July 19, 2008

My summer garden

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:37 pm by czygyny



Summer has reached its midpoint. It is a summer of opaque, dull skies, opalescent clouds and hazy horizons. It is a summer of choking smoke and anxious days while the wildfires burn tens of thousands of acres. It is mornings of ash covered cars and evenings of sack-cloth dark suns and nights of blood red moons. Mountain skylines are obliterated, the layers of smoke revealing the hitherto unseen layers of coastal range peaks that had been viewed as one seamless line. 

Not much keeps me indoors, not rain, nor hundred plus degree days, nor choking smoke. A day spent inside is a day wasted. So, despite the eye burning, allergy inflaming air quality, I’ve been out weeding, watering, and loving my gardens.

The images above are two views of my front yard. You can see the vegetable garden in the back, and the smokey tree line to the south. ‘Nessie’ my limestone sea-serpent sculpture jealously guards her cache of dog-bones, thrown there to prevent them from becoming deadly projectiles under the blades of the lawn mower.


This view is the driveway strip, a dry, hot buffer between the gravel driveway and the lusher lawn and flowers. Hardy plants like Salvia gauranitica, lavender and germander show off my large driftwood piece.


This view used to showcase my 7′ tall Opuntia ficus-indica, but horrific winter winds toppled it, and now my Opuntia ‘Santa Rosita’ shines in the forground with sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and various rusty things, at least until my tall specimen grows up again!


Here’s a bit lusher spot of the yard, my perennial beds. Here is Canna Tropicana, hibiscus moscheutos, Stargazer lily and pink phlox.

A bit earlier in the season, the Shasta daisies and pale pink phlox are in bloom with threadleaf coreopsis in the back.


I found the most amazing Calabrachoa, a pale orange with a terracotta center, grouped it with a purple Heliotrope, Amaranthus ‘Joseph’s Coat’ and a stiff trailing sedum, and it became a great focus in mom’s yard.


For a dramatic plant that is hardy, drought resistant and all-summer-long color, Hesperaloe parviflora can’t be beat! The flower spikes are nearly eight feet tall this year! Hummingbirds love it!




This is one of my sunflowers with a honey bee and Argentine ant. This photo just stops me dead when I look at it, for some reason. It looks like it has been drawn with colored pencil. The combination of smokey sky and facing into the sun has washed this subject out and given it a printed poster feel.

The pinnacle of the year, July. A summer we in California won’t likely forget for many years to come. The sweetest of springs has given way to the most scorching of summers. But a bit of beauty can still be found in the unfurling of a colorful petal.

July 3, 2008

Dogs, dogs, dogs

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , at 12:24 pm by czygyny


Where would we be without dogs? Whether it was sharing the warmth of a fire and a scrap or two with our wild ancestors, to the pampered life of a pedigreed pooch dining on the richest menu, we love and depend on our dogs.

Many a happy memory can be found in our hearts of the ‘good old days’ when we could be gone all day running around the neighborhood, perhaps with a dog in tow. In my instance it was in Etna, a small community in Siskiyou county, with our black Labrador, ‘Raven’. We would build forts in the bushes, wade through the creeks and ditches, and search for bird’s nests in dusty old barns. Her patience was wonderful, for at times we would tease her, and all she ever did was curl up a lip and turn away.

When I grew up and moved out, I have had my share of dogs. My first dog, ‘Reckless’ was a mixed cur who mauled my first sheep I ever had. After that, I became involved with stock dogs. ‘Tillie’ was the first, and by today’s standards, of poor conformation for an Australian Shepherd. With cat-feet and short coat she would not have won any awards, but that sweet dog would be my close companion for 12 years. She went hiking, camping, swimming and exploring, sometimes with her cat companions, until kidney failure took her. When she died, her longtime cat compantion ‘Fangus’ mourned her death. She had the uncanny ability to know when Fangus was out of food and she would pester me until I would feed him.

‘Shilo’ came in to my life when Tillie was still alive. She was a Queensland heeler, a blue merle with striking blue eyes. She was with me for 13 years, most of which was spent without sight, the victim of Progressive Retinal Atrophy. That little dog could still find her way all over the property, altough she lived in fear of falling into the swimming pool. She always gave it wide berth. I miss my little Shilo.

Later on, ‘Jake’ came along. Jake was an Australian Cattle Dog, a stray with no takers. He was a wild man who loved to fight and roam. I cured him of his roaming by taking him on lots of outings and also utilized a big ‘donut’ of wood attached to a long chain where he could wander about, but not get far, by dragging the donut about.  After a few months of that, he could be trusted to stick by my side. He and Shilo had a lot of adventures together.

The funniest outing he ever had was up at a small pond behind my house in Shasta Lake City, which was home to a beaver. Jake spend nearly an hour swimming about trying to catch that beaver, but the beaver made a game of it and would swim leisurely about the pond until Jake would get close, then he would slap his tail and dive. As Jake would swim in circles and whine, looking for his foe, the beaver would pop up on the other side of the pond and start the fun all over again, swimming right by me and I swear it seemed like he smiled at me when he went by. It frustrated that dog to no end, but I’ve never had a better belly laugh! Oh, for a video camera!

But, time took its toll on him, as well, and this year was his last. By this time he was staying with my ex spouse, who took his death very hard. Jake was also 13 years old.

Dogs have a way of finding me, and I have rescued ten or more over the years. Thankfully I have found the owners of most, but some dogs showed up and never left. “Harley’, another Queensland heeler was found by the roadside, terribly abused and emotionally crippled. I worked with him for a year, but he continued to bite family members so with great regret I had him euthanized. People need to do their research on these difficult breeds before bringing one home. What a waste of an intelligent, clever, fast as the wind, faithful friend. Robin from Lodi, you should be ashamed of yourself. (The dog’s original name was ‘Blue’, and the owner’s name on the tag, but left no forwarding address) Shame, shame, shame.

‘Ginger’ is another one of those dogs that found me. She came to us at Thanksgiving some six years ago, a pup of three or four months, a rolly-polly thing with RottweilerX heritage, and a crescent moon on the back of her neck. I tried to shoo her away, but she looked up at me and that ‘connection’ that will sometimes occur with me and cats and dogs was made. After posting notices and running a found ad with no success, Ginger was here to stay.

During the upheaval with my crumbling marriage, in fear for my safety, I began to look for a full blood Rottweiler in need of a home. ‘Jewel’ came along in a needful time. Her person could not take care of a big dog anymore due to health reasons, and we had the room and the know how to care for the breed. We traveled up to Burney one fine summer day to get her. She became our ‘Big-Dog’ who indeed was a sufficient presence to deter any harm aimed at me.

Two large dogs are quite sufficient for my liking and for my small house, but my ex called a few months ago, despondent because he could not keep his dog due to his full time care of his father. He had brought ‘Sam’ home from a shelter, apparently abused by his former owners (what is WRONG with people, anyway?), mainly because he looked like Jake. He took Sam everywhere, even to job sites, but he was moving to the 30th floor of a condo in Emeryville, and that is no place for a cow dog. How could I turn him down?

He had already done a lot of work helping Sam adjust and trust, but it has taken some work to get him adjusted to our situation. We have had a few dog fights, he can get in and out of any gate (and in with the sheep to give them a good run around!) he rolls in ANYTHING stinky and pees on my garden! But, he is an intelligent, attentive, goofy, loving critter. He yells at me if I have been gone too long, eats my strawberries and barks at buzzards, and does the craziest ‘zoomies’ I have ever witnessed.

I’ve been through broken legs, blind eyes, illness, fights, heartache and joy. I’ve been awakened by skunky dog at 3am on my sleeping bag while camping, watched with joy as my dogs run along the banks of the lake while the boat leads them on, taught them to swim, been trained to do their bidding, been comforted by a cold nose and warm heart through my tears, and thanked for a bowl of food by a nose settled gently on my lap.  I’ve endured muddy paws, stinky fur, bloodied ears, bee-stung eyes, and nights filled with anguish during their illnesses, but I can proudly say my life has  ‘gone to the dogs’, and I love it!