I Have Found the Elusive Raspberry Shortcake!

I have been on a quest to locally procure BrazelBerries’s brand new plant out this year, the elusive Raspberry Shortcake.  And yesterday while at Portland Nursery with my sister and the kids helping them shop – THERE THEY WERE!  They had a about 20 in total, they had just come in that day and the checkout person assured me that we were indeed was quite lucky, these would no doubt be gone in by the end of the day.  My sister and relieved them of 3.

rasberry shortcake in pot

My quest (OK, a strong word) has involved multiple trips to the PN (they are only being by a limited number of resellers both locally and online) only to find that they are out.   “When do they arrive?” I naively asked, and they said, “We don’t know.”  “Can you call me they do”, I asked, and they said “No”.  After the 4th trip to PN and getting the same answers I gave up.  I had not planned to go to PN yesterday (I was supposed to working and my wonderful boss gave me the day off so I could play around with my Sister and Nieces in their yard.)  I didn’t even want to go to PN, I wanted to go the nursery down the street.  I had been making so many fruitless (pun intended) trips there I was a little bitter.  And then yesterday – THERE THEY WERE!  (What is that saying about finding something when you quit looking????)

Why are they so special?  I love raspberries but don’t have the room or desire to have long, prickly, out of control canes popping up all over my yard.  These plants claim the following:

  • Dwarfed so they stay small and compact (3′) but still produce normal size fruit
  • Perfectly suited for containers and small yards/gardens
  • No staking since they grow as more of a bush

Clearly I’m a little excited.  All 3 are planted, 1 at my Sister’s house in a container, and 2 here in my newly tilled bed out front (stay tuned for a future post on that project).

This post also seems like the prefect excuse to thow in some more niece pictures…

Garden in Training

House and Garage Get a Facelift

She is 84 after all…I’m sparing you the 3,000 pictures of the entire process showing the piles and piles of garbage and complete chaos a project like this creates…needless to say the neighborhood was VERY happy when this project was complete.  Before the facelift, it really was one of the most unappealing houses on the block.  The pink-ish vinyl siding wasn’t exactly vintage Portland.   We built a new garage in 2011 with the intent of matching the pinkish siding, since we knew we couldn’t afford to reside the main house.  But, as luck would have it, the contractor couldn’t locate this wondering siding…and feeling bad he offered to reside the entire main house at cost (love my contractor).  Thank you ugly siding!!!!!  It took another year to get to the main house but now it’s finally finished and results are very satisfying.

The Garage:

The original garage was completely useless, you can’t tell from the pictures but the roof was rotted and the interior was a scary, moldy, damp, mess.  The seller did put a new door on the garage…what a surprise when I opened it to find a rotted core!  I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to have a garage…the entire landscaping project of 2012 would not have possible without this new garage in place first.

12-31-2012 1-33-45 PM

Main House:

The issues with the main house may not be readily apparent from the pictures.  The 2nd story addition that was added before the house was purchased in 2005 created a big, ugly, blank wall that faced the street – devoid of any architectural interest.  The existing fence was also rotting off the rails.  For the 1st 5 years the focus was on creating camouflage, knowing that new siding was too expensive.  This consisted of planting >6 trees, 1 of which you can see on the left side of the top right picture, during “Operation Hide The House”.  The new siding is HardiePlank, which is more in keeping with the stype of the neighborhood, and the darker color helps the house recede a bit and not stand out like a sore thumb as it did before.

12-31-2012 1-55-57 PM

2012 was a good year for curb appeal.  It took 7 years but now I feel proud of my house when I drive up instead of apologetic.  The neighbors are VERY happy, and it will now free me up to focus on overhauling the front yard and curbs this spring/summer.

Solar Evaluation

One of the projects I had planned for the summer was to investigate installing solar panels on my new garage.  I had this vision that I could come home, plug-in my car in (plug-in car required), and have it powered cleanly from the sun (sun required).

The proposed location:

I thought I had the perfect spot…at least it appeared that way all winter.  What I forgot about, and what became obvious over the summer, is that my neighbor has a perfectly lovely tree in their yard that is shading my solar spot….and the tree is still growing!

The company giving me the quote ran what they call a Solar Access (the ability of one property to continue to receive sunlight across property lines without obstruction from another’s property) estimate for my location (tree shade growth not factored).  For you geeks out there here are the results:

Without the tree the numbers aren’t bad, an average of 86% over the year.  Who says Portland doesn’t get sun????  The estimated energy savings if I could achieve this level of solar access would be 2,482KW per year.  This would offset ~20% of my current usage.

The Cost:  This is where the rubber met the road….a 3kW system would cost me $17k.  The incentives are signifcant, over a 4 year period the total cost to install would end up closer to 5k.

The Final Analysis: Although this was never about the ROI, I had to crunch the numbers anyway.  Using the offset estimate, an esitmate of future electric rates, and the cost of the system after incentives…it would take 10years to pay for itself….which I found to be a bit depressing.

The Reality:  I don’t have 17k to spend right now (you will see why later) on what would essentially be a “statement” that I care about my footprint.  I have not ruled out solar (smaller system…bigger than a light and smaller than 3kW) for perhaps another spot in the yard but for now this project is “Closed”.

I’m still following the Solarize NE activities and am thrilled I live in a city with opportunities and groups like this one.

CSA – 2nd Week

One of my goals this year was to join a local CSA.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  You basically buy your food directly from the farmer!  You pay upfront and then receive harvest throughout the year.   Here are some advantages of a CSA (copied directly from the http://www.localharvest.org/csa/):

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

If you want to find a CSA in your area checkout Local Harvest.

I joined Sauvie Island Organics.  I chose this CSA because it’s been in business for quite a while, has a great reputation, friends have used it, pick-up is just blocks from my house, and it supplies some of my favorite local restaurants.  Plus, they have a great blog, you can see the harvests from past years, they have partnered with a local chef who posts recipes specific to that week’s harvest, and they send you an email right before the weekend to give you an idea what is coming so you can shop accordingly!

I signed up for a half-share (good for 1-2 people), and a salad share.  So far I’m very happy!  The greens have been amazing.  I highly recommend this to folks who love veggies, want to support local farming, and what to get out of rut and cook with some new veggies they might not normally buy.