Little bits of this and that as summer slowly fades…

I can better accept family and friends moving to new locations when they relocate to places I enjoy visiting. We went to visit family in the Bay Area and simply enjoyed a cooler climate and a change of view.  In just about six hours we can drive from our home to the San Francisco-Oakland area and I can indulge in exploring another California region.

I meant to let you know I was going out-of-town for a few days, but I ran out of time. So today I’ll share just a few of the reasons why.

Even though it’s been hot-hot-hot outdoors, or maybe it’s BECAUSE it’s been hot-hot-hot, we have been focusing on our outdoor living spaces. The “hot” comes into play because with drought conditions it’s a challenge to know what to do. I planted a vegetable garden and then struggled with watering it sufficiently. It didn’t do very well.

I don’t know that too many areas in my yard are actually thriving.

Take a look at some of the birds that regularly come to visit.


They are sweet little things that blend right into our drought-colored landscape. Truth is, they are the regular garden visitors even when there isn’t a drought. If our California gardens weren’t artificially “greened” by lots and lots of water from the tap our natural landscape would be the color of these birds.

I think our eyes are beginning to adjust to a different definition of landscape color. One of the biggest areas of water “waste” is caring for a lawn. I have a long, long way to go if I do decide to transform our entire piece of property into a water-wise landscape, but I am doing what I’m able and I am definitely fascinated with the many ways we are all being shaped and perhaps “forced” to adapt.



We certainly didn’t need to keep watering a section of grass that was primarily being used as Zena’s loo. With or without water we were losing that battle, so we dug up that portion of the lawn and replaced it with decomposed granite. It’s permeable–I remain hopeful it will one day rain again–and compacts to a nice clean surface.

If you’re unfamiliar with the “brown as the new green” look of this kind of landscaping, it may strike you as extremely stark. It took me a few years to begin to see the beauty in this kind of landscaping, but I have grown to love it. It isn’t second-best any longer, although I do “ooh and ah” over green, well-watered gardens. I’m just a bit more appreciative when that water originally fell from the sky.

As if water weren’t a big enough issue…then there’s this guy!


I don’t remember what was originally in this pot. It must have tasted good because it’s gone now! Darwin our Sulcata Tortoise is such a scavenger and has started to be very destructive. I don’t know his exact weight, but I know he weighs more than 50 pounds. And when he decides to stretch, he can bring his entire carriage taller, reaching over low borders–or plowing through them–eating anything he wants. He has managed to chomp through my succulents and low hanging hibiscus branches–yes branches, and I had to do something I didn’t at first want to do. Confine him!

We made another opening in our small greenhouse providing a connection to the back of the retaining wall that supports the backyard train, and he now has a very long runway with quite a bit of open space on the other side of the greenhouse. It isn’t the run of the whole place that he enjoyed for his first six years, but he has adjusted nicely. I have big plans for further enhancements and I’ll be sure to take photos as his playground evolves.

I’ve also changed his diet.

If he lived in the wild he would be eating more grasses. He’s spoiled and turns his nose up at timothy hay. So I add a little pumpkin and it’s a hit! I’m gradually reducing the amount of the pumpkin and increasing the grass, but he eats it with gusto! My plants are saved!

So now that we’ve had our trip to the Bay Area and returned, adapted Darwin’s diet and abode, as well as completed a few areas of garden management, I feel better balanced. I’m hoping to post a little more often and make more visits to the many blogging friends I have missed over this summer. Even though I’m not completely sure I want to say goodbye to summer, there are some routines that seem to return with fall, and I thrive when I don’t fight routine!

I must share one more thing. It’s mid-week already and you need a lift, don’t you? On the way home from work I was stopped at a freeway off-ramp and guffawed with laughter as I took a double take at this sign. I’m sure others wondered at my cruelty for laughing at a lost puppy!

IMG_4403 - Version 2

This poor “Springer Spaniard” has lost its owner.

Just let it sit …you’ll get it!

Have a mirth-filled rest of the week. I’ll be by to visit.



I’m thinking of getting a NannyCam for my backyard

I found it very difficult to leave my home and head off to work this morning. Spring has brought some very colorful visitors, and it’s hard for me to miss out on the only time of year they may come for a little stay.


I’ve never seen these beautiful birds before.  They don’t appear in any of my California or Los Angeles area Audubon books. Can you help me out? The photos are a little blurry because I rather hurriedly took them through my kitchen window. I wonder if I’ll see them again?

Most of our backyard birds aren’t nearly this colorful.  I presume that the plumage on the majority of my little bird friends serves to camouflage a bit in our particular landscape.

Of course some of our regular visitors never do blend into the landscape. I love watching the Jays weigh the peanuts to find the ones that seem to offer the best reward.



I don’t know who this guy is either! I have seen him before, but not often.

Who do you think he is?



But these guys were my weekend favorite guests. At one point there were six of them in the feeder, but I’m afraid my enthusiasm frightened them off.

I had to scour my books, but based on observation and listening to a recording of their song, I am quite sure these playful fellows are Black-Headed Grosbeaks. Do you agree?

I have never seen them in my yard before this past weekend, and I’m just sure they were playing at my home all day today while I was staring at a computer screen. I don’t suspect they are going to be staying very long, and I am enthralled.

By the way, the Cardinal on the bird feeder is as close to a Cardinal as I’m going to get in my Southern California garden.

I am glad I didn’t miss bath time!

Unfortunately someone else came along to disrupt! I think she  wasn’t too happy to see her favorite drinking fountain used as a bath tub!

It’s a good idea I was home to supervise Darwin or I might have been unhappy to see he’d helped himself AGAIN to my succulents. I caught him just in time to grab some aloe from his secret stash. 


Darwin does take liberties. We keep the sliding door to a back guest cottage open for Zena to come and go as she pleases. She is a very gracious and careful houseguest.

Not so Darwin!

I guess Darwin is feeling a little jealous! I had to pick him up and move him back outdoors. TWICE!


So now I KNOW I need a NannyCam–to catch him in his mischief!

The garden is alive with lots of lovely visitors. Even the cactus is beginning to bloom, but some of the blossoms only last about 24 hours. If I’m not alert, I miss them entirely.


Spring is glorious isn’t it? I do wonder what I miss while I’m at work. The hawk that comes sweeping through? The Phoebe’s making a nest under the eaves? The woodpecker in the neighbor’s tree?

Listening to the Mourning Doves and pretending they are owls?

Yes, we do that.

Who is playing in your backyard?

Be sure to take notice! Spring can be a very short season!

A Friday exhale…breathing lighter with Zena the Wonder Dog!

Here we are at the threshold of another weekend. Since I don’t go to work on Fridays I tend to let a lot of little errands, household duties and chores pile up all week. Friday is my “clean up” day. I had my morning all planned out, including putting up an entirely different post.

Zena had other ideas for my morning.

She wanted to play.

We have held to the name Zena. She is definitely not a Xena–Warrior Princess. She is far from powerful. Or even demanding. She is mostly very gentle and bit timid. Would a warrior choose a little plastic pot and a baby toy as favorite playthings?

Would a warrior nuzzle a tortoise? They are actually good buddies. Neither feels the least bit intimidated. Pinky, on the other hand, is now situated in the front yard. I think we were tempting fate by keeping a rabbit at dog’s eye level.

She is so gentle we haven’t had to do a bit of repair to our backyard railroad. She tiptoes around plants, exhibiting caution we can’t seem to expect from Darwin. She gently helps herself to a drink from the bank, which is convenient. In our typically very hot and dry weather, we don’t have to worry about dehydration. I do have to watch out for muddy paws coming indoors.

She’s a wonderful little companion. First thing today I gave her some breakfast. She nibbled, but with little interest. She seemed delighted I was going to be her home companion today, and as soon as I sat down to enjoy my first cup of coffee, she was in my face, beckoning me to come outdoors.

How is it animals can communicate their needs so clearly? How could I ignore her big brown eyes? She has a way of getting me to do whatever she wants, and NOW! The following ensued:

It’s a little hard to throw a ball and take a video from the phone, but I wanted to share some her morning exuberance!

Zena the Wonder Dog!

She’s such a good companion and a welcome addition to our family. In my own effort to slow down just a little bit, maybe she’s a good focus. It’s been a long time since I played ball with anyone!

And maybe we’ll get some rest this weekend, too. Even the dog knows how to restore balance.

The weekend is a good time for a giant exhale! So go for it!