Potager Plans and Garden Inspiration

It’s starting to inch closer to Spring here in Portland, OR. And by Spring I mean, it’s March but the weather is still 27° in the mornings and it’s supposed to snow next week, but hey, who cares right? ME. I care! It’s FREEZING and I am over it. I am ready for warm weather and sunshine and sitting in my backyard enjoying the heat. So I’ve begun daydreaming and planning and pinning my backyard renovation. It’s a long ways to completion since demo and rebuilding of the garage is not on the docket until next summer, but I do want to get quite a few other things done out here this year.

As a reminder, this is what my backyard looked like when I moved into Berrybrier. Very little has changed since then, although the chicken coop is now gone and the vines are less developed since I had help whacking them all back in the fall of 2017.

So since the garage isn’t going to be touched, I’m mainly just looking at the right side of the garden and the rear of the garden this year. There’s a lot of things I want to squeeze into this space: a firepit (how could I not?!), cafe lights (the designer in me requires this), a chicken coop (literally a lifetime dream of mine!), and a vegetable garden! And that’s where my brain really starts to take off…

You see, the front yard (which I worked on a bit last summer with mixed results), I envision as this colorful, English country garden full of a chaotic mix of plants and some veggies with a meandering path leading around the house. Some of this will continue around the edges of the backyard as well. It will be full of life and slightly overgrown, a bit like this but more natural chaos. Lush greenery and bursts of color. Yum.

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In the backyard, I want to grow a whole ton of vegetables and this requires a more organized space. So I hoped on Pinterest and got inspired real quick. I want a potager, people. I want a fancy French kitchen garden and I want it to look a little something like this one below. The composed order of these beds just delights me. I know, I know, I am weird, but seriously, this really floats my boat. I can see walking out my backdoor and walking down my backsteps into this little potager full of veggies with a big firepit in the center and cafe lights on either side stringing from the house to the chicken coop at the back of the yard. Sounds dreamy, right?

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I dream of having something very organized and orderly. Yes, I am extremely Type A, how perceptive, of you! I’d love four large garden beds eventually encircling a firepit centered on the back of the house. A bit like this but with the center being a firepit with four big chairs rather than another planter. This shows a more naturalized garden beyond the potager as well, which is exactly what I have in mind!

The stone lined beds above have so much more of a European vibe than a wooden raised bed to me. They’re pretty, but stone gets expensive quick! I love the bricks here below surrounding the in ground vegetable beds. It’s beautiful and romantic and I love the mix of materials. I am leaning towards this over raised beds or stone lined beds, as it’s a bit more flexible if I want to change things up next year when the garage is demoed. Plus, when I bought Berrybrier, there were a ton of old bricks which I’ve moved around my yard aimlessly and they would be perfect for this purpose.

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This potager is entirely charming and I love the little outbuilding here all in white. I plan on painting my chicken coop white to match the house trim paint and if I’m lucky it will look half as cute as that little she-shed! Although I like the look, I won’t be paving the entire space between my garden beds with brick.

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For my garden pathways, I plan to use flat stones and fill the spaces between them with various varieties of thyme and other low growing groundcovers. I recently picked up some quartzite from a family friend and laid that as a path in the front yard, I’ll pick up more of it to really create a path. And then once the plants grow in, it just might look like this.

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This picture below I’ve pinned at least a dozen times. It is utterly charming and what really catches my eye (other than the darling chickens) is the boxwood hedge lining this part of the garden. Am I crazy to want to attempt that too?! I will need to measure my space to see if it makes any sort of sense, but I am very tempted to create a natural fence like this somewhere on the Berrybrier property. I also love how beautiful the vines climbing the outbuilding is, sculptural and lovely in summer and winter.

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The chicken coop would be a simple little structure with a central door and windows with window boxes on either side. On the inside it would be separated into two spaces one for storage (and maybe future Nigerian Dwarf Goats?!) and the other for the chickens.

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In both the front and the back, I want to add lots of evergreen plants so the whole yard isn’t just sticks in the winter. I have a lot of trouble with sticks all winter here in Portland. In California, winter is green and lush and summer is brown and dry. Here winter is grey and dull and the rest of the year is green and lush. It’s not my favorite.

I’ll also find/built some architectural pieces to support some climbing plants. Hopefully this will add to the landscape and create a secret garden feeling. I want the yard to have several meandering plants and some visual barriers that force you to discover different spots as you walk around.

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Another dream for the distant future would be to add an above ground hot tub to the side yard and surround it with greenery and some cafe lights for a dreamy place to relax and soak in the evenings. I desperately love soaking in hot water and not having a bathtub anymore is definitely not going to work for me in the long term. I love the way this tub seems to be part of the landscape! Mine would definitely be above ground, but if I can channel half of these vibes, I’d be ecstatic!

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It will take years for the plants to mature and grow in this manner and I’m not likely to afford such a luxury as a hot tub anytime soon, but in the meantime, I am going to continue dreaming my dream and planning and planning. Oregon is so nice to plants and gardens and the lushness here is barely comprehendible for a California girl like me. Hopefully with a lot of effort and care and good ole rain, I can achieve something like this dream!

What is your garden like? Did you take time to plan it before planting or are you more of a plant as you go type of person? I am completely in the middle, planning the general direction and planting whatever I fall in love with at the nursery!

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Welcome to Berrybrier!

I bought a house! AHHHHHHHHH!! That is the sounds of my brain doing somersaults with my stomach. It’s a lovely feeling. But, truly, this is an incredibly exciting thing I’ve been wanting for a looong time. To have a place of my own feels fantastic! We closed on August 18th and I’ve been up to my ears in dirt, dust, and tools ever since. It’s the best thing ever. I finally feel settled in to my own home and you can bet that I’ll be tearing up DIYing the heck out of this place. In fact, I’ve already gotten started, but before I share that, I’ll give you a look around the place!

This moneypit house is a real fixer-upper and not in a cute Joanna Gains farmhouse-y style. As in, this house needs help. BIG HELP. And I’m here to lend a hand! Pretty much everything needs fixing on this place, and yes I do mean everything. Name something that could need to be repaired on a home and this house needs it. Although to some, that could be completely daunting, I’m just looking forward to many years of projects ahead! Which is excellent considering that’s all I’ll be doing for the next long while.

From the very first moment I saw the first pictures of this house on Redfin, I knew it was my house. I literally gasped aloud and got a strange feeling in my gut. THIS was my house. I knew it. After seven months of looking and putting in offer after offer, I had found the one. It checked all the boxes: pre-1940s, 2+ bedrooms, a big yard, room to grow, good location near shops and restaurants, easy commute, plenty of projects. Y’all are going to think I’m crazy when you get a look at these pictures, but something about this house is just so right. Enough preamble, though! Let’s dive in.

That very first image I ever saw of the house looked something like this one below. Basically, you could tell there was a house and that it was blue, but mostly all you saw was greenery!

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At some point, someone really loved this yard and planted tons of wonderful things like walnut trees, redbuds, hydrangeas, asparagus, mint, dill, parsley, fuschias, roses, etc etc etc. That person has not lived in this house for a loooong time though and in the last many years, this yards have become completely overgrown. It’s a mess! But a glorious mess full of glorious surpises like late blooming Magnolia trees and hidden troves of bricks!

You walk to the front door of the house through the driveway, which isn’t ideal, but I’m unlikely to be able to afford to change that any time soon. So everyone who comes over is greeted by the sight of my lovely garage. Don’t mind the doors. That’s just what they look like when they think they’re “closed.”

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The garage is basically falling down. But don’t worry, it’s not the garage’s fault. The garage has a terrible parasite: poorly planned additions. Yup, that’s right folks, the garage has not one, not two, but three additions! Awww, bless it’s little heart, it is still  hanging in there.

If we walk down the driveway to the back of the house, you get to meet yet another fun add-on: an octagonal deck and it’s multi-material roof. Now this is beauty, ladies and gentleman. Oh and yes, it is also basically falling down.

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Does the above picture confuse  you a little bit? Here, let me help. This should explain things better…

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Still confused? Me too. Let me try to state a few facts to help clarify. The above picture shows two of the garage additions: a workshop and a chicken coop. The structure coming out of the garage is the roof that covers the deck. It’s made of corrugated fiberglass, plywood(??), and a whole lot of screws. The supports for this little DIY roof, descend into the garage and chicken coop roofs, essentially ensuring that all water will collect there and all the things will rot. It’s a fantastic design. Truly, I could not have thought of it myself. The octagonal deck is made of 8 sides of different lengths varying from 15′ to 2′, just because, why not? The stairs of the deck descend into the corner of the garage and end about 4″ from it. As far as I can tell, this is designed specifically so that when you fall down the stairs your skull will crack completely open. That’s just my interpretation though. Also, this deck? Covers seemingly perfect condition original concrete steps. God, I love this house.

On to the backyard. This – and no sarcasm here – is what truly won my heart. This yard is bursting with potential. Potential and a whole lot of berries. On the far right is a huge magnolia tree that provides plenty of shade for a future table and chairs. Beyond that? All berries. Yup that huge mound of greenery is all RASPBERRIES!! AKA the best thing on earth except for chocolate. I spent my time touring this house eating raspberries from the backyard and it was heavenly. I cannot wait until next summer! You can also see a falling down fence, 1940s laundry line, and the huge chicken coop window in this picture. Why your chicken coop needs such a large window is a little beyond me, but I am assuming it’s so your chickens can torture Portland’s raccoons and coyotes.

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Here’s another view of the backyard looking towards the front. Here you see a huge rosemary bush, tons and tons of mint, a redbud tree, some parsley, and plenty of bees & butterflies. It’s really gorgeous if you can get past the flaking paint on the house. Yup the house needs painting. And a roof. Somehow I can afford this? I am surprised too. Luckily the windows are all updated! They’re double-paned which is pretty essential here in the Pacific Northwest. They are dark green vinyl exterior, wood interior windows which although it’s not my first choice, I’m pretty happy to have updated windows. I get to pick a really awesome paint color for the house’s siding to coordinate with the hunter green exterior windows and I can paint the inside any thing I want!

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Let’s go inside shall we? Here is the foyer! I am obsessed with this multi-paneled door. I think it is absolutely gorgeous and just needs to be sanded down and re-stained a darker walnut tone. That will make it look far less orange and 1980s. The foyer is open to the living room. Originally, this part of the house was an exterior porch that was converted into living space in the earlier part of the century. You can see the transition of the flooring. When they enclosed the porch they decided to keep the downward slope of the floor (that all porches have for drainage). That, my friends, is called “character.” The light fixture is kind of hideous, but also weird and beautiful, so I’m keeping it. The opening on the right to the dining room.

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The floors in the house are softwood – fir. They’re gorgeous and miraculously in good shape! The living room is relatively spacious and gets great light through south and west facing windows. The fireplace is an “update” from the 1960s or maybe 1970s. I’ll be completely reworking it down the line, but for now, it’s a functional fireplace! Which means s’mores! And fire! The pyro in me is just too pleased.

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This picture explains some of the flow of the house too. Standing in the corner of the room by the fireplace you can look out of the big front window to the front jungle yard and almost see the front door tucked in the niche in the corner. The dining room opens to the living room and you can almost see it on the right.

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The dining room is a little less bright since it has more northern light, but it’s a great size and fits my round table with room to grow. There is also a closet which we can’t close the door to, because it gets stuck shut. Which it is right now. Stuck shut, I mean. Just add that to my to do list, mmkay, thanks! Shout out to my dad about to walk up the front steps carrying tools though!

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Next you go through this teeny hall that has the basement door on one side and this strange hall to the lower floor bedroom on the other side. This is from the end of the hall looking towards the living room. The ceiling in the hall here drops lower because of the stairs. This lovely accordion door could be closed if you wanted to hide the kitchen from view. But yeah, that door already bit the dust. No thanks, accordion door!

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The weird little hall to the bedroom is kinda gross, but there’s a big closet at the end. This will end up being my closet because there isn’t actually a closet in the lower floor bedroom. PFffft. Closets. Whatever. So last year.

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The lower floor bedroom will end up being my bedroom. The other two I will be renting out. This room has nice high ceilings, picture railing, and northern light (good for sleeping). It also has a 24″ wide door to Portland’s smallest powder room.

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If you ever wanted to wash your hands while peeing, this bathroom is for you. Your knees literally tuck right under the wall mounted sink. In a bathroom this small, you’d better add 1970’s faux-paneling though. That’s the cherry on top. Truly, it’s precious, vct flooring and all. Plus look! The previous owner left us toilet paper.

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Let’s go into the kitchen. Look at these cabinets! The wallpaper! The old cast iron sink! This room is pretty dim from the roof that’s over the back deck, but I have a quick fix for that. It’s called demo. I wanted to try to keep these cabinets, they’re not in bad shape at all! Two weeks into the house, and I’m not positive they’re salvageable though. The flooring in this room though? The exact same as what my Oma had in her kitchen!

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Here’s a shot of the room that helps with layout. I took this standing on the landing of the stairs that lead to the upper level of the house. Look how cute the glass cabinets are though! SO MUCH POTENTIAL!

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This is one of my favorite details of the house. a little paint, a little crown moulding, and these will be cute cute cute!

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But why talk about the cute when we can talk about the ugly? Let’s go into the bathroom! Space planning these bathrooms was an issue. They’re also located in part of the house that was originally the back porch and it’s only about 54″ wide. So clearly you should put a ginormous bathtub in there, slap sheet vinyl on the floor AND the vanity, paint the walls dark magenta, and buy a pink toilet to match. It’s only right!

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Okay, let’s move on. The stairs! They’re not so bad! I mean the railing is black because it’s apparently NEVER been cleaned, but other than that, they’re quite pretty and not super narrow like most added to this era of home.

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The bedrooms on the second level are both under the eaves and just so cute. They both get fantastic light and are super cozy. And by cozy, I mean hot as balls right now, but you get the picture. The plaster is looking not so great on that back wall because someone plastered over wallpaper, because… well I’ve already said it.

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The closets in this room are a little funky, but that’s just vintage. A little rehab-ing and it will be completely adorable. Look at the gorgeous door though! Five panels!!!! I love it, love it, love it. Also the daisy flower heat register? THERE IS NOTHING MORE CHARMING.

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The other bedroom is where I am currently sweating sleeping, because I’ve given the lower floor bedroom to my parents who are helping me jump start the renovations on this place. Yay! Parents! The closet in here is a little more spacious and a little less funky. The room is a sweat sweet blue color that will be great in the fall or whenever Oregon decides to no longer be 100+ degrees. It’s just a tad hot at the moment. But my tried and true method of sleeping with a washcloth full of ice is doing the trick.

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And that’s it! That’s the house! I can’t wait to share all that I’ve been up to in the last few weeks and all that I’ve been dreaming about starting in the months to come. Get ready for oversharing and lots of learning experiences. Like this one for instance: I recently learned that I look like this after spending 3 hours moving bricks in 100° heat.

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I promise, give me a few months and this house will be almost as beautiful as that face. If that’s even possible. And if the spiders I keep finding EVERYWHERE don’t eat me first. Only time will tell!

Oh! And I named the house. Or I named the property. I am a total nerd, but I’ve always loved when people named their homes. This place is officially named Berrybrier. I’ll get into all the reasons later, but a good part of the origin starts with that out of control raspberry bush in the backyard!

So what do you think? Am I totally crazy, in over my head? Probably. Did you buy a fixer upper? Have tips for laying brick patios? What is your house called?

 

 

Celebrating 24

This past Saturday I turned thirty-five twenty-four and despite my wish to be about ten years older, it was a wonderful birthday weekend!

 

Friday evening I threw a big birthday party at my house. I absolutely love having parties. They don’t need to be formal or a lot of work to be fun! I did most of my party prep on Thursday evening after work so Friday I had plenty time to do the last few things before my guests arrived. Lucky me, I had some wonderful helpers on Friday who helped get everything ready to go in the last few minutes so I had time to shower!

 

I’ll be sharing a few recipes the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to give you a little preview. We prepped quite a spread. My personal food mantra is there is never too much. I’ve inherited a love of food and feeding people from my father’s side of the family. I simply am not comfortable when I have visitors unless there is a drink in their hand and a snack in their mouth. I have aunts who simply will not rest when you come over, unless you’ve eaten a post-dinner snack and have a bowl of ice cream with homemade fudge sauce in your hand. It’s one of the most endearing qualities of my extended family. These are definitely traits that have been passed on from my parent’s generation to my cousins and I. My food table was quickly full!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

So at the party I wanted to do a few simple things. I prepped a quick version of my delicious, thick, vegan Butternut Squash Soup on Thursday evening. On Friday I quickly heated up a veggie broth, added everything I’d roasted the day before, and pureed it all together. Then my three helpers (my darling sister Bronwyn, and two of my best friends, Hannah & Nicole) put together a small army of crostini, the toppings of which I’d also prepped on Thursday. Now I love a good crostini, they’re delicious! I’ve already shared my favorite fall appetizer, a Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Lemon Ricotta crostini and these spring versions were just as easy! They came out just gorgeous and oh so colorful! I promise they also tasted as good as they looked. Other foods I served? A delicious (but small) Mango-Mint Salad, a cheese plate, and a Spring Veggie Couscous salad. Yum!  To top off the entire evening of eating, my sister made an absolutely gorgeous chocolate raspberry cake. It was beautiful! Chocolate raspberry is my dream cake so I was in dessert heaven.

 

For my actual birthday on Saturday, I went out to brunch with my parents and sister at a place in North Berkeley called Cafe Leila. The food was alright. I think the pastries are the way to go at that place, but I ordered pancakes. They were a bit undercooked. Oops! Their selection of teas and lattes is pretty amazing though. We all shared one of their cronuts as well. That was flakey and delicious! My parents gifted me an amazing sewing machine that does an amazing number of awesome stitches so look forward to some sewing tutorials in the future! First step? Hemming some curtains for my bedroom!

 

After brunch my parents left and my friend Hannah arrived. My sister, Hannah, and I then all headed down the California coast towards Santa Cruz! We got a super late start, leaving shortly after 1:00pm. We took 92 over the San Mateo Bridge and over into Half Moon Bay. Before we got to the cute town, we stopped at some of the nurseries to see the amazing array of plants. The greenhouses were humid and simple signs reading “Orchids for Sale” did nothing to disclose the amazing sites within. Orchids as far as you could see in every direction. In every color! It was beautiful!

 

Orchids to Die For | Land of Laurel

 

In another greenhouse, there were amazing carnivorous plants (many of which I wanted to buy considering our summer fly problem!) and nestled among them tiny fairy houses. It was so cute! And these carnivorous plants were so interesting and unusual.

 

Carnivorous Plants & Fairy Houses | Land of Laurel

 

Lastly there were the succulents and cacti! Plants to die for! I wanted to take all of them home and slowly kill them (my go-to method for succulent care). They were so beautiful though!

 

Cacti & Succulent Nursery | Land of Laurel

 

After I’d died and gone to heaven at the nurseries we continued the little ways down Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay where we stopped briefly for sandwich snacks at a small deli and creeped on adorable chicks at the cute hay and feed store on Main Street. Some day I will get to go in and buy those baby chicks rather than just looking! Seriously, there is nothing cuter, y’all!

 

Baby Chicks | Land of Laurel

 

After our pit stop, we hopped onto Highway One and continued down the beautiful coast, stopping occasionally to take in the ocean views. At one point we found what seemed to be a wind surfing convention. Literally dozens of windsurfers were winding their way around in the water by this one beach. It was beautiful and so colorful! All the colors of the sails seemed so joyful against the backdrop of the blue ocean and sky.

 

Windsurfers | Land of Laurel

 

By the time we got into Santa Cruz it was already pretty late. We stopped first at Penny Ice Creamery for Bitter Carmel cones topped with toasted marshmallow fluff. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it! It’s the most amazing combination! The only Penny Ice Creamery to have this combo, seemingly, is the one on 41st Street, so be sure to plan accordingly! We walked with our cones down to Pleasure Point where we found a nice bench to finish devouring them. We spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance which made it even more lovely. We walked down East Cliff for a little while, watching the surfers and beach-goers.

 

Santa Cruz East Cliff | Land of Laurel

 

After our short walk, we headed to Pacific Ave for some window shopping before finishing the evening with dinner at I Love Sushi (we got four of the five Vegetarian Special Rolls and split them) and a bowl of soul at Verve Coffee. All too soon it was time to hit the road, but it had been a truly lovely birthday!

 

What do you like to do for your birthdays? Celebrate with a big party? A few friends? Just spend time with your family?