Given the heat of 2015, our yard and garden is rapidly approaching end of July appearances, for better and for worse.
First, the “for better”. Everything, when given enough water, is blooming, lush, vibrant, and tall. The dozens of tomato plants are all flowering, some have green fruit, and we’re anticipating (barring unforeseen disasters) a tomato crop that could rival a small farm’s (a very small farm!). The peppers aren’t that far behind, and lately, after a quiet month in the ground, all of the basil transplants seem to be doubling in size daily.
While early dusk settled across downtown Portland, the sun still shone brilliantly orange a mere fifteen minutes away, casting long and dappled light onto Sauvie Island. I’d returned to Sauvie for a second visit to The Croft, Greg Stamp and Vail Fletcher’s small farm and even smaller bed and breakfast about a mile past the Corten steel bridge that separates Route 30 from the agricultural island. The first time I’d met the couple – Greg, a former tea buyer for Tazo Tea, and Vail, a professor of communication studies with a focus on culture, conflict, and identity at the University of Portland – we’d sat and sipped tea inside their house, the windows open for a lovely cross breeze, the cool air and lingering clouds dictating our tea and conversation. I’d left that day with a plan to return to see the hay fields in front of their home kissed with golden sunset light, prompted by a feeling that seeing the property in the early evening would allow for a fuller understanding of the lifestyle the couple have consciously planned, laid out, and created.
Genevieve Flanagan is currently a farmer without a single pea pod, head of lettuce, or red radish to show for it. On a typical farm visit in May, I’d expect to see overwintered kale, numerous seedlings waiting for future plantings, and freshly prepared soil. But at Flanagan’s urban farm in Portland’s Parkrose neighborhood, after parking in front of a giant yard that framed a long cinderblock ranch-style house, I walked past recently planted and diminutive trees, tiny tea plants, long grass, and dandelions. To the untrained eye, the backyard looked to be in a similar state: huge, overgrown cherry trees and a wide expanse of grass and weeds with a small flock of adolescent ducklings doing their part to nibble through the vegetation.