Trees and Thoughts

These trees were a bit of the illumination I’d done earlier in the year.

I drew not a single line on Saturday. It was Garden Walk day, and I was a wee bit busy. When I had a little time Sunday after repotting a plant that had been neglected for a long while, I drew a few of the hosta in my garden. They are getting ready to bloom! Others in my garden have already bloomed, and some have just started to show signs of blooming. Microclimates.

The Garden Walk was, I think, a success. There is no real way of telling from a single vantage point. Ticket sales will be gathered and counted over the next week, and we will have a broader perspective after our August meeting.

There were a few notable “stories” from the day. One car crash near one of the houses (no injuries, thank goodness). Stolen car, police chase, car crashed into cement steps on a house across the street from our GW home. Foot chase resulted in one arrest. Many police in the area for a while. DRAMA!

I got yelled at by a tour goer about the location of the tent we’d put up to protect us from the sun. I thanked her for the feedback and left the tent where it was. Not as much drama!

And I had a very odd request from someone to handle something in a way that would have been the height of rudeness. I refused to comply with the request, but assured the person I would sensitively inquire after any concerns. My sensitive inquiries yielded no results. Stopped the drama!

Sitting in my garden Sunday morning and playing with plants was much better than interacting with people. No drama.

In the afternoon I went for a short boat ride, did some boat cleaning, and ate a tasty dinner.

Reforestation Revitalization Rebuilding Reconsideration

We have a history of plowing the earth under to plant a building, parking lot, or roadway for the benefit of humans. That is not an inherently terrible thing because the general intent is good. What breaks this journalist’s heart is the byproduct of destruction and waste involved in our current building practices and our abandonment of a site at the end of its functionality.

Full disclosure, I am currently under the influence of the Apple TV documentary series “Home” featuring innovative and beautiful bespoke homes built (often by the owner) taking into consideration the life of the home owner, the environment, craftsmanship, and just plain pretty/efficient/thoughtful design.

Yep, that’s a home…inside a greenhouse…in Sweden.

On a lark a year or two ago, I travelled down the rabbit hole of trying to determine how building codes are made, and how flexible they are to change (not so flexible). Mostly, I was wondering why green technologies aren’t a regular part of building new houses in the 21st Century—standard equipment. It would be so much easier to place battery support for a solar power system in a new attic before the roof goes on and solar panels get added.

When developers are breaking ground on a new site wouldn’t that be the ideal time to determine if geothermal heating/cooling would be efficient for the homes on the cul-de-sac? How about brown water collection for irrigation? The list goes on. It might not result in a net-zero home, but any efficiency helps the system as a whole.

Cost. The cost of a home is a sliding scale from year to year, so I don’t think this is a valid argument—or if it is a valid argument right now, wait a year and we’ll talk again. Additionally, there is a huge cost involved in retrofitting homes, and some people choose to make those changes so there is a percentage of the public who are willing to take on a little up-front expense for the savings over time.

Supply chain. A lot of the issues we are having with the supply chain are because we are hyper focussed on a limited palette of building materials. Those building materials may not be ideal for a site any more.

California is on fire every year now. Not that anyone wants to live in an inferno, but if someone wants to rebuild on the same property, what are the solutions from which they can choose so their future will be more secure? Can they provide a refuge for wildlife and plant life in the transition to restoration and reforestation? Can their new structure be built to revitalize and mitigate the effects of climate change?

Regulations, permits and building codes. We have lawyers…they are always looking for a good project to sink their teeth into, right? I suspect construction companies have legal teams.

If we are truly aiming for building back better than we must build inclusively—taking all humans, plants, animals, and the planet into consideration. We don’t live independently from the world.

We must also plan the full lifecycle of whatever we are creating—what impact will the construction have, what will it look like when it is operating at peak efficiency and how easy/difficult will that peak be to maintain, how will it be disposed of and renatured/reused at the end of its life?

Rabbit Hole of the Day

I’m back…there are a lot of open windows on my computer at the moment.

My search started with a query about construction companies that specialize in green technology. One of the results: Engineering News Record’s 2018 Top 100 Green Building Contractors

There were several Chicago-based companies and I visited their websites. These construction companies are predominantly centered on commercial construction. All of them mention LEED certification levels and certified staff.

I’m barely a construction neophyte, so here is the 411 about the LEED certification (and another rabbit hole) site from the U.S. Green Building Council: LEED Rating System and their LEED for Neighborhood Development page intended for neighborhood projects in planning all the way up to 75% constructed. They also have a consideration for built projects (no older than 3 years).

I’ll have to go back to that site to learn more, but for now back to the list.

Of the Chicago-based companies, #55 Pepper Construction made me sit up and dig deeper because on the face of it, they seem to get it. They are looking at the impact of their work, the lives of their employees, and the people who will work and live in their buildings. I’m tickled that they have also designed a net-zero construction trailer that is available for order. I wonder how many of those will be ordered and fitted out as tiny homes?

Exploring Pepper’s site a bit more, I discovered they are working on a project near me: Pritzker Archives and Memorial Park Center. I’d driven by this with some friends in the early days of construction and had no idea what it was. It looked like it was going to be a very large gas station…ha!

Why Did I Start This Post??

You may not believe it, but I started it to talk about Natural Urban Forests.

In recent years, it seems like the importance of biodiverse gardens has grown and settled in the American psyche to an extent. I can walk through my neighborhood and enjoy more gardens that I used to, and some of them have gone great gonzo—the monarch will soon be munching on new patches of milkweed—while others play with just a bit more diversity by adding a few more perennials to their garden bed instead of 3 flats of annuals.

There are empty lots in downtown Kenosha where buildings used to be, and now a but of scrubby grass pokes through the ground. I walk by and wish I had a few seed bombs to toss on the lot.

There is an Eldergarten in town so people living in the high rise (high for our area) next to it can have a patch of garden for themselves.

Nowhere is there an ecological reforestation like that offered by Natural Urban Forests.

I’ve seen new birds and bugs flitting through my garden, but the possum and bunnies still have to find nooks and crannies of human homes to inhabit. A close family member recently had raccoons in his attic (not figuratively speaking), and all of that is due to a lack of habitat.

Parks are habitats for people, and nature is just as excluded from them as they are from building sites. It would be nice to set aside corridors of animal habitat. Barring corridors, a few sizable islands would be helpful in a lot of ways and we can just go inside in the wee hours of the night and early morning and let the critters sort themselves out.

That opossum is not beautiful, but he (or she) eats ticks and can’t carry rabies, so I’m happy to have it around keeping the back yard safe for Clover and Smithers.

Thanks for coming long with me on this day-long exploration. It’s been a little all over the place, but the issue touches many facets of life. The solutions won’t be just one thing, and the teamwork of many big thinkers making incremental changes will lead to the bigger solutions.

What if Pepper Construction worked with Natural Urban Forest to finish off their designs and reforest sections of the build site?

UPDATE: After posing this last question, I found one of the decision makers on LinkedIn and sent her an InMail message about Natural Urban Forests…telling her I was reaching out just to put them on her radar. I have not heard back, and I may never.

Posts with Illustrations from 2005

Speak Up’s Word It for November

…is “quick”.

The Great Wardrobe Shift

It’s fall and time for that fun game we all get to engage in twice a year—The Wardrobe Shift. This is the game in which you attempt to remember exactly what you own that will see you through the next season. At about the time I finally have the summer clothes all figured out and on a nice rotation, the temperatures start dropping, and I know it’s time to begin THE SHIFT.

As if it weren’t bad enough that we have to go from one complete wardrobe to another for the cooler temperatures, we also have to make the incremental adjustments along the way. There’s no time to really settle into the spring and fall clothes (as if there are actually “spring” and “fall” clothes). They are the outfits that are strange blends of summer and winter items brought together for a short period of time—just to see us through until the weather is fully committed.

The clothes, themselves, rarely enjoy this in-between-season time. The sweater really prefers the heavier pants to the lighter summer pair you are currently wearing because you think it’s “not quite cold enough yet”. So the sweater and the pants nag you all day long that they just don’t belong together. Every time you look in the mirror, you wonder why you forgot to turn on the lights before you looked at your murky reflection. Maybe just one more cup of coffee before you left the house would have snapped you out of your wardrobe malfunction. Maybe there should be a Garanimalesque system for adult clothing, you think to yourself. And you could corner the market if only you had the time.

There’s one solace in the dark season of clothing confusion—you’re strangely comfy.

KPK’s Monster

November 10th


Illo Friday “Imagine” and SpeakUp! “Star”

I did a combo illustration—lazy or creative? You make the call.

I’d initially done this for Illo Friday “surprise”, but it was too late. I think it applies well to “imagine”, as in “Imagine poor Harvey’s impending mysery at the hands of his closest friends.”

Flash forward to 2022: Harvey’s closest friends were immortalized in The Word It Book published in 2007, edited by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armit Vit. You’ll find the trio on page 169.

2022 Note continues: None of us ever imagined Harvey’s pals would hang out on a page with Marilyn Monroe for eternity. I think the editors had a little fun with this page arrangement.

Illo Friday “Holiday”

This is a colored pencil drawing that adorned my Christmas letter this year. Merry Christmas everyone!

And a Happy New Year too!

This post is a consolidation of several posts from 2005—with a little new information tossed in for good measure.