It's perfect weather for garden installation around here


I think normally when someone says, "Yeah, I'm taking the whole week of Thanksgiving off because we have plans" it means that the person is traveling to spend the holiday with relatives or go on a vacation of some sort to celebrate the holiday.

Not so around here.

When Hubby said he'd be taking the whole week of Thanksgiving off because we have plans, it's because:

  1. a portable storage container is being delivered to our driveway
  2. the last of 1500 pounds of boulders needs to be moved out of the back of our low-riding pickup truck
  3. the invasive ivy and vinca major that's grown through the fence from the neighbor's yard over the past few years needs to be hacked away
  4. the boulders that were in the pickup need to be arranged to line the path down the south sideyard in preparation to install a pea gravel and flagstone path (which we'll probably tackle during his time off around Christmas)

Oh... and Hubby is also doing the pre-holiday food shopping that needs to be done while I'm sitting here typing this blog post. Yeah, I married a saint of a man.


The garage has, up to now, been our storage area for my floral design supplies (including some massive coolers too big to put anywhere else and big boxes of blocks of floral foam), home construction materials, and food storage in pantry units down one wall. Over the past few weeks, we've relocated the pantry units to available temporary space in the house, but there isn't room anywhere for everything else in the garage that needs to be cleared out in order to begin the work of transforming the space into my new studio.

So last week, we made the decision that we'd just have to bite the bullet and include the cost of a portable storage unit in our construction budget.

The portable storage unit was delivered on-schedule mid-day on Monday. It's called CoolBox because (unlike other portable store pods) this one is completely insulated so the interior stays more temperate. The 16 foot x 8 foot unit is now sitting in our driveway taking up one parking space with its door facing our garage door. Today, Hubby started the transfer of stuff from the garage to the unit while I worked on setting rocks.


Hubby had done the monumental task of cutting back ivy the past couple of Saturdays (despite being plagued with an allergic reaction to all the stuff he was kicking up in the process). Once he had cleared the ivy away to reveal bare ground, he started moving rocks from the back of the pickup and pre-placing them in a line.

Then it was my job to come along and apply my vision to the placement of the rocks. I had to dig, scoot, and rearrange to get each one looking just right. The long course of rocks now forms a raised bed for the warm climate lilacs, loquat trees and Cecile Brunner rosebush that form the dense arch of foliage leading down the sideyard to our "secret garden" in back.


Hubby smartly discovered one rock with a little "mouse hole" on the bottom and placed it perfectly over the irrigation line that runs to the raised bed (you can see it in the photo above). (I'm telling you, he's awesome!)

With the November air cool and crisp, it was the perfect time to be doing this hard labor.

This time of year is always interesting in the garden. There are some trees and bushes (the liquid amber, plum, pomegranate and cherry) that are turning beautiful shades of yellow gold or russet red. At the same time, the leaves of the non-deciduous trees and bushes, like the thick glossy loquat leaves, remain a lush green. The hummingbirds and bees still have plenty to snack on since the lavender, loquat and navel orange are in bloom. At the same time, their deciduous neighbors have bare branches ready for winter.

It's such a wonderful time to be out in the garden, I may have a hard time breaking away for the Thanksgiving festivities. Then again I'm "a bona fide turkaconis freak" of major proportions so it probably won't be that hard to lure me away.

We are not being compensated in any way by CoolBox Portable Storage or getacoolbox.com for the photo of their storage container or mention of their company's services in this blog post.

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I love Autumn... but I'm not a big fan of the fall


I love Autumn... but I'm not a big fan of "the fall"... "the fall" of the leaves, that is.

The leaves look so beautiful as they change colors while on the tree--nature dressed in the same colors I love to wear myself.

As brilliant as the inside of a tropical fruit, the orange-yellow leaves of the pomegranate is a delight to behold... until those leaves start loosening their grip and descending to the ground and pond below.

Every day or so I sit on my "tranquility bench" with pool net in hand sweeping leaves off in gentle strokes being careful not to scoop up little mosquito fish in the process. It's slow, methodical and eventually very rhythmic.

As I sit on the bench, I look above me at all the leaves still hanging on.

I know I will be scooping those out in the days to come.

There's no easier way to do this delicate work.

I am the steward of a backyard wildlife habitat, and I must be gentle in my stewardship opting for slow and methodical sweeps of the net over get-it-done-quickly techniques that would most likely involve noisy leaf blowers or nets over the pond that would prevent animals from getting the water they need while our region still waits for the replenishing autumn and winter rains to fill up seasonal ponds again.

The "tranquility bench" takes on a slightly different purpose this time of year, yet I still find tranquility there.



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Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and garden installations


I know it is officially autumn when the Japanese maple tree begins to change color. It has. The leaves dance in the breeze in colors ranging from russet red to bronze to a pale Granny Smith green. Fortunately, this tree holds on to its leaves a long time after they've changed color, so Hubby and I can enjoy them and savor their beauty.

With the cooler daytime temps, I've been able to go back out into the garden to do involved hardscape installation that I can't do in the summer heat. However, I do have to keep telling myself the old adage, "Slow and steady wins the race" and that it's perfectly okay to do things at a slower pace than what my creative imagination and my ambitious brain would like.

Last Saturday, Hubby and I went to our local landscaping yard and handpicked over 1500 lbs of beautiful moss-rock boulders of various smallish sizes. Actually, I picked and Hubby lifted. I wasn't able to help because of a minor fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue flare-up. He loaded each rock onto a palette. Then the landscaping yard guy came and picked it up with a forklift, drove it to the scale and then to our truck where employee unloaded the palette into our truck and Hubby was able to finally get a break. The poor little pickup was riding pretty low on the way home, but it handled the rocks like the champ it is.

My flare-up has been keeping me from moving forward with installing the rocks as the border for a future pea gravel and flagstone path down the side yard, so the truck it still sitting the driveway (very low) full of rocks.

I keep repeating to myself, "Slow and steady wins the race... Slow and steady wins the race."

Because I haven't pushed my body (as I often do) I'm feeling this flare-up wane already. And if I don't jump the gun and let it completely subside, I'll feel just fine to start hauling rocks around in a couple of days.  Then I can line the path in preparation for a pea gravel to be put in so flagstone can be set in it.

I just have to remind myself, "Slow and steady wins the race... Slow and steady wins the race." You know, now that I think about it, I feel a little like Dory on Finding Nemo.

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Abalone shells and lavender blooms--two small things making a big impact in my garden

Think small to make a big difference tips for creating your own backyard wildlife habitat in any size space

The makings of a backyard wildlife habitat are often unexpected, small and don't seem like they would be significant at first glance. The same is true for all the wildlife that benefits from the small additions. Most wildlife that will benefit from a backyard wildlife habitat is small and diminutive like birds and beneficial bugs. But these small creatures can provide very large benefits to your outdoor space.

Saving money and time
By working as a partner with these little guys I've stopped having to spend money on bug sprays and killers, I spend less money conditioning the soil to get things to grow well, and my garden maintenance chores have slowly decreased because nature does a lot of the work for me.

Abalone shells used to catch water for wildlife




Abalone shells as "water features"
Decades-old abalone and clam shells left from a fishing trip on the Bay that happened long before we came here, now grace the raised garden beds I made from chunks of repurposed concrete. The shells catch water from rainclouds or the garden hose so lizards, bees and butterflies can get a sip of water when they need it.

Just about everyone loves seeing butterflies in the garden, but why do I want lizards and bees to have a place to drink?

Western Fence Lizard on flagstone

Why I want lizards in my garden
Lizards are a key component of my garden because they eat a lot of bugs (A LOT). They eat all the bugs I don't want including big nasty flies, young cockroaches and other creepy crawly nasties. And that's not all when it comes to the most prevalent lizard in my garden, the Western Fence Lizard. According to the California Academy of Sciences, the Western Fence Lizard's blood contains a protein that kills the Lyme disease-causing bacterium (Borrelia) that is carried in the guts of ticks. But if an infected tick bites a Western Fence Lizard, the Borrelia is killed off completely, leaving the tick's future bites harmless to other creatures. So the occurrence of Lyme disease is lower in areas where these wonderful little lizards live and thrive. Of course I want them as permanent residents!


Why I want bees and paper wasps in my garden
Bees (honeybees, carpenter bees, paper wasps and others) are also a key component of my garden. They pollinate all the fruits and vegetables to make a good harvest possible. They are all extremely docile while on the hunt for nectar and water. I never worry about being stung. I provide them with year-round nectar with hardy bloomers like the lavender. Even though it's November right now, the lavender is in full bloom again, and the pollinators are happy. The lavender will continue to be a nectar source throughout the bloom-deficient winter months when bees in our climate still forage because daytime temperatures are often mild and above 40F/5C on the coldest days.

Benefits of potted lavender
Again, the lavender is growing in simple terra cotta pots set directly on the ground. They take up little space and are drought tolerant.  The large pots also provide habitat for the lizards to hunt in and around. I often find them sunning themselves by one of the lavender pots waiting for a flying insect to come into range so they can pounce on it. Over time, each potted lavender has turned into a mini-hub-habitat. Strategically placed throughout the garden along paths, these pots help to balance each area by drawing the attention of beneficial bugs and critters to every place I need them. The added bonus of the simple system of potted lavender is that the scent of the lavender repels bugs I don't like (e.g., mosquitoes) away from places I like to sit. Another added bonus is I can go out and harvest lavender anytime I want to bring sprigs inside to repel unwanted bugs in the closets or pantry.




Back to the benefits of the simple abalone shells strewn about the garden beds...
If I lift one of the shells, I often find other insects have made a home underneath in the cool damp space out of the sunlight. Skunks and opossums rearrange the shells periodically to get to the grubs living under there. I patiently right the shells that get turned over so they can hold water again and brighten the garden with their pearly interiors.

Why I want skunks and opossums in my garden
Skunks (despite their smelly reputation) are great omnivores that eat insects, small rodents, lizards, and frogs as well as roots, berries, leaves, grasses, fungi (like mushrooms) and nuts. Opossums eat insects too--beetles, cockroaches, snails and slugs. Both skunks and opossums eat fruit that's fallen from fruit trees that would otherwise lay around and stink up the garden as it rots. Thanks to these two great critter species, I no longer have a problem with snails and slugs eating my beloved garden plants. And I don't have to spend money on pricey snail and slug bait to get rid of them either. These two species also keep my home and garden free of small rodents, as well as successfully preventing my garden from being taken over by the non-native bullfrog that can be a nuisance resident.

Little things mean a lot to Mother Nature
Over and over since I embarked on this journey of being a steward over a backyard wildlife habitat, I have had one simple truth reaffirmed... little things mean a lot. This is especially true when it comes to the beautiful balance nature can provide if given the opportunity.


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