Change of Mind, Change of Heart (part three, a change of plan)

'Pacific Fire' Vine maple in a more cultivated setting.  The orange-red bark would contrast nicely with the mosses.

‘Pacific Fire’ Vine maple in a more cultivated setting. The orange-red bark would contrast nicely with the mosses.

In late December and into January, while I waited for the soil to

'Iron Springs' is a naturally-occurring mutation of Western Hemlock. It starts out as an irregular mound and grows very slowly into a semi-contorted form. It is the plante juste!

‘Iron Springs’ is a naturally-occurring mutation of Western Hemlock. It starts out as an irregular mound and grows very slowly into a semi-contorted form. It is the plante juste!

thaw and my special-order mutant Native plants to arrive, I studied up on Mountain Beaver control (this creature, which eats a few hundred dollars a year’s worth of plants in my clearing, costs the timber industry over $350,000,000 annually in damage to seedlings, tree farms, and restoration plantings. There is no shortage of reading on this subject). Why add another couple thousand dollars worth of plants if the plants will only become forage and nest? Culling and co-opting the best of Mountain Beaver strategy from the industrial/governmental forestry complex, I

I suspect the Mountain Beavers may be taking up arms in advance of the coming conflict.

I suspect the Mountain Beavers may be taking up arms in advance of the coming conflict.

planned great changes for my Mountain Beavers: a change of Spiritual Plane.

I made plans and drawings for more and greater changes to the property. I tidied up an area just beyond the clearing for a treehouse. I moved a couple giant rocks into featured locations. I sketched a small lean-to shed for the side of the house, a place to store those things in the garage which kept me from using it as a shop. I designed an arbor to replace a part of the remaining Confinement Fence, the rest of which would be removed, and I noted for ‘disappearance’ six of the dozen loathsome Bigleaf Maples which closely ring my house. The remaining six, too large or too close to the house to fell, would get severe prunings or selected trunk removal to reduce the volume of those stupid leaves. After doing projects, I love making lists of projects; to plan for change, creating drawings and dreams, afforded me a grand time. I was having more fun making plans for change than I had in all the previous TWO YEARS of living in the home. In fact, with the New Year only one thing had not changed: my wife…or rather, her mind.

As I spoke with greater and greater enthusiasm of my plans, my wife agreed and applauded, but reserved that tone in her voice in the way she does not think I can hear: ‘Yes…but.’ These reservations, abstract and imprecise, led us to friction over the first real difference we have had in our fifteen years together. We have ALWAYS wanted the same things, ALWAYS liked the same things. We had never before disagreed on a Grand Plan. Now, I wanted to stay in this house and had ‘fallen in love’ with it in a way I had not before; my wife, having decided she wanted to move last fall, could not get her mind to move back in. We had reached the first fundamental idealogical divide in our life together. And a divide wherein one person arrives at decision through reason and the other maintains belief through emotion: that is not a divide easily bridged.

I cannot help that there is obviously a punchline to this tale, a bombshell at this point less

Think I'll just go back to sleep. No one will be committing landscape crimes in the woods today.

Think I’ll just go back to sleep. No one will be committing landscape crimes in the woods today.

explosive than the first time I dropped it in the fall. So when my wife took me to see a property just down the street, a 1977 semi-split with a super smart floorplan on a shy acre at the end of a cul-de-sac, of course we made an offer–accepted the next day. Much in the way that when my wife said she wanted a baby and I wanted a puppy, the compromise was not the baby gorilla I suggested…but in fact, a baby (when said illustrative baby was born, I knew I had made the right choice; my daughter is awesome, and gorillas can become difficult to manage as they age). I trust that giving up my will to accede to my wife’s wish is the right choice, and I will love our new home too. Whether I do, or don’t…well, I am husband and father first, and I live to serve the hive.


For sale, chea...SOLD!

For sale, chea…SOLD!

We put our house up for sale the next day and miraculously, five days later that sold too. We move at the end of March. I cannot say that I’m not conflicted: I DO love this house I built, though probably the way an heiress loves a Hell’s Angel. It isn’t right, but it’s just so damn sexy. While all seems fine to me now, when the Mountain Beavers consume another thousand dollars’ worth of plants, I’ll be fed up again. Right now my daughter and I can play basketball in the garage, but next year the hoops go up a foot for third-grade girls, and it isn’t likely she’ll want to practice the Hakeem Olajuwan Dream Shake on colored spots on the floor without taking the shot. I didn’t want to sell the house

My NEW HOUSE! Oh, wait.  That's my OLD house, a couple years before we sold it.

My NEW HOUSE! Oh, wait. That’s my OLD house, a couple years before we sold it.

at the price we sold it; we take a pretty good loss on costs outside of the construction budget, and it will keep me working at least a decade to make it up, but I don’t want to live in a monument to my own hubris, either. At the same time, the ‘new’ house is 36 years old and has the same problems, projects, the same improvements and work, as my last house,

There...THAT'S the 'new' house.  It is butter yellow. Just sayin'.

There…THAT’S the ‘new’ house. It is butter yellow. Just sayin’.

the one I bought when I was twenty-nine. I am forty -five now. I can’t help but feel that I have moved the progress of my life back significantly. As a man, a husband, a father, I want to do what is best for my family and to do the right thing, and I am troubled that I cannot say that ‘best’ and ‘right’ are the same.

2013, The Year I Changed My Mind, indeed.

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24 Responses to Change of Mind, Change of Heart (part three, a change of plan)

  1. Corene says:

    That butter yellow baby isn’t going to know what hit it once you’re done building our dream garden there!

  2. I think you made the right choice going with the baby over the gorilla. Babies usually become self-supporting, gorillas not so much. Best of luck with the new house!

    • calvincaley says:

      Bobo had a tough time with a family, and then transitioning to a zoo was difficult also; thankfully, we can just send our daughter to school. I am getting more excited to move…having a gorilla to take the other end of my furniture would help.

  3. Deirdre says:

    So, you’re moving after all? Well, I’m sure you’ll find project enough to keep you busy and planning. What’s happening to all your plants you just ordered? Will some of them move with you?

    • calvincaley says:

      Projects a-plenty! Fortunately, I was able to cancel the plant order before I had to buy (and release the hold I had on the others). There are other things that will come before planting, and moving will be tough enough without moving plants too.

  4. Chad B says:

    Calvin, you sly dog. All this time I thought you had decided to stay put! Well, good for you. I’m glad that you are approaching some kind of resolution. As you know, I’ve been going through a similar process these last few weeks. In fact, we should be closing escrow on the sale of my current house in just two days. Another house and new plans will follow closely. I hope that you, your wife, and your daughter are enjoying the excitement that comes with starting over even if it means, in more ways than one, actually starting over . . .

    • Deirdre says:

      The yard needs some editing, but I’ve seen worse. If those rhodies out front prove to be too big to move, you can always limb them up into small trees and underplant. Rhododendron means rose TREE after all.

      • Deirdre says:

        A dark color and stacked stone will be great improvements.
        My father in law, Gene Zema, is one of the fathers on NW style.

      • calvincaley says:

        Tip of the hat to your FIL! The debate is all to frequently ‘Paul Kirk or Paul Thiry,’ I tend to think the answer is usually Ralph Anderson or Roland Terry. Your father-in-law had as much or more to do with the mainstreaming of the ‘Northwest Contemporary’ vernacular of the 1960’s and 70’s as any of the above, and doesn’t always get the play. There is definitely a Zema influence in the exterior of my new home, with the way the roof creates an ‘eyelash’ that descends over the private volume of the house (on the back side). The interior has opposing shed roofs on the public volume, the ceiling and fireplace wall are T&G cedar in a driftwood color. Very Anderson. The builder/original owner was looking over the shoulders of giants.

        The business property I just sold was a David McKinley design, of Kirk Wallace McKinley. The Landmarks Board wanted to protect it because Kirk had signed the plans, and I had to go with a pair of architects and a lawyer to argue against the misattribution. They decided that McKinley was underappreciated and wanted to then protect the building because McKinley hasn’t been getting his due. Awkward, as Dave was our neighbor when I was a kid, and my father and he remain friends. Still, I had to argue for not designating because a) I don’t think most of Dave’s work is as good as Paul’s, and b) my Dad told me he and Dave designed it together as a response to budgetary constraints. That isn’t really a recipe for good architecture.

        If only the Landmarks Board knew how many of Paul Kirk’s landmark buildings WERE actually designed by Dave McKinley, though (at least the way he told it around our kitchen table, HA). Seattle was much better then, I think.

        Your FIL was a true talent. Is he still alive? I am a fan of the Lupton House, but missed the tour last March.

      • Deirdre says:

        Yes, Gene is still alive living up on Camano. I have to confess I’ve never actually met him. Gene and my husband are not on speaking terms.

      • calvincaley says:

        Fathers and sons..I work for my father. I get it.

      • calvincaley says:

        My fear is that they can’t be arborized enough to clear the window frame and my composition will be out of balance. I think Mr. Diggy and I are up to the job!

  5. Tia says:

    I love it. The way it sits on its lot, the light that will be coming in once you fix that classic PNW rhodie placement, the elbow room, the graceful driveway …. Clearly, it will be awesome.

    • calvincaley says:

      ‘That classic PNW rhodie placement.’ Oh man, did you hit the nail on the head. The property must have a hundred rhododendrons that went in with the house, many are ten or so feet tall. The challenge will be to move them–the rootballs will be enormous–but they so desperately want to be underneath and between the Doug firs on the perimeter of the lot. Looking at the house, I am thinking of a group of Alaska cedar in front of the chimney–three in varying height. The area in front of the windows wants to be low, some azalea, black mondo grass, painted fern, boulders, and mossy groundcovers. The island hiding the front door needs to be thinned and the largest trees there (there are two of them) may need to go if I can’t ‘cloud prune’ them into the program. I would replace them with a single Alaska cedar and a cascading Japanese maple over the right slope of the bed, more azalea and low shrubs in between. The lawn needs to be cut back from the beds by at least a foot, maybe two, to ‘crisp up’ the composition. The home itself was the builder’s own, and has enough in common with Ralph Anderson’s work (one of the NW Modern Masters if you are unfamiliar) that I would be surprised if the builder wasn’t cribbing from him. The house wants to be a sable brown, I think, and the chimney wants the wood surround off and a stacked stone facade instead, emulating cascade basalt, I think. Can you see it?

  6. caleone says:

    Chad, perhaps sly to some extent…but the opportunity came fairly out of the blue and I really HAD decided that I wanted to stay. There is about a 3 -4 week difference between the actual calendar of events and my writings, in part because I don’t want to step on anyone’s blogtoes that I like. If I promise not to be some sort of stalky creeper, would you do me the kindness of sending me your address after you get settled? I have something I’d like to send you for your new home. We are all excited to varying degrees and for different reasons, but I’d be more excited if all those empty boxes would magically fill themselves…moving. Eef.

    • Chad B says:

      Calvin, I understand the need to delay writing about this sort of thing. I haven’t been writing much about my move lately either because I didn’t want to jinx myself or get too caught up in the planning for a new house only to have it all fall through. Even 3+ weeks into a 30-day escrow I still feel like there are a couple obstacles that need to be cleared before I can relax mentally. And after that there will be no relaxing physically for quite some time.

      At any rate, I will definitely send you my new address once we are settled in. In the meantime, I wish you and yours continued good luck.

      • calvincaley says:

        I know what you mean. There is little more disappointing than an ‘unhatched chicken,’ (not to be confused with an unfertilized one, which are delicious with cheese and avocado and sour cream and such). Plus there is the whole pack and haul thing. It is all very stressful. I have nothing but good thoughts for you and your family also!

  7. croftgarden says:

    Calvin, reading your blog over the last year has been a real roller coaster adventure. On the stress scale moving house probably rates between death and divorce, so this time I hope it really does go well. Look forward to more adventures (not necessarily involving moving house).

    • calvincaley says:

      Stressful, to be sure. Still, I am feeling like we have reached a denoument, rather than continuing on at a peak of edgy, what-is-going-to-happen-“nextness.” We are good at fixing things, making things, and generally entertaining ourselves by doing stuff…when my daughter was two, long before we moved into the ‘dream house,’ we would putter about the yard while she ran around, digging holes, and singing at the top of her lungs: ‘We’re doing stuff! We’re doing stuff!’ We’ll be singing songs of doing stuff soon enough!

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  10. Fauna says:

    Hi Calvin- Where did you get that stat about mountain beavers? “costs the timber industry over $350,000,000 annually in damage to seedlings, tree farms, and restoration plantings”
    Working on a research project on wildlife management and your blog popped up.

    • calvincaley says:

      Hi, thank you for visiting! Back when I was telling this story, my primary purpose was to entertain, and secondarily to inform. When supporting any of my writing with research of any sort, if I cribbed from a private source or an individual, I tried to always provide a link or credit–I didn’t want to steal from anyone. However, if I was working from public information such as papers presented by public colleges or from commercial sources, I tended not to cite, as the information was intended for public consumption. As I noted in this particular post, there is no shortage of information regarding Mountain Beavers. A simple search of the animal’s name will reveal fairly dry and general information about the animal itself; but a varying of search terms (mountain beaver control, mountain beaver eradication, mountain beaver damage, etc) reveals a whole world of papers presented by forestry colleges and timber companies, and also from large chemical companies who produce those delicious fruit-flavored strychnine pellets those dirty little buggers apparently cannot resist (I did not go that route). Some of these documents go back to the early 1900’s.

      It has been almost a year since I finished this story, and over a year since this particular post. As I wrote elsewhere in the blog, during the time I was engaged in this tribulation and the tale of it, I read more and learned more than any other time in my life, including my college years. While the knowledge I gained is still up in the ol’ walnut, most of the sources are not, save for the library of actual books I purchased during this period. I wish I could direct you to the particular source document. Sadly, I cannot, but be assured I would not have written it if I had not read it from a public source I found reliable and authoritative. Maybe Monsanto? Argh. Sorry.

      Mountain Beavers, and the ‘management’ of them, has been a Pacific Northwest issue going back to the days of David Douglas (he of the fir). As he noted in his journal, the Mountain Beaver was enormously prevalent, and the soft, waterproof pelt highly prized for raincloaks by the indigenous peoples of the region, but the animal quite hard to catch (though I find them rendered utterly stupid by Red Delicious apples and Hav-a-Hart traps, neither of which were available in the 1820s). The Hudson’s Bay Company proved so utterly efficient in their commercialization of Beaver pelts in the Northeast and Sea Otter on the Pacific Coast, as a gardener I can only wish they had brought their expertise to bear on the Mountain Beaver. But then, I guess you’d be out a research paper if they had. They are fascinating, abhorrent little creatures…I hate them. Then again, I found their behaviors to be more like humans than almost any other creature I can think of, save for primates. Good luck with your research,

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