Solar Eclipse in My Garden

It’s been an exciting day here in North America. Depending on where you live, you could witness the first total eclipse of the sun in the U.S. from the Pacific to the Atlantic since 1918.

AccuWeather total solar eclipse

Map of total solar eclipse route. We live in the 70% range – Source: AccuWeather

Here in San Jose, we witnessed a partial solar eclipse for about 2 1/2 hours. It reached its maximum impact at 10:21 a.m. when I popped outside with my camera to take some garden pics.

The occluded sun cast crescent-shaped shadows on the ground and the side of the house. I took this photo one minute before maximum impact.

crescent shaped shadows eclipse

During the eclipse: Crescent shaped shadows cast by the tree on the side of the house

Here’s what I noticed in the garden:

Most of the flowers in bloom remained open with one exception: the pumpkin blossoms. The flowers started curling in, and when I checked on them after lunch, they had closed up tight. Fascinating!

pumpkin blossum during solar eclipse

During the Eclipse: Pumpkin blossom closing in 10:23 am

It was eerily quiet when I went outside. We had less birdsong than usual.  The bees, however, continued on with their day.  I admire their industrious nature and silently thanked them for keeping our planet afloat.

bees during solar eclipse

During the eclipse: the bees didn’t seem to register any difference

National Public Radio aired live updates throughout the day, and though it’s radio and not TV, they managed to convey the excitement as the eclipse crossed a thin ribbon of states.

Back in the garden, I enjoyed the interesting shadows.

Pumpkin in shadows solar eclipse

During the Eclipse: Pumpkin fruit in shadows 10:23 am

California poppies during the solar eclipse

During the eclipse: California poppies 10:24 am

pumpkin shadow during solar eclipse

During the eclipse: Arching ribbon of shadow on the pumpkin’s surface 10:35 am

Indoors, the cats were oblivious. (See Monday through Sunday for comparison…ha!)

Did you witness all or part of the eclipse today?

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Gardening From The Ground Up

After my forced break from the garden, I’m making up for lost time. I’ve been outdoors pulling weeds, sorting compost, preparing planting beds and doing general cleanup every day for weeks.

freesia collage

The freesia are in bloom all over the garden

I’m in the garden for a few minutes in the morning after returning from school drop-off. If I’m working with clients or have other appointments, then I put in my time at the end of the day.

lemon tree buds and leaves in the rain

Meyer’s Lemon Tree Enjoying the Rain

The weekend affords the luxury of a few hours in a row, even with our recent and welcome rain.

Chronic neck pain, a wonky hip and my tender ankle tend to dictate the duration. I enjoy working in the cooler weather and even the rain but once my various ailments begin to act up, it’s time to pack it in for the day.

About a year ago I bought a garden kneeler with handles. I’ve seen pictures of them in catalogs for years. I once used a foam pad for shifting around the garden, but it’s become increasingly harder to get back up without pain.

The pictures generally feature a “mature” woman using the kneeler. Only recently did it occur to me that I’m a mature woman. In my mind I’m perpetually thirty. How disconcerting.

I got over myself and bought the kneeler.

gardenease kneeling bench

Kneeling in the garden

Word of the Year

I chose “health” as my word this year. It’s interesting how much of life’s enjoyment comes down to our personal well-being.  I’ve reduced my consumption of sugar, with some slip ups here and there. I’ve kept a food and exercise diary through MyFitnessPal for the past 66 days. Now that I’ve been on such a long streak, I find that I don’t want to miss a day. Logging what I eat is also eye-opening. It feels good to be back to Pilates classes two days a week, and I’m back to long walks as well. The weight is coming off slowly though, which seems so unfair [insert pouting face here].  I’m not giving up, but find it disappointing when week after week the scale doesn’t budge and the pants remain snug. I think we’re conditioned to think that if we do everything “right” we should see the results. Does this happen to you?

The first day of spring in California is March 20th this year. I’ll be planting heirloom tomatoes, basil and maybe, just maybe, a few pumpkins. I have a new and improved watering system which I will share in another post.

When autumn rolls around, I say it’s my favorite time of year. Then spring unfolds and I’m in love with the color, the birdsong and the freshness of it all.

I think I’ve made up my mind: I can’t possibly choose sides.

Rear Window

Have you seen the movie Rear Window, the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic? It’s one of my personal favorites.

While I’m happy to report that nothing too suspicious is going on outside my rear window, I’ve found myself thinking about Jimmy Stewart’s character, a photographer convalescing with a broken foot. Through the view of his rear window, he gradually pieces together a murder.

As my surgery-addled brain clears and my energy slowly returns, I’m feeling the limitations of my restricted mobility.

In the movie, Stewart’s character Jeff starts to suspect the neighbor across the way of killing and then burying his own wife. At one point he tells the detective:

“Those two yellow zinnias at the end, they’re shorter now. Now since when do flowers grow shorter over the course of two weeks? Something’s buried there.”

This got me thinking. There is something suspicious outside my rear window. It looks like a small sinkhole to the front of a newly planted shrub. Like Stewart, I’m unable to investigate on my own. I waited for Mike to check it out. He topped up the recess with a handful of soil, but the next day the sinkhole was back.

It’s quite possible that I’m spending too much time in my head.

In any event, I miss my garden and my mobility.

San Jose summers are too hot for daytime gardening. Mid autumn is where the action is. I long to be out there raking leaves, pruning branches, and tidying the garden for the winter ahead. I love the way the crisp air reddens my cheeks and reminds me that I’m one with the elements. The bouquet of autumn decay centers my soul.

This is the time of year when my garden gloves wear out. Even the toughest gloves are no match for wet earth and rough leaves. Once the fingertips have worn through, it’s time to put them to rest, thanking them for a job well done.

As the garden rests, part of me comes alive. I spent the first six years of my life in Ontario, Canada, a home with four distinct seasons. I think those changing seasons are part of my early imprinting. Autumn in San Jose connects me to my early sense of home.

As I heal from surgery and sit this season out, here’s the view from my rear window.

hydrangea cranberry

This blushing pink Hydrangea darkens to a beautiful cranberry before dying back for the winter. I’m looking down on it from our living room window

split view

Splitting the view: indoor shelves display assorted succulents; outdoors, Abutilon grows along the fence with dollops of ground cover and a peek-a-boo Hydrangea

ultra violet decal

These window decals “contain a unique component that reflects ultraviolet light, which is brilliantly visible to birds, to alert them of glass without obscuring your view.”

pair of hummingbirds at feeder

Ana’s hummingbird has a drink at the feeder while a competitor swoops in for a turn

alysum, geranium, begonia and flax

Foreground: Alyssum, Pink Geranium and Begonia. Background: New Zealand Flax

A Walk Through the Garden: The Drought Addition

It’s hard gardening in a drought.

It’s equally hard writing a blog about it without sounding all gloom and doom. (I’m saving my gloom and doom posts for Halloween).

Since we’ve all had it up to here with the drought, the heat, the save-the-air alerts and the raging fires here in California, writing about it  seems as drab as my former lawn.

Bouganvilla

Bougainvillea love the dry heat. Lush lawns are a thing of the past.

Today, I’m shaking things up a bit with a garden video show and tell.

I created the video tour using my mobile phone with my family’s help. Mike followed me around the garden and took video, and my son, Mac edited the clips for the final production.

Instead of tidying up before the guests arrive, I present to you my unadulterated, much-loved, brown around the edges garden.

Without further ado, Gardening Nirvana: The Drought Addition

Fledgling Hummingbirds, Baby Squirrels and an Unexpected Pumpkin

I’ve been meaning to update you on the baby hummingbird we rescued in June. You can read the entire story here. After caring for her overnight, I drove the little darling to an animal rescue organization where they immediately placed her in round the clock foster care.  She thrived. Within a few weeks our fully fledged little Ana started her new life in the wild.

hummingbird in homemade nest

Temporarily fostering a baby hummingbird

I think I exhaled out loud once I knew she was okay. Hurray for second chances.

On the subject of second chances, check out this baby squirrel.

squirrel crouched with tomato

Baby squirrel enjoying a fresh tomato

We’re taking part in the occasional back yard release of urban squirrels who are either orphaned or injured before they can make it on their own. The first group of squirrels high-tailed it from our yard last fall without a backward glance.  This second group of six are staying closer to home. One in particular is incredibly trusting. I keep startling her when I round a corner at my usual brisk pace, only to find her nibbling on tomatoes.

squirrel with tomato

Holding a cherry tomato

I inwardly smile at my own double standards. I’ve been disappointed  in the past when squirrels eat the vegetable garden. It’s especially disheartening when they take one bite out of a pumpkin, leaving the rest to wither on the vine. Instead I snag the camera and happily watch her nosh away at the tomatoes while I point and click.

Two years ago, nasty squash bugs moved in. They arrived uninvited with family and friends in tow. Most of that year’s crop fell victim to the vermin. I harvested two surviving pumpkins, but the rest of the fruit succumbed to the ravages of that pest.

pumpkin with squash bugs

2013: Adult and juvenile squash bugs

Last year I moved the crop to our front deck so I could cleverly outsmart the little juice suckers. All seemed well until the plants set fruit. No amount of handpicking or pruning could slow down those squash bugs and again another crop went belly up.

pumkin with squash bugs and pantyhose

2014: Squash bugs ride again

This year I decided to skip planting altogether, hoping to send future generations of repulsive squash bugs packing. Then we entered year four of this punishing drought so I skipped planting anything all season.

This brings me back to the squirrels. I think they may have planted a pumpkin. Last fall I sheet mulched part of the lawn. At the edge of the path, an all-volunteer crop of tomatoes took root, circling a single pumpkin. They’re all happily growing in a dry dirt patch without a drop of water!

pumpkin and tomatoes

At first I refused to invest any emotional energy into a crop that would surely expire after the first heat wave. The pumpkin plant did indeed wilt, but then it  did something else: it pumped out one small, starting to turn orange pumpkin. Within a few days, the fruit shriveled and died, snapped clean off the vine. I left it there for future noshing and went about my business. What a tease!

Then this happened:

green pumpkin 2015

An as yet, undisturbed foot-long pumpkin

How can you ignore that?!

So I did what any self-respecting gardener would do: I encased the pumpkin in a leg of pantyhose.  I found a box of extra-large pantyhose on clearance at a local drugstore.

pantyhose for pumpkin

Just my (pumpkin’s) size

pumpkin under cover-001

Pumpkin secured inside the leg of a pair of pantyhose

pumpkin under cover

Dear rats, squirrels and other foraging critters, Please eat the tomatoes and leave the pumpkin. We only have one. Thank you, The Gardener

The ample material gave me plenty of wiggle room to cover the pumpkin and to allow it to continue to grow. I’m not the only one that hates pantyhose. Apparently that nylon irritates rats and squirrels as well. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Not that I care or anything.

Because…I don’t.

😉

It’s What’s for Dinner if You’re a Worm

Boy that title has a lot of apostrophes. I hope I got them right. I’m guilty of overusing’ them when’ they’re’ not really necessary.

Okay, that was a little distraction before I present you with this first picture: it’s what’s for dinner in the worm bin.

kitchen scraps for the worms

Kitchen Scraps for the Worms

worm bin

Salad for the Red Wigglers

I had a worm bin going for a few years, courtesy of my friend Liz. It was an informal set up: an old bucket, some straw and kitchen compost. It worked well until  an unwitting painter tossed it aside when they repainted our house. Once I realized, it was too late. The worms were gone. Hopefully they slipped out in the dead of night once they realized the garden had more to offer.

worm bin red wigglers

Red Wigglers

Within a few weeks something wonderful happened. A neighbor asked if I wanted a worm bin known as a Wriggly Wranch™. His brother in-law set one up, but then lost interest in maintaining it. I enthusiastically agreed. He assembled it for me under our orange tree. He gave me half of his worms to get started.

wriggly wranch worm bin

Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin

I read the manual cover to cover and frankly was a bit intimidated. Had I been doing it wrong all this time? They make it sound as though the worms are quite temperamental.

Feed them just enough, but not too much

Keep them cool and moist

If it’s hot, add ice cubes

If it’s cold, bring them into a sheltered area

…and so on.

worm bin with paper

The ‘ranch’ is now closer to the house so I can keep an eye on things

The worms did fine before the fancy home, and I heard no complaints about the food. I’ve chosen to relax, feed them once a week, and trust that they’ll do just fine. I’m practicing for when my son leaves for college. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Tonight the worms are eating organic tofu and cantaloupe. That’s what my son had as well. So far, so good.

Purple Garden Palooza

garden triangle may

Purple garden palooza

Peter Piper may have picked a peck of pickled peppers, but I’m picking purple petals from my perfect garden. It’s a purple palooza.

Ha! Say that three times.

The small corner garden near the walkway to our door looks like royalty. It’s awash in three shades of purple, with dots of orange and green accents. Last year’s sweet peas re-seeded and came back in a royal flush.

sweet peas

Sweet peas

sweet pea flower gives way to seed

Sweet pea flowers give way to seed pods

They’re in good company too. Love-in-a-Mist scattered seeds everywhere and now lines the sidewalk in a purple haze. Pay no attention to the dying grass in the background. The lawn is on its way out.

love in a mist lining the sidewalk

Self-seeding love-in-a-mist line the walkway

The Statice flowered early this year, showing pearly white blooms in the center of the calyx.  I love the way they compliment each other.

statice with flowers

Statice: calyx and flowers

One California poppy grows at the edge, but I fear a dog is lifting its leg once a day as the foliage is looking a bit…tired. The plant is still hanging in there though. Go Team Violet! Go state flower!

california poppy

California poppy wrapped up for the night

love in a mist closeup

Love-in-a-mist blooms and seed pods

Things you many not know:

(I didn’t)

The word ‘purple’ comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek πορφύρα (porphura), name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail.-Wikipedia

Today, science has revealed much more about purple than our ancestors ever realized: Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy. It’s just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. – Color Matters

The color purple is a rare occurring color in nature and as a result is often seen as having sacred meaning. Lavender, orchid, lilac, and violet flowers are considered delicate and precious. –Bourn Creative