Friday, March 9, 2012

From Here to There

Often on a journey you follow a path trod by others before you.  What kind of journey you are on might determine which path you will take.  Perhaps you will look for a map to visually help you on your way or perhaps you will hire a guide who knows the way well.  Perhaps you will travel to a strange land or perhaps you will travel within  to find your spiritual self and how that self relates to your journey of life.

Regardless of your method of journeying, most paths have a beginning and an end.  Sometimes the end is in sight and sometimes you cannot see the destination.  I have been considering that the kind of garden path you might be drawn into following may depend a lot on whether or not you are the sort of person who likes to know where you are going...
Straight on to the bench.

 or if you prefer to be surprised...
What is around that corner?

Why would I be thinking about paths?  Well, both figuratively and literally I want to build some pathways.  Two actual paths need to be constructed.  One at my daughter, Brittany's house, and one at mine.  And figuratively, I have been looking back at the pathway I have traveled on my life's journey as I approach another birthday and thinking about where I go from here.  But first the actual paths...

Brittany bought her house in 2010 and while it had been well-loved by the former owners, it had not been well-tended and needed a lot of work on the interior.  You can see some of the renovations on her blog Kitchen Come Undone and Redone.  They have done some clean-up and have built a chicken coop outside, but most of their energy has gone towards the inside of the house.  Here is their patio which features flagstone.
An old photo.

Brittany is hosting a baby shower in April and wants at least the entry to the house to look a little more polished.

There is a walkway in place that is made of 12" square concrete blocks.  Over the years these have moved around a bit and are no longer level.  The path is also very narrow, unlike the wide gracious pathway in the first photo.  Although I would love to use flagstone for this path, Brittany and Colin are very conscientious about being environmentally green, so there is no question of not re-using these blocks.  We are planning to dig them all up and re-lay them in a different configuration.  There are some bricks also that we might reuse and we are watching Craig's list and some other sources for some more to recycle. A friend's new house has a yard that had been completely covered in river rock...someone's idea of xeriscaping which was really xero-scaping and he will contribute a truck load of river rock to this project.  Here are some inspiration photos.
Blocks set in gravel with accents of river rock.
Different sized pavers to create some design interest in an otherwise very simple path.

In my opinion the very best idea for Brittany's new path  can be found in the March/April 2012 issue of Veranda magazine.  It is by landscape designer, Ryan Gainey.
Photo from Veranda Magazine, design by Ryan Gainey.

 Our interpretation of the formal nature of this path will be softened a little by less formal plantings on either side.  Something like this...

You will notice that the design for Brittany and Colin's path will have to be fairly straight because there is a garage on one side and a sunlit vegetable garden on the other.  Because there is so little sunlight in the rest of the yard, Colin and Brittany don't want to give up much of this prime vegetable growing space, so we won't use a curved path. We moved the wooden retainers back few inches to make the poured concrete sidewalk and the pathway appear a few a little bit wider.  Even a few inches helps a lot. 
Anything we do here will be an improvement!


1. Grind down metal rods that previous
owners had used to ground the electric fence they used to keep their large dogs from jumping the fence.
2. Clear area of rocks, bricks, etc.
3. Dig up paving stones
4. Level area
5. Install weed cloth
6. Lay paving stones & bricks in new         design
7. Add river rock and gravel
8. Plant shade tolerant foliage plants next to north wall of the garage.
9.  Take down temporary fencing around vegetable garden when the plants are large enough to withstand small dog, Luna's investigations.
Future Project replace gate & Wood Fence with an adobe arch and carved wooden gate.

A few inches of river rock on either side of the 24" sidewalk will visually widen the entry to the front porch.   Check in later to see the progress for this project.

Now on to the path at my house.
The pathway for my house is a bit more of a challenge.  Here we need to use some professional help to accomplish some further excavation to make this path handicap accessible.  Both Norm's and my Mom are in their nineties, I have a dear friend who lost a leg to cancer, and let's face it, the day is looming, when we might need a less challenging way into our house.

Our two story house is built into the side of a hill with the utility/brains of the solar system and the garage, my studio, a bathroom and a guest room downstairs.  The main floor is above to take advantage of the views.  Here are the four current ways to reach the main living space of our two story house.

Up rock steps from the driveway.
Mountain goats & 12 year old boys love this.
And the cat.

Friends and relatives are not so enamored of climbing up this path.  The next path that goes up the hill in one direction and then switches back to the house is a little easier, although pushing a wheel chair up it takes two adults.  Decomposed granite is a fairly smooth surface, but the grade is steep.

Not as rigorous, but still a challenge.

Also, up from the driveway

Turn right and continue up to the house.


Climb the seventeen steps from the ground floor.

Climb up the not too level steps to the East Deck
All these paths lead up from the bottom of the driveway.  The driveway enters our property at about the same elevation as the second level and drops down to the garage, so we have cut through the hillside at the top of the driveway to create a more level path directly to the house's main level.  In the photo below you will see that it joins the switched back part of the walkway from the garage.  Winter arrived before we could complete this excavation, so we are waiting for good weather to begin again.  Here, because we need this to be suitable for wheel chairs, we will pour a concrete pathway which will have planting areas on either side.  The challenge is to keep it from looking like a mini-driveway.

Would love it if you would send me some ideas for the surface treatment and design of this walkway.  Here a few things I have found:

 Finally, although procrastination with a capital "P" rears its ugly head around our casa, I promise to post photos of these projects as we go along.


  1. Now I get all the pathway pictures on Pinterest. This is going to look awesome. Will it be done in time for the shower?

    Regarding the pathway to your house, I need some time to think on that one...

  2. Step one. Check. Colin gound out the grounding rods last night as well as the remaining bolts on the porch for thr removed built in dog room. Yay.


I love hearing from you. Please let me know you visited.