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

North in the Sunshine

Dear Liza,

The other day I knew I needed to get out of the house, but had no motivation. Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk, and promised me goodies somewhere along the way. I went.

We headed north through the Laurelhurst neighborhood, then kept going up to Kerns. About a mile and a half from home, we stopped at Oregon Park and watched two little girls learn that going down a slide doesn’t have to be a straight forward proposition. It was fun to see their inventiveness.

“Where next?” Grandpa asked.

“I’m not sure, but it seems I remember a bakery just over that way,” I said, pointing north west-ish. He checked his phone.


“Good call! Helen Bernhardt Bakery is just 1.2 miles away. Practically around the corner.” So off we went. In the neighborhood in between, we found all sorts of delights. These stone lions are very stylish and Covid-aware.


These vintage, hand-carved children’s rocking chairs sat outside a turn of the century home, as if waiting to be adopted.

Window art is wonderful along Broadway.


We got to Helen Bernhardt’s Bakery, which has good Covid procedures in place, and chatted with the lady behind the counter.

She said that this past Easter, a week ago, was the best Easter ever for the business. That’s since 1924! It’s nice to know that some businesses have been able to survive and even thrive in this weirdness, and that we will have this lovely bakery around for a long time.


Grandpa Nelson has been eaten by a camellia!

After sitting on a low wall outside the bakery, enjoying our donut, Florentine and coffee as we watched happy folks come and go from the bakery, it was time to “South” a little. That is, to head towards home. We found this incredible camellia bush that was huge outside and magical inside. The flowers under the ‘umbrella’ seemed to glow pink with the afternoon sun.


We walked back across the Banfield Freeway and were soon in our own neighborhood. We stopped to say Hi to Auntie Bridgett, who was working her shift at the SideStreet Arts Gallery, then got home to crash before dinner.

The Banfield….. an ugly scar of a road with good views

Another fine adventure!

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Picnic in the Allotment

Dear Liza,

It was so sunny and warm the other day, Auntie Bridgett and I took a picnic to our plot at the community garden. We have planted lettuce, radish, marigold and carrot seeds, which is all we can put in until it gets warmer and drier, and wanted to keep them company as they start sprouting.

Cheeses, fruit and haroset made a nice portable lunch. We each carried a camp chair to set up in the narrow space between our plot and our neighbor’s.

We got to meet Ruth, who is the manager for our garden. She showed us her plot, just across the pathway. She has a lot of flowers growing, and just a few vegetables. She headed off to work on a public plot at the top of the garden.

We set things out and the sun just kept getting warmer! I peeled off my jacket, then my sweater and hat…. down to my tee shirt outside, for the first time in about seven months. It felt fabulous, thank you very much.

We watched tiny birds eat bugs off the kale in the next plot, and heard the crows telling everybody something, very loudly. We noticed evryone’s tiny sprouts coming up and marveled at the beginnings of things.

When all the food was gone, I got up to pull some weeds (of course) and Bridgett got out her watercolors to make some pictures. As always, I enjoyed getting my hands in the dirt.

I harvested some mint that is sprouting up at the edge out our plot, enjoying the shade of the camellia bush. When it was time to go, I carried the weeds, since there isn’t a can for them at the garden. Auntie Bridgett put the mint in her backpack.

Back home, I worked on a watercolor of the camellias I pruned the other day. It’s spring again, and here I am, painting flowers. Funny how that works.

Camelias in my Nicole Curcio vase

Love,

Grandma Judy

Progress in The Garden Journal

Dear Liza,

I haven’t done much work in the garden, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it! My garden journal gives me a place to put my dreams and imaginings down in a art-y, fun, not-having-to-think-too-much-about- it sort of way.

So when the rain comes down and the garden plot is all mud, I dream and draw, get out the collage glue and the watercolors, and have fun making up what I WANT to be doing.

Hopefully, by the time I run out of ideas to paint, spring will have sprung enough to where I can put seeds in the ground.

I am anxious for spring to come and to be able to watch my seeds grow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Neighborhood Favorite

Dear Liza,

We have lived in this neighborhood for a few years now. We go for walks in all weathers and all seasons, and have come to expect and enjoy some of the majestic, lovely, and quirky icons in folks’ gardens.

The Heron as the February snow is melting…

This wonderful heron, for example. Made of brass and perched in the front corner of a garden, he always looks like he could just turn his head and wink at us.

In winter he stands in the middle of chilly sticks, with the oddly decorated house next door clearly visible.

The same crane last May, with everything in bloom

Come spring, though, his location becomes more secretive, surrounded by leafy protection. Sometimes I have to look carefully just to find him!

I love that the seasons change so much of our neighborhood. Every few months, it’s a whole new place.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Big Little Yards

Dear Liza,

I grew up in the suburbs of Southern California, in a town with ranch style houses on good sized lots, with flat, green lawns front and back. They were a lot like your yard in Salinas.

Our dear Peevee heading home from a party

Now I live in Portland, where the houses are close together and the yards are smaller, but they sure are packed with fun, flowers, and even fruit, come summer.
There is apparently a large Faerie folk population in Portland, as evidenced by the number of fairy houses and doorways set into trees. This tiny neighborhood is home to fairies, plastic soldiers and Disney action figures, all living together in harmony.

Diverse Fairy town

Animals are a common theme in garden decoration. This fence top is home to a half dozen hand crafted birds. As the metal ages, they just become more beautiful! Sometimes a real bird will perch right next to a metal one and make Portland even weirder.

Just a bird on a fence…..

Our area of Southeast Portland has been developing since the 1860s, so there have been lots of houses built, and lots torn down. A law here requires that houses of a certain age be dismantled piece by piece, so toxic things like lead can be contained, and antique parts can be preserved. These bits often end up as decorative highlights, as in this Victorian ceiling panel turned garden fence.

Second life for old decor!

And of course, concrete garden haunts. Our damp, cool weather allows gargoyles and ducks to be beautiful while shrouded in snow, or overgrown with flowers.

Garden creatures in Winter….
And in Spring!

In every season, the tiny gardens are lovely and always show me something new.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And Back Again

Dear Liza,

Once I got to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, I had intended to head right back home, but my Dad’s voice whispered “Go home a different way, so you see something different.”

Art made with cables and sky

So I continued across the bridge to the Westside. The pedestrian walkway has recently been finished and makes for a very pleasant, if warm, walk between the bridges. There were more adventurers out and about.

Kayakers out and about

I found Poet’s Beach, a side path lined with stones that are carved with poetry written by students, years ago.

Thanks, Phoebe!

It is loud, because it is right under the double decker Marquam Bridge, but worth a read and a visit.

The extremely loud Marquam Bridge

By this time, my feet and my phone batteries were telling me it was time to head home. I decided to cross back over the Hawthorne Bridge. I love the views of bridges from other bridges!

The Marquam, Tilikum, and Ross Island Bridges… from the Hawthorne.

Of course, political statements are everywhere. I liked this re-purposed public service message.

You can see a lot of Portland from bridges, too. Joggers, cyclists, the Burnside Bridge and the Convention Center are all in these shots.

Once I was back on the Eastside, I realized I was hungry, and came upon Asylum, a food Court on the site of Dr. Hawthorne’s Oregon State Hospital for the Insane. This much-respected institution stood from 1862 to 1883. It closed when the good Doctor died and burned to the ground a few years later.

The space has a steampunk cartoony vibe, with trash containers that made me laugh, and really tasty food.

I had pot stickers from the Thai place and enjoyed some people and art watching.

The Asylum gates ….

Once I was fed, I still had a mile walk, all uphill, to get home. I paced myself, admiring gardens, appreciating shade, and visiting with nice folks. I had done what I had intended to do, walked a total of 6.2 miles, and it felt good.

By the way, as you can tell, Portland is not “in flames”. We are fine. The protests are being exploited by the President and his allies who want to use Portland as an excuse to use strong arm tactics against his political enemies. He is lying.

Took the words out of my mouth!

Stay alert, stay well, and remember I love you.

Grandma Judy

Home Again, Home Again…

Dear Liza,

It was really warm the day Grandpa Nelson and I walked to Mt. Tabor. The grass in the park was golden brown from our unusually dry summer. Even the breeze felt more Southern Californian than Southern Portland.

California-golden grass And Grandpa Nelson

We enjoyed watching the people come and go. The cinder cone that is Mt. Tabor is a favorite for hikers and bikers looking for an in-town challenge. They are resolute going up and joyous coming down.

”Mom…..”

Not everyone is equally enthusiastic, however. One young fellow who was cycling with his mom kept up a steady stream of complaints as he rode up the hill. “Mom, you said we were just going to the park!” … “Mom, I don’t want to go all the way up!” … “Mom…” But Mom wisely kept riding and eventually he followed her up.

Lovely lichen


It was hot and dry, but the Pacific Northwest is where I developed my love of moss and lichen, and I was not disappointed. I wandered into some usually- shady spots and found several kinds of lichen flourishing on pine branches. The scaly bits will wait patiently until the rains return.

Pines, firs, and blackberries

Once we had caught our breath, we headed down the hill for hot dogs and fries at Zach’s Shack. A sparsely populated, shady patio and a Chicago dog put me right again, with the thirteen eyes of the weird mural watching over us.

Zach’s Shack back patio

Heading home we found new garden delights. Someone has created this hand-hammered, pomegranate shaped metal fire pit and placed it among blackberries and roses. I imagine it is wonderful on chilly September evenings, glowing in the greenery.

Giant pomegranate fire pit

And just a few blocks from home, we found this carefully tended tunnel of bushes and vines, making a cool passage on the by-now really hot afternoon. We appreciated it and headed home for water and a rest.

Lovely shady tunnel

Five and a quarter miles, and well worth the sweat!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Celebrating Health

Dear Liza,

Nothing makes you want to get out and about like spending a long day in a hospital. So after Wednesday’s eternal visit to the Emergency Room, I took Grandpa Nelson on a long walk. We went all the way to Mt. Tabor Park.

A fence with benefits!

Mt. Tabor is a 636 foot high dormant volcano right here in Southeast Portland, two and a half miles from our house. We started after coffee -and-crossword puzzles, when it was sunny but still cool.

Portlands’s own mythical animal

I love walking through new neighborhoods! I always discover beautiful and unusual houses, gardens, and …. well, things. These sheet copper fence-toppers, shaped like silhouettes of a squirrel, a dog, and Sasquatch, tickled me.

Who knew?

Further on, we found the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum, with a small handmade boat in the window, as well as books and other information. It is closed for now, of course, but is delightfully dusty and quirky. According to the website, the collection is mostly full-sized functional replicas of traditional small craft, created by Harvey Goldman, “to augment his research”. Peering through the window, I could just make out the outlines of more than a dozen narrow boats up on racks.

Yep, that’s the frame for a kayak!

As we got closer to Mt. Tabor, the hill got steeper, and we slowed down a bit. It was getting warmer and we were starting to run out of gas. We were thinking maybe we had violated my Dad’s rule of “only walking until you are halfway tired.”

We’re going here…. not all the way up there!

But we soon saw the long stretch of grass that is the off leash dog park, continued past the community garden, and found some shade. We sat and delighted in watching the world go by as we caught our breaths.

Grandpa Nelson, feeling shady…

Tomorrow, I will tell you about our return trip!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Flowers

Dear Liza,

Sometimes, between the Covid-19 and the political situation, it’s nice to go out for a walk, and not think about anything. I mean, to just think about what is right in front of you.

Fortunately, in our neighborhood, there are lots of lovely flowers to look at. Sunnyside Elementary and Environmental School has delightful gardens, which are being tended by staff and families while the school is shut down.

Educated flowers…..

On a street down the hill a sunny patch is filled with Black-eyed Susans and zinnias.

Sunny flowers….

Our local community garden up by the Laurelhurst Care Center, sweet-peas and dahlias stand tall in the sun.

Tall flowers….

And between our house and Auntie Katie’s place in Ladd’s Addition, the four rose Gardens are home to hundreds of bushes, all tended by volunteers. This ‘Caroline Testout’ rose, a variety that was created in 1888, caught my eye on our last walk down that way.

And historic flowers!

Have a nice day, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy