Thursday, April 14, 2016


After reading a Gordon Frankie (University of California, Berkeley) article on bees in urban settings, I drove down to one of our city's industrial areas. Once a booming manufacturing area, it has gone through some rough times, and now there are many abandoned shops and plenty of empty parking lots and alley-ways.

The above photo shows part of a crumbling, abandoned building, yet wherever a seed found its way into a crack in the pavement, it began to grow some hardy wild plant--many with flowers and seeds. There are even trees and shrubs--all planted by Mother Nature. Bees and other insects buzzed around in the hot sun. Every city has places like this, and with a plan in place could become a habitat for pollinators. Cities with their miles of concrete and sun reflecting off buildings are warmer than open areas and could extend the growing season to accommodate our native bees. Vacant land could become useful again as bee-loving gardens spread, adding beauty to the purpose of pollination.

Some of these abandoned areas are large and could create oases of lush growth that would nurture, not only native bees, but many varieties of birds and butterflies. Native wildflowers, once established, do not need regular watering. They do best without fertilizer.

Seed packets, many labeled specifically for your area, are readily available in mixes that sometimes include annuals to beef up the mix until perennials begin to bloom

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


For years, Wally has been guarding the garden--specifically the rock wall. Wally wears his fur in a decorative braid and notice Wally's tie. Dotted with tiny blue polka dots, the tie is just one of many. He is a fashionable fellow. His goal is to keep out munchers while harmonizing with the colors in the springtime garden. He selected blue dots to bring out flowering brunnera's colors, but not to compete with the tiny, intensely blue flowers suffused with raspberry pink.

Soon after Wally took up his post at the wall, a strong wind brought plummeting temperatures, then rain and snow. It brought all flowering to a standstill. Look at the ground surrounding Wally--mostly barren. When snow finally quit, we had a total of six inches on the ground, but Wally didn't complain even when he got pelted--his tie askew from the strong wind. He is the most dependable of all my garden guards and takes his job seriously. When mischievous chipmunks knock him over, I go out to lend a hand in getting him upright again. And unlike other rabbits, he never nibbles the plants.

Soon, I know, the sun will come out to warm little Wally, but until then, I'll tend to his needs and check the shops for appropriate neckwear, as Wally doesn't drive.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The "Friendly Little House" is decorative, not utilitarian. The stump is utilitarian! The decorative element camouflages a grid-pattern of drilled holes that provides a place for solitary bees to lay their eggs.  Six inches deep, the holes provide a perfect, protected place. Because the holes blend in with the bark, they are difficult to see in this photo. They are located just below the watering can in front of the little, winding fence. This is the stump of a pine tree that was cut down last year. The little house came about from my habit of looking for attractive additions to the landscape that will also serve the purpose of providing a haven for critters.

The house is a standard birdhouse without openings, as I thought bees might not like the risk of being eaten by birds. It is made of sturdy, solid maple. The roof is sided with the rough bark that was chiseled away from the stump. Mosses (green, brown and orange) tucked in among the slabs of bark, came from a variety of places in a yard that is quickly becoming too shady. The little attached shed, originally a waxy carton that held coffee cream, was covered with individual scales removed from a giant pine cone and roofed with the same rough bark as the house.

Get the kids--with their wonderful imaginations--to help devise garden plans. Everyone will get satisfaction from giving nature a boost and providing a pleasing garden feature.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


This is a good time to plan for emerging mason bees. When temperatures reach the mid-50's (fahrenheit) for about four to five consecutive days, it's a good idea to have a place ready for them to create a nesting spot. This temperature range will coincide with the blossoming of orchard trees.

As bees emerge, they immediately begin foraging and depositing eggs. The pictured teardrop-shaped mason bee house is a good start when providing habitats. These houses are usually equipped with a hook for hanging, but in my experience bees prefer their houses to be stationary--no dangling. So be sure to secure them if you choose this type nesting site. 

The gentle mason bee is smaller than the honeybee, but works alongside them  compatibly. And, with only six in an area, they could successfully pollinate one whole fruit tree. Native to North America, these gentle bees pollinate almonds, melons, and blueberries.

Upon emerging, their lifespan is approximately four weeks, but males begin dying off a few days after pollination.

The nesting tubes in a mason bee dwelling need to be 6 inches long to protect the eggs from long beaks like those found on woodpeckers.

For more information and pictures on how you can help our native bees, visit:

Monday, April 20, 2015


I'd been working outside in the cold since early morning and had come into the house for a warm lunch. After lunch, still feeling the chill, I covered up with "the cloud" (a small comforter). Warming up, I felt drowsy and took a little snooze on the couch. Lasting 45 minutes, I felt like a million bucks on waking, and the bonus was an illuminating dream:

Looking out the back kitchen window I see two propellers, no airplanes attached, just propellers. Shiny and bright, they are hovering for a few minutes--as if to get my attention. Now, with my attention on them, they effortlessly push on going from back to front. They move quickly and silently. As the last propeller makes it over the roof, I shout out to the kids, "Go to the front, they're going over right now." The kids dash for the front.

I asked myself these questions: What are propellers? What is the significance of their flying over my house? What does their power represent? Why are there two? Where are they going? Why are the kids (all adults now) in the scene?

My thoughts over this dream centered on two challenges I faced at the time. One was my work life and the other was figuring out how to help a family member. It was a daily struggle to come up with something and I was at a loss. First the dream forced me to pay attention. Then, hovering over my house, it reminded me of transcendence over the two things challenging me, and the power to move forward. When I told the kids to "go to the front," I wanted them to see the power to move forward, also.

I had such good feelings when I woke up because I felt strongly that this was a sign that a resolution was on the way to rise above these two pressing issues. I can tell you that I was very grateful, when months later, the matters were resolved.

Dramatic Scene on Sky, Kletr, Allposters

Saturday, November 8, 2014


This dream story starts with a reminder:
Don't take dreams literally--look for the metaphor.

While we often have dreams reflecting some current, specific problem or challenge, sometimes a dream will communicate a more general message. I believe the following dream was just such a message.

To give you a little background: In most matters I like to handle everything myself. It is not easy for me to ask for help, preferring not to bother others over my responsibilities. And that is a good thing. However, there are times when it is all right to ask for help--even necessary that you ask for help. Here is how my dream reminded me:

I am in a hallway where a big, fat man is talking to me. Then suddenly he pushes me into a room and begins attacking me. His arms are white and flabby. I am not afraid of him. Then a knife appears in my hand and  I tell him just how I will stab him if he doesn't stop attacking me. He wrestles me into a lobby area where there is a bank of elevators. One of the doors opens and a couple of people get out. I call to them for help. As soon as I do that, he loses power over me.

The threatening man represents a lot of problems/challenges (note his girth). His arms are white and flabby (not so threatening), so I am not afraid of him and even boldly retaliate. However, because of his size, he overpowers me and wrestles me into the lobby.

Message: You have more power when you ask for help.

Picture by Walter Sanders
                 Elevator in a High-Rise Office Building.

Monday, September 22, 2014


There was a long period of time during which my family experienced such upheaval, that we were at a loss for how to handle it. So out of our experience, we struggled day-by-day to understand it all, and to cope with the ongoing fallout. Walking around as if wounded, we immediately assisted the "victims." To compound the matter, we also understood the plight of the "perpetrators," and wished them no harm.

Pulling me down, I fervently prayed for some resolution to the problems, but none came. Then one night I dreamed . . .

I am sitting on the north side (where I sleep) of the house watching up in the air where a large number of grosbeaks eat doughnuts. A person stands beside me, and though not specified, I know it is a family member. Now a blue jay or two join the grosbeaks, and I say, "Where are they all going?" Up near the gutters they flutter all around, holding up enormous amounts of doughnuts. As I continue to watch, more blue jays come--more than I ever expected. The addition of so many blue jays only adds to the pleasure of seeing the grosbeaks. They're all so beautiful.

A song had started while still dreaming, and as I got awake, playing in my head was the voice of  Vera Lynn singing, "The White Cliffs of Dover." Growing up in the 40's, this hopeful song, with Vera Lynn's strong and vibrant voice, reminded us that one day the war would be over and "There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow, just you wait and see."

On waking, there were tears on my face and I continued crying for a time. The tears were purely those of "thanks." From the dream, I knew there was hope for the future and it helped me carry on.

You'd wonder how such a seemingly funny dream could cause such emotion. It was the song that pointed to its deeper meaning, but so were the messengers. That the first messenger was a rose-breasted grosbeak, reminded me of my grandmother, Rose, blessed with a prominent nose, and who I've felt looks out for me. The addition of blue jays (my favorite sturdy bird), brought the beauty and message by song. Their being up by the gutter, was a clue of the low place where I was then. Doughnuts represented to me a treat, sweetness, but something of the sturdy variety--not fancy. And though they were right above us, the birds were still holding up enormous amounts of doughnuts.

I hoped that they might dispense a little soon.

Allposters: Birds and Trees, Discovery Park
                Kevin Cruff

Written in 1941 by Walter Kent with words by Nat Burton, the song was also among the most popular Second World War tunes.