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

The First After-Dinner Walk

Dear Liza,

Spring is coming, which means warmer weather, and more daylight! Instead of waking up in darkness and eating dinner after sunset, we actually have daylight left after dinner for a walk around the neighborhood.

My dad, your great-grandpa Lowell, was a great fan of sunsets. He would pull over, if we were on the road, to stand and watch as the sky changed color and the day ebbed away. He would get quiet, saying thanks for another good day.


And Monday, we went out to see our first sunset of spring. We only needed sweaters, which was a nice surprise. Two weeks ago, we were shoveling snow.

Our hilly Sunnyside neighborhood is heavily wooded and built up, with thousands of deciduous trees planted over the last hundred years mixing with old Victorian homes and newer condominiums. This makes for delightful neighborhood walking, but hard to get a long view of … well, of anything. But the silhouettes are beautiful.

I am just happy to get out and about! Grandpa Nelson in on the vaccination list, and I will be soon. Then maybe we can make some travel plans.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bits of Happy

Dear Liza,

Happy March! The calendar tells us spring is just a few weeks away, although in Romania they celebrate the First of March as the beginning of spring. Even with cherry blossoms making some of our trees look like they are wearing lacy pink underwear, it is still chilly here.

Auntie Katie, belated birthday girl

But even with the chill, we have some things going on. On Sunday Grandpa Nelson and I finally got to celebrate Auntie Katie’s birthday with her, taking her a present and lunch, and eating in the gazebo at Abernethy School, just across the street from her Books with Pictures shop. We had a chat and a walk around the neighborhood.

In the parkway by the shop, Cousin Kestrel has installed a new fairy doorway and friends in one of the elm trees. Kestrel is always taking care of our local fairy folk, and their pony and ducky friends.

New fairy door….

There is also a yummy new place to eat! Covid has taken its toll on restaurants, and folks are having to get creative to stay in business. One of our favorite places to walk to was Monk’s Deli, which was a food truck parked just behind the Belmont Station Bottle Shop and Pub. We were sad when it closed last year, but it has now re-opened under a new name.

It turns out the former owners had wanted to retire and the people living literally next door had asked to get first dibs on the place. They did, re-opened, and now Monster Smash makes the best, biggest, juiciest burgers, with homemade pickles! AND, fabulous, crispy French fries! Yummy! We will definitely walk there when you get to visit.

Auntie Bridgett and I also discovered some new places down in Division Street. After a long walk and shop at Collage Art Supplies, we needed a snack. Pinolo Gelateria is right next door and sells just eight flavors, but they are stunning. We had Pistachio and Fior di Latte ( Milk Flower) flavors, which were rich, not too sweet, and just what needed.

Not our order! Photo credit, Pinolo Gelateria

As we sat in the chilly sun (properly wrapped up, of course) we noticed the Division Do It Best hardware store across the street, and were helped by their friendly staff in buying my new garden wagon! Hooray! Now I will be able to haul gardening stuff to and from our “allotment” in the Blair Community Garden.

So that’s what’s going on here. I hope you are well and staying happy. See you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Signs of Spring

Dear Liza,

Yes, the snow is barely melted in the neighborhood, but the sun came out yesterday and showed us some signs of spring.

A mighty Laurelhurst tree, down in the storm

At Laurelhurst Park, the totally saturated ground and heavy ice from our last storm caused another great tree to fall. This is on the edge of what I call The Ravine, and has been in many of my photos of this part of the park. It was angular and leaning and beautiful.

It is sad to see such a fine specimen down. This cusp between winter and spring can be difficult to navigate safely.

The same tree a few winters ago….

But there are more gentle signs of spring. Tiny crocuses coming up beside napping angels.

Early blooming trees cheering us up and letting us know that winter doesn’t last forever.

The list of folks getting vaccinated grows every day, making us all safer. And when we get ours, life will get more mobile and more fun. Then I will get to come visit you. And that will be very sweet.

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

Seven Months In

Dear Liza,

Yep, it’s been seven months (and a few days) since Dr. Fauci announced the quarantine. Spring and summer have come and gone, and our overnight temperatures are below freezing here in Portland. Winter is heading our way.

Late spring snow, the first week of quarantine

Many things have changed, for certain. Shakespeare in the Parks, big band concerts on the grass, and theatrical performances of any kind are a sweet, distant memory. Eating in restaurants, chatting with friendly waiters and total strangers, is now pretty much unthinkable. Cheering for the Pickles or the Thorns would be the height of social irresponsibility.

Silliness at the Pickles game, last summer

And travel to Paris? Out of the question. Totally. Big, heavy sigh.

Sacre Cour, Paris. I miss you, too.

Even going to visit family, sitting on a sofa and playing games with grandkids, just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Games in the before times

But many things, important things, are still with us. Love, even at a distance, is still love. Watching you decorate a cookie house via ZOOM or walking a corn maze with the cousins is a reminder of who I am and what ties I have in this world. Waking up and having coffee with Auntie Bridgett. Doing crosswords and taking walks with Grandpa Nelson. Watching horror movies and baking shows.

Corn mazes, masked

I guess all this is to say that we are still holding on, seven months into the lockdown. We wear our masks and social distance and try to be patient with take-out.

Hang in there, kiddo. I will see you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fairy Gardens

Dear Liza,

I have told you about our Rose Gardens, our Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but did you know Portland has Fairy Gardens?

They are harder to find than the City gardens, but this may be on purpose. Fairy-folk are a bit shy among us Big’uns, so these tiny marvels are not mentioned in any city guidebook. When walking through neighborhoods, you have to keep your eyes open and look down amongst the rocks and hedges. The telltale signs are pebbles in a curvy line, an over-large mushroom, or tiny doors leading into hillsides.

Another thing that makes Fairy Gardens hard to find is that they are so small. An entire community of fairies can fit in even a Portland sized yard, tucked between rose bushes and towering dahlias.

Dragons chatting with Fairy folk in the Northeast

I love finding Fairy Gardens all over our city. Clearly, fairy-folk only establish their gardens among sympathetic, gentle humans, and I like that Portland has been given the Fairyfolk stamp of approval.

A thriving village in the Southeast

Also, I think fairies are wise gardeners. They know enough to leave the giant trees alone, focussing on the tiny weeds that can choke a flowerbed. They encourage the ladybugs, bees, and butterflies in their efforts to keep the flowers safe and healthy.

Cousin Kestrel is very helpful to our local fairies

I hope you can come visit soon, so we can go find some Fairy Gardens together.

Love,

Grandma Judy

….And, We’re Back to Rain

Dear Liza,

I like to think of myself as a good sport. You know, going along, making accommodations, not letting things bug me. But darn it, it’s mid-June and it’s still raining. Every day!

My brain wants some sunshine, real, warm sunshine, not the damp glow we’ve been getting. I did get out for a walk yesterday, however, to take pictures and get my miles in, and found some things.

Cloudy artichoke silhouette

The grey skies gave me interesting silhouettes of a giant artichoke plant.

A hired flock of plastic pink flamingoes wished someone a Happy Birthday.

Someone got flocked!

And, always looking for perspective, I met Mr. Carl Zipple and his wife, Emma, at Lone Fir Cemetery. I’m sure they were nice folks and I hope people didn’t give them too much grief about their name.

The Late, great, Zipples

And that’s all for now.

Love,

Grandma Judy