The Future Garden of Eden

The backyard of the house remains very much a work in progress, but we took a few steps forward today.  We transplanted the third tree from a property in Edina (a "limelight tree hydrangea" - one of three) to a spot between the future rain garden and the garage.  The rain garden will be dug down, and surrounded by more native landscaping and mulch.  This is starting to sound like a Laurie Anderson song (turn left where they're thinking of putting in the native grasses.... you can't miss it).

JoAnn can be seen separating tall grasses into pots.  These will go up on the roof garden's south planter box, providing a sense of spatial definition as well as some shade.

As to the transplanted trees, the arborvitae in the front yard is looking good.  The new backyard cherry tree looked droopy yesterday, perked up this morning, and looked droopy again by late afternoon today.  Who knows if it will survive or not.  Late summer is one of the worst times for transplanting trees, but we don't have much choice.  Will the hydrangea make it?  If not, it might make more sense to buy new from a nursery and abandon the other trees two miles away.

Transplanting trees

This is a small cherry tree that will be moving from a front yard in Edina to our backyard.  It's a frustrating process to try to free the "tree ball" from the tangle of roots that seems to be intertwined with roots from other trees in the yard.  We hope to free the tree this evening and make the move.  There are 4 more trees from the same yard to transplant after that, including another cherry and some limelight hydrangeas.


One year ago today, the old house was demolished.  This took place after months of work to salvage what we could from the house, landscape and garage.

Now, we are working on the landscape.  We are establishing a sod perimeter, planning on a mixed-species "infield", and starting to relocate a half dozen trees from another property about 2 miles away.

Stones and returning children

The move-in continues as we unbox more stuff and put the stuff where it's meant to go.  We completed the stone "moat" around the screened porch.  And, our oldest child returned home today after graduating from college and cleaning out the apartment that he and his roommates were in for two years.  The construction project is becoming a home.


Initiated by our builder, we jointly pitched the house to the editor of Spaces magazine.  It was selected as a joint-project article and today we received the published issue.  The article (pp. 72-87), which also features an urban infill house in St. Paul, was written by Heidi Raschke.

I took the photos for the article in late June.  At that time, several things were not yet done (like the roof trim around the flat roof; easily visible in the photo included) and we had not closed on the house.  But, we had moved in just enough furniture so that I could PhotoShop additional items in and make the interior look done.  I even had to digitally add grass to the main exterior shot!

Now, by the way, the roof trim is done but the interior is nowhere near ready for final photography!  All room are strewn with boxes from the move-in and we're about halfway through the long sorting and putting-away process.

Thanks amidst the consolidation

After a hectic, trying week, and a weekend spent on the North Shore, we are starting the Grand Consolidation.  This is the somewhat novel process (to us) of gathering our stuff from scattered locations and finding places for all of it in our new abode.  It's going to take some time, but there are clear priorities: the cat's needs, of course, followed by some essentials in the new 'fridge, and then of course a fast, secure internet connection.  Check, check, and check.

For his gracious and comfortable hospitality up near Schroeder, we thank "Chuckles", the long-standing family friend who knew my father before Dad met Mom.  Thanks for the eats, the rocks, the stories, and the memories, Charlie Crocker!

For everything else over the last 7 weeks, we are in debt to old friends M. & J. for more than we care to list here.  You two saved us, and let us live (and for me to work) in comfort and in the company of good and generous souls.  We'll always remember.


Big day today, as we emptied the storage pod into the house and then closed on the new mortgage.  The transition into our new home is underway.  But one big question remains:

Will the cat like it?

The foreground will be mostly green before long...

The foreground will be mostly green before long...

Landscaping Starts

A win-win scenario: A family a half mile away from our house is going to replace their deck with a patio this fall.  They offered the river rock under their deck to anyone who could use it, free.  Today, we started taking it away and spreading it over weed control fabric under and around our screened porch.

Soon, we'll put down some sod to define the site perimeter and blend it into the neighboring lawns.  The interior of our property will be low-water, no-mow fescues combined with various shrubs and ground covers.

Tests, Ratings and Tilling

The final blower door test was conducted today and showed that the house is very tight: 0.83 ACH @ 50 Pascals.  Current residential code requirements are for a maximum of 3 ACH, and Passivehaus requires a maximum of 0.6 ACH.  Ductwork was also tested and proved to be well-sealed.  The house's HERS score is 47.

I went over the LEED checklist with Building Knowledge's Pat O'Malley this morning.  The house should achieve LEED Silver certification once all the paperwork has been submitted.  Although I was shooting for Gold, my main purpose was to go through the process, learn from it, and apply those lessons to the next new home design.

Over the weekend, the site was rototilled.  We then fine-tuned the grading and started to prepare the site for ground covers and plants.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

The steel garage roof - the ONLY construction element preventing us from closing and moving in - was to be finished today.  Instead, nothing got done, and so we continue to wait.  And wait.  We are very thankful for the friendship and hospitality of friends who are sharing their home with us (and the cat!) as we await the day when we can finally take possession of our new home.  Thank you, Mike and Jeanne!!  There will always be a guest room for you when you need it.

Inside the house, punch list items are being addressed, and I am finishing the final bath accessory installations (a combination of Gatco and IKEA).  Recently, I installed some of the salvaged cabinets in the laundry room.  These cabinets were taken from the old house's kitchen.  Soon, I'll install the shelves and doors.

Outside, we hired a veteran who was advertising rototilling services.  If things go according to plan, he'll churn up the concrete-like soil tomorrow (which I'm trying to soften a bit with the sprinkler), and we'll then fine-tune the grading and spread some topsoil.  We'll either seed or mix sod and seed as a base.  Once turf is established, we'll start to subtract it and substitute it with native ground covers and various plant materials.  And, of course, plant the 6-8 trees we need to add to satisfy the city.

By the way, I'm past the halfway point in Irving Stone's The Agony and The Ecstasy (1961).  Not only is it a good book, but it captures our general state of mind as we endure these endless delays.


The first coat of basement floor paint is down.  Color: "Afternoon" (Sherwin-Williams).  This will be where my office will be and I am trying to create a happy, bright environment.  Because clients want happy and bright architecture, and I am trying to be a happy and bright person.

Happy, at least.

Painted concrete allows a room to be counted as "finished" for an appraiser, I learned.

Painted concrete allows a room to be counted as "finished" for an appraiser, I learned.

This slab contains PEX tubing for radiant heat.

Painting the Garage

The garage siding painting is underway.  The paint matches James Hardie's "Deep Ocean" color.

We desperately hope that the steel garage roofing will be installed during the upcoming week - it is the sole reason we haven't been able to close on the house and move in!

We desperately hope that the steel garage roofing will be installed during the upcoming week - it is the sole reason we haven't been able to close on the house and move in!

Frugality in action

Today, as part of our ongoing efforts to contain costs and find new homes for old things, we made some important acquisitions, total cost: $725.

First, we found a solid cherry queen-sized bed frame on; a Room & Board product about a decade old, from a smoke-free home.  It will match the cherry nightstands and dresser that never really felt at home with the old brass bed frame (my wife's; it predates me by several years...) that we sold before we moved.  Upgrade!!

Second, on a tip from an old friend using a new app, we selected 5 trees from a property in Edina that the owner sold to a developer.  This developer, like most (sorry for exposing my bias), wants to clear everything on the property, including the 5 or 6 huge maples and oaks as well as the Chilton stone retaining walls, and the 112-year-old house and garage.  We purchased 2 cherry trees, 2 hydrangea trees and an arborvitae that we'll transplant 2 miles away this summer.  These trees, along with the Dakota Birch we already planted, will bring the total number of trees on our property from 1 to 7.  And still the City of Minneapolis wants us to plant more, but we're arguing this.  We'd happily transplant the 40" red oak if we could...

Stay tuned.