{ Category Archives: flora and fauna }

Squalls of Fall

squall1

November morning over Bodega Bay

The first squalls of fall spiral ashore in waves from the open ocean, lending drama to the sky and purpose to our stores of dry wood and kindling. The whales have begun their migration past Bodega Head. American Coot bob in tight clusters like black shadows in the surf while the solitary Western Grebe dives and darts for fish just beyond. Hillside meadows are greening, apples all but gone from bare mossy branches, the few remaining having been sliced and dried and stored in glass jars for winter snacking. The sun drops behind a veil of dense downslope redwood by 3, the temperature drops and thoughts turn to winding down for the day, lighting fires and taking stock for next morning’s chores. Projects follow the rhythm of daylight and we move with more urgency and intensity in sync with the low arc of the sun, rewarding ourselves with long and languid nights of rest and rejuvenation.

squall2

Tagged: , , , , ,

Fluke Opening Ceremony in Santa Cruz

fluke opening1

Fluke presides over the crowd at the new Monterey Bay Exploration Center.

Yesterday evening’s opening ceremony honoring our Fluke project at the new Monterey Bay Exploration Center in Santa Cruz was proof positive to Ene and me that this has been our most rewarding public project to date. It has been privilege enough to realize a large public bronze for such an esteemed client (NOAA) at such a spectacular site (by the beach in view of Monterey Bay), but the warm and appreciative reception attended by the project’s major stakeholders was the icing on the cake. It’s rare in contemporary life for such a diverse cross-section of institutions and individuals to share common goals, let alone reach consensus on their public expression, so it’s truly thrilling to see such unanimous enthusiasm and action when it comes to protecting the health of our marine ecosystems.

fluke opening5

The Monterey Bay Exploration Center is across the street from the Municipal Wharf.

To read more about the development of Fluke for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, please click here and scroll down.

fluke opening3

fluke opening2

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Textures of the Morning Fog

sand100 Continue Reading »

Tagged:

Wood/Bank/Barn

stacking wood1

A barn full of beautiful wood, carefully laid up to dry, is better than money in the bank.

I’ve never really studied economic theory, but imagine there’s an odd relationship/kinship between miserliness and greed. Suffice it to say I learned firsthand over the past week how one might give way to the other, in predictable order.

In the course of single-handedly stacking over 1000 board feet of premium wood I had recently milled, aided only by gravity, levers and rolling bars, I loaded my barn and felt a sense of pride bordering on prosperity. I’ve never been interested in money or accumulation, but the simple act of loading the barn with my own hands shifted my perspective. My new pile of wood drying in the barn might as well be bars of gold, and will likely increase in value at an exponentially greater rate.


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Milling the Valley Oak

felta oak3

Shawn trims the ends of the felled trunk before quartering the log.

I met my friend Shawn Gavin at the old Felta School near Healdsburg the other day to mill a Valley Oak. I had purchased the log from the school after it was felled for safety concerns last September, and have been eager to see what the wood looks like. I plan to make a batch of my Deep Deck from the wood after it air dries for about a year, having successfully prototyped a small production run in American Elm. The plan is to make different versions of the deck in different woods from locally-grown, hand-milled logs, each tree telling a different story whose provenance is reflected in each series of decks.

medullary rings

Section of an oak showing medullary rays.

The Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) is a true white oak native to California’s hot interior valleys. Like its eastern cousin Quercus alba, the Valley Oak has large medullary rays that make an interesting pattern while adding strength to the wood when it is ‘quarter sawn’ from the log. The medullary rays radiate from the center of the tree to the sapwood to carry nutrients, so they run across the wood’s annular rings. When boards are cut from the log with the annular rings perpendicular to the face, they are called ‘quarter sawn’, and the medullary rays, or ‘silver rays’ are exposed. If the milled boards are carefully stickered in stacks with good air circulation, the grain orientation and slow curing will add to the strength and stability of the wood, ideal for my innovative Deep Deck design.

felta oak4

The ends are trimmed and sealed with wax.

felta oak6

The log is cut in half lengthwise along the log’s primary ‘heart shake’.

felta oak7

The quarters are cut perpendicular to the heart shake, along the center of the tree.

felta oak9

Quarters are loaded onto the mill to be squared and milled into boards cut perpendicular to the annular rings.

felta oak13

Milling goes fast with Shawn’s expertise and hydraulic Wood-Mizer. The two of us processed a 4’d x 10’l log into about 1100 board feet of quarter-sawn lumber in just 13 hours, including loading and delivering the material to the wowhaus studio.

felta oak11

Even when rough-cut, the medullary rays are visible, so characteristic of quarter-sawn white oak.


Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reviving the Garden (+ a recipe)

ene gardening

Ene builds towers for her peas to climb.

With help from friends we’ve been reviving our vegetable garden over the past few weeks. It’s been about 5 years since we built the raised beds, and with the demands of projects and travel over the past couple of years, the garden has been sorely neglected. The grounds are now weeded, paths mulched, beds topped off with close to ten yards of compost, and Ene has been busy planting. By spring we’ll start to see lettuces, spinach, peas, strawberries, blueberries, asparagus and greens. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy the bounty of kale that survived our neglect.

greens2

Kale and other cabbages thrive in the cool maritime climate of the Sonoma Coast.

greens1

Scott’s Sake Greens:

Pick and rinse a few handfuls of dino kale, collard or other leafy cabbage. Shake off most of the water. Remove the spines if they are too tough and chop the leaves into 1″ strips. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok over a medium-high flame and toss in the greens, mixing them constantly as they cook, about one minute. Salt the greens, add a little more oil and toss in a few cloves of finely chopped garlic. Continue mixing over a medium flame for another minute and sprinkle in a little chili pepper (I like nanami togarashi) and/or dried seaweed (I like nori komi furikake). Pour about a half cup of dry sake into the pan and deglaze it by mixing the ingredients with a large spoon or spatula. Add a little water if the greens seem too dry. Lower the heat, partially cover the greens and let them simmer a few more minutes until they are tender but retain their glossy green color. Serve as a side dish with rice and black-eyed peas or with grilled fish.

Tagged: , , , ,

Destination: Boredom

estero water1

Sure enough, I saw a few egret and chased a flock of bufflehead six miles to the coast when I paddled the navigable length of Estero Americano the other day, but saw no sign of coot, loon, mergenser, pelican, scaup, hawk, heron or grebe. The fact is mid-February is a relatively dormant time along the Sonoma Coast despite the recent fair weather and early arrival of spring, and most migrations have been made.

estero water2

With a light wind at my back on the outbound journey, I tested my paddling skills for a while by trying to sneak up on a floating flock of bufflehead a few hundred yards off my bow. They’d inevitably start, take off to windward and fly overhead before circling around for a water landing about a quarter mile further down the slough. With no other diversions I teased the birds for a few miles until the Estero opened up and I took a break from paddling to just drift on the current I felt tugging the boat as I neared the shore on the outgoing tide. I was sailing now, and shifted my gaze to the water itself, which seemed motionless, my boat in sync with wind and tide.

Knowing I’d have a tough return paddle, I spent the remaining outbound leg drifting, thoughtlessly steering the boat and staring at the water, lost in a reverie of pure boredom. I let myself be hypnotized by the stillness of the water, the boat’s gentle bobbing and the slowly amplifying fade of pounding surf as I neared the beach.

estero water3

It’s a rare delight to find oneself in a state of genuine boredom these days, and I had forgotten how it frees the mind. After drifting for about an hour, I found I could generate mild hallucinations by staring out at the water with unfocused eyes. The constant motion of glassy waves reflecting the surrounding land and sky animated my daydreaming, like falling asleep but remaining awake. It’s kind of funny to rediscover boredom while seeking stimulation, but refreshing to know it’s still possible; Destination: Boredom, an apt motto for exciting times.

estero cows

I was greeted by some curious cattle upon my return to the flats where I launched.


Tagged: , , , , , , ,