About three years ago, Christy Sullivan moved from a house on a 25-acre property to an apartment in West Linn.
She found that one of the things she missed most about her old home was the garden, where she could get her hands dirty and know that, in time, she would be treated to a delightful array of plants and produce. One day, when Sullivan was doing laundry at her apartment building, she noticed a sign advertising the community garden at Robinwood Station.
"I thought, 'I'll just call and check it out,'" Sullivan said. "(Garden manager) Lisa (Clifton) met me the same day and I said, 'I'm in.'"
Sullivan's story echoes those of many who have come to love community gardens at both the Robinwood Station and Fields Bridge Park in West Linn. On a sizzling Saturday morning at the Robinwood Community Garden, about half a dozen gardeners gathered for one of the twice-weekly meetings.
The pace of work was both relaxed and methodical, with plenty of conversation in between the planting and pulling.
"It's really relaxing," said Peter Herring, a Robinwood resident who has been coming to the garden for about four years. "It's calming. I love being here, especially on a day like today. All of us have become kind of friends … and at the end of the day, we usually go home with a bin of something."
Like Sullivan, Herring is unable to garden at his home — in his case because of the tree cover on his property. This, as it turns out, is not an uncommon problem.
"Most people in West Linn have too many trees (to garden)," said Susan Berger, who has been coming to Robinwood since the garden was created in 2012. "I really like it here. … You can't possibly grow this variety in one (single-bed)."
Indeed, gardeners at places like Robinwood don't rent a single space — the spoils from the garden are instead shared by all, or donated to the West Linn Food Pantry.
"There's such an abundance," Sullivan said.
Though now a seasoned veteran and leader at the Robinwood garden, Clifton had plenty to learn when she first started. She remembers the first item she tried to grow — a discounted tomato from a nursery.
"It just didn't do anything. It was terrible," Clifton said. "It's a lot of trial and error and reading about lots of things. I've taken classes, asked lots of questions, learned from a lot of people."
Regardless of skill level, community gardeners most appreciate the friendships they've developed and the chance to spend more time outside.
"Just being able to touch the earth, and (see) the end product," Sullivan said. "And to say, 'Wow, look what I did!'"