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.