Our Pandemic Garden in Portland


On March 1st I moved into a modest boarding house in Portland, Oregon. It’s an interesting place to be living during a pandemic because while I have my own room, we share all other spaces. Basically you can choose to be as isolated as you want while also venturing out and mingling with the 22 others that live there. Both introverts and extroverts have something to gain from living here. Now that I’ve settled in for a bit I’ve been introduced to the backyard and given permission to maintain, improve, and basically have creative control over the garden.

For the past few years I have not had access to land or even a place with windows where I could do container gardening. To say that I am excited about experimenting with permaculture principles in this garden is a huge understatement. I’ve done a lot of volunteering, reading, community events and self research into growing my own food and I’m so excited to have an opportunity to actually have a go at it myself.

I’ve been through a lot recently. I’ve suffered the traumatic loss of my mother by myself and forced separation from my partner of 9 years due to visa delays. Some days I have a lot of trouble coping. End of life stuff that I have to do is overwhelming, exhausting, and infuriating at times. I’ve decided to pour a lot of my energy into this garden and allow it to heal me during this incredibly isolating time. Nature is a great healer and it helps me to find comfort in the here and now. I’m going to attempt to dust off this old blog and start posting updates on the garden. I’d love to connect with others who are using this time of uncertainty to work in a garden. 20200416_164805

1 year + Vegan Update

This past year has been wild. Brett’s still not here (29 months) but he finally has his immigration appointment in Sydney, Australia at the end of August. In June I had my one year vegan anniversary. I started out whole food plant based and felt really good, although my mobility and chronic pain was horrible due to knee surgery recovery and complications. My gut felt better. Being a full time student while working made me time poor and my diet would go through periods of whole food eating and then eating processed vegan meals during periods of high stress. I’m really happy with how far I’ve come, some of which I owe to my counselor who has helped me to begin processing grief and working through fear.

I’ve started riding Portland’s Biketown e-bikes all around after work and it’s been helping my knee tremendously. I had a lot of fear with returning to biking after my knee surgery due to atrophy and chronic pain and knowing I have a torn ACL. 5 minutes on the elliptical bike caused me so much pain. I must say, biking with the electric assistance has been phenomenal at increasing my mobility. The pain is there but I’m able to not fear it and just accept it without letting it limit me as much. The more I’ve biked the easier it’s gotten, the less pain I feel/fear, and the more free and independent I feel. Running is still not something I can do, but biking is a lot of fun and allows me to cover a ton of ground. There’s always something going on in Portland and biking is a great way to regularly explore the city, especially for the 3 months of Pedalpalooza. I’ve had a blast joining a lot of those bike rides.

I recently finished a summer Fellowship and so I have free time for the first time in over a year. I’m thinking about doing a juice fast. It’s helped other people with nutrient absorption issues and to reduce inflammation and joint pain. It’s honestly the perfect time for me to give it a go because my partner’s not here yet, my schedule is less full than normal, and I’m feeling very motivated. I started juicing last fall and I noticed that green juices really boosted my mood. It is time consuming though, so I’ve fallen out of it during Finals and this Fellowship. I’ve decided to invest in a juicer that I can just fill up and walk away from and let it juice without having to stand there and feed one item at a time into it. This will make juicing much easier. I’m growing a ton of greens at my community garden plot that I’ll use, and I also get a ton of produce for free from the gleaners every week. I don’t know about other people, but I get major decision fatigue when it comes to meals, so I’m actually looking forward to the simplicity of juicing. I think it’ll let me focus more on experiences for the rest of my summer which is what I need. Anyways, if I decide to do a juice fast I’ll detail it on this blog.

Portland Pandemic Garden

I’m happy to report that the greens are slowly coming along. Red Russian Kale is by far the leader. 2nd place goes to Asian Greens, and Mustard and Braising Greens are tied for third. Mesclun Mix Lettuce is taking its sweet time, but Sorrel is completely MIA, unfortunately. I really hope Sorrel starts to grow because I love its citrusy taste. Parsley and Cilantro are a no show as of yet, which I pretty much expected.

M and I have been busy! 20200424_132102

The herb patch was overtaken by weeds. It was home to tons of returning mint, rosemary, oregano, chard, and foxglove. I split my large garlic chives plant in half and planted it on the perimeter. One of them is doing well, but the other one has gotten stepped on twice in one day by two large men, so we’ll see how much fight it’s got! Over the course of a few days I weeded a large section on the patch and we sprinkled this awesome Edible Insectary Seed mix from Wild Garden Seed, here in Philomath, Oregon. It’s got an edible blend that’s supposed to have flowers all the way through until the frost. 20200429_212153

I planted two packets, which was a bit heavy. But I figure, I’ll just see what takes and then thin it out and spread the plants all around the garden and maybe give some of the ones i can identify away to neighbors. We’ll see. It felt like a win-win. Edible plants that are also enticing to beneficial insects. 20200426_132504

There were some deep roots, so it took a few days to weed this section in between doing my coursework and all the rain. But we were both impressed with the finished product, and M decided to put a nice brick wall around the border.20200427_162330

As we get more herbs I’ll weed the rest of it and stick them in. There was so much life in this small section that I don’t want to go overboard and completely demolish their home before new plants can start growing and provide cover. As it’s a relatively large yard, luckily there’s lots of other areas we can direct our attention. All those white petals on the herb bed are actually from our apple tree. I’ve been given permission to cut it all back, since it’s been a few years, in hopes that this will encourage lots of energy goes into producing apples this season. I know nothing about pruning apple trees, so if anyone has any advice, please share!

Portland Pandemic Garden

I was only introduced to the back garden where I recently moved a week and a half ago. It is very overgrown, but there is just so much space! Definitely more space than I’ve ever had to grow anything. I’ve been kind of busy with school and other things, but any chance I get I try to do some weeding or order and start some seeds. Another housemate, who I will call M, really enjoys working in the garden with me. I don’t think he’s ever had a garden before so he keeps asking me what to do next, so it’s been interesting to be a teacher in something I’ve still got a lot to learn about too. The first task I decided to work on was getting a greens patch going in the partial sun. 20200416_164755Here’s how it looked before we started working on it.

20200419_110858It took a lot of work but we got these nice rows made.

Now, I eat a lot of greens. I eat $15-$20 worth of greens a month probably. Portland is a great place to grow greens, due to our growing season. In fact, 8 years ago my partner and I started a small garden here and had more kale than we knew what to do with. I’ll try to dig up an old photo of that small garden sometime.

Anyways, we planted a lot of cut and come again mixes and I’m really excited for them to start popping up. In each row we planted something different, and here are the seeds that we used:


We spaced the mustards out a little bit, but everything else we just planted in a line. I believe we planted these on April 17th or April 18th. We chose a spot that gets scattered sunlight, but also quite a bit of shade as we move into summer here. I really look forward to my first home grown salad!

What is everyone else planting?

“Fear is the possibility of…”

This is in response to the Daily Prompt: Quote Me

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

6 years ago I read a book about a woman living in a small Norwegian town. I can’t tell you the title of the book, as I have forgotten it. I believe the book is being stored in my Jeep Cherokee behind an auto parts shop in Portland, Oregon. There is one quote in this book that is constantly wandering the back of my mind: “Fear is the possibility of freedom.” Continue reading

An app for sweatshops

An idea popped into my head a few days ago. It’s rare that I will buy new clothing, mostly what I buy is new hiking gear. I love thrift stores and that’s where I get most of my clothes. A lot of people do buy new clothing though and many of them (including myself most of the time) simply don’t know where it’s coming from. Since there seems to be an app for just about anything, why not an app that allows you to scan the bar code of clothing to see what country it came from? Did it come from a sweatshop? Slave labor parading as a wage? Just scan it.  Continue reading

Forbearing Optimism

This is in response to the Photo Prompt of the week: Optimistic

This week show us something you’re optimistic about


We’d been out there in the desert hiking for 7 days. We were in Northern Territory, Australia hiking the Larapinta Trail. We still had 2 weeks to go and I was having an absolute blast. The food drops along the way would cost us about $400 so we cashed in on my Yankee Thrift and decided to lug 20 days worth of food on our backs. Thank Gandhi our base weight was ultralight. But then there were those sections a few days earlier where we had no water for over a day and had to lug several kilos of the liquid gold. Continue reading

Life without computers

This is in response to the Daily Prompt: Life After Blogs

Your life without a computer: what does it look like?

In 2005, when I was 17, a family member took pity on my mother and I and bought us a computer. I remember what life was like before that internet connection to a very large world. I amused myself in many different creative ways, most of which involved me running around outside kicking a ball or finding other ways to put holes in the knees of all my pants.  Continue reading

Missing a furball

This is in response to the Daily Prompt: My Favorite

What’s the most time you’ve ever spent apart from your favorite person? Tell us about it.

People are overrated. I left my best friend behind when I decided to leave everything I’d ever known and drive over 2000 miles across the country to my new life at age 20. She had tan fur, weighed about 20lbs wet, and couldn’t hold a conversation on the phone if her life depended on it. It was a tough decision to leave Molly behind. She was my mom’s dog too and it was comforting knowing that I wasn’t leaving my single mother alone.  Continue reading