Summer’s Arrival

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Summer is officially just around the corner – as the 100+ degree temperatures last weekend made clear. Deep, bold colors replace pastels in the garden –

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sprigs become stalks.

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and the bees are so busy gathering that I can weed – or photograph – among them and barely be noticed.

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“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

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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.

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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…

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Now all we need are the Sunflowers and Dahlias which are coming along.

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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!

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He and his friend Molly are one of three pairs we have recently received.

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These beautiful long coats feel much better in cool breezes!

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“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” ― Henry James

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Cheers to the arrival of summer!

The Birds and The Bees…and More

A fresh batch of new volunteers came through the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today during their orientation.

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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.

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There are plenty of warm places to sun or hide for lizards and our friendly snakes.

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We leave bunny burrows alone as long as they only take their share.

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Makeshift bird baths, seeds, worms and ample bugs (no pesticides) support a variety of feathered friends.

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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.

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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.

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He whispers to the pups – like newbies Chip and Cookie – ‘everything will be alright’.

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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.

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“Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending.” ~ Author Unknown

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Transcendent Moments

The weather turned very warm again this weekend…brushing 100-degrees and testing our commitment!

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Maria and Ina were both out…my garden partners returned after their treks far and wide. Defying the temperatures and the bunny literally staring her in the face, Maria has planted rows and rows of tiny sunflower plants. I suspect that they are just tonight’s dinner – but you have to admire her persistence. It is a battle of wills now. Some will remember that we disposed of the bunnies’ favorite den – the monster blackberry bramble – a season ago. Now they have taken up residence right in the middle of Maria’s sunflowers. Bunny revenge!

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The heat brings the dogs to the garden – seeking shade and some cool grass to roll in. This is Jenna who arrived last night – literally pulled from a shelter by one of our awesome volunteers in her final hour. Her joy (and ours) is obvious.

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Gypsy is another new arrival and a certified fence jumper. We’ll have to work on that wanderlust and find her a home that she’ll never want to leave.

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Canelo is a young boy – only about one year of age – who lost his leg and has really struggled with recovery. Most tripods bounce back quickly, but not this boy. So our volunteers crawled through the 120-degree attic to find and rehab this cart for him. It immediately changed his perspective; we have hope that it changes his future as well.

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Hunter is the last of the Reservoir Dogs still with us. Such a sweet boy. He and his tennis ball are inseparable –

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but he did discover that he would trade a ball for a birdie…if only he could catch one!

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The garden was warm and buzzing with hundreds of honey bees, gratefully soaking up all that was offered.

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“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” ~
John Milton

Awe

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“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~ W.B. Yeats

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Walking into the Memorial Garden this weekend, I was overcome with awe.

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During the week, it seemed like everything was in bloom – like an orchestra moving from chaotic warm up notes to a full blown symphony…

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only this symphony was of sight, color and smell. So overwhelmingly beautiful – I scarcely know how to describe it. Everywhere I looked there was a treasure from a previous season making its re-appearance. Our garden is back!

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“These beautiful days … do not exist as mere pictures – maps hung upon the walls of memory to brighten at times when touched by association or will … They saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.” ~ John Muir

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The day was punctuated with other happy notes. Young Ava’s birthday present wish was donations of kibble for our pups. It was fulfilled in spades and delivered in person, along with 67 cases of canned food in response to our appeal for a dog whose jaw had to be rebuilt.

Two of our Reservoir Dogs found their forever homes; a third goes home on Monday. Amazingly, Michael – who was one of the shyest upon arrival, was among the first to bloom. His new “mom” Tara was smitten from the first time we wrote about him, checking in weekly on his progress. As soon as he became available, she was on our doorstep, clearly in love.

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Joseph will enjoy the company of dogs in his ready-made family…just as soon as he finishes his nap!

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Exhausted from a day of planting, hauling mulch and clearing foxtails and about to head home, I was overcome again. Our transport arrived with five more dogs…three with significant medical needs. To watch our team kick into gear, calming fears, reassuringly introducing them to their new surroundings, assessing and beginning to care for their needs…I was left speechless and filled with another kind of awe; esteem and admiration. The beauty of the garden pales in comparison to the goodness and dedication of these people. There truly is magic here.

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Renewed

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

It is hard to be a weekend-only gardener of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. So much changes during the week at this time of year; I have to take time just to soak it up each Saturday morning when I return. It is amazing to see last year’s perennials push their way skyward once again as the garden reshapes itself after the long winter.

The Snapdragon, Iceland Poppies and tiny Viola flowers worried Ina – a horticulturist with a penchant for California natives. She thought they might be too grandmotherly…but I think they have won her over, begrudgingly.

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The roses are beginning to bloom.

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You wonder what weighs them down? The tiny frogs have already taking up residence!

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The California Poppies have opened; their gold offers striking contrast to the Lavender backdrop.

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Maria’s Herb Garden is already lush and new additions will quickly fill in any holes.

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Ina has prepared all of her beds for the dry days ahead, tucking them in with a blanket of shreds.

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Even the Killdeer are back…leaving their nest eggs smack in the middle of the dog park!

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Maria is off on another adventure, which means that I was left unsupervised on Saturday. That always spells trouble – and planting! When we began the garden, each person had their own bed to do with as they pleased. The good news was that the work was divided up; the downside was that the garden felt a little disjointed. Now that our core group is a little smaller, we can “color outside the lines” a little. I planted two beds, bridging the Daylily bed to the Rose bed – and the Perennial bed to a tree circle garden, echoing the most drought tolerant plantings in each.

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Ina thinks I’m nuts (again), but allows me to play as long as I steer clear of her beds!

With the “dorms” (aka “kennel”) full – the dog walkers arrived in force this weekend, allowing me to work without too much guilt. There were dogs everywhere…

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and some happy “going homes” including the dog I wrote about last week; our other Daisy who had been returned for being a still rambunctious two-year old. This time, we found the perfect home where her youthful exuberance will be exhausted by an outdoor-loving and very active mom.

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The world is right again.

Through the Lens

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“It pleases me to take amateur photographs of my garden, and it pleases my garden to make my photographs look professional.” ~ Robert Brault

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I have enjoyed taking amateur pictures of our garden – watching it progress through the seasons and develop over time. But lately, the amateur quality of the photos has been a sense of growing frustration and disappointment instead of joy. So, with appreciation to our Presidents for the three-day weekend, I rented a camera that takes a couple of leaps from my current gear.

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When I started studying painting many moons ago, my student tools were inexpensive gessoed muslin canvas, cheap brushes and acrylic paints. I will never forget the first time I put fine sable brushes and a light oil wash to a linen canvas primed with rabbit skin glue (sorry bunny). The paint had a completely different feel, a brilliance and transparency. It did as I commanded – effortlessly gliding into place. That has been my experience behind the lens this weekend. Not just photographing our budding spring…

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or happy birds…

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but the beauty of the dogs –

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and the delight in the faces of our volunteers and families.

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“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera” ~ Lewis Hine

Tuesday, I return the camera and turn back into a pumpkin. But something tells me there is a purchase in my future. So when words are inadequate, I can (happily) share our joy in photographs with you.

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Rain Glorious Rain

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Rain. Glorious Rain.

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A Pacific storm – an atmospheric “river” we refer to as the “pineapple express” – dumped a more than generous amount of rain in Northern California setting a record in Sacramento for most rainfall in a 24 hour period. It helped our nearby Folsom lake to rise nearly 3 feet in a single weekend, and the Sierras above us were topped with more than four feet of snow. While we are all soggy and practically swimming in it – we are rejoicing.

Homeward Bound might well be renamed “On Golden Pond.” Our banks have overflown…

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And our parched Memorial Garden is a bit under water.

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But what a glorious sight it is.

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All the dogs got out despite the weather…

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and Rocky, Lisa, Zoe and Eleanor managed to get adopted by devoted families that made their way to us despite the downpour.

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The trees are practically bursting with joy.

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“Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” ~ John Updike

These Pacific storms – which have been absent all winter – typically deliver about a third of our annual rainfall. While this one only puts a dent in our deficit, it is a welcome gift and a hopeful sign of good things to come.

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So many have shared a prayer and a rain dance for our golden state. Thank you.

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Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.”

Spring in Winter

A declaration of drought has been made official in California – as if it were not obvious.

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With a soil rich in clay, and an abundance of drought hardy perennials, the Memorial Garden has fared better than most so far.

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We cannot count on that continuing…especially with temperatures in the 70’s in January. Ridiculous. So we’ll just revel in what we have today:

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Signs of spring in winter,

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birds in abundance,

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beautiful snowy faces,

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and the company of dogs.

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Rain dances are, however, welcome.