I have a large 16′ x 16′ deck off of my back door that has served me well, but it’s time for a change.  It’s been a great outdoor room to use for entertaining, especially since the rest of the yard has been either jungle or mud.  But, the deck has also been limiting.   The design of the deck was such that when you came out of the back door you were cut-off from the rest of the yard by the high and heavy-looking railing, the stair placements were also awkward, and there was no shelter so the deck becomes slimy and slippery most of the year.

I’ve had this vision of simply cutting off a corner of the deck and moving the stairs to open up the flow while leaving enough room to BBQ and sit at least 6 people.  Then, covering the remaining portion of the deck with some sort of shelter.  My hope is that by covering the remaining deck I can keep the slime factor down, extend the usable season of the deck, and make it easier to bring Murphy in the backdoor on rainy days (that would be everyday here in the sunny Pacific NW).

Stage 1, completed this last week, was to remove the corner of the deck and move the stairs to see how it feels.  So far, so good, there are a few tweaks I want to make but overall it has a much better feel to it….and it’s passed Murphy’s initial inspection.

Stage 2 will be to tackle the design and construction of the shelter, the railings, and the permanent stairs.  I don’t want to recreate a “closed in” feeling so keeping the railing and overall design as open as possible, while keeping it safe, will be critical.

I think I’m going to take some time to “sit with” this new open feel and see what comes to me….meanwhile I need to turn my attention to the large pile of hazardous nail littered wood that Murphy finds so irresistible.

Starting in My Own Backyard

In the spirit and practice of breaking things down into manageable next steps, I thought I would focus very locally for my initial biophilic design research.  Throughout the years I’ve collected books, magazines, URL’s on environmental/sustainable topics that interest me that I would read later – when I had more time.  Well, based on what I learned writing my Time, Brain Damage and Choices post, I can’t really expect to have more time in the future than I have right now.

I have a fairly large space in my backyard, so why not use it to run some experiments?  I can use these little mini-projects to focus my research and put what I learn into practice.

  • Solar Electricity – I have a south-facing roof on my garage that I think would be perfect for a few solar panels.  This is a timely project since there is currently a “solarize” initiative in my neighborhood!
  • Eco-Roofing – I’m planning to modify my existing deck and add shelter, why not eco-roofing?  I’m passionate about this subject and would love to get my hands dirty on a project.
  • Rainwater Collection – I already have 3 large rain barrels, but I have new area in back of my new garage where I could build an elevated system and use drip irrigation into my new garden.
  • Food Production– I’m planning to devote most of the backyard to raised beds for growing food most of the year.  This is already a very engaging project!  Some of the mini-projects will include:
    • Irrigation Planning & Building
    • Raised Bed Design & Building
    • Plant Selection & Companion Planting
    • Starting Seeds (Inside & Outside)
    • Seed Saving & Sharing
    • Hoop Housing
    • Cold Boxes
    • Canning & Preserving (assuming anything grows)
  • Composting –  I’m lucky enough to live in a city that has weekly curbside composting, but given my big plans for the food production part of my yard, I will need to spend more time composting.
  • Bird, Bee & Butterfly Habitat – This has been a long-time interest of mine, I want all non-veggie plant selections to encourage local habitat.

Overall, I want to include principles like running water, re-use, and recycling throughout all the projects.  I want to try to keep my new materials purchase down, take advantage of sources like the Rebuilding Center, Scrap, and, my own backyard.  I have a deck I’m going to deconstruct, about a million red bricks (not kidding) from some old paths, and thousands upon thousands of good size rocks.

OK – I have my rough plan – now it’s time to get to work!