Wednesday, August 31

Can you believe this? Sam stayed up on the bed for a couple hours -- sleeping (!) -- after I got up. He usually jumps right down. Not with that sore paw ... this gets him lots of special privileges.

Tuesday, August 30

Recovery Time

Sam just had surgery. He had a growth removed from his foot. Our vet suspects melanoma, but we'll wait for the lab results before we worry. Hopefully it's benign. Sam does not like having that thing on his foot! Tia told him if he doesn't leave it alone.... he'll have to wear a lampshade. Not funny!

Monday, August 29

This is what I did today: I was the artistic director for setting 6 large boulders in place, then the dirt-shaper and water sprayer. A bit like making mudpies ...

Here's Mike getting ready to yank out an old caragana with his loader:

Before i did much shaping ... here, the boulders had just been placed by Mike with his skid steer with the fork/loader attachment.

Some of the rocks are set

and ... just after I finished raking the (almost) final shape

I'm wetting down the new mound to compact the soil

This large flat rock forms a great bench - large enough for two people to sit and watch the sunset with their arms around each other. This is the front of the stone.

wet rocks ... i sprayed down the new soil, expecially around the boulders, to fill up any air pockets and loose soil. The lower stone is the "bench."

spraying the mound

Boulders can be used in landscaping to great effect -- or they can be plopped down any old which way and look terrible. When you are installing boulders in your garden/landscape -- remember to be sensitive to the way they are settled into the ground. Bury at least 1/3rd of the boulder so it looks like it has been there for a long time rather than just dropped from the sky randomly. If you are grouping the boulders, try to set them so they relate to each other as one rock outcropping. The angles are important - how would a large bedrock look after it becomes exposed, fractured and then weathered? Wherever possible, use stones that are available locally, so they "fit" into the natural landscape. There are lots of examples on the web of poorly-designed and executed boulder landscapes .... or you can almost as easily find examples of well-designed stone arrangements. It takes skill and artistry to import boulders into a garden with natural, pleasing results.

Movement Poem

Movement Poem
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Click on the photo to see my description of this quilt-like mosaic.

Sunday, August 28

Dancing Grasses Late Evening

An experiment in camera movement, accidental art and low light

Saturday, August 27

My latest project .... I made this berm with my hands. ahem.

Actually I was trying to help Max and Joan visualize the berm in the center of their circular driveway, where they have an island. Andy is working on the project mostly by himself. This week he dug out 9 very large steel posts that were set in concrete around the perimeter of this circular island.

This weekend, he is shaping a berm using 20 yards (4 dump truck loads) of compost/soil mixture and 5 or 6 very large boulders that will be backfilled so they look like a natural outcropping.

I was trying demonstrate a curved (like open-arms) mound and decided just to shape it in the dirt right there. I used branches from their shrubs to stand in for a flowering crab tree and shrubs in small scale. The dirt clods are "boulders". This photo doesn't really show the 3-d shape of the little diorama I made, but it gives an idea.

Here's Andy artistically shaping the berm/mound:

Friday, August 26

This angel is one J & M have in their front entry (their "southwest" corner) -- it's made of wood. I love the rustic style. I can't remember who the artist is ... I'll add the artist's name as soon as I find out from them.

Thursday, August 25

Tuesday, August 23

Falling in Love Some More

Falling in Love some More
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
August 23, 2005: Clancy and Amanda were married today in a wonderful ceremony on their land. They planted a sugar maple in the middle of their young orchard. The pathway splits around the new tree, forming a beautiful tear-drop or diamond shape around the tree. The path and tree seem to symbolize the joining of their hearts under the shelter of this tree; the blending and sharing of their families; the way their life's journeys have come together in sweetness. Even though they each will maintain their individualtiy, throughout their married life they will be connected by their love for each other and the earth.

Their land in Blue Cloud is very special to them -- a gentle, peaceful and bountiful place outside of Helena, Montana. They have transformed what was once a junkyard and neglected piece of land into a paradise for themselves, their family and their friends. I am amazed at what Clancy and Amanda have done with the land.

Aspen Grove Home Aspen groves, a pond with willow wattle terracing, a small creek, verdant wetlands, high open meadows, beckoning pathways lined with river stones .... freely roaming chickens and a colorful vegetable garden. They are almost finished building themselves a tiny, two story studio tucked away in the aspens -- you get to it by a boardwalk over the fragile the wetlands. Clancy and Amanda love each other and they obviously love this land. I wish them many more years of growing together, growing a family, feeding their hearts and feeding their friends with their many talents.

Going Toward the Light Amanda & Clancy are Married on Their Land

I took a little stroll around this lovely place and tried to capture a few photos so I could give them to the new couple ---photos of this special day in their lives. This is just one. I made a photo set of Amanda and Clancy on my flickr page -- I will add to it as I can.

Sunday, August 21

Cool, Clear Water

Sam cooling off in the Dearborn River when we were up there exploring the land. This is one I fooled around with in photoshop - experimenting with getting a "white ground" in my photos.

Saturday, August 20

Prairie Sage

Bug's eye view of Montana clear sky, August

Hands Crafted This Wedding Gift

Old Quilt
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
My Aunt Tootsie collects old quilts. Even before Tim and I were married, she sent us a wedding gift -- a wonderful old purple quilt (not this one in the photo.) Tootsie finds quilts at garage sales and flea markets for unbelievable bargain prices. I wish I lived near her, so I could go with her and maybe find my own deals. In the meantime, I have the one she gave us, which I really love and use alot.

That quilt (a mostly-lavendar color) has traveled with us for years. We use it, rather than keep it wrapped up in the linen closet, or as some folks do, only bringing it out for special guests ...

Our purple-tootsie-quilt has seen better days (one of those better days was the day she sent it to us) but it sure has been loved! Almost loved to death. It's been on picnics all over the state of Montana ... served as extra warmth on camping trips; wrapped me up after a brisk swim in the river; cushioned us both as we lay on hard, rocky ground watching the stars ... kept friends warm around our back yard spring, winter and autumn fires (summer fires, we usually don't need that extra layer of warmth) and even adorned our big comfy bed when I'm in the mood for a splash of wild color in our bedroom.

Thank you Auntie Tootsie and Unca Hohnny for that wonderful wedding gift years ago. What a great gift to give someone - a handmade quilt to be used not hidden away! Everytime we use it, snuggle under it or share a picnic on it -- I think of you both.

Friday, August 19

Cool Respite on a Hot Summer Day

Sitting with my feet in the water of a small creek on the land up near the Dearborn. This is Sawmill Creek, which we drive over -- or through -- to get to the cabin.

Thursday, August 18

Wise Ones

Wise Ones
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
This morning I was pre-occupied with measuring an in-progress Zen garden and designing a privacy fence that will go behind the Buddha statue. I looked around for Sam (at the venerable age of 16, he has a propensity for wandering off and forgetting where he is) only to find him here in front of the Buddha, napping peacefully.

I guess Sam knows exactly where he is .... in just the right spot. Couldn't resist snapping a few photos.

Wednesday, August 17

Late Afternoon Pasture

Late Afternoon Pasture
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
J & M's pasture backlit by the sun. If I could look out one of my windows onto this beautiful scene, I'd want to preserve the beauty.

They live out in the valley, which still has (barely) a rural landscape character. Appreciating the existing landscape requires seeing what's there in a certain way. Backlight makes it so easy!

I'm working on a design for the part of their land near the house, just inside the rail fence... trying to work with the land's rural/flat/agricultural character ... as well as the odd "southwest" style architecture (arches, adobe.) The house is a hodge-podge of architectural styles with odd wood trim over fake adobe, a walled "zen garden," plant beds with lava rock, rough boulders and smooth river rock (all in the same bed) and more typical local landscaping such as caragana, lilac, buffalo junipers and chokecherry trees. Add to that,J & M's eclectic taste and esthetics and you end up with a real challenge. I will try to post updates.

Wednesday, August 10

Bamboo Dome

This is mainly for Gabe and the others at Waking Ground -- an interesting variation on a bamboo dome structure at SENAC Copacabana - by BambuBrasileiro
Bamboo dome at SENAC Copacabana - by BambuBrasileiro - Bamboo Arts and Crafts Gallery


Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
These guys were all smiles this morning: the day is starting off cool; their work here looks great and it's almost done ... life is good.

They have been working so hard they came in way under their estimate for my clients. That makes my clients happy; these guys have lots of other work, so they're happy, earning money, staying fit and I'm happy cuz my projects are moving along - becoming reality slowly but surely.

Tuesday, August 9

Waiting for Dawn

Waiting for Dawn
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
I tried getting up earlier than usual today and decided instead of reading the newspaper, which in Helena, Montana ... is truly boring ... I would wake up with some photography. Not much light, and I still don't have the hang of taking photos w/o a flash, so I ... well, I played with this photo and a few others in PShop. I like the quality of anticipation in this one. I sometimes feel like one of these gourds. (they're about 1 to 2 inches high in reality)

Monday, August 8

Gabe & His Friends at Work

Montana Friends at Work
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Just got back from checking on these guys. Gabe, Jack and Kyle are working on the gardens of some of my clients this month while they're "home in Montana" from Eugene.

Gabe is the one on the right, with his dreads tucked up into his homemade hat ... Kyle is hatless and Jack has the camouflage hat (lower left photo)

I'm so glad to have them helping my customers, and they're glad to have good paying work, since they -- like most college students and recent grads -- really need the $$.

So, this was day one. They demolished a section of fence, removed a decrepit cedar deck, pulled up and stockpiled stepping stones, bricks, landscape timbers, etc in the front garden ... ripped out a bunch of mangey shrubs, a raspberry patch (after eating all the ripe ones), ran into a couple of yellowjacket nests, raked out the soil to grade it and got it ready for tilling and more demolition tomorrow.

They're all hard workers. I have a certain pride, being -- ahem! -- Gabe's mom, but I have to say even if I weren't related to one of these handsome guys, I'd still think they were hard working, great guys.

I'll post more photos on my flickr site as the job progresses.

Sunday, August 7

Jump for Joy

Jump for Joy
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
I love this picture I shot yesterday of Gave - it looks like he's jumping for joy, something he has done often since he could stand up without holding onto something.

He and I drove up to this parcel of 46 acres near the Dearborn River yesterday -- and although I went without expectations of finding something beautiful enough to buy, WOWZA! it is gorgeous -- Tim, Mickey and Jenny and I are heading back up there this afternoon to scope it out further and take more photos to post for our friend who may purchase this land. Wish we could buy it ourselves! I would in a split second if we had the $$.

On our way back we stopped at a swimming hole on the Dearborn where the landowners in that region have private access to the river. It was incredibly refreshing on a day that hit 100F in the shade. Sam swam with us, too. He was super hot with his black coat.

Check out my imagestation album and my flickr photostream for more photos of this area and land. The imagestation album has more pix than the flickr page

Yesterday we explored all around. Gabe is as good at reading topo maps as I am, maybe better at this point because he's more recently practiced, and we think we figured out the boundaries. Today we go back to decide if there are enough levels places in the upper meadows, and how the cabin would work for our group to meet there. It's a spectacular, awesome spot up on the open upper parkland.

Friday, August 5

Wednesday, August 3

Slow Motion

Yellow Flowers Abstract
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Today was a slow motion day. I am still feeling sleep deprived even though I got a full 8 hours of sleep last night. Having spent the last three weeks, though, with only 4 or 5 hours a night sleeping .... well, I think it's just going to take a few more long nights to feel like my old self.

Today I loaded the few photos I was able to shoot on our trip -- onto my hard drive. Nothing good enough to write home about. So, I'm using this photo from a week before we left to illustrate my current mood: slow, blurry yet moving toward the future. Leaning into the day. Bright heart. Colorful. It's one of my motion experiments where I just wave the camera wildly while I press the shutter release ... this one I played with in photoshop - but not much. It's almost like it came from the camera.

Tuesday, August 2

August Sigh

Life Forms Against Blue
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
We're back from our adventures, and although it's really good to be back in our cozy house, sleeping in our own bed, and eating at "normal" hours, I already miss our friends. Tim and I just spent two weeks at Mount Shasta with our shamanic study group, an incredible time spent close to nature camping, going on pilgrimage, making ceremonies and being in community with 95+ people. Our group now includes about 2 dozen kids under the age of 20, and their presence truly makes it a community. Everyone helps with the children and they in turn teach us "adults" things we either didn't know ... or have forgotten.

Late nights, (really late dinners in the dark, sometimes at 11 pm) early mornings and lots of physical activity combine with our annual vision quest to make the 10 days very intense -- fulfilling, exhausting, uplifting, deep and full of life and power.

After two days driving back to Montana, we had only a few hours to pick up our teacher and his family at the airport, then take them to the annual Peace Encampment north of Helena. I spent the time unpacking everything (massive piles of laundry, camping gear, ceremonial stuff) washing blankets, clothes etc, getting groceries for the next five days for 6+ people, then repacking everything in preparation for the encampment. We were making preparations until 10 minutes before their plane arrived, and still got to the airport in time. Whew!

The Peace Encampment is a gathering of people -- American and Canadian Indians and others, for the purpose of holding four of the old ceremonies that had almost been lost because there are so few spiritual leaders who still have the knowledge to lead these dances: the Ghost Dance (or Jump Dance) Deer Dance, Prairie Chicken Dance and Horse Dance. People come from as far away as Saskatchewan, Alberta, California, Washington and European countries to attend the ceremonies. This summer was the 9th year. The late Pat Kennedy, a native elder from the Blackfeet nation, began the encampment and ceremonies after having a vision that he was to bring back the dances to the people. Our teacher and shaman, Brant Secunda, leads the Deer Dance and it is our great honor to be able to support him in the ceremonies and do general cooking, setting up etc, during the encampment. This was the second time the encampment came right on the heels of our Shasta summer group meeting.

Now that Brant and his family have left Helena, things are sortof getting back to our normal routine. Gabe rode his bike from Eugene to Helena and is here for a couple of weeks. Mickey will arrive this weekend with Jenny, so we will still have a full house, but I am so happy to have them here! I always think to myself "You never know, this may be the last time you have your kids home for an extended visit, though I hope not!"

The back porch is covered with camping gear waiting to be put away, coolers airing out in the sun, clean laundry hanging out to dry, Gabe's stuff, bikes, tons of stuff -- it looks like an explosion. I'm slowly working on the pile. Meantime I have my landscape design work to catch up on.

August is hot here in Helena. The garden is looking weary, droppy, crispy in spots -- it hasn't been watered consistently and it shows! Days are hot; nights cool off around 2 am; mornings are perfect - coolish (at least in the shade) until around 9:30 am - best time to work outside. I'm happy.