Fall in the Neighborhood


Dear Liza,

Maybe it’s because our summer has been so hot and dry, but Fall is falling hard here in Portland. Leaves are falling in piles earlier than usual. The change from heatwave to rainfall seems more abrupt.

In our lovely, funky Sunnyside neighborhood, the lush flowers of summer are dying back, waiting to be trimmed into their winter rest.

Plum, apple, and fig trees are all over the neighborhood, planted decades ago by resourceful homeowners. Some folks gather them up and share them, which is really nice. One house on Taylor Street even provides little boxes to take them home!

Other folks seem overwhelmed by the abundance and the fruit just falls and rots, smelling like a brewery. Not terrible, but a terrible waste.

Piles of leaves are everywhere. They make for a seasonal carpet and art materials, as well as pulling nutrients back in the soil. But I know once it rains, we will have ‘leaf slime’ in every gutter.

So it is when summer ends. There is a melancholy, especially when it feels like Covid has cheated us of another summer’s concerts, plays, and festivals. But I am ready for Fall. The inside time and contemplation, and the creativity that come with it, are okay by me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunday, Busy Sunday Part 2

Dear Liza,

We sorted through our garage sale treasures and then headed south to Division Street. The Richmond neighborhood is so pretty, with the household gardens in full late summer glory. Grapes, plums, apples and even Asian pears called to us.

A local knife sharpener named Sato was working his whetstone magic at Moore Coffee Company, one of our favorite places for an afternoon hang out. I had brought along my favorite knife, a gift from Auntie Katie 15 years ago.

We dropped the knife off with Sato and decided to try a new food truck for lunch. “Let’s Roll” offers bowls, burritos or wraps filled with poke, tempura, and other spicy delights. It was just what was needed!

When we were fed and happy, we walked by Carter and Rose to see their tiny planters with handmade ceramic snakes, and then back to Moore Coffee. Sato had finished my knife and had started his lunch!

We ordered iced coffee and tea and engaged in some serious Sunday loafing: Reading the Sunday Funnies, people watching, and enjoying the progress on the alley’s new mural.

Now in a state of total Portland bliss, we ambled home. It had gotten very warm, we had walked more than three miles, and I was pooped.

A long nap and a few chapters of Jane Eyre got me ready for the next event of the day.
And that’s a story for tomorrow.

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

Glowing Fall

Dear Liza,

We had a slow walk around Laurelhurst Park on Thanksgiving, to settle our dinner and enjoy being out in the world. Laurelhurst was planted in 1913, so most of the trees are huge. It feels like a tame forest and is my favorite place in the city.

Auntie Bridgett takes some pictures

This Fall, Firwood Lake is covered with duckweed and looks more like lawn than a pond. It is oddly beautiful.

Firwood Lake and oak trees

The old-fashioned lamps look beautiful against the trees in any season.

Ginkgoes and lamppost

The bright yellow of birches and ginkgoes brightens up the darkest corners of the woods.

Ginkgo glowing down the way

On a day when we were not with friends or family and were feeling a little sad, it was good to get out and be part of the beauty.

I hope you have a good week.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Beauty of Letting Go

Dear Liza,

With the Corona virus having another spike here in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown has called for a ‘pause’. We are not going out to restaurants, even for take out. Our big weekly adventure is grocery shopping. But we do go out for a walk every day, and the leaves have been absolutely inspirational.
So I am playing with poetry again.

Red, like sunset, piled on the sidewalk

Red, like flowers, blowing down the street

Red, like candy, drifting in the gullies

Dancing along to the world’s heart beat

And some haiku:

Leaves on the sidewalk

Colors jumbled like confetti

After summer’s last fling

Arches of color

Bright gothic cathedrals

Welcome us home from the rain

Orange against blue

Making both brighter

Color theory come to life

I hope you like playing with words, too!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fall Color

Dear Liza,

In Fall, Portland puts on some really fabulous colors. And today was so bright and chilly that we went out for a walk to enjoy them.

I love walking in the late afternoon because the light pours beautifully through the leaves.

The cosmos flowers one of our neighbors planted have gotten taller than me! They looked so pretty against the bright blue sky.

The last of the sunflowers are still blooming nicely just beside the cosmos.

We were getting very chilly on our walk, and passed by the Nandinas on our way home.

The weather forecast for to night is 29 degrees, just a little below freezing. I have moved the geraniums from Great Grandma Billie’s garden closer to the house and will cover them with a sheet to protect them from the frost.

Our movie for the evening is Cary Grant in “Arsenic and Old Lace”.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Topaz Farm

Dear Liza,

On Friday I got to spend a wonderful evening with Auntie Katie and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. It was a real adventure!

Cousin Jasper bring in the pumpkins…

Auntie Katie drove us through Friday evening rush hour traffic up to Sauvie Island. We went to a farm where her friend Peggy works, called the Topaz Farm. It was nearly 5:00 when we got there, but Peggy assured us that there was a lot of fun to be had before the sun went down.

Peggy!

Kestrel and Jasper had great fun running around the extremely diverse pumpkin patch, admiring and adopting pumpkins as they went along. “George” would get googly eyes and a feathered hat, Kestrel decided, and a little white one would sit and watch.

Me posing with “George”.

Once the pumpkins were corralled in the car, Peggy took us over to meet the goats. There were several goats, including one just a month old. We were allowed to feed them bunches of basil, which made everyone smell delightfully of pesto.

Happy kids of all sorts

There were also turkeys, ducks, and an outstanding Goth chicken.

Goth chicken and random Turkey

The pigs had gone to sleep by that time, but the sign in their pen let us know what sort of sneaky critters they were!

Warning: Wily pigs!

The sun was beginning to go down as we headed into the Corn Maze. There were maps posted at every checkpoint, and we still managed to get delightfully lost. We picked and nibbled some corn, and Jasper held into an ear “as a weapon, just in case”.

Auntie Katie and Kestrel, tramping through the corn maze

We wandered into the barn where all sorts of apple things were being sold. Cider, caramel apples, hand pies, and mushrooms, all got loaded into a box. We sat out in the gathering dark and enjoyed feeling almost normal, almost pre-Covid. We bought some kettle corn for Grandpa Nelson and the kids climbed in a tree until it was literally too dark to see.

Zinnias in the sunset

I was one tired, happy Grandma by the time I got home. Life is good. Stay safe, stay well.

Fun well past sundown

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Rainy Day!

Dear Liza,

It rained Saturday!

It’s sweater weather!!
Cutie pie Bridgett with her cool umbrella

It was a big, fat, wet, grey day. So of course we went for a walk!

Pretty raindrops on Nandinas

We had some errands to run, to mail some packages and pick up a replacement coffee grinder. We found lots of puddles, happy wet dogs, and kids in new rubber boots. Bright leaves floated down the gutters and stuck to our shoes.

Clouds moving along

By the time we had dropped off and picked up, the first wave of the storm had moved along and some blue skies showed through.

And when we got home, we drew, painted, and cooked, enjoying the sound of the wind and scattering leaves.

By the time the chili and corn bread were ready, the second wave had come and we listened to the rain through open windows.

Happy Rain!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Invasion of the Duck Weed

Dear Liza,

I haven’t been going to the park much this Summer, because so many of the folks who visit do not wear masks and I would rather stay safe. But I love Laurelhurst Park, and I have missed it. So, today I masked up and headed off.

All our favorite trees are still there, and some are even showing a bit of fall color.

But Firwood Lake, home to dozens of ducks, turtles and fish, is covered with GREEN!

A tiny plant called Duckweed is growing so thick, it looks like a soccer field…smooth and green. It is not dangerous to anyone, and the birds and fish like it. But it sure looks weird.

Just don’t try to walk on it!

The only places where the duckweed isn’t growing are where the circulation pumps are, which disturbs the surface of the water.

Round, rippled holes in the duckweed

In our three years visiting Laurelhurst Park, we have seen giant trees fall, new ones get planted, Shakespeare performances, and even Big Band concerts. So I guess an outbreak of manic duckweed isn’t surprising. But I wanted to share it with you.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Neighborhood Updates

Dear Liza,

The fires are still burning in Oregon and California, and many thousands of folks have lost their homes. Locally, the winds have shifted, so we here in Portland are not suffering. The only damage we have so far is that my bonsai, The Hundred Acre Wood, was left outside for a few days of smoke, and its leaves have shriveled.

Very shriveled Hundred Acre Wood

I’m not sure if it is totally dead or if the smoke has just caused it to go into a sort of premature hibernation, but for now it is getting regular care out on the balcony. We will see what happens come Spring.

We walk around our neighborhood a lot, and when we do, we notice things. New paint jobs, blooming cherry trees, sunflowers taller than our heads. And sometimes, trash. Sometimes, a lot of trash.

This morning Auntie Bridgett and I gathered up our trash buckets and bags, our new grabbers, our new VOTE masks, and headed out.

All kitted up…

Our day working with SolveOregon.org last month made us feel empowered to help. We don’t have to just step over the trash and disapprove of it. We can DO something about it. It is what my dad would want us to do.

Be the change you want to see….

We picked up lots of paper and cigarette butts, beer cans, old nasty socks and even masks. Following the SolveOregon guidelines, though, there are some things we won’t touch. These jugs, for example, contain materials that are likely to be toxic, and have been sitting on this curb for months and months.

Nope, not going to deal with those!!

I have researched which city department is in charge of removing such things (Environmental Quality) and called to make them aware of the situation, and gave the address.

I like that we can take charge of a part of our world. Little changes can help. Litter pick up. Donations to local charities. Buying from local shops. Voting, voting, and…. voting.

Acting locally, making a difference.

Love,

Grandma Judy