Surprisingly…the bunny won!
I’ve learned that the best gardens are patchworks of the found, shared and transplanted. The trees, flowers and shrubs of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden are a collection of new, old and passed on beauties.
Some arrive on our door step. Other have been lifted from gardens we love – always with permission, of course!
Their common destination is a loosely structured garden with unique pockets created for the creatures who inhabit it. Bunnies, birds, snakes, pesky snails –
and dogs, of course.
Like our plants, they arrive from everywhere. Jersey Girl – one of our newest arrivals – traveled all the way across the country from Tennessee thanks to a network of folks dedicated to rescue. Her adventure took over two weeks of travel and foster. Passed from one to another like a precious gift. She is terrified of thunder and her people knew that our quiet valley would be a better place for her.
Eve was found wandering. She was accompanied by a large tumor – likely from raising too many puppies – and she is almost completely blind from cataracts. If we can successfully do away with the first, we hope to remove the other and restore her health and her sight.
Some arrive on wings – like our Taiwan dogs…
and a prayer – for a new life and a forever home. Surrendered, found, rescued.
Rescued dogs – like rescued gardens – return their good fortune a hundred fold.
If you have followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that Hummingbirds – or more specifically, Hummingbird photography – has been my nemesis. A better camera has helped. More amazingly – after years of frustration – the universe paid me back with the gift of a hummingbird nest right outside my door.
I almost mistook it for a wasp’s nest when Mama – a Black-chinned Hummingbird – first started building it on a string of white lights in the alcove. Thankfully, I procrastinated my impulse to remove it. Over the next couple of days it started to take shape.
Mama was constantly bustling about.
Hummingbirds usually look for a “Y”-shaped tree limb in an open space, but below a canopy of leaves – away from predators and the wind. While the choice of a string of lights seems odd, she carefully selected a section where one light forms a “Y” – and the strand is protected from direct sun and wind under the eaves. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are supposed to be one of the most adaptable of their kind. Mama certainly was ingenious in her nest placement, especially given the number of other birds, squirrels and other predators that travel through our backyard.
Day by day she delivered plant materials and spider silk from webs which she carried across her chest and pressed into place, gluing the nest together and attaching it firmly to its flimsy anchor. I confess to helping her shore it up a little by anchoring the light string with a couple of wires.
After about three weeks she had created a perfect tiny, teacup bowl just a little bigger than a golf ball.
The only thing she did not properly calculate was the traffic in and out of our back door. The solution was simple enough. Much to my husband’s disgust, I banned the entry. Hubby, dogs and guests were made to use a side entrance for what would become a VERY long time.
Once the nest was complete, Mama took to sitting. And sitting. And sitting.
Unlike our Mourning Doves who share parenting responsibilities, Mama Hummingbird does all the work. The eggs – which are the size of small white jelly beans – take about two weeks to incubate. They have to be kept at 96 degrees, so the warmth of the day allows her to go feed and drink. We have flowers, a feeder and ample water in the backyard – but she clearly samples from the neighbors as well.
When the babies peck their way out of their shells, Mama really gets to work. Her disappearance and return every 20 minutes or so signaled their arrival. I got on the ladder and snuck a peek. They were barely the size of the tip of my pinkie finger. They have no feathers; just black skin and a few bits of down, all snuggled down low in the nest.
With eyes born shut, the breeze from Mama’s wings (and her chirping) signal her return.
Beaks go up, and she performs an act that looks a little like a sewing machine needle – churning up her stomach contents of nectar and bugs which she distributes down their tiny throats.
This goes on for roughly three weeks. The nest stretches and expands as they grow thanks to the elastic spider silk. Each day, the beaks get a little taller over the side, and the down gradually turns to colored bumps and then tiny feathers.
You wouldn’t think that they could fit in that tiny cup of a nest, but they were snug as bugs.
We were hit with a heat wave as they grew, with temperatures over 105. I placed a fan in the area just to circulate the air, and made sure there was extra fresh water for Mama to drink from. By Day 13 they were looking back at me –
and Mama was clearly annoyed with my picture-taking. She took to sitting on the wires above and chirping angrily at me.
Occasionally, if I got too close, she would fly over and flap her wings at me.
I thought that was a little rude given all of my accommodations for her little family. I tried like the dickens to get a picture of her feeding them. Hummingbirds see farther and hear better than humans. I shot from inside of the house, thinking she wouldn’t see me. Wrong. One day, I crouched behind an outside planter and waited for 90 minutes. She just sat on the wire and waited. As soon as I left, she swooped in, dropped off their meal and was off.
By Day 14 they were showing signs of the beautiful iridescent green on their feathers. One was clearly larger than the other, but generous with its space sharing.
And by Day 17 , I was having a hard time figuring out how they were balancing on that nest! You can see that one is a boy (darker throat) and the other a girl.
Day 18: Sister’s full feathers appear ready for flight.
On Day 19, I took this picture of the in the morning. It would be their last together.
At 4PM, little brother was on his own.
Mama came squawking at me as I took his picture.
And out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blur; big sister on her maiden flight.
She rested on a wire above looking still tiny in comparison to Mama.
On Day 20, brother flew the coop as well. I can hear Mama off in the distance and tiny chirps in her vicinity, but she is staying out of sight. She’ll watch over them for a few days and show them how to find food and drink, then they’ll be off on their happy lives.
Stay safe, little Hummingbirds. I wish you well. What a gift you have shared with me.
I arrived late to the garden on Saturday – after lending a hand with the dogs’ last evening run. Peggy had been out earlier in the day. She is a weeder-extraordinaire and her work was evident everywhere.
She happened upon a Killdeer egg. These silly birds have a nasty habit of leaving their eggs in the walk-on bark. The mama bird seeks camouflage – without consideration for the fact that this is a walking path. Peggy surrounded it with rocks to alert all.
Evening is my favorite time in the garden. It is especially beautiful – and peaceful –
as the sun lowers on the horizon and casts cool shadows after a day of baking sun.
“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.” ~ Dorothy Frances Gurney
Eve got a last walk through the garden. Blind – or nearly blind – and clearly a recent mom – she had been found wandering on the road. I wonder if this sweet girl knows how fortunate she is to have arrived here.
By morning, Peggy’s noble effort had been undone by some predator.
Luckily Mama had moved another to a safer hiding spot.
Our work starts anew.
“If the world could remain within a frame like a painting on the wall, I think we’d see the beauty then and stand staring in awe.” ~ Conor Oberst
Today’s Wordless Wednesday post has been preempted – read on; you will understand why.
In November 2012 – twenty months ago – I shared a story of a beautiful Golden Retriever that had been spooked while camping with her family in Tahoe National Forest. Scared, she bolted and then became lost. Our extended Homeward Bound family joined her family in daily searches until the snows fell. We hoped that someone unknowing had her safe. Winter came and went. And another winter came and went. She was spoken of often, and never forgotten.
This morning, we were greeted with this message.
Our dearest Family and Friends,
After 20 long months of being in the Tahoe National Forest, Murphy has come home. As you can imagine we are completely shocked and amazed with the miracle of her surviving this long. We responded to a call from a couple who spotted a dog matching her description in an area within 5 miles of where we lost her. After multiple days looking for her without success, we left her bed and our clothing behind with the campground host, in the hopes that she would respond. A week went by and we got a call from the campground host who was able to coax her into a kennel after she had been sleeping every night on the blanket and clothing that was left behind. We were reunited with Murphy, on Sunday afternoon – Father’s Day! She is on the road to recovery, very thin and frail but happy to be home with her family. We have so many people to thank the list is endless. Words cannot describe how grateful we are. Homeward Bound was instrumental in their efforts to help, the campground host – Jason, Jacob (guy that made the call), Missy, Lea, Deann, Teresa, Mike, Mike, Mary, Jason, Lauren, Larry, Bubba, Wawa, Bob and Kim — You all know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are forever grateful.
Murphy’s family has been inundated with media requests and other attention. They understandably just want time to be with their beloved golden girl. Out of respect for them, I have updated the earlier post to delete their information. But I did want to share our joy. It is a reminder that miracles do happen.
“Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops…at all.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Welcome home, Murphy.
Summer is officially just around the corner – as the 100+ degree temperatures last weekend made clear. Deep, bold colors replace pastels in the garden –
sprigs become stalks.
and the bees are so busy gathering that I can weed – or photograph – among them and barely be noticed.
“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
Last weekend was ridiculously hot. It happened on the same weekend last year. 105-108 in early June. Record breakers. But the early heat wave was followed by a much more temperate summer. Fingers crossed that we experience a repeat this year.
While the heat did away with the last of the spring flowers, it did coax out blossoms on the Bee Balm, Agapanthus, Lantana and Rudbeckia…
Now all we need are the Sunflowers and Dahlias which are coming along.
Only a few of the Milkweed (Asclepias) – which was everywhere last year – have reappeared. Probably eaten by those nasty Cucumber beetles. I will need to replant from seedlings soon for our Monarch friends.
The dogs are clearly loving the cooler temperatures this week. This face greeted me early Saturday morning. Hello Milo!
He and his friend Molly are one of three pairs we have recently received.
These beautiful long coats feel much better in cool breezes!
“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” ― Henry James
Cheers to the arrival of summer!
A fresh batch of new volunteers came through the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today during their orientation.
Maria is smart enough to address the question proactively: no, there are no dogs buried here. Just a quiet place to remember, gather with friends and enjoy some peace and quiet with those in our charge.
We try to make the garden a welcome place for all – the birds and bees – and more.
There are plenty of warm places to sun or hide for lizards and our friendly snakes.
We leave bunny burrows alone as long as they only take their share.
Makeshift bird baths, seeds, worms and ample bugs (no pesticides) support a variety of feathered friends.
And we plant purposefully to attract bees and hummingbirds including butterfly bush, gaura, coreopsis, gaillardia, bee balm, dahlia, lavender, sage, aster, daylily, coneflower, verbena, yarrow, zinnia, delphinium, penstemon, lantana, milkweed and more.
Fittingly, Saint Francis – the patron saint of animals and the environment – watches over. Maria has just completed his new stone pedestal…a fitting throne and a beautiful addition to the garden.
He whispers to the pups – like newbies Chip and Cookie – ‘everything will be alright’.
And the garden whispers to us in the cheerful chatter of birds, the hum of busy bees, and butterflies gracefully gliding from bed to bed.
“Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending.” ~ Author Unknown
Little Baldwin was one of four feral pups literally raised in the wild, the son of a Golden Mom and Black Lab Dad. Somehow, his Dad – broken jaw and all – got them to a firehouse for rescue. Little by little they learned the ways of loved dogs.
One by one, they were adopted; little Baldwin – the mightiest of them all – was last to be picked. Suddenly alone, he was not quite so brave anymore.
“The king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
He attended a couple of puppy classes, but at the end of each, he went back to his yard as the others went home. He was still a rescue dog.
“There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.”
That place is called ‘home.’ One day, these very nice people took a look at him and said “you’re the one we’ve been waiting for.”
“And the walls became the world all around.”
Just a few weeks later, Baldwin – now Duke – is not looking from the outside in – he is officially enrolled in puppy training with his best buds Oreo and Sage. Each lesson begins with a little wild time to get the energy out.
“And now…let the wild rumpus start!”
“And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.”
“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go- We’ll eat you up- we love you so!” ~ Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Inside all of us is… hope.
Inside all of us is… fear.
Inside all of us is… adventure.
Inside all of us is a wild thing.