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Posts from the ‘Toward Sustainable Living’ Category

Alcatraz: Beauty Among the Ruins

On a trip to San Fransisco, we decided to take the tour of Alcatraz, the former prison where some of America’s most famous deviants were held. I knew there would be thought provoking stories about famous prisoners like George “Machine Gun” Kelly, the “Bird Man” Robert Stroud, and, of course, Al Capone. For this alone, the tour does not disappoint.

However, what may be unexpected is the beauty that can be found among what could be called the ruins of Alcatraz.

It is no secret that I believe our society is at the start of its decline due to overshoot. Depleting resources and increasing pollution mean we will be unable to keep up our basic infrastructure and business as usual will begin its long decline.

So for me it is hopeful to look at the deteriorating infrastructure of Alcatraz and see the beauty of nature retaking the declining structures. It’s almost a perfect metaphor: the prison of our making being reclaimed with the help of gardeners. Anyway, that is one way to look at it.

With that in mind, here is a picture tour of Alcatraz.


The ferry boat from San Fransisco to Alcatraz island.


Coming through the mist of a foggy morning adds to the drama of visiting the ruins of an old world.

Coming through the mist of a foggy morning adds to the drama of visiting the ruins of an old world.


Part of the island holds a fort that predates the prison.

Part of the island holds a fort that predates the prison.


spanish fort

The island has steep sides; strategic for a fort or prison, but also makes for dramatic views for the unincarcerated.


Walkway up from the dock to the prison house.

Walkway up from the dock to the prison house.


guard tower

A decaying guard tower where the walkway has long since rotted away.



Inside the prison, a walking tour follows the welcoming route that new prisoners would walk upon their reception.



Standard issue clothing looks quite nice!


garden ruins

Part of the warden’s house. It’s a bit drafty these days!


captains house

Luckily there’s a fireplace to keep out the winter chill.


guard shack

This guard shack is guarding nothing more than the flowers now.


guard shack 2

Prisoners were granted a place to garden for rehabilitation and good behavior.



One of the current residents of Alcatraz.


first step

Watch that first step! Formerly there was a catwalk around the building. One of the first pieces of infrastructure to rot away.


bridge view

The view from Alcatraz can be stunning. This prison has better views than most houses of the law-abiding.


bridge agave ferry

Agave flowers dot the island.


agave buidling

Surreal much?


skyline 2

This is a million dollar view. Let’s make it a prison.


san fran skyline

Metaphorically speaking, who’s in the prison?



A view from below shows the lighthouse, captain’s quarters, and general crumbling.


power station

That may be our ride outta here. Thus concludes our tour…


Here are some links to the history of Alcatraz:

And the company that gives tours of the island:

The Transition Movement

Last January I wrote about the possible effects of Peak Oil and Climate Change on landscaping. The effects will extend well beyond landscaping, of course. However, what better place to start doing something about these problems than the landscape just outside our door? Read more

Landscaping in 2013 and Beyond

Why it will never be quite the same

What if I told you Climate Change was only one half of the biggest problem we face today? What’s the other half? Kim Kardashian? There’s some truth in that but I was thinking more along the lines of Peak Oil? It hasn’t been on the radar of the general public since Read more

Funny Video About Poop in a Bucket, by Ric Sternberg

To tie in with my article on the $42 million toilet,

here is a funny video created by Ric Sternberg

A $42 Million Toilet for Your Garden

Dear Bill Gates,

Your search is over. Please send me the $42 million. I have invented the toilet you are searching for. Read more

Growing Landscapes Organically

In the previous article, I covered why growing food organically was so important for our everyday lives and our children’s future. We can apply the same principles at home to grow safe and healthy landscapes. Read more

What is Growing Food Organically Really All About?, Part II

(Continued from Part I…)

Organic growing is about working with Nature. And I don’t mean beating drums in the middle of the night within a circle of candles at Read more

What is Growing Food Organically Really All About?

Part I: The Real Deal, Organically Speaking

Is Organic farming really just about a getting in touch with Nature? Does Organic farming mean getting out your Gaia drum and beating a rhythm while march through the crop rows? Do tomatoes grow better to a salsa beat, potatoes to a Celtic jig? Does burning incense add flavor to crops? Read more

Native Plants Part 3: Landscape Design Should Include Habitat Restoration

Great to have received such passionate comments to Part 2 of my article on Native Plants. It’s great that they were thoughtful and Read more

Native Plants Part 2: Non-Native Plants – The Immigrants

Part 1 of this series was about love and good feelings for Native Plants. In part 2, hold on to your garden pants, there’s going to be a bit of a native plant smackdown. In this article the unwarranted hype surrounding planting natives will be body-slammed in a Read more

Coppice Book Project

Here is an interesting project that is looking for funding. The Kickstarter program officially ends today but you can still donate after the close.

In the category of ‘what’s old is new’, coppicing may become an important part of our near future as fossil fuel sources are reaching their peak availability. Coppicing can provide fuel crops for masonry stoves as well as material for sustainable crafts and many other uses. Read more

Landscaping Large Scale: Seoul Replaces Freeway with Urban Stream

The story of Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon river provides a master class on landscaping large scale. It presents an exceptional look back through the history of the industrial revolution as well as a forward looking example of modern urban landscape design.

The start of the restored stream at night. (Pic from

Read more

Funny Bit About a Local Goat Rental Company – Colbert Report

The Colbert Report taped this bit about a local company called Rent-a-Ruminant. They rent goats to eat your landscape!

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
People Destroying America- Goats Steal Landscaping Jobs
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive

Landscaping Large Scale: Pedestrian Streets

I’m not just interested in how landscape design can improve our home lives. Our cities can do a lot to improve public landscapes to enhance quality of life for everyone. The following are two examples, near and far, about how our lives can be improved by simply making our urban environment more friendly to people instead of automobiles. Read more

Another Article Reinforces Gardening is Good for your Health

Nice article in the Seattle Times (original source: Daily Press) about the healthy effects of chemical free gardening. In case you missed it, link here:

Ed Alexander Story – Seattle Times

Photo by: Joe Fudge / McClatchy Newspapers


Ed Alexander is 84 years old and has lived longer than both his father and grandfather by 23 years. He attributes his health to gardening and Read more

Business Model for the Future

I was reading an article about Leslie Blodgett, a CEO of the cosmetics company, Bare Escentuals (of all things not landscaping). The article is summed up with her words: “I don’t want to be a business, I want to be a community”. This struck a cord with me. It is similar to why I went into landscaping as a business. Not for profits but to fulfill a need that our community has for a connection to Read more

What a Great Idea for Using Compost

I’ve been following a blog by Rob Frost called: One Straw. It’s about an individual making a real contribution toward a truly sustainable future.

I had to add this link to one of Rob’s projects that is really exciting. Read more