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Heres the chalkboard notes for our day of hardscapes.  Stone patios, decks, retaining walls, pebble strewn riverbeds, brick walls, calculations of volume, and more…  The  standout concepts from the day are:

  1.  Whatever you design is going to interact with the world and grow over time.  Swell and contract, erode and and settle, get swamped and drain.  So keep in mind the natural forces of water, wind, warmth and light, soils.  Do not forget about gophers and coyotes, rats and raccoons, wood rotting fungus and termites, as you lay down a layer of wood or stone or concrete over the earth.
  2. A couple big catch words these days are Permeability and Sustainability.  Permeability is the ability of the landscape to breathe and allow water to penetrate infiltrate down down low to the groundwater and aquifer below, filtered through the soil.  Sustainability is a bunch of big question marks – what can we keep using without depleting?  At what rate can we cut things down or pump things out or burn stuff up?  What is the value of an intact primeval ancient river bed or forest?  How can we beautify the world through the design and construction of gardens?
  3. When calculating the amount of hardscape materials needed.  Remember to always multiply using consistent same units.  That is to say, in estimating volume, multiple feet x feet x feet, not feet x feet x inches.  Also, use proper and correct conversion factors.  For example, 27 cubic feet is one cubic yard.  One cubic yard.  Even though at the stone yard they just always say ‘one yard’, it is one cubic yard.










These are the chalk board notes from the OH53 Landscape Horticulture class.  This is our garden legend and hero Gus Broucaret talking about the importance of awareness and working safely in the field.  Sorry you were not in class and missed out on all the stories and adventures at work.  Well at least here are some of the drawings and vocabulary:








Was filling in the curriculum for a class called Introduction to Horticulture.

Here’s a few more drawings for the ‘reader’.  It is specific to residential commercial and public gardening in and around San Francisco.




















The garden is a dynamic creature, hatched and etched in the mind

The beast is sometimes drawn on vellum or on paper with borders

Drawn to scale one quarter inch is one foot, one eighth of an inch is one foot

It is birthed and grows awkwardly

Stumbling through the natal stages called planning groundbreaking and installation

Well, a garden is not a set, not a one time deal, not an exhibit in a gallery

It is a creature very much alive, a demanding life form that requires care and love and


Imagine the garden as a mutually beneficial, symbiotic endeavor between people and plants

Words can only approximate

The scene behind the magnolia tree the dew hanging poppy and the cheerful summer iris

Maintenance seems a word

Better suited to five years or 50,000 miles, car maintenance

Or keeping up with a certain standard of living – maintaining ones status

There is a monotony melancholy mistaken misery in calling the action filled gardening tasks of

Pulling pruning planting propagating, digging turning building amending cultivating


Do you call tooth brushing facing washing eating breakfast stretching exercising working

The basic duties of life –

Maintenance?  How sad that sounds, where is the joy in ‘maintenance’?

Perhaps there is no better word though

Let’s just fudge and nudge this one, rather than invent something new

Okay garden maintenance it is

Maintenance is design


In the best garden designs

There is a human built into it

Because you recognize that – no human no maintenance no design – it is that simple

Because the tree grows big and grows old

Way past the 10 foot circle drawn on the original landscape plan

A shrub limbs stretches and bows and starts to swallow the sun loving lavender lily loropetalum

A good gardener can prune a shoot here, take a tip there, keep it in line

Then scoot a perennial this way, and move the lemon tree outa the shade

Encourage the ground cover, and meticulously pluck the weed seeds emerging

Mold it, work with it, adapt it to fit, so the design holds and stays intact

The flow the mood the balance the unity  – the design


In the best garden design

The person who thought up the design

Is, was , will be until they die, a gardener

A gardener of dirt imbued with the scent of daphne philadelphus pittosporum

A gardener who has been educated in the finest university lab research vessel of all time:

A little plot of sun lit land putzed over and over and over again

A learning studio of a few rows of daisies and columbines fading and seeding

A rectangular lot with warm rays and moss bit shadows

Tulip tree leaves gathered on the ground in conference 

Tulip flower petals fallen in the sun, unveiling the bare ovary

The best designer is a gardener – 

A plants person trained by time, wetted by rain splattered by mud

Scarred and attacked by berry thorns and yellow jackets stingers and sticky spider webs

They know what plants need, how plants grow, why plants die

These are the forces you have to meet and greet, the forces that you have to work within

To dream up a nice garden design

Field knowledge is foremost, accumulated by you and gardeners like yourself

Working sharing discussing observing experimenting

In a world of experience and stories

Tilting the academic and theoretical knowledge on an edge –

The long charts graphs spreadsheets what the current research says the latest book of facts

Second hand third hand fourth hand knowledge –

The beveled edge cushioned against the mind and the body and the earth heart the earth guts

So stay intimate stay close to whats goin’ down

Be a good gardener playing in the dirt, the fading sun on the left cheek and sweaty forehead

Then you will be a good designer


So to summarize thus far

In garden design, remember that

1)  A person a person a person has to care for the garden over time

2) The garden is a living creation that will grow and change

3) The best designer is a gardener, a maintenance gardener


The worst garden designs – there are so many

Part of the problem is that the design feedback loop is not complete

The circle is not a circle, it is just a climbing wiggly line

The designer does not learn from the mistakes of oneself or that of others

And who points out stuff like that? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all’

Hard to learn from things gone wrong, when they go wrong not at the beginning

But one year two years three years five years ten years down the line

By then the designer is outa there

And the errors problems methods continue to advertise and repeat and fester and spread

Leaving the clean up improvement rearrangement editing to the gardener

Leaving the yanking butchering root digging ransacking demolition of a garden that never was

To the maintenance gardener


In the worst designs, the designer does not know the site

They do not design based on drainage compaction hard pan runoff rodents disease

They forget to acknowledge the wind and the fog

They dismiss the power of the southern sun and the darkness of the north side

Suffice to say that without an understanding of how life forms fit together, dwell with one another

The design flops

Such a garden betrays the relationship of interconnectedness, forfeits a chance at communion

And, destroys the union of plants and human beings

Nature has her own design principles , they are easily seen – If you take a walkabout

In the mountains rivers foothills forests grasslands scrub vacant lots and open fields

Examine life, and the design patterns will light up


In the worst designs, the designer has no respect for maintenance

Has never done maintenance – pure design

Been to school, but never sowed a seed, made a cutting or scarified a legume

Never fixed a valve on a sprinkler, have a pipe break and have to dig it up

Never repotted a plant or pruned some roots or lowered the canopy

Never had to clean the algae off the walkway or whitewash the greenhouse

Never hauled a half ton boulder, or bucket carried 20 yards of decomposed granite

Never had to clean the gunk out of the fingernails or take a wood splinter out of the hand

Never had sore knees and a pulled back and the shoulders a wreck

Never never never never

Then they design , in the top down style

Of all things, a garden

And you wonder why why why why why why why why why

Who what how who what how who what how

A gardener, a person, takes care of a garden

A gardener must have plant knowledge, site knowledge, and knowledge of oneself

In the garden – the planner and the doer are one, human and design work in harmony

At the end of the day

In the garden, we are sitting around, tools have been put away, hands are washed

We are enjoying the fish tail fronds lit up by pink red orange clouds

While a big white waxing moon smiles in the blue sky

Good designs

My friend Dave, AKA party boy, is one of the most dedicated surfers I know.  He asked me why I did not write “surfing” down as one of my hobbies in a short autobiographical statement.  Thought about it and came up with this poem essay.  Okay here we go!

Surfing is not a hobby
A hobby is something you do on the side
You have work, career, vocation
Then you have a hobby
A hobby to pass the time
Make new friends
Learn something new
In a hobby you can become an amateur, an expert
Rock collecting, video gaming, gardening, woodworking
Hobbies are fun when you are young and forming an identity
Hobbies are a pleasure when you are old and retired
Surfing is not a hobby
Surfing is the main frame, not the sideline

Surfing is not a sport
Well, it is for some people
Heard it will be in the Olympics one day soon
Surfers participate in contests on a circuit
Collect prize money and trophies
Kisses and bouquets from bikini ladies
Judges and scores, penalties and infractions
Whistles and time limits
Money on the line
To bring in the fans the followers the viewers
Championship finals with
Consistent standards and perfect waves to match opponents
One against another
Winners and loooooooosers
A sport like golf or tennis or cycling or gymnastics
The sport of surfing
I don’t know the sport of surfing
Its players
Its drama and rivalries
Its excitement
Sorry I am out of it
Like somebody who has not heard of the Superbowl
Or somebody who doesn’t know what MLB stands for
Its like you start a conversation about Wayne Gretzky or Martina Navratilova and I am like who?
Sorry I don’t follow the sport of surfing
But I honor
Maui of Polynesia
Tafa’i of Tahiti
Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku from Hawaii
And our Lady of Black’s Beach

Surfing is not a lifestyle
I don’t even know what this means
It is something sold in magazines and advertisements?
Is it the hair and clothes?
Blond and baggy
Casual and comfortable and beyond cool?
Or is it the transport?
What happened to the wood panel doors and VW vans?
Is it now the Jeep and the Subaru?
Is the lifestyle the gnarly all out parties?
The look of care free surf all day
Surfing rules
Surfing is more important than anything else
What is the surfing lifestyle?!
Somebody who knows please explain it to me
Surfers I know have a diversity of lifestyles
Off the top of my head there’s
Hare Krishna surfer
Mad shitter surfer
Venture capitalist surfer
Pyramid dweller surfer
Pharmacist dealer surfer
Sailor surfer
Navy seals surfer
Cable car driver surfer
And that is just the men
Then there is
Black surfer
Guitarist surfer
Brain surgeon surfer
Activist Latina surfer
Got surfers tumbling out of pickup trucks
They got so many lifestyles
In and of itself
Surfing is not a lifestyle

Surfing is not religion
Some say that nature is holy ground
The temple of trees
The mosques of mountain peaks
The church of winding rivers
The synagogue of serpentine wildflowers
The shrine of the alkaline lake
The cathedral of desert sands
The pagoda of lava tubes
The monastery of the sea
This may be true
But most religions have creeds and beliefs
Rituals and codes of behavior
Creation stories and fancy costumes
Crusades and martyrs
Holy wars and peace bringers
Surfing does not have these elements
Surfing don’t care if you are evil and cruel
Surfing don’t care if you are a repentant killer
Surfing don’t care if you are full of compassion
Surfing don’t care if you do good deeds for the needy
Surfing is not religion
Nope, surfing is not like going to church
For sure it is not like a day of chanting at the temple
Sorry no go

Surfing is basically an unproductive activity
That is to say, there are few material gains at the end of a session
You go to work, you bring home some cash and bacon
You go to the workshop, you emerge with a turned bowl or a welded frame
You go fishing, you come home with a catfish and crabs
You go hunting, you come home with a few legs and antlers
You go to war, you come back with medals, and free college tuition
You go surfing, you come back with nothing
You come back with a wet suit, a wet pair of booties, a drippy nose
Nobody saw you go
Nobody saw you come back, they are all still sleeping
Totally unproductive, but not a waste of time…
Surfing is…
I love surfing
Surfing is great
Surfing brings great smiles
Surfing is like sunshine

Surfing is a paddle out
Through territory that is turbulent and chaotic
The ocean she is a good boxer
Don’t know how much power
A wave hits you with
Even the little ones hit you
Hard enough
The big ones square on your head
The big ones rumbled shut
The big ones whitewater thundering skyward with a bounce
Hard enough
You got to face them straight on
Not to the side
Not half assed
Not thinking of anything else
Straight on and push through
No matter how many come at you
Be persistent, be consistent
Push on through
Go under the wave
Go over the wave
Go through the wedge face of the wave tugging and pulling
Push on through
She is strong
She falls over with the circular motion of a three thousand mile long storm
She hauls with her a spinning density of about a thousand kilos per cubic meter
Push on through
Once in a while you never make it out to the outside where the waves are breaking
The shore pound was too heavy
Spacing interval between waves was too close
One after another after another
Two three big set waves land right on top of you
The curl the sucking action the big slam all right on top of you
You are all jarred stars are circling
Mind disoriented breathing is difficult gasp for air in the foam
Then you turn around and retreat to the beach
Try again paddle out at another section
Try again paddle out at a gurgling rip
And if nothing, go home that’s it for the day
Surfing is a paddle out
If you are lucky and she is kind
And you push on through
Then you are outside hahahahaha
Outside where the lines are stacking up
Peaceful and still
Bottle nosers are cruising in twos and threes with babies
Dorsal fins torn and etched with lines
The ocean heaves and sighs
Up and down
Up and down

Surfing is timing the wave
Some spots the surf zone is rock steady
A reefy point that breaks at the same place with precision and accuracy
Beach breaks where I surf at are shifty
The peaks are here then there here then over there
So hunt them down
They are not coming to you
Spot and stalk on the lookout
If you hang out around the raised bumps on the inside closer to shore
You might get hammered when the monster set waves march in
Be alert, watch the indicators, watch for dark lines
Scan where the straight line of the sea meets the edge of the sky
Be ready to go go go go go go
You have one flash one opening one cloudburst of rain gap
To get into position
One moment to go
Hesitate – its over
If you are not committed – missed it
If you don’t give it your all – the ride leaves without you
Surfing is timing the wave
Line up properly on the cusp
Not too inside, not too outside
Don’t aim for the wave that closes all at once
No peel just a heavy metal steel warehouse door banging shut
If you judged wrong the depths will stare up at you
The darkened rim, the watery bowels
Too late to pull back
Over the falls you go
A pebble in the sea
A grain of sand on the shore
Turning and tumbling smooth and round
Maytag frigidaire whirlpool
Game over
Go back to paddle out
Surfing is timing the wave

Surfing is the ride
You are standing amidst a liquid light tube shining
Center stage of iridescent blue green beams
Shimmering reflecting rainbow solar rays
The mother the sea she is the audience
She is clapping and laughing hurrah hurrah hurrah
Surfing is the ride
Surfing is being swept up in a moving energy vortex
Water is coming up and around
Water is hurdling down whipping in a curve
You are holding tight onto a magnetic spot of flow
Staying where the attraction is strong
All relaxed and happy
With no great effort
Surfing is the ride
Surfing is at the crux of two worlds
Balancing in a sluggish churning medium
In dynamic changing motion
Surfing is the meeting of gas and liquid
States of matter
Thick bars turning to sliding sluices to fat drips to crystalline spray to
Air wisping in eddies through
A juicy circle a moist tube a fluid ring
Bending and sloping into a spitting ellipse
Surfing is the ride
It is a feeling of contentment
A feeling that the world is perfect
An emotion that is filled to the high tide line
With infinity and awe
Surfing is the ride
This feeling this state this presence of mind
Carries over
Drips and sprays
Slams and gushes and explodes
Pumps sloshes and pounds
Into all other realms
Of day to day life
Surfing is the right sized wrench with good positive fit
Turning and turning in circles in barrels
Surfing is the razor sharp shiny metal bevel of a broad head arrow
Little bits of shaved metal from the file misting out the back of a wave
Surfing is the set of three pyrometric cones bent over in the the white heat of the kiln
One outside incoming, one middles about to break, and one bent to left on the inside
Surfing is a fern frond curling into the sun
Spiraling in a round drizzle atop your head
Surfing is the family gathered all around in harmony
Old folks and young’uns, cousins and siblings
All are present
Whales, stripers, halibuts, terns, cormorants, grebes, otters, seals, porpoises
Everybody is different
Everybody is here, cheerfully doing their own thing
Surfing is a ride
Life is a ride
Life is a short ride

Surfing is the moments and hours after you exit the water
Nobody knows where you have been
Nobody even cares
But you know
And you are glowin glowing
Like you got caught in a nuclear radiation meltdown
You are filled with the stoke the fuel the fire the water
The joy
Of this earth of this blue planet spinning on its axis
There it is
Surfing is life
Life is surfing
You are the car that slips through the yellow light
You are the last bite of bibimbap Korean barbecue beef at the bottom of the bowl
The seeds you planted two weeks ago germinated and are showing their first leaves
Its three in the morning and the mockingbird is still singing in the moonlight
A little kid gives you a big hug
Your wife asks, even though she already knows the answer:
“Where have you been!?!?!?!”
At Sloat
“How was it?”
About 2-3
“Any dolphins? Barrels?”
There were three dolphins out, but no barrels, kinda sloppy
“That’s it?”
Thats it…
She knows where you’ve been
You have been
In the embrace of a fertile mother
Caressed by a saline companion
In a brawl with a liquid beast
Getting pummeled by hydraulic hammers
In a glistening tunnel of salty wet love
Catching the splendid light dancing across the rolling canal
In silver sheets, in pulled threads, in flashing mirrors
Surfing is life
Life is surfing
Surfing is the moments and hours
In between visits to the sea


Big thank you to the BMC Book Club for writing and literary help!

Was asked about curriculums in school gardens
Heres some thoughts and pictures from my experiences at the local elementary school

Make it fun
The garden is not a classroom
It is a place of endless learning and adventure and wonder
But it is not a classroom
You don’t sit around listening to one person talking all the time
You don’t sit there in groups talking to each other
There is no busy paperwork
Work to keep you occupied, work to be scored and graded
Work like a fishhook through the lips
You don’t sit in the garden, spacing out on the phone
On the tablet, on the computer, on the screen
You engage with plants
Talk to bugs
Dig in the dirt
Kill weeds
Pour concrete lay brick saw wood
Cook in a clay oven
Water the chives
Plant sunflowers
Eat strawberries you planted in the spring
Dig up potatoes
Make a stir fry with veggies you harvested
Bring in your own rice cooker to complement the stir fry
Make it interactive make it mutual make it flow
Make it fun

Organize it well
You are going to have twenty some lil kids
Maybe five year olds, maybe 10 year olds
They better be on task, working together, working in the garden
Or else its gonna be chaos
They gonna get distracted
Somebody gonna get hurt
One kid gonna run off to the side not participate
The others gonna follow
And its game over
Then you gotta be the teacher
The mean teacher who tells people what to do or else
No no don’t fall into that, let the plants be the teacher
Organize it well
Our usual scheme is divide and conquer
So split em up into groups, squads, teams, units, crews
Four or five people or so is a good number
So you have room for hand tool use
Room to space yourself out
Room to talk and supervise and instruct
If you don’t have enough adults to work in small groups
Then a bigger group will have to do
But in an open garden it is easy for kids energy to go everywhere
Scatter and fall like buckshot at 500 yards
Best if it can be focussed
Organized it well
The garden must have different areas to work in
Stations and specific activities that are seasonally dependent
There is endless work in the garden that must be done
Everybody needs to work together
That is the key
Waste into fertilizer, composting, cutting weeds, piling them up, shoveling manure
That is a good station, very popular
Hunting for bugs, putting them in a terrarium, eating a termite or two, breeding worms and snails
That is a good station too, very popular
Harvesting greens, washing them, tearing them up small to get ready to eat them
That is a good station, extremely popular
Making flower bouquets or herb bundles of calendulas and sages, lavender and rosemary
That is a good station, over the top popular
Making a short brick wall, a concrete block raised bed
Quite popular
Pulling weeds, pickaxing weeds
This is not always popular, but some kids really like it!
So, organize it well and you will have plenty to do

The problem is the solution
Some kids you have seen them in the classrooms
They are hyper and jumpy and bored cant sit still
They cannot concentrate and don’t like to read much
They have a hard time hanging with their peers
You know these kids
Some kids they are on some kind of psychiatric medication
Their parents in the big house or doped up or alcoholic
Their parents are splitting or fighting or leaving or somewhere else
Their breakfast is a bag of chips and a soda
Some kids they seem to have all the material riches
They believe that money is love is money is love
They believe that power and popularity are the only games on earth
They never had a chance to learn about
Nature and the nature within
The sun lit worlds outside and inside
Worlds that don’t work according to economic law and latest fashions
Worlds profound
The sky the waters and the soil we walk on
Worlds that bring peace and contentment
Right sad that is if you do not acknowledge these worlds
The kids missing these elements
You can see it in their eyes in their being
They are a shell a skeleton a zombie a hollow
They are plastic and know it but don’t know what to do about it
They are just kids
They don’t know
Kids like this, kids starved of life and reflection
Often take to the garden like a lion in the savannah full of acacia trees
The problem is the solution
Before the kids get dragged into the world, the career world, the cut throat world
Show them the garden and all its infinite gifts
And they will have something happy to hold onto for the rest of their days
The best school gardeners, managers & helpers
Were not always the best in the classroom
Or the best on the play courts full of balls
But they were the best
In the garden
They cleaned up the beds
They shoveled dirt
They found every critter hidden under the rocks, under the leaves
They protected the flower beds and trees
They made stick and bamboo forts
They showed natural curiosity
And a propensity for working
Doing things
That made a difference
Doing creative, nurturing, and cooperative things
Actively engaged with the world
Actively engaged with alien creatures
Actively engaged with reality
Not fake stuff, theoretical stuff, mental stuff
Not competitive stuff, I’m better than you stuff, what’d you get stuff
Water, sun, dirt and flowers
The problem is the solution

Take it easy
The garden is infinite
Take it easy
with the Don’t touch that!
with the That is the wrong way to do it!
with the No you can’t no you can’t
The garden is abundance
Take it easy
Its a good place to learn how to take and give
Pick apples and plow in manure
Its a good place to learn to be thankful
Eat carrots pulled out of the earth
Its a good place to sit around with your friends after working hard
Drinking a cup of yerba buena mint tea
Fresh plucked leaves
Drinking a cup of lemon verbena tea
Fresh plucked leaves
Drinking a cup of lemon aid, squeezed fresh from the lemon tree
Students planted five, ten, fifteen years ago
You are in the garden
It is paradise
The garden is infinite
Partake of the bounty
Take it easy

Know your material
Take classes
Talk to grandmas and grandpas
Walk mountains, ford rivers, paddle streams
Know your material
Your material is plants and cultivation
Work in the community garden
Work in the greenhouse
Work in the nursery
Work in the woods
Know your material
Your material is plants and their uses
Go to the markets
Go to the kitchen
Go to the paddock
Go to the reservations
Go to the slaughterhouse
Go to the butchers shop
Go to the farms
Go to the forests
Go to the wetlands
Go to the desert
And stay there for forty days
Know your material
There are plants everywhere
There is nothing worse than
A garden teacher, a garden director, a garden administrator

Who does not know anything
About growing plants, loving plants
A garden teacher with a BA or a MA or a MS or a PhD
Maybe has multiple licenses and permits and certifications
Maybe has worked and traveled all over all over the whole wide world
But has never
Grown a plant
Funny and really sad at the same time
Botany majors, biology majors, landscape architects
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of hours of education
Never grown a plant
Then they become a garden teacher
They think aha such an easy gig
And make the kids sit in chairs
While they lecture for forty five minutes
Last five minutes of garden class
Paperwork – label the parts of a flower with the correct spelling
No I am not joking, seen this sort of behavior too too too many times
The worse part is the arrogance and close mindedness
That comes from a formal rigid expensive education
I’m right, you’re wrong
I’m smart, you’re dumb
I know, you don’t know
The kids can sense it
The kids can feel it
The kids know that your heart
Is not
In it
You phony and selfish
Not real and generous
The kids wonder
Was the old dude ever a little kid? What happened to him?
Why does this young lady keep talking and talking instead of working
With us with us together
In the garden?
Don’t let this be the fate of your school garden
Be a good teacher
Be hands on, not hands off
Be hands on, not only-brain on
Know your material

Take the bull by the horns
You know that the garden is low priority right?
Reading writing arithmetic
Social studies language and science
Teachers got tons of standards to cover
Teachers got exams to prep for
Teachers got tons to do
There is never enough time
For gardening
The parents
The parents are busy too
Back and forth, lesson to lesson, activity to activity
Bus stop waiting, car sitting in traffic, flat tire and family emergencies
PTA, sports leagues and bake sales, field trips and school auctions
And the principal? Good luck
So if you want a garden program for the students for the kids
You got to
Take the bull by the horns
Nobody else is going to do it
You got to
Commit and charge!!!
Take the bull by the horns
It is worth it
The garden is worth it
All the sweat all the achy muscles and backs all the dirty fingernails all the scraped knees
It is worth it
The kids will learn things from nature
That they will not learn anywhere else
The kids will learn things in the garden
That will last all their days
Nature is joy in action
Nature is a reflection of the human soul human psyche human mind
Nature is beauty

Nature is authenticity
Nature is true
Valuable valuable valuable lessons for kids to learn when they are young
Take the bull by the horns

Okay thats it!
  Enjoy your garden!
The pics:

sphinx moth larva.jpg

Well thats a good lil package
A lesson about lifecycle and bauplan
Mandibles and proboscis
Theres always the human overlay and stories
Associated with transformation and metamorphosis


Have you ever eaten sunflower seeds right off the flower head?
This one of those activities that take some planning
In the spring you plant the sunflower seeds with the kids
Then all summer long
When nobody is around at school
You gotta make sure
They are watered and cared for
Because when kids return to school in August September
That is the brightest thing in the garden
Crack goes the shell


Plant flowers
No reason
No reason
Plant flowers
All day long
At recess
At lunchtime
And after school too

bench 2011 sept.JPG

Mix up some mortar like cake mix
Plop it on
Lay a brick
Cut some lawson’s cypress
With a hand saw
Everyone gets a chance to cut
On the pull or on the push
Then hammer and bolt it all together
One day you can build houses
One day you can build bridges
To stay warm and dry
To cross the waters
And make peace between lands
Separated by seas

upper nov 2010.jpg

Not every garden needs a pond
Water features got pumps and filters and cables and pipes
Water breeds algae and mosquitos and is a drowning hazard
Water features are high maintenance
Still, with proper care
A pond is a lot of fun a lot of education
This pond started with a 2G rock foundation
And a six person volunteer group from Salesforce
The rest is a liner and many many sacks of concrete
A few tons
Wheelbarrowed and hauled and mixed and poured and formed
100% kids with a little guidance
Good project

alvarado trees1.jpeg

The trees
Gotta go meet and greet them
Good creatures to know
The trees
Theres a lot of different kinds and species
So I drew some maps
For the kids, for the adults
So that they could go say hi
To the trees
Walkabout walkabout walkabout
Dream of trees dream of forests dream of elegant dappled cathedrals
Of trees





People, humans
Are lumps of meat and bone
Tasty to many creatures
In life and after death
Protein carbohydrates and yummy fats
Blood and minerals

We are growers of plants and animals
Domesticated plants and tame animals
Plants and animals without a wild sense of survival
Plants and animals without noxious toxins and tough fibrous tissues
Soft, tasty plants and dumb dumb animals
In rows
In pens
They are susceptible to

We are inventors and prolific makers
We mine and burrow and dynamite
We burn and assemble and move stuff in transit
We produce lots and lots of stuff
Not all of it gets used
As a result, there is a lot of surplus
A lot of extra
A lot of garbage
A lot of trash
Its all food for
Our roads our transport our depots our stations
Is how pests
Move and disperse and gather

There are pests that feed on us
There are pests that feed on our friends and property
There are pests that follow us around wherever we go
Pests that thrive in our nooks and crannies
Armpits and crotches
Bed boards and sofa cushions
Cracks and basements
Sewers and dumps
I hate pests

I hate mosquitoes at the campground at twilight
I hate rats in the garage chewing up textiles and leaving pill shaped turds
i hate gophers that swallow my tulips
I hate fuzzy mold on my oranges and spaghetti sauce
I hate colonies of aphids sucking on my broccoli and collards greens
I hate black fungal dust that blows off the grain stores
I hate pigeon poop left on the playground swings
I hate beetles burrowed into my acorns
I hate white mycelium webs that have infiltrated the wooden deck
I hate the dividing bacteria in my infected swollen leg
I hate the sound of a million cockroaches waltzing across the kitchen floor at night
I hate the buzz and sting of the hive of yellow jackets that I step on
I hate them all

So it is war and survival
With pests
Theres is no tapping out, this is not a sport on a mat
There is no time out, this is not a game
There is no start over redo, this is not a training exercise
Winners and losers, whistles and flags
It is a war about
Food or famine
Health or pestilence
It is life and death

How do you win a war
Against small creatures with tiny brains or no brains at all
How do you win a war
Against creatures ten times, hundred times, thousand times
More ancient than ourselves
How do you win a war
Against an unrelenting enemy
Hell bent on feeding and reproduction
How do you win a war
When it is
Seven billion humans versus
How many pests? How many pests?!
Infinite pests
You cannot win a war
Against pests
They rule the world
Discretely, quietly
With no arrogance or grand gestures
They rule
They have their sphere of influence and territory
They adapt and overcome

You can learn to live with pests
And minimize their numbers
Have them below a damage threshold
Be willing to compromise and accept some loss
It is not – all or nothing
It is tolerance and acceptance
Coupled with a fight for survival
Be proactive in your approach to pests
Prevent them
Discourage places where they thrive
Attack them when they are weak
Live with them

This way you can make some cash
Feed the family
And still have a sane and balanced mind
Sitting around, throwing your hands up at the pests of the world
That is not an option
The path of humility
The path of understanding
The path of survival

Cleanliness is Godliness
Wash your hands after going to the bathroom
Wash your cuts with soap
Remove the rose leaves and litter full of fungal spores
Cut off the infected branches
Sterilize the potting soil
Keep the watering nozzle off the ground in the greenhouse

Plant the right plant in the right place
Breed disease resistance plants
Practice crop rotation to prevent buildup of pathogens
Proper irrigation and soil preparation
Plant cover crops, mulch
Amend the soil, conserve the soil, treat the soil with care

Know your enemy
Know their lifecycle know their habits
Know where they spend their days and nights
Know when they emerge and when they go to rest
Learn to distinguish your enemy from its look alikes
Its look alikes who may actually be your friends
Learn to attack your enemy when they are the most vulnerable
Learn to tolerate your enemy because you will never kill them all
Learn to respect your enemy

Use the least harmful method of control that you can
For pests
Because like karma
Whatever you put out in the world
It comes back at you
The nastier the poison
The more effective the kill, the more long lasting are its effects
Ha ha pests all dead
The poison stays around in the loop of life
And comes back at you
Might be a generation two generations three generations away
But it comes back at you
You like hahaha I got away with it who cares about anybody else
Who cares about the ‘environment’ or the ‘future’
I am good ‘now’
My belly is fat
I got my bottle of foamy drink
And meat on the grill
But maybe you care about your kids, or your kids kids, or your kids kids kids
Or maybe your brothers kids, your sisters kids, your neighbors kids
Maybe you still hear, on occasion, the voice of the little kid, within
You want them to live in a world with frogs and dragonflies and singing birds
A world of fantastic laughing creatures
You do not want them to live in a world
Where all they know
Is made of plastic and metal and plastic
A world lived in a dark cave of only human constructed lifeless objects
Shiny glossy titillating tempting and addictive
But empty
A world where you do not see the beauty of creation

You cannot eradicate the cockroaches of the world
You cannot annihilate the rodents of the world
You cannot make flies go extinct
They are more powerful than you
They are tougher stronger
And more hungry than you

That is why it is important
To try and see beyond
A world at war
With itself
A mind at war
With itself

So that is why we choose peace and tolerance and love
So that you can appreciate a bee a sunflower a setting sun
A day out by the river with the family and friends
That is why there is this thing in horticulture and farming
We call Integrated Pest Management

People always be saying
A weed is a plant in the wrong place
Like something that was lost and misplaced
Or like a person that should know better
An errant plant
A child taking bites out of the fruit in the supermarket before its paid for
A fly that is in your thirty dollar entree
The wrong place
Bad plant, evil weed, nasty invader, bully
Wrong Incorrect Failure Problem Loss Scourge Defeat

There is the issue of control and territory, native and immigrant (A)
There is the issue of movement, import and export (B)
There is the issue of ugliness, and beauty (C)
There is the issue of production and money (D)
There is the issue of killing them darn weeds, and killing ourselves in the process (E)
There is a way to live with them (F)
We will take this one issue at a time


Whoever owns the land, they decide who is the good plant
Who is the bad plant
Some plants are kinda in between, not that bad, not good for much either, in between
Say you run cattle or sheep, you don’t want no poisonous or unpalatable plants that cause abortions in pregnant ewes or give the heifer the staggers and fall over
Locoweed, nightshade, star thistle, oleander – all weeds, no good for ruminants
Oats, rye, clover – these are the good pasture plants that make nutritious hay and creamy milk
Good plants, not bad plants.

Say you are in the flats trying to grow corn and potatoes
Its all woodland. Well all those trees – weeds
Cut em down
Pine, cottonwood, sycamore, fir – all weeds
All those pretty wild flowers and unnamed grasses – weeds, plow em, spray em
On the farm, they are all in your way – weeds

You are in the restoration business
Helping to create and build
Helping to restore a wetland
Helping to restore a prairie
Helping to restore something that took nature thousands of years to grow
And less than a hundred years to destroy
Okay whats the weed?
Restorationists around these parts say
A native plant is what was here when natives ruled
Not white people
Not black people
Not yellow people
Native people
So check the flora and ethnobotanical explorer accounts
Check the DNA and oral traditions
In this case of control, ownership, and function:
Native = good
Non native = weed
Native = good
Naturalized = not as good as a native cause you not from around here originally
But okay you can stay cause you’re breeding here now, and not invasive
Non native invasive = a really bad weed you cant seem to get rid of

Take for example ice plant Hottentot fig Carpobrotus edulis
Back in the day, late 1800’s
San Francisco west side all sandy dunes
There was some rhizomatous grasses, low lying strawberry, silver lupines and blue butterflies
Not much grow out there in the dry blowing windy sands
But the city is growing, people are coming, theres still gold in the hills
So better start building houses on the west side
How to stabilize the sand dunes?
Enter ice plant, mats of sunflower like flower carpets, succulent leaves resistant to salt spray
The fruit edible, tastes like kiwi and prickly pear
Ice plant from Africa – South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope
Bring em in to do a job
Army Corps of Engineers flattened the dunes and slowed down the shifting sands
With a lot of ice plant plantings
The Corps tamed the outer lands
Tamed the topography
Made the useless useful
Made civilization in the wilderness
Now, there are houses and streets and stores and schools
Where there was once junky dry sands
Along the Great highway next to the sea
Ice plant saved the day
Fast forward to now
These days
Ice plant is a non native invasive weed
Its takin over!
Restore the endangered sand dunes
Restore the endangered species
So we pull it up and stack it to dry and die in the sun
Its taking over!
Once it was good, now it is bad
Restoration is not easy, mending the broken connections
And making whole
The harmony of the past and present
Blending the new comers and those who have been here

(B) Many weeds were brought here by people in transit in movement in motion
They did not always start out as weeds
But time outgrew their usefulness
Human culture and society changed and moved on
The plants did not change, but attitudes about them did
They are feral herbs and wild vegetables and goat food
They are ornamental flowers and floristry arrangements

Many weeds are hitchhikers stowaways sneaky thieving hideaways
They are stuck on a shoe or a sock or inside a pants pocket
They are tucked in a bale of hay or on a rodents back or inside a birds stomach
They go through customs and borders and fences and walls and go undetected
Plants love to disperse
They love to go where there is opportunity and openings and space
They love to live where there are few predators and the weather is fine
They love to live where the sun is shining and the amount of water is ‘just right’

People love to move plants
Plants are a part of a culture a tradition a smell a taste of mom’s cooking
Plants are grandpas cordage and pipe filler
Plants are the land where you come from
Plant fragrances root you in childhood memories
Plants like to travel to new places and people too

Nowadays when I look at a median strip
The island in the road that is not paved
There’ve been beautification efforts
Trees planted, flowers blooming
Amidst all of this, weeds growing
For gosh sakes
On top
On top of the weed cloth and mulch and gravel
Weeds named oats and rye, clover
But wait, those are pasture plants, forage for cattle
No, they are weeds
Weed whack them, spray them, pull them

(C) Are all weeds ugly and unkempt?
Is ugliness the same as bad and evil and invasive?
Yes weeds have flowers
Yes weeds can be pretty
A backyard of nasturtiums and wild onions is colorful and easy on the eyes
Easy on the maintenance
Cause they are all weeds and need no care
But there is a random natural look of plants that grow on their own
Come in on their own without human invitation
That is disturbing to the aesthetic sensibility of many people
Such a palette makes them nervous and worse, angry
The weeds like to grow right up against each other
Smother each other even
Mix and match, jumble wumble mosaic
They know no limits!
They don’t stop growing at the 3’ x 3’ square
They don’t grow in neat rows or straight lines
They don’t always have upright trunks and poof out in symmetry
They are never one pure color, it is always a mess
They do their own thing
They sprawl and lean and skoot along underground
They bend over and lay back and exhibit
Heaven forbid
Brown leaves old leaves and bare stems
They dont stop growing
The ugly things in the sidewalk
The ugly lawn daisies in the pure stand of green fescue
The ugly morning glory twining up the camellias
Ugly perhaps in their behavior
In their ability to thwart the evolved advanced genius two legged humans
But on the other hand
Individually, weeds are plants are beauty are life abundant are creation
Don’t get too mad

(D) Weeds can get in the way of production and making cash
They will edge in next to your crop of brussels sprouts and artichokes
They will choke out your tomatoes and eggplants
They will suffocate your magnolia tree and swallow your tulips
They will steal the food and drink the water
They will squeeze out others’ roots and block the sun
Weeds are bad bad creatures
In the old times plowing and hoeing did the trick
But that sure was a lot a lot of work
Then along came herbicides plant killing chemicals
That cleaned up the field and smacked down the weeds
Then the weeds started fighting back
Its been back and forth ever since
Same as before, same as always, same as it ever will be
Just try and stay a little ahead okay
For survival’s sake

(E) There are a few basic ways to kill an unwanted plant
One way is to physically cut it, dig it out, pull it
The timing has to be right
Wet soil is easier than dry
Sandy soil is easier than clay
Weeds can resprout from its base
From its trunk
From a little piece of tap root you left behind
Trowels, hoes, pick axes, axes, saws
For big tracts of land, machinery sure is a great tool
Disc it, mow it, plow it

Weeds can germinate easily in the plowed and disturbed soil
It is what they are best at
The soil is their bank
A seed bank
Seeds buried a few inches a foot down two feet down
Seeds germinate after a fifty year dormancy
After a hundred year sleep
After a thousand year rest
They still come up

Another way to get rid of weeds is chemicals
You spray em on the weed
The weed dies
You still may have to cut it and clean it up
But at least it is dead and easier to cut
Watch out you don’t accidentally spray the good plants
Watch out you don’t accidentally spill the chemicals all over yourself
Watch out some little kid doesn’t come and drink the chemicals or pick the sprayed weeds to eat
Watch out that you use too much and the stuff don’t work anymore
Watch out that you use too much and all of nature all her creatures go quiet
Watch out in the heat of the battle against weeds
You lose sight of nature
You forget adaptation and resilience
You stop breathing and enjoying the greenery of our planet

Once in a while you can use a bug, an insect, to kill weeds
This usually means going to the weed’s area of origin and finding some bugs that feed on it
Then bringing the bugs home, breeding them, then releasing them
This is for experts only, USDA and Plant Health Station quarantines and the like
Not for gardeners in a residential garden
Not for small farmers on 100 acres
Experts only

(F) You got to live with the weeds! Theres no way around them
They are here to stay
Ever since they came up on the land
From the sea
They have been at work
While you are watching the screen
They are growing and spreading
While you are eating and sleeping
They are growing and spreading
While you are partying at a birthday or sitting quietly at a funeral wake
They are growing and spreading
They are not going away
Prevention is the key
And the key to prevention is understanding the ecology of plants, the ecology of weeds
Design well, make maintenance painless, make maintenance easy

Cover the earth always
Weeds seeds are abundant, and can be smothered and covered
Cardboard and chips is okay
Or use stone and concrete
The fallen leaf litter of maples and pine needles is good
Or the dead bodies of the weeds themselves
Left to stack and dry and sit in the hot sun
That will show them
Cover the earth
If you don’t plant the empty spaces in the garden
The bare dirt
Nature will
With weeds
So seek out good looking ground covers
Pretty perennial and annual self sowing plants
Incorporate weeds that are not out of hand, not too ugly
Cover the earth

Hit them at the right time
When they are young and not formed
When they have not yet formed a thickened tap root
Before they have set seeds and jettisoned them all around
Hit them at the right time
Germinated sprouting weeds are susceptible to hoes
A few times during the growing season
Again and again
Hit em
A woody french broom
Cut and peeled in the spring
Peeled when the juices are flowing
Peeled when its easy to peel off its skin
It ain’t coming back nope it ain’t going to resprout
Hit them at the right time

Restrict your watering
Whenever you water and irrigate remember
You are watering the good plants, as well as the weeds
Restrict your watering
Force your plants to find their own water
A little deeper
Force your plants to take a rest from constant watering
Don’t spoil them so much
They will only suffer in inclement conditions
Restrict your watering

Accept diversity love nature respect her power
This is probably the hardest one
Humans number one
Earth we dominate her
That is what we do
All the time
This is our world
We are the top dog the top predator the apex the master chief
Hard to
Adapt to nature and her whims
But with regards to weeds
Beware of forcing your boxy juvenile mindset
On an ancient order and structure, elegant and wild
Accept diversity love nature respect her power
You will be a happier person
When you walk around town
And accept diversity love nature respect her power
You will see the history of civilization through its plants
And be less bothered by the weedy grasses in the flower bed
You will be happier
When you work in the garden
And see the bees visiting the weeds for pollen and nectar
Appreciate the butterflies drinking the weed’s nectar
Make a floral arrangement with the weeds’ inflorescences
Brew tea with the medicinal weed that the wind blew in
Accept diversity love nature respect her power
Weeds are not really all that ugly, not all that invasive
At least in comparison to people…
Forget your human constructs and rigid preferences
Take it all in

Plants we don’t like
Plants we don’t want
Plants in the wrong place
Plants that survive in spite of us
Plants that survive because of us
Plants that survive with or without us
Kind of humbling
Kind of takes you out of the center of the universe
Out of that big carved ego sphere
And puts you back into the web
On the edge
In a fold
Tucked in with all life
The web of the universe
The web of all our relations
Something to work on
Our relationship with
Pesky lil creatures
Older than us
More prolific than us
So frustrating!

Time to
Go pull ‘em!
Primal therapy mates!!!


Spring time, west wind howling.  Oceanic slop.  Been stuck in a lull.  First the colors disappeared.  Then the black and white visions stopped too.  Clutching at words but words are difficult for me.  They circle back and bite with uneven tooth marks.  Friend Katie Renz of Phyteclub gifts me a book called Braiding Sweetgrass.  Well, it got me drawing again.  Thank you ladies, thank you story tellers from the Great Lakes.  Theres still a little ink left in the drawing pens…






Somehow, the topic of nerve poisons and insecticides came up while we were talking about tree health care in class.  This was a brief overview of the discussion: