I feel safe in making the gross generalization that the days of yore, the ones where our survival as a parasitic species was circled round the wagons of sensitivity to the cycles of mother nature are behind us. There’s the notion that our cells come full circle every seven years which begs the question on a cyclical basis, “Who am I?” when doing the bundled like a burrito, or strewn like the contents of a handbag morning wakeup, alarm or no alarm.
Yesterday was hot, as in first stroll to the community pool, fry an egg on the sidewalk debate hot. I’ve never tried it, the egg bit but there’s not a shortage. Ended up sitting in the darkness of a friend’s backyard around a blazing fire pit one beer in. The highlight according to Henry being the spray of gasoline needed to start the fire. I missed that. There was something comforting about the warmth and light coming off the fire and the warmth of the day still in the air and on my back. Marshmallows were on fire, chocolate was exchanged, texting, conversations about Facebook passwords, jokes about condoms but that’s a thirteen year old’s prerogative. As convoluted as its become, new self or not I vote for the cellular memory of something ancient.
This garden found in Greenbrae took full advantage of the backyard’s upslope. A California Bay Laurel, older Coast Live Oaks, Valley Oaks and Manzanitas were left as found on the property. Pathways were constructed and further landscaping was
the view from the top of the property looking down on the house
done around these mature trees. From its own weather station, hip signage and a separate water meter for the irrigation system this environment had all the cool accoutrements going on.
I was visually struck by the grape vines running vertically up the slope versus across the property which is what I’m used to seeing in vineyards.
In the front of the house the lawn is being allowed to die or as the owner put it “decommissioned” to be replaced with something that requires less water and is generally more eco-friendly.
It’s a pesticide free zone in Ginger Souders-Mason’s garden. In fact she’s the director of http://www.pesticidefreezone.org. I originally met her three years ago when shooting portraits of women that were being honored by the local nonprofit Search for the Cause. I was sharing the task of capturing this diverse group of 100 women with another photographer and Ginger was not one of my subjects otherwise you would be seeing her image here.
Her garden located in Ross is a community project with neighbors and is all about food production and composting. Those who participate get to harvest. Her 9/10’s of an acre is hilly but she’s been creative and has a variety of beds for planting on the slopes. I’m going to test out some of the passive methods of composting that I observed. They appeal to the procrastinator in me. On a couple of the slopes there was pit composting going on as in dig a hole and dump it in. In her vegetable garden compost had been spread in a bed shape and covered with burlap.
And, there was that fabulous view of Mt. Tam.
garden overview looking out towards the street
What was magical about this second stop on the tour was stepping off of one of the most traffic burdened streets in Fairfax through a non pretentious gate and into this oasis of calm. Three years ago this space was all lawn. Before I started up the inner critique of my ten year conversion of salt & pepper rock to my present garden it should be noted that I read the fine print and the owner of this property is a professional landscape designer.
rooftop runoff pond, home to mosquito fish
This garden utilizes both a rainwater diversion system and a greywater system which the owner alternates for watering his plants. When asking questions about the greywater system I could not help recalling that in the late 1970’s when Marin was experiencing a drought my father rigged up a grey water system that flowed from the garage into a big galvanized tank. At the time I looked at it like one of his many freak show projects that involved chores for me and was a source of embarrassment when friends came over and made inquiries. Coming full circle I now want to investigate the possibility for my own home. Good thing Henry already has a therapist!
This was the only home on the tour that had a chicken coop. During the day the chickens are free range as the owner’s dog herds them versus eating them. I like that table grapes had been planted against the coop which when more mature will supply some additional shade for the girls. Some of the hardscape material used were from Urban Ore i.e. reclaimed and on their second life.
Nice veggie beds and plenty of selections for the bees like Bee Balm, Yarrow and Lavender.
This past Saturday was spent touring myself around on Marin’s Eco-Friendly Garden Tour which was sponsored by our two water districts and the Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program. Henry prefaced my leaving with “That sounds boring.” So not boring at all! Certainly the most entertaining, inspiring and educational ten dollars I have spent recently.
Two of my favorite stops happened to be in the town of Fairfax, and this, the Sustainability Center was one of them. They are located downtown in an older home with a small backyard. When I think about the concept of permaculture my thoughts revolve around larger scale projects like Occidental’s Art and Ecology Center. This locale was a great reminder that yes most of us don’t live on the fantasy farm quite yet and that the principals of permaculture can be applied to the suburban backyard.
The center has a 1000 tank which collects rainwater via diverted roof gutters. The collected water feeds their pond and is used for irrigation via a drip system. They have collected donations of non treated plywood scraps and have a non yuppie worm bin kit available, built for $45.00. These are available as long as the plywood odds and ends hold out. I confess to purchasing one of these and am now dreaming about how I want to decorate it. While I currently have various forms of composting going on in my garden this is my first worm bin! That would be a retail and garden high you hear. That and the fantasy of gallons of worm tea.
The center is on Facebook for you addicts out there and they also have a website. http://www.sustainablefairfax.org
When I last brought up this garden tour it seemed oh so very far in the future. That future has caught up with me and it’s all happening next Saturday. If you’re in Marin, or close enough this sounds like it will be a good one. See you there.
It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, a reward if you will for surviving Henry’s Lacrosse season. In a couple of weeks if you’re in the Bay Area I think it will be worth the time and a visual treat to check out the “Eco-Friendly Garden Tour: Taking a Bay-Friendly Approach” put on by two water districts and the Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program. Could those names be any longer? Not greenwashing, I’ve heard rumors of native plants, green roofs, an organic farm, living walls and a home vineyard. The tour is happening May 15th and link for the Marin Eco Tour is as follows.