Creek House from the south (the side facing the creek) in the evening sun.

Planting Seeds

Creek House from the south (the side facing the creek) in the evening sun. Creek House from the south (the side facing the creek) in the evening sun. (The street is to the right.)

Creek House, my new place, faces south to take advantage of the winter sun for heat. That puts it sideways to the street, a fact that challenged my designer, Tom Pokorny, and me in making the street-side “friendly” to passers-by.

Physical constraints of the lot, especially the location of the city sewer line, added considerably to that challenge.

Instead of being under the street on the downhill side of the lot, the closest sewer line is in the alley at the opposite end, 120 feet from the house–and uphill. Which meant the floor of the house (it’s slab on grade construction) had to be raised more than five feet above the lowest edge of the lot.

The street side of Creek House--definitely not pretty. Yet. The street side of Creek House–definitely not pretty. Yet.

That makes for steep street-side bank, and a tall, if small house.

Tom contributed details like windows and a small porch roof to break up what would otherwise have been blank walls.

Designing the landscaping is my area. I’ve had a couple of months to think about how to create an inviting, sustainable and useful street frontage.

My plan involves boulders (on the lower left in the photo are glacially rounded local boulders left from Richard’s overflow rockyard), terracing, paths, a small sitting area under the overhanging porch roof, and plants that will provide color in all seasons and habitat for songbirds and pollinators (without requiring much water or being attractive to Salida’s over-large population of mule deer).

The side yard from the back door stoop. The side yard from the back door stoop.

Before I can start on those plans, the front and side deck has to go in, and before that can happen, Treehouse, the garage with second-floor studio, has to be finished. While I wait (patiently, of course), I decided to get started on healing another part of my all-roadbase, all-disturbed-by-construction yard.

Just out my back door (which is currently my front door since I have no front entry deck, not that I’m impatient…) is a wedge-shaped piece of side yard with the widest end toward the street .

It slopes gently toward the street-side bank and is sheltered by the long north wall of the house. Unlike the creek side of the house, it has the potential to be relatively private. I envision a swath of dryland native meadow where I can sit among grasses and wildflowers to think and dream. As evinced by the photo above, it’s not that now.

The real Roadbase seed mix. Roadbase seed mix

On Saturday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours raking the roadbase to remove the larger rock fragments. (Roadbase is crushed native rock with some soil particles, and essentially no organic matter. Its name reflects what it’s used for, a stable base for roads and house foundations. It’s a good thing our native grassland plants are used to rooting in rocky, well-drained, nutrient poor soil.)

Then I scattered the seed mix I bought from my friends Alex and Suzanne of Western Native Seed, and hauled mulch from the pile on the street-side slope to cover the seeds. The mix is a custom blend of native bunchgrasses, wildflowers and a few shrubs that Alex developed for the original meadow restoration at Terraphilia, where the yard had been covered with four inches of roadbase and then compacted. At the time, none of us were sure native plants would grow there at all–hence the half-joking name of the seed mix–but I was determined.

Spreading mulch over the seeds. (The large windows are my office.) Spreading mulch over the seeds. (The large windows are my office.)

So were the wildflowers and grasses, apparently, because that meadow restoration project succeeded far beyond even my dreams.

That’s my hope for the side yard here at Creek House. I can imagine stepping out the back door and sitting amidst my wildflowers and native grasses with their hovering and fluttering pollinators. Just the thought makes me smile.

It feels good to get started on my new yard, the last piece of this formerly unloved industrial property to be restored. As I broadcast seed on Saturday, covered it with mulch, and then gave all those embryonic lives a good soaking drink, it occurred to me that I was seeding my new life too.

Roadbase Mix meadow at Terraphilia in summer Roadbase Mix meadow at Terraphilia in summer