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.

Save

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.

Save

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

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?

Save

Save

Save

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?