Spring Greeted in the Garden

“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” ~ Ruth Stout


Saturday was a picture perfect early spring day, which brought out all kinds of visitors to the garden: dogs,




snails (by the thousands),


and Rocky! Our resident snake is back and apparently well fed.


And if the geese hadn’t found such a buffet in the wet field next door, they would probably have been in the garden as well.


We could have used the extra helpers. Twenty beautiful antique roses were gifted to us (thank you, Marguerite!); lifted from their home in Napa and delivered in a packed SUV by Maria. Since they were quite literally “bare root,” they needed to be planted right away. We sorted them by size and color, dialing up Anna’s mom, Lynn – a rosarian, for reference.

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Somehow, Maria, Anna and I got all twenty planted in one afternoon. Somehow, we found space for them! In between there were “going home” pictures to grab. From across the garden I hear the holler: “photo needed!” It is an interruption that I am always happy to accommodate. Happily, there were quite a few:




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Three of our hunting dogs, including Drake who found himself a family of boys,


and Bailey and Bandit, who found themselves a home together with a couple of girls.


But the best picture of all was a simple snapshot taken a few days earlier, capturing the smiling faces of Riley and his new mom.

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke


The Color of Springtime

To my frozen blogger friends and family on the east coast, I send a tiny bit of spring and offer this deal: if you’ll send water in form of melted snow and ice, we’ll keep sending flowers. 🙂

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Pink Hyacinth
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“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” ~ Terri Guillemets

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Oops…those sneaky dogs!!
Stay warm all (and use lots and lots of imagination until spring).

When the hunt is over

What becomes of a retired hunting dog?


The luckiest are already part of a family where hunting is the exception, not the rule. But for dogs bred and trained to do only one thing, retiring to the sofa is usually not their fate. The lucky ones find their way to rescues or new homes. The transition can take patience and lots of love.


Recently, seven beautiful hunting dogs made their way to us. Not a Golden among them, of course. Everyone knows that Goldens are too busy being spoiled to go out and work! But we happily offer our help when we have the space. They are all gentle, well-behaved dogs – but this walking on a leash thing is a little new to them. Set them free in a yard and they race; they point; they stare off into the distance as if to say – “let me go find it. That’s my job!”


“If Heaven made him — earth can find some use for him.” ~ Chinese Proverb


Hunting dogs are not only bred to be athletes and accustomed to being with people – they are usually highly intelligent. When they can no longer endure the physical demands of a hunt, their passion for working can be stimulated with mental, obedience, and agility challenges.


These lucky dogs are beginning to discover that they can have a different purpose: best friend and loved companion.


Some are already available for adoption. We’ll need a little help getting out the word that some of our current guests are spotted on the outside. But lucky are the humans who take home the gold within.

“An earthly dog of the carriage breed;
Who, having failed of the modern speed,
Now asked asylum and I was stirred
To be the one so dog preferred.” ~ Robert Frost


Thanks to Rob Kessel, our dog photographer, for generously loaning his images.

Proof is in the puddles

I stand before you, falsely accused.

Ina is the horticulturist on our team of gardeners. She is expert at selecting and nurturing native or drought-tolerant plants that can survive California’s waterless years. She has taught me a lot about planting for success in our clay-heavy, sun-baked garden.

One of her first soldiers – a large silver ragwort (jacobaea maritima) – was recently lost. You can see it here in its magnificence. She suspects I snuck it water and thus, contributed to its untimely demise.


When we were deluged with two storms in December, where was Ina? Maui. While all of January was dry, we were visited by a Pineapple Express this weekend – a warm, wet storm that blows in off the Pacific – an “atmospheric river.”


Here, before you I present the photographic evidence which should exonerate me: proof positive that Ina’s garden sits in one of the lowest spots of the garden. Her beautifully appointed crushed granite pathways serve as perfect vessels, creating self-contained rivers that hold water for days. Yes…those are her rosemary, lavender, tulbaghia violacea (aka…smelly society garlic), artemesia, lamb’s ear, asters, lion’s tail, and tanacetum plants and grasses sitting in the flood zone.


What say you jurors…kind blogger peers? Regardless of the verdict, the rain is SO very welcome.


The downside of a Pineapple Express is that creates rain in the Sierras instead of snow pack. We depend on the snow pack to refill our rivers and reservoirs later in the year. But, at this point, we are grateful for water in whatever form it arrives.


It all made for soggy, dog-walking duty this weekend at the rescue – but who can argue with the rewards?


The Birds

Our Sacramento Valley is a hub of bird activity in the winter. Tens of thousands of birds come a calling, traveling on a super-highway called the Pacific Flyway. It is a major north-south route for migratory birds extending from Alaska to Patagonia. The Sacramento Valley is a key rest stop along the way, or even a winter home for some – where birds gather by the thousands.

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According to the Audubon Society, you will find about 250 species of birds in the Sacramento area alone. Expand your search east to the Sierra foothills & mountains, south to the San Joaquin River delta, and west to the Pacific Ocean and that increases to about 400 species.


Some pass through…and some find it very cozy to stay on in our nearby parks where they are very well fed.


Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue
is surrounded by rice fields…a perfect landing spots for birds who flock together, including these beautiful snow geese.

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Unfortunately, they are perfect sitting ducks for hunters as well. Throughout January, shotgun pops rang out and the birds took to the skies by the hundreds.


This past weekend marked the end of hunting season. The birds could not be happier.

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Now that the skies are safe, you’ll find geese-covered fields putting a welcome mat out for their friends –

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and even cohabitating with cows.


The worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count runs February 13-16. Thanks to my friend, Rob for capturing this Alfred Hitchcock moment. Anyone want to take a guess on this count?