Our little stream extension was under construction last week. Just in time for our early Thanksgiving celebration with friends. As always, we had the last minute project scramble getting put in place just minutes before our guests arrived.
The snow is falling and the temperature is in the mid 20's. It's beautiful out, but cold. Fortunately, Brad of dbBrad finished up one leg of our heating system last week.
With a borrowed "half hour" from Mr. Ed (time was actually more like 2 or 3 hours), and a full half+ day of Brad's time, Sunday turned into an amazingly productive day of many small, and not so small, garden projects. Our first task was planting a huge old tree Brad drug home a few weeks ago for a pond snag. With many grunts of effort and Fran fearing both her favorite men would have broken backs, the snag was planted by the pond.
Now we just wait for the Pileated Woodpeckers to visit.
Then an old stone step that wasn't working very well because of spacing and a riser that was too low, was ripped out and a new step was put into place.
Another project we've been working on for a little bit is extending our stream. If two ponds and a stream are good, isn't more stream better? Well, apparently that's what we think, because that's what we're doing. To give Hermione (a beautiful gift from Diane Kendy) a location of greater status, she's been moved in preparation for her new home along the new stream. Then plumbing and digging are being done before putting in the stream's liner. And, of course, the gathering of the rocks needed to create the natural look of a NW stream.
Hermoine & New Stream-in-the-works
Two other projects were worked on too. A retaining wall under the guesthouse and a stone patio, also under the guesthouse, overlooking the pond. Photographs of those two projects will follow. Presently the heating system installation project is being staged in that area so photographs of both would be full of PVC parts and tool boxes and all the stuff needed for plumbing.
We are about to begin the second phase of our building project. Although we've been in our new home almost two years, we did not complete some of the important details -- like the solar heating system and our cabinet work. So, coming soon, more building adventures.
From Washington to North and South Dakota, via Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, with bike riding at the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene, Hiawatha Trail, Spokane River Trail and George Mickelson Trail. Wandering through small towns, seeing the economic downturn at every stop, yet seeing new pickup trucks everywhere. Enjoying the history, geography, wildlife, Sturgis Bike Rally, terrific camping spots, and an opportunity for Ed to visit with his mom in ND while I enjoyed a seven day retreat at Bismark Lake in SD. I continue to love the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, especially as the terrain turns to open pasture at 10,000 feet. But the Black Hills are pretty spectacular too. Pretty much the entire trip had us exclaiming as one view after another unfolded.
We savor our trips in our little tent trailer and we savor the return to our home-by-Brad. Despite the fun of the adventure, returning home after traveling for three weeks can't be beat. That breathtaking moment of driving into one's own drive and seeing the place we call home with new and fresh eyes is the moment of our greatest pleasure on the entire trip. What better compliment can we give to our designer-builder than that. Aah! Home!
The amazing thing about watching Brad (dbbrad) design is how he holds the whole project in his head at once. The inside of the building; the exterior; the interior in relationship to the exterior; the building's relationship to the site; the condition of the site and what it needs in terms of contours, water management, privacy. sun and shade; the relationship of indoors to outdoors; how the buildings relate to the other buildings in the neighborhood; the total picture.
Having worked in landscape design for 30 years now, I have rarely seen this design ability to hold-the-whole in a designer's vision. Many designers, (dare I say most?) design with only the interior vision. Other designers have only the exterior vision. But, even more often, designers neglect the site (the total) completely.
How often I arrive at the newly built home to see trash; compaction; unnecessary water problems; thoughtless siting of the home in relation to sun and shade; machine damage to remaining trees; and a complete lack of thought to the relationship of the home to the site. Sometimes the interior works well and even looks great but looks horrible from the exterior with roof lines that don't work or placement of skylights that were seen only from the inside spaces ruining the exterior rhythm. Or, the home faces north with no interior light, or at other times with no play with the light at all.
And then there is the function issue which needs to be a major focus in design. A need that is equal to aesthetics. When a designer thinks only of function one sees mostly a boring building. When a designer thinks only of aesthetics we see it for what it is -- designer ego. For years, for example, I have said I'd never hire a designer to design a kitchen if he/she didn't cook. I have stepped into some kitchens that looked beautiful but made no sense whatsoever in how they functioned. The reverse is true. A good designer can produce both -- function and beauty.
What's so amazing about our new home is how, according to Ed, "it lives like a second skin." And for me, to be more content inside, because of the inside-outside relationship, than I've ever been in a home. We also both still love how our home nestles into the neighborhood as if it's always been there. In fact, it is so integrated that people ask us which buildings are ours and which buildings are the neighbors. Not because of proximity, but because of thoughtful integration.
And, then there is attention to grade, water, ornamental gardens, wildlife, exposure, beauty, automobiles, solar, growing food, accessibility, mystery, light, privacy, and on and on. How does one hold all of these things, and more, in their head to achieve a totally integrated design? I don't know. I would be unable to do it. But, Brad does it. That's his skill and its awesome.
Then add flexibility in using recycled materials in a way that is new and innovative, creating a timeless structure, well, have I already said awesome?
When we first purchased our property in Langley one of the first questions asked was, "do you have a view?" I would always say "no", knowing that the question related to a view of Saratoga Passage and the Cascade Mountains. Our previous home, high bluff waterfront on Saratoga Road, had a drop dead view of both water and mountains.
Our new lot, with wonderful southern exposure and lovely trees, but no view left me to answer the questions with a "no". But, more recently, as our garden develops and our water catchment system (pond, stream, wetland) develops, creating more beauty and habitat, I'm conflicted when I answer either yes or no. No is correct for the questioner's "hidden" question of, "do we have the BIG view?" . Yet, Yes is correct for how I actually see our garden each day and my enjoyment of our view.
Even in it's early stages, the roof water in our garden is turning into a more and more lovely "view". Fish swim, birds bathe, flowing water serenades, all as the plantings develop more fully.
When we were thinking about selling our Saratoga home, beautiful garden and stupendous view, I knew I would build a pond for a new "water view". It was clear to me, after we built a small pond at our entry at Saratoga, and I spent more time viewing that small pond, than the big pond (Saratoga Passage) that we could create a view on a city lot. A view that wouldn't have the same concerns about a crumbling bluff or higher and higher taxes. One that was of our making but one of beauty nevertheless. And we did! Plus we are managing all our roof water with beauty, habitat and aquifer recharge. As it matures the beauty will multiply. A pond was always in the works, Brad was the master of the bigger vision.
We haven't been project busy with our home for several months now. We're just enjoying living in our new home. Although we still have projects and cleanup to do, it's been nice to have a break from the daily grind of building. Instead we're simply reveling in the pleasure of our new spaces. And the pleasure is great. This home-built-by-Brad is remarkable in it's suitability to our lives. We don't intend to build another home but if we did, our designer builder would be hired again. We love how his mind works!
We've been in our new home a year now -- loving every minute. Never in my life have I had a home where the indoor/outdoor relationship was exactly what I wanted. In Seattle four French doors were added for greater access to the back garden. At Saratoga, five French door were added for the same reason. Both remodels were terrific and did the best we could to take homes with no relationship to the garden and create that relationship. But this home is perfect with it's relationship to the garden. When I'm in I feel out; when I'm out I feel in. And with separate buildings creating forced travel between the spaces, I'm out often. Historically I've needed outdoor bedrooms and other ways to get outside more. Living here I'm content -- inside or out, or anywhere in between. Now I know my need for this indoor/outdoor relationship is greater than many people's needs in that regard, but I suspect the lack of it is an area of discontent not often identified. Anyway, for me this space is perfect!
Although our cabinets are still unfinished, as is our solar system, we are more than comfortable. Living here is easy, especially since it forced reduction in stuff. We're living smaller, and with fewer possessions, than we have since college days. It is a wonderfully freeing feeling. Also it pleases me to know that on my death I won't be leaving piles of stuff for my son to sort through.
The garden, for a one-year garden, is looking beautiful. There are still many areas needing plants to grow to fill in the bare spots and other areas that aren't planted yet at all. But all the beds are weed free, mulched, and ready for spring planting. The patios, decks and pathways are complete. We still need some screens for privacy around the bath, but that will happen soon -- we have the materials ready to go. And, we have a fireplace planned for one of our covered patios that is not yet complete, but again, we have most of the materials and are simply waiting for time.
The water system of rain from roof, to pond, to stream, to pond, to wetland continues to function beautifully and provide us with delightful wildlife experiences and much beauty. Just this past weekend Ed and I spend a pleasurable 20 minutes watching 6 birds splash and bathe around the edges. As the plants mature and fill out the wildlife will increase because their safety will be greater. At present there is still too much open area for safe travel to the south. From east to west, on our north side, they have an outstanding corridor where they can fly in short sprints from tree to tree for several miles in each direction.
Discipline is a word that is at the top of my list in living here. Discipline is what is required to keep "stuff" from accumulating. Trips home from the Post Office require daily sorting; trips from the grocery store require the same; as do trips from almost any shop. If something comes in the door, something else must go out. Not having Fibber McGee's (radio show ending in '59 so I'm dating myself) closet is the greatest pleasure.
As I sit here and type I'm overlooking the front lawn and vegetable garden on one side and the pond and native plant restoration area on the other. This is a richness that I am unable to describe. Masterfully well done by dbbrad.
We have sold or given away most of the things of value but of no use to us. We still have six great wicker chairs of outstanding value and in almost perfect shape. So, if you're interested in six wicker Palecek chairs just call 360 730 3924. Or, we have a cedar Chinese truck, hand carved. Great for a coffee table that stores blankets, etc. Other than that, we've pretty much managed to shed what we don't need or want.
The report card for our first year -- A+.