To the Ship! To the Ship!

Dear Liza,

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The wreck of the Peter Iredale

Yesterday, Auntie Katie invited me on an adventure with her and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. Under grey July skies, we drove on the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River into Washington! This is my first time crossing this river since living in Portland. We drove north for a while, and then we crossed the same river AGAIN, because we turned west as it turned north. Believe it or not, this took us back into Oregon.

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The sky through the wreck

We stopped at The Berry Patch Restaurant, a nice friendly diner, and had hamburgers, tuna melts, and fish and chips, then drove to Fort Stevens, which was a U.S. Army Fort from the Civil War to World War II. We never made it to the fort.

We got sidetracked. By a shipwreck.

The Peter Iredale was a four masted steel barque sailing ship that came aground on the beach in 1906. It was never salvaged, and has sat right on the beach since then, slowly falling apart.

It is now a beautiful wreck, with barnacles and layers of thick steel revealing wonderful colors. From inside, you can frame to world through its openings. The kid in me wanted to climb it, but adult me realized that was a monumentally bad idea. So I just stared.

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Beautiful decay

Seagulls nibbled on huge, very dead, Dungeness crabs. Jasper and I came up with a story that there had been a giant seagull party, and the shells were the “take out” containers left lying around.

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Kestrel through the wreck

 

 

Since we were on the beach there was sand castle building, of course. We all got sandy and wet. It was marvelous.                                                 There were also thousands of tiny gelatinous sea creatures that had washed up onto the shore. About an inch long and as big around as a knitting needle, these hollow remains were squishy underfoot and did not interest the seagulls.

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Of CourseAbout an inch and a half long and as thin as a knitting needle, these hollow remains felt squishy underfoot. The seagulls were totally not interested in eating them.

There were more adventures during the day, and I will tell you about them tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hallelujah Hydrangeas!

Dear Liza,IMG_7991.jpg

I have told you how sentimental I get about certain plants, especially ones that remind me of your Great Grandma Billie, my Momma. She had a hydrangea that had been a wedding present from her landlady in 1946, and she loved it.img_7989.jpg

You and I found a little hydrangea overgrown by some other plants in your very own back yard, and trimmed the other plants back so it could get more sunlight.

I have found, in Portland, hydrangea heaven. I have never seen so many, or such beautiful colors! It must be the wet winters and the intense summer sunshine, the humidity levels, and the volcanic soil. These plants are really happy.IMG_8012.jpg

And every time I see one, I think of Great Grandma Billie, and you. She died exactly one month before you were born, Liza. She knew you were coming and cherished the idea of another great grand child, but never got to meet you.

Watching you grow up to know the difference between a magnolia and a maple, learning to ride your bike and read, being brave and smart, would make her smile and warm her heart.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Kestrel Turns Seven

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was Cousin Kestrel’s seventh birthday! Her party had the theme of Princess Kittens, so of course special things were needed.

Naked kitten cake

I walked over to their house in Ladd’s Addition early Sunday morning to help Auntie Katie make the cake. She had gotten the hard work done already! She had baked, sliced, filled, chilled and crumb-coated this marvelous kitten cake. All I needed to do was give it a nice layer of fluffy pink frosting and watch Auntie Katie put on the face.

Artistic Mommy-ing

It is always wonderful for a mom, like me, to visit her grown up children and get to watch them recreate some of their happy childhood memories. It is comforting to know that all that hard work did some good.

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Ta-Daaa!

After the cake was ready, I walked home and worked on the story, baked cookies, and rested up. Then Grandpa Nelson and I rode our bikes back down for the party. Lots of little girls, a few boys, and kittens! We made tiaras with ears, colored kitten pictures, ate the lovely cake, and the whole party made a parade to the rose garden nearby for a photo shoot. I stayed at the house, because Cousin Jasper was feeling overwhelmed by all the excitement. It was kind of nice to be quiet, I admit.

The Girls

Presents were opened, hugs were given, and the party was over. Grandpa Nelson and I rode back UP the hill home and crashed. We both napped and drank lots of water.

Then, at 6:00, it was time for the Rowhouse condos potluck! We took homemade bread and butter, snickerdoodles, and wine. We ate and talked and drank wine for hours, getting to know more of our neighbors and enjoying the warm evening. When we hauled ourselves back up the stairs and home, I was truly spent and slept like a log.

Being retired sure keeps me busy!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Taking the Banfield to Edgefield, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I told you about the Multnomah County Poor Farm at Edgefield, just east of Portland. Today I will tell you what The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, did with the farm.

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Down the Rabbit Hole?

The brothers had been successful at creating restaurants and pubs out of scruffy buildings, but had never taken on a project this big. There were 292 acres and every inch of every building and every square foot of land needed work. Flooring was damaged from broken windows letting in animals, vandals and rain.img_79111.jpg

The first building they got up and running was the Power Station in 1991, as a guest hotel, theater and restaurant. People came, stayed, paid, and the brothers’ bankers realized this could be a success.

The brothers envisioned what they called a “down-the-rabbit-hole” experience, a place like nowhere else. There would be no phones, no televisions, no smoking, just food and wine, beer and cider, sunshine, rain, gardens, art and comfort.

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ART!

Once the Power Station was up and running, work on the main building, called The Manor, got under way. Having been built for people in wheelchairs, all the doors were really wide. The brothers decided that rather than replace every single door, they would have a staff of artists paint each one, making each room a unique place. That worked so well that they hired more artists, and now art covers all the doors, ceilings, and is hung on every wall.

The building had been vandalized while it was empty, including someone painting a pentagram at the head of the main staircase. The brothers wanted good energy, not bad, in their place, so they hired a troupe of bagpipers to come out. The musicians formed a circle around the pentagram, played “Amazing Grace,” and painted over the evil symbol.

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Thursday at McMinamen’s

The gardens needed redoing. Patrick McNurney was the landscape guru for the property. There were almost no trees, and lots of weeds, but he knew that the land was fertile. He was instructed that there shouldn’t be any straight lines in the gardens, and that the plants should all dance together. He succeeded beautifully.

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Flowers Dancing Together

There is an herb garden, fruit and vegetable garden, and winding paths through groves of aspens and birches. There is a spa with a serpentine hot tub to float and nap in. There is currently a winery, brewery, bakery and distillery on the premises. Yes, it IS heaven.

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A Very Happy Grandma Judy

We enjoyed our day at Edgefield. On the way to the place, we found Ben Pilchuck and his partner blowing glass in the old shop. We had brunch The Black Rabbit Restaurant (there’s a story in the name, too), then a tour around the place with Thursday, who has been working for McMenamin’s for 35 years. She is funny and knowledgeable, and I will be talking to her more, I hope.

It would take weeks to see the whole place, and pages more to tell you all about it. I will show you this wonderful place when you come to visit.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Taking the Banfield to Edgefield, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a road trip, going 14 miles east of home. We actually got on a freeway!  ( Not nearly as common for us here as in California). The number 84 freeway is also called the Banfield. We went out to visit Edgefield.

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Mt. Hood in the distance

Edgefield is a beautiful, interesting place with an even more interesting past. From 1911 to 1982, this complex of buildings and farms was the county poor farm, 292 acres of land where people came when they had no where else to go.

There was a real farm, with cows, pigs, chickens, orchards of fruit and acres of vegetables, which was tended by the folks who lived here. They provided food for their own tables, as well as to the county jail and juvenile facility.

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Main Building

There was a power station to supply electricity for the place. The staff had farmers, nurses, cooks, and administrators. The residents weren’t required to work, because some were old and sick. But if you could work and did, you ate better than if you could work and didn’t. The Depression, when many people were poor, filled the place up, and World War II, when lots of work was needed, emptied it of able bodied people, leaving just the old and sick.

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Gardens and Original Water Tower

After the war, Social Security and other social safety nets came into being, and fewer people needed to live on the farm. A hospital was built as the population got older. By 1982, the buildings were too old and out of compliance with safety laws, and there were so few residents that the County moved them to other hospitals and closed Edgefield down.img_7911.jpg

It stood, abandoned, for eight years. It was big, old, in need up repair, and quite a way out of town. No one knew what it could be used for.

Then The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, who are known as The Brews Brothers because of their work developing the microbrewery industry in Oregon, came along. These men had, by 1982, created more than a dozen bars and restaurants out of historic, abandoned buildings. They had been successful in re-imagining spaces they felt were worthy of saving. In 1990, they saw Edgefield  and fell in love.

I will tell you what they did next tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Friends, Pizza, and Art

Dear Liza,

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View of the Lan Su Chinese Garden from across the street

My projects continue to keep me busy. I am finishing Cousin Kestrel’s princess kitten birthday present and had to change my story a bit. Did you know that in America in early 1900s, classes in the U.S. didn’t go on field trips? At that time,  they were not considered valuable. So I needed to remove a field trip from my 1903 story. Sigh.

Yesterday I also had a nice surprise. A former student and his wonderful family came to visit! First they visited famous Powell’s City of Books, and then came to see me at Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures. They had fun and bought tons of books! Then they invited me to have lunch with them at Old Town Pizza, a “haunted” pizza parlor downtown.

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Lovely friends!

Of course, I said YES! Pizza, friends, ghosts? I’m there!

The pizza was good and the air conditioning most welcome, as it has been hot here. (Hot for US, like 80 degrees. I understand many places are really suffering.) I didn’t notice any ghosts. After Kyle, his sister Gillian, Mom Heidi and Dad Paul headed off to the Creo chocolate tour, I caught the Orange train back to Auntie Katie’s shop and rode my bike home.

Since it was First Friday, we walked up to Ankeny Tap and Table for street tacos, grilled Brussels sprouts, beer, cider, and french fries. Yum! We walked over to the Sidestreet Gallery to see Auntie Bridget’s new art, as well as all the other new things. I got to meet Dawn Panttaja, Erin’s aunt, creator of lovely, odd sculptures. This one is called “Miss Fortune”, with a skirt made of old prophesies. Creepy and beautiful.img_78521.jpg

Auntie Bridgett was going to stay and talk to folks, but Grandpa Nelson and I walked to the Laurelhurst Theater to watch “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”img_7854.jpg, which was a fun roller coaster ride with an ending that surprised me.

Walking home, we swung by the flamingo house, where the birds are apparently enjoying the World Cup Soccer games.

Happy July!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Bioswales

Dear Liza,

Portland is known for getting a lot of rain. Not now, of course, it has been dry and in the 80s! Most years, in fall, winter and spring, we get about 36 inches, or three times as much as you do in Salinas. Building a city where there is that much rain has its own problems.

You want to make sure the streets drain nicely so houses don’t flood. You want to make sure soil doesn’t erode and turn hills into mud slides. And you want to make sure that pollution and trash from city streets don’t end up in the Willamette River.

City engineers work hard at making sure the first two problems are solved. Storm drains are kept clear and streets are graded so they carry water away quickly. But keeping trash and pollution out of the river has become something a lot of homeowners are helping with.

Bioswales are part of this solution. They are a sunken part in a garden, designed to catch rainfall from the roof of buildings. The water flows into the bioswale and slowly soaks into the ground water, or aquifer. This keeps it from running along the street picking up oil and trash, and also helps clean it before it goes back into the water cycle.

I am noticing small bioswales in front yards all over our neighborhood. They are all set up with conduits from the downspouts to direct rainwater into them. They are lined with rocks and gravel to resist erosion, some lined with plastic except at the bottom. The prettiest ones are landscaped with plants that are comfortable being very wet (even underwater) for part of the year.

I love that people here are taking responsibility for helping keep our beautiful Willamette River clean. For many years, factories along the river dumped all sorts of nasty chemicals into the river, hoping they would just wash away. Now there are companies helping clean the river, and people want to help, too.

Yay Portlanders! Yay bioswales!

Love,

Grandma Judy