False Summer into False Fall

Dear Liza,

Our summer-like heat has given way to cool, cloudy drizzle. This is a well-known pattern here in Portland. People ask, “Which false summer are we on now?” Or “Is it real summer yet?”

All this on-again-off-again heat and wet is fine, as long as you can adapt to it. Don’t put your boots away yet. Keep the umbrella handy. Keep the watering can by the door.

When it started to rain the other day after a hot, dry week, the wave of that smell we call “rain” was overwhelming. It made me part of the rain and the earth and the plants.

It felt like such an important thing, I came home certain that there must be a specific word for it. And there is! The word is PETRICHOR. (Say PET-Ri-Kor). The word was invented in 1964 by Australian scientists to describe the smell of earth, moisture, and plant oils being released into the air.

Our current cool spell is predicted to last for another week, giving all the gardens a chance to slow their growth a bit. The roses will stay fresh and the lettuce won’t bolt.

At least until real Summer comes along !

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

Watch the Birdie!

Dear Liza,

We had such pretty weather this past weekend, we decided it was time to get out the badminton set. This Zume set was Auntie Bridgett’s birthday present our first year in Portland, and it is delightful.

Easy set-up!

The case holds the net, rackets and shuttlecocks, which are also called birdies. It is light to carry and sets up easily. There were a lot of people in Laurelhurst park, but we kept walking until we found a sunny level spot that no one was using.

Reaching for the shot….

This was the first game of the season, after no games at all last year due to the shutdown. We were expecting a disaster! But we quickly got the hang of it and were only missing…. Well, not so many…..

To make sure everyone had fun, we would play two against one, then switch around so each person had a chance to be their own team as well as play with everyone else. It was a slap-happy game, I tell you! Lots of flailing and leaping and picking up birdies we just couldn’t get to.

Chillin’……

When we got tired, we would sit in the shade to cool down, have some water, and catch our breath.

New baby oak tree

When we could hardly lift our rackets, we knew it was time to stop. We packed up the gear and headed home. On the way, we were happy to see that someone has planted a new baby oak tree right by the old giant that fell down this spring. It seems to be doing well and we will keep our eyes on it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hot Dogs and Rain

Dear Liza,

When Auntie Bridgett and I started jogging this past weekend, I decided to start eating better. More veggies, less junk food. We bought frozen edamame and lots of vegetables to cut up for afternoon snacks. And I have been enjoying it!

But, by golly, when Grandpa Nelson says, “I’m going to Zach’s, want to come?”, I say “Yes!” It has been odd, spring-y weather the last day or so, with clouds blowing by between sunshine, so, obviously, we knew we might get wet.

We headed off in chilly sunshine in just tee shirts and jeans. Grandpa Nelson at least wore a hat! But not me. Nope. Caution to the wind Judy, that’s what they call me. We walked past wonderful flowers and the Morrison Street chickens, enjoying lovely rhododendrons. But I couldn’t help noticing…..the clouds….

At Zach’s Hot Dog Shack, we took up our usual table on the patio, and Hunter brought our French fries and Chicago dog. It was cool but out of the wind. Then, within minutes, it got dark and the temperature dropped. The rain hit like buckets!

We watched for a few minutes until the cold chased us inside. Thoughtful Hunter even turned on the heater at my back, and we continued our lunch amid the friendly, dive-y decor. We watched the rain come down through the open front door as we talked about whatever came to mind, waiting for a chance to get home without being washed away. “This will be over in fifteen minutes,” Grandpa assured me.

And it was, mostly. When we saw some sunshine, we waved goodbye to Hunter and headed out, opting for the shortest route home. There were still drops, but the storm had passed. The flowers were lovely again. We got home, warmed up, and had a good rest.

Never pass up a chance for fun food, an adventure, and good company. That’s my advice.

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

From Pink into Orange

Dear Liza,

As our spring has moved toward summer (with several bright days interspersed with soaking rains), a whole new batch of flowers are showing themselves. The pinks of early spring, the cherry blossoms and dogwoods, are giving way to oranges and reds.

This clover is over a foot tall and is growing in a parkway near our house. Clover is usually only a few inches tall! The soft, fluffy blooms are about four inches long and very popular with bees.

Thanks to my good friend and French teacher, Shawn Quiane, I found out that this lovely plant is called Helianthemum nummalarium. It is a type of common rock rose.

And the best thing about it is that each individual petal looks like a piece of candy corn!!! Love it!!

So, it is May, and we are still having chilly mornings and some wet days. I’m getting a bit impatient for some solid sunshine. Of course, I know that In July I will complain that it’s “just too hot!” but I guess that’s human nature.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Springtime with the Dead People

Dear Liza,

I hadn’t visited our Lone Fir Cemetery in a while, and was missing the sense of perspective that going there always gives me. I was not disappointed.

Mr. And Mrs. Stephens, the original residents, seen just beyond a toppled stone

The dandelions and tiny belladonna daisies are everywhere, bringing a sense of beauty and renewal to the uneven rows of headstones.

The tall willow by the east entrance towers over the graves, as if sheltering them from too much sun.

Odd things caught my eye, as well. This years-old stump has been decorated with crow feathers and flower petals, and seems to bring some older spirits to the place.

And, as part of the newly installed section marking stones, I get to learn the name of the narrow area of graves along the west fence. Am I crazy, or does “Westside Singles” sound more like a dating website than part of a cemetery?

And there you go. Perspective restored.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cake Walk

Dear Liza,

Our spring has been alternating between rain and sun, so when the weather is nice, we get out in it! Grandpa Nelson and I headed out in Friday, with not much idea of where to go.

All sorts of flowers are blooming! The tulips are starting to fade, but azaleas and irises are going berserk. The colors are eye-smashing.

We continued south west, sort of in the direction of Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie’s book shop, “Books with Pictures” is. The rose gardens had a few early bloomers looking good, with dozens more in bud, just biding their time.

Palio, a delightfully tasty and pleasant bakery/coffee shop on the Ladd’s Circle Park, has set tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. We ordered some delicious lemon custard cake and texted Katie with an offer. “Yes, please!”

Auntie Katie just her second vaccine just the day before and is on her way to being able to run her shop more easily. The business is doing well, mostly because she works hard to make sure she gets books to her customers. She has been driving to deliver all over the city for more than a year now. Exhausting, yes, but that’s what it took.

After a lovely chat and snacks, Grandpa Nelson and I headed back home through the Richmond neighborhood. It is full of craftsman style houses from the turn of the 20th century and hundreds of majestic trees and flowers bushes.

Portland is a cakewalk!

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

It’s Pink Season

Dear Liza,

Pink has never been my color. As I have told you before, it was always mentioned as “The Girl’s Color” in a derisive sort of way that made sure it would never be “my” color.

Majestic Dogwoods reach for the sun

But Portland has changed my mind about that. In Spring, pink becomes the power color. The color of pollination, of getting things done. And it is breathtaking.

Gigantic peonies lurk in the shadows
Redbuds bloom to contrast a green house

The bees, butterflies, and birds love the pinks! They flit and hop around, making sure we see their colors, too.

And Camellias, of course…

So, though I may still not wear pink, I love it. It is bright and full of life, and will always, now, remind me of spring in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy