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.
Love,

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.

Love,

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….

Love,

Grandma Judy

Gardening For Real

Dear Liza,

We have had a solid week of sunshine and above freezing temperatures, and I have been busy in the allotment!

The carrots, radishes and lettuces had already begun to show their first baby leaves, so I put in cucumbers, zucchinis, and even pumpkins. It feels almost summer, with temperatures predicted to be in the high 70s today. I was able to garden in just my coveralls and a tee shirt, and even got my garden hat out of the closet.

A long-forgotten gift shop purchase from visits with Momma

Of course, the camellia bush next door continues to drop its lovely blooms on my plot, and the water for the garden hasn’t been turned on yet (it’s not ours to control… it belongs to the hospital whose land we are using). I will need to carry the big watering can up to the allotment twice a day until it is, to make sure my seedlings get what they need. So there are, you know, glitches.

But being able to dig and water and watch things grow is such a gift!

Camellia bush blessings

Love,

Grandma Judy

Blooming Lovely

Dear Liza,

Our spring is certainly springing along nicely. A lot of rain and a little sun, and our neighborhood trees are popping with blooms!

On Thursday, Grandpa Nelson and I walked down to Zach’s Shack for hot dogs and French fries for lunch, and then the two miles to Division Do It Best Hardware Store to fetch the new garden wagon we bought. It is red and strong and handsome, rolls well, folds up to store easily, and can carry up to 150 pounds. I have named it Dickon, after my favorite character in “The Secret Garden”.

Dickon the Wagon

We had a bit of rain last evening, and the showers will continue this weekend. But Monday, when it clears up, I will head over to Portland Nursery with Dickon the Wagon and fetch some stepping stones to use in our garden plot.

Then I will head to our plot, lay in the stones, and plant some radishes and lettuce. They like the soil a little damp and the air a little cool, so this is the right time for them. Of course, I will save some seeds for later, just in case of weather-related disaster.

I hope there are lots of flowers blooming where you are.

Love,
Grandma Judy

Getting to Know Our Plot

Dear Liza,

Well, we got our garden plot in the Blair Community Garden! I mean, we knew that we had one, but today we got the actual number and the combination to the garden’s lock. So of course, Grandpa Nelson and I walked the two blocks over to have a look at our new dirt.

The part covered by the burlap… is all ours!

It is a ten by ten foot (exactly the size of your daddy’s room when he was growing up) raised bed. It has a gentle southward slope, and is bordered by a cyclone fence (good for tying tall sunflowers to) on one side and someone else’s plot of land on another. I am sure this other gardener and I will get to know each other as the season progresses.

Me and my dirt!

And I am looking forward to meeting my other fellow gardeners, as well. The Community Garden Program in Portland is 46 years old, and is not just “here’s your dirt, come plant stuff” situation. It is practiced as a stewardship program, a way of helping overcome societal prejudices and inequalities, of bringing people together by gardening, providing for people and caring for the land.

Our plot, off to the far left, in the midst of everyone else’s.

So, tomorrow I need to go to the used clothes store and get some coveralls so I can start digging! I am excited, happy, and looking forward to my summer adventure!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hoofin’ it to the Nursery

Dear Liza,

You knew that it was only a matter of time before we headed to the Portland Nursery, right? With Spring only a month away and a spot in the community garden waiting for us, Auntie Bridgett and I headed off to see what we could see.

A little bit of snow doesn’t stop The Portland Nursery!

It is still cold here… it was jacket and gloves weather as we walked the mile and a half to Portland Nursery on Stark. Patches of snow still shivered, bunched up under trees and beside stairways, and even in the nursery itself!

Portland Nursery has had a year to get Covid protocols in place, and have done a fine job. One way traffic lanes, arrows on the ground, and limited people inside the buildings help keep everyone safe while letting us gear up for garden season.

Happy quince owners!

Of course, most of the nursery shelves are empty at this time of year, but everyone was finding what they wanted. These folks choosing a quince bush were happy to tell me about their spring expectations. “It is grafted!” They said. “It has red, pink and white blossoms on each branch!” I am excited for them!

Our new babies-to-be

We hunted up seeds for our garden plot, trying to find small species so we can have more variety. Little Finger carrots, Black Beauty zucchini, Salad Bowl lettuce, tiny Parisian Gherkin cucumbers, Cherry Belle radishes, and Sugar Pie pumpkin seeds all came home in my sack! We didn’t buy tomatoes or sunflowers yet…. I want to do more research and find the best growers for our damp city.

Everyone is gearing up for spring!

On our way home, the wind was picking up, bringing us rain for the coming week. We saw a crow up in her last-year’s nest, plucking out leaves and getting it just right for spring.

See? I’m not the only one who is anxious for winter to be over!

Love,

Grandma Judy

In the Garden!

Dear Liza,

When we first moved into our house here in Portland, we noticed the Blair Community Garden just two blocks away. Fitting in between a long term care facility and a few houses, the L-shaped lot is filled with raised beds of various sizes.
Knowing I would be missing my own garden back home, Grandpa Nelson offered to see if we could get a space in the garden. “Sure!” I said, eager to get out and dig.

It’s just up the block!!

That was in 2018, and there was a waiting list. A long waiting list. But we got word last night that we’re in! We have a 10 foot by 10 foot raised bed in which to grow anything we want! I am excited, happy, and feeling just a wee bit overwhelmed.

This sunflower has been calling to me….

I am verklempt with possibilities. We will need some equipment! Some hand tools, and a hose, and a wagon to haul them back and forth the two blocks to the garden.
AND what will we grow? Basil, of course, for pesto. And cherry tomatoes and chives and all sorts of lettuces. Sunflowers for Auntie Bridgett. Fresh baby carrots for Grandpa Nelson. Some squash and most surely, a pumpkin!

I need to do a LOT of homework about what is and isn’t grow-able here. I have always gardened in Southern and central California, and Portland is a very different, and soggier, place. There are also rules to make sure our garden plot doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s. I have already had folks volunteer to help me. This should be fun!

And as soon as the snow melts, I’ll be there.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walking and Talking

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning I did a lot of reading. I am enjoying “Sacre Bleu”, a fantasy story by Christopher Moore. After lunch, I walked to Auntie Katie’s store and back. I wanted to return some things Jasper and Kestrel had forgotten from our trip to the zoo, and give everyone hugs. I also got to see their new acrobatic tricks and watch a local cartoonist teach some older kids how to draw.

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Inside Auntie Katie’s Store

Googlemaps says it is 1.7 miles to Books with Pictures from our house, so I walked 3.4 miles there and back. The weather was warm, but I walked in the shade when I could.

I enjoyed walking down streets I hadn’t been on before and seeing how people have decorated their big front porches and small yards. Many older houses, from the 1900s and 1920s, are along Salmon and Taylor between about 20th and 29th. People have porch swings or comfy chairs set out, to visit and chat with people walking by. Some have little twinkly lights hung from the rafters, so it always looks like Christmas, or a party. There are even bicycles, mosaics, sculptures, fountains, and pink flamingoes!

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Porches in Portland are very interesting!

After I got home and put my feet up for a while, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I walked to Crema, our local coffee place, at the corner of Ankeny and 28th. We were meeting our new friends, Craig and his wife Sherry, who we first met on a walk around the neighborhood, when we saw Sherry trying to get a good photograph of the Joan of Arc statue in Coe Circle. We asked what they knew about the statue, and the conversation was so much fun we wanted it to continue, so we decided to meet for coffee.

That conversation lasted another 2 and a half hours! Like good friends do, we talked about everything…our lives, kids, troubles, people we had met, things we thought about. Not wanting so say goodbye but needing to head home and take care of business, we made plans to have dinner with them in a few weeks.

We got home and worked for a few hours, then had dinner. When it got cool enough, we took another walk, south toward Sewallcrest Park. It is about a mile from our house. There is a community garden, where people rent small plots of land to grow vegetables on. It was fun to see people and their dogs working and enjoying the evening.

Further along the park, we heard shouts and yelling. It was a kickball game! Two teams of adults, with their kids and dogs “helping”, were kicking and running and having a fine time. The game ended with a score of  7 to 1, but no one was sad…just smiling and happy and playing.

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Adult Kickball at Sewallcrest Park

We walked home, and I was finally tired. I had walked more than 5 miles during the day and was ready to be lazy. We snuggled on the couch and then went to bed.

Love,

Grandma Judy