Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living like a local: our NE Portland neighborhood.

Exploring supermarkets and wandering through random neighborhoods were two of our favorite (free!) pastimes while we were traveling internationally. Both activities offered interesting insights into the local community's daily life and priorities.

Even though we've been in a familiar town all summer, we've still enjoyed these activities. Here's a little glimpse into Concordia, the NE Portland neighborhood we've called home for the past three months...

Judging from the supermarkets within walking distance, quality over quantity is the norm in this neighborhood. There's a New Seasons and a farmer's market - it's Portland, of course there's a New Seasons and a farmer's market - and two locally owned markets featuring heaps of local, fresh and hand-crafted gourmet foods. We FUNemployed housesitters don't shop at these markets often but they're good for the occasional splurge (AKA bacon) or a last-minute ingredient we forgot to pick up at our usual store.

There's also a Caribbean market carrying every exotic spice known to man, and several mercados too. Those are definitely fun to visit.

"Quality" is a pretty good definition for this quiet, mostly residential neighborhood, actually. I don't mean high-value houses (although there are plenty of those), I'm talking more along the lines of general lifestyle. For example, raised vegetable garden beds are everywhere! Every day as we walk the dogs, we pass front yards and planting strips fully stocked with tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, and various other goodies. I'd bet quite a bit of money that most, if not all, of them are organic.

a "corner lot"

There's no need to lock up the veggies; people passing through the neighborhood seem to just leave what's not theirs (although we have seen numerous signs requesting that people not "steal" blueberries or fruit, which aren't so dime-a-dozen especially this summer).

It's pretty common to hear chickens squawking while we're walking the dogs. Yep, Portland city laws allow up to three chickens - or any combination, up to three, of chickens, rabbits, pygmy goats, pigeons, doves and ducks - without a permit. Permits for more aren't too hard to get, either. Most homes with chickens, including our host's, have their coops in the backyard but a few homes around the neighborhood have implemented more creative front-facing coops and chicken runs. These coops are kept locked, presumably to protect against predators as well as egg thieves.

our host's backyard coop

a neighborhood front yard coop
(the run on the right goes into the fenced backyard - free range!)

When the eggs come from your own chickens, you know they're cage-free - and I can almost guarantee that those chickens are eating premium feed.

Environmental quality is definitely a huge priority in this neighborhood.  Gardens and chickens are one thing, but there are also several urban farms and a large home apiary nearby, and it's impossible to walk five blocks in any direction without seeing at least one of the following signs...

a great organization

another great organization - 

Native plant landscaping, wildlife preservation, and water conservation efforts further support environmental quality in the neighborhood yards. (The Audubon Society of Portland's Backyard Habitat Certification Program provides incentives and discounts on materials for many of these efforts.) Good for the birds as well as the bees.

good for them!

very good for them!

Portland people care about the environment because many of them are outdoorsy types, especially during the summer.  Our neighborhood has been busy with people sitting on lawn chairs in the front yards at dusk, walking their dogs, biking to the park, watering their numerous raised bed gardens... Kids are everywhere in the evenings.

don't worry - 
the cat isn't dead, it's resting (I think)

FINALLY, a sign I can relate to

Setting the "quality" theme aside for a moment, there's a lot about this neighborhood that's pretty common across Portland.  Speaking of signs, Concordia can't live up to SE's stop sign standards (see Stop - Hammertime and Stop - Collaborate and Listen) but they try their best.

also known as "older brother"

yes, please

Still speaking of signs, it wouldn't be a Portland neighborhood without one of these every four feet...

but of course

And like most Portland parents, they're quite serious about their school in this neighborhood.

not just "love" - "love"!

Also in true Portland form, I think I've counted four poetry boxes, and a few "lending library" boxes as well, just within a quarter mile radius from the house.

new favorite quote

leave one, take one

They keep it weird here in Concordia too!

world's longest hopscotch 

artist? little league coach? probably both

Dinosaurs Jr

teeny tiny sock, ginormous tree -
after three months it's still there

The final common Portland theme in our temporary neighborhood this summer has been housing - new and improved housing to meet the needs of this recent influx of people. I'm usually at the house on weekdays and hardly a day has gone by that I didn't hear the buzz of a saw or the constant beat of hammers on rooftops. It can really put a damper on your quality of life, all this noise pollution.

over the summer we've watched several houses go from this state...

... to this state

What kills me are the lots where one house once stood, and now two tall skinny houses stand. It makes sense from the perspective of urban development but it completely changes the look of the neighborhood. (Besides, as a friend recently asked, "who wants to stand in their bathroom brushing their teeth, looking out the window at their neighbor in his bathroom, brushing his teeth?")

seen: everywhere

also seen: everywhere

Tiny houses (another Portlandia-esque phenomenon) are probably more prominent in Portland's SE neighborhoods or on the outskirts of town, but close to our neighborhood you'll find the only tiny house hotel in the US. For just $145/night (plus tax, minimum two nights on weekends and holidays), you too can bathe in your kitchen sink, whack your head on the ceiling 6" above your loft bed, and sit on your combination couch/bookshelf/pantry/air hockey table while you drink PBR and stream the latest episode of All Things Considered and watch back episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.


(I kid, I kid. We support the tiny house movement. We couldn't do it - small, yes but tiny? no way - but more power to all of you who could. I'd rather see ten tiny houses on a lot than two tall skinny ones... Oh, and we support NPR and Jon too, obviously, but PBR? Not so much.)

So that's the NE neighborhood of Concordia, from my perspective anyway. Each day as I'm wandering around with or without the dogs, I see so many people walking while thumbing through apps on their phones or texting friends. I wonder how much of this they notice?

life moves pretty fast -
if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it


  1. Sounds like a lot of Portland neighborhoods I know and love. Love except for those new skinny houses, that is.

    1. Yep, the neighborhoods have different overall feels but these small characteristics are pretty common all around Portland...

  2. North Portland has such great little neighborhoods! It is so quirky yet so lovable. It will be interesting to see (and sometimes a little scary to think about) how the area will evolve over time with all of the changes and gentrification. But hopefully the charm will remain.

    1. Yep. The only constant is change, right? Hopefully some good thought is going into all this urban development...