Putting the Garden to Bed

Dear Liza,

After a whirlwind summer of watering and harvesting, the garden is suddenly, sadly, done.

Our shorter days and colder nights have put an end to further ripening. These tomatoes and tiny pumpkin are the last of the bunch. My garden neighbors are hauling their plants out as well, not wanting to be caught with ”slime”. Apparently, once the plant dies and the rain hits, things get ugly quickly.

So, I took the wagon over to the plot and pulled my gigantic zucchini plant out by the roots. I had to cut it into smaller bits to fit into the buckets! I lay down some burlap coffee sacks to slow the weeds and erosion during the winter.

Then, with all the hardware stacked on the top of the burlap and just the catnip and lavender sticking up, it was time to say Goodbye to the Garden until March of 2022, when I’ll give it a nice dose of compost and we get to play again.


Grandma Judy

The Rose Queen of 1941

Dear Liza,

Walking around Portland, we always learn something new. This past Saturday, on our way to see a new pedestrian bridge get installed, we passed the DaVinci Middle School, in the old, classy Irvington/Kerns neighborhood. This school has been here since 1928, and used to be called the Girls Polytechnic High School. The name was changed to Madison High School, then to Da Vinci.

In front of the school is a giant magnolia tree and flower beds with an oval brass memorial. We stopped to see what it was about.

The words say “These rose beds and memorial tree are affectionately dedicated to the memory of Betty Jane Harding, 1923 to 1943, who as princess from Girls Polytechnic High School became Queen of the Rose Festival and so graciously reigned in the year nineteen hundred forty one.”

I was curious, and a little sad. Being elected Rose Queen, this young woman had obviously been smart, pretty, and active in her community. Why had she only lived twenty years?

I returned to my old friend, The Historic Oregonian newspaper, via the Multnomah County Library website. Looking in the newspapers from 1941, I found lots of articles about Betty Jane and her fellow Rose Princesses.

One girl was chosen from each of the 9 public high schools in town (at the time, there are 12 now), and one was chosen as Queen. I am not sure what the criteria were.

Miss Harding, as Rose Queen Betty Jane I, had all sorts of civic duties. She spoke with girls’ groups, posed with celebrities, and encouraged girls to always do their best. She traveled to meet other make-believe Royalty, like King Borealis of St. Paul, Minnesota, to smile for the cameras.

But all this publicity had a real benefit, as well. Betty Jane earned a full scholarship to The University of Oregon, down in Eugene. She pledged to the Pi Beta Phi Sorority and began studying Art.

Betty Jane became ill in 1943 and came back to Portland, where there was better medical care and to be closer to her family. She had surgery for her liver trouble, but sadly, did not recover.

Betty Jane is buried in the Lincoln Memorial Park, which is a few miles south of here. At her funeral, her fellow princesses walked as an honor guard and volunteer Rosarians acted as pallbearers. Everyone who had admired Betty Jane as Rose queen was saddened by her early death.

I guess if I insist on learning new things, some of them are going to be sad. But I am happy to know more about the folks who have lived, and died, in this city.


Grandma Judy

Our House Is a Very Fine House…

Dear Liza,

When people say they buy a house, it usually means that they have borrowed the money for the house from a bank. They pay the bank a fee, called ’interest’ every month so they can continue to use that money to pay for the house while they are living in it.

Grandpa Nelson and I have done this three times before. In 1975 we bought a little California bungalow for $32,000. It had been built in the 1920s and needed a lot of care. The three years we lived there, the value of the house soared to $50,000. We sold the house, paid the bank what we still owed, and moved on.

Our Eugene house

Eugene was the perfect spot for us to start a family, and our California home’s sale allowed us to buy a nice place with a big yard. Like before, we borrowed money from the bank. Your Daddy David and Auntie Katie spent the first months of their lives there. When the business Grandpa Nelson worked for went out of business, we had to give the house back to the bank and move to Salinas.

Once I started teaching, we were able to buy a home in Salinas. Another loan, more interest. We lived there for 28 years! We raised our kids and welcomed our grandkids. It was a good house, but we only paid it off when we sold it.

When I retired from teaching, we had the option of living anywhere we wanted.

This was a new, sort of scary idea, but after researching many cities, we decided on Portland, Oregon. We sold our Salinas home, packed up the stuff and the cat, got another loan from another bank, and bought a nice, modern condominium.

And today, we finally put that cycle of buying and owing and paying interest to an end! We gave the bank all the money we owed and we don’t have to pay any more. It feels good!

All ours!!

And, since we aren’t paying that money to the bank every month, we can do something else with it.

Any ideas?


Grandma Judy

Kitten in a Cone

Dear Liza,

Our cat, whose name is Mouse, is an adorable, fluffy ball of joy.

She also has allergies. Sometimes her skin gets so itchy that she scratches herself sore, and she looks like she’s been in a fight!

These aren’t new allergies; she sometimes looked like this in Salinas, but she was an indoor/outdoor cat then, and we assumed she was getting into tiffs with the neighbors.

But Mouse is strictly an indoor cat here in Portland, so we took her to the vet. She gave her some medicine to help with the Itchies. But it isn’t very effective, and is hard on her kidneys, so we can’t give her too much of it.

The Vet also gave us a cone. The cone is more effective than the medicine at keeping her from scratching herself, but she hates it. It is heavy and makes her clumsy.

She looks like a table lamp or a dish antennae. So, whenever we can, we take the cone off and snuggle.

Snuggles are good for everybody.


Grandma Judy

Epic Walk

Dear Liza,

We don’t like to drive much. I mean, driving is okay for bringing heavy groceries home or getting to the coast, but our adventures around town usually don’t use the car.

So yesterday, when we wanted to see the installation of the new Earl Blumenauer Pedestrian Bridge over the Banfield Freeway, we walked! It’s only a few miles north, after all.

Well, and about a mile west…. Anyway, after a wonderful stroll through the Irvington neighborhood, we found the freeway.

It was EMPTY. Not a car in sight! The city had blocked off a few miles of freeway so they could install the bridge safely. I wonder how all those thousands of cars were getting around? After we had soaked up the quiet of six lanes of silence, we walked toward the installation site.

The work was going slowly and carefully, with gantries and cranes and dozens of people. We realized it wasn’t going to be done for hours and hours.

We stared for a while. We had walked about three miles, maybe more, with weaving through neighborhoods, and we were foot sore. The search began for coffee and ‘a little something’.

We knew busy Broadway Street was just up a few blocks, so we headed in that direction. On the way, we found these plaques showing the state bird, fish, flower, insect and mammal of the state of Oregon. They were a nice decoration, making the back of a parking garage interesting and educational.

We found coffee, then pastries, then a new cone for Mouse, at shops along Broadway, and we were all feeling the milage. We charted the most direct route home and trudged along, only stopping to notice that the flamingo flock by the park is showing their support for our favorite San Francisco baseball team. Go Giants!

We got home, rested our poor feet, and drank lots of water. We had a right to be tired. We had walked 6.4 miles!

What a day!


Grandma Judy

Helping Out at Blair Community Garden

Dear Liza,

Our garden plot at the Blair Community Garden has been such a joy this year. It has given me fresh vegetables, new friends, and a place to get out of the house and play in the mud.

We have enjoyed many pounds of fresh zucchini, lettuces, and cherry tomatoes, and some less successful radishes and carrots.

I have met neighbors from our own building that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and enjoyed conversations about pumpkin reproduction, teaching philosophies, and life in general.

And I have had the chance to contribute to the greater good by helping with the maintenance of the garden itself. This week I am earning my ‘service hours’ by weeding the parkway strip outside the gate. It is home to an asian pear tree, several rosemary bushes….. and lots of weedy grass!

That’s where I came in. With my trusty buckets and wagon, I pulled and hauled away the grassy nuisances, laying some burlap coffee sacks down to discourage weeds.

On the right side is the ’before’, on the left is ’after’.

I love weeding. It is physically demanding and mentally relaxing, and it leaves the garden neater and all tucked in for winter. And this time, it gave me a delightful surprise!

Someone, at sometime, created this ancient-looking miniature pottery piece. They then tucked it WAY under the rosemary bush, only to be found by a very thorough weeder (like me).

What a joy, to find someone’s hidden treasure! I took a few pictures, marveled at the imagination, and put it back where it was, to wait for the next weeder to find.

I’m glad to be a part of such a wonderful garden.


Grandma Judy

Happy 71st Anniversary, Peanuts!

Dear Liza,

This past Saturday was the 71st anniversary of the world-famous comic strip, Peanuts. We love Peanuts around here.

Snoopy’s pure joy, Charlie Brown’s stoic determination, and Linus’s loving faith touch our hearts. Auntie Bridgett admires Charles Schulz, the cartoonist who created the strip, for his ability to sum up the human condition so perfectly in just a few strokes of a pen.

To celebrate the day, we drank coffee from a Charlie Brown mug at breakfast and had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. After a busy day, we toasted Snoopy’s World War One flying ace with root beer in big fat mugs.

Later, we tried to watch the feature length film, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”, which was made in 1971. I say we tried to watch it, and we made it about halfway through. But unlike the earlier Halloween and Christmas specials, this film couldn’t seem to find any joy for our hero. The characters harped on his failures, creating abusive scenes that seemed to go on forever and were painful to watch.

And when Charlie Brown did have some success, he was allowed to enjoy it for a scant minute on screen and was then back to the pit of despair. It was too much. We turned it off.

Still, we can’t let one movie spoil our joy of Peanuts. It was a good day and we will love Peanuts forever.


Grandma Judy

Painting the Piazza

Dear Liza,

This past Saturday , we got to be part of a great neighborhood project! The Portland Street Art Alliance teamed up with Sunnyside Neighborhood Association and made this wonderful thing happen.

Will and Ashe, the organizers, sent emails out and called for volunteers to come paint a giant, seven-colored sunflower that filled at the intersection of SE Yamhill and 33rd Avenue.

Will, one of our leaders

The primer was laid down Friday afternoon and the yellows and oranges went down Saturday.

Chalk lines and numbered spaces guided us in an oversized paint by number game. Folks from age 7 to at least 65 (me) came to help. There were more than a dozen folks on the flower at any time, and it moved along quickly.

The Plan

When our knees were shot and our backs were tired, we headed home, knowing we had been part of making our neighborhood better. It felt good!


Grandma Judy

SideStreet Arts is Open! Part 2

Dear Liza,

There were a lot of artists showing at SideStreet Arts last Friday.

Alicia Justice’s nostalgic constructions take hours to create, and are so pretty! They feel like a set design from ”Life with Father”. Here is a detail of just one room.

Auntie Bridgett has some work for sale, too. Her painting called ”New Home Coming”, showing Mt. Hood all pink at sunset, is displayed with some lovely pink glass by Phyllis Flury.

The last artist I will mention is Melody Bush. She does what are called Book Excavations, which highlight the art of old, forgotten books by carving into them, showing different parts of the book all at once. We own two of her works already! Here is a pretty one on display.

I am happy that with higher vaccination rates and so masking, we can enjoy getting out and about again.


Grandma Judy

SideStreet Arts is Open! Part 1

Dear Liza,

Last Friday night we went to SideStreet Arts Gallery for our first in-person First Friday in a year and half. It was so good to be with artists and their art again, even with everyone wearing masks.

The artist in the Small Works Spotlight is Sharon Jonquil, who does oil painting and encaustics. We met Sharon a few years ago at her Open Studio event, and got to see her process. We even bought two of her small encaustics.

At this show, Sharon is showing oil paintings. They are abstract landscapes of Canyonlands and the Deschutes River, and they are wonderfully evocative. You almost feel the sun on your back and smell the sagebrush that grows along the banks of the river.

We also met Rabun Thompson, a ceramicist who was the Featured Artist of the month. Rabun works in high-fired stoneware, and many of his pieces can be hung on the wall as art and also used as serving plates. Auntie Bridgett and I fell in love with this one during the on-line Preview, and bought it before some else did!

It is about 18 inches across and fully glazed, so I can use it for food! Won’t it be pretty piled high with cookies or just-out-of-the-oven bread?

There was a lot more to see on the walls, but I will tell you about them tomorrow.


Grandma Judy