Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Great Adventure

We live around the corner from a nearly 100 year old university that was built in the middle of pasture lands and had a neighborhood grow up around it. Nearly 30 years ago the administration had the foresight to recognize that they were running out of room in the space they already occupied. So, focusing on three full city blocks they began to buy the houses there one by one as they came up for sale. Once in ownership of the University those houses were used for student housing of married couples while attending school. They were rented at a greatly reduced rate ($300 a month or so) so the majority of their finances could allow them to attend school. It's finally come around to the point where all of the houses and property are now owned by the school. The plan is to turn those blocks into the schools new sports complex. But what of the houses? The structures themselves were sold for $1 each. A whole house for $1?! Yup! The catch is, they have to be moved, which is spendy. Yet, more good news, they were all sold to a single home moving company that has arranged to move them to another part of town where they are in the process of building a community for low income families. The idea being that they build community and home ownership.

What does this mean for all the plants that will be left behind? Well, they're free for the taking!! Oh YES. Three full city blocks of free plants. The mind boggles. How did I find all this out? I'm extra friendly with total strangers. ;^) I went for an evening stroll the other night and took a route though the abandoned blocks (which are eerily quite and creepy). Emerging on the other side I noticed that the yards were so much better maintained then from where I'd come. I noticed an arbor on the side of one house that I quite admired and thought I could do something similar in our yard and wanted to take a picture. I would be creeped out if someone just came by and took a picture of my house so I had a small internal debate about whether or not to just take the picture and go but in the end decided against it.

A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for the Portland area and the Willamette Valley until late Thursday night. In all, seven counties in Oregon are affected by the thunderstorm watch, which was issued by the National Weather Service at about 2 p.m. The National Weather Service also issued a warning of flooding in urban areas. The watch is in effect until 9 p.m. FOX 12 meteorologist Drew Jackson said large hail and damaging winds from the thunderstorms are possible.

We are having crazy weather right now. The power is flickering and we're getting 60+ mile an hour wind gusts. We're also about to get deluged and there maybe flooding. Oh goody. At least I was able to harvest the broccoli and snow peas this afternoon. ::crosses fingers for the rest of the garden::

I knocked on the door. It was opened by the most delightfully friendly woman. I think she was thrilled that I was so admiring of their yard - it really was lovely. Turns out her and her husband both work at the University and he's the facilities coordinator. He knows ALL. =) They suggested that I take any and all plants that I wanted from any of the houses on those blocks (with his blessing and permission). The houses will be moved soon and the yards around them turned under and the earth moved and leveled to make a playing field.

Oh how I wish I could save all those old trees! As it is I don't have a ton of room for more plants but I do have that new small area of the new bed that needed some shade plants. Of course the trouble is most of the houses have been vacated since last November and I guess I'm late to discover the whole "free plant" thing. I did take a stroll though all the blocks and even poked around in the back yards. It was fun! It was also kinda creepy and stupid as I was alone and anyone could've been hiding in any of those houses waiting for an opportunity like me to come along. The other trouble is a lot of plants need steady water and attention so I'm sure many of them died. Many others were dug up already as evidenced by the steady amount of "pot holes" I found in the yards once I started looking for them. I was able to secure several very nice ferns, some bleeding heart and a pretty little flowering plant I don't know the name of. It's a start. I kept my eye out for a hellabore but didn't see any. Most of the yards are quite over grown with weeds at this point. I might go back - maybe I missed something?

I'm also going to cut this post short. I want to conserve some battery power on the laptop while we have this storm passing through - just in case. It's gonna be a good one - batten down the hatches!!


Joanne said...

Free plants! Well done. That storm sounds scary!

Toni-zone 4 WY said...

Great post!

What sight to behold as all those homes get moved!

You'll have to post about the plants that you end up "salvaging!"

Topsy said...

I live in North Portland. Are you talking about U of P? What area or blocks are affected? Such a sad thing for the mature trees!

Just Jenn said...

Joanne, that storm was all bark and no bite. Big gusty wind and some rain for a couple of hours then *poof* gone.

Toni, I got a few but not many. We've had a bit of rain now so I might go back for more ferns now that they'll be easier to dig out. I'll try to take some picture of my rescued plants soon.

Topsy, Not UofP no... a little further East.