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March 5, 2008

My Weekend Built Environment

The phenomena of precipitation shaped my weekend activities. I was able to return home to Southwest Wisconsin to visit my parents, reunite with H., and have some nature experiences to inspire me to continue working and complete this semester in good form.

On Sunday afternoon, we experienced an unseasonal thaw, followed by an inch or more of rain. The septic drain of my parent's basement was frozen, so icy water began seeping across the floor. Now, a basement is about as built an environment as can be conceived, and as it absorbed the life of my entire family for about eight hours, its impact cannot be denied. The water entered in the back corner of the basement, but instead of running straight to the drain in the middle of the space, it instead dribbled across the floor to the carpeted, panelled section of the basement. Those who laid the concrete did not slope the floor to the drain. In fact, every corner of the basement would be wet before the drain could function. We mopped, sponged and swept the water into the drain and dried the floor and were able to move all the boxes and books into drier places, but icy cold water was still visibly running in, and two people with sponges had to work constantly to keep up with the inflow. As this was promising to continue all night, and none of us were enthused about spending the night on the basement floor, we looked for another solution.

I got out a roll of duct tape, and oulined a channel from the source to the drain. The tape was waterproof, and by folding up an edge, we were able to control the flow. By 10:00 PM, water was actually trickling into the drain at the same rate as it was leaking under the wall. Success! By morning, the temperature had dropped enough that everything refroze.

The next day, I was determined to build a snow fort. In St. P., there was never enough snow to realize this ambition, but the piles all over Southwest Wisconsin promised differently. I chose the biggest heap in the backyard and, in an amazingly short time, H. and I had hollowed it out enough that we could both almost stand inside it. The light shining through the thinner patches on the two of us seated comfortably within fulfilled my desires for a snow cave and companionship.

My experiences caused me to consider how my ideas of satisfaction result from my interaction with the built environment. Usually, the built environment is a problem, and I am able to implement a solution -- and what can be more satisfying? Interaction with the natural environment of course. My interventions in the basement were a short-term solution, and since the paint on the floor peels up with the tape, it actually causes another problem for the future. But my mound of snow in the backyard could be entirely my own creation. My net impact was zero, but the results were big.

All images by Caleb Hendrickson

Precipitation: Phenomena & Clockwork
Snow Cave: Thing

February 14, 2008

Community Gardens

Communnity gardens are places of beauty and productivity, bridging generational gaps and contributing to community diversity, benefiting the environment while improving the health of participants and rooting the members of a location to their place on the earth. Through pragmatic thinking of urban residents, community gardens enrich the social atmosphere of a neighborhood. This is social design in action – motivating citizens and yielding tangible results beyond expectations. I am proud to begin my Spring Fever by joining the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Celeste's Dream in the Summer 2008 community garden.

All images from the Summer 2007 garden.

Summer: Clockwork
Gardens & Plants: Framework
Growth & Community: Phenomena