The Bandel-Ramirez family wins the first 2015 Envirogorge Nature Space Award. The family, parents David and Elena and children Maisie and Lolo, won for converting a lawn into an urban garden. It’s shared space. There’s Dano and Truman, two giant (but gentle) dogs; three chickens, a couple of baby chicks, and a rabbit that would just as soon be left alone.
An incense cedar has a rope ladder that Maisie, 10, climbs to sit on the tree’s lower branches. Paths wind among raised planter beds and native plants, and circle the chicken coop. For toddler Lolo it’s a world in miniature. This month the vegetables are just pushing up out of the ground. By mid-summer the plants will spill over the sides of the beds.
The family moved into the bungalow style house across the street from The Dalles High School nine years ago. Almost immediately they began removing the existing lawn.
“Cost-wise a lawn gets expensive,” David says. “And native plants are awesome. The Gorge has so much to offer: balsam root, lupine, yarrow, and buckwheat. People who lived here all their lives come up and ask what ‘that’ plant is.” He got plants and help on the natives from Humble Root Nursery, Milestone Nursery and Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
David gives away a lot of the vegetables he raises. “It’s a good way to connect with your neighbors. There’s always something magical about giving food away. It breaks down barriers,” he says. “If I see someone coming up the road and they don’t look like they’re having a good day, I’ll give them a bouquet of carrots or Swiss chard.” But he also encourages passersby to take what they need.
This is the second year Envirogorge has recognized people and businesses that make small-scale positive changes to the natural areas of the Gorge. In the Bandel-Ramirez family, we hope people will see how much fun a yard is when it holds a wide variety of plants especially natives. They’re ever changing: new leaves and flowers in spring and summer, fall colors. They provide habitat for birds and pollinators.
Lawns annually consume 50 percent of home water use and over 70 million tons of pesticide nationwide. Lawn mowers annual use more than 580 million gallons of gas and emit carbon dioxide.
Dan Richardson nominated the Bandel-Ramirez family. If you would like to nominate someone or a business email email@example.com with name of nominee, project type, and the nominees contact information. Winners will be chosen monthly and receive $25 and will be featured in an article on Envirogorge’s website. Photos by Jurgen Hess.