Sunday, November 7, 2021

 Marjie Chambers passed away Wednesday, Oct. 27, after battling cancer for over a year. She was surrounded by her loving family at home.

Between trips to the Oregon Coast, Hawaii and Disneyland, her most precious destination was that of her home in Southeast Portland.

From befriending her grade school librarian in Clatskanie, Ore., to working in several Portland Public High School libraries, reading was a passion for Marjie.

She and her husband Ron raised two sons in which ultimately led to five grandchildren between the two families.

A menagerie of animals were also a major part of the Chambers family throughout the years.

May she rest peacefully now.

We love you, MeMa

Monday, July 19, 2021

Making The Best Of A Situation

As the saying goes “When you are served lemons, you make lemonade.” So that’s exactly what we did. Last year the city of Portland notified us that they would be removing a large portion of our front walk and installing a wheelchair ramp. I asked if that was a wise expense since there are driveway approaches on either end. The response was “They are not ADA approved.”

As the work began the first lemon rolled our way....they needed to cut into my neatly trimmed ground cover, “Just a little bit” because the walkway was not wide enough to accommodate large wheelchairs.

That’s not “a little bit”.

They were very apologetic as they removed more and then a little more.

The work was finished but the problem remaining was the portion of the ground cover that was left quickly started dying, not to mention was very unsightly.

So with the help of our son Nathan it was removed.

And we now have lemonade.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Fix It

Up early this morning we busied ourselves getting Miss Roxy fed and then outside to do her business and then loaded her into the car for a thirty minute drive to Hillsboro were MeMa checked into the Hospital to have her third stent replacement which help protect her kidneys while the chemotherapy continues.  As usual I was able to go in with her while all the paper work was completed but  because of Covid restrictions we said our goodbye's and then I joined Miss Roxy in the car. Try as I might I just can't get comfortable in this car......not our car. Yesterday a pesky little warning light appeared on the reader board of our car so we stopped at the dealer to have it checked out. We were given a rental and the nice lady told us they would let us know. It was a combination of MeMa's successful surgery this morning and having to drive this god awful rental, that when the nice lady called back and said the problem will disappear when we approve the 12 hundred dollar bandaid. I said, "Fix it, I hate this rental, I want my heated seats, sunroof and all those electric buttons and gizmos that this rental doesn't have ." And I promise I won't complain about the fact that it is dark grey instead of red, even when I can't find it the next time leave it in a parking lot filled with dark grey cars. 


This car was parked in front of me at the Hospital. I was a bit slow when I looked at the jumble of letters but then I put the type of car, an Infinity with the plate NBYND. The Toy Story hero Buzz Lightyears famous saying "To Infinity and Beyond" 

A first timer Peony bloom in the garden - Duchess de Nemours

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Photo Op


While my wife was having chemotherapy our eldest son did a great job of keeping me distracted. I was showing him what I had planted in the kitchen garden when this little Anna's Hummingbird fed on the pendulous flowers of this clump of Cerinth growing along the fence of the old chicken yard.  She was completely unafraid of us standing less than a foot away and didn't mind us snapping photo after photo.

Thursday, May 20, 2021



It is peony season here at the moment and like Camelia season it is over with in a hurry. MeMa picks as many as she can and brings them in the house where our unpredictable weather will not play a roll in  shortening their already short bloom period. Peonies are one flower that can be picked while in a tight bud, brought into the house and in a few days they bloom and make a lovely display.

Tree Peony "Boreas"

Bush peony "Mothers Choice"

Intersectional Peony "Garden Treasure"

In all we have around twelve different peonies and plenty of room for new ones. And if we are feeling up to going to the Peony Festival this year I have prepared the beds for any new purchases. I had a treatment yesterday, my fifth. Tomorrow morning MeMa has another five hour chemo infusion and typically is feeling poorly for the next three days.

When the peony beds are finished blooming then my collection of hydrangeas (20+) start their long bloom period and halfway into that season MeMa's dahlias start blooming.
In the meantime there are so many other plants and flowers to enjoy. When MeMa is not able to wander about the gardens that I have built for her enjoyment then she can lounge in the sunroom which looks right out into the gardens.

The main view out the sunroom

We have 18 trees in the gardens, but one of my very favorites is this golden chain.


My Holden Clough Iris 

Calla Lilies

Very patriotic looking Basket that our eldest son gave MeMa for Mothers Day

Just planted this window box on the kitchen window

By the end of the day we are all exhausted, even Miss Roxy. It's a lot of work being cute.

The End


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Busy Week

 When I drew back the curtains this morning there was a group of dog walkers standing out front with cell phones pointed my way. One of them gave a wave as I stepped back into the shadow of the parlor. They were taking photos of the old Mt Fuji Cherry tree that is in its height of bloom and others were taking photos of the Monkey Puzzle tree. They were all happily talking and comparing photos while their dogs looked for something more to pee on. 

It has been an exhausting week here at Menagerie Manor. The Crazy Cat Lady who lives next door announced that she was going to have her current drive removed and a new one installed. So we told her to hold off her contractor and we would have our old oil tank decommissioned.  A past neighbor three properties over was in the process of  selling her house and was told she couldn't do so until she had her oil tank decommissioned. She got an estimate of five thousand dollars and by time they finished she had to pay fifteen thousand because it leaked and the soil had to be removed as well as most of her cement drive in order to get to the contaminated soil. Her house was built in the 50's and Menagerie Manor was built in 1916 so we expected a considerable expense. That old tank has to have leaked, but we were very wrong. The company that I called arrived promptly and told me that our tank was pre-war so it was probably made of better material. during and after the war there was a shortage of metal so the tanks are an inferior quality. They took a core sample and sent it in to be tested. We received a letter back from the state and they said there was leakage on one end but very insignificant so no further testing was necessary and the tank could be decommissioned.

The tank itself is eight feet long and would hold 675 gallons of oil which we had pumped out 30 years ago when we switched to natural gas. They had to dig down and remove a small opening to the top of the tank, clean out the small amount of sludge. and fill it with all of these bags of perlite.
After they left I re-planted the two Rhododendrons back over top of the tank area and it looked as though nothing happened. The whole process cost us just under two thousand dollars. 
Basically at the same time the oil tank debacle was going on our 20 year old gas furnace decided it was going to retire immediately without two weeks notice. So I called our good friend who happens to own the heating and cooling company that we have always dealt with. So with "friends of the family" discount and several other discounts mostly due to our age and just over five thousand dollars we now have heat

The new one reminds me of a hot rod with all of its fancy pipe work on the top

They are returning tomorrow to install an extra heat vent in the laundry room free of charge so our resident tortoises will have an abundance of heat during the colder season. The installers were quite taken by 110 year old Ruby and the young buck Elmo at 85 years.

This is a photo of our eldest son Nathan holding Ruby shortly after I rescued her, Nathan is 41 years old now.

This is myself holding Ruby many years later just before I retired.

While all these escapades were going on the city was hard at work ripping out a perfectly good sidewalk in front of our home.

They were very careful not to disturb most of the landscape and by the end of the same day they finished up their work and now Menagerie Manor has a new sidewalk with a wheel chair ramp and no it did not cost me a cent......yet!

MeMa has been doing very well with her new Chemo regimen surprising her Oncologist because this chemo is considerably stronger causing severe nausea and vomiting which she has not experienced. I have started my new treatment for bladder cancer as well which will continue for nine weeks. It has also proved to show none of the expected side effects. 
My 88 year old father fell and broke his hip and is recuperating very nicely in a local re-hab, he says the staff are amazing and the food is good. Two things my father loves are good food and nice people. He is doing so well they may release him to my sisters care by the end of next week. 
We both received our second Covid vaccines on Easter Sunday, such a relief to have that out of the way. By the second day we both had slight side effects, MeMa was extremely tired and slept which was the best thing. I just felt like every muscle ached but nothing that kept me down. 
As spring blossoms fade, pruning season starts. The roses will soon receive their first dose of fertilizer and the work load increases from there. The trays of annuals in the greenhouse will need to be hardened off before planting out, three different varieties of zinnias, two varieties of marigolds, one tray of spider flowered Cleome or Cleome hassleriana, my grandfathers geraniums, eight tomato seedlings and numerous single pots of other annuals.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Spring Has Sprung

We sleep with the door to the bedroom wing of the house closed and the door to the back of the house were the sunroom is as well. This is because at 06:45 Jason the canary starts singing non stop even with a heavy cover over his cage. This allows us to sleep at least another hour. Not today! 07:00 I woke to the rumble of equipment tearing out our old sidewalks to make room for the new ADA approved walkway with wheelchair ramps. When the racket started Roxy gave a little growl of disgust and rolled over to MeMa's side of the bed and went back to sleep. I opened my eyes to see the water in the glass on my night stand bouncing up and down. I quietly got up without disturbing the ladies and went out to the front windows to see what was going on

So in PJ's, robe and slippers I went out waved a sleepy hello and grabbed up the morning paper. Returning to the house I turned on my coffee maker and then uncovered the already singing Jason. I wish I could wake up in the morning like Jason, such a happy little bastard. Hell, after my allotment of two cups of coffee I still can't sing like him let alone flit from perch to perch. 

I sat in the sunroom enjoying the morning light flooding in through the windows while looking out at the gardens that are coming to life after the winter dormancy. I noticed a big fat squirrel stopping for a drink from the waterfall that spills into the Koi pond, if Roxy was awake she would not let this happen in her garden, no sir!
After MeMa and Roxy got up We enjoyed a small breakfast together before I dressed to go out to start watering the seed trays in the greenhouse and then went out to see what was blooming.
About five years ago I was weeding a narrow bed that borders our front porch and found an old stump of a camellia that was sporting a small stem with a few leaves. In all the years that we have lived here I had never noticed it because there was a large rhododendron growing over it. I pruned the Rhododendron back letting light get to the camellia. It is now about four feet tall and I have trained into a pyramidal shape and this year it has bloomed for the first time.

One of my favorite plants that is blooming at this time is my Star Magnolia. I love the bright white and very fragrant flowers. It is the first shrub I planted at Menagerie Manor in 1976.


Bridal wreath spirea is from MeMa's childhood home in Clatskanie.

Its diminutive little flowers are a delight in the early spring garden.

I love this ancient pink camellia it is one of the original shrubs planted by the previous owner. It is so old that for the last ten years I have been carefully pruning it in order to revitalize the plant and hopefully it will live many more years.

Thursday, March 11, 2021


After such a long absence from blogging I was really hoping to return with cheery news that everything is as wonderful as the following photos. Unfortunately that is not the case, MeMa's oncologist has informed us that the cancer has returned to her abdomen and in the  lymph nodes  under her arm as well. She will start her on a new chemo regimen this Friday. We are staying strong and hopeful that the chemo will make for a positive outcome.

Spring is in the air, love these little jonquils at the base of the old Cherry tree.

The city has decided that our front walkway should be wheelchair accessible so they have marked and cut the portion of the walk that will become a bright yellow ramp.

Roxy is MeMa's constant companion, this little bundle of energy never lets her out of her sight.

Today we took 41 year old "Vivian the Volvo" through D.E.Q. and of course she passed with flying colors. While we were in line my doctor called to give us the news on my biopsy. They found that the cancer has returned and now I will be receiving chemo once a week for six weeks. I am feeling good about the treatment and outcome.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Big Freeze

We are completely frozen in, something that rarely happens here in Portland anymore. We are quite comfortable with the furnace and the fireplace. Food a plenty we have nothing to complain about. Our eldest son and his family have been without power for the entire weekend and not expected to get power until late Monday. I asked if they would like to come here as we have more than enough room for everyone but my son and daughter-in-law are closer to work from their house than they would be from ours. So they are toughing it out, cooking on a portable camp stove and keep a fire burning in the fireplace.


Last Thursday evening the temperature dropped significantly, then the wind started howling and shortly after it started snowing and never stopped the rest of the evening and all day Friday.  The wind remained pounding keeping this old gardener inside. I don't mind working in rain or snow but toss in any sort of wind and I'm inside.  Saturday morning was a beautiful winter wonderland for all the neighborhood children and a few adults dragging sleds and disks to the hill in the local park a short way from Menagerie Manor. We actually bundled up and took Roxy for a short walk. She seemed to enjoy the quiet snow filled streets. 

After our little walk it was time to get MeMa back inside by the fire with Roxy snuggled down next to her. I was concerned about our mail carrier trying to deliver mail with our front porch frozen with a thick layer of ice. The old chicken house had a stock of Ice Melt that I would have to work hard to get to as everything was layered in ice. There was a good foot of snow that had to be cleared from the pathways and to get the gate to swing open. 

It was hard but enjoyable work as there was no wind so I was able to finally get the Ice Melt out and get the front porch cleared for safe foot traffic. 

The greenhouse had a good layer of snow and ice on the roof, always a worry of collapse I was able to knock most of it off. 

Thankfully there are no birds in the aviary

The Koi pond was so covered in ice and snow but I could hear water running back into the pond from the filter. I was able to slice a chunk of ice out of the ice in order to allow gasses to escape. 

The next morning after breakfast I went out and started removing a narrow path from the driveway which is covered in 8 inches of snow. I decided to try and get just a cars width cleared but the snow was covered in a thick layer of ice which was making this job very daunting. MeMa has to be at the hospital tomorrow and this stuff was not melting quick enough on its own.

Our wonderful neighbors herd me chipping away and soon arrived with shovels and really set to work.

It was less than an hour and the entire drive had a good clear path for us to leave. I thanked them and went in to check on MeMa. As I entered the parlor MeMa pointed at the "army" of neighbors clearing ice and snow from our front walkways and porch. It literally brought tears to our eyes, they are truly wonderful neighbors and just knowing we will be able to get to the hospital helped remove some of the stress.

The next day we drove out to the hospital so MeMa could undergo surgery to remove one of the four lymph nodes.  When we arrived our eldest son was waiting for us to wish his Mother good luck. He and his family are one of the three hundred thousand Oregonians who have no power or heat. After I got MeMa checked in I had to leave do to Covid restrictions so I took my son out for lunch. We had an enjoyable visit and then headed back to the hospital parking lot were we said goodby so he could head home and get things ready for work the next day. I, of course was not alone, Miss Roxy is my willing companion on these hospital visits. When the waiting gets to me then we take a good walk around the grounds.

Surgery went well, removing one of four lymph nodes with cancer. This one will tell them what form of lymphoma and the course of treatment that will follow. As I type this last entry the warm Oregon rain has returned helping to melt this frozen country.