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As summer begins to wane, my thoughts start to turn toward fall planting and upcoming holidays.

But, before I put summer “to bed”, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of our summer adventures.

Williams, AZ.

The highlight of our summer was spending a week in Williams, AZ.

Every year we head up to this small Route 66 town, which is the known as “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.

We travel up to this special place along with my mother, siblings and their families.  A collection of small, rustic cabins house us for the week.

This small mound of dirt is called "Danny's Mountain" by the boys (Danny is my little 4-year old nephew to the right)

This small mound of dirt is called “Danny’s Mountain” by the boys (Danny is my little 4-year old nephew to the right).

It’s a place where smartphones and video games give way to playing outdoors with cousins finding new places to explore.

My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie

My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie.

Teenage girls discover the delights of pushing each other on a tree swing.

Hummingbird Festival

Little army men toys replace video games as battle strategies are discussed and put in play.

5-month old Eric having fun with his grandpa

5-month old Eric having fun with his grandpa.

As a grandparent, it is also a special time for my husband and I to spend with our two grandchildren.

Lily

Lily

My granddaughter, Lily, was busy picking flowers for her ‘collection’.  She loves flowers and keeps them in her jewelry box.

Dare I hope that she follows in her grandma’s footsteps and becomes a horticulturist?

delicious food

Of course, what’s summer vacation without delicious food!

Before, you ask…no, I didn’t eat all these pies myself – I shared with them with 15 other family members ๐Ÿ˜‰

My daughter Rachele

Fourth of July found us in the pool, waiting for fireworks to begin.

My daughter Rachele, who is in the Navy, was able to come visit with our newest family addition, Eric.  This was his first time swimming and he loved it!

Ruthie, Sofie and Gracie

Ruthie, Sofie and Gracie

At the beginning of our summer season, we had a special visitor.

My daughter, Ruthie, was adopted from China when she was 9 years old.  Her cousin, Sofie, came from the same orphanage and so did their friend, Gracie.

These girls spent their early childhood together, creating special, sisterly bonds with each other in the absence of having parents.

Now that they are all adopted and living in the U.S., they have kept in touch.  Gracie flew in to spend a few days with her ‘orphanage sisters’ and we had so much fun with her.

Pillow fights, baking sweets, enjoying good Chinese food and playing board games filled much of their time together.  

Walking along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, CA

Walking along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, CA

A quick trip to Southern California was taken in the beginning of June to visit Rachele.  We were able to stay in her townhouse on the Navy base.

Whenever we visit her, we take time to travel up to picturesque Santa Barbara, CA, which is where my husband and I met almost 30 years ago.  

Hummingbird Festival

Ruthie learned how squirmy little babies are when you try to get them dressedโ€ฆ

Hummingbird Festival

This summer, we went through a truly wonderful experience together.

We traveled to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.  Both adults and kids were looking forward to seeing planets in our solar system.  

Hummingbird Festival

While I did expect to see some great things through the telescopes, what I didn’t expect was the beautiful flowering perennials growing throughout the grounds of the observatory.

My brother, kept teasing me as I kept stopping to take pictures of the flowers.

My son, Kai, looking at Venus

My son, Kai, looking at Venus

Outdoor telescopes focused on Jupiter and Venus.

I don’t know who was more excited, the kids or the adults.  It was almost incomprehensible that we could view these faraway planets.  

My nephew, Dean, loves flowers and kept asking me what the names of them were.

My nephew, Dean, loves flowers and kept asking me what the names of them were.

I must admit that I enjoyed the flowers almost as much as I did the planets.

 My mother, helping my daughter as she looks at Saturn.

My mother, helping my daughter as she looks at Saturn.

Believe it or not, we were able to see Saturn and its rings!

Hummingbird Festival

We had a wonderful time at the observatory and learned so much.  I highly recommend visiting this or any observatory near you.  It was an unforgettable experience!

Hummingbird Festival

Hummingbird Festival

The last part of our summer fun occurred at the Hummingbird Festival, where I was asked to be a presenter.

I have two separate talks on small space hummingbird gardening and had a great time meeting new people.

Hummingbird Festival

One of my favorite parts of the festival was touring many beautiful gardens in Sedona where the festival was held.

Hummingbird Festival

I came home from the festival inspired to create a garden space dedicated to plants that attract hummingbirds.  I can hardly wait to get started this fall, which is the best time to add new plants to the garden.

In the meantime, we have increased the amount of hummingbird feeders in our backyard and have seen three hummingbirds at a single feeder ๐Ÿ™‚

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Well, that was our summer fun in a nutshell.  The kids are now in school and my eyes are focused on  the fall including the upcoming Garden Writer’s Conference in Pasadena, CA in September.

**What did your ‘summer in review’ look like?  Did you travel to any new places, see old friends or have any new experiences?**  

A Few of my Favorite Thingsโ€ฆโ€ฆHummingbirds

Do you love hummingbirds?  If asked, most people would say that these tiny birds are among their favorite bird species.

Anna's Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen

Anna’s Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen.

I always pause whatever I’m doing whenever I see a hummingbird nearby as I marvel at their small size along with their brilliant colors and flying antics.

Last weekend, I enjoyed an unforgettable experience observing and learning about hummingbirds at the annual Hummingbird Festival, in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

hummingbird gardening

At the festival, I gave two presentations on small space hummingbird gardening, showing people how they could create a mini-hummingbird garden in a container.

When I wasn’t speaking, I was enjoying the garden tour, visiting local hummingbird gardens along with attending other lectures given by noted hummingbird experts.  

Hummingbird Banding

While there were wonderful events throughout the weekend, this was one particular event that I’ll never forget.

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Imagine being able to observe hummingbirds up close being banded and re-released. It really is as incredible as it sounds! In fact, I was able to hold and release a hummingbird myself!

So, what is hummingbird banding?

Hummingbirds are captured, tagged and re-released and is done to track hummingbird migration, the age and health of hummingbirds.  

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird

This hummingbird banding site was located in the backyard of a home in Sedona.

hummingbird feeders

Multiple hummingbird feeders are set out to attract a large number of hummingbirds.

hummingbird feeders

A few of the feeders are inside of cages with openings for hummingbirds to enter.

hummingbird feeders

A hummingbird enters to feed from the feeder.

hummingbird feeders
Hummingbird Banding
Hummingbird Banding

Each little hummer is carefully put into a mesh bag in order to safely transport it to the nearby table to be examined and banded.

It’s important to note this process does no harm to them and it is a very quick.

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Banding

The birds are carefully removed from the bag and the process begins.

Young male Anna's hummingbird

Young male Anna’s hummingbird.

Hummingbird Banding
Hummingbird Banding

They are carefully inspected for general health and to identify the species of hummingbird.  On this day – Anna’s, Black-Chinned and Costa’s hummingbirds were seen.

Hummingbird Banding

Measurements of the beak and feathers are taken to determine the age.

Hummingbird Banding

Feathers on the underside are softly blown with a straw in order to see how much (or how little) fat a hummingbird has.  A little fat indicates that a hummingbird is getting ready to migrate.

Hummingbird Banding

Special eyewear is required for the banders to see what they are doing with these tiny birds.

Hummingbird Banding

For the banding process itself, hummingbirds are placed in a nylon stocking so that one of their legs is more easily manipulated.

Hummingbird Banding

The small band is carefully placed on the leg.

Hummingbird Banding

As you might expect, it isn’t easy to band hummingbirds because of their tiny size – the bands themselves are so small that they fit around a toothpick.  In fact, hummingbird banding is a highly specialized job and there are only 150 people in the U.S. who have permits allowing them to band hummingbirds.

drink of sugar water

After the banding has been done, hummingbirds are given a drink of sugar water before being released.

hummingbird bander is from St. Louis

This hummingbird bander is from St. Louis, MO and was so excited to see his first Costa’s hummingbird (which aren’t found where he lives). 

newly-banded hummingbirds

For me, the most exciting part is when observers have the opportunity to hold and release the newly-banded hummingbirds.

hummingbirds

The hummingbirds would sit for a few seconds in the palm of your hand before flying off.

Holding a hummingbird in your hand is as amazing as you would expect!  The hummingbird that I released was a young black-chinned hummingbird that had hatched earlier this year.

hummingbirds

One of the observers who got to release a hummingbird was a gentleman who was 100 years old + 1 month old!

How wonderful to be able to experience new things at that age ๐Ÿ™‚

red rocks of Sedona.

The garden where the banding was held was beautiful – especially with the backdrop of the red rocks of Sedona.

hummingbirds feeding

I must admit that I was equally split between observing the banding and watching the numerous hummingbirds feeding.

Can you tell how many hummingbirds are in the photo, above?

Seven!

I have got to add more hummingbird feeders to my own garden!

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I am so grateful to the folks at the Hummingbird Society who put on a wonderful festival.  I enjoyed speaking and learning about these wonderful “flying jewels”.

The festival is held every other year in Sedona, AZ.  There were over 1,000 attendees this year.  I highly encourage you to consider attending this special event next year.  

A Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden Finished!