Friday, August 8, 2014

Gardening In Transition

After a two year hiatus, I felt that it was important to continue the Central Oregon gardening journey in spite of the state of the economy, the union and the world. Gardening has always been my passion and will continue to be wherever I live!  We sold our home (and my garden) in June of 2012.  Since that time we have moved twice.  We have been in our current rental for over a year and I have to say that I have experienced some small satisfaction in knowing that we have been able to update the curb appeal significantly.  We were told that the house had been empty (bank owned) for about 18 months.   According to the homeowners nearby, it had been vacant since they bought their homes in 2009. The grass and most of the shrubs were dead.  The property management company had hired a landscaper to "spiff" things up a bit before putting the house up for rent. By spiffing we mean that they mowed, feed and watered the grass and chopped back the shrubs. The tough and hardy managed to survive.  In taking inventory, there are two lovely large lavender plants in the front, a red current bush, a small Stella de Oro daylily, a white creeping shrub rose that my research suggests is a variety called "Green Snake", Shasta Daisies, landscape grasses and a pink blooming ice plant.
I dug out the dead shrubs, chopped the overgrown Shasta Daisies into five clumps, moved the daylily out from under the lavender and filled in with plants that I had stashed in four large wine barrels that moved with us in 2012.  I was gratified to find that I had enough raw material to fill in the front and side flower beds with perennials and herbs with just a few (necessary) purchases to round things out.   I added a forsythia shrub, two varieties of agastache, purple cone flower, Gaillardia, creeping phlox, Moonbeam coreopsis, Russian sage, garden sage, thyme and a few new lavenders purchased at the Oregon Lavender Festival in July 2013.
In going through my many bags of seeds I ran across some hollyhock seeds that I had saved for several years and got a wild idea to plant them in several different places in the yard.  I have a myriad of colors planted here and there but the medium pink single seems to be the hardiest of the bunch so they are happily blooming in the corner by the garage.
There was a blank spot in the yard under the kitchen window that cried out to become a mini vegetable garden.  Salad greens, tomatoes and squash are loving the long warm days.  This is the first time in many years that we have attempted tomato plants without a greenhouse. So far the harvest has been good.  We are still dreaming of a garden of our own but as long as I have dirt, water and sun, I will be outside!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons in a Bed of Black Eyed Susan!

We listed our house for sale in early October 2011 and after a slow winter, we received three offers in March and April, 2012.  We accepted one offer, the bank approved it and we closed on June 29, 2012.  So ends a 12 year relationship with a rural property and the garden we worked in.  I am happy to say that the family that purchased the home we built has teenaged children and a great vision for the property!
We are now in a small, 1,600 sq foot rental house in a planned subdivision for the next few years until we find our next project.  Every house has a similar design with a small front yard and a postage stamp fenced in back yard.  I find it surprising that each of the homes in the subdivision has plants, flowers and trees in every spot they can cram them in.  Today as I drove down the street and around the corner I came across a bed of Rudbeckia hirta, (Black Eyed Susan) glowing in the sun.  The rich yellow gold flowers seemed to call to me, and they made me very happy.  I have a friend and a sister that say they do not like yellow flowers and will not grow anything yellow.  I find this hard to understand when there are so many gorgeous plants that bloom in various shades of yellow.  Rudbeckia hurta has a depth and richness that no other plant seems to have.  Looking at the flowers in front of a house very similar to the one we are in gave me a feeling of hope that I can garden just about anywhere and also enjoy borrowed landscape of all the neighbors in this tight little neighborhood.  The plus to being here is the lack of deer!  With a fenced in back yard and an abundance of wine barrels I went a little nuts for petunias!  I have avoided planting summer petunias for many years because it was just too hard to fight with the browsing deer and other critters.  There is a lack of sage rats and burrowing vermin here also, perhaps due to the cat population.  It will take some time to entice the local bird population into the back yard with feeders but we are hopeful that by winter they will learn that we have food for them!  Packing and moving is just plain hard work!  Now that it is over for a few years, I can rest, relax and enjoy a new place and discover surprises like that bed of Rudbeckia!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

2011 Garden Update

While we are still here, we may as well enjoy the garden!

2011 Accomplishments:

1) We finished the lower terrace last spring and planted it with vegetables. Patty pan squash, zucchini, beets, carrots, swiss chard, brussel sprouts, herbs and lettuce. I cannot really count the peas because critters ate all but one little vine and we harvested two pods. The patty pans and zucchini did very well. The greenhouse was full of basil, tomatos and dill that we harvested through November. Worms attacked the brussel sprouts and frost put an end to any harvest. Having never planted them before I had no idea how long it would take to get a harvest.

2) Ripped out the weeds around the rock garden in the field and re-planted the lost lavender and sage plants.

3) Moved hundreds of old fashioned pale purple iris from the east side of the large pond down around the fishpond east of the lower terrace. They look sad and dead right now but spring is coming!

Fabulous find! There is a nursery in Boring Oregon called Boring Bark. They have the best selection of quality perennials I have found in the Pacific Northwest at a small nursery! I purchased a yellow gaillardia (blanket flower) from them that has provided a nice bright spot in the lower terrace next to the fishpond. Deer have never bothered my seedling gaillardia, but they did nip this one a few times. The great part about this plant is that they will re bloom within a few weeks of being nipped so a little deer pruning did not seem to stop it. I purchased the plants in late June and they bloomed until frost put and end to their display. Boring Bark also roasts their own Cats Moon coffee brand and it is very good!  Stop by on your way to Portland for a cuppa!

One year later

One year later we are still here in our house. A Central Oregon saga continues for us and many other homeowners who struggle in this current economy and are bewildered by the whims of the banks! We did not get our modification of course, who has? What would they be modifying anyway? The mortgage company informed us over a year ago that they do not reduce principal to current value. They called several times and informed us that we were denied again (for the 5th time) because we were denied the first time... now does that sound logical? Does this make sense? Nope. They were the ones encouraging us to continue to apply for a loan modification.

In the mean time, back in January 2011, a friend sent me some information about a special program through the Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative (OHSI) Oregon Affordable Housing Assistance Corporation. Oregon was given ten million dollars from the federal governments Hardest Hit Funds to help Oregon homeowners in the "hardest hit" areas prevent foreclosure. These funds are our tax dollars at work. (This remark must be read in a sarcastic voice) We all know that our tax dollars bailed out the banks and the mortgage insurance companies that backed our upside down loans so there is no real motivation to work with the homeowner by giving them a loan modification because if they foreclose the loans are covered through the mortgage insurance on the homes. All win win for the banks and not the upside down homeowner, but that is an entirely different story.

The program would give the homeowner a $20,000 loan that would be paid directly to their mortgage company as mortgage payments for up to 12 months or until the funds ran out. During the 12 month program the homeowner would be required to take classes on finance and credit, etc. and stay in contact with the local non profit hired to administer the program.

I of course, applied. I figured, what the heck, I had all my paperwork in order because I had been filling out loan modification paperwork over and over for a year and a half, how hard could it be? Neighbor Impact was chosen to administer the program and when I went in to my application interview the interviewee was very impressed that I had all my documents in such pristine order. At this point I could potentially hire myself out as a professional loan modification specialist.

Of the 15,000 Oregonians who applied for this assistance, ours was one of the 5,000 that were chosen in a lottery for final review. I found this incredible since according to the documents, my monthly income is half of what our full monthly house payment should be. We were chosen as one of the 348 families in Deschutes County to receive this special loan. I was shocked and amazed that we had been chosen but also thankful because it way buying us time.

As a member of Legal Shield, I faxed the loan documents to our Oregon Provider Law Firm for review. According to the attorney that reviewed the documents, the stipulation on this "loan" stated that if we stayed in the house for 5 years, the loan would go away, if we gave up the home by a short sale or foreclosure before then, we would be liable for any amount of "equity" earned over and above the current mortgage. Since we have a current debt on the house (first and second) of almost $800,000 I think we were safe to assume that there would be no ''equity'' in the home to worry about.

The documents were signed in April and finally in July the first payments, pro rated back to April, were sent to the mortgage company. By September, it was all over. Because our mortgage payments are so high, we got six months of payments out of that $20,000.

I did the program because I could, but the reality is, it is a very small band aid that is being put on a problem that is much larger then anyone can possible imagine. Do we make any more money now then we did a year ago? Nope, working three different businesses’ I am making about the same as I was a year ago. Could I do more? Yes, I am working on that but have not been able to significantly increase my income to the point that I can afford to catch-up the over $70,000 in back payments and start making a monthly mortgage payments. How many other people in Deschutes and Jefferson Counties are in the same boat?

So, what are we doing? Believe this or not, we got a letter from the mortgage company in September that offered to give us funds to move if we put the house on the market for a short sale. I called my Legal Shield Provider Attorney, had them review the program and they gave me the go ahead. The attorney I spoke with said that there was nothing they could see that would cause me any problems and that if it really works, let them know. The fine print on the back stated that the house had to be listed by October 4th. I called my BNI Chapter Realtor, Julie Moe with Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty and she put me in contact with Jordan Haase, the Cascade Sotheby’s short sale expert. She listed the house and sent the docs off to the mortgage company ASAP. Since that time, we have reduced the price from $500,000 to $429,000 and shown the house 6 times. Except for one phone call, and one letter letting us know that they are in communication with our realtor, we have not heard a peep from the mortgage company. We are also not yet in foreclosure. The only explanation I have for still being here and potentially having one more gardening summer is the grace of God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

There and Back Again

Anyone who reads Tolkien would understand the title. There has been so much going on this past fall and winter that I have not had the time or ability to write in a gardening blog! One of the things this gardener really dislikes is moving! I like to stay in one spot and watch my garden grow year after year and track the changes, triumphs and disasters that can happen in one place. I have moved away from my garden and started over several times in my life and each time I feel like I am leaving old friends and family. Due to the economy we have known for awhile that we will be moving at some point in the near future. In the mean time I have been thinking of what to do with a yard full of great plants when it happens! Rather then leave them in the ground to die while the bank does nothing to care for them, I planned to have a huge garden giveaway. When is the best time to throw open the doors of opportunity for all my gardening friends to come dig them all up? I was thinking April would be the time, but at this point, we do not know exactly when we will move or where we will live when we do. My emotions, and plans have been up and down all winter based upon the vagaries of the mortgage company. Bottom line, we have, like many, been waiting for decisions on our loan modification. I will not even go into what incredible convoluted craziness we have dealt with in this process. That story will be for another blog. I will keep all of my garden buddies posted as to when the bid day, week, or weekend will be when my plant friends and family will be up for grabs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

From Useless to Delicious

My daughter and her family moved to Washington state for job and land reasons. They wanted to be able to plant an edible landscape and live where housing costs were lower then central California. The house they bought in an older subdivision northeast of Seattle had recently been spiffed up and landscaped to put it on the market. Not a single plant in the yard was edible, so they began a process of transition that may take them several years. With tall established trees in the back yard, and shrubs galore, there were many areas to evaluate! All the shrubs that did not produce food must GO! I was the beneficiary of the first round of removal when we went to visit two weeks after they moved in. I was able to dig out and bring home a van full of hosta, heather, barberry and other assorted perennials that I knew I could grow in Central Oregon. There were a vast number of unwanted plants that I did not have room for that had an uncertain future. The idea to call a landscaper and tell him, come-n-get-em, was put into play, but the said landscaper did not call back, (his loss) so the rest of the shrubs and plants in the front of the house were composted post haste! Also anything that resembled a juniper was also removed! In the place of the hosta dell is now a blueberry bed! Elderberries and other assorted fruiting shrubs have made their way into the yard as well as beans, tomatoes squash and corn. The transformation of their entire yard will take a number of years and much discussion but at least for them, it is a start! I was a little concerned about the opinion of the neighbors who seem to be really into ornamental shrubs and flowers! Maybe their family will pioneer a neighborhood revolution and more and more of their neighbors will follow suit! I will continue to update you as the Useless to Delicious tale unfolds.

September WHAT?

I know, really? Where did the summer go? I started out in the spring with these wild intentions of blogging my way through the summer and now that our short short summer is on the wane, I have done nothing! I have been busy building a business rather then working in my garden. Some years are like that I suppose. Right now the daylilies need to be cut back, the hollyhocks look silly because one or two of my deer buddies decided they looked better without leaves and the shasta daisies have flopped over. All the perennials need to be dead headed AND my veggie garden was mowed down by a chipmunk and his extended family. We also made a tactical error when we put the veggie bed under the eves of the shop. With no gutter the hail storms and thunder showers trenched the bed right in the center! We have a few tomato's from the greenhouse and that is about it. My energies were not in the veggie realm this year! Thankfully, not one daylily was eaten in bloom by a deer. I have no idea why they were few and far between this year but until just last week, they seemed to avoid my garden! The chipmunks on the other hand and the beetles have been busy. I do not have a single plant without bite marks, hail holes or nibble marks, but once I go at it this weekend with the clippers, most of that will be cut back!