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Tamarack

From Trees – Honoring the Wood We Use

Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tamarack

A beautiful, healthy Tamarack still looks over the Desert Rain Compound.

Similar to understanding where our food comes from, understanding where the wood we use comes from is important to the entire Desert Rain process.  From the very beginning of this project, Barb and Tom have given a great deal of thought to the trees on the property, those recently harvested elsewhere (FSC only), and those harvested long ago who still offer immense value.  From the reclaimed lumber of previously existing houses on site and the memorial ponderosa, to the tamarack now being milled for Desert Lookout, Barb and Tom are mindful about the trees involved.

Memorial Ponderosa Plaque

The Memorial Ponderosa Plaque welcomes guests in the entry of Desert Rain.

When the large , 201 year old ponderosa on the property had to be taken down, Barb, Tom, friends, and volunteers planted 201 ponderosa saplings in Shevlin Park on the westside of Bend. They further memorialized the beautiful tree with a memorial plaque, created by Bill Sturm of Oregon Timberworks, and with a new tree planted inside the old ponderosa’s stump.

The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value. ― Theodore Roosevelt

Tamarack Stair Treads

Pieces of Tamarack ready to be made into stair treads for Desert Lookout.

And now, wood from another, smaller Tamarack is being milled for use on site.  The tree had to be taken down, but rather than having it chopped it up for firewood or having it hauled off like yard debris, the beautifully grained wood will continue to be a part of the Desert Rain compound.  The team from Versatile Carpentry has just finished installing the Tamarack stair treads in Desert Lookout. They will be an elegant connection to this place for many, many years to come.

Creating Harmony

The top of the posts of at the Chinese gate are carved with symbols representing yin yang.

The top of the posts of at the Chinese gate are carved with symbols representing yin yang.

When a circa 1949 potato barn in Prineville, Oregon was under deconstruction, tranquility and harmony were not the words to describe the process.  Three years later, under the thoughtful eye and hand of woodworker, Andrew Scott, the reclaimed lumber from that potato barn is creating tranquility, harmony, and beauty in the Desert Rain landscape. Scott is using the reclaimed wood from the potato barn to build gates and fences that create privacy and frame the views on the site.  For the Desert Rain project, he wanted to represent the energy of the Living Building Challenge while respecting the environment, keeping a light footprint, and reflecting the nature of the project.

The raindrops carving representing yin - the feminine, softer side.

The raindrops carving representing yin – the feminine, softer side.

Scott wanted to soften the lines and hard edges of the structures with natural and organic imagery. His background in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine and the design of the project inspired his work.  Images and symbols are carved on the tops of the posts – some visible, some out of view unless one knows where to look. The Chinese gate that enters the courtyard is supported by posts appropriately carved with a sun symbol on the right and raindrops or a snowfield on the left.  The carvings represent yin yang, a primary guide to traditional Chinese medicine describing how contrary forces are complimentary and interconnected.  Simplified, the yang side is male, fire, light. The yin side is earth, female, softness, water. How fitting that the name ‘Desert Rain’ invokes the concept of yin yang – contradictory yet interdependent, as the house needs the sun for energy and the rain for its water source.

The Great Blue Heron is one of the posts adorned with local wildlife images.

The Great Blue Heron is one of the posts adorned with local wildlife images.

Scott often incorporates hummingbirds into his woodworking and there is one at Desert Rain. Images of other regional wildlife grace the posts -an osprey, rattlesnake, and Great Blue Heron. The resident deer are represented by deer tracks at the entrance.  The sense of discovery will be a delight to visitors as they tour the site and find art in the timbers and structures of the landscape.

The lichen on the weathered, barn boards may continue to live and grow bringing beauty and nature.

The lichen on the weathered, barn boards may continue to live and grow bringing beauty and nature.

Scott had not heard of the Living Building Challenge before Desert Rain. The biggest difference for him with this project was using reclaimed wood. He spent hours sorting through piles of 2” x 12”, weathered, barn boards searching for the right pieces that would sandwich the Forest Stewardship Council certified plywood on the privacy panels. He wanted wood with character; knots, grain, and lichen attached that will hopefully, continue to grow, bringing life and natural beauty to the boards. The challenges came with the FSC plywood that he could not have delivered to his shop as he is not FSC certified.  Since the fences and gates are near the last elements to be constructed in the landscape, Scott had a very long wait to begin his work.

Andrew Scott - woodworker, acupuncturist, and creator of harmony. (characters are upside down in this photo)

Andrew Scott – woodworker, acupuncturist, and creator of harmony. (characters are upside down in this photo)

When asked how he became part of the Desert Rain team, Scott said he is friends with Barb and Tom. They spent 18 days together when he rowed for them on a float trip through the Grand Canyon where he got to know them well.  He sees Desert Rain as a beautifully designed prototype to encourage other similar projects.  Scott said, ‘I honor Barb and Tom for their vision and their energy and willingness to spend the money with this project. I am most fortunate to have been involved with this.’

The Chinese character for tranquility is on one of the entrance posts, the other, is harmony.

The Chinese character for tranquility is on one of the entrance posts, the other, is harmony.

 

 

Scott appreciates the artistic license he was given to be inspired by the site, the design, and the project.  The top curve of the entrance gate gracefully curves upward. The curve is the same radius as the Miro wall that flows through the structure and into the courtyard interconnecting beauty and design. The posts that create the arch are carved with Chinese characters chosen by Scott for their significance to Desert Rain. Everyone who follows the path through the entrance gate will be embraced by Andrew Scott’s artistry and inspiration, into the realm of tranquility and harmony.

The entrance arch curve reflects the radius of the Miro wall and creates an artistic frame.

The entrance arch curve reflects the radius of the Miro wall framing the beauty within. The Chinese characters for tranquility and harmony are on top of the arch posts.