Our Little Free Library Gets a Makeover

Little Free Library original

Little Free Library, January, 2014

When I spotted a Little Free Library in nearby Campbell in 2013, it was love at first site. The idea of my own Little Free Library held great appeal. It took awhile to bring it all together, but in January of 2014 our curbside Little Free Library or LFL made its debut. We dedicated the library in May that year and it’s seen a steady stream of visitors ever since.

My friend Nick Timmerman built the library using reclaimed materials. It’s held up well, but last year it started to leak. I had to cover the library with  recycled packing material to keep it operational during our wet winter.

Little Free Library March 2017

Little Free Library under cover

Now the library is undergoing a facelift.  I wanted something fun and whimsical, so I reached out to my friend Donna Pierre. Donna is a talented fine artist and a muralist. It’s a treat to see the details unfold. I’m excited to share the finished library soon. Meanwhile, here are a few pics of the process:

Little Free Library Primed for painting

Primed, painted and sealed

Donna Pierre painting the Little Free Library

Donna Pierre: taping off lines for the log cabin detail

Little Free Library Log Cabin Detail

The log cabin effect

Little Free Library Log Cabin Detail

Back of the library

It’s been unseasonably hot these past few days, after a week of unseasonably cold weather. You never know these days which end is up. Once the weather improves, Donna will be back. I’m so excited.

As you can see from the last photo, my sweet pea jungle is wilting from the heat. I knew it was inevitable, but I’ll be sorry to see them go. The Nigella (love-in-a-mist) are filling in some of the vacated spots, and the cornflowers are hanging in there too. The bees love the Nigella and I love the bees so three cheers for synchronicity.

spring flower bouquet

Flowers for Kathee

My sister stops by every Sunday to pick up a small bouquet for her friend, Kathee who is on hospice.  This past weekend I added three miniature yellow roses to the small bouquet. It’s been nice to bring a bit of color to her day.

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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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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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Soft Rains and Healthy Brains

While enjoying the sound of a soft rain outside my window, I looked for articles that explain my sense of euphoria with each passing storm.

hummingbird-in-the-rain

Anna’s Hummingbird having a drink at one of the feeders

Apparently I’m a pluviophile!

According to an article in LifeHack

People who love rain bask in their experiences. They can describe the rain in vivid detail, from the mesmerizing pitter-patter sound, to the hypnotic way each drop magnifies and changes the scenery on the other side of the window pane. Pluviophiles appreciate the scent of a fresh storm and the delicious feel of water dripping down their skin. They even know the taste of fresh drops as they look upwards with arms outstretched and welcome a cool drink from the clouds.

It’s nice to be understood. There are dozens of articles on the mood-altering effects of rain, most of them describing how people feel sad or out of sorts when it rains.

curb-garden-variegated-plant-in-rainIt took some digging to find an article supporting my rain-loving ways. I quickly forwarded a copy to my older son. He’s home from college for the Thanksgiving break, and heads out the door every time it rains. He loves it as much as I do.

My garden certainly appreciates the rain. The plants stand a little taller, grateful for the cleansing rinse. Leaves brighten to a shiny green as the plant’s roots welcome the long, steady drink.

sweet-peas-after-a-rain

Sweet Peas, blooming for the second time this year

This Anna’s hummingbird took a shower from the branches of the Chinese Pistache. Apparently he’s a pluviophile too.

Anna's hummigbird in the rain

Male Anna’s Hummingbird enjoying the rain

Post-Election Processing

I read a blog post this weekend that resonated with me, so I’m sharing it here. Martha Brettschneider writes of the benefits of mindfulness to help us process and move forward in a positive way.

She described the election outcome as triggering a sense of “social mistrust.”

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that social mistrust is a stress response to not feeling safe, respected, or valued in our community. It’s a deeper, more toxic level of stress than your normal everyday stress, with even stronger physiological impacts on our health and well-being.

You can read the full article here.

Martha discusses ways to transform your stress from “paralyzing to empowering.” If you’ve been struggling with this as I have, than this article is for you..

I’ve done a number of things in the past ten days along these lines. I’ll share more in a future post.

Who’s That Pollinator: Wasp or Bee?

flower garden poppies love in a mist sweet peas

An Amazing Spring: Everything you see here self-seeded thanks to gentle, frequent rain. The Love in a Mist are now blooming, along with California poppies and sweet peas which appear to have swallowed the trellis

Late afternoon is a happy time in the garden. With spring in full bloom, bees and possibly wasps are doing what they do best: pollinating.

One of the many joys of blogging is learning new things. Though humbling, it’s also interesting when a long-held belief is knocked off its center.

For starters, take a look at this all-black bee.

Xylocopa tabaniformis

Xylocopa tabaniformis visiting the sweet peas

Someone told me years ago that these were carpenter bees. I took that at face value, having no reason to contradict it. They love traveling between my pumpkins and sunflowers. They’re frequent and welcome visitors in my garden, moving quickly from bloom to bloom. I’m always enamored with the yellow coating after they’ve dipped into the center of a flower. They’re docile as well, a nice quality when you’re up close taking pictures.

I was also told they would eat wood, including your house and that they were “bad” bees. I’ve since read that some carpenter bees are more problematic than others, but that overall they should not be viewed as pests but as beneficial pollinators. Are you as confused as I am?

Xylocopa varipuncta

Xylocopa varipuncta gathering pollen on a love in a mist

I spotted this beauty today touching down on the love in a mist. Research tells me it’s also a carpenter bee, though the golden color is quite distinct from its shiny black cousin. Varipuncta looks like it’s wearing a golden fur coat, making it hard to distinguish between the bee and the pollen it gathers.

Xylocopa varipuncta

Xylocopa varipuncta alternate view

Rounding out the collection is a pollinator formerly known by yours truly as “A bee”, a nondescript, generic term I use for any sort of flying, pollinating “bee” in my garden. Now I’ve been forced to reconsider this description as well, allowing for the possibility that this is a wasp or a hover-fly. Any guesses?

bee or waspEvery year I find a paper wasp’s nest under the eaves, but they’ve never been aggressive. Today I read that yellow jackets and hornets are aggressive, but like most bees, paper wasps are gentle.

Why We Need Bees:

If you’re as fascinated as I am, here are a few links:

It’s The Little Things

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Khalil Gibran

I’ve always loved this quote. It’s beautiful, lyrical and true.

This little nest landed in the garden under the Chinese pistache tree. I spotted it in the tree late last year after the leaves dropped for the winter. Before I could take a picture, it came down in the wind. It is actually illegal to remove a bird’s nest, but once it’s on the ground…and empty, you can pick it up and admire mama bird’s nesting skills. I kept the little nest indoors through the wet months, then returned it to the garden for bird recycling.

Bird's Nest

Bird’s Nest

My friend Marcia and her lovely daughters dropped of this sweet little heart on Valentine’s Day. It’s a birdseed cake, shaped into a heart and ready for hanging in the garden. I love this little heart, and the big hearts that placed it on our doorstep.

birdseed heart

Heart Shaped Birdseed Cake

And on the subject of big hearts and little things, my friend Kelly, sent me a few packets of sweet pea seeds for our summer garden. She thoughtfully included purples, so that when my purple-loving sister stopped by, she could enjoy them too.

sweet pea seeds and gift bag

Sweet pea seeds from Kelly

Those tiny seeds didn’t amount to much in the first year, leaving me wondering what I did wrong. I take it personally when I can’t get something to grow.

Last year, they came up on their own, filling a corner nicely till the first heat wave laid them low. Like me, they wilt in the heat. They were stunning while in bloom though, and those little seeds taught me a thing or too along the way.

sweet peas

Sweet Peas, 2015

This year something big happened. It rained. Then it rained some more. I noticed seedlings spreading all over the front garden, right next to the newly planted California natives. Those little seedlings shot up and out and eventually filled out an entire corner of the front garden.

sweet pea collage Nov to April

Self Sown Garden

The garden is flourishing with an all-volunteer mixture of sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and bachelor buttons also known as cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus).

Now that I have several blooms, I’m going to start cutting indoor bouquets. The scent is out of this world.

sweet pea blooms april 2016

Bachelor’s buttons, pink and blue, Love-in-a-mist in the background, lavender and fuchsia sweet peas

“…for in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

What is your favorite little thing?

Sweet Peas: Art, Friendship and Second Chances

When my boys were young, Sweet Pea was a favorite term of endearment. They’re teenagers now, so pet names are the kiss of death. I still think it in my head though, especially this time of year.

Sweet Friends

sweet pea seeds and gift bag

Sweet Pea seeds and the beautiful gift bag

Last year my kindred spirit sent me several packets of sweet pea seeds from up north. I planted them in a few places, to see what worked best. A few came up in the pots out back, but they died back quickly, challenging my garden mojo, They’re supposed to grow like wild flowers. We mused that perhaps they weren’t properly adapted for our hotter climate and chalked it up to experience.

Guess what? They’re back. They’re also bigger and brighter and happily growing in the garden. Don’t you love second chances?

sweet pea buds

These soft yellow buds opened to lavender flowers

sweet pea tendrils

Delicate but strong

sweet peas with dew drops

Flowers refreshed

This isn’t the first time I’ve planted seeds, that do so-so in the first year, then come on strong a year later. Look at them grow!

Artful Friends

Artist Nicole Meredith created The Flower Map as a way of fundraising for her own healing treatments. I met Nicole through a mutual friend and have followed her journey for several years. As her health improved, she launched The Flower Map. I purchased a handful of cards from her Etsy shop, to send and to give as gifts.

To my delight, Nicole sent me one of her original water colors as a gift. My cup overflows! I framed the sweet pea watercolor, both for its beauty and for the reminder that Nicole, too, is improving and getting her second chance at a healthy life. Her Etsy shop is currently ‘taking a break.’ Nicole, sending healing thoughts your way and thank you once again for this lovely gift.

nicole meredith the art map sweet peas

I’m not the only one who’s in love with sweet peas. Show some blogging love and have a look:

  • Silk and Threades writes beautifully about her own experiences. Check out The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea.
  • Take a look at Cathy’s beautiful vase and field of wild sweet peas (be still my heart) at Words and Herbs.
  • Bloom or Bust has a great idea for trailing sweet peas. She also used them in her wedding, which I think is the sweetest of all.

If you’re viewing this in ‘real time’, have a look at my Descending on D.C. widget to the right. Can you believe it? It’s counting down the hours, not days. I’m so excited.