A View Into the Woods Renewing

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

The view out of my darkened office window on June 6, 2010.


Foxgloves in the Woods


Foxgloves in the Woods 2


These views might be unremarkable except for what happened here not so long ago…


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This is what it looked like after they cut down the trees and ran over and turned their heavy equipment around on a fern covered forest floor immediately behind our house in January, 2009.


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 For more about what happened, read my post:  Toad Lake Logging: Is 80% enough for them?  


I don’t see this kind of logging any differently than I see what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico at the hands of BP and its cronies. What my neighbor’s trustee did to the woods here was only different in scale. It is kind that they have not objected to our cleaning up the mess and encouraging some wildflowers and replanting uprooted ferns to grow where they left carnage, but the woodcutters have not returned to plant trees or to remove the piles of detritus.  It was pretty clear that they would not do that work, even though the state permit requires it. They took the wood and left the debris.  There is no enforcement of rules about cleaning up after the logging process.

With their heavy equipment and giant chain saws they destroyed the gentle slope of the meadow where cattle once grazed and girls rode horses.  The path where joggers ran around the west side of the lake is gone.  They have moved on to pillage elsewhere.


Blackberries have now grown over some of the massive heap of sticks and branches they left behind, and I can only see it from the second story deck, but eventually the brambles will engulf it in berries.  It’s just about to flower and there will be lots of blackberry jams and syrups made this summer.


Foxgloves in the Woods 3

Thoreau

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It’s So, So Green at Toad Hollow Today …

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Cuttings (later)

This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it —
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.

Theodore Roethke


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Teaser loves to check out what’s going on down on ground level…


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While we call our home Toad Hollow, it’s also been called the house of the entwined cedars.  Behind the Aurora Dogwood is an enormous Douglas Fir.  Just beyond them up hill is a Stellar Pink Dogwood, shown in the very next photo.


Entwined Cedars & Aurora Dogwood


There is an Eddies White Wonder Dogwood in the foreground, and to it’s left is the Stellar Pink. Look at that Rhododendron color!

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The Rhododendrons are blooming one by one, we’ve bought different varieties with differing bloom times to extend the time we get to enjoy them.


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The Clematis have been blooming in successive waves and growing and growing and growing like never before up the posts that support our deck.


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My editor demands that I upload a photo of him too…


Firecat the OS Editor


There is so much to do.  This began as 15 square yards of 4-way garden soil.  It seems that we haven’t moved much of it yet …


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“Since childhood, since childhood!

Childhood is a toad in the garden, a

happy toad. All toads are happy

and belong in gardens. A toad to Diana!”

Excerpt from Romance Modern

William Carlos Williams 

Toad Lake Logging: Is 80% enough for them?

The pictures here are often not of the best quality because they were taken under difficult, overcast skies, and as fog was just lifting.  They are meant to chronicle what happens when logging comes to the land next door here in Washington State.

The family who did this have a little old granny who lives in the farm house in the large cleared fields at the bottom of the first picture.   She and her husband used to graze cattle on both the little meadow near my house and in the large fields.  He would cut a tree once in a while to pay his taxes, but just a selected tree or two, never a wholesale logging operation.   Then he died.  Cue the lawyers, the trust and the relatives.  The family, save the little granny, who is quite a good hugger, don’t live here on the mountain, they live in town.  I’m sure that they will make plenty of money from what they have done.  As if that is all that matters.

Toad Lake on Squalicum Mountain

This is Toad Lake on Toad Mountain.  We are outside the city limits of Bellingham, Washington.  If you look carefully, you can see a tiny meadow at what would be 7:00 if the lake were a clock.  I live just to the left of the meadow, about 100 yards from the bottom of the lake.  This picture was taken about seven or eight months ago by my neighbor from a small airplane.

The Meadow Now

This is what the meadow looks like now, after a few weeks of a logging operation.  All of  the forest below the lake is owned by the family trust that now, through its lawyer, manages that property.  With a permit, the laws in Washington State allow for them to log 80% of the logs, and they got pretty close to doing so.

 Our House in September 2008

As you can see, the forest was dense behind our house this past September when Dan was staining the decks and the fascia boards.  I loved it just like this.

Trees Gone Heart Broken

These are the trees left just behind my house.  The wire fence is the property line.  We will be putting up a fence now to screen the view of the deforestation they have left behind.

 Logging 4This is a view of what is left after they cut down so many trees.  The next view is what it looked like this Spring when we planted a Dogwood in what was our shade garden.  We aren’t sure that our investment in shade plants will do well here anymore.  It’s not exactly dappled light anymore, is it!

Dogwood Another view

Here’s another view of what they cut down.

Log piles

Here are some of the log piles they built while hauling logs from down the mountain up to the staging area they made of the former meadow.  Did I mention that cattle grazed on this little meadow for decades?  That’s why there was a barbed wire fence, to keep them safe and contained.  I watched the tracks on this logging equipment grind up a beautiful group of ferns that I had watched grow for the past four years.  Just ground them into the ground leaving giant gouges as it turned to grab the trees and haul them out where they were delimbed and turned into logs.

Logging truck

This logging truck has returned and hauled out more than twenty loads as large as this and runs by our yard each time it does so.  It’s caused me to be a good bit gloomy lately.

Abandoned limbsThis is the detritus in its earliest state after a logging operation.  I am sure detritus is not the word that the loggers would use, but this is dead organic matter mixed with the humus that has been dredged up by their heavy equipment and it will take one hell of a long time for it to compost unattended.  I am watching to see what they will do with this material.

I really don’t know what they will do, I have never been this close before, but it concerns me that they may have made a lot of kindling that they are now going to leave laying about.  I am thinking this 80% permit was the Washington State legislature’s answer to the ban on clear cutting.  Great, it really looks so healthy to rape the land in this way.  This is what property rights can buy you in the US.  You can do whatever the hell you want and the consequences are meaningless under the law.

Bye Bye Now

From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

Along the northern coast,

Just back from the rock-bound shore, and the caves,

In the saline air from the sea, in the Mendocino country,

With the surge for bass and accompaniment low and hoarse,

With crackling blows of axes, sounding musically, driven by strong arms,

Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes—there in the Redwood forest dense,I heard the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.

The choppers heard not—the camp shanties echoed not;The quick-ear’d teamsters, and chain and jack-screw men, heard not,

As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years, to join the refrain;

But in my soul I plainly heard.

Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,

Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,

Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs—out of its foot-thick bark,That chant of the seasons and time—chant, not of the past only, but the future.

FOR LOVE OF A GARDEN: Autumn Leaf Color Even in Summer

 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of
strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something
infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature— the assurance
that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

Rachel Carson

Dan replanted this minature lace leaf Japanese Maple the second Spring after we moved to Toad Hollow because it wasn’t in a good location.  Now it’s size and color contrast with the enormity of the Douglas Firs, Cedars and Alders that grow here naturally.  We love that contrast found in the Fall, its bright, clear red against the deep greens of the needles, the grey brown of bark and the brighter greens of the moss.  That color contrast is our inspiration for many of the plants we continue adding in recent years to the garden.

Tiny lace leaf red maple

Just yesterday, I helped Dan, a little, to plant one of these Emperor 1 Japanese Maple trees in the front bed with the enormous, shiny leafed Rhododendrons.  Emperor 1 turns bright red in the Fall and will stand out against the brown shingles of our house.

Emperor 1 Red Maple

We live on a corner lot.  The mailboxes for our neighbors are congregated in front.  The trash and recycling bins are collected just around the corner of our lot from those mailboxes, also in front of our house.  This is what we see from our front window on Tuesday night through Wednesday when the trash is collected.  So we need screening.  Already we have a beautiful lilac and Forsythia that we planted there the first year.  They were bareroot plants and it took them some time to get some size.

As I get older I don’t think I have so many years to wait for things to grow.  I have moved on to 1 gallon to 5 gallon potted shrubs in hopes of seeing a beautiful multi-colored screen of plants such as this Golden Ninebark, which will grow to be about 8 to 12 feet high eventually.  Love the color!

Golden Ninebark

We also planted a Diabolo Ninebark, and a Black Lace Elderberry as well, an example is shown second below.  When I buy plants in pots I still need to research their eventual size and I search the internet for pictures so that I can imagine how it will work out in the future.  The pictures I am posting here are all but the very first, examples from my research.

Diabolo Ninebark

This is the type of Black Lace Elderberry we planted along with the two Ninebarks.  I am hoping it’s branches will arch out over the others gracefully.

Black Lace Elderberry

The first year we were here I planted two of these Sutherland’s Gold Elderberry in a fairly shady area of the garden and we planted Rhododendron and Azalea beneath them.  The color is a standout, especially in the low early evening sun.  I added two somewhat shorter Black Beauty Elderberry just adjacent to those a couple of years later.  These provide both a backdrop to the garden and some colorful, taller structure.

Sutherland's Gold Elderberry

Black Beauty Elderberry

 The type of Ninebark below is called Coppertina. She is progressing very well near a Karmijn de Sonneville Apple and an Australlian Pear tree since we planted her last year.

Coppertina NinebarkIn the perennial garden I added Euphorbia and Spurge, which are really from the same family and are often noted for their crazy neon green flowers.  This low growing, ferny leafed variety really appealed to me.  I also got another variety that has striped leaves, red, yellow & green, with similar neon green flowers.  Nice addition to the garden for being a bit unexpected. The various Rudbeckia will look wonderful alongside these.

Spurge or EuphorbiaIrish Eyes, My Favorite!

   Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia Goldstrum   “If you have a mind at peace, and a heart that cannot harden,

Go find a door that opens wide upon a lovely garden.”

Author Unknown

Life with an Architect: Why Dan is THE Man

Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul.                                        Ernest Dimnet

I asked Dan to hang this chandelier in our entry hall for my birthday.  It had been in the garage for two years.  There were other projects that came first, it was not his fault!  But one thing leads to another and now he has refinished and repainted the walls (twice) after having replaced some of the drywall because he found some mold that had been painted over by prior occupants.

The window and door trim has been sanded down and is being refinished and one of the doors is fitted and being finished to match.  The tile is almost ready to grout.  But geeze, he had to break out a lot of heavy, old, poorly installed tile and haul it out, level the floor so that it matches the room next to it for future tiling, and really, it turned out to be quite a lot, but, it is becoming more and more beautiful.    When I bought this chandelier to match the other two and the rest of the lighting I had no idea what would transpire …

Chandelier & New Beam

Like this project, which came first:

Chandelier in the Dining Room

Or this one, where he custom built a deep pantry cabinet with pull out shelves and built in microwave, which meant he had to run wiring and made it possible for us to store more than you can imagine:

Pantry & Microwave cabinet

 Or later when he installed this lighting in the kitchen:

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The kitties like to keep track of what he is doing:

kittyboys supervise

That door is new and will be stained to match the stairs and trim.

The tile is almost all in:

Tile no grout There are just a few to set on the risers and then the grouting will begin.  That is a cat door he built that goes to the kitty boys private latrine.

Cat door Dan never has any projects.  Really.  So while he missed getting the entry hall done for my birthday on November 6th, I have no complaints.  If you hear me complaining, slap me, please.

I nearly always agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson, but in this he is wrong:

“Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man has a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.”

Monday 11-16-09 Update:

Risers tiled 111609 This is a really messy process, but all that mortar does clean up with water.

Wood trim The wood trim takes multiple steps of measuring, cutting & mitering,  sanding, staining, finishing, sanding, finishing, sanding, finishing and finally nailing and filling the nail holes so they disappear as much as possible.  I am thinking that this will be done sometime this week.  I hope.

Appetite, with an opinion of attaining, is called hope; the same, without such opinion, despair.                                     Thomas Hobbes


Results FIRST posted 05-24-10

Skylights at dusk


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One of the reasons we wanted to remodel this area was so that we had a place that was worthy of this painting.


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Click on any of these photos below to enlarge your view.

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More About Remodeling Toad Hollow

Life with an Architect: Soul of Beauty and Love of Craft

Our beautiful new Master Bedroom Suite

A great deal of inspiration for what we’ve done came from Sarah Susanka’s series of Not So Big House books.  My husband, retired California architect, Dan Edward McMullen and I don’t think folks need McMansions to prove something about themselves.  Dan’s been inspired, since his days in UC Berkeley’s architecture school, by it’s Dean at that time, William Wurster, whose residential design was noted for its simplicity. We believe people live well and best in homes that fulfill their needs in a variety of ways. Our home has 2186 square feet.  Not a tiny house, but certainly not a behemoth.  We have sufficient room for visitors and for each of our activities, including my home office.  We’ve been doing nearly all the remodeling work ourselves–that is an imperial “we”–over the past seven years. Last Christmas we resolved to get this done, and it is!

In a basic sense, we needed a better way to store our clothing.  We needed new flooring.  We had a wonderful bed already.  We needed better lighting.  On a personal level we wanted a suite that restored our souls, launched our days in peace and which included art works properly treated and displayed, and enough ‘white space’ to allow both the eyes and our minds to rest, whether our eyes were open or closed.

This room preexisted those ideas and our remodel was meant to bring it into line with those ideals without breaking our budget.  Good rooms have thoughtful details and a high level of craftsmanship, and this one certainly does.

You can find out more about Sarah Susanka’s work and philosophy at http://www.notsobig.com/ 

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The walls in this room were already textured, and so they remained.  The paint was expertly done after some corrections were made to the wall to make sure that they were straight and plumb.  The closets would never have fit well if that work had not been done.  Retexturing in those areas was a bit tedious, but those changes are invisible to the eye due to painstaking work.  The color is called Oriental Silk and is a cream color that has a hint of warmth.  It’s Behr paint available through Home Depot and we learned that Behr is highly rated by Consumer Reports for durability, and standing up to cleaning.  That research means we won’t have to paint again for a long time.  We’ve used it for ceilings throughout our home because of the way it warmly reflects light.
The paintings in front of the closet are by my dear friend, currently visiting her home in Spain, Maria Gracía Brunsó, who goes by Grace when she is in San Carlos, California with her husband, architect Miquel Aymerich, a friend and colleague of Dan’s.
The chandelier, bed side lamps and sconces are Robert Abbey Beaux Arts designs.  We have smaller models of the chandelier in our dining room and entry hall.  We have pendant lighting over the island in our kitchen.  This kind of consistency gives a smaller home a feeling of peace.  The light from the shades is warm, like candle light.
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The art works are important to us.  The painting just outside this door was done by Pacific Northwest artist, Mary Moore Baileywww.marypaints.com; the pastel of the coastal foothills above Skyline Drive not far from Pacifica, California hangs over the bed,  by JoAnne HorsfallBeasley who died in 2006. We bought it just before moving to Bellingham at the end of 2004 from The Main Gallery in Redwood City.  We also purchased two of the Raku pots in the next photograph at the gallery from potter Jeff Carlick. The small, lidded Raku pot is an early example of work by our brilliant nephew, Tim McMullen.  He is one three partners in Silica Studioswhere they provide both gallery and studio space.  They also teach.  It’s a great place to learn on every level!  The large plate in the center is by Gene Buckley of Stony Clearing Studio here in Bellingham.  We also have pots by his wife, Cheryl Lee, one on the table through the doorway under Mary’s painting.
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 The rocker is an Arts & Crafts antique that was in bad shape when I got it, but Dan refinished and reglued and clamped it and we recovered the seat with a German upholstery leather remnant we bought on ebay.  We got enough to cover 6 dining chairs and a Morris chair & ottoman.  We enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes of being self-sufficient. The floral painting is the first purchase in our art collection and is also by Mary Moore Bailey.
The small carpets are Safavieh Anatolia.  The floor is Kentwood American Cherry Natural Elite, an engineered wood floor with a 25 year guarantee. The baseboards and door frames are clear vertical grain fir, hand finished to match the doors and closets by my husband, Dan the Man McMullen.
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Firecat and Honey Boy test the new floors.
MBR5   The watercolors on the right were painted by Dan in 1959, when he was at UC Berkeley studying Architecture.  On the left is a eucalyptus grove above the Greek Theater, and on the right is a bridge over Strawberry Creek, both on the campus. These paintings represent so much about Dan’s life as a student and later as an architect.  Their peacefulness makes them perfect for our room.

Other Resources:

  • Bedding, comforter, shams & matching shower curtain are a discontinued Arts & Crafts organic print from Pottery Barn.
  • Sheets, wonderful cream Veratex 800 thread count — We splurged on Overstock.com
  • Shaded yellow quilt and shams, a find at TJ Maxx
  • Box spring cover, Matlasse from Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Pillows, 2 sets of Sleep Innovations® Memory Foam Down Pillow online at Kohl’s.  So comfortable!


This is our wedding portrait, December 31, 1990.  You can tell by my dress and flowers that we agreed that we would already be doing things a little differently.  I am the extra mother to these four wonderful additional McMullens.  The handsome devil with his arm draped over my shoulder is the infamous cradle-robber of his class of 1962, Dan the Man, my beloved.
Our Wedding 21 years ago

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