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I built a new attractive front walk and steps to replace the ugly concrete slabs.

Ever since Josh has been living here, things are getting done at a breakneck pace. I almost need a moment simply to absorb the changes.

New front door with glass to let in light.

Tara called him my Work Gremlin at one point. I came home from the office one day and the deck was stained. I glanced out my window from my home office one morning, and noticed a new, handmade bird house mounted on a tree. He cleaned the roof, repaired the gutters, then installed leaf guards. He borrowed a leaf blower and cleaned up the leaves, and heaped them all on the burn pile. He rakes, and power hoses, and organizes. He consistently takes the small push mower and mows the grass where there is no room for the riding lawn mower. Sometimes I ask for things, sometimes they simply appear. Josh isn’t able to pay me rent, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s paid up.

In my quest to bring more light to my cave-like living room, I purchased a new front door with decorative glass in it. I was quoted hundreds of dollars for the store to send someone out and install it. Josh said he could do it, and within an hour from when I brought the door home, it was installed.

I complained one day about my sloping drive into the garage. I said I had been thinking that a French drain might be a good way to address the problem of all the mud and rainwater and snow that slides down the slope into my garage. He said, “That’s a good idea.” And in a couple of days, it was done. While he was at it, he also installed new weather stripping on the bottom of the garage door, and a rain barrier to the concrete floor, so it’s much better protected inside. Then he found some of the spare house paint, and painted the outside of the garage door that had been weathered down to bare wood. All the work on the garage door disrupted the open/close mechanism, because the size of the opening had changed. I found a YouTube video that addressed my brand of garage door opener, got a stool and got up on tiptoes, and reprogrammed my garage door. With this guy around, I have to do *something* to show for myself.

In front of the garage door, a drain is installed. Now, water that runs down the hill will fall into the drain, then run through an underground pipe into the yard.

Behind the French drain, you can see the red curved bricks that make a border around my front garden. The front garden has changed somewhat. I don’t have many good photos from what it was on day one. Funny how consistently I have not photographed the “before” scenes, so that even I have a hard time remembering what it used to look like. Here are a couple:

This was in February 2016. You can see there is almost nothing planted in the garden. (also no French drain!)

This photo taken in May 2018.

I’ve always hated the concrete walks in front of the porch. I asked Josh one day to take the sledgehammer and bust them up so I could haul them away. It didn’t take him long to discover that these walks are six to eight inches thick! Whoever decided to pour such massive slabs of rock? ugh what a pain. Somehow, he got them broken into three huge pieces and drug them out of there, chained to his truck. Somehow, none of my plants were destroyed. That’s the real miracle.

Since I moved in there has been a pile of bricks on the side of the house that are left over from when the previous owner built the rock fireplace inside the house. I had the idea of using those bricks somehow to make a more attractive walk. Josh showed me how to mix concrete, and soon I was up to my elbows in it and having a blast. He built some forms for me to make steps, and then left me to do everything else.

Steps are poured, and river rocks laid down before concrete is poured on the walk.

Looking from the porch toward the driveway. Isn’t this a hundred times better? I’m so proud of myself for building this beautiful walk on my very first attempt at using concrete.

Just wait till I tell you about the new pump house and new shop!

A chipmunk feeding on the seeds I leave about for them.

Life springs forth in Spring. It’s irresistible.

I have chosen my home office location well, and have the welcome distractions of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks outside my window. This time of year I am also finding delight in Springtime blossoms.

Daffodil or narcissus?

Pacific Bleeding Heart.

I love the deep purple of the vinca.

Tulips live a short life but give such pleasure during that time. I don’t think there is such a thing as too many tulips.

Friday (yesterday) I worked a typical 10-hour workday (I work a compressed schedule), and the weather was spectacular! It reached 69 degrees here, and for much of the day there was not a cloud in the sky. I work at home most days, including yesterday, and racked my brain all day long for reasons to leave my desk and go outside. I really wanted to develop some kind of mild sickness that prevented me from working, but I couldn’t dredge up a sufficient illness. Sadly, I was well enough to stick it out all day long at my desk with my computer screens.

But I did grab my camera and run around during breaks and capture some of the blossoms in sunlight.

Oregon grape bursting with yellow flowers.

Narcissus along the driveway.

A closer shot of the narcissus.

Research shows me that all of the blossoms I call both narcissus and daffodil are under the category of narcissus. I grew up calling the flowers with a large trumpet daffodil. Those bloomed and passed already. The daffodils on my property are all a deep, sunshine yellow. Now I have new blossoms of white petals with yellow or orange trumpets that are very short. I call these narcissus.

I mentioned recently to fellow blogger Derrick J Knight that the deer ate my camellias over the winter. I included a photo below. Luckily they only ate the leaves off, and left the plant to try and recover. I see small buds of regeneration already, and I have learned the important lesson that some plants need to be covered in the winter. At my place, this includes camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, and hellebore. I believe all of them are still alive, but rather decimated. I will be a better steward from now on.

Volunteer grape hyacinths add colour along the path.

Pitiful camellia after the deer ate it this winter.

Peony looks very healthy.

This morning, chilly and wet, the scenes from the same window were still captivating, as I caught hummingbirds and a chipmunk going about their days, much less concerned about the rain than this fair-weather human.

In my last post I commented concern that sugar water would not be enough to provide a balanced diet for hummingbirds. So I looked it up and discovered that sugar water is a supplement to a hummingbird’s diet that includes small insects and spiders. Multiple organizations that profess to have a hummingbird’s best interests in mind assure me that the sugar water is a good thing for them. Just no food coloring.

Sugar-loving hummingbird, returned from her winter playground.

The chipmunk seems unconcerned that I loom at the window with an enormous lens pointed at her.

I did glance out the back window and spot another heron. I have poor eyesight, so I spotted only a great grey blur out in the grass. It is rather exciting to train the camera out there, focus, and see this enormous, elegant bird, on his way to eat some of my fish or frogs from the pond. They move quickly, and I am slow with the manual focus, so… I apologize that the image is blurry.

You may recall that I can never get a great shot of the Great Blue Herons who fish in my pond. This photo proves nothing has changed.

One of the pieces of my character is that a sense of beauty always gets through the static and fog of whatever else is going on. If I am consumed by a particular veteran’s case at work, if I am worried about my Tara making their way through the world  away from home at college, if I can’t make a reassuring plan for how to pay all the bills, if I remember that I am lonely, or that I miss my mother, or that refugees are suffering, or women still do not have their rights protected… no matter how powerful the dark thoughts, beauty pierces the cloud and makes me smile. How grateful I am to be human and to be able to comprehend beauty.

A and Tara pose for me at the Japanese garden

A and Tara pose for me at the Japanese garden

This post can be a complement to my post from several years ago, Japanese garden in the rain. Both times I forgot to bring my camera, so the photos from both posts are taken by phones. In comparing the two, the advances in cell phone camera technology are evident.

Tara met an Italian exchange student at their school, two weeks before school was out. The visiting student had not yet had a chance to see many sights of Portland, and it was almost time to return to Italy. Tara was dismayed. I got a text while I was at work, “Will you please take us to the Japanese garden this weekend? She has to see more of Portland!”

It was a very sunny and hot day and we looked forward to the shady glades of the Japanese garden.

“Designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963, it encompasses 5.5 acres with 5 separate garden styles, and includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.” ~from the brochure we received at the garden.

Sun filters through branches, colouring everything green and magical.

Sun filters through branches, colouring everything green and magical.

The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is a central focus of the garden, beside the pavillion.

The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is a central focus of the garden, beside the pavillion.

On the other side of the pavilion is this view of Mt. Hood, reminding many of Mt. Fuji because of its symmetrical shape.

On the other side of the pavilion is this view of Portland and Mt. Hood, reminding many of Mt. Fuji because of its symmetrical shape.

Inside the pavilion, events are held. It was a bonsai exhibit in my

Inside the pavilion, events are held. It was a bonsai exhibit in my “rainy” post. This time a pottery exhibit. Most of the pottery displays were traditional, but this artist was fanciful.

A look inside the pavilion

A look inside the pavilion

The Flat Garden

The Flat Garden

I was pleased with the fine touches in the garden, such as the gracefully curved railings.

I was pleased with the fine touches in the garden, such as the gracefully curved railings.

Irises grew from the water beside a wooden walking path that kept our feet dry.

Irises grew from the water beside a wooden walking path that kept our feet dry.

It was past peak spring colour, but these azaleas still added a spark to the shady greenery.

It was past peak spring colour, but these azaleas still added a spark to the shady greenery.

The Strolling Pond Garden

The Strolling Pond Garden

Shady stone path

Shady stone path

After our time in the shade, we crossed the road to another famous Portland garden: The International Rose Test Garden, named for its mission of testing new rose varieties. Built in 1917, this garden holds over 7000 rose plants of 550 varieties. It was in full sunlight and roasting. Despite the heat, it was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and was filled with visitors. The roses were spectacular, and the scents intoxicating. Our new friend A kept a brochure to send home to her family. We had done our small part in encouraging good international relations. 🙂

Looking down onto the Rose Test Garden.

Looking down onto the Rose Test Garden.

Aisles of fragrance and colour.

Aisles of fragrance and colour.

Most of the roses were as tall as we were, and the blossoms were nose-height: perfect.

Many of the roses were as tall as we were, and the blossoms were nose-height: perfect.

Fragrant wisteria

I scooped up my girl and her cousin today and we went off to explore the Japanese garden in Portland’s west hills. I have been intending to go there for a couple of years. Then I purchased a Living Social coupon (do you LOVE those deals, or what?) to motivate myself.

Oh of course I forgot my camera, for gosh sakes. So I took the photos with my phone.

How lucky we were to happen upon a two-day bonsai exhibition from the Bonsai Society of Portland. The exhibition really is a sight to see and unlike others I’ve seen. It is springtime and the trees are in blossom! Far from traditional trained trees, this exhibit has wisteria, apple, lilac, and others in full blossom right now. The pavilion was filled with the heady fragrance of all the bonsai mixed together. Certainly there were the ever-beautiful juniper and maple and larch, as well.

173-year-old bonsai

Portland weather has finally turned warmer, so I knew the outing would be pleasant despite the deep grey skies. We did get rained on a couple of times, but it was a light rain and it suited the environment. Besides, we are all Portland girls so rain is not really much of an issue.

stone lantern

What a lovely garden. I will certainly go back because it is worth full admission price. There are two large white sand gardens, and many water features in the 5 1/2 acre haven of peace. Surrounded by towering Douglas Firs and other native trees, we often felt isolated from the city until we would come upon an overlook with a view down onto the skyscrapers below us. The day was not clear enough to see Mt. Hood, but I overheard a tour guide say that Mt. Hood was like a Mt. Fuji to Portlanders. It’s easy to see the similarity: both are sharp volcanic peaks that hold their snow when the rest of the land turns green.

hira niwa sand garden

The girls took off on their own and had scoped out the whole place by the time I was almost halfway through the bonsai exhibit. I let them hurry me through after that because the day was becoming a little chilly. In their eagerness, they missed the whole creeks-and-bridges section, and the second sand garden…so we went back to it. We found huge koi in one of the ponds, and many little stone lanterns that look like spirit houses and made me think of one of our favourite movies: Spirited Away. I will return later in the season with my camera, and alone, so that if it takes me 4 hours to get through the garden, no one will get impatient. 🙂

magical light

Strolling Pond Garden with waterfall and koi (can you see them?). This scene is surreal, as though we were in a terrarium.

Among humans there are no small acts; just as among plants there are no small leaves.

The quote is from the best of my recollection from reading Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I read the line the day before yesterday, as the author explained to me how seemingly insignificant tidbits in the news of 1817 were catalysts for larger movements among humanity. A change in fashion, an argument over the pronunciation of a word, a scandal among the elite… on the day you read it in the paper, it seems trivial. Forty years later, you may be able to see how it was an ingredient that constructed a great change.

the beginnings of beets

It helped that he added the part about leaves, and that it is the end of April. The first leaves that came to my mind were the tiny twin leaves sprouting from delicate red stems of what will become fat and juicy beets with a veritable hedge of greenery above ground. There is no path to the beet without the first tiny leaves.

the beginnings of peas

I delight in life.

Home grown zucchini, beets, and cucumber!

I am very excited to see that it’s about to become full-on harvest time. That was actually a pretty quick process, despite my impatience.

The raspberries seem to be producing much more and for much longer than they did last year. I’d like to believe it’s because I made the family collect compost all winter and then I’ve been dumping it on the raspberries. It’s a forgotten part of the yard in the winter, so I don’t mind making a mess.

Doesn't your mouth water just looking at this?

If there’s a pile of onion skins, apple cores, carrot peelings and coffee grounds and no one sees it… is it still an eyesore?

We’ve already been eating zucchini every day for 10 days now, and so when our neighbor came over talking about how much he liked zucchini, I sent him home with one. And a handful of cucumbers too. We will soon be overrun.

You should see these plants! They are going gangbusters. I think the watermelon is going to take over the whole hill. I keep telling them about gravity, and the foolishness of producing a watermelon on the slope, but for now they don’t listen much. My cherry tomatoes are finally turning red and I’ll be giving those away too.

Last night while I was watering, I actually had the idea to put a sign up on my herbs: Please take some! I am overrun with basil and sage and cilantro.

One of Mark’s friends was teasing him about having the Obama Victory Garden in the front yard, like the first family. Actually, that’s something I don’t mind being teased about…

One of my many guises

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