15 November 2011


This was my view on a camping trip in the Umatilla National Forest in eastern Oregon this summer. We were actually part of the view, completely submersed and surrounded in storm and light. I have never had the experience of a lightning storm passing directly over me, or more like, through me. I was shaking in my boots. The dogs and my travel partner, not so much. We saw the storm approaching from across a valley and over the mountains.

This is when we decided to take the bottle of wine to the car and wait it out. It ended up being a couple of hours before it cleared us. I took about 200 pictures to keep myself occupied and a little distracted. Most of them were just black, and I couldn't really tell from looking on my phone that I actually did catch a few bolts.
The experience was one of the most surreal of my life. To be engulfed in deep blackness, and then be completely illuminated by white light. I'm quite grateful.
This lightning storm caused numerous fires that were battled for the rest of the summer. Something like 210 strikes touched the ground in this area that night. Wow.

I wish that every design I did could create the feeling of really being in it, of being electrified by the experience of landscape, as this lightning storm felt. To not be a human standing surrounded by landscape, but an animal, a particle of energy, in the whole of it. We become so removed and think of our selves as separate, when we never are. Whether you are standing on a glacier in Alaska, or can only see concrete for miles, humans are one of the many elements of a complete landscape.  
I have been trying to define the word landscape for myself. It makes me sad to think that a lot of people think of neatly manicured shrubs and acutely trimmed and greened lawns when they hear the word landscape. I guess I want to take the word out of the business.

Here is a definition I found for the landscape in relation to people:
Combining both their physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect the living synthesis of people and place to vital local and national identity. Landscapes, their character and quality, help define the self image of a region, its sense of place that differentiates it from other regions. It is the dynamic backdrop to peoples lives.

This makes me feel really good. I guess I'm a bit of a landscape nerd. Thank you wikipedia.

11 November 2011


Rain gardens are such an important and easy fix for managing stormwater on residential properties.  They also serve as a seasonal water feature and a beautiful focal point.  Committing to a rain garden does not mean that you will have a stagnant pond in your yard. In fact, rainwater should drain within 24 hrs. or it's not a good spot for a rain garden.
This is a rain garden that I installed over the summer in NE Portland.  It is about 180 sq. ft. and will accommodate all of the rainwater coming from the roof.  The plants in the bottom, mostly grasses and some ferns can be inundated with water and still thrive.
I put this basalt rock with a natural bowl in it to attract birds for a little bath.
This is where the water enters.

When landscapes are covered in vegetation, rainwater naturally soaks into the ground, but when we cover it with impermeable surfaces, like driveways, sidewalks, roofs, and even a grassy lawn that is compacted, the water runs off carrying pollutants into local creeks and streams, and taxes water treatment plants.  Here in Portland, when we get a good rainfall, and not even a huge event, our sewage system overflows into the river. Yuck.

All of this runoff  also creates 100 yr. flood-like conditions in streams every time it rains, causing serious erosion and sedimentation that chokes out wildlife.

Here's how we got it done:
The bottom of the rain garden only needs to be 6-8" lower than the surrounding ground.
Getting the water there... with a kitty.  The water can also travel above ground by creating a rocky creek like channel.
Gettin' it done.  Rain gardens need to be heavily planted to filter pollutants, absorb the water, and prevent erosion.

Other benefits of rain gardens are their ability to filter out pollutants before the water gets to the streams, and they recharge the water table keeping streams from drying up during times of low rainfall.
It can also be packed with perennials on the rim to include lots of color.
Proud new explorer.

Here are a few recent fall shots.  The plants grew so well in just a few months.  Good thing, because they are hard at work now.

There are lots of great resources on the internet to learn about rain gardens.  If you are in Portland the East Multnomah Water & Soil Conservation District is a great resource and even offers free workshops to help you build one on your own.  http://www.emswcd.org/raingarden
I love talking shop, so ask away if you have any curiosities.

26 October 2011

Who doesn't want to build a house for a miniature pig?

This is my friend Hamlet, an Extreme Royal Dandy pig, who lives across the street from me at a Montesorri school called Owl and the Dove.

and this is his new house...

I think everyone likes it.
Note Buck (chihuahua) for scale!

21 October 2011

UFO patio

Thankfully, summer and fall have been busy with lots of interesting projects which I'm hoping to share in the next few weeks.  This first one is perhaps my favorite, maybe because it is in my own yard and I had the artistic liberty to do as I pleased.  I was hoping to have the patio done last year, but it has dragged on as most of the projects do at my own house.  This time procrastination was supremely beneficial, because the idea did not come to me until this spring.  I had been thinking about it for a year and wasn't quite satisfied with my ideas yet, but this one lit up my mind in an instant.  

I'm not quite sure the inspiration, except that i wanted a metal element, and a feeling of enclosure on the patio by using an overhead structure.
Enter 16' and 8' diameter metal circles, that were referenced as the "flying saucers" in our design meetings.  Luckily, I had a highly skilled welder and artist, Adrian Haley, to do the installation for me. Check him out at addesignspdx.comThey were incredibly heavy and cumbersome, to say the least.  
I'm hoping to run some cable cross pieces in the small one to grow a vine up and over it.

The planter box and bench are in progress.  The facing for the box will be the reclaimed Doug Fir leaning against the fence.
Patio project next:  paint neighbors garage, build bench and planter box structure for the big patio and a small platform/deck underneath the small one. 
I'm also hoping to find some single person hanging chairs, something like this, perhaps, to hang from the big circle. I want it to look and feel like little cocoons hanging from the sky.


03 July 2011

Desert Terrarium

I just made this terrarium for a friend and am super excited about it.  Of course, the desert theme never escapes me.
I was thinking  about walking through the desert and of all the random objects that I have found.  Everything is in plain sight where it is exposed to the harsh sun and wind, and washed clean by an occasional late summer monsoon. It's not hidden under inches of forest duff and decaying in the flash of an instant like it does here in the Pacific Northwest. The story is right on the surface, so to speak.
In the desert, you are almost certain to find elements of metal, glass, jagged rocks, and bits of old bones from times past.  I used glass eggs, an old metal lock,a piece of petrified wood, and a skunk skull.

01 June 2011

POLYGONS - Geometrical nature

A regular hexagon has all sides the same length and all internal angles are 120°.


Bee's use the hexagon in their hives because it allows the most efficient use of space. Circles in a grid create spaces, and no polygon with more than six sides will be interlocking.

Octagonal patio
This is the patio that I am currently building at my house.  It is in multiples of 8 - 16'x 16' with an 8' diameter octagon.  When it is complete the cut out spaces will have planters with a bench spanning it and a 10' tall metal circle on wooden posts over the top.

31 May 2011


I took the day off to help install Bob's mom's graffiti art show - KA-POW.  This work is so vibrant and expressive, just as the woman herself, Kirby Kendrick.  Check out her website Kirbykendrick.com to see all of her fabulous art.  The show is at PRESENT space (presentspace.org)939 NW Glisan 97209.  If you are in Portland come down for 1st Thursday, June the 2nd.
Kirby is a true inspiration, following her heart and coming to her prolific art career later in life.  I always remind myself of her when I'm feeling unaccomplished and that the lifetime clock is ticking too fast. 

This is a video of the show up at the San Diego Art Institute Museum.

25 May 2011

from scraps...

With help from Bobby, I made these coasters out of scraps from a patio made with Montana Hot Springs flagstone. They slivered off pretty easily, then I backed them with cork.

Tucson spring

Carnegiea gigantea,
Saguaro Cactus
The Saguaro cactus is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, Mexico, and a small part of Baja California.  It does not grow anywhere else in the world. They can live up to 150 yrs., and don't grow a side arm until they are about 75 yrs. old.  Their maximum height is about 50 ft.
Being surrounded by the spiny arms of a Saguaro forest is a surreal and majestic place to be. Arms up, arms down, these plants dot the horizon like beacons of resilience.
Saguaro skeleton
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I forget that wood is not the go-to building material.  Tucson is replete with beautiful rusty metal.  This was one of my favorites. Total genius! Think about how many old box springs are tossed aside to head to the dump. 
box spring fence
solar system gate
These photos were taken at Azure Gate B&B, a 5 acre oasis located about 30 mins. from downtown Tucson. It is teaming with birds, desert wildlife, and plants that I love.  The hosts are incredibly friendly and the breakfast blew out all of my preconceived notions about B&B breakfasts. I would highly recommend a stay here!