Garden Update

Dear Liza,

I have had some real progress in the garden this week!

The zucchini plants are still getting bigger. I wonder when they will start to take over the plot! The tomato plants I put in, from the nursery and from my windowsill, are still alive and getting taller. The carrots are getting taller, as you can see in the picture. But it has been weeks and weeks since I planted them, and I felt the need to know what was going on under the ground. I pulled a medium sized one up!

It is teeny tiny, even for a miniature carrot. But it tastes perfectly carrot-y and gives me hope for a future harvest. I will keep watering and hoping.

The strawberries planted by a previous gardener are coming ripe, but up until now, the squirrels have gotten to them before I did. Not today! Hooray! They were wonderful.

The pumpkin seedling is standing tall, up to about four inches so far. It has a little mound all to itself by the miniature lavender plant.

And most surprising, the replacement radish seeds I put in just last week are coming up! I spaced them out better, so they will have more room to grow than my last crowded bunch. Keep your fingers crossed!

I love having the garden just up the street to play in. Some days I go for a quick stop to water, and others I take a snack and have a nice visit.

Grandma Judy

Beginning Kawandi Quilting

Dear Liza,

This week, I have learned about a whole new kind of quilting! It has been an adventure in history, geography, and craft.

Kawandi quilting is from Western India and Pakistan, but it was brought there by immigrants from Africa. These Africans, called Siddis, introduced the kawandi quilts to India.

Kawandi are made from small pieces of fabric. They are not not patchwork quilts like we make in America, but an appliqué type. Each little piece, called a tikeli, is sewn onto the backing fabric using long straight stitches. A layer of batting or fabric is laid in between the top and bottom layers to make the quilt thicker.

Instead of outlining each piece, you sew in straight lines, following the square shape of the backing fabric. Most people who make Kawandi start on the outside edge, so that’s how I started. I looked at a few YouTube demos, and off I went.

Starting on the outside edge, I folded the edge of the backing fabric and the edge of the tikeli down to hide the rough edge, and sewed them together using stitches in a brightly colored thread. Unlike most types of quilting, you want the stitches to show. Before I got to the edge of the tikeli, I overlapped it with another, folded the edge under, and kept sewing in the straight line. Each bit got incorporated as I continued sewing.

Once I had the whole outside frame done, I cut a piece of green Hawaiian fabric a little smaller than the whole piece and tucked it in so that it was enclosed. You can see it, very bright, in this picture. That’s the part of the quilt that still needs doing.

I continued sewing in straight lines, bringing in pieces of fabric that looked good. I had trouble with some tikeli whose edges didn’t fall in line with the stitching. I have since learned that you solve this problem by making sure your pieces DO line up as you add them. Well, yeah….

Each kawandi quilt is finished off with small triangles that stick out at each corner. These ‘phula’ serve no practical purpose, but the kawandi isn’t considered finished without them.

There are many things I like about kawandi quilting. It is new and interesting, and the results are really colorful. They are a great way to use up bits of fabric. You just cut squares and rectangles to get started. You choose the colors of fabric, but the exact pattern can be sort of discovered as you go along. It is delightfully improvisational. “Oh, I need a lighter patch here… hmmm, yes, this is nice!”

I know there are lots of things about Kawandi that I don’t understand yet, but I have just finished my first Kawandi quilt and have gotten the hang of the basics. My next one will be better. Stay tuned!


Grandma Judy


False Summer into False Fall

Dear Liza,

Our summer-like heat has given way to cool, cloudy drizzle. This is a well-known pattern here in Portland. People ask, “Which false summer are we on now?” Or “Is it real summer yet?”

All this on-again-off-again heat and wet is fine, as long as you can adapt to it. Don’t put your boots away yet. Keep the umbrella handy. Keep the watering can by the door.

When it started to rain the other day after a hot, dry week, the wave of that smell we call “rain” was overwhelming. It made me part of the rain and the earth and the plants.

It felt like such an important thing, I came home certain that there must be a specific word for it. And there is! The word is PETRICHOR. (Say PET-Ri-Kor). The word was invented in 1964 by Australian scientists to describe the smell of earth, moisture, and plant oils being released into the air.

Our current cool spell is predicted to last for another week, giving all the gardens a chance to slow their growth a bit. The roses will stay fresh and the lettuce won’t bolt.

At least until real Summer comes along !


Grandma Judy

A Lovely Saturday

Dear Liza,

After a week of really warm weather, last Saturday was actually a little chilly. I worked in the garden a bit, planting seeds for some replacement radishes and six sunflowers. I have lost all the cucumber seedlings to some tiny slugs that eat the stems, but I have replacements growing in the sunny window and will buy some organic “Sluggo” repellent next time I am at the nursery.

My carrots are getting taller, and the zucchini plants are spreading out. While I was sitting in the garden, the sky got grey, the wind started to blow, and I got drizzled on for a while.

The smell of fresh rain in a garden is one of the best smells in the world, and I sat there, very happy, thinking how blessed I am.

Once I had the seeds in and watered, I cut some of the lovely lettuce to have later. Then I went home for lunch, which was leftover pulled pork sandwiches from The Portland Ciderhouse. Yum!

After some quiet time of reading, art and French lessons, Grandpa Nelson headed out for a walk, and I joined him! The clouds had mostly blown away but it was still cool. We walked the mile south to Division Street, to Salt and Straw Ice Cream. I ordered a flavor I didn’t even know existed, Pear and Blue Cheese. I know it sounds weird, but the sweetness of the pears and vanilla ice cream made a nice balance with the strong flavor of the blue cheese, and it was wonderful.

We sat by the sidewalk and watched dozens of other folks walking down the street to get their ice cream. There were more people than I’ve seen in one place for over a year. It was delightful, bright, and very human. Folks wore masks when they got into the crowd, which let everyone feel safe.

We headed for home up 32nd Street, which is lined with lovely old houses and beautiful gardens. The azaleas are fading but the roses are really coming into their own.

We spent the rest of the day reading, doing crosswords, and watching the Giants beat the Chicago Cubs. A very pleasant day, all around.


Grandma Judy

Feeling Safe, Heading Out

Dear Liza,

With me being totally vaccinated along with so many folks here in Portland, I felt safe enough Friday to do the long walk down to Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures to take her new kitties some catnip toys.

I always love the walk to and through the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood. Gardens, trees, and lovely Craftsman style homes are so welcoming and friendly. And at this time of year, they really show the love.

On the way, I stopped by Palio coffee house to pick up lunch for Auntie Katie, because she works hard and doesn’t always get time out to eat. A sausage quiche, salad, and blueberry muffin should hold her until dinner. While we chatted, she told me that her new kitties, now named Maggie and Hopey, had gone missing. They were probably still in the apartment, but still, some worried faces here.

Since the shop was busy and Auntie Katie needed to take care of her customers, I dropped off the lunch, got a hug, and headed for home. Passing by Palio, I remembered how yummy Katie’s lunch looked and stopped and got one for myself. A Roast Beef Reuben sandwich with horseradish was so yummy! Along with chips and an almond Italian soda, I was filled to bursting.

I continued home and had a long quiet afternoon…. listening to music, working on art and thinking about history. A very pleasant time. But Friday evening is our night out. So at five o’clock, out we went!

We thought of Bread and Ink, an old favorite down on Hawthorne. Their website said they were open, but it turns out they meant ‘for take out only’. I totally understand that folks are not all vaccinated and don’t all feel safe, so we moved on. What WAS open?

St. Anthony Bourdain

Turns out, the Portland Ciderhouse is! Their food menu was short and sweet… fat pretzels for Grandpa Nelson, pulled pork sandwiches for Auntie Bridgett and me, and tater tots. The cider menu was more extensive, and we all found something we liked. Mine was a ‘Runcible Hoot’ which I got for the name. It was dry and wonderful. Once we were seated, we could remove our masks, and enjoyed being inside a restaurant. We looked at art, including a nice portrait of the late Anthony Bourdain, labeled ‘St. Anthony’, and watching other folks. We ate and drank and felt very blessed to be safe. Our walk home was sunlit and lovely.

And, once we got home, I heard from Katie. The kitties were found! Cousin Jasper spotted them in their new cuddle cave behind the clothes dryer.
All is well!


Grandma Judy

Welcome, New Kitties

Dear Liza,

Back in May I told you that Auntie Katie’s dear old cat, Pixel, had passed away. This week, two new cats have come to live with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel and Auntie Katie in their apartment above Books with Pictures.

“What’s going on out there?”

The females, one black and one gray, don’t have names yet. Auntie Katie has asked friends on Facebook to help out and give ideas. So far, the list includes Xena and Gabrielle, Thelma and Louise, and Magique and Shadowcat.

The new kitties have been staying in the bathroom in a cozy wool bed just big enough for the two of them. I am glad they have each other for company.

They are eating and drinking and using the litter box, and slowly getting used to their new space. The other day Auntie Katie went in to say ‘hi’, and got a careful greeting.

I am looking forward to getting to know these little ladies, once they are feeling safe and comfortable. I have even made some catnip stuffties for them.

What’s interesting is that they look very much like cats we had a while ago, Stoney and Sassy, a gray and a black. Here is a picture of our old friends.

Loving cats is one of my great joys in life.


Grandma Judy

Late Spring Heat!

Dear Liza,

It has been HOT in Portland!

I went out picking up trash with the Adopt One Block folks this past weekend. In an hour and a half I collected about 20 pounds of old masks, cigarette butts and beer cans. It is very satisfying to make a part of my city better. But by the time I got home, I was a very sweaty Grandma Judy.

In the garden, the plants are reacting to the heat by charging out of the ground. Our only difficulty seems to be keeping them watered! I will be heading over today to transplant some cucumbers, pumpkins and tomatoes, and I will make sure to flood the plot.

To protect my newly planted babies from wily crows, I did some crafting. Using cardboard boxes used to sell cherry tomatoes, netting from avocados, and shipping tape, I made cages. I will place them over the little ones and hope for the best.

I am hoping the clever crows don’t just lift them off and fly away!!!

All tucked in safe and sound….


Grandma Judy

Watch the Birdie!

Dear Liza,

We had such pretty weather this past weekend, we decided it was time to get out the badminton set. This Zume set was Auntie Bridgett’s birthday present our first year in Portland, and it is delightful.

Easy set-up!

The case holds the net, rackets and shuttlecocks, which are also called birdies. It is light to carry and sets up easily. There were a lot of people in Laurelhurst park, but we kept walking until we found a sunny level spot that no one was using.

Reaching for the shot….

This was the first game of the season, after no games at all last year due to the shutdown. We were expecting a disaster! But we quickly got the hang of it and were only missing…. Well, not so many…..

To make sure everyone had fun, we would play two against one, then switch around so each person had a chance to be their own team as well as play with everyone else. It was a slap-happy game, I tell you! Lots of flailing and leaping and picking up birdies we just couldn’t get to.


When we got tired, we would sit in the shade to cool down, have some water, and catch our breath.

New baby oak tree

When we could hardly lift our rackets, we knew it was time to stop. We packed up the gear and headed home. On the way, we were happy to see that someone has planted a new baby oak tree right by the old giant that fell down this spring. It seems to be doing well and we will keep our eyes on it!


Grandma Judy

The Oregon Garden Part 2

Dear Liza,

We sat on that bench for a while, cooling off and enjoying the views. We checked the map and saw that we were at the edge of the Rediscovery Forest. We headed in.

The Rediscovery Forest

This is a person-planted forest, and is used to study different types of forest management. But it looks and smells just like the forests I grew up camping in. We walked between wide-spaced pine trees, watching jays zoom through the dappled sunlight, and inhaling the sweet pine smells.

We walked through the forest and out the other side, heading towards The Wetlands. This is a series of ponds that step down the hill, and is the largest construction in the Garden, but is well disguised. These natural -looking ponds take treated water from the Silverton City Water Treatment plant and use it to a create a wildlife sanctuary which is home to thousands of birds, frogs, and other animals. As the water flows downhill between the ponds, it becomes cleaner and cleaner, until it is ready to be used for watering the rest of the Garden.

Looking downhill over the ponds

About this time, we all realized we needed some time off our feet. Fortunately, Grandpa Nelson always knows where the snack bar is! We got some cold drinks and sat at a shady picnic table, listening to the birds and the breeze, feeling our energy return.

We pulled out the map to see what was next and noticed something called The Signature Oak on the other side of the Garden! “Can we go clear over there?” I asked. We figured out how to go through gardens we already knew to make a shortcut, and headed off. We passed back through the Conifer and Children’s Garden, and by the Market Garden.

We walked under a curving arbor covered with grapevines, and came out on the opposite side of the Garden! There in front of us was The Signature Oak, 99 feet tall, 22 feet in diameter at the base, and an estimated 400 years old. We could see that it had suffered some damage in the spring storms, but it was still magnificent.

The Signature Oak

We headed back down the hill, getting to the end of our second wind. There were other wonderful parts of the garden we passed, but just didn’t have the energy to explore. We decided we would leave the Northwest Garden and the Sensory Garden for our next visit; maybe when you come up!

By this time we had gone below the entrance, and had to climb a bunch of steps back up. Oh, man!

We took a few pictures of a small waterfall, got back in the car, and Auntie Bridgett drove us home. What a wonderful adventure!


Grandma Judy

The Oregon Garden Part 1

Dear Liza,

The Oregon Garden, where we visited last Wednesday, is 80 acres on a gently sloping hillside just outside Silverton. It was started in 1997 as a project by the Oregon Association of Nurseries as a sort of outdoor showroom. But it is so much more!

Ducklings out for lunch!

Entering the garden from the gift shop, we were met with a collection of natural-looking water features interlaced with pathways. This area is called The A-amazing Water Garden and is filled to bursting with water lilies, frogs, ducks, and even one lovely green snake. Watching OPK’s ( Other People’s Kids) giggling, running, and enjoying everything was half the fun!

Handsome snake getting a bite to eat…

Our journey through the garden alternated between small gardens overhung with trees and wide-open sunny spaces, offering a comfortable rhythm. There was so much to see, I couldn’t stop for all the pictures I wanted, or I’d never move. I decided to enjoy my time and only take pictures when I really wanted to save an image. There are still a lot.

Just past the Water Garden we found the Bosque, a very formal set of lily ponds, created to reflect the surrounding trees and elicit a sense of calm. It was lovely and tranquil.

Reflections in the Bosque

We turned left and up the hill, heading through the Axis Garden. This is mostly open space, and is used for weddings and events.

The Axis Garden

To either side were the Conifer garden, with a delightful collection of evergreens, and the Children’s garden, with Hobbit holes and even a dinosaur skeleton in the sandbox.

In the Children’s Garden

Just above the Children’s Garden, the trees opened up again in the full-sun Silverton Market Garden. This garden features grapes, berries and other major Oregon crops, and is a major open air event space which would easily hold a few hundred people.

It features a large Pavilion, pathways, and about a thousand Peonies and Irises all in bloom. It was stunning.

Auntie Bridgett among the irises

About this time, we realized that our eyes were full and our feet were tired. We found a bench in the shade and just sat for a while, letting all the beauty soak in. Then we continued our journey up the hill, which I will tell you about tomorrow.

Peony explosion


Grandma Judy