6.29.2015

Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2015: a tale of trees

Eastmoreland Garage Sale sign with tissue paper flower

Early-ish on Saturday morning, my housemate friend Jeff and I drove north for the 30th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale, my fifth year attending. This is the best neighborhood yard sale in Portland, though others like Overlook and Irvington also hold fond places in my thrifty heart. Check out previous posts on these yearly Eastmoreland yard sales for more details like shopping tips and Porta Potty locations (2013), the importance of Saturdays (2012), and the pros and cons of shopping in groups (2014). This year I became converted to the old-lady shopping cart, scorned in previous years. But the Eastmoreland 2015 Garage Sale for me will mostly be remembered as the year of trees.

I'll get to the trees later on. After the no-car, no-cart year of 2013 in which I wasted hours hauling things back home on the bus midday, I've learned the benefits of shopping carts. Jeff traveled more lightly with just a canvas bag. I had like 10 canvas bags stashed in my shopping cart since the bags act as wrap protection for breakables. Some people bring wagons or load up their kids' strollers, but anything with wheels is a boon when you're a 20-minute walk from your vehicle and carrying a large pile of loot. Fortunately, sellers are almost always willing to hold items after payment until you can pick them up later in the day. This is how we treat furniture purchases and anything heavy, and this year was another big year for secondhand furniture (aka dead trees).


30th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale map

Prepared for predicted 100-degree weather (though it didn't get quite that hot), I pushed my cart up and down sidewalks and over cracks, sipping water and dodging buyers in driveways narrowed by tables and merchandise. Shoppers were out in droves in the cooler morning but had mostly disappeared by noon. Luckily, the marine cloud cover didn't burn off till afternoon, at which point I was picking at my dress and the silk slip clinging to my sweaty skin. At least I'd worn a big hat, and Jeff had tied a wet bandana across his forehead (his new summer look). I didn't take many photos, focusing more on my shopping. But I did snap a few pretty flowers and gardens, a tiny fairy house, and a single Backyard Habitat Certification in Progress sign.


yellow rose, Eastmoreland


Eastmoreland Backyard Habitat Certification in Progress sign


blue bench with red-orange geraniums, Eastmoreland


fairy house, Eastmoreland Neighborhood

As usual, many sellers were packing up by 3 PM, citing a lack of buyers, so we started driving the trailer around to pick up all the heavies. At 4 PM, even we were pooped by the time the trailer was loaded, so we headed back down to Gladstone a bit early. We both took naps. I ended up going to bed at 7 PM (and then rose at 11:30 PM for a few hours more work) to recover from a heat-induced headache. Still, the day was lovely and worth it.

Jeff, a Hawthorne Vintage vendor, picked up a former Multnomah County Library chair in need of a cushion (since libraries never want you to stay too long); a cute, white vintage metal outdoor chair; a handmade wall-mounted oak bookshelf unit; a few of what they in the vintage resale business call "smalls"; and the antique occasional table he'd passed on and regretted last year that will grace our entryway once two of its claw-feet are repaired.

Here was my own Eastmoreland 2015 haul:

handmade pine platform bed frame ($20)
3 Swedish stainless-steel trays
4 Heller dishes (2 blue bowls, 2 orange dishes)
small Mexican painted pottery owl
handmade pottery oil lamp
2 vintage Gregg shorthand books (because my mom was a secretary in the 1960s)
handwoven placemat
2 vintage mosaic coasters, made in Japan
pair of Mexican carved green stone bookends
Swedish teak tray designed by Karl Holmberg
white linen skirt
black asymmetrical Bryn Walker dress, made in the U.S. (new with tags)
new "High Line Member" canvas tote bag ($1)
hacky sack (free)
new-in-plastic Japanese samurai origami handkerchief (free)
2 cotton napkins (free)
living Christmas tree! ($5)


living Christmas tree via Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2015

That's right, I bought a live Christmas tree in June. I love the tradition of decorating holiday trees but hate the idea of growing them only to kill them and leave them out with the trash, all brown, and so haven't had one in years. The tree will sit in the backyard till December, where it will be elevated on a table and garlanded with lights and ornaments. Then we'll plant it somewhere but not in our yard because the yard's too small and already has established pines. On the dead-tree side, the platform bed means that now my futon is off the floor above the carpet mold and ants—a win! Not everything I bought is for me. Many of the other finds will be hard to part with, but one must learn to share.


30th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale map insert

Speaking of trees, though, one big update in Eastmoreland this year is the neighborhood joining forces to battle developers who are increasingly tearing down perfectly good old houses around Portland to split the lots and erect even more homes—usually taller and narrower ones which will inevitably be built more shoddily, despite their high prices, compared to vintage construction materials and techniques. I'm all for more compact Metro infill and taking greater advantage of vertical space when we're talking about empty lots or fire hazards in disrepair, but not when developers are razing existing functional structures via the unholy call of the dollar sign: $$$$$$.

What about the larger common good? That's what government should be for: controls on capitalist greed. If mainstream developers had their way, all older homes would be torn down and newer, more expensive structures would be built as cheaply as possible to code, demolishing our history—just like what happened to the Jefferson West downtown last year. Plenty of good progressive alternatives exist for razing solid old homes, such as promoting ADUs (accessory dwelling units), duplexing existing homes, supporting cohousing communities, and legalizing tiny homes. But there's not as much money to be made in such projects. In any case, Eastmoreland residents are so concerned about vintage single-family housing demolitions Portland-wide that they stuck a flyer insert in their map this year (see photo above). Whether these well-off Portland residents will also support progressive infill development remains to be seen. Can homeowners also learn to share by letting poorer people squeeze in?


"Save These Giants": Eastmoreland Sequoia campaign

A side effect of older-home demolition concerns a property's mature, established trees. One notable example this year is a lot on SE Martins. (This happens to be directly across the street from where Jeff used to live with his friend who owns a home on Martins.) The 1970s split-level was bought by a developer and demolished (see photo above). According to neighbor gossip, the house's foundation was unstable, and though it could have been fixed, it was cheaper to tear the whole thing down. Okay, fine. But to complete the subdivision of the lot (actually two lots), the developer will also be cutting down the three giant sequoias, reputedly the tallest, oldest trees in the neighborhood.


Eastmoreland Go Fund Me project sign: SaveTheGiants

So a group of Eastmoreland neighbors has raised and placed a $50,000 deposit into an nonrefundable escrow account but still need to fund the rest of the $900,000 price tag by July 2nd in order to buy the lots from the developer (who will be making a hefty profit either way). And we're talking the land only, mind you, since the house is already gone. Read the neighbors' side of things and the reason for the urgency here on their Facebook page. Good luck with that, Eastmoreland, though if any Portland neighborhood could come up with $850,000 in two weeks, it would be you.

Poor old heritage trees never officially designated as such, which might have protected them. Poor Portland, losing its vintage housing stock piece by piece. Shame on the city for approving this deal and many others, as documented by the mysterious Portland Chronicle. Shame on developers like Everett Custom Homes—a business located in suburban Beaverton, by the way, whose owner purports to support old-school Portland charm . . . by tearing it down. The head of Everett Custom Homes blames the whole problem on city codes or the lack thereof in the 1850s, saying the trees shouldn't be so close to all these houses and pipelines. But they are. And they were standing before all these fancy Eastmoreland houses were built by 20th-century developers. Where oh where is Julia Butterfly Hill when you need her? People have choices in where and how they live, in homes bought, sold, and built. Choose carefully.

6.28.2015

how to stay cool during a heat wave without air conditioning

vintage Toastmaster fan

  • blast a vintage metal fan (that comes in one speed: ON)*
  • wear a wet bandana (housemate)
  • sleep on the floor (cat)
  • wear only dresses (me)
  • eat one meal a day (but drink lots of water)
  • spill a glass of water on yourself—oops!
  • pull half a pair of curtains in sunny rooms (but leave windows open for fresh air)
  • spritz faces and bare body parts with a squirt bottle
  • run appliances like the washer/dryer and dishwasher after dark
  • hand-water the garden (briefly)
  • pin or tie long hair up off the neck
  • mist or shower houseplants, and give them extra drinks
  • exercise early in the morning (or late at night)
  • take tepid-to-cold showers
  • avoid the oven
  • make homemade strawberry-vanilla ice cream (housemate), sorbet, or something almost-vegan 
  • seek the shade
  • wash your feet
  • wear a wide-brimmed hat (me)
  • walk through neighborhood sprinklers
  • head for the river


the sun outside, reflected

vintage fan on antique chair

*See a new version of this old fan here.

6.25.2015

thrifted: brown Heath Ceramics mug

vintage brown Heath mug, Rim handle

Everything tastes better in Heath Ceramics (or handmade pottery). My other Heath pieces are all packed up in storage, other than the new-to-me dessert bowls. (This is what happens when someone with a complete set of kitchenware moves in with a friend who has an even bigger kitchen setup.)

But look what pretty thing I found last week at Goodwill: a single vintage Heath mug, dark brown with sandstone interior. This one has the distinctive Rim Line handle (1960s design), but the handle is positioned lower down like the Coupe Line Studio mugs (1940s design), and it also lacks the Rim Line's stacking feature, making it some kind of hybrid of Coupe and Rim not in current production. It is fully imprinted on the bottom.


secondhand vintage brown Heath mug


vintage Heath mug, interior

However, this June heat wave here in Portland has been making things a bit warm for hot drinks—not that I'm complaining. So this mug is headed for the cupboard. But after some more work today (if you can call fun things like writing and thrifting "work"), it should be about time for an evening picnic walk, a little grapefruit soda, and a game of badminton Battleship. . . .

6.24.2015

DIY birdbath v. 1.0

birdbath under blue spruce

In case anyone hasn't figured it out yet, I keep this blog for my own learning as much as a way to share ideas with others. It's like free continuing education—but more fun. So after learning more about Portland's Backyard Habitat Program for a recent post, I decided the tiny yard of our rented duplex had room for a birdbath.

We'd already planted a packet of Northwest-adapted wildflower seeds back in March amid the tomato starts in the front yard to support bees and butterflies, so when the flowers began to bloom and the bees and butterflies started arriving, it was time to help the birds. I'm wary of bird feeders since spilled seeds can attract mice and rats (ick) and sprout where they're unwanted. In any case, Portland's relatively mild winters also ensure a steady food supply of berries, nuts, seeds, and certain insects for most native nonmigratory birds, especially when gardeners avoid deadheading seedpods, leaving those natural winter food sources. So until I make a decision about bird feeding, a birdbath is an easy way to wade into bird care.

I'd never thought much about bird bathing before. Neither my parents, grandparents, nor great-grandparents kept birdbaths in their gardens. We lived in the Klamath Basin near the National Wildlife Refuges, some of the most critical migratory bird habitats in the U.S., though my family never went birding. Sometimes on car trips near the California border we'd spot a bald eagle perched on a telephone phone—"Look, an eagle!"—unaware that this experience wasn't common. Summers were full of the calls of the Western Meadowlark singing from the wide sagebrush field next door. And our yard in summer was dotted with fat red robins yanking up worms from our sad, crab-grass patches islanded amid all the ragweed making us sneeze. So maybe because I was surrounded by birds as a child without ever thinking much about them, I've unconsciously tended to think birdbaths were mainly decorative or at most a lazy way for humans to watch birds without having to trudge around in wetlands with binoculars—rather than artificial puddles neighborhood birds in fact need for refreshment, cleansing, and feather maintenance, just as much as humans need bathtubs or showers. (If all we had were puddles, we'd be using those, too.)


cement birdbath top on ground in shadows

So after reading that birds prefer birdbaths on the ground to mimic natural water sources, I mentioned to my housemate wanting to make a birdbath using a large shallow clay plant saucer, which some home birders claim draw the most birds. That same evening, he came home with the top section of a standard fluted concrete birdbath gleaned from a friend. So this is our latest free, simple DIY home-improvement project: a large dish placed on the ground under the dappled shade of a bonsai-ed blue-spruce tree. I washed off a couple large river rocks from the yard and placed them in the bowl as islands. So far, I've only seen birds in there a couple of times, including a trio of black-capped chickadees, though I'm hoping for more sightings.

There may be a DIY birdbath v. 2.0 in the future, though, because the cement bowl is almost too heavy for me to tip for cleaning. I haven't done any bowl scrubbing yet, but the water needs to be refreshed every couple of days to prevent bacterial and algal growth as well as mosquito larvae, so I've been tipping it over and refilling it when watering the wildflowers and tomatoes opposite the birdbath. A smaller, lighter clay dish would be easier to handle.


black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) in birdbath

But what's most critical when attracting birds to a yard is making sure there are no cats around. Most people who love those soft purring hairballers haven't a clue how ferocious cats are. Everyone knows domestic felines (Felis catus) only bother with string as practice for prey like mice, lizards, and snakes. But most people don't know that cats kill estimated billions of birds each year in the U.S. alone and many more billions of small mammals. Whole bird species are going extinct from human-led habitat loss compounded by population decimation by cats—like humans, an invasive species. In other words, Tweety Bird is losing to Sylvester.

Although my roommate has occasionally seen a raccoon family strolling through our yard late at night, we don't normally see any roaming neighborhood cats on this block. My own cat has always been an indoor-only cat—which is the default recommendation in the Bay Area where I was living when I adopted her and the only situation supported by any California veterinarian we visited because cats live healthier and longer lives indoors. Strangely, I've found since moving to Portland that most cats here are indoor-outdoor, and even the vets up here don't seem too bothered by this norm. Part of me has always felt guilty for keeping my cat essentially in a large cage her whole life, but then I feel better about it when I think of all the wild creatures she hasn't killed or maimed in her 11 years and counting.

Yet despite a lifetime of home quarantine, my cat still managed to kill a bird when she was young. (Well, I suspected her foremost since our other cat was older, fatter, and more lethargic, though it could possibly have been a team effort.) My ex and I were living on the third floor of an apartment building with two isolated balconies in the unit. We kept the bedroom balcony open most of the year, so our two cats could wander out for sightseeing and fresh air. Once, I came home from a long day and found our living room strewn with bright yellow feathers. I finally found the corpse of a small yellow bird (somebody's escaped pet canary? wild goldfinch?) on its back, feet up, under a chair skirt. I didn't see any wounds or blood, so the pretty little songbird was probably chased, batted around, and scared to death, its heart stopped . . . after how long a torture? Sick to my stomach and sobbing, I called up my then-husband, who said, annoyed, "What do you want me to do about it, leave work early?" I hung up the phone, grabbed a dustpan and broom, scooped up the poor dead bird, tears running down my face, and dumped it, gently, in the garbage (since we had no private yard for burial). My cats just stared at me.


my tabby watching birds from the dining table

But no one should take all this cat-as-killer data as an excuse to kill or harm cats (see tales of historical European cat torture here), who are only following their instinct. Just in the last month here in Portland, a kitten was shot in the face with a pellet gun, wrapped in garbage bags, and left (alive, but with probable permanent hearing loss) in a dumpster, while another kitten was tossed off the St. Johns Bridge, somehow managing to cling to the underside until spotted by a pedestrian and rescued by firefighters. Sadistic humans who do such things to animals make me want to believe in Hell or karma.

I wouldn't own a cat if I didn't like them (and my own tabby in particular). Humans are, of course, the ones who spread cats around the world in the first place as pet rodent control in grain storage, thanks to the development of agriculture. The bird rights versus cat rights debate is complex, as detailed in this 2007 New York Times article portraying legal battles between bird lovers and cat lovers. Norway rats, for example, are themselves an invasive species, also spread by human trade, that could partially be controlled by cats. The problem is that cats don't discriminate by killing only the populous nonnative invasive species humans might want controlled like Norway rats or starlings but many types of native birds, rodents, amphibians, and reptiles. So animal experts advocate for trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats, placing bells on any outdoor cats, default spaying or neutering of house cats, and keeping domestic cats indoors at all times but especially at night when they most like to hunt.

Funny that what was meant to be a short post about putting a birdbath in the yard turned into a whole lecture about cats as wildlife killers. And yet isn't that the sum of life, one species feeding on another while trying to perpetuate its own? Consider the Eastern mandala of the Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail: no life exists without death. Eat and be eaten. Think about all the coyotes who lunch on cats. This is only proof that all life is interwoven, and actions have unintended consequences. If we started killing more coyotes, for example, who occasionally munch on feral cats and house cats, there would go more of our natural rodent control because coyotes primarily eat rodents. And coyote numbers were once controlled by gray wolves who are now in miniscule supply and danger of extinction because they learned to pick off domesticated sheep and cattle, which angers ranchers, who pull out their guns. And round and round it goes.


hanging birdhouse, gleaned

So while conservation scientists figure out what to do—including which species deserve to live and in what quantities—the rest of us can quietly put out a birdbath or two, avoid using pesticides (Hello, old busybody neighbor lady!), keep pet cats indoors, report neighborhood feral or abandoned cats to "no kill" animal shelters like the Oregon Humane Society and any animal abuse (or hoarding) to investigative organizations like Multnomah County Animal Services. (FYI, Clackamas County only supports dogs but offers contact information for local organizations who assist not-dogs, including cats, injured birds, and other wounded or orphaned wild animals.)

I often find my cat perched on the dining table or windowsill, watching neighborhood birds flit and twitter about. But since I've never been much of a birder, I usually don't know what I'm looking at, unless it's a robin, chickadee, or blue jay—something with distinctive coloring or shape. Fortunately, like everything else these days, there's an app for that! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a handy bird identification app called Merlin for those, like me, wondering about the smaller, browner, lesser-known birds they're peeping at. My cat just watches her would-be-prey dipping into the bath and flying away.

6.23.2015

wildflower garden (with mistakes)

native lupine wildflower grown from seed (June 23, 2015)
 
The reason renters have such a stereotypical bad-neighbor reputation is exactly because they're not property owners. Unlike homeowners leasing house and land from a bank for the presumed long haul of a 15- or 30-year mortgage, renters have little incentive to invest in a property that isn't theirs—especially when landlords themselves provide the bare minimum of upkeep in their rental property (and yes, I'm thinking about the fences falling down in our yard). Why lay out expensive landscaping or replace fake-tile vinyl flooring and cheap carpeting with real tile and wood flooring or replace cheapo kitchen cabinets and old appliances (assuming a landlord would even allow such things), let alone spend hours and hours watering and weeding and mowing grass and trimming shrubs if you're just going to move in a year or two? Plus, it's assumed that a person who could afford such lifestyle upgrades in the first place would, duh, become a homeowner beforehand. So renters are usually a) poorer than homeowners and b) living short-term. The challenge then is how to put a personal stamp on a rental garden without spending much money.


wildflower garden at two months (late May 2015)

All winter I huddled inside in sweaters with the heat cranked up, watching pine needles fall onto the driveway. I'm only planning to live here as long as it takes to save up enough to build and site a tiny house. But come spring, the itch to grow something again—food and flowers—grew stronger than expected. Unfortunately, because of the garage thrusting out towards the street blocking eastern sun, the large pine tree in the front corner near the street blocking southern sun, and the neighbor's house blocking western sun, our most appealing garden plot is a small corner in the front yard that, though south-facing, only gets about four hours of direct sun per day. (The small backyard is north-facing and gets virtually no direct sun.)

After some discussion in March, my roommate friend and I bought two seed packets and three tomato starts. I wanted only cherry-sized tomatoes since in my experience those ripen best and fastest in Portland's typically short, unpredictable summers, but we compromised on one cherry, one Roma, and one Russian Black heirloom variety. In May, the tomato starts looked bigger but not much different than they did two months before during Spring Break when they were planted, probably from too little sun. By the end of June, though, the plants have grown huge, with green tomatoes swelling on the vine. We'd even sourced for free a few used (meaning slightly bent and a tad rusty) tomato cages discarded outside the Meldrum Bar Park Community garden. All together, we've each spent around $10 on the garden so far. How's that for frugal?


purple iris (May 2015)

The existing landscaping mainly consists of a long row of iris lining the west fence under and well past the big pine tree up to the front door. In May, the deep purple flowers (in a bluer shade of purple than pictured) provided a splash of color against the gray house and the often-gray sky. Sadly, I've never much liked iris or the color purple. I'd rather have a row of red tulips or bright-pastel Icelandic poppies or peach roses. But having iris is better than no flowers at all.

We did have at least one native plant already established in the garden, a pale-pink Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) that flowers in spring, growing against the shaded fence in the back side yard.

Yet I wanted even more flowers around without a big money investment, and so chose a mixed packet of "wildflower" seeds selected for the Pacific Northwest to attract bees and butterflies. All that was growing in that plot seemed to be weeds, anyway. While weeding, we realized the landlord had laid down an ineffective, soil destroying weed barrier cloth we ripped out. (Shh.)

However, after all the weeding and in our excitement to plant our tomatoes, heirloom zucchini, and wildflowers, we forgot the important composting step (oops). So we'll add some compost on top of the soil as mulch later on.


green tomatoes on the vine, Gladstone (June 23, 2015)

Twice, in late March and late May, we spent hours uprooting some kind of weed taking over the bed and suffocating the baby wildflowers. I can only hope it wasn't some native plant we would have wanted, though it really was taking over. It's hard to weed when you're not sure which plants are the weeds! As I tell my young Latino-American students learning English, a "weed" is really only a plant growing where we don't want it. How's that for relativity?

Part of my problem with local Northwest plant identification is that I didn't grow up in this marine valley climate but in the rain shadow of the Cascades in southeastern Oregon, a colder high-desert climate. For this reason, I've been trying to err on the side of caution when weeding, so we'll see what else comes up in the bed this summer. I did pull up a stinging nettle I should have let grow; I've since learned that nettles support various insects like ladybugs, as well as birds.

Another mistake when scattering the wildflower seeds was not first placing some stepping stones, which made subsequent weeding that much harder, trying not to squash the baby plants. So the second time weeding, we moved a few youngsters and yanked up three stepping stones from the side of the house to give us a place to stand while tending the garden—and picking tomatoes! Somehow the heirloom zucchini didn't come up at all, a whole packet and not a single plant. What's that about? I thought I'd seen one squash sprout poking up in April, but it disappeared—poof. At least there will be farmers markets for zucchini, one of my favorite summer vegetables.


blooming wildflowers seeded in March (June 23, 2015)


honeybee on (which?) wildflower (June 23, 2015)

But the wildflower seeds worked! Honeybees have been whizzing around the wildflower patch, dawn to dusk. The bees are most attracted to a lavender-colored, lightly fragrant plant I don't recognize at all. (Do you?) Why didn't I keep that empty seed packet?! When white butterflies flit by, my cat jumps up on the windowsill to track them, blocked by the screen. I did recognize the (native) California poppies among the plants that survived the weeding whirlwind, even before they bloomed, because I grew up with them. Our bed has white and traditional bright-orange California poppies in the mix. Crimson or Italian clover (Trifolium incarnatum), a nonnative clover species, and native lupine are now blooming. Most of the plants that have come up I figure must also be wildflowers because those leaf shapes weren't in the bed pre-intervention. I also recognize cosmos in there from my two years in South Korea—of all places, since cosmos are native to Mexico!—though they haven't bloomed yet.


wildflower garden at three months (late June 2015)

Our next-door-neighbor, whom we've caught whacking plants in our yard without asking, said when confronted about this that she "likes things tidy"—even apparently when they're not her things! I asked her if she'd like us to do the same in her yard. She said no. The old biddy must then hate our messy wildflower patch.

Miss C., a faithful churchgoer in her 80s who has convinced herself we renters will be burning the whole block down by building a firepit in the backyard, as evidenced by all the (free) wood piled up in the backyard (waiting there till my roommate builds a deck)—which I informed her is perfectly legal and none of her business—spends hours every day on her yard, sweeping, weeding, watering, or pruning, year-round, even in blustery cold weather—good exercise though rather obsessive-compulsive, even Sisyphean. She would also gladly chop down our big street-side pine tree if she could since it scatters needles and pine cones in her driveway all winter. She had already convinced a previous tenant to cut down one of our blue spruces, its four-foot stump still standing in the yard, while the remaining one is all hacked off on her side, lopsided as if bonsai-ed or growing on a windy coastline. So no, I'm not terribly fond of Miss C.


old neighbor lady on a ladder hacking away at our tree with a saw (June 2, 2015)

On my side, I resent that she just paid someone to hand-spray her dandelions with Roundup; but it's her yard and her right to poison it. And too much tidiness in a garden is actually bad for bees, birds, and other creatures that find food or shelter in dried stalks, dead trees (called snags when upright, logs when downed), or piles of brush. Rather than hours of (unnecessary) daily yard work, I'd rather spend my spare time watching birds, bees, and butterflies, and photographing flowers. It's all in what and how you choose to landscape. But that's just me. Call me crazy.

So here we have the tale of two gardens growing side-by-side: on one side of the low fence, a conventional, pretty suburban garden with many high-maintenance, nonnative species; heavy pruning and shaping; and regular chemical use (widely accepted by her generation). By contrast, our raggedy renter's garden-in-progress is the antithesis of homeowner Miss C.'s garden: function over form with nonconventional focus on native species as bee, butterfly, and bird attractions and avoidance of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. I suspect my voting ballot does about the same thing, existing merely to cancel hers out. The one thing we both agree on is wishing the large field across from us weren't slated for development.

6.16.2015

thrifted: Dansko perforated clogs

secondhand Dansko perforated clogs

Clogs are one of those shoe styles people either love or hate. Men supposedly tend to hate them—as discussed in shaming tones on fashion sites here, here, and here. For famed shoe designer Christian Louboutin, clogs sound like donkey hooves—clop, clop, clop. Yet his beautiful red-soled dress heels are designed, he says, for the male gaze and not for female comfort (which he abhors). But there's good reason donkeys and horses have hooves: built-in walking shoes.

I'm pro-clog in theory but can't wear the original, authentic Swedish versions from companies like Hasbeens and Sandgrens or American producers like Sven—the latter based in the Scandi-immigrant haven of Minnesota—because their unlined leathers tend to be too stiff for the blister-prone, like me, especially since clogs usually look better without socks. Louboutin may be correct that wooden shoes clomp, though most Swedish-type clogs are now soled in rubber to limit this. Podiatrists and naturopaths tend to be anti-Swedish clog because the authentic two-to-three-and-a-quarter-inch heel heights are too high and the soles are too rigid, among other reasons. (See, for example, the stunning, high pair of Miranda Peep-Toe sandal clogs by San Francisco artisan producer, Bryer.) Plus, clogs are infamous for turned ankles because their bases are narrower than the uppers (see comments, for instance, here).

But in addition to Birkenstocks, I can wear Danskos, an American comfort-shoe take on Scandinavian clogs widely worn by nurses, chefs, and elementary-school teachers: people on their feet all day (or night). The problem—along with Danskos being made in China—is that Danskos aren't exactly known for high style even in the clog world but comfort and practicality. Their bases are synthetic rather than wood, and the leathers are cushioned and fully lined. I once owned a brown pair of Dansko oiled-leather professional clogs that were comfortable in all but thick socks (sadly, a sales clerk had wrongly sized me in the narrow version) but made me feel like an elf, so I ending up donating them to Goodwill a few years back (though now I know I could have easily sold them on eBay). 

For the record, I've now mostly given up on thrift-store shoes since with all my troubles with fit and blisters, I'd rather have exactly the style I want in the size and width I need. This is why, after much reflection, I recently bought a new pair of ever-comfortable leather Birkenstock Gizehs and will save my older refurbished pair for off-the-pavement summer walking in areas that don't require the stability of my fugly Keens.


thrifted Dansko perforated clogs with brass tacks

So imagine my surprise this weekend at Goodwill when I happened upon a like-new pair of perforated Dansko pro clogs from 2013 in a brandy shade with brass tacks in my exact size—as if they were sitting there on the shelf waiting for me. They were $50, which is a lot more than I expect to pay for secondhand shoes, but they were in such great condition and still cost much less than their $120-and-up retail price that I submitted. They look super-cute with leggings and over-sized shirts, which has basically been my work uniform for the last year. And the leather looks and feels even more luxe in person than in photos. So now I have another pair of multi-season, cute, comfy shoes. Take that, Louboutin!

And in case anyone needs another reason why shoes by default should be comfortable and not torture devices, check out these photos of some of the last elderly women in China who had their feet bound in youth—horrific mutilation of the female body.

6.14.2015

thrifted: Heath Ceramics dessert bowls

blueberries & granola in yogurt, Health Ceramics dessert bowl

Last weekend, stopping into the West Burnside Goodwill, I scored a set of brown Heath Ceramics Coupe dessert bowls lined in robin's egg blue (which is actually a tad more green than these photos show). Heath calls the color "aqua chocolate brown." Still in production, the petite 5.5-inch, 10-ounce bowls retail for $25 each, though I got these six used for just $18 total—quite a deal for boutique California pottery.

While all six have the full Heath imprints on the undersides, two have flaws in the brown exterior glaze that look like small popped bubbles effervescent along one section of the rim, something I haven't seen before on any Heath dishes. So those two, at least, must be seconds from the long-lauded Sausalito factory. But the flaws don't affect function. Considered from a certain optimistic angle, the bubble clusters could even appear as a special design detail. Maybe Heath should start charging extra for bubbles. . . .

This is the first secondhand Heath I've stumbled on in over a year—not since those two Rim plates—and that was only because I happened into the dishes aisle before my housemate did. Jeff himself thrifted one-and-a-half (two bowls, one lid) vintage—and no longer in production—Heath #211 individual casseroles about six months ago. Plus, just this weekend he came across eight vintage Heath sandstone Coupe teacups with matching saucers that retail new for $40 each. The teacups he'll resell because he already has a set of vintage green ones.


Heath Ceramics dessert bowl, empty

Heath dessert bowls are the perfect size for not only sweet treats like berries, cherries, sliced nectarines, or melon balls—or yummy breakfasts like the pictured organic Greek vanilla yogurt with local blueberries and homemade granola—but also small savory snacks or appetizers like cheese, olives, and nuts, a couple slices of baked tofu, or a serving of kale chips. It could even hold big dollops of spiced vegan mayo or hummus for dipping as part of a platter of roasted, grilled, or raw veggies. And since turquoise is my current favorite happy color, eating just about anything from these pretty bowls will make me smile a little wider.

6.07.2015

exploring the Clackamette Cove peninsula

peninsula cliff overlooking the Clackamas River

All this heat feels like summer! Friday evening after work, the housemate and I put on hiking shoes and Keens and explored the peninsular part of the Clackamas River separating the river from the Clackamette Cove offshoot. I'd walked partway along the path the weekend before in my Birkenstocks—snagging my favorite sundress on a blackberry thorn, boo!—but after seeing signs of several homeless camps right off the trail under the trees, I turned back, wary of walking alone when well off the main park trail and out of eyesight and maybe earshot of the park's regular bikers, joggers, and dog walkers.

It angers me that molestation is something I need to worry about as a female, regardless of the pepper spray carried on my key ring and the cell phone in my bag, but I do. Most all women do at a deep level that even sympathetic men will never understand.


abandoned camp, Clackamas River peninsula


abandoned firepit, with mail


peninsula trailhead, Clackamas River

The side trail to the peninsula off the paved river trail is hard to spot unless you've stumbled on it before. When the light's right, I often see large dark fish floating almost without moving near the surface of the yellow-green murk at the quiet eastern end of the cove near the peninsula trailhead. The light was too low and reflective Friday evening to see any fish, but we did spot a large blue heron perched on one of the old railway pilings on the other side of the cove and a cottontail rabbit sitting sideways on the trail, eyeing us and then darting off into the bushes when we moved closer.


early blackberries, Clackamas River

The blackberry blossoms are just starting to form green berries, but this will be a good blackberry picking spot come August. Vines line the trail on both sides for easy picking—assuming hikers manage to keep the trail unclogged.

The high central trail on the long, narrow peninsula branches off here and there where people have found spots to head down to the river on one side or the cove on the other. Near the end of the peninsula, Jeff took off on one of those forks and started scrambling down to the river, but the path was so steep my Keens couldn't grip, and there was nothing to hold onto except thorns and dirt. So because I didn't feel like sliding down—bump, bump, bump—to the river rocks on my rear end, we turned back.


mole hole


decomposed mole, inches from its hole


crawfish remains in plant pot, Clackamas River


patch of sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolius, a nonnative, invasive species)

On the way back down the trail, I stopped to inspect the decomposed corpse of the dead mole whose body I'd seen intact the weekend before. And I examined the remains of someone's crawfish meal stuffed into a plant pot. Then we picked a big bunch of perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), a non-native and invasive species I feel no guilt about plucking.


Clackamette Cove


unknown wildflower, Clackamette Cove

Dusty and hot, we walked back to the main paved trail and then around the cove and down to the Clackamas River over by the River Resource Museum, the water cooling off and cleaning feet and hands. As I waded around on the river rocks, it was so gusty that my black felt hat blew off into the water; I retrieved it with a squeal and slopped it back onto my head, the drips feeling rather nice. We watched a couple guys throwing sticks into the river for their Black and Golden Labs to fetch out on the rocky bar. And we even saw a male duck raft down a little ripple in the shallows, on what Jeff called his "built-in inner tube."

I never know what I'll see down by the river. And that's the best part—all the tiny surprises.

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