Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Hold a Hummingbird?


I don't know how long the little hummer was trapped inside my laundry room before Jeff found her this morning. I think she must have been shut inside there since yesterday afternoon. Imagine the fear and frustration. She could SEE the blooms of pineapple and pitcher sage, purple blooms of the tulbaghia, and the deliciously slow drip of the fountain, but she couldn't reach them.

I talked quietly to it for a few minutes. Flight slowed, the hummer examined me, the white's of her eye showing, then dropped to the windowsill, little heart pumping so wildly that I could see it beating from a few feet away. I moved slowly and gently curled my hands around a bundle of life so lightweight that I couldn't feel it.

When I stepped outside the laundry room, I wished the hummer well and opened my hands, but... lay inside my cupped hands, tail feathers ruffled, wings bent, spider web tangled through its wings and legs, and wrapped tightly around its long, needle-like bill. It would not be able to fly or eat in this condition.

Poor little sweetheart.

I ran my fingers across wings and tail, removing tangled webs from everywhere.

Come on, young lady, it is time for you to leave.

But she was exhausted. She stretched out and tucked her bill onto the top of my fingers. Looking closely, I realized her bill was still glued together with sticky webbing.

 I ran my fingers down her bill to remove the web, ...

... but the glue-like strands were stuck around it. I needed water to loosen it, but I knew that the little hummer was failing fast. So, I did what any good mother would do, slipped my lips over her bill and licked off the webbing.

She spread her wings across my palm. By now her heart beat normally. Jeff was getting ready to do a movie of her take-off, but before he could adjust the camera settings, she was gone. Her first stop? The pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) that she had been able to see through the glass of my laundry room. 

FARETHEWELL, little Anna's hummer. Thanks for starting my day off in the most beautiful and meaningful way. And thanks Jeff, for chronicling this amazing visit.

Love across the miles,


P.S. Anna's are usually found in my California (zone 9) gardens every month of the year. I keep two hummingbird feeders filled with a sugar-syrup solution. Simply mix one cup of water with 1/4 cup of pure white granulated sugar (NEVER HONEY). Microwave the mixture for about a minute and a half.  Let it cool thoroughly. I clean the feeders a few times a week with a baby bottle brush and hot, hot water, and refill them. They're hung in the shade so the sugary mixtures doesn't ferment. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Tornado

The floors are swept, shallots, herbs, and salad greens gathered–let the tornado begin.

Gathering greens, herbs, and edible flowers from my container gardens.

And taking time out to puddle around with my plants, and to...

...sweep, and prepare for...

...the arrival...


...stylist Sunday Hendrickson. You've seen her work on the pages of many magazines, including Country Living, Country Living GARDENER, Romantic Homes, Cottage Style, This Old House, and many more. Sunday is producing a photo shoot of our gardens and shed, which will be featured in one of my favorite magazines early spring 2013. Can't wait to see it.

Sunday and photographer Mark Lohman peer at the computer screen to make sure that a photo is perfectly composed, and that the light is right.

Mark focuses on my little garden shed "Sprig."

Sunday and Mark decide whether to turn one of my containers a bit for a better shot.

The better shot.

Mark is bent over his camera (upper left) focusing on a close-up. Sunday is moving plants and arranging my containers.

Is "Sprig's" door better open or closed?

Inside "Sprig."

Sunday shields Mark's camera from the sun's glare.

What began at about 7 A.M. is over by mid-afternoon. I'll let you know which magazine will be featuring "Sprig" and my container gardens this spring, but right now I am sworn to secrecy.

So now it is on to one of my favorite holidays...

Cookbooks out and at hand.

Apples simmering, cooking down to applesauce...

Herbs steeping in vinegars...

Wild rice and crimini mushrooms begin to bubble...

Sweet potato, apple, and cranberry slaw is dressed and set in the fridge to deepen flavors...

Jeff is making sweet potato chips with the Joyce Chen spiralizer, the same tool I used to make the slaw.

By now, it is late, late, and it has been a long day. We've made a few of the dishes ahead of time to lighten the burden of work on Thanksgiving (when our little kitchen will be jammed with people). 

I want to wish you a joy filled Thanksgiving with family and friends. As I gather ours close, I will be mindful of all the simple blessings in our lives. A roof over our heads, food, a bountiful garden, family, friends, and laughter. I wish the same for you.

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. Luke is not able to come home yet, but I was finally allowed to sit in a rocker and hold him. He is beautiful and now weighs over 7 pounds, but he is still fighting his way through some problems. 

Darla and Lori, I am always grateful for your kind words and prayers. Thank you!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tiny "Sunday Houses," I love them!

Years ago, when I was on a long road trip that often followed in the tire tracks of John Steinbeck and his standard poodle Charley, I found the wonderful hill country town of Fredericksburg, Texas. I loved the vintage town and the old neighborhoods with their rambling homes, wide porches, and bountiful gardens. But what I really loved were the tiny, charming "Sunday Houses"nestled among the others. They stole my heart. 

Why were they called "Sunday Houses?" The history that was related to me came from an old Texas family that built their own replica to house their growing family of grandchildren. They told me that ranchers and farmers who lived far from town would build these tiny homes for their weekend visits to buy supplies, visit friends, and to attend social functions and church on Sundays. Thus, "Sunday Houses."

Some of these historic late 19th century-early 20th century homes are now vacation rentals.

My favorite. I don't know why, but maybe because of the sheltering arms of the ancient tree.

A book about tiny houses. 

While we were in Fredericksburg this trip, we stopped by the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, originally started by the Varney family years ago, but now tended by Rosemary and Dick Estenson, who have built a spa, a restaurant, and 14 "Sunday Houses" for overnight stays. They're charming. We were only in one of them, but it was beautiful and immaculate.

The new spa. The windmill pumps water into a koi pond. The raised bed with the pumpkins is the "cake garden."

The herb garden outside the restaurant.

"Sunday Houses" behind the herb garden.

The food was fresh, local (farm to table), creative, and perfect.

Rest in peace as you wait for your table.

Jeff's bison chili.

A view from the restaurant into one of the garden areas.

I loved this engraved stone.

Jeff and I look forward to visiting Fredericksburg again, hopefully during bluebonnet season, when the sky blue lupines make the bee-humming air smell sweet as honey.

We've traveled over 5,600 miles so far on this book tour, met hundreds of fabulous people, visited gardens, homes, and restaurants we'll never forget (some restaurants for the WRONG reasons). We're heading westward to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, for a presentation this Sunday, and then home. Home to family, friends, and a little grandson who I've never had the chance to hold, but will soon. Luke now weighs six pounds–and if we're lucky, we will really have a wonderful and more thankful than ever Thanksgiving.

Onward and upward,


P.S. One of my favorite television shows (and blogs) is Central Texas Gardener on KLRU TV 18 in Austin, Texas. Solid information and inspiration are shoveled out in equal amounts. In this photo, host Tom Spencer looks like he is getting ready to fly out of his chair. This taped segment about birds will air in early 2013.