Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries are small personally managed ‘take a book or leave a book’ libraries. They are usually adorable. You can look at their Flickr gallery to see some examples of the awesomeness that people create.

If you want to have your library registered and affiliated with the site you need to pay a small fee. They send you an official plaque and list your library on their map so people can find you.

I would like to make mine with a green roof! I am not a builder type though and have no tools. I have a couple of friends who are and I plan on commissioning them to make this for me.


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Jumping and Creating

Kids playing in the’Nature Zone’ Playspace.

The tree stump circle is either used for jumping

or for building on…

These are rolly poly houses.




Final houses:


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Neighborhood Walks – Moss Edition

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Map Dress and Landscape Brooches

I’m close to being done with this dress.

I have been prototyping the brooches. First in tissue paper and then with wool felt and embroidery.

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Christmas day nature art

I bought myself the book Land Art in Town: Simple Inspiration Through the Seasons for Christmas this year. It is an awesome book. The author, Marc Pouyet, hung out in cities across Europe and made and photographed his land art. I call it nature art and think of land art as bigger earthworks type stuff. I’m more drawn to this smaller scale, urban, unexpected art using nature.

Here are some of the things my sister, son and I created.

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School Project – Sloped site

This is a project from a design class a few semesters ago. It is a sloped site in El Cerrito with nice views and a daylighted culvert.

It had an interesting feature in the backyard – a serpentine brick wall, also called a crinkle crankle wall. Neat! It seemed oddly wasted as a wall along a narrow path at the back of the house where no one would ever see it if it was meant to be decorative. However, it DID make sense once I learned that a brick serpentine wall is a very strong retaining wall. It can be only one brick thick, saving space and money while adding some visual interest.

“This ingenious technique of garden wall construction has been used for several hundred years. The serpentine shape provides lateral strength to the wall so that it normally can be built only 4 in. in thickness without additional lateral support. Since the serpentine wall depends on its shape for lateral strength, it is important that the degree of curvature be sufficient. The following general rule is based upon the performance of many successful serpentine walls. The radius of curvature of a 4 – in. wall should be no more than twice the height of the wall above finished grade, and the depth of curvature should be no less than 1/2 of the height.” -from

The daylighted culvert was another interesting feature. The easements surrounding it meant we couldn’t do anything to change it to make it less all about ugly concrete. Still, it provided a nice water sound and wildlife habitat.

The assignment was to create a landscape plan and plant list for the front and backyard and do all the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance calculations.

“There are two water budgets in the Model Ordinance; the Maximum Applied Water Allowance (MAWA) and the Estimated Total Water Use (ETWU).
The MAWA, is the water budget used for compliance and is an annual water allowance based on landscape area, local evapotranspiration and ETAF of 0.7. The ETWU is an annual water use estimation for design purposes and is based on the water needs of the plants actually chosen for a given landscape. The ETWU may not exceed the MAWA.” – from The Updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance Brochure

This was also the property used in my concurrent Grading and Drainage class. We used a zip level to map the site elevations and worked out a complete grading and drainage plan for the property.

Photos of my project to come soon.

Another brick serpentine wall resource:

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Progressive School Natural Playscape – Stage One

This is a great project off to a great start. Stage One has been completed with much community help and the kids have been having a blast exploring it.

This is an under used area at a progressive private school (grades K-8). K and 1st grade teachers have requested this area be transformed in to Create with Nature and natural playscape area.

After meetings with the teachers and Landscape Committee I came up with a fun plan that can be completed in various stages as budget become available


Teacher Requests
– Largish circle of stumps (in combo w/ plants) to enclose the Create With Nature Zone
– Create ‘Storage Library’ for loose parts and tools – organized baskets of materials
– Ability to take over that whole space – involves moving nursery area
– Moving the mulch pile over
– Barriers to keep kids out of parking area and out from under delicate oaks
– Incorporation of other play elements –
– Water, Playhouse, Interesting plants, Pathways

Create with Nature Zone – Enclosed by plants and stumps, inside are some movable stumps and some larger immovable stumps to build on
Loose Parts Library – Includes wicker baskets, wine crates or other containers with well organized loose parts
Mulch Mountain – Large persistent pile of mulch to be replaced as it breaks down or is used elsewhere
River Bed – Includes child friendly hand pump to access water, water flows into basins or sluice and down into dry river bed w/ bridge for crossing
Pathways – Mulch pathways, include two clear entrances, pavers under oaks through plantings, pavers for a curvy path leading to living willow tunnel
Barriers – Natural fencing (willow or branches) along parking area, low mosaic seating wall at south edge, under oak plantings
Playhouse – Small 3 sided playhouse made from natural materials – willow or branches

Stage 1 – Oct 6th – Main goal is to build Create with Nature Zone and Library of loose parts.
Stump circle – Arrange and dig stumps as we have into largish area surrounding tree
Library – Low, kid accessible shelves for storing baskets of loose parts
Loose parts – Tree cookies, tree blocks, smooth river stones, twigs, pinecones, bamboo pieces, interesting seed pods, any interesting plant material
Tools – Small brooms, rakes, trowels

[metaslider id=746]

Next Stages:
Stage 2: move mulch pile, create fencing along parking area, build willow/branch playhouse
Stage 3: plantings and pathways
Stage 4: incorporate water, boulders, watercourse and bridge
Stage 5: K and 1st students create mosaic tiles, organize community mosaic build

Also viewable on my Projects page!

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Making infused oils and salves with stuff from my garden.

One of the things I enjoy most from our garden in the spring is the chamomile. Fresh chamomile tea is NOTHING like the stuff you might get in a tea bag. This year I have made infused oils using chamomile flowers, comfrey, calendula, and lavender from my garden.

My first experiment was to make a whipped coconut oil body butter using the recipe on The Nourished Life. I added in comfrey and chamomile. Whipping the coconut oil gives it a soft texture and you can scoop it out of a jar easily. It’s quite nice but I wanted more.

I tried my hand at making a salve. I sort of roughly followed this recipe from Ramblings of a Happy Homemaker. I used coconut oil, beeswax, and, calendula, lavender, comfrey, and chamomile oils, and also some vitamin E oil.

For my next trick I will try with some grapeseed oil. In fact, I might start infusing grape seed oil instead of olive oil and incorporating some local honey would kind of rock too. Crunchy Betty has a nice sounding recipe that includes honey.

I made the mistake of smearing some salve all over myself, forgetting that salve does NOT equal lotion. So yeah. The whipped coconut oil worked well as a lotion. it wqasnt too heavy or greasy and absorbed into my skin nicely.


I might try a recipe similar to this one at To Come Full Circle with clove.



The following list is taken from

Coconut oil ~ Super moisturizing oil, a solid at room temperature but melts easily on the skin. Its consistency makes it very easy to mix and very useful in facial masks. Protects skin from the elements by forming a thin film which is not absorbed. Also useful as an after sun oil. Good cleansing properties and very mild.

Comfrey – Contains allantoin, an ingredient that promotes healing, and is known for its regenerating and soothing properties. The extract of the Comfrey plant is anti-inflammatory, astringent and emollient. It can help the healing of open wounds, cuts, burns, and bruises

Lavender ~ Soothes and calmes your skin, has antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Can relieve muscle tension, speeds healing and reduces scarring. Also works as anti depressant, stimulates circulation, is a mild sedative and reduces nervous tension.

Chamomile ~ There are Roman and German chamomile. They are rejuvenating and relaxing and have soothing effect on burns and irritations. Are also slightly sedative.

Beeswax ~ Beeswax locks in moisture, fosters cells and protects skin from damaging environmental factors. reports beeswax effectively “softens your skin and creates a long-lasting protective coating against the elements. It also is a naturally nourishing moisturizer as well as being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic and a germicidal antioxidant.” According to, “Even after processing, beeswax still remains a biologically active product, retaining some anti-bacterial properties and also contains some vitamin A, which is necessary for normal cell development.” The Mayo Clinic recommends lip balm made from beeswax for chapped lip care and prevention.

Since beeswax does not clog pores, states, “When it is properly used, (beeswax) will not promote the formation of acne or pimples.”

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More Labyrinth pictures from around town

Sibley volcanic preserve
labyrinth - sibley volcanic preserve

There’s a tiny old one over by Lake Merritt. I can’t find a picture of it right now.

I know there is another labyrinth in Tilden somewhere but I haven’t made it out there.

Okay, this one is on Maui. I can dream it is about town.
labyrinth @ Nakalele Blowhole

This is the labyrinth I talk about here and here.

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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – June 2012

My first Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post a few days late. :P

What is happening back here flower wise these days?

Zucchini Flower!

Poppies, poppies and more poppies.

Yarrow and CA fushias and salvia clevelandii.


Cerinthe major

cat + Mimulus

I bought a few small plants yesterday so maybe I’ll have an actual in bloom flower bed later this year. :)

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