Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day of Rest...sort of

Yesterday was my day of rest-both mentally and physically.  Upon arriving home Saturday night, I felt detached and scattered. I could not focus on anything. Even the laundry seems to be a perplexing task for me to take on, so I left it in a pile on the laundry room floor and decided to deal with it in the morning. I showered, found some clean flannel pj's, and crawled into bed with a stack of mail. I sorted a pile of bills from the periodicals and found the new issue of Landscape Architecture magazine (Yay!), Annals of Iowa, Country Living, and a current Eddie Bauer catalogue. That particular circular came at an opportune time because I am ready to invest in a colorful, new duffel. I don't ever want to lay eyes on that ugly, black duffel that I lugged around for both the North and South Country trips this past semester.  It served its purpose, but no more! I am ready for color....and clean.

Horn Island, Gulfshore National Seashore
I did not last long after climbing into bed; I turned out the lights and immediately fell into a deep sleep. When 4:30 A.M. rolled around, I hit the ground running. Laundry first. Then I hauled out the tent, the ground cloth, the fly, the sleeping bag, and mat. Everything was gritty with Horn Island sand, so it all went into the shower for an initial rinse. By afternoon, the laundry was done, and all the camping gear was clean and hanging up to dry and refresh. I have sorted and labeled photographs of the trip, and found an assignment to finish grading before Tuesday's class. By evening, I was finally ready to relax. Paul and I headed off to the cineplex to take in a viewing of the latest Bond movie, Skyfall. I even treated myself to an expensive bag of popcorn. It was delish!

Even tho the students have the day off today, there is much work to get done before tomorrow's class... and before the end of the semester.  I find myself counting the days to be done with all this. The semester has been an exercise of self-discipline in the art of humility, deference, and patience. Looking back, four years of school and writing a master's thesis seems to be a cake-walk compared to the mental challenge of these past few months. Teaching turns out to be a more difficult endeavour than I ever imagined; team-teaching both on and off the road has most assuredly tested my resolve.

Needless to say, yesterday was a much needed mental health day and I am grateful to have had the time to recenter. I so missed my home and family during these past three weeks on the road. Nothing compares to walking through the door and finally being in my nest. Ev left a message on the machine...he spotted a TJMaxx shopping bag on a street in Saigon that reminded him to call to say he loved and missed us. Tess texted me a "welcome back"; she reminded me that she would be home on the 20th for Thanksgiving break (Yay!).

I feel good today; I would go so far to say I feel bright and chipper.  And that I am SO ready to finish this final stretch of the semester and be DONE!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


sunset on the last day of the South Country trip of Savanna Traveling Studio

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Word of the Day....Catenary

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Day 2...downtown St. Louis.  Toured the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a.k.a. The Gateway Arch. This iconic cultural landscape is one of the most significant contemporary landscapes in the U.S. Landscape architect Dan Kiley (1912-2004), along with architect Eero Saarinen, submitted their design for a memorial design competition in 1947.

The building of the Arch was completed in 1965 while work on the landscape wasn't initiated until 1968. The phased work was finally completed in 1980.  Kiley, when brought back to the site in the late 90s, stated that his design was about the geometry that reflected the curve of the Arch. This arc, known as catenary, is formed by a flexible, uniformly dense cord or cable suspended from its endpoints and acted on by gravity. The designer's tree-lined walkways mirrored and reinforced this curve on the ground plane. Kiley, also known for his "his vigorous and creative" plant selections, specified tulip poplars, but the local nursery association raised a ruckus. They insisted the trees would not survive the urban environment, so a locally-cloned Rosehill Ash replaced the poplars on Kiley's planting plan. Ironically, these ash trees now in their height of glory will have to be replaced due to the Emerald Ash borer that is currently decimating this tree population throughout the Midwest. If the tulip poplars had been planted as Kiley specified, they would now be majestically displaying their full glory....and most likely would be standing for many years into the future.

Two professors, one lecturer, and 34 students of the Savanna Traveling Studio started out the day touring the grounds of the Gateway Arch in pouring rain. After an hour of both drizzle and downpour, the professors finally called it a morning and sent the students into the museum so they could get out of the rain.  Like good troopers, the students completed their watercolors, found some lunch, and returned to the hotel to change out of their wet clothes before heading out for the afternoon's assignment.  We all dreaded more time working in the wet weather, but magically, the rain stopped after lunch. The sun came out and it turned into a picture-perfect  day. The students completed their assigned work in Citygarden and headed out to enjoy the balmy evening.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We finally made our way home two weeks ago Saturday from the three-week North Country trip of Savanna Traveling Studio. I have felt nothing but discombobulated since my return home.  Trying not to settle in, I have been focusing solely on taking care of business here on the homefront and in the classroom.  But come October 22nd, we will be climbing back into our five silver, 15-passenger vans and heading down the road...this time to the South Country. We will make stops in Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

During the past several weeks that I have been home, I have spent a good deal of time preparing for our South Country trip reading about both the urban and not-so-urban landscapes that we will be visiting. One of our first stops will be St. Louis, where we will be taking in the designed landscapes of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (The Arch), the incredible Citygarden, and Tower Grove Park/Missouri Botanical Garden, which was Henry Shaw's gift to the city of St. Louis.

After several days in STL, we will travel into southern Missouri with a stop at the historic Missouri Mines to capture the beauty of this post-industrial site through drawing/watercolor exercises. We will eventually set up camp at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park where we'll spend several days of exploration through the geologic study of this park as well as Elephant Rocks State Park. On our way to Memphis, TN, we will travel through Missouri's earthquake country down in that part of the state called the Bootheel.

Upon our arrival in Memphis, our students will study the rich history of the city and its relationship with the Mississippi River. Given this opportunity, they will analyze past and present flooding issues that affect the waterfront along Beale Street. Giving up the luxury of the hotel's warm beds and hot showers, we will travel into Mississippi where we will be settling in for a couple days of camping at Homochito National Forest.  Day visits will take us to prehistoric burial mounds and the Natchez Trace.

New Orleans is the next stop on our itinerary with so many urban landscapes to explore-cemeteries, gardens, parks and squares, and neighborhoods. Our last destination of the South Country trip will be Horn Island, one of several islands that comprise the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We will be camping on this sand bar barrier island 12 miles off the Mississippi coast in the Gulf of Mexico. That should be an interesting experience for one and all. Everything packed in must be packed out. Everything!  There are no public restrooms or outhouses. Figure that one out....

Never one to turn down an opportunity to "road trip", I actually look forward to this south country trip. I have the North Country leg under my belt, so I feel immersed in the culture of the ISU Landscape Architecture department's Savanna Traveling Studio. Living on the road and in close quarters with 36 people for a dedicated three-week stint and whose only tie is a professional relationship has been, at best, awkward for me.  However, it has certainly had its rewards.  We are no longer the strangers that we were when we set out on this adventure. "Up close and personal" has also offered me the opportunity to see our 34 new people as more than just students on the class roster. Listening to their conversations during the long legs of travel, as well as my individual conversations with them, I have new insights into this amazing group of young people with an incredible set of skills, talents, and interests.  I have no doubt that these attributes will serve them well not only in their study of landscape architecture, but also in their professional and personal lives.

I have set three goals for this next trip. First, I will travel lighter. Too much baggage is a drag on so many levels. I learned that I don't have to take along all the stuff for boo-boos and owies for everyone else. No one wants or expects anything from me. I go with the flow, stay flexible, and drive.  Second, I will find someplace for a pedi-manicure along about Day 10. This pampering not only washes away the grime that follows days of camping, but it also clears the stress that builds. The third goal is to get plenty of sleep. Surprisingly, some of the most sound sleep was in my little tent in the great outdoors, but I won't discount the amenities of the hotel room.  I will take a good night's sleep whenever and wherever I can find it.

Come 8 A.M. Monday, October 22nd, I will take command of SaVANna #35 for the South Trip. Keep us in your thoughts, read our blog, and wish us a safe and industrious journey.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

the Older Brother

I just discovered this blog post in my drafts file this morning, December 2013; it was written over a year ago and stashed there for safekeeping. In light of a recent development concerning our man Horace and his cemetery work, I decided to publish this piece, for the record, about the Cleveland brothers of Massachusetts.

As background, in the summer of 2012 after I had completed my Master's thesis and graduated, I indulged in a little "fun" research. This indulgence started out totally innocent, but turned rather quickly into an obsession over the next few weeks. I am the first to admit that I tend to get sidetracked during historical research by some little scrap of irrelevant information that leaves me scratching my head. My major prof used to refer to this as my magpie obsession with shiny objects. The shiny object of this story was a letter in which the landscape architect Horace William Shaler Cleveland wrote about an older brother who lived in Iowa. Because the brother was not the focus of my thesis (Horace was), I grudgingly set this tidbit aside. However, when visiting with a distinguished professor and Cleveland scholar about my graduate work, I learned that the older brother Richard Jeffery had lived in Olin, Iowa, a tiny town in Jones County and had died there in 1877. With that little morsel, I started an all-out assault armed with Google and my Cleveland file folders. After numerous Google searches, I discovered that Horace's older brother Richard Jeffery had relocated from New York state in 1835 to settle in Whiteside County, Illinois, where he was one of the founders of Prophetstown.

A piece of the puzzle had just dropped into place. I knew that my man Horace, the youngest of the three Cleveland sons of Massachusetts, worked as a surveyor and then taught school in Prophetstown around the same time his older brother was living there.  Digging a little deeper, I found a biographical listing for Richard Jeffery in the 1879 History of Jones County.  Richard Jeffery Cleveland married in 1838 and then moved with his wife Mary in 1840 to Jones County, Iowa. They settled in Walnut Forks, where he purchased 220 acres of land.  As the area grew, the village came to be called Rome, and later Olin, IA. When Richard Jeffery moved from Illinois to Iowa, Horace also left Prophetstown. Instead of moving to Iowa with his brother, he headed back to the east coast and married. He and Mary Dwinel started their family and Horace set about learning his life work of landscape architecture.

What drove me to pursue the thread of information about the Cleveland brother dangled by the professor was the fact that I, along with other historical researchers, never really know why a subject's life unfolds as it does unless we are fortunate enough to uncover a primary piece of evidence that spells out the why's and how's. Cleveland scholars have never been certain why H.W.S. Cleveland landed in Prophetstown-and this puzzle piece certainly is not irrefutable evidence. It does, however, make sense that the youngest Cleveland brother probably joined his older brother in Prophetstown, stayed on while family was there, and then left when family moved on. Historical documents are full of stories where the oldest son blazes a trail and then calls for the rest of the clan to follow.  I am comfortable with how this story of the Cleveland boys might have worked out. Scholars have also speculated on the reason why Horace Cleveland eventually re-located his East Coast practice to the Midwest. Some believe that the lack of work out East pushed Cleveland west; other say his desire to play a part in the planning and design of the expanding frontier pulled him to Chicago. The deaths of his middle brother in 1843, his mother in 1850, and his father in 1860 might shed some light as to why Cleveland decided to move out west in early 1869.  The only living sibling of Horace's immediate family, was living in Iowa. Maybe it was as simple as that.

The search was on. I was determined to learn about Richard Jeffery Cleveland. Perhaps a glimpse into his life could reveal further information about Horace Cleveland. This is what I have discovered about the older brother. He was a Harvard graduate--Class of '27. He, too, was a surveyor, who worked in the General Surveyor's office in Dubuque, IA. He was listed as a founding father of two towns.  R.J. held the position of postmaster as well as justice of the peace in Olin, IA. He enlisted as a Civil War Iowa Volunteer in the 9th Infantry Co. B. And it was this little discover about his service to his country that sent me down the road early one summer morning to search for evidence of Richard Jeffery Cleveland life, and death, in Olin, IA.

After walking the grid back and forth across the Olin Cemetery grounds, I found a marble headstone, along with the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) star, bearing the name of R.J. Cleveland. The family plot contained his grave site and that of his wife Mary E. Cleveland Lowry. His widow had outlived her husband and remarried. The good Rev. J. Lowry is buried next to Mary, two graves over from R.J.

In the end, this indulgent research provided a possible clue to a long-niggling question that I, and others, have had about Horace's motivation for settling here in the Midwest. This is exactly what I love about historical research--finding those elusive pieces to the puzzle. Especially when they are discovered in an out-of-the-way cemetery in Jones County, IA.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Road Trip!

Bright and early Monday morning, the Savanna Travelling Studio is heading out on the North Country trip with stops in Mason City, Minneapolis, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Duluth, Devil's Lake in Wisconsin, Chicago, Galena, and finally, Dubuque.  After three intense weeks on the road, we are back in Ames and the College of Design for a short stint before we head out again on our South Country trip.

So far, it has been a whirlwind start to the Fall 2012 semester. I have been solo teaching an introductory course - Investigating Landscape Form, Process, and Detail - to 34 new landscape architecture students. It has been fun. In fact, it is more fun than I ever imagined, but it has been lots of work figuring out the intricacies of this new career.  Going back to school five years ago was scary; writing a thesis was exhaustive; this teaching thing is a whole other level of work with hours of preparation, lecture, and then grading of assignments.  Now that we are taking the studio "on the road," I have to figure out how to do it all from the back of a van!

However this new assignment turns out for me-and the rest of our studio-it will be an adventure I never could have dreamed up.  I am so grateful to all those in my department who made this happen. I am one lucky duck.

Friday, August 10, 2012

It is hard to believe that I am gearing up for a semester of teaching in our landscape architecture department as part of the team with the Savanna Traveling Studio. This photo was taken in the Boundary Waters just last week on a "practice run". Look how hard I am working!   : )

Sunday, June 17, 2012

All part of the process...

The new south bed in the wayback project...planted with hydrangeas and hosta.

The old flagstones in the walk needed to be re-set and then edged with pavers. The new bed (mulched with prairie hay) defines the space where the paver rug will be set.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

paver rug, new beds and entrance to space

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flagstone Walk

Two-thirds of the way.....


Thursday, May 24, 2012

A View from the Balcony

more stonework

looking out onto the garden

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ev with his Vietnamese students

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Garden Art

The other day I acquired this beautiful, old concrete pedestal. I was going to use it for another birdbath in the garden, but decided to leave it on the terrace (rather its weight dictated I leave it where it landed!). Unsure what I would use for the "bath" part, I turned to go back inside and my eyes landed on an old Emerson fan I had picked up at a garbage sale.  The birds will just have to find another spot to bathe. I love the whimsy in the suggestion of a cool breeze out on the terrace.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Iris pseudacorus - yellow flag

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Garden Re-do

the old 4-square garden
removing the north-south path to enlarge the beds

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

The late night drive home on I-35 last night was a white knuckler, but it was worth it waking up this morning to a gorgeous, crusty coating on my world.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Safely Back...Home ???

Ev sent word from Hanoi, Vietnam late last night; he had just gotten up after a deep 8-hour sleep and was heading out to find some pho, the traditional Vietnamese comfort food. There was a big sigh of relief to hear from him and know that he was o-kay.  The 24+ hours of flights and lay-overs had been brutal.  He apologized that he had not emailed earlier, but once he had arrived in the hotel room, he passed out.

Last Thursday morning, we whisked him off to the airport for an early flight that started his journey back to Vietnam.  Tracking his long flight on FlightAware was an all-day affair. I watched the little plane icon move across the map--from Chicago up over Canada, along the southern border of Alaska, then down to Japan. The last leg from Narita, Japan to Hanoi was easy-peazey-only a 6-hour flight compared to his earlier 13+ hour-flight. But this was really the hardest part of Ev's journey for me because once he landed in Vietnam, the reality hit. Evan was gone from this house.  He was no longer sleeping in his old bed upstairs. Evan is now back home on the other side of the world.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday's Tromp Along Worle Creek

Today's tromp covered some areas with heavy underbrush.

Found a path through...

Very interesting bark....I will have to get out my Dirr's....It is Amur corktree
 This bark looks familiar, but cannot name it.....Dirr's?  And Hophornbeam..Ostrya

A lovely carpet of needles shed from the Eastern White Pine...no longer in their "bundles of 5."

Back in the 'hood and spotted the neighbor's flouncy hemlock.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


from this ......

to this.....

foto courtesy of McClanahan Studios, Ames, IA

Sunday, January 29, 2012

THE BIG and the small

This is our neighbor's pup Fergie sleeping on their kitchen table.

This is the YouTube video of a doormouse sleeping in the palm of a hand.