Texas Greenhouse Glass The Question of Beauty
Page 33
 
 
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Mother Nature or Man; who can create something more beautiful?
 
April 28th, 2008
Despite a few enticingly warm days in April, winter was not eager to loosen its icy grip. As the snow melted the carpenters finished the interior of the house and moved outside and to the greenhouse. I continued to clean rooms, assemble furniture, unpack my belongings and build a home from a house.
The melting snows revealed piles of trash left by Kevin and his masonry crew last winter. I spent many hours picking up shards of concrete, scraps of cut steps, rusty tools, hoses, tarps cigarette butts and general trash. The powerful natural beauty of Montana makes even a discarded candy wrapper look like a pimple on the face of Mother Nature. Every spring, and two or three times during the summer, I comb my 20 acres of Paradise to keep it clean.
Last winter the packed snow melted quickly; by early April the front yard was clear and we started to construct gravel pathways. This year the snow melted gradually and slowly. Frequent spring storms covered fresh ground and added to the deep drifts amongst the trees and hollows.
Work shifts to the greenhouse
Construction work gradually shifted to the greenhouse in the month of May.
Potting Bench Shane tiled the greenhouse potting bench with a pattern drawn from the 16th century Library Hall in the Biblioteca Marciana that faces San Marco square in Venice, Italy. Master Bath Shower A rain pattern design, glass panel and door, completes the Master Bath shower. Hallway A classic black and white diamond pattern tile floor adorns the first floor hallway.
 
 
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Front Yard May 6th, 2008 - The front yard is free of snow but only for a short while. May Snow in Paradise Valley May 10th, 2008 - A foot of fresh snow blankets the front yard and Paradise Valley.
Mule Deer
A family of Mule Deer graze on fresh greens on top of the driveway embankment.
May 24th, 2008
An abundance of life has returned to the blackened and charred forest. The trees are dead and black but now they support an army of woodpeckers while their branches hold nests for birds and squirrels. As the snows melt, the soot covered forest floor changes to a thick carpet of green. By late May, six inches of new grass, flowers and forest shrubs thickly encircle the charred Douglas Fir skeletons. Mule deer graze contentedly in the yard. A few days ago a pregnant doe gave birth behind the garage where the trees are thickest to a spotted fawn who could barely stand up. Bluebirds came back and made nests in birdhouses spread around the yard. Two young bull elk foraged in the front yard in June. The felt on their antlers was thick and fresh. Shortly after the snow melted wild flowers blanketed the surrounding hills and swept over the yard in great swaths of purple, yellow and white. The foothills and valley below turned a soft emerald green like the hills and plains of Ireland. After seven years of drought and several major forest fires the abundant winter's melting snow brought a resounding chorus of life back to Paradise Valley and my home in the mountains.
Moonrise over Emigrant Peak, MT
A full moon peaks from behind Emigrant Peak while the sun sets over a greening Paradise Valley.
Golemeyer Creek Waterfall
The swollen waters of nearby Golemeyer Creek cascade and plummet from a fire singed canyon.
June 19th, 2008
The phone lines burned along with the house in July 2006. I called my local phone company, Qwest, in April and asked that they activate the telephones in the new house. Unfortunately Qwest had to replace several melted and burned junction boxes and line connections along the one and a half mile road I live on before they could lay a new cable to my house. Two months after my first call the cable crew dug a small, shallow trench on the side of the driveway on a snowy, rainy and cold afternoon. Chuck dug a deeper and more secure ditch in the center of the driveway and reburied the phone cable two weeks later.
The melting snow pack and frequent storms brought relief from the seven year drought but also a new set of problems. Water started to collect around the foundation and footings of the house. One afternoon it spilled over the basement workshop door sill, poured inside and started to swell the fir wood floor. Fortunately we caught the flood just after it started. Joe and I vacuumed and sponged the water from the floor. Chuck and Shane bailed out the dry well adjacent to the basement door sill and then installed a temporary sump pump. A fan was placed over the wood floor and the furnace was cranked up. Gradually the floor dried and no damage was done. A permanent sump pump replaced the temporary one. Underground drain pipes were installed to channel rooftop gutter water far away from the house foundation and into the tiered gardens and the upper driveway, embankment dry well trench. Then the yard was re-graded to slope more steeply away from the house.
Phone Cable
Chuck digs a new trench and carefully reburies the incoming phone cable.
Underground Pipe
Chuck lays underground pipe to channel gutter water away from the house and into the tiered gardens.
Tiered Gardens along the driveway
Slowly the 92 tiered gardens in the driveway retaining wall are tilled, fertilized and planted.
Underground Pipe
Another section of underground drainage pipe leads gutter water to the driveway embankment, dry well trench.
Long time readers of the fire story may remember the fundamental philosophical question on page 10 that lead to the design of this house; can the hands of man create something more beautiful than the hand of nature? Just as the house was nearing completion and I thought the question nearing resolve, Mother Nature descended with a profusion of wild flowers from the mountains above. Great meadows of flowers swept across the blackened forest floor and obliterated it with brilliant displays of lavender, yellow, whites and pinks. My front yard was transformed from a scrubby patch of weeds pushing through dry and dusty, soot covered soil to a symphony of green plants gently swaying in the fresh mountain breezes while displaying a riot of shapes, textures and colors. The gravel walkways become a path through a wild garden, completely untended by the hand of man yet thick with flourishing beds of flowers with ever changing blooms, colors and scents.
In a short walk on a lazy July afternoon I took the pictures below so you can see some of the many gifts Mother Nature has generously sprinkled in my front yard.
Chuck in the front yard
Chuck adds more gravel to and grades the front yard walkways amidst a sea of wild flowers.
Fireweed
Fireweed
Wild Mustard
Wild Mustard
Mullien
Mullein
Thistle
Thistle
Myrtle
Myrtle
Yarrow
Yarrow
Oxbow Daisy
Oxbow Daisy
Geranium
Geranium
Garden Terraces
Craftsmen built these garden enclosures and now I try to add beauty by cultivating flowers.
Last autumn Chuck, Shane and Kim built a driveway retaining wall with tiered garden beds. Each bed was approximately three feet wide and ten feet long. Most of the wall held three tiers of gardens. Almost 100 beds were thus created. In May I started to till, fertilize and plant each bed. I carefully dug the beds, added compost and steer manure to sweeten the soil, removed all rocks bigger than a golf ball and then planted perennial flowers and a few flowering shrubs. By the end of July I completed about 50 of the 92 beds. The rest can wait until next spring.
Gardening is a labor of love; I enjoyed the work immensely. However I noted that Mother Nature's wild flowers require far less preparation and care. They were better adapted to local conditions than most of my flowers and grew more vigorously. In time I hope that my gardens will have more variety, more colors and be at least as beautiful as the sea of wild flowers that blanket my front yard. Below are pictures of a few blooms from my gardens.
Hibiscus
Red Hibiscus
Hibiscus
Peach Hibiscus
Tea Rose
Tea Rose
Granada
Granada
Pin Cushion
Pin Cushion
Yellow Day Lily
Yellow Day Lily
Cheddar Pinks
Cheddar Pinks
Salvia
Purple Salvia
The question of who can create something more beautiful; man or Mother Nature grew more complicated this spring and summer. The house is completely constructed from man made or modified, materials. The front yard was once a forest but that burned so we cleared the trees and leveled the ground. Then we built symmetrical gravel walkways and stood in awe the next year, as Mother Nature graced the scorched earth with millions of brilliant wild flowers. The tiered gardens are a compromise between the completely man made house and luxuriantly wild front yard. The garden structure is man made but the flowers were created by nature and then planted and cultivated by man. Likewise the Colorado Blue Spruce trees along the driveway and behind the garage were planted by man but appear quite at home in the natural meadow that has sprouted up amongst them. Can the spruce trees ever be as beautiful as the original Douglas Fir forest?

Please let us know what you think by jotting your thoughts in the form below. Should we cut down the wild flowers in the front yard and replace them with a grassy rolling lawn? Or should we plant beds of cultivated flowers in their place? Or should we let Mother Nature treat the front yard as a garden and simply keep the gravel walkways clear so people can experience firsthand the wild beauty that characterizes so much of Montana?
Spruce Trees
The Colorado Blue Spruce trees are flourishing where once stood a centuries old forest of Douglas Fir.
Cultivated Gardens
Should we replace Mother Nature's wild garden in the front yard with a cultivated garden like this? Or should we put in a lawn?
Parlor Trim
Or should we just keep the gravel walkways clear so people can enjoy the natural beauty of Montana? Please let us know by posting your comments below.
   
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Page 32
Spring Teases and Beckons

Tim's Life
Main Table of Contents

Branford Bike
Fire Story
Table of Contents

Page 34
Greek Gods and Goddesses