Category Archives: home

such great heights

One of the big garden trends now is vertical gardening. It’s generally touted as ideal for maximizing the vertical growing capacity of a city – apartment dwellers with living walls, office buildings blanketed in lettuce greens, and so on. So, predictably, there was a lot of vertical gardening at the Northwest Flower & Garden show last weekend. To our delight, many of them were growing strawberry plants. The demonstration gardens were inspirational, jump starting conversations about how we can integrate vertical gardening into our own home. Of course, you can’t just use the same techniques from a demonstration garden that lasts for 5 days for your wall or fence – which will, hopefully, last much longer, but it’s a good starting place. We have a quarter acre of land – an almost luxurious amount of space – but we have big dreams for the stuff we’re going to grow. We’re trying to think vertical as we’re creating the garden to avoid problems later when it’s harder to change and fit things in. So, here is a rundown of some of the things we’re thinking about.

This classy vertical garden made from thick gray felt was in “The City Comes Alive,” the demo garden by Solterra Systems. This was the first vertical growing we saw when we walked in, but it stuck with me all day. It reminds me of Woolly Pockets. I am strangely fascinated with Woolly Pockets, and that fascinated transferred easily to this beautiful felt pocket wall.

This living fence in the WSNLA demo garden is growing strawberries! Krista liked this so ladder design so much. I think she was ready to take this home with us. I would not have stopped her, but I think the gardens have their own security.

The Seattle Urban Farm Co. built this “Crops for Clunkers” garden, and in lieu of bumpers and side panels, the truck was sprouting strawberries. This was one of the highlights of the show for me. I have too many feelings about it; I need to write about it separately.

This was in the container garden display section of the show. It makes me want to remodel our bathroom. In addition to that great wall, I was in love with the mossy bath mat, which reminded me of another moss bathmat I wish I owned. The powers that be need to hurry up and produce moss bath mats for mass consumption!

Most of these walls were simply potted plants stacked into a frame, which worked well enough for the garden show. It is not what I would want for my backyard as a long-term vertical garden solution, but it’s food for thought. I would love a strawberry fence or wall, but I would love it more if it lasted for years and had some irrigation built in.



Filed under home, urban farming, winter

marmoleum, linoleum, schmanoleum

We finally went shopping for marmoleum.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I had no idea what marmoleum was a couple weeks ago. If you’re in the same predicament as the two-week-ago me, I’ll try to help you out a little. I cringe when I hear myself use the word “green,” but it is creeping more and more into our vocabularies, especially as we try to work on our house. In general, we’d like to have a “green” home. As we decide what to put in our house, there are all kinds of green options available these days. Most of you who read this know us; we have both been little granola vegetarians since we were kids. You can be pretty passionate about the environment and still have a lot of room for improvement, and we are far from perfect. It is challenging to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to purchasing things that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and you are trying to just do little DIY projects here and there over time. It is even more challenging to wade through the mass marketing of “green”. How do you tell what products really are good for us and the planet in this day and age, when you can buy USDA certified organic pancake batter in a pressurized can?

Anyway, to put it simply, marmoleum is like environmentally friendly linoleum, except what we know of as linoleum today is actually polyvinyl chloride. The real, old school linoleum was made out of stuff like linseed oil, rosin, ground cork dust, and wood flour. So I guess the stuff we call marmoleum is true linoleum. Jess snapped this handy photo of the display at the fancy flooring store downtown to show you the marmoleum ingredients:

Pretty simple. The idea of having something in our house that is natural and less likely to offgas toxic crap is appealing. And my allergies are only getting worse. This week I had an insane allergy attack that my two prescription medications couldn’t tackle, and I ended up home from work for two days in a Benadryl stupor. I really hate missing work. So this stuff is really appealing to us for the kitchen floor. We heard you can even get “click” marmoleum that snaps into place without glue and is pretty easy to do yourself. We’ve both been really drawn to the idea of good ol’ checkered floors in the kitchen.

Image from apartment therapy. Here’s just one of their posts about checkered floors.

We had in mind some variation on checkered with charcoal, light gray, and off-white. Then we looked at the samples up close, stepping all over them and sitting on the floor with them for over an hour. It didn’t take long to learn:

– we were drawn to the nostalgia of the linoleum we remember from our school years, and DO NOT WANT marmoleum that looks like faux granite, faux marble, or practically like it has been sponge painted

– while some of the bright colors were appealing, we didn’t like any of the limited offerings that come in click

– this means we either have to get pre-cut 13″ square tiles or sheets, both which have to be installed with glue and (preferably) by a professional

– we also didn’t like any of the offerings that came in 13″ tiles, so no way in hell will we be able to try to do this project ourselves

Honestly, we didn’t care for almost any of it, but I spotted a Dutch Design line and both of us fell instantly love with a bright green (???). There was also a red I really liked, but red just isn’t going to work for what we have in mind.

The patient employees let us take home the samples we settled on: Scrabble (white with black flecks), Galentine (dark gray flecked, looks less granite-y from 5’8″ above the floor), and Painted Fields (that amazing green by Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk, with flecks of pink and dark brown when you look at it up close).

I really believe in putting stuff we love in our house, and the rest of the kitchen is going to be almost entirely white. So we could get away with accents of bright green on our otherwise gray and white floor. I think it could look really sharp, but will it look insane five or ten years from now? And do we want to pay someone lots of money to install this, especially considering it may need to be touched up when we replace the cabinets that are currently touching the floors? Stay tuned. I think the next step is to shop for polyvinyl chloride “linoleum” and see how easily we could install that ourselves and exactly how much money we are talking about.

In the meantime, I have been playing with patterns in Photoshop:


chain links!

I think Jess is leaning toward this:


Filed under goals, home

baby steps

So we bought this new house, right? Okay, it is not really a new house. It is a 75 year-old house, but you know what I mean. When we were house hunting we quickly learned that no house is going to be exactly what we wanted. We have pretty particular tastes, and no house is perfect for us down to every piece of trim and window sill and door knob. We also quickly learned that prioritizing the location of our house put most of the truly amazing houses way out of our price range. We could have bought a gorgeous old Victorian house if we wanted to commute 45 minutes each way to work, but in the end it was important for us to be in Olympia proper, in the good school district, by the best high school, and near downtown. Did you know the internet has the tools to quickly look up the walkability of an address? This is just one of the many things we researched everytime we found a new listing.

What I am trying to get at here is that our house ain’t perfect. There are things we love, things we like, things we tolerate, and even some things we despise. I finally decided that I couldn’t look at these despicable kitchen cabinet pulls another single day:

But what do we get to replace the pulls on the cabinets when we really don’t like the cabinets themselves? We talked and talked and talked about painting the existing ones white. Ultimately, we are going to have white cabinets in our kitchen. I put my foot down, though. I know that I still will not like these cabinets if they are white, and we would end up spending a lot of time and money and still not love them. They aren’t our style and they don’t maximize the space, which is a precious commodity in our 1100 square foot home. So here lies the dilemma. We had to buy cabinet pulls that will look good on our future dream cupboards as well as our current less desirable ones. And here you have it:



Black milk glass 3″ pulls from D. Lawless Hardware for $3.95 a piece plus the shipping was free! Please excuse the crappy flash photography. I really can’t wait for longer daylight hours.

Now those babies are really going to look awesome on our future cupboards, and in the meantime I don’t have those garish gold monstrosities with faux wooden beads in my face every time I go to pour myself a bowl of Trader Joe’s Organic High Fiber O’s.


Filed under home


While Krista wastes no opportunity to tell me that this January is unseasonably warm and not really spring yet, I can’t help that familiar pitter patter in my heart. I know, I am always rushing the seasons, but it is hard for me to follow the arbitrary law of the calendar when I spend some time in the yard and all signs point to spring. My master gardener class starts this week, the seed catalogs are pouring in, and my most beloved plant in the universe has started blooming. Behold: my contorted filbert has survived the winter.

Do you see that tiny pink explosion on the tip of the bud? Very springish. And do you see the pale greenish catkins behind it? Tell me that does not look like spring. We’re not building the beds yet, though, so I try to be content with my endless spreadsheets, plants, diagrams, piles of seed packets and catalogs. What are you looking forward to growing this year?


Filed under home, winter

This weekend, Krista was like “What the heck! You haven’t blogged about the Master Gardener program yet?” Well, I have been holding out on you because clearly I prefer to talk about Levi, our pets and our house to discussing my own personal triumphs. So, here’s the overdue blog entry.

A few months back I applied for the local Master Gardener program through the county’s extension office and Washington State University. The MG program is a combination of training and service. You spend months learning tons of stuff about botany, integrated pest management, soil science, plant identification, pest and disease diagnosis. Then you do a lot of volunteer work, mostly in demonstration gardens, clinics, outreach programs, etc. The program is great for developing your personal knowledge about gardening, but better than that, it’s a rare and wonderful opportunity to become a trained education and help deliver messages related to water-wise gardening, composting, and low-impact landscaping. In case you don’t know me very well, I majored in environmental science & minored in botany, and I’ve been experiencing minor “career conflict” lately as I feel pulled to spend time planting and growing things. The obligations of being a new homeowner encourage me to maintain regular employment, however.

The Master Gardener program only accepts 50 people a year. Gardening is increasingly popular as the green/environmental movement picks up speed & the economy pushes people to reconnect with the concept of victory gardens. I was nervous about whether I’d get in or not, so I didn’t tell many people about it. For whatever reasons, they accepted me! Classes start the first week of February. I’ll spend about 4 months in training, and then a year completing the Apprentice (volunteer hours) portion of the program. I’m super excited about the whole thing, but I couldn’t have done it on my own. My co-worker Kate got me excited about it, Krista urged me to apply, and my boss agreed to be flexible with my hours during the training period. Many thanks to all of them for being the support I clearly desperately need!

Yes, I am happy to help you with whatever you need in your garden. I’m going to be way overbooked for awhile, since I’ll be working full time, doing the MG training, and renovating our own garden. Have I mentioned lately how excited I am to start work on our yard?!? Krista & I already started a spreadsheet of our 2010 garden plans. And yes, somehow I still plan to start a bee hive & a flock of chickens. 2010 is going to be a “hold onto your hats” kind of year.


Filed under home, urban farming, winter


Did you know that it snowed in Olympia on Sunday? Yes, it did. My coworkers tell me that it did not snow in Seattle, but it snowed most of the day in Olympia. The roads were pretty treacherous, but we did get to see our house in the snow for the first time ever.

And I was also reminded of how very, very much tiny dogs hate the snow. Cash has been wearing his new sweater, which was purchased locally and handmade from organic wool. Clementine, however, refuses to wear any sweaters, even if they are organic, handmade wool. So she’s very cold.

Speaking of people who refuse to dress weather-appropriately, Levi insists that wearing a blazer is good enough for wintertime temperatures. He is quick to point out that winter does not even technically start until December 21, and a blazer is perfectly adequate for the fall. Fortunately, the snow melted the next morning and heavy rains set in, and a blazer is adequate for that.


Filed under home, pets, winter


Before & After

Just a reminder: Our apple tree fell down. Fortunately, my friend Kate knows how to use a chainsaw. She came over Sunday and we spent the morning in the backyard. She missed her calling as a lumberjack, because she dissected that tree into “manageable pieces” in a matter of minutes.

The apple tree has been reduced to a pile of apple sticks and apple logs.

Now, we just have to decide what we’re going to do with the manageable pieces.


Filed under fall, home, urban farming