What Is Landscaping Like? Is It Like Work?

This is a recirculation of a post I made a couple years ago. Posts explaining what we do as landscapers are partially intended to inform any potential client of what to expect when a crew arrives at their home and begin tearing it all up. This is highly unsettling to anyone with a heart, and especially if they are super invested in years being used to their home…. 😉

My sis in law, Lisa – a lawyer herself – once visited a site we were working at, in such beginnings and immediately opined: “Good God, I could never do that!” The place in question was a perfectly nice landscape the client wanted to upgrade with more interesting stuff. We were at what was probably the ugliest part – it was pure destruction. There are no delicate touches at that stage, lol. We are uniquely qualified to tear stuff up. Hey – we’re guys, mostly. It borders on fun!

Anyway, another aspect I write to cover is what young people might expect who are considering the field itself from any angle. Every field has an entry point and even designers gain immensely from spending a year or two “in the trenches” so to speak.

So below is a peek at what we do.

I was asked recently by a high school kid whose Dad I played softball with how I chose to do landscaping. He is a senior this year and he is facing those major questions regarding his own future. I had him work for me a while back – nearly 3 years ago – and he was a willing and hard worker. There was a lot of banter between some of the older guys and he – the old “age smack” trash talk thing – which was hilarious. He even “won” a few. He was not afraid to speak his mind for which he was highly regarded among much older guys. His Dad was proud when I mentioned he was missed and that my crew asked about him often.

Left click any image to enlarge.

Doug and Ed 005

It made me think. I could see that this was a question which wanted as close as I could get to 360 degrees of an answer. It would not do to present half a picture. Truth be told, my route is not necessarily the one I would advocate for anybody – not whatsoever. The fact is, I stumbled upon it. However, one thing I have found is that landscaping does indeed suit a particular personality. This personality would be willing to wake up at 6 AM every morning for an 8 hour day of lifting, raking, carrying, wheel-barrowing and – in the end – of making things. In the end, this is what we do – we make things.

The Reward – Of all the rewards inherent in doing good landscaping – aside, that is, from the daily dose of endorphins and great sensations at the end of a day – the one primary reward can often exist in revisiting the project later and telling the company you are with – “I made that!”. Seeing a tangible result is a reward pretty much only for those who do make things – typically people in construction but also in art, in fabrication and manufacturing, and particularly in such pastimes as knitting, sewing, forming things from something else – and the tangible product tend to be their own rewards.


The Chores – So we wake up early and drive to work. Typically, on my projects, I tried to get the hardest work done in the morning. It is a truism, proven by studies of productivity, that nearly 75% of the day’s accomplishments all happen before lunch. I have found this to be nearly completely true on average. In fact, I planned around it when it was possible. What this means is that one stretches a little bit, early on, then goes for it. The quiet mornings are full of the odd grunt and fewer complaints than those you hear later. In my experience, mornings in landscaping are the fastest moving times ever. Next thing you know, it’s lunch time.

Landscaping consists of some very redundant and basic tasks, in many cases:

Dirt Work:

Moving dirt around is the landscaper’s lament. Move this dirt over here. Dig a hole and replace the hole with better dirt and lose that stuff over there. Then rake it out. Rakes and shovels are the trade’s primary tools, along with the ubiquitous wheelbarrow. Learning to load, carry and empty wheelbarrows, believe it or not, are “musts”. In fact, learning to shovel is one as well. There are ways to involve the back somewhat organically, to help with the work by bending knees in coordination, just as there are ways to insure shoveling will be your worst nightmare.


Shaping the terrain is what we do. It is nearly always first, sometimes following what amounts to a clean up of impediments or the trashing of a landscape which we are changing. Bottom line – We move dirt to where it will be a permanent medium for everything else that follows. Everything happens on top of that. Having said all this, we are helped, as often as possible, by the use of machinery.

Bobcats, mini excavators, larger stuff all reduces the body impact of doing the work by hand, just as teams of mules and horses once did for those land-shapers in England and all the many spots in the world who landscaped large swaths of land. The varieties of tools and equipment for landscaping goes back 1,000’s of years, actually.

The really “trick stuff” involved in wall-building can be shocking when others take a design skill or theme and expand on it………….but certainly no less pleasing:

263319_153105891435930_1592884_nNow, since I have lived in dry climates, irrigation is installed typically at the original dirt-moving time. Trenches are dug, cleaned out, pipes installed, heads inserted and all the rigmarole involving irrigation is dealt with very early on. It won’t do to try and irrigate retroactively, at least not when grass or sod is involved. Drip irrigation is different but even drip needs a supply line established under the ground.


Anyway, so we shape the land to conform to the original design. Next, there are any number of directions to go. The original shaping could have left room for paving materials for patios, walkways or patios. We could have carpentry projects where the carpenters are busy forming up their gazebo, fence, trellises or whatever. Hopefully, they work with us in what almost always tends to be a crowded space. Otherwise, we often resort to beating them up. It’s tough out there, I tell ya. 😉

If indeed we are paving, obviously there is a need for different materials to provide the sub-base materials for compacting. Dirt just won’t do. So guys bring in the base material, rake it out and compact it – either by machine if access is good or else by the handy old method of wheelbarrow. Since a wheelbarrow of base material weighs about 200 pounds, and the site of even the smallest patios or walkways require tons of material, this is a chore not to be sneezed at. It represents lots – and I do mean lots – of trips, back and forth.




We then arrive at the point at which we install those paving items.  This involves and immense amount of carrying. The pavers need to go near the spot they were designed to go and they often require selective delivery, owing to the many different sizes and shapes and patterns they require. The onus is then upon the carrier to get it right. There is always a dude or two on the ground to put them in place and a crew ahead preparing the strata for laying.


Once the patio is near completion, we work on what we call “finishing”. The soil is in place – perhaps needing amendment – and the “hardscape” is complete, so we can consider things like planting and installing grass and maybe edging materials, if required. So we order up our plants and we plant them, usually – in fact always – (except in the case of monster trees which we often dig by excavator) use shovels for this. Planting can be tough, too, depending on the native soils. Often times we need the help of picks and mattocks to get the hole to a decent enough size to handle the plants and trees. After planting, those familiar with drip irrigation know this is the time we run our feed lines to all the plantings. Oftimes, we will cover them up a few inches deep as well, particularly when no mulches are called for.


Having completed the planting, we move to laying the grass. Since each roll weighs about 20-40 pounds, depending on the weather and the amount of clay they were grown in, this is another extremely tedious chore. There is that satisfaction, however, in laying grass, of such an immediate impact, aesthetically. Everyone picks up on it, invariably. There is something extremely satisfying in laying grass. The change is so quick and so total. But it, too, is tiring.


After all this, we move to the “real” finishing which involves laying in mulches where the planting beds are and depositing art works or thrills into the landscape accordingly. Once we clean the place spotlessly, we are basically done. It’s pretty much beer-thirty.

The picture below is a shot at the business end of the plants we plant. This 22 foot Sequoia will thrive in Reno, an almost ideal climate save for the need for outside irrigation. Given water, however, few plants do better in Reno than the Giant Sequoia. You just need one heck of a lot of clearance to appropriately plant something which will get 25 feet wide and 100 feet tall.

Crystal Springs March 3 09 268

So a review of all this activity reveals a couple of things: One, that the work is hard work. It requires a body that is either strong already or one which can get that way. This is not the toughest thing in the world, by the way. Every year, once Winter ended and the work> started really getting underway, it took me a week or two to get into what I call “landscaping shape”.  It is no different for anyone. By the way, I have seen many women coming into the field and it is a good thing for all. While strength is not presumed to be ladylike, the interesting fact is, it is pretty attractive, actually. The female influence on a crew can also be a wonderful addition, the truth is. It tends to keep things decent in terms of language and even in terms of behavior in general. And they seem to enjoy it as well. Here is the one cardinal overlooked fact of a hard day at work:

The endorphin count is out the roof. The satisfaction of a full day’s labor – while hard – can have its biggest reward in how good the body feels at the end of a day. This is not small, either. There is something to be said about getting legitimately “high” at work and this is exactly what happens. The other benefit is in the benefit offered to anyone who works hard – I personally believe you live longer and that those efforts which maintain a pretty awesome physical tone impact a person fantastically well. I used to play ball games after work. I lived for it.

Advancing In The Field – But this should not keep one from advancing further in the field, either. This is the second phase of a trip through any successful landscaper’s journey and one which I will resume next post.

Doug and Ed 021


  1. Hey Steve
    I loved this post. “A day in the life” of a landscaper. The photos all show a little progress each day and this is what we landscapers can appreciate. Sometimes our clients don’t “see” the everyday progress if the day has been spent doing “underground” work– drainage, sprinklers, sleeving, but we do!Excellent landscaping resource. Have you moved yet?
    shirleyComment by Shirley Bovshow “EdenMaker” — October 14, 2009 @ 11:25 am
  2. Yes, Shirley, I am now almost two full weeks into life in Louisville. It’s been an easy transition and an especially rewarding one so far, being with family again on a daily basis. I have also been approached for landscaping, lol.I knew this one would be one you might enjoy. Next, I’ll take a trip through the ranks. But I will also include a safety section.Comment by Steve — October 14, 2009 @ 4:03 pm
  3. Steve, that’s a great meditation on how you got to where you ended up, at least for a while. There are lots of great ways to be creative, and working with your hands seems to be one of the most rewarding. I’ve been doing a several weeks’ worth of pretty hard physical labor around the house after the day job is done, and I sometimes wondered if I’d have had a more satisfying life if I’d done some of the outdoor things that really satisfied me instead of doing all the desk job things that people kept telling me I should be doing. The day job has its satisfactions and pays the bills, to be sure. But how many of us don’t think every now and then about paths not taken? That said, you’ve definitely been clear about what isn’tso fuzzy and wonderful about the field, and to that I suppose you could add dealing with all sorts of people, many of whom will be terrific and a few of whom will never be satisfied. None of these big life decisions are easy…Comment by lostlandscape(James) — October 15, 2009 @ 12:25 am
  4. James, maybe I’m just lucky or maybe I have selective memory about events and relationships, but my relations with people in landscaping– and let’s speak 360 degrees, here – from the guys who I have worked for, and from those working for me and the abundant suppliers and clients, both residential and commercial, made it all just that much more rewarding in the end. The knuckleheads can hurt you – bad – and, to be honest, every now and then you make mistakes and must pay for them – (you being the knucklehead) – but they are outnumbered by a long way by the pleasantest relationships (outside of romance and family) that are possible for a human to have. In many ways, I regret nothing. Even the pain was worth it.Comment by Steve — October 15, 2009 @ 6:28 am
  5. Steve- it is so strange for me to see your workin the “wide open” plains surrounded by mountains. I am from New Jersey where it is totally different….. Super interesting to me…Comment by New Jersey Landscape Architect NJ & Landscape Designer — October 17, 2009 @ 9:43 am
  6. It’s why they call it Big Sky Country, lol. And, Lord knows, it’s the truth. When thunderstorms course through, once or twice a Summer, you can see the storm’s lightning lighting up clouds 100 miles away.Reno – where much of my work took place – is incredibly gifted, believe it or not. Having the Sierra Nevada Range basically mere miles away – including Tahoe – offers something you don’t see many other places. You still get the Big Skies but you also get a mountain show and all that ice cream snow-capped stuff. If you’re really lucky, you can get caught in one of those storms up there!They got 10 feet in one night once up there, 19 feet in two days. Reno got 4′.Comment by Steve — October 17, 2009 @ 10:23 am


The Most Modern Tools Of The Trade – Landscaping Notes

Owing to recent picture postings on a social media site, the nature and abilities of the machinery of landscaping became notable, commented upon by some amazed watchers and myself, in a brief but interesting exchange. What modern machinery has accomplished for not just landscaping but for the building trades in general, has been rather amazing. Below, we briefly touch on just a few mechanisms of help, celebrating an iota of labor-saving one can trust made landscaping not just different, but somewhat easier. It also released a million new directions of installation possibilities in an abundant and totally creative design future.

This is all about mental and physical things…….

Strictly educational – the “mental tools” and the wherewithal to use the “physical tools” can and most often come from various combination of learning events – general osmosis, class, on the job comparisons and experience. But both are extremely real, and each can be either modern or classical……….to some degree.

Mental Tools

Landscaping requires at least a rudimentary knowledge of the following fields:

Electrical Trades, Carpentry, Cement Technology, Hydrology (the behavior of water), Gas and access to the various kinds of gas used outdoors.

Additionally, we arrive at very trade-specific assumptions of competence, dealing with issues like Farming; Horticulture in general; Soils; Irrigation issues, including wells and water pressure; issues of relative Compaction under surfaces as well as the detriments of compaction regarding root growth in lawns and plants and trees.

In terms of design alone, an awareness of issues of compatible colors, structural architecture, and successful arrangements which include the tiniest elements of duplicity, for lack of a better word. Hidden wonders which magically appear on our walks around a property well illustrate a potentially pleasing scenario, designed with just that visual – or even aromatic or aural – pleasure.

Enough of that. Now come the Machines. Where will one learn these?

Installing All That – More Importantly – Making It Work

Other helpful considerations – and most importantly at the level of installation – involve the latest technologies, built to save the poor backs of our minions in the game. Below is a “Soil Thrower”, made to toss soil up to 50′ to an otherwise impossible area. As the picture below this one shows, it can deliver it up a few floors worth of territory too!

(enlarge any image by clicking)


Does this guy have a great toy or what??!


Combine that gorgeous masterpiece of dirty technology with this “Bark Dust Blower” and you have a quicker project in areas once considered nearly impossible to work in.



Nor do the newer technologies stop there. For heavy duty work in small places, hydraulic science and the wonders of newer and more reliable engines have made lifting easier as well.


If you think this is a “small deal”, then you’d be wrong. What one man can do with these machines is staggering – these are a productive increase of exponential dimensions, frankly.


This next baby looks like something only wrecker could love. You’d be wrong. This is a “Knuckling Grappler”, which can grab a boulder or a log or a piece of wood and rotate in absolutely any direction – 360 degrees. You could literally insert things sideways into a hole if you wanted.


Consider its use in the construction of walls such as this one:


These don’t get built by themselves.  😉


As dilapidated as this machine looks, it has built one heck of a lot of gorgeous walls. In fact, this technology can only be improved on by quantity – not quality. This one can handle a ton or two at a time. The next generations provided more stable footing and huger capacity, but they all do the same work.

Diamonds and modern cutting technology. The Diamond Drill has become a paving guy’s primary utensil. Cutting road surfaces, bricks and coring into upstanding cement or solid rock are all easily accomplished now with this rapidly-expanded and amazingly efficient new technology. One can now take a boulder and bore a hole completely through it, down many feet, until it becomes a clearly-perforated stone, fit for making into a Bubble Rock water feature. Here is a nice close look at one such blade – this one for coring.


Each of the 3 stones below has just that – a long cylindrical hole running down its length, under which a pump runs water to its base and out the top. This technology has produced an entire new galaxy of Bubble Rock Water Features.

The truth is, a closer look at the pavers forming the patio in the foreground of this shot – which were also cut by a diamond blade on a table saw – show how exact that aspect of paving has become as well. Now very cool curves and more appropriate fits are made to increase the overall curving appearance of hard, severe surfaces.


Here is an even better, closer look from the same project looking back, at how the most modern diamond blade technology can result in very satisfying curving appearances: (enlarge this one)


A Summary Of Modern Tool Impacts

The tools themselves have opened up the entire field of landscape design. What was once a massive, intensive labor, requiring lots of folks struggling over a long period of time can now be done in a day, using 2 men, with the right machines. This relieves costs and increases possibility.

Ask yourself this. When you see this picture below – of the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden – how long do you think it would take to plant all the big plants and trees there? Since the whole place is a block square, let’s peek in from the outside:


That’s 20% of the big trees planted there, a few which weighed a nice solid 5-8 tons, complete with hand-dug root balls. We even designed a special chain for quick-release.

Well, if I told how long, on one would believe me, but I can say this much. We cheated like crazy. Here’s what we used to place the trees:


180 tons of landscaping love!

He can sit in one place and deal with an entire city block. Which, fortunately, was exactly what we had! He is also good for dropping in a few thousand tons of dirt, for the record. In other words, in the immortal words of Dana Carvey in his spoof of George Bush’s post-Berlin Wall statement:

“Before the crane – no dirt. After the crane – Chinese Garden.”  😉

If you think that’s something, wait ’til I talk about landscaping that 42 story Vancouver high rise!!


The Role Of Landscaping – And The Future

What is the role of what we call Landscaping?

It’s an intriguing question and one that gets bandied about now and then by observers and those involved in the field itself. Guys like me. In the end, there are only a few perspectives available in the most general sense. One argument seems to admit the role of “Beautification” as the penultimate goal, seemingly assuming that there are cultural and intellectual advantages in “Beauty”. While I can’t argue that, I am one who believes there is a far more universal impact even yet to landscaping. I just feel assigning Landscaping to a cosmetic existence, while somewhat accurate, honestly misses the larger point.


When we take in the larger effects of landscaping – such as dealing with Urban Planning, for example – we cross a threshold into judgments as to whether the cities we live in are toxic in any form or fashion. When we then analyze what this toxicity really means, we find that many cities began and unfolded almost completely unplanned. What happened was that the rush to Industrialization begat more crowded cities as people desired to live near where they worked. Naturally, transportation was always an issue as well, from the days of the individual horse, the buggy, the trolley and to the currently very ubiquitous car.


Of course sometimes we hearken for those Olden Days  😉 even amidst modern ones………


In the late 1800’s, urban planning began taking flight in the US as towns and cities began realizing what a complete cluster they had inherited. Entire city plans were then bid, submitted and enacted, impacting hugely cities like Louisville, Montreal, Baltimore and many others.

Suddenly, sensible plans began emerging on how to get humans from one point to another, because the plans included such provisions. Also, the development of the City Park became seen as absolutely necessary. Why?

Isn’t that “just landscaping”?


It turns out, certain general criterion began appearing as absolutes in the “livability” of cities.  A useful guide in this enterprise is Kevin Lynch’s A Theory of Good City Form (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1981). Lynch offers five basic dimensions of city performance: vitality, sense, fit, access, and control. To these he adds two “meta-criteria,” efficiency and justice.

As Cliff Ellis opines here:

“For Lynch, a vital city successfully fulfils the biological needs of its inhabitants, and provides a safe environment for their activities. A sensible city is organized so that its residents can perceive and understand the city’s form and function. A city with good fit provides the buildings, spaces, and networks required for its residents to pursue their projects successfully. An accessible city allows people of all ages and background to gain the activities, resources, services, and information that they need. A city with good control is arranged so that its citizens have a say in the management of the spaces in which they work and reside.”

Pretty dry stuff, but it applies.

The Future

The picture below also dealt with something to add to the 5th largest city in Japan – Sapporo. What designer Isamu Noguchi was asked to do was to produce a vision, reclaiming what was once the garbage landfill on the finished site shown below, which is now the world-famous Moerenuma Park. It was one of his final projects and a very noteworthy one.


Noguchi called this park a “lung”. The presence of air-cleaning and ion-producing carbon-based plantings cause not just an innate sense of space and beauty, they also tend to act to make us plain healthier, both mentally and physically. It seems we crave such things, dating undoubtedly from our origins as land walkers, nomads and hunters. We surely crave them with a near-visceral sense of attachment. Speak with any older group of baseball fans from Brooklyn or Boston and among the first things you’ll hear is how luscious the fields looked at ball games. The grass was literally nearly and end in itself.

Here, in this futuristic park, the contrived features resemble ancestral images, while at the same time – at least here – promoting a futuristic sense of possibility. The clean lines of this pyramid remind us of what is timeless in design and most attractive in dimension. The smells alone would make it pretty.


Recently, Huaxi, China held a confab inviting the world’s best young architects to devise individual buildings which could comprise the new elements of the already-celebrated city. From the event: “The site of Huaxi is famous for its dramatic and beautiful landscape, as well as a diverse mix of minority cultural inhabitants during its history. Its future is defined by the local government’s urban planning as a new urban centre for finance, cultural activities and tourism. MAD brought the young architects together here in the summer of 2008, for a 3-day workshop to create an experimental urban vision for Huaxi.”

What they came up with was wild:


Their question: “Are we going to continue copying the skyline of Western cities created over a hundred years of industrial civilisation? Will Manhattan and Chicago continue to be our model city, even after 15 years of urban construction in China? Is there an alternative future for our cities that lies in the current social condition, where new technologies leave the machine age behind, and where the city increasingly invades the natural space? Based on an Eastern understanding of nature, this joint urban experiment aims to explore whether we can use new technologies and global ideas to reconnect the natural and man-made world.”


Let’s face it – it;s not as if efforts to get to exactly this end have not proceeded apace. Frank Gehry’s designs for buildings and grounds show exactly the same non-conforming principles as those wildly “impractical” designs from the MAD Group of Huaxi.

Except for this –

Frank Gehry’s actually already exist!


Do they ever!

Also from the Huaxi Group’s statements: “In the past 15 years, around 10 billion sqm of built space has been created in the urban areas of China. In 20 years time, another 200 to 400 new cities will be built. Until now, the results of this overwhelming urbanization have been defined by high-density, high-speed and low-quality duplication: the urban space is meaningless, crowded and soulless.”


“The city is no longer determined by the leftover logic of the industrial revolution (speed, profit, efficiency) but instead follows the ‘fragile rules’ of nature.”

Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.


The Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles:


An apartment complex by Gehry:


The paradigm seems to be shifting yet again and this time the most fervent hope is to provide alternatives to the prior style of efficient function, elevating us all into an appreciation for Nature’s intrinsic delicate nature, embodied by – of all things – the buildings around us and their grounds. Nature is also accidental, cruel, aristocratic and occasionally homely. It’s just the way it is. Integrating Truth into everyday passages asks us to provide a Nature which is every bit as inspiring and dominating as nature herself.


Hacked – Back To The Fray – Business Talk

This blog was hacked and redecorated recently – and not necessarily to the way I prefer it. There is some irony, however, in a few changes being acceptable as a wake-up call to just plain keeping things fresh. In any event, the clean-up is still ongoing and the shock and violation is pretty well dispersed to the appropriate mental boxes where the anger won’t consume our efforts in the future.

My next post was always going to be about setting up a business based on landscaping. We segued into this moment by listing the standard-average process of increasing accomplishment in the trade-specific, time-honored way, where our hero goes to work, toiling for years and advancing in predictable fashion, then launching out, astride his experience and accomplished licks. This is an exclusive view, however, omitting another class of “player” – the investor.

The “Investor” is someone who views a business environment and who seeks out a level of experience and accomplishment in the form of an actual living tradesman – a human – whose resources he could augment and who would require little in terms of craftsmanship and general professionalism. A sharp “investor” would ascertain the subject’s ability to estimate accurately, to complete work and to acquire the leads necessary to develop a business. Needless to say, the contacts of the “subject” – as well as his reputation – figure hugely into any investor’s rationale.

I mention this class of business interest because of a typically under-rated number of businesses which always spring up when the economy is moving forward and optimism and surplus cash look for places to land. Currently – in 2012 – this is assuredly less the case than has been. Nevertheless, to omit this class of business origin would be to discount a historically-probable 30% of start-ups, regarding the more serious players in the landscaping field.

Returning to the more standard beginnings of everyday men and women, we find any number of ways in which to begin and through which people can receive some imminently satisfying results. It pays at this time to recall that it is not always “just money” which motivates many business owners. The urge for Independence is Titanic. Simply finding a method of self-responsible employment I wager motivates more start-up businesses than any other single cause. “Being one’s own boss” is no small matter.

So how does someone get there? What tools and talents are required to successfully start up a landscaping business? What are the dangers and what are the rewards?

Let’s begin with a personal tale. My own……………..

I worked for a local Vancouver business – Cotswold Landscaping out of North Vancouver, British Columbia – as mentioned in this blog many times – for 5 years. For my first 3 years and part of my 4th, I maintained lawns and gardens, mowing, pruning, selectively de-blooming and “dead heading” flowers and shrubbery, fertilizing, diagnosing acidic levels of Ph interest and soil compaction – planting annuals and bulbs, adding manure of sufficient age – I mean this is a list that could scroll for a long time. I enjoyed the activity of outdoor work, the Sun and – lamentably in Vancouver – I learned to tolerate and occasionally appreciate the rain. Spring Time in Vancouver revealed simply the most glorious profusion of blooms and outrageous, rampant new growth a person could ever behold. Naturally, it also presents challenges of near-hilarity and oppressive impossibility in terms of accomplishing the physical tasks revolving around moving dirt around and traversing a geography where the rain can sometimes come up from the ground.

Yes, you heard me right. Let’s just say you have to experience this to understand it, lol. 😉

At any rate, in my 4th year, our owner/boss passed away – Spencer Hayden – a wonderful English chap who had diabetes issues which finally caught up with him. His wife took the helm and it led to my joining our Hungarian foreman, Alex, as his driver and as the best English-speaking hand. It also drew us close, of course, as well as motivated a meeting of minds over issues of estimating projects. I became a “face” of the business and met numerous players in the construction field, particularly as time went by and I had a better grasp of the issues involving beginning landscape projects – such as prior cleaning up and site prep as a blatant and necessary example, often ignored back then. I also became a negotiator. It never failed to amaze me at the amounts of money we were speaking of – literally tens of thousands of dollars – which showed how limited my view was in general when we consider the project managers I spoke with then were dealing with millions in overall costs – something I finally grasped.

To make it a shorter story, I eventually found myself in some dissatisfaction over my progress in life. I even took most of a year off, house-sitting for a church on their property on Cortes Island and enrolling at Cold Mountain Institute in my urge to learn about Jungian psychology, dreams and mythological issues. It was one of the best periods of my life, followed by a tour of the Yukon and employment there over a Summer, working for the Parks Department doing construction amid the bugs.

Gratuitous Bill Hermant competitive photo! 😉

When I returned to the city I loved and found I could not do without, I looked for work amid some serious restlessness. I found work at the largest landscaper in town at the time and went about mowing grass, yet again. I met a fellow traveler on the “restless game” – John Bufton – and we conspired to go out on our own. It was energizing to the max and a completely liberating feeling once we both decided we might try it. We huddled often over how to get underway. The year was 1977 and I had been working for others for 7 years, as had he. It was time to make our move.

Next time – what the heck happened.