Archives from October 2012

An Oyster’s Role

If European settlers had kept their mitts off of the American oyster, a significant portion of Sandy's storm surge would have been prevented by the reef-like structures created by 7,000 years of oyster growth and decay along the coast between Virginia and Maine. (Thanks to Erin English of for passing this along!)


Evidently, these subsurface walls of decaying sea shells also help keep the local sea grasses alive. I wonder if power would be back on in NYC if we'd allowed nature to do her job to protect the shoreline.

10/31/2012 | (0) Comments

The Meaning of a Cyclone

That 70's margarine ad almost got it right, but "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature," really boils down to "It's not smart to try to take advantage of Mother Nature and then ignore her at your big party."  Is Cyclone Sandy trying to tell us this? In four presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate, the term "climate change" was brought up in only one: the third-party debate moderated by Larry King. 

10/30/2012 | Climate | Ecology | Energy Savings | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

A Majesty of Gold and Blue

We couldn't find any purple aster to go with our chamisa yesterday, but on the way to a client's home in the Cerrillos/Madrid area we found some huge, bold swaths of orange from native cottonwoods along the Galisteo River and its tributaries. These go well with that prolific golden chamisa (rabbitbush, rabbit brush), too, and of course we can usually get our blue-hue fix from our mostly clear blue skies and awesome purple-mountain majesties.

10/26/2012 | Children | (0) Comments

Plant Your Cistern!

Here's a precipitation-collection tank, or cistern, that's patially burried and hidden by a raised planter bed and a combination of beautiful and edible plants. The easiest way to see where the cistern is in this photo is to look for a brown downspout that elbows from the right post of the portal. That goes into a 650 gallon cistern from which water is pumped and distributed through the backyard with a hose. I took this shot at our a client's residence around this time of year several years ago. One of the reasons to go this route when installing a cistern is to save money on exacavation, but don't forget to figure in the cost of the wood and labor involved in the screening  with the  landscape timbers that make up the raised bed. You will also be limited to plants that sprawl and cover ground even with root systems that get shrunk by the tank which is only 4" to 12" below the ground.

10/26/2012 | Companion Plantings | Ecology | Energy Savings | Lawns | Outdoor Living | Shade | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

Fall Color Rocks the Rockies

Here at the southeastern corner of the Rocky Mountains, we have some amazing fall colors. One of my favorites is foresteria neomexicana (aka, NM privet or NM olive) with the rhus trilobata (three-leaf sumac). The bright-red  'gro-low' variety of the sumac here works really well under the explosion of yellow that the New Mexico privet provides. In the foreground, is the attractive semi-evergreen quality of pineleaf penstemon, which blooms bright red through the summer, but offers a cool contrast to the foliage above it. Nate took this shot the other day just outside our front door a couple of days after this vignettes' fall peak.

10/24/2012 | (0) Comments

Paint Your Cistern!

Some people are so proud of their cisterns that they like to show them off, but most people prefer to screen their rainwater tanks from view. You can hide them with trees and shrubs. You can erect a fence and then train vines up the fence. If you are Plants of the Southwest (one of my favorite plant nurseries in the world), you get a local artist to paint a lovely vignette of wild ruminants in a Hopi-painting style that celebrates the act of water harvesting.

10/24/2012 | Ecology | Erosion Control | Grading and Drainage | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

Eggs for Dinner (and Breakfast and Lunch)!

Each of our four young hens lays at least six eggs a week. That’s a lot of eggs for the four of us, so we often have extras to give to family, friends, and neighbors. Once in a while, a friend will come over and we’ll tryout a new quiche, soufflé, or egg-salad recipe. Last night, our friends Uma and Nick came by and Uma whipped together the most incredible frittata dinner! 

10/23/2012 | (0) Comments

Happy Birthday Clean Water Act!

The Clean Water Act is 40 years old. Sadly, some elements of our society want to kill it. If we don't stop them, for a quick buck these forces will quickly destroy the living fabric of our watersheds as well as the human communities that depend on them. In the short term, this means getting out to vote for anyone who understands that we must protect this all-important resource for future generations. In the long term, it means creating landscapes that harvest precipitation, provide food, and create comfortable outdoor experiences.

10/19/2012 | (0) Comments