Friday, June 9, 2017

The 13th Annual ANLD Designers Garden Tour, June 17th

Each year the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers holds a garden tour, showing off some of the projects their members have completed. The proceeds fund scholarships for aspiring landscape designers attending local community colleges.

I had the good luck to attend a sneak peek of the seven gardens on this year's tour. The gardens were impressive, especially considering some of the site challenges they had to address. The theme of this year's tour seemed to be underground streams. Many of the homes are situated on properties with underground water issues.

#1 Terri's Garden

A combination of underground drains and wetland plantings combine to deal with the large amount of water flowing under this property. The garden is low-maintenance and designed to allow the owner to age in place.

#2 Letson-Gardner Garden

This steep yard was transformed into a spectacular terraced garden, perfect for entertaining or solo contemplation.

#3 Mill Pond Garden

I am still marveling over this transformed property. With a 110' vertical rise in the back, the property was terraced with 380 tons of rockwork. This garden is mind-boggling.

#4 Myers Garden

This asian-inspired garden employed a number of creative solutions to manage the large amount of underground water beneath the property. It's peaceful and lovely and you'd never guess that there's an underground stream flowing beneath your feet.

#5 Andora Gardens

This is the personal garden of Ann Nickerson, an ANLD designer. This is a small but incredibly usable garden, broken into different entertaining and resting areas. 

#6 Peck Garden

This was my favorite garden on the tour. This is the personal garden of Marcia Peck, an ANLD designer. She has installed an interesting assortment of mosaic rockwork and the plant palette was exciting. 

#7 Schmitt Garden

This garden suffered from, you guessed it, poor drainage! You'd never guess it looking at it now. 

The ANLD Designers Garden Tour will be held on Saturday June 17th from 10am to 4pm. Tickets are available online. Or leave a message and be entered to win a ticket! I will announce the winner on Thursday June 15th.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


In other big project news, after eight years(!) in the house, we finally got our wood floors refinished. It took this long because I couldn't afford it for years, then once we could I knew we'd have to move out of the house to have it done. We also had a huge question mark about the sloping subfloor under the carpet.

We had no idea if fixing a creaky franken-floor would cost $500 or $5000. Just to recap, at one point our dining room was two rooms: a formal dining room (the side with the big window) and a kitchen nook that was 2/3 as deep as it currently is. The kitchen nook was bumped out to meet the front of the house and the wall between knocked down.

Plywood removed and subfloor revealed

They either ran out of money to finish out the oak flooring or got lazy? They put down plywood and slapped some carpet on top. The floor sloped and squeaked. When I moved in there was evidence of a previous roof leak (this wall is drywall when every other wall in the house is lathe and plaster and there was clearly damage to the ceiling), and the mouldings were all hiding in the garage.

Anyhoo, we finally bit the bullet and hired Union Floor Co. In preparation I started cutting the carpet away from the wall so it could be easily rolled up the morning that work started. In the course of doing this I discovered past water damage and dried, inactivated mold. Yay! We are assuming this was from the previous leaking roof because why would you replace the plywood when you've had a leak and you could just put carpet on top?

There were a couple of reasons that the floor squeaked. For starters, when they were nailing in the plywood THEY MISSED THE JOIST. So the plywood was sitting atop the joists in places. There was a particularly bad squeak that Greg would stand on and rock back and forth, just to drive me crazy, and I would think, "Oh that's why people get divorced after a year."

It turns out that that squeak was caused by a nail that had been shot into our metal air duct. Every time we stepped in that spot the nail would scratch across the duct. Company that built this floor, I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO REVIEW YOU ON ANGIE'S LIST.

Other issues included the weird hatch in our closet (read more about that here):

We had deep gouges in the bedroom where someone dragged something heavy across the floor.

Pet stains in the living room:

Extensive staining, water marks, and paint drips in the dining room:

They just generally looked terrible:

The dining room was leveled and patched with white oak flooring, as Siberian oak is no longer available.

We moved everything into the basement and a POD outside and I decided that we are never ever moving because we have too much stuff.

We moved out of the house for a week and into an Airbnb a block away. I was able to check in and be incredibly picky about how the floors were looking. The main worker kept saying things like, "The scratches aren't coming out in the bedroom but you lived with them before, so . . . " and then I'd feel like I was having a stroke.

I had told the owner that we didn't care how much it cost, we wanted all the scratches and stains removed, either by flipping the boards or installing new boards. It was in our contract. We didn't move out of our house to "live with" floors that weren't fixed because it was more effort. I called the owner and asked him to clarify with his employee that we wanted them as perfect as humanly possible.

And they did it!

We opted to seal the floors without a stain and they've assured me that the new white oak will patina to match the original Siberian oak. I'm skeptical, but my fingers are crossed. We did a satin finish, which is the least shiny option.

The nails in the original flooring are more pronounced

Other than that, the floors look SO GOOD.

Former closet hatch

Site of former floor gouges

We're very happy with the results. We're also totally exhausted from cleaning the house and moving back in. There was a fine layer of dust on every surface, requiring a wipedown of all the walls, counters, windows, etc.

I'm going to be camped out here for the next couple of weeks, until my feet stop hurting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Aloha, comrades

Welp, big projects have been afoot at Casa de Hammer. But it turns out that having a sibling die and then going through one of the most stressful election cycles only to be dropped into an Orwellian hellscape leaves you uninterested in blogging. For me, it left me uninterested in anything but lying on the couch and wondering what the fuck was going on. I opened my garden in June and then declined to touch it again for the rest of the year. I just couldn't summon the energy.

Greg and I were still trying to figure out what we wanted to do about some sort of hard surface and some sort of shade structure in the backyard when I showed him a picture of Lance's shade structure.

Image source: Lance at Garden Riots

It was built by Bamboo Craftsman and we both really loved it. We wondered what if we just hired them to build us something instead of endlessly wondering what to build and then ultimately fucking it up ourselves? Also, I was stuck on the couch and I am the labor powerhouse in this house, so this was the only way it was going to get done. Whoever said "more money, more problems" was a goddamn liar because being able to hire projects out is fucking GREAT.

The scale model

Troy, owner of Bamboo Craftsman and the designer of our pavilion

As a bonus, I got to dig up all the plants I had just planted after having the cedar removed.

It turns out that doing it yourself is rewarding and thrifty but hiring people who know what they're doing is even better.

A trench was dug for electricity

We told Troy that we wanted something that felt more like old Hawaii and less like a tiki bar. I also wanted a swing so I could have somewhere to sit and enjoy the view of the garden that I might enjoy tending again someday. He dubbed our project the Island Pavilion but we've been jokingly calling it the fallout shelter because I'm terrified of our current geopolitical situation and I really want to build an underground fallout shelter beneath it.

Fun fact! I didn't know how to spell "pavilion" correctly before this project.

All of the materials, aside from the bolts and brackets, were salvage. We're gonna be so smug at dinner parties!

I know what you're thinking. God, you paid someone to build you a beautiful structure and this is the best photography you can muster? I don't know if you've heard, but Portland has been under a foot of snow and I haven't left the house in weeks. Also, I bought a pressure cooker so I'm focusing all of my energy on making different kinds of broth. Believe it or not, this is progress from 2016. I'm still sitting on the couch and wondering what the fuck is going on but now I have broth! That guy at New Seasons told me broth is "life giving." Hippies are weird.

I don't deserve this beautiful thing.

Better pictures soon.