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Rock Creek Watershed Partners

2001 Newsletter

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Goodbye, Lawn Mower And Pruning Shears...Go Wild

When Mike McKeag's dream of owning a houseboat on the Columbia River slipped away, he brought the water to his home. Striking a pragmatic compromise with his wife Kathleen, he bought a lot on a hilly cul-de-sac in Aloha, only a few minutes from work. At first the couple occupied themselves with house design and construction, forgoing installation of a traditional lawn. Five months later, spring arrived, weeds sprouted, and Mike plotted his escape.

"What if I turned my little patch of suburbia into a pocket wilderness?" he dreamed. Soon thereafter, Mike found landscape architect Gretchen Vadnais. "Nice view," said Gretchen, "but where's the soil?" They measured. Gretchen sketched. And Mike held fast, reiterating his grand plan.

First they struggled with the question, "What is native?" and settled on using only plants present before European arrival. They divided the yard into miniature habitats: a forest understory on the shady north side of the house; a brushy thicket along the back fence line; another across the top of a mounded berm; and bunch-grass meadows in front and back. Somehow a stream and pond invited themselves to the party. With a lot of hard work and phenomenal inspiration, Mike's illusion of a patch of wilderness came true. Looking back, he's not surprised that he ended up living with so much water!

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