Saturday, July 14, 2012

Piazza Aguilar

It was a brutal week working on the house but working on the garden is a complete joy.

Every week brings something new and just hanging out, pulling weeds or planting seeds reinvigorates our senses.

Enjoy the photos of the summer!

The old exterior-siding-in-the-middle-of-the-house trick

Well, I knew I was going to have my mind and hands full with this problem.

The entry way between the living room and kitchen was ugly and unusually thicker than the other entry ways in the house.  I knew that it was because a past owner had nailed gypsum to redwood siding that marked where the first, original exterior of the house existed. When the house was first built, it was maybe 800 sqft and had an outdoor deck where the kitchen now sits.

So I just HAD to take off this ugly painted over drywall and see what we could do. Once the exterior siding was exposed, I had to make a choice.  Take it all out and replace with drywall or remove all the old paint, sand it and bring out the redwood.

Take it all out meant some real painstaking work that I was in no mood to do. Removing the paint and sanding was another thing I was in no mood to do.  So after thinking about it for DAYS...I decided we would leave the siding in there, remove the paint and paint over with a fresh coat of paint.

My reason for the decision was this:  The wood was in good shape and it added structural support by acting as a shear wall and leaving it seemed the least problematic to me.

So I cleaned it up and let Andrea pic the paint. She choose 'Renoir Bisque' and it was an excellent choice.  Took about a few days to do and about 2 weeks just thinking about what we were going to do.

How do you like the result?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Urbanite is not Kryptonite

We had the idea of building a pergola to help hide the ugly apt building in the rear of the backyard but changed our minds after a visit to the building permits dept. They basically said it wasn't allowed but you "go ahead and plant trees if you like". A large portion of our backyard is covered in cement which keeps us from planting any trees. How nice of them to make that suggestion?

And it turned out to be a pretty good one and turned out a lot cheaper than building a pergola. I never liked jackhammers because of the noise and mess and I've learned that some people have been converting old, discarded cement slabs (urbanite) into creative reuse projects. This website promotes the notion of removing cement in order to "free your soil". This also allows less runoff and connects you more with your land etc.etc. Check them out

So first I needed to get a cement cutter from the free Oakland Tool Library and jump into my first attempt at cutting 2-3" thick slabs of cement. I marked out a large square section I wanted to cut out to make room for the tree and planned on making cuts so I could reuse the cut slabs as tables or benches.

While researching the term "urbanite"  I came across this fun definition. A few lines are crossed out because that is NOT what we want to do.

A person who inhabits one of the major cities in the world, aged between 17 and 44 (ahem). An urbanite is an affluent consumer with an optimistic outlook on life that is very different from those who live in "small town" or rural areas.

Urbanites are both a subculture and a contemporary lifestyle. They have 6 key characteristics: Time-poor, city-proud, media-literate, brand-centric, trend-sensitive and culturally-aware.

The British newspaper Metro has listed the 10 "Great expectations" that above all else motivate and drive Urbanites:

01. Expecting to live a meaningful and experience-rich urban life.
02. Expecting to succeed in multiple areas of life (not just career).
03. Expecting to get substantial fulfillment from work (not just cash).
04. Expecting to be at the hub of a large friendship network.
05. Expecting the traditional ideal of "true love" in the modern world.
06. Expecting to have to "make time" in order to have and enjoy time.
07. Expecting to use debt to have what they want, and have it now.
08. Expecting to have a progressive government that delivers results.
09. Expecting to live in a pleasant "urban village" area of their city.
10. Expecting to live a responsible life as an urban consumer.

Hopefully we can practice that more over time.  Anyway, here are the results of the urbanite creative project of the back yard:

Here is the urbanite standing next to a very tall sunflower that will bloom any day now.

Andrea and I threw a bunch of spaghetti squash seeds into the ground a few months ago and we have about 6 big ones growing!

A mural grows in W. Oakland

Oakland city officials, a non profit group and some high school kids just completed their first mural painted underneath the 580 freeway just around the corner from our home.   They plan on doing a total of 6 such murals and will be working on the overpass just a stone's throw from our house soon. picasa photos courtesy of Gene Anderson.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reimagining Oakland

Andrea always like to tell me that, "You certainly don't lack vision."   What she means is that I can envision  (very clearly) something in my head that doesn't yet exist..  I think that could be true of many folks but I've had enough experience to know that it's one thing to envision something and another thing to actually make it happen.

I've been fortunate enough to have created quite a bit of new work when I have the proper tools, and time to be left alone to make it happen. Nearly all of it is computer based work which sometimes leaves me dissatisfied.

With this house, it is fun to see all of the past visions come true.  Some of it is even better than I imagined.  Whenever I get a "vision", I immediately want to start working on it to get it out of my head and turn it into something material that we can all see.

Now that we've been living in Oakland a few years exploring some wonderful areas, my vision has expanded beyond the house, beyond the neighborhood and now encompasses even Oakland.

So I quickly Photoshopped a few images that combine the natural, watery beauty of Lake Merritt, with the hard, recycled steel from W. Oakland artist KAREN CUSOLITO.   

She is perhaps best known for creating huge sculptures out of steel for Burning Man

She now runs American Steel Studios only a few blocks from us and I accidentally "discovered" her art while picking up a free piece of linoleum for the kitchen.

Lake Merritt is also a favorite place of ours to visit and suddenly it dawned on me that the two could combine in some ways. So here are some visions of Lake Merritt with artwork by Cusolito.

So I've sent these pics to our local city supervisor.   Can't you just picture it?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Andrea's Anecdotes

Lately we've been watching birds hop and peck around the garden/yard. This morning I saw one go into the birdbath and splash around a little. Another skipped around the brick planter, then jumped into the small plastic container housing the starter flowers. One bird we call 'Messy Marvin' was pecking around the mulch under the lemon tree kicking up a storm of a mess.

 Daily, we see changes to all our plants and flowers, however slight. The spaghetti squash really does get a little bit bigger every day, as do the sunflowers, and one purple Morning Glory was open this morning. Throughout the day, butterflies bounce around and bees crawl inside flowers. Nature just goes about its business day after day. When I am fretting about something, nature reminds me to be present, breathe, observe, write it out (that's the best way I process), so I can get back to my own business of the day. 

I also watch nature do what it was designed to do. Seeds germinate, sprout and grow, sunflowers tilt their faces (even stems) toward the sun and follow it all day, as birds sing, and the ants scurry along cement highways, etc. This sometimes helps me get out of thinking too much, and just being. Nature is full of lessons and reminders that I think are essential to our own well-being. Whether you're in gardens, parks, at beaches, lakes, mountains, forests, etc, it's a great place to breathe, clear your mind, and rejuvenate your perspective.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We saw this today while walking around Lake Merritt. 
Happy & Safe Independence Day.

(The window message:)
-Marie Antoinette

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Garden Photo Caption Update

George carved out a big section of cement to plant our new Pittosporum Tenuifolium tree! Notice the urbanite bench he created too!
The Lemon Verbena is doing well :)

I love this patio. The Japanese Honeysuckle continues to fill out along the fence.
Our Santa Rosa Plum tree produced about 19 plums this year.

The Parsley is still growing crazy big.

The Golden Poppies are blooming and taking over this space.

We're getting lots of squash blossoms and trailing vine on the Spaghetti Squash plant which was started from seed.

The Sunflowers get taller every day.

New bird feeder we scored at a garage sale. Now the birds just need to find it.
Peruvian Potato harvest!
We got a a few small berries on the Sequoia Strawberry plants so far. They are small but very sweet.