Rainwater Ranch

The Ranch with PopsThis is where I live.  That is my father there harvesting from our garden.

We spend lots of our time working on this place.  Pops moved in here 5 years ago.  Since then – and especially since I’ve moved in about a year and a half ago – we’ve been trying to convert this suburban, ornamental landscape and inefficient home into a better life-support system.  It’s an ongoing project – who knows if we’ll ever “finish” – but we’ve come a long way already.  Check out the process below, and this page will continue to be updated:


This has been a very intensive and time-consuming process…lots of crap tends to accumulate in pursuit of the American Dream.  When we moved into this place, the lot was mostly covered with concrete, ramshackle structures, and unfortunate plantings.

Before Shot

Before Shed

Since then we’ve disassembled buildings, torn up concrete pads, cut down trees and removed misplaced and invasive ornamental plants.  Below is the remains of a large Douglas Fir in our front yard which was shading the house year-round and keeping other plants from growing beneath.  So some sacrifices were made for the good of the whole project, but as you’ll see this demolition led to a wealth of materials for the following phases.  I feel that this process of deconstruction and removal holds great promise for the sort of home and garden conversion that is required for a renewed self-sufficiency in our current state.  Rebirth necessitates first a measure of death.

Stump Front



Greenhouse Outside

One of the greatest outcomes of this salvage operation is our greenhouse.  This was built in late summer 2009 with the indispensable help and design sensibilities of my dear friend, natural builder Erica Ann.  She has beautifully documented the project on her blog, Mud for Everyone (and with a flipbook of the building process here.


Interior with EricaUrbanite Wall Detail

The greenhouse features nearly 100% reclaimed and natural materials – the only new pieces bought were the metal roofing and one wooden member.  The rest of the wood is from the sheds, decking, and fences we disassembled.  All the glass comes from local reuse center BRING Recycling – the main front glass are repurposed sliding glass doors.  The side walls of the structure are made of cob, and the rear wall is light clay straw behind a large thermal mass made from the concrete we removed from our land.



The front of the structure features a knee-wall constructed from cinder blocks we salvaged from the property, into which I designed a planting of succulents, strawberries, and creeping raspberries.  The planting is constantly evolving as it grows, and serving as a bit of a sedum nursery for other projects, but here’s what it looks like now:

Planted Knee-wall

And I’m happy to report that we’ve had a very successful harvest from the greenhouse in its first year of production.  It’s not even totally finished inside – still in need of a highly-reflective interior plaster and some insulation – but we planted it out in early February, and look how it’s doing:

Greenhouse Growing

Mushroom Culture

Mushroom LogsMushroom StumpAs I mentioned before, we took down a large tree in the front, as well as another small Pin Oak on my neighbor’s adjoining property.  So we also ended up with quite a few good-size logs and stumps, and what better to do with some spare fresh cuts than culture some edible mushrooms?  I got ahold of several different species in the form of plug spawn from Fungi Perfecti up in Washington, and held a small workshop for some friends and neighbors on log cultivation.  We ended up with a nice stack of logs now kept in the shade on the north side of the house, as well as two stumps that should fruit for years to come!  So far I’ve only gotten a few small Oysters from the Oak stump, but they should be good and colonized for the coming fall.

Edible Landscaping

Really my main passion is growing my own food.  A vegetable garden is one – fairly intensive – way to do it, but it’s also a great idea to integrate food production into your ornamental landscape.  The goal is to do perennial plantings that once established will give food and pleasure for many years with minimal maintenance.  I figure if we’re going to put so much effort and resources into maintaining plants, they may as well support us in turn!  So I’ve been working on transitioning the landscape on the property into a more productive one, while maintaining a nice, neighborly aesthetic.  As far as major plantings, so far we’ve put in several blueberries, a couple of goumis, a walnut tree, and a few different species of currant (below).  As we continue this process, we will eventually end up with a healthy and beautiful landscape that will supplement our nutritional needs, while serving as a wonderful place to be.

Broken Concrete Path











5 Responses to “Rainwater Ranch”

  1. Anna H June 25, 2010 at 5:38 am #

    Amazing, Ethan, and very inspiring. We just bought our first house in November and I am looking toward doing some type of edible landscaping in the front yard.. what a waste of space is grass. 🙂 Plus, I won’t have to mow it anymore!

  2. Rosario Rodriguez December 15, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    inspring… i work 2 jobs but seeing this has inspired me to do something “green” with my back yard!

  3. Peter March 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Ethan – this place looks amazing! Hope you’re well buddy!



  4. Kellen May 9, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    The homestead looks amazing, quite a difference from when I first saw it. Well done, can’t wait to see it (and you and your pops of course)!

  5. Jessica Klein (@anewisland) March 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    I am really inspired by this green house. I’ve been planning to start building one this summer with salvaged materials on our property. You’ve put everything I’ve been reading about together so well!

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