Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Integrated Design for the Common Folk

I recently commented on another blog where a gardener named Kris lamented about, among other things, diving in without a plan and undoing work that had previously been deemed complete. With my own work focused on green home building and my free time ever more scarce, my initial thought was, "yeah, if we would only get our priorities straight we could really use our resources responsibly and have time left to actually enjoy the fruits of our labor." But as much as integrated design and plan-before-you-build have been drilled into my head, I think that every rule has its context - and its exceptions.

Don't get me wrong. Working for a design/build company for a number of years and renovating my own 19th century home has definitely shown me the value of planning and communication. It's just that most of the people that I know are only able to do this kind of stuff on the fly. Besides, it has taken a lot of work (read "therapy") to let the artist in me freely tear apart hours, if not days, of work, after I realize my creative vision is taking me in a whole new direction - and I'm not prepared to throw that all down the drain.

So, a little out of context here (and slightly revised), but this is sort of the gist of the comment I mentioned earlier:

I think you need to live with a place for a while before you make any big plans. You have to get familiar with how the sun tracks through the seasons, where the sheltered hollows are that let spring bulbs sneak out a little early, and, most importantly, how each unique vantage point makes you feel. That said, you have to make the place comfortable in the mean time. A certain level of what I call "damage control" can go a long way to preserving one's sanity over the long haul. Maybe just a gravel patch with some simple chairs and a couple of potted plants would be enough to carve out a relaxing space until you move on to bigger and better projects.

As spring approaches I sometimes think, “why don’t we just buy a townhouse with a patio so we can do a nice, compact container garden that doesn't amount to a full time job and that we can rearrange at will?” But as soon as the first warm afternoon hits, I’m out raking and digging until dusk. This year I have the added motivation of an energy-filled 3 year old daughter working by my side, wanting to do everything I do. Lets hope she’s still as thrilled about gardening when she’s old enough to take on some of the garden projects herself!