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

New in the Garden (and the Journal)

Dear Liza,

Things keep coming up in our community garden plot. The zucchini sprouts have secondary leaves now, and I’ll need to move them apart a bit so they can have room to spread out.

Looking prosperous!

I’ve moved some parsley that was in our sunny window into the plot, so we could use that window as a nursery for re-starts of pumpkins and cucumbers, the seed of which have apparently died in the ground.

My painting of the Parsley in its mobile home….

Our house faces north, and we only have the one really bright window. New tomato starts have shot up there! I’ve started calling it “la fenetre magique”, which means magic window. When the tomatoes are a few inches tall, I’ll put them out in the plot, too.

On their way up!

I put a few sunflower seeds into the plot, as well, fitting them in between the currently tomato-less tomato cages. I’m keeping them wet and hoping for the best.

Dreamin’. ….

Enjoy your spring!

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Harvest

Dear Liza,

I stopped by the garden plot yesterday, to pull tiny weeds and remove the camellia blossoms. I noticed that some of the radishes were looking weird… the soil around the leaves was lumpy and tilted.

Harvest!!

And then I saw why!! Some of them have actual radishes below the leaves. Taking a clue from my friend Shawn Quione in Salinas, I chose the biggest ones to thin out, so the others would have more room. Each one was about the size of the end of my thumb.

Once I got them home, I washed them gently and put them away like fine jewelry, to have with supper. And while I was waiting for Auntie Bridgett to get home, I celebrated with a portrait of the harvest. It is my favorite page in my garden journal so far.

The latest page in my garden journal

I know it is only May, and summer goes until September, but I don’t know if I will be as excited about anything I pull from my dirt as I am about these four radishes. The newness of this sort of creation is just wonderful.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cuke Sprout Sighting!

Dear Liza,

I feel like I have been waiting FOREVER for my garden to really take off. The radishes, lettuces and carrots have finally poked their tiny green heads above ground, but the cool cloudy weather, along with some shade from a nearby camellia bush, isn’t giving them any inspiration to really GROW.

Frankly, I’m getting just the tiniest bit impatient….

The latest page in my Garden Journal

And then, making a stop by on the way to the grocery store, I saw this. This intrepid, stalwart zucchini sprout, lifting his little green towards our lukewarm sun.

Hooray!!!

I also noticed my itty bitty lavender plant has sent up some buds. They are getting blue and smell great! Maybe we are gonna see some growth after all.

Come on, sunshine! Gimme an “S”! Gimme a “U”! Gimme an “N”!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Seeds In!

Dear Liza,

Finally! After months of anticipation, we have seeds and a plant in the ground at the allotment. The weatherman has promised we will have no more frost this spring, so it was time to commit.

Chilly Auntie Bridgett, drawing

Auntie Bridgett went along with me, though she is not a gardener; there is too much mud involved for her liking. But she wanted to draw the garden, keep me company, and make notes. That’s what she does.

We bundled up against the chilly morning, carrying the seeds, the lavender plant, and nifty home made garden markers along in a bag. We chatted briefly with other gardeners. After so long in isolation we long for companionship, but we were all there on our own missions. The camellia tree had given us more blossoms, and I realized it may be a good idea to trim it back just a wee bit, to give us more space and sunlight. All good relationships need a little space, right?

Lumpy bed, waiting for some care

The soil was very lumpy, and I spent a lot of time crumbling the clods between my fingers, making a smoother bed for my seed babies. I sprinkled the seeds in and patted the soil gently, laying down a bit of of decomposed straw over the top to keep them damp.

There. The seeds are right there.

When my back was tired and my fingers were numb, it was time to lock the tools back in the shed and head out. Light rain is predicted for a few days, and should get the seedlings started. I am so excited for what happens next!

That marker says “LETTUCE”. That burst of green is a lavender transplant.

Love,

Grandma Judy