Weekend in review: Meeting a blogging friend and taking care of Darwin, a very cold tortoise.

I know I go on a bit about the weather. But this weekend the temperatures were freezing. Literally.  Los Angeles had a record low and although I don’t know how records are established when we have so many individual microclimates, I do know cold when I feel it. So before we took off for a Sunday in Santa Barbara, once again we rolled out the frost cloth.

I also had some concerns for Darwin. It may seem a little odd, but I worry about that guy! When it’s this cold, an African Sulcata Tortoise doesn’t come out to play. Sulcata’s don’t hibernate, so when he gets very still, how do I know if he’s in distress?  He isn’t eating, he doesn’t move about, and his shell feels cold, despite a belly pad and overhead heat lamp.  So I persuaded my bemused husband that it was best if we brought him into the house!

Darwin in kitchen

I promised it was temporary. I still wanted to give him a confined space to allow the spotlight to provide maximum exposure and to hold in the heat.

For the first 24 hours he still didn’t do much. I poked at him just a little bit. I gently knocked on his shell. But into the second day, this is what we found.

Darwin tipping box Darwin spilled box

Seems he is fine after all. He must have warmed up. If he was active enough to move about the box, it was time to go back outdoors and catch a quick meal.

Darwin coming out of box

Darwin eating broccoli

Back to the comforts of his heat lamp. I will try to resist the need to go out and poke him just to see if he moves. A tortoise is very good at hiding his feelings!

Darwin with heat lamp

Garden plants and Darwin all taken care of, we were off the curb!  In December I read about a concert series in three of the missions, and since Santa Barbara is less than two hours from home, we said “all aboard.”

We had plenty on our agenda, but meeting a friend for breakfast was the first order of the day.

Debra and Lori 1

What fun for me to find myself in Santa Barbara with my blogging friend, Lori! Lori is host to Slow Happy Runner. I have enjoyed reading Lori’s blog for more than a year and was delighted to learn that she was going to briefly leave her Pacific Northwest home for a quick visit to Santa Barbara. How about that?

Click the link I’ve provided and you’ll go directly to Lori’s “about” page. I couldn’t begin to introduce her to you nearly as well as she does in telling about her interests and life experiences. She is a tremendously well-rounded and balanced person with such a positive outlook on living and experiencing the fullness of everyday experiences.

Lori has a second blog as well, Slow Happy Living. Slow Happy Living stems from  the first blog with some new additions resulting from more recent and very nice changes in Lori’s life. I hope you’ll pop over and get to know Lori, and I am sure you’ll find a reason to stay and get to know her better.

There is something very special about a personal encounter with a long-distance friend. Jay and I were so pleased to have met Lori for breakfast. And after a couple of hours of good conversation, sharing about ourselves and looking forward to keeping in touch, it was time to go our separate ways.

There were so many things still on our agenda. Santa Barbara is a beautiful city, but I will need to tell you more about that later. I have dozens of photographs yet to organize.

Now it’s time to take on the rest of the week with the same enthusiasm I hold for weekend activity. A little cold, but enthusiastic. That’s me!

Too cold for cacti and tortoises? Let’s roll out the frost cloth!

My usual ebullience hasn’t exactly flat-lined, but it’s on standby. Not exactly Bah Humbug, but I do feel a little emotionally drained. I know I’m not alone.


I’m very good at distracting myself. I love to spend time in nurseries and garden centers, dreaming about how to make the outdoors more beautiful. Spending time in natural settings is the perfect way to shift my attention to a pleasurable pursuit.  A Southern California December is relatively mild.

Roger's Gardens Collage

Laguna Nursery Collage

Succulents, Bromeliads, Orchids and Cyclamen are both colorful and plentiful. Taking in both sights and fragrance boosts my endorphin level!

I have managed to spend no more than one hour in a mall this season. I did most of my shopping on-line and I avoid crowds as much as possible. But I can spend hours in a beautiful nursery.

I didn’t bring much home. Not that it wasn’t very tempting to add to what we already have, but gardens require a lot of work. This isn’t the easiest time of year for me to engage in even more maintenance. Because we don’t have a snow cover, everything continues to grow throughout the winter–including weeds. And plants continue to grow, slowly, yes, but still requiring staking, pruning and watering.

Occasionally we get a cold snap with plummeting temperatures and the promise of a freeze. And when that happens we go into proactive mode.

The San Gabriel Country Club is the oldest private golf club and 18-hole course in Southern California dating back to 1904. Our home is adjacent one end of the course, and this lovely green belt is one of the reasons we have frequent wildlife visitations.

Golff Course

This lovely expanse of well-watered green also contributes to interesting micro-climates. Under particular weather conditions we can be socked in with fog when I leave for work in the morning, and within two blocks from home the sun will be shining. And when regional temperatures fall, we can have a night of hard frost.

The expected low is 34 degrees–I know that doesn’t sound that cold for winter, but our gardens aren’t equipped to handle a freeze. If our micro-climate conditions push us just a little lower, there will be frost damage! And even light frost can do a lot of damage to my many succulents and cacti. Damage to cacti and succulents usually occurs on the growing tips first, so we rolled out our sheets of frost cloth.

Covering Succulents

There’s more than one way to have a White Christmas, don’t you agree? We covered as much of the area as possible with a breathable fabric that retains warmer temperatures underneath and provides insulation between the plants and the outdoor air.

Backyard Freeze

The activity provided an opportunity to give Sophia and Karina a little science lesson. And gives me a little peace of mind that we have done what we could to prevent too much damage. And did you see Darwin? He’s also insulated. He remains as close to his little nest of Timothy Hay as possible. He hasn’t left his home in the greenhouse for a few days now. The spotlight and under-belly heat pad are his protection against the cold.

And the weather forecast hints at the possibility of rain for Christmas! I just might get to have a fire in the fireplace after all! What’s the song say?

Baby it’s cold outside!