nearly two weeks without a break, then traveled for an overnight trip to see my son receive an award. In between, I’ve been helping an unhoused woman with a health crisis. Yesterday, I could barely stay awake. So I’m re-evaluating the work-life balance once again to regain some energy.

Part of the plan is to spend at least one day a week out in nature, exploring new places and revisiting favorites.

Horses in the foreground as seen from the iris garden and a view of the South bay.

Today we toured Nola’s Iris Garden, part of Prevost Ranch just twenty minutes away. It was a feast for the eyes. My friend Elizabeth boards her horse in the stable adjacent to the gardens. She’s been encouraging me to go. The iris bloom was late this year due to heavy rains, but they’re up now and gorgeous. Nola has over 600 varieties planted along terraces at the top and bottom of a gently sloping hill. The views are also spectacular, and the recent rains have turned the hillside a lush green.

We spoke briefly to Nola and commented that we had met her cat. She said she takes care of twenty cats, most of them feral and mentioned that one of them had kittens. Later, as we rounded a corner near the lower garden, one of the visitors gushed over the just-discovered kitten. I’d never seen a male cat standing guard like that, but he was a proud and handsome papa, dangling a paw through the slats playing with the kitten below. The gardens were crowded today, so hopefully mama was just shy and hiding nearby.

Proud Papa cat…or so they said
One of the kittens cozy but looking scared under the wood planks

Our next stop offered even more views at a lookout spot on the hill. We spotted California poppies, sky lupine, and wild mustard on our drive. Swaths of the distant hills seemed to sport a reddish color, but I couldn’t tell if it was aging foliage or a bloom of small red flowers.

A super bloom is a rare and well-timed act of nature that causes short bouts of wildflower blooms all at once in a particular area. “These rare and unpredictable wildflower blooms occur when high precipitation levels in natural landscape areas are combined with a years-long drought,” according to California State Parks. Drought conditions eliminate grass and weeds that typically take over the fields, making way for blooms to take their place instead.
Sky lupine
Wild mustard

Yesterday’s rain created a clear view of Silicon Valley. Our house is down there, a sea of development viewed from an oasis of calm.

With Mike enjoying the day

I needed this refreshing day.

Slinky Malinki: Life in the Blue Zone

slinky looking leery

Slinky looking a bit world-weary

Our little Slinky has a sordid past. We don’t know the details, but she arrived on our front steps a few years ago with fear in her eyes, looking for a meal. I reached down to pet her and she lashed out, biting and clawing my hand. Boy did that hurt.

My family quickly learned to keep our hands to ourselves. Slinky visited our deck every few days and we offered her food and water on her visits. She started rubbing up against our legs with a nervous purr, but any attempt to pet her sent her scrambling, biting or both. This went on for months. Then one day, my son simply bent down and picked her up and carried her into the house. She froze in his hands, clearly terrified, but I rejoiced knowing we could get our hands on her. In November of 2010 I lifted her into a cat carrier and took her to our vet.



I warned our vet about Slinky’s propensity to bite and claw, but they countered that she was a sweetie. Clearly they’ve seen it all. Her health checked out, I paid for boosters and an exam and came home.

We kept Slinky indoors that first night, but with a small house, two boys and at the time, four other cats, she was under great duress. The eventual compromise was to create an outdoor enclosure in our back, side yard. This kept her safe from the dangers of the street, including cars and cat fights, but we still dreamed of having her inside.

Slinky Today

We’ve come a long way since those early years. About two and a half years ago, and on her own terms, Slinky moved indoors. She sleeps on the back of my desk and keeps the other cats in line. She’s the smallest and the oldest and hearing-impaired, but Lindy and Mouse know to give her a wide berth. Slinky likes to dart outside for ‘fresh’ water, then quickly returns to her chosen spot on my desk.

Until this summer.

When we cleaned out the side yard earlier this year, we tossed the decaying bench. I bought small blue cushions for the bench, and used to sit there to keep her company and to give her treats. The blue bench cushions were still in good shape, so I planned to use them on the back steps. As I tossed the cushions on the patio Slinky seemed to recognize them. She headed straight for them with purpose and intent. I wonder if she has fond memories of sitting on those cushions in her side-yard domain? Whatever it is, she’s spent most of her summer in this area of the patio known as the blue zone.

Life in the Blue Zone

Slinky wants to go out on the porch around 6 am.

slinky takes a drink

A long, cool drink at the bowl

She has a long drink of water from her blue bowl, which is really a ceramic tray used to catch water under a plant. She spends the rest of the day on her blue cushions.

slinky grooming

8:42 Grooming

slinky grooming

9:04 Planning her day

slinky naps

9:12 The first of several naps

On really hot days, she slips off the sides on to the cool stones, but by day’s end she’s back up on her cushions.

slinky slides off the cushions

Another nap, resting her head on the cool stone

slinky on blue cushions

Another nap

At dusk she comes inside and sits on the arm of the couch for a bit of TLC. She purrs and head butts and looks for affection, but we’re still a bit leery. One false move and the claws come out. A quick hiss follows, from a place of fear. Slinky recovers and things return to normal. Eventually we’re all off to bed until Slinky sounds the alarm the following day. She can’t hear so she dials up the volume to an impossible-to-ignore cry: GET UP! IT’S TIME TO RETURN TO THE BLUE ZONE!

Slinky patrols the blue zone

Slinky patrols the Blue Zone

Slinky is loud-mouthed, quick to temper and at times a bit of a bully.

Sometimes you just can’t explain love.

A bit more about Slinky and the origins of her name

2012: Slinky in the Garden

2013: All’s Well with Slinky

Penguin Books: Slinky Malinki by Dame Lynley Dodd

slinky turning grey

My old, graying Slinky. On a recent visit, my vet described her as “an old woman with really good teeth.”


Slinky in the Garden

Slinky's Domain

Slinky’s Domain

Slinky Malinki, our shiny black kitty, arrived a few years back. Her haunting green eyes, spoke of unhappy lives; slight moves put her on the attack.

We fed her each day; she would eat and run away, returning each night for a meal.

Should I venture a reach? She would greet me with teeth, trying to pet her lost all its appeal.

Slinky gradually came ‘round, but remains leery and unbound, affection is given with care.

Now she sleeps near my pillow and head-butts my face, it’s hands she continues to fear.  Each passing year, a little less fear, what I wouldn’t give to let her know she’s safe.

Slinky Near the Strawberry Patch

Slinky Near the Strawberry Patch

Like a Sunflower, Slinky Rotates with the Sun

Like a Sunflower, Slinky Rotates with the Sun

Proud Lady

Proud Lady

Making Progress

Making Progress

Did you know:

  • Cats head-butt as a way of showing affection.
  • Feral cats can be tamed.  Here is an informative, compassionate article written by The Lucky Few
  • We named our Slinky after a wonderful children’s book: Slinky Malinki by New Zealand writer Lynley Dodd