Inside and Outside 2021, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Looking back on 2021, I’ve decided to have a look inside the house and outin the world each month.

January 2021 saw us celebrating by making hats from salvaged Christmas wrapping paper.


Outside, we visited Cannon Beach and felt the sea breeze on our faces.



February found me adding a few bridges and neighborhoods to my Portland map.


Outside, snowfall made our front patio a magical place.


In March, I made my very first mince tarts.

Outside, the ground was warm enough to start working in the garden!




April saw all the Grandkids on a Zoom call for Liza’s 8th birthday. Filters are fun!

And outside, the first seedlings of my radishes came up!


May saw flowers exploding all over Portland, like this iris in a local bioswale.

Looking back, I can’t find a single photo taken inside in May. But here’s a nice picture of my favorite people at Edgefield for Grandpa Nelson’s birthday.


In June, the weather was warm, but the Covid was still with us. Home activities included my learning a new quilting style, Kawandi.

While outside, I spent my Momma’s birthday at The Grotto, which she would have loved.

And tomorrow we will finish the year and get ready to look forward.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just a (Wet) Walk in the Park

Dear Liza,

This week we saw some real rain, which was a relief after our too- hot summer. I wanted to properly appreciate it, so out I went!

I didn’t have far to go to find beauty. Auntie Bridgett’s angel and spider plants were much improved by the weather. The gnomes were lurking about, as usual.

Raindrops hitting the puddles remind me why I love concentric circles.

I stopped by our plot at the Blair Community Garden. Only three new tomatoes were ripe, but Morgan and Abby’s corn was shiny and tall.


My late blooming pumpkin, Leo, seems to be coloring up a bit.

I continued on to Laurelhurst Park, which was mostly deserted. A few diehard dogs and their owners were at the off leash area, and the puddles grew all along the base of the hills. This young lady found a good spot to enjoy a conversation with a loved one.

I am a firm believer that rain makes everything prettier, and this rain drop-enhanced rose proved me right.

By the time I got home I was pretty soaked, but so much richer for all the beauty. Now to get dry and have a snack!

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Autumn Chore

Dear Liza,

It is two weeks until the Fall equinox. We can see the end of summer from here.

In my garden, white powdery mildew has started taking a toll on my pumpkin plant, and because I didn’t recognize it early enough, it has spread to the zucchini. I have learned that watering too late in the day is a main cause of this, and will NOT be doing that again next year.


I did a big trimming the other day to try and minimize the damage.

I wore the rubberized gardening gloves your Mommy Olga gave me from her last visit to Russia, because they protect me from the zucchini plants, whose long, hollow stems have tiny hairs that give me an itchy rash.

I cut off leaves that had any mildew in them, so it wouldn’t continue to spread. Unfortunately, this meant cutting just about all the leaves off the pumpkin! I hope there are enough leaves to make food for the plant to let my second pumpkin finish growing!

The tub of leaves was so heavy I just barely got it home. I know there will be lots more to haul over the next few months, and I’m glad I have my trusty red wagon.

Meanwhile, I found this lovely handmade doll by a telephone pole in the neighborhood. I rescued her and perched her on my watering can, and she will be a protective spirit for my garden. I have named her Mlezi, which is the Swahili word for Guardian.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Garden AND a Community

Dear Liza,

When Grandpa Nelson got me a plot in our local Community Garden, I was excited to be able to grow fruits and veggies. I didn’t expect to be growing friends, as well.

There are about fifty plots in the Blair Garden, where I am, and I have gotten to know many of my fellow gardeners. We chat and swap stories while pulling weeds and watering. The folks with more experience give advice to us rookies. We help folks out with watering when they need to be out of town.

M

In short, we are part of a community.

Tonya watered my garden while I was in Lake Oswego, and this weekend I will water hers while she is at the coast. She harvested a few zucchini in payment, and today she brought by these two beautiful tomatoes for me. They were so pretty, I posed them with some of my lavender.

She also told me to cut a bunch of basil while I’m there. Pesto, here I come!

Hooray for a yummy community!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Pumpkin Progress

Dear Liza,

Growing fruits and vegetables is like growing anything else. Kittens, children, flowers, and veggies all have things they need to do well. The trick to having a successful garden is to find out what those things are, and provide them.

But veggies don’t explain things well! Sometimes the seeds just never pop up out of the ground. Did you keep them too wet? Too dry? Were there weird little slugs that feed on seedlings? Were things just really interesting down there in the dirt?

“That’s MS Pumpkin to you, sir…”

And once the seeds do come up, you need to help them grow. They need enough room to spread out, support to keep them out of the mud, and plenty of water and sunshine.

And if you have done everything right, and you have a few female flowers, you will get some actual pumpkins. So far I just have one, but I am happy with the progress! I am even a little worried that it is getting too big for its britches….

And now, there is this little late bloomer to help along. I will call her Leo.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back Home

Dear Liza,

I was in Lake Oswego for a week, and I got home yesterday. After a long wonderful afternoon of hanging out with Grandpa Nelson and snuggling with Mouse the cat, I had to go see what was happening in my plot in the Blair Community Garden.

My neighbor and garden-mate Tonya, whose tomato bushes are taller than me, had said she would water my plot. But you never know.

I will never doubt Tonya again! My garden looks like it is on steroids!

The zucchini plant has spread over the stepping stones, is nudging the lavender and crowding the new ladder I set up for the pumpkin. The whole place looks like it is preparing to run amok.

The tomatoes are setting!!

And there are enough zucchinis to feed us for a week.

What a wonderful homecoming. Now I just have to find a way to support that pumpkin before it snaps.

And, of course, make some cookies for Tonya.

Love,

Grandma Judy

After the Heatwave

Dear Liza,

Wednesday was the first day of human-level temperatures since our historic heat wave began. We woke up to cloud cover, cool air and even a bit of dampness. It felt wonderful.

Look! Clouds! Hooray!!!

I went to the garden early. My friend Tonya gave me one of her parsley plants, and I planted it between my radishes and lettuce. My garden is doing well, even though it isn’t as tall as the other ones. They have five foot tall trellises and arbors hanging with peas and beans. I have a magnificent beast of a zucchini.

And it makes food, too!

I walked around Laurelhurst Park for the first time in a week, enjoying the cool green, the ducks, and all the people out doing their people thing. Tai c’hi classes, guitar practice, dog parties….. it was life as normal, out on the grass.

After a morning of sewing, French lessons, crossword puzzles and cartooning, the three of us headed off to Grandpa Nelson’s favorite lunch spot, Zach’s Shack. Auntie Bridgett got to go because she isn’t working at the SideStreet Arts gallery anymore. Her new comic strip, Auntie Beeswax, allows her more flexibility with her time.

One of my favorite views….

We ate hot dogs and fries, and, since the sun had come out, appreciated the icy cold sodas.

Then came ping pong! Zach’s back patio has a table and enough hard surfaces that even if the ball misses the table, you can keep it in play. We get a little nuts sometimes, and it is fun!

We played until we were played out, then walked home by way of the Taylor Street chickens. The day had warmed up to 88 degrees and we were happy for the air conditioning.

This heat wave was bad. It send a lot of folks to the hospital. We need to figure out how to help our planet heal so we can all be well.

Portlanders ❤️ Chickens !

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Journal Update

Dear Liza,

Last year, my friend Ruth Inman taught me how to make art journals from scratch, out of boxes and glue and scraps. She was so enthusiastic and clear in her directions, and the the supplies so cheap, I couldn’t NOT do it.

So I made one. A saltine cracker box, some art papers from Auntie Bridgett, and voila, a journal. I decided to use it to write (and maybe even paint) about our new garden plot.


And I have been working in it ever since. Some days I just write what’s happening, but I usually will go back and add some water color, to make it prettier. It also lets me show the weather and plants better.

And I have really enjoyed it. Since the Journal is not for anyone but me, I am not intimidated about not being perfect. I work in pencil from my photos of the things in the garden, Watercolor, then ink with a waterproof Micron pen.

As it turns out, this is going to be an accurate record of my garden! It will be useful next year, when I am deciding what to plant and where to put it. It will remind me of the little details that are easily forgotten. And I will get to enjoy my pictures, as well!

I am happy to be Art-ing, gardening, and eating.

Love,

Grandma Judy