Thursday, January 07, 2016

Welcome to Saint Helens, Our New Home

Three weeks have passed since we moved Chickadee Gardens from Portland to our new two-acre home in Saint Helens, Oregon. Now that we are somewhat settled (meaning all of our stuff has been moved from point A to point B save for a few plants and "staging" furniture) we thought it would be nice to explore our surrounds a bit and share our new town with you.

Saint Helens is about 45 minutes from Portland down the Columbia River. It is a small, humble town that I am growing to love more every day. The people are friendly and willing to say hello and are genuinely helpful.

It's only starting to sink in, i.e., "We live here now!" On a few rare moments when we weren't unpacking, cleaning, organizing, driving, loading or unloading we paused to explore.


On Christmas Eve we took a walk down by the old town right on the banks of the river. This is the Columbia River, a mighty one that I hope we explore more by canoe one day. By the way, we're looking for a used canoe if anyone knows of one. Here are just some of the many boats and houseboats found along this stretch of the Columbia.


 By the riverfront a tiny picnic area surprised me. I would like to visit this someday when it warms up, maybe on bicycle.


Much of the riverbank is fairly wild. The river is dotted by many islands, the largest of which is Sauvie Island, home of Cistus Nursery (yay!!). There are a lot of wetlands and birding areas, perfect for exploring by canoe.


 The old downtown has its charm. The Columbia Theatre is one I think we shall go see the new Star Wars movie. I mean it has a neon sign so it's got to be cool. I'm a sucker for neon.


 While window shopping along antiques row, a faux Tillandsia caught my eye. This is about as much gardening as I have experienced here so far, sorry to say. This will soon change.


The Columbia County Courthouse. A mighty building with a lot of character.


A polar bear spotted in downtown Saint Helens. At least he's in the holiday spirit. There were a whole menagerie of "caged" beasts dressed in their finest holiday outfits. Very strange but endearing.


Me thinks this is where Santa came to visit. I guess we missed him.


 A bit of gardening whimsy in downtown Saint Helens.


 A reclaimed area on the shores of the Columbia River where some kind of manufacturing plant once stood. A lot nicer now. It seems like prime birding land. I will enjoy watching this develop into a natural area as the years go by.


The town is named for the mountain in view, Mt. Saint Helens, which is actually in Washington State across the Columbia River. This logo shows the mountain in full form, that is to say before she erupted in 1980. Curious.


Speaking of mountains, we have a view of Mt. Hood from our home. This photo was taken at sunrise on New Year's Day from our back deck. Hood is behind the trees to the left.


Out past the deck into the field, a cold but beautiful view greets us.


Looking out towards the neighbor's horse pasture, the sun makes an appearance.


Very beautiful and moving. I find myself experiencing these moments in what is sure to be some of the worst chaos David and I have ever gone through. I really dislike moving for nesting is in my blood. I want to have a home and put all my energy into it and watch it turn into something magic. That's the hope, anyhow. Being ripped away from something I've invested my soul into was very difficult. Am I sorry I did it? Not at all. It was simply more painful than expected. Like ripping off a bandage very slowly rather than all at once. We've been going through this for 10 weeks now, longer if you count the days in September when David started packing.



We have been blessed (??) with snow three times in two weeks. It's not that Saint Helens is snowier than Portland, it's the luck of the draw. First of all, we moved in the rainiest month on record then once we were pretty much moved in the snow began. This day we decided to take a walk "to town" as we call it (really, people, it's only two miles down the road!) to the local Safeway. Not very country-like but we were going slightly crazy and needed fresh air. The trouble is this is not a walking town. There are very few sidewalks and people were out in force with their big, throaty pickup trucks. I was a little scared, to tell the truth. But we made it, our four-mile journey ended successfully save for a sore arm when David slipped on the ice.


Most of the homes here are of a typical suburban style. Every now and then you see something that says history -- this is one example that caught my eye.


Although it's difficult to discern where the gardens are in the middle of winter, I did see some hopeful signs.


This lovely sight is just across the street and down a bit from our home. We can't see it from our property, but I was quite delighted to see it today on our walk.


Upon returning home from our adventure, I noticed our deer friends in the east bramble. They run away from us usually but this day they did not. Their days are numbered in this garden as the deer fence goes in next week (hopefully), so for now they can enjoy what nibbles they find here. I do like them, I just wish they didn't like my plants. 

On a side note, our boy cat Hobbes saw his first deer through the window the other day. I encouraged it thinking he might get a kick out of seeing her and start chirping like he does when he sees a bird. Hobbes growled for the second time in his life, and it startled me. He then ran like hell and hid under our bed for a long time. Poor guy, that deer-thing really frightened him. 



Parting shot of our many Douglas fir trees.

It hasn't entirely sunk in that we moved because we're still in motion. When we slow down and don't have 29,000 things on our "must do now" list then maybe it will. For now I've kind of blocked out the outside world to save my sanity but I am looking forward to spring and the renewal of nature and of my connected-ness to this place. 

I have some fears about plants that I dug up from the Portland garden, too. There was never a good time to do so (too soggy, too cold) but I did it in a flash last weekend and the weekend before that. It was emotionally painful, I must say. But now that I have all these goodies dug up, the very next day we had below freezing temperatures. Now it's snowing like crazy and freezing rain. Will they survive? I didn't exactly pot them up carefully when doing so in the hundreds. Speed was the priority and quality was lacking. I will have to wait and see which of the plants survived. It's heartbreaking as this is the main thing I'm moving and I may have ruined it and have to start over.

Whatever the plant and weather gods have in mind for me, I'll just have to roll with the punches and wish for a bit of luck. When the ground thaws I plan on temporarily planting a bunch of them for a little more protection. I fear the worst, however.

Well, that is the report from Saint Helens this first week of January 2016. I hope to have some greener plant photos to share soon and some good news regarding the moving of the plants and the sale of our old home which, by the way, goes on the market this week.

Thank you for reading and for hanging in there with us. Until next time, happy gardening and seed catalog shopping!




23 comments :

  1. Nice seeing your new surroundings! I'm sure the majority of the plants will be fine, and a growling cat is something I'm familiar with -- the deer get growls from our Digby, as do any people walking past. :)

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    1. I'm glad you think so, Alan. Maybe I'm panicking a little. That's funny Digby growls at deer, too. Crazy animals! We love 'em.

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  2. I so enjoy your blog and now reading of your move. We live in Rochester, NY but were out visiting your way at Thanksgiving and actually explored St. Helens a bit. So your pictures reminded me of our lovely trip. We have family in the area and are thinking of relocating there. I really liked St. Helens, but we would prefer a walking village/town so we'll have to do more exploring. Thank you for sharing your moving story, it's fascinating!

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    1. Hi Valorie, thanks for commenting and reading! Well, this is a great part of the world to live, where is your family? I will say Saint Helens is NOT a walking town...I love to walk, so I'll have to adjust somehow. Portland is a great walking town, of course - downtown and the Pearl District are much fun for exploring on foot. Keep in touch, I'll be interested to know when and if you move out this way. You'll have to come by the garden if you do. Cheers and I'm thrilled you enjoy the blog - it's nice to know people out there read it. Happy new year!

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  3. Glad to hear you're starting to settle in and explore. I still have a large contingent of plants in nursery pots that didn't get planted last year. I too hope they survive the winter.

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    1. Starting to settle in! So are your pots in the greenhouse or outside? I'm just worried the ones that have some roots exposed due to hasty digging and are frozen solid will be goners. Here's hoping for both of us!

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  4. I believe Patricia could weigh in on the amazing ability of plants to bounce back from an untimely move. I remember she thought hers were goners but many of them surprised her. Here's wishing the same thing for you!

    In a related story - remember the Callistemon 'little john' (or something like that) which I bought from you (at work) last fall? It's dead. Not because of the cold but because it was in the SPGreenhouse and I had the heater on all weekend and it got too hot and dry. Killed by love...

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    1. That is encouraging, Danger. Most gardeners I ask say basically the same thing, but I question my potting quality. Some of the little guys were frozen solid dirt cubes, but I will wait and see.

      I am sorry about your sweet Callistemon! Too bad, if I come across another I'll grab it for you. Do you think it would come back from the roots or it's gone gone gone?

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    2. I'm leaning towards gone gone gone...but just in case I watered it good and I'll cut it back in a couple months and see if any new growth appears. Funny I felt so smug when I was in California and saw them blooming all over the place "I've got one of those at home!"...

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    3. Ah, well...you never know! Here's hoping.

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  5. I can't believe you haven't told me about your mountain view before! That alone would have sealed the deal for me. As for your plants - I bet most will be fine. Like babies, they are tougher than most of us think. For those that survive their near death experience, you may see some interesting things happening - like new variegation patterns etc. I'm not kidding - I have several examples of that in my yar Nice to see your surrounds - my blood pressure dropped just from admiring your photos.

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    1. Oh, yes, there's a mountain view! Wanna come see it and "Anna's corner garden" too?

      I am praying the potted plants will survive. I will keep close tabs on what these guys will do, I thought about that - if they survive this they may be tougher than ever.

      Glad you liked the photos, please come out and play!

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  6. I am so glad I had the good fortune to see the O.G. Chickadee Gardens and now get to follow along with your new adventures. I know you will make the new Chickadee Gardens just as wonderful -- you've got creativity and energy to spare!

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    1. Aw, thanks Denise. I am glad other gardeners believe I can do it. Sometimes it's overwhelming...

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  7. Moving can definitely be stressful. I've done it 17 times! But some of the military moves were easy because I wasn't emotionally invested in the place we were living. We knew it was temporary. Your house is gorgeous. I hope it sells quickly. :o) Have fun setting up your new home.

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    1. OMG really? That's just far too many times. I hope it sells quickly, too. Thanks! I am having fun so far, sort of...there are just SO many things to cover. I couldn't imagine having to remodel. Oy. At least we don't have to face that burden!

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  8. I'm so excited for you, as always...and glad you're finally settling in. I'm sure your plants will be fine...just don't forget to water them if it goes too long without raining. I've had plants sit in pots all winter after I dug them up in the fall and forgot to plant them...they were fine after planting the following spring. Last year, however, it stopped raining in February and I didn't put 2 and 2 together...lost plants I had moved and sort of forgotten, assuming our winter rains would take care of them!

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    1. Good point, Scott. Yes, it was a dry dry dry winter/spring last year, thank you for the reminder. Let's hope for just normal rain for a change, eh?

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  9. OMG, this is totally feeding into my country living fantasy! And the fact that the Safeway is only 2 miles away is totally comforting (you don't have to totally off-grid it!). Good going, T!

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    1. Yay! Comforting indeed. It's really the burbs out here, but if you keep going down the road from where you turn on to our street, it literally is the country. I kind of wish we were out that way a bit more but it's also good to be connected to humanity. Sort of. Hahah...anhyhow, COME VISIT!

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  10. Moving is so stressful. It took a year after moving before our current house felt like home. And a lot of plants I'd moved from my old garden had to tough it out in pots on the patio for months on end before I got them into garden beds (and most got moved after that). But suddenly you turn a corner, and you know you're home. You'll be growing new roots before you know it, and already the adventure of your new home and garden has begun.

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  11. jerihise@comcast.net9:50 AM PST

    My hellebores tell me it is nearly SPRING...come visit in the spring-spring and see if there are plants you would like for your new digs. Great adventure, moving. Have you ever been so tired ... and happy all at the same time? Our move from NYC to Oak Grove 9 years ago was an amazing journey. Deep breaths. It just gets better and better. Cozying up a new home lays a strong foundation for creativity, magic, oxygen. Full speed ahead. Jeri

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  12. Wow what a great new place to live. I loved looking at all your pictures. Moving to a new place can always be tricky but I think the decision was the right one. Change is always good as we adapt and experience new things along the way. Keep up the great work and look forward to reading much more. Thanks.

    Martin Moran @ Buyers Agent San Antonio

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