Helping Out at Blair Community Garden

Dear Liza,

Our garden plot at the Blair Community Garden has been such a joy this year. It has given me fresh vegetables, new friends, and a place to get out of the house and play in the mud.

We have enjoyed many pounds of fresh zucchini, lettuces, and cherry tomatoes, and some less successful radishes and carrots.

I have met neighbors from our own building that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and enjoyed conversations about pumpkin reproduction, teaching philosophies, and life in general.

And I have had the chance to contribute to the greater good by helping with the maintenance of the garden itself. This week I am earning my ‘service hours’ by weeding the parkway strip outside the gate. It is home to an asian pear tree, several rosemary bushes….. and lots of weedy grass!

That’s where I came in. With my trusty buckets and wagon, I pulled and hauled away the grassy nuisances, laying some burlap coffee sacks down to discourage weeds.

On the right side is the ’before’, on the left is ’after’.

I love weeding. It is physically demanding and mentally relaxing, and it leaves the garden neater and all tucked in for winter. And this time, it gave me a delightful surprise!

Someone, at sometime, created this ancient-looking miniature pottery piece. They then tucked it WAY under the rosemary bush, only to be found by a very thorough weeder (like me).

What a joy, to find someone’s hidden treasure! I took a few pictures, marveled at the imagination, and put it back where it was, to wait for the next weeder to find.

I’m glad to be a part of such a wonderful garden.


Grandma Judy

Spring Light

Dear Liza,

It is still cold here, getting down to freezing overnight a few times this week. But spring is coming, bit by bit, and now that the time change has put us in the sunlight more, I have been getting out in it.

Shadows on the path at Laurelhurst

One day this week I took a walk by myself around Laurelhurst Park. As much as I love walking with Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett, walking alone gives me a chance to stop and just stare at light and blossoms, shadows and branches. The low afternoon light makes everything prettier.

Another day, I stopped by the allotment to pull some Lesser Celadine weeds that I noticed around the gate. These weeds are so invasive and harmful that they are listed on a national registry of noxious plants. There is even a website here in Oregon to report infestations.

Pretty, but invasive!

While I was there I met Rachel and Joel, two other new gardeners. It was good to be able to show them what I have learned about these new weeds.

And of course, the trees are blooming! Auntie Bridgett calls this Pink Season, and for good reason. Portland has had a wet, cold winter, and the ground is still very soggy. But sunshine and hope are right there, waiting.

I hope spring is pretty where you are, too!


Grandma Judy

Getting My Hands Dirty

Dear Liza,

It is still too wet and chilly to plant seeds in our garden plot, but there is a lot of work to be done, anyway.

Our plot, 25G, waiting for us…

The City of Portland has 57 of these Community Gardens, in a program that has been running since 1975. When you sign up to have a plot, you pay between $20 and $220, depending on the size of your plot, and promise to help maintain the whole garden, donating a few hours during the year to keep things in good shape.

The hated Lessor Celadine!

Our General Manager, Ruth, sent out an email alerting us to work that needs doing. Public paths need weeding and covering in burlap, to make them less muddy. Fence lines need to be cleaned up. Vacant plots need help.

Ruth described the newest weed invading the garden, the Lessor Celadine, so perfectly that I recognized it right away. It is a type of wort with pretty round leathery leaves and a bright yellow flower. It is tempting to leave it alone, but apparently it spreads like wildfire and will take over an area.

So on Monday, I put one of our trash-collecting buckets in Dickon my red wagon, put on my coveralls and gardening shoes, and trudged up to the garden. I had decided to weed one of the public paths, a ten foot by three foot section that was weedy and goopy with mud.

Enjoying the silence, solitude and physicality of it, I sat right on the ground and dug in. I found the Bermuda grass stolens and dug them out, as well as the hated Lessor Celadine. An hour and a half later I was muddy and worn, but very, very happy. The path looked better, too.

All cleaned out and ready for burlap
In the rubbish!

I met a fellow gardener when I went to fetch the old coffee bags we use for covering the paths, and we chatted as we rested. Using Dickon the wagon to carry the heavy burlap, I covered the path with recycled coffee sacks.

Burlap keeps the mud down…

Then I packed up my weeds and trudged home, feeling every one of my 65 years. But I knew a hot shower and rest would set me right.

I am so happy in the garden! Being peacefully alone while being part of a decades-old community is wonderful.


Grandma Judy