Winter Skye

Two weeks ago, the asters and Mexican marigolds were still in bloom. Mother Nature can so easily lull Northern California gardeners into false hope of early spring. The narcissus have flowered, the tulips, hyacinths and iris are rapidly making their way. But grey skies and a cold north wind blew in today, with the promise of a hard freeze Monday night.

I was there early for puppy duty. German Shepherd, Annie and her newborns are just visiting. Found stray and very pregnant, she was sent to the shelter. Shelters don’t generally do newborn puppies. Our local GSD rescue pulled her, but reliant on fosters, they had never whelped puppies before. We offered to see her through the birth and their first few weeks before they move to their foster home. Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, our volunteers sat vigil. She birthed six beautiful babies and took to mothering immediately.

Puppy duty at this young age is not hard. It is more about being available to mom for frequent feedings, some cleaning, potty trips and breaks – leaving plenty of time to prepare the garden for the cold ahead.

New shoots and tender perennials are now blanketed in straw.

The sparrows believe it is theirs to nest in.

We began our rescue year with the walking wounded. Broken and fractured pelvises, traumatic nerve damage, one fractured vertebrae; one fractured femur, and a torn ACL. Cars and dogs don’t mix.

My current foster could be counted among them – but his issues are hereditary not inflicted.

At just a few months of age, he was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. Skye traveled a very long way for our help. He has interest from lots of potential adopters who want to bring him home once fixed – but so far, no one who meets our criteria has stepped up to see him through two FHO surgeries and months of recovery.

So, Skye is hanging out with us. He will have his first surgery on February 10 and his days of torturing his big foster brother Yogi will be over. Despite the abuse, I know where I will find Yogi when we bring Skye home hurting and sad: sleeping right by his side.

Note to potential adopters: four months is a long time not to fall in love with a dog. We are not looking for dog number three – but just saying!

Bundle up your tender fruit trees and plants, my Northern California gardener friends. And to those of you back east – you can stop laughing at us. Revenge is ours. Just wait for February!

Fragility and Resilience

“Life is fragile, like the dew hanging delicately on the grass, crystal drops that will be carried away on the first morning breeze.” ~  Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Sometimes, the most fragile-looking things have the greatest resilience.

A spider’s intricate web is designed to hold its maker, its prey, and a chandelier of droplets ten times its weight.

This tiny frog is everywhere in the garden in the middle of winter, finding shelter and warmth under leave piles and overturned pots.

I wish the same resilience for Taylor – a new arrival.

He looks like a very young dog, but is actually a three-year-old, emaciated boy. His story is not yet written.

We’ll need to determine if there is an unmet physical or emotional need – or if his well-meaning people were just unsure how to help him. Thankfully, they turned to us.

It’s clear that Taylor has put his trust in us, as well.

The garden is quiet and still – in anticipation of more rain and cutting back later in the month.

But the inn is filling up fast; the annual post-holiday flood of dogs. So “going homes” are in order to clear some space. Congratulations to Riggs, Charlie, and Rudy.

Happy lives, all!

Winter Comes

Winter comes. It arrives in its own time – sometimes early; sometimes late.
Winter has finally arrived in the Memorial Garden,

first, with the return of cold and wind…

and then,

much-needed rain. Nothing like the winter that family and friends are experiencing east of us (brrrr). Still, it leaves more time for dogs – and one of my favorite “jobs” at Homeward Bound: going home photos.

Saturday, it was Rover’s day…

and Bandit’s, too.

And then, there was a different photo request: for Cody.

Cody is in hospice care. He has cancer though out his body. His people took him home to spoil and love. Now, he is three weeks past his expected winter – and still enjoying life, admittedly at a little slower pace.

It was my honor to fulfill his people’s wish for photos. And to watch him rest in the garden as he watched the world go by.

“Across the purple sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?” ~ Sandy Denny

Winter comes – for all of us.

In its own time.

But not today.

Garden Update: Listen for the Rain


Winter arrived with a blast of cold. It blanketed the garden in little crystals and frozen bird baths each morning for a week.


A final whisper from the north to the garden: “go to sleep.”


We have learned to let the garden stand instead of conducting an end-of-season clean up. The dead stalks provide cover from the cold for the future growth below.


While we have had some nice December rainfall, the total still put us at “average”; nowhere close to what we need to begin a recovery from our prolonged drought. I wish there were a way to relieve the rest of the country of the water that inundates them. Mother Nature is a fickle mistress.

They say the El Nino is now upon us. In a supreme act of faith, I completed raising the beds to protect them from the flooding they say will ensue –


and buried a shelter in Ina’s garden for our feral kitty. Shhh…don’t tell Ina. (Note to my sister, the cat rescuer, yes…our country cats have been neutered or spayed and have plenty of warm spaces to shelter with extra food and water.)

Kitty Shelter_DSC_0754

The holiday pines were recycled to mulch, and to provide the blueberries with the acid they crave.


And the birds are well fed.


In the next few weeks, we will prune the roses…all 43 of them…and the grapes.


Until then…we wait. And listen for the rain.


Winter Approaches


All signs point to winter. In the span of one week, the garden has transformed from a fall garden to a winter one. This, of course, means that I am way behind. Dogs come first, and more than a few have had their turn recently. Hurray for…


Marley Going Home_DSC_9463


River Going Home_DSC_9597


Keiko Going Home_DSC_9543

and Dart.

Dart Going Home_IMG_0944

While it looks like the garden is beginning to slumber, there is still a lot going on under the surface. Until a freeze, newly transplanted perennials and trees, and an army of spring bulbs are all growing roots, while earthworms and tiny microbes are still hard at work.

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.” ~ Barbara Winkler

All of this will come to a halt when we get our first real freeze. Before then, we need to complete the raising and mulching of the beds to keep them from floating away during our much hoped for El Nino, and to keep the soil temperature even.

Despite removing mountains of leaves, we still have heaps of them.


I rigged an open air container and assigned begged off the chopping duties. The leaf bits will over-winter in the container, creating a leaf mold to use as soil conditioner in our packed clay by spring.

I never mourn the passing of a season. Gardeners always look ahead. Besides, the colors of an approaching winter are beautiful in their own right:



faded pinks,


yellows and reds,


And of course – the snowy whites…


the best color of all.


To my chosen family

This is the note I found in my inbox this week after failing to post last weekend: “Did I miss it or did it go on vacation this week?”


It’s nice to be missed. But just as the garden winters, gardeners (and bloggers) need to take time to rest, recharge, appreciate the quiet of winter…



and let the true meaning of the holiday spirit sink in. This week at Homeward Bound is about celebrating pups going home in time for Christmas,


and enjoying the company of dogs and friends.




One of our volunteers shared this message today. I could not have said it better:
“It’s such a blessing to find one’s passion in life and be surrounded by those that share the same. I love my given family, but my chosen family and I get each other. We have laughed together, gotten frustrated together and most certainly cried together. I love you all and wish you and yours a blessed 2014!”


I wish you all the same.

Bow to Winter

Just a week ago, the garden still managed a display of fading, but beautiful color. Then came the cold.


From west to east across the nation, the freeze is on. The garden has bowed to winter.




“Autumn to winter, winter into spring, Spring into summer, summer into fall, – so rolls the changing year, and so we change; motion so swift, we know not that we move” ~ Dinah Maria Mulock

Record-breaking overnight lows have burst pipes and snapped the flowers from their stems.



The frost lays like a blanket of crystal ice across the landscape.


The sun shines for a bit…until the icy cold blows in again.



Fur coats, shorter outings and warm hugs keep the dogs safe and cozy.




At home, white lights and frost covers protect sensitive plants.


But the Memorial Garden is in the country and on its own while this cold snap drags on…and on…and on.




“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass