The good, the bad and the ugly of living in a Mediterranean climate

The Good
While much of the United States (even parts of California only a couple hours drive away) are knee deep is frigid, snowy drifts, the unique Mediterranean climate of the San Francisco Bay Area has been beautifully (and unseasonably) lovely and warm this January. Ours is not like the most famous California climate found in Los Angeles--home of Hollywood and Disneyland. That climate is a good 7 hour drive away to our south. So we aren't used to balmy January weather quite like we've been having. For example, two days ago it was 77F/25C outside in the afternoon without a cloud in the bright blue sky. That's weird--even for those of us who have lived here all our lives.

I've always counted myself very lucky to live in one of the few "Mediterranean climates" in the world. Here's a world map showing the rarity of these conditions that I am fortunate enough to consider my own.

Believe me... I do not for one minute take this privilege for granted. When we have a beautiful January as we have been having, I soak it up with the full and grateful heart of one who has lived in extreme winter conditions in the past. I know I am blessed when I am able to go out into my garden and expect to see the first jonquils blooming some time in January. I am honored whenever I spot the first almond tree in bloom in late January. I feel a thrill every time I discover the first camellia blooms in January or February because I see them as the miracle they truly are.

The Bad
Living in these unique circumstances makes it challenging to be a home produce gardener. I can't follow the same gardening practices seen in general gardening magazines and websites (the only magazine I can turn to is Sunset magazine because it's written for the western United States). It has taken me quite a while to shift my thinking away from the traditional way of approaching growing food.

For one thing, I have to plan for summers without rain. I know that I shouldn't expect rain from around May until October at the height of growing summer veggies and fruits. Although I have the luxury of having a year-round garden, I know that there are certain things that will not grow in my summer garden such as lettuce, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and kale. I have to plant them to grow during the winter. Freshly picked salad greens are not something I can enjoy during the summer.

The other challenge is that when we are having a gorgeous rainless January as we are currently having I can't grow any of those above mentioned veggies during the winter either. Normally, the winter rains provide the necessary moist and cool conditions those veggies need. But I haven't been able to get my nitrogen-producing "cover  crop" of clover and alfalfa to sprout around the base of my citrus trees, let alone successfully maintain a bed of moisture-loving lettuce.

The Ugly
These warm and rainless January days happen every few years. It's a part of life here. And it's never fun in the midst of it because the local weather forecasters love to latch on to the possibility of a drought. Every night we are told how many inches of rainfall we are below normal. During a year when we have plentiful rain, we're given the stats from the angle of how far above normal we are and how it could all possibly change on a dime.

I am quick to remind myself that this has very little to do with "global climate change". A few months ago, I was transcribing a handwritten letter from mid-January 1948 (66 years ago). The letter was written by a husband newly located to this area from Minnesota. He was writing to his young wife who was still back home while he scouted out prospects for employment here. He wrote his letter while sitting on a Bay Area hillside. He said:
"The weather is so nice--not too hot & lots of sunshine. They are all worried here because of the lack of rain. It hasn't rained once after the day we arrived--no clouds just sunshine & warm."
Apparently, even 66 years ago the locals were having the same discussions during a rainless January that we are now. And I don't think "global climate change" was a factor in the discussion back then. To the newly transplanted Minnesotan the weather was marvelous. But to the locals... not so much.

Like I said, this happens every few years. It's just a part of life here. The constant possibility that our reservoirs and groundwater (as well as the snow pack in the Sierras a few hours drive north and east of us) won't get replenished enough during the winter to last through our rainless summer is a specter that Bay Area residents have looming in their minds each and every year as we head out of summer into October and November. And when we see week after week of no rain in the weather forecast during December and January, we start to get very concerned. We know that there needs to be enough water for each of our own gardens as well as the 80,500 farms and ranches up and down California that provides more than half of our nation's fruit, nuts and vegetables (click here to read the breakdown by crop). Here in the Bay Area, we also know that the northern part of our state will have to provide the water for all the arid regions of the southern part of state. We take water very seriously around here.

What do we do when faced with dismal weather forecasts and thirsty soil in January? The only thing we can do...

with childlike faith...
with conviction...
for a miracle. 

(We in California would be most appreciative for prayers from anywhere right now.)
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A lot is happening and changing around here... with much more to come

This past week has been jam-packed with exciting things going on around here... so much so that I'll just have to do one of those smorgasbord posts I always like reading on other blogs.

Website and blog domain changes
I finally took the plunge and retired the clickable "business card" style website at and made this blog be the permanent home of I realized that for most people the name "Rosehaven Cottage" is associated with my home and gardens anyway and not my art and design.

I added a "Where to get my art" page to this blog (those of you reading this on email will need to click through to see it) with a pretty graphic directory that helps you find my art more easily.

Then I took the domain out of mothballs (I've owned it for a while), using a simple yet elegantly responsive template I found at for $10, I created a new placeholder site for that domain. [By the way, when a site is "responsive" it means that it resizes and reshapes for optimal viewing on a myriad of mobile devices as well as standard laptop and desktop computers.]

I've decided that I will be exploring some exciting new hands-on art forms once I get my studio done. I will be producing original artwork and it seemed like the right time to embrace my full name for my art website. It will probably morph over time but this is a good start.

Finally, will serve as my official artist blog. So if you want to read updates on what I'm doing creatively you'll need to follow me there as well as here.

I'll let this blog be the home of all my garden, wildlife and home posts and photos as it has always been.

Designing for a soon-to-debut author
I was thrilled when my wonderfully talented cousin informed everyone that her first book has been accepted by a publisher and is due for release around September 2014. I was even more thrilled when she reached out to me and asked if I could help her with designing her website and online presence graphics. My answer was, "Of course!"

I got her all set up with a new domain at with custom-designed website and pretty graphics for all her social media sites that she'll be using as a published author.

I feel that I was getting inspiration poured into my head as I created for Sarah. It was such an amazing experience. First, I designed a monogram for her as the foundation for her branding (below).

The monogram became her little favicon on the tab of any web browser when someone is looking at her site.

I spring-boarded off the monogram to create a header for her website that also became her Facebook cover photo (below).

Once I had those nailed down, I had the basis for the colors of her website as well as the other graphic accents she needed like her bio pic (below)

Finally, I created her social media buttons to be uniquely hers (below).

 photo email-medallion-75px_zpsb9b21886.png  photo fb-medallion-75px_zps308a2120.png  photo pinterest-medallion-75px_zps25e88ea4.png photo twitter-medallion-75px_zps03005069.png photo instagram-medallion-75px_zps093e99b3.png

Make sure and go check out her site and follow her on your social media of choice. You'll definitely want to be one of the first to know when her book is coming out and where you can buy it.

And if all that isn't enough...
Hubby and I have been given an incredible opportunity! We were invited to serve as technology specialists on the public affairs committee for a conglomeration of our Church's congregations (a.k.a "wards") known as "a stake". These positions are unpaid as are all positions in our Church (even clergy), so this will be a "labor of love". Our committee's job (and our job) is to assist our congregations in connecting with the towns, cities and communities in which they live, so they can be engaged in service opportunities both large and small.

One of the first jobs I was tasked with was setting up an online presence and social media accounts for the public affairs committee. I got a chance to use one of my own older photos of our local shoreline in the design.

I also got to design the posters and flyers for an upcoming community service event that ended up being the first thing we published on the new public affairs site. Here's the poster:

And here's the flyer in black and white so it could be easily and inexpensively photocopied:

I told you there was a lot happening around here. I wasn't kidding!

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Coming to love a mountain

I grew up without it on my horizon. 
I didn't understand its allure. 
But then I moved to within sight of it. 
And I understand the hold it has on those it watches over. 
Legend says that those born within its shadow
may try to leave it for a time
but will always be drawn back to live in its presence once again.

I finally understand.
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Bits and pieces of the beginnings of 2014

Little blessings
In early December, I got sick with the flu. I got better in time for Christmas and then caught a cold on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and have been recuperating from that ever since. Imagine the delight I felt when I peeked out the north facing windows to see the camellias were blooming before New Year's Day! It's as if they know I need to see their brilliantly colored faces just a tad earlier than February. It really isn't the camellias that know. It's their Creator that knows. And I am grateful that He cares enough to send sweet little blessings like this when I need them.

The studio build-out moves forward... without me
Hubby had a lot of vacation time accrued and decided to take a significant chunk of it before, during and after the holidays. As well as doing the Christmas shopping this year, he diligently crossed things off the to-do list of home repairs and improvements.

He removed the last vestiges of the pantry units that ran along the interior of our garage that is to become my studio. That is the wall (above) where my computer workspace will be.

The garage door will be replaced by a large set of three windows to let in loads of east-facing light perfect for photographing and creating.

The only things left in the garage are what you see above. The freezer (at the left) needs to be moved inside where it will reside permanently from now on in a pantry we're going to create by framing in half of the area we call "The Tiki Room". So the moving of the freezer is the next big thing that has to happen (probably some time this week) before we can begin the last bits of clean up around the existing garage framing (removing old stucco, sheet rock and nails). Then it'll be time to install floor joists.

The pantry bases Hubby built years ago came out in sturdy intact boxes that will be perfect to use as planter boxes in the area of the back garden that has yet to have hardscape installed. The boxes aren't made of pressure-treated lumber (just plain old pine) so they'll be somewhat sacrificial and will degrade over the next couple of growing seasons. That's okay since they're on their second life anyway.

This Winter's garden
We always have overnight frost in the winter but don't normally experience extended periods of time when the overnight temps dip so far below freezing over and over that everything gets "zapped" really bad.

Well, in early December that's exactly what happened.

Hubby monitors the weather very closely so when the forecasts showed a freeze warning with temps dipping down into to the mid 20F range (-6C) it was time to take some serious precautions. Despite being sick, I went out and strung some white Christmas lights (the old non-LED kind) around in each of the citrus trees to help them stay warm and prevent serious frost damage to the branches. My efforts saved the foliage but not my orange crop. The freezing temps caused the interior juices to expand and burst the bottoms of many of the oranges--freeze-drying the insides as they hung on the tree. It's too bad too... I had a really nice crop this year.

For the first time I can remember, I didn't have any roses blooming on Christmas Day to photograph and share here on the blog. Every rose that was blooming was shriveled to a brown blob. The bower vine on one side of the front pergola really took a hit and I'm wondering how much of it survived. The red Japanese honeysuckle on the other side did better but still has some crispy leaves. I'll have to wait and see if I lost either of my two remaining bougainvillea. I'm not used to the roses looking so bleak in January. Even the Cecile Brunner (below right) said, "Enough is enough!" and has dropped all it's normally evergreen-year-round foliage.

And then there's the amazing loquat (above left). I am always amazed at the tenacity and heartiness of such a tropical looking tree. Even its blossoms are weathering the cold well. If a frost kills a bunch of blossoms, the tree just send out more in their place.

Again, I'm grateful for the small blessing of seeing life thriving when everything else in the garden looks so bedraggled and sad. The loquat, the camellia, and the palm trees are all beautifully green reminders to me that everything will be green again in another month or two--that by the end of February I'll be able to set out the new planter boxes, fill them will soil, and begin sowing seeds in March.

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