I was pottering around the garden a few weeks back and couldn't stop thinking about Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue. I keep in regular touch with founder, Liz. We adopted our little dog Hope from the Rescue, when Hope was saved from the Chinese meat trade last year, and Liz has one of the other beautiful collies rescued at the same time - Daisy. We often send each other photos of the dogs and I'm proud to call Liz my friend.
Liz is an incredibly kind and inspirational lady and this particular week, I'd had a few messages from her about the animal cruelty she was seeing.
More and more dogs and cats have been abandoned because of COVID-19, the rescue has been working hard to support many pups recently found in awful circumstances and I could tell Liz was really down. I kept thinking, "What can I do to raise Liz's spirits"?
I'd already made a couple of small donations and thought about sending Liz a care package, but it just didn't feel enough. Then, as I was watering the plants in the greenhouse, a tiny seed of an idea planted itself in my mind. It felt unachievable at first, but I reckon most ideas that really mean something to you are like that at the start. I told myself no, but the idea started to grow... so I told myself maybe... then, why the bleep not! ;)
To help the Rescue, I thought I could ask people to donate whatever they'd like to and sponsor a sunflower. I'd plant a seed with the donators name on the pot (or a dedication for someone special) and as they grow, I'd share some sunflower updates on my social media (@somersetcool on twitter and instagram ) and on my radio shows on Frome FM.
The idea was that each sunflower would eventually help to create a beautiful border full of bright flowers to keep Liz and Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue's spirits up - and as a dedication to all the pups being saved. The money from the seed sponsorship would go directly to Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue's puppy plea for the forgotten ones... the ones left in boxes on the side of the road, discarded in rubbish tips and found by one of the shelters Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue supports overseas. It would help with milk and food to keep the found puppies and abandoned dogs alive... and for anything else they need.
When I first shared the idea with Lara at Manor Farm Cottage Flowers as a bit of a sounding board, I wondered whether the idea was even a goer. Would anyone want to get involved? Well, Lara said she loved it and would give me some of her seeds to get me started, so I was over the moon with that act of kindness - and I couldn't not do it now! ;)
So I told you about it... friends, family, social media, strangers and one by one the donations started and the sunflower crew grew. I can't tell you how exciting it's been seeing the donation figure rise and what a lift it has given Liz receiving your support, especially right now when understandably there are many appeals and funds being raised for different causes.
At the start, I didn't really know what to set my fundraising target at either. I knew as much as I could raise would help more and more animals, but I also wanted to be realistic, so I set up my JustGiving page target at £250, and thought I might not make it.
And then something wonderful happened.
We grew from one seed (my mum ;)) to almost 50 and almost £1,000. I couldn't believe it. I never even daydreamed about reaching £1,000, but as it was almost in touching distance, and to try and make that total happen, I pledged to dress up as a sunflower in a moment of sunflower semi-madness if we made it (as you do).
And we flipping did it!
The awesome guys at Jacks and Stripes took us over the edge - possibly literally - because of course, the human sunflower then had to happen. Well, a promise is a promise!!
Now there are 58 of us in the crew, we've raised £1,100 together and if you're part of it, you've done something amazing to help those animals who honestly would not have survived if it wasn't for your kind donations and Liz, of course.
So, now it's all down to the growing.
We've been working hard these past couple of weekends starting to get the border ready - the place the sunflowers will call home. It was choc-full of nettles so we've 'de-nettled' it, I believe the scientific term is! ;) It now needs a rotivate, a dig and a little bit of soil improvement and it needs to be done pretty swiftly because your sunflowers will be ready to plant out at different points this month.
We've got some shooting for the sky (those planted in the first wave), some taking it nice and steady and some saying "I'll sprout in my own time thanks", but I've planted some spares this weekend too, because everyone needs a back up plan!
I've sewn two different varieties of sunflower. The ones gifted by Lara at Manor Farm Cottage Flowers are F1 Marley and have gorgeous bi-colour blooms.
I got some Mr Fothergill's 'Alchemy' too. Both can grow up to 1.6 meters and both have multiple blooms so I'm hoping for lots of flowers... if we can get the daily amount of sun on the border of course. The border does have trees which shadow it for part of the day and I've been monitoring for how long, so the flowers can get their minimum of 6 hours (if the weather's with us). We've taken a few branches off too, put it that way!
Anyway, I'll be writing a few more updates on the blog as things progress, but wish us luck... and here's to you, the sunflower crew. You're bringing the sunshine to Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue and we love you for it!
Thank you so very much to...
An anonymous donator on April 28th
Jules & Mark
An anonymous donator on April 29th
Benny the lurcher (& Nana Wendie)
An anonymous donator on April 29th
Cheddar Paws Bakery for Dogs
Rupert at Salad Days and Holy Moli, Dunster Beach
An anonymous donator on May 3rd
Izzy mini sausage dog & human Nic :)
Melissa Rankin & Ellis
The Porris - Maya and Maisie
Alan and Janet
Lauren (for Chris)
An anonymous donator on May 8th
Jo at The Flower Shop, Bruton
Ian, Joan, Raddish and Bess
Emi and Di
G, Petal, Flower and Hope
Mark and Pu
Steve James Ltd
Rachel at Ooh La la Lampshades
Jacks & Stripes
Elise and Katrina
An anonymous donator on May 16th
Lindsey Hedges & Flynn