44°16' 38'' N, 121°33' 9'' W
44°17' 5'' N, 121°33' 32'' W
44°16' 37'' N, 121°33' 42'' W

April 2022 - ongoing

Created while in residence at the Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Arts & Agriculture in Sisters, OR, on the traditional territory of the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute people. I am deeply grateful for the dedication of the staff at the Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Arts & Agriculture, for the support of the Roundhouse Foundation, and for the unwavering love of my co-artists-in-residence Adam Bateman and Lucy Maude Ellis / Jack Lope.

I am no soil scientist. Rather, I have gotten to know the soil here in the same way one goes about beginning a relationship with a lover. Hello there, who are you? Amongst the three soil profiles situated within the property lines, extreme differences in moisture and consistency were anticipated but not yet understood. Through sustained touch, texture, I have become attuned to each particular soil type. While carrying each soil back and forth across the pasture, the first time as a loose bucket and second time as a dense compacted brick, I learned its weight. The dimensions of each brick (4” x 11.5” x 16”) were dictated by my body’s strength; I can manage a bucket, no more. How unwieldy it is, to carry around dirt.

A soil horizon ⎼ imagine a layer of variable thickness ⎼ is bounded by its difference in characteristics to the soil horizons above and below. The English word horizon is derived from the Greek horos, meaning boundary, land-mark. More of a line, really: the limits of a thing. The uppermost soil horizon (the place I formed a relationship with) is ultimately bounded by air, water, plants, the bottom of my feet. Limits are shifty by nature, however. Changing the surface, I dug three holes around the property.

In each location, there used to be water: a rerouted stream bed, an old irrigation ditch, a canal. The uncovered soil is both local and carried from upstream (transplant / again, shifty limits). This area has been in a drought for two years now, and at the moment the precipitation forecast indicates that this trend will continue. Everyone talks about water here; (rivers don’t stop running until they do).

I walked down to Whychus Creek (running with vibrancy) one afternoon and filled a jug. It seemed right to reallocate a small quantity of water from the creek in the process of soil remediation, and to bind the particles in a structural form.

A structural form. Originally, (before beginning the relationship), the intent of this work was to learn how an architectural form might be able to respect and respond to its environment. I dreamt of rammed earth bricks for weeks. A building material, built of the site itself. And then I learned how loose, how ashy, the soil here is; everything crumbled to pieces before I began thinking about amendment.

Each small 0.37ft³ brick of soil has been augmented with biochar to increase water retention, dolomitic lime to allow plants better absorption of nutrients, kaolin to decrease the runoff of both water and nutrients.

These small architectures were not necessarily intended to remediate the soil. As the relationship evolved, however, the act of removing and returning material required an intermediary step that was more actively beneficial. A friend said, “extraction and restoration”, and this is precisely what ended up happening. One act necessitates the other. You cannot talk about building without talking about soil, about water, about site, about the way everything is bound to change, the way in which that change can be regenerative.

Wrapped / bounded by the earth around them, these are small sites of potential remediation. A space where seeds might start.

Horizon #1

44°16' 38'' N, 121°33' 9'' W
Ermabell loamy fine sand (78.6% sand, 16.4% silt, 5% clay), dolomitic lime, kaolin, biochar, water from Whychus Creek, found wood, screws.

There used to be water here.
Mount Mazama destroyed itself / erupted and collapsed in upon itself about 7700 years ago. The ash was deposited across an area of approximately 350,000 square miles, with a blanket up to 6” thick in places. Perhaps the eruption occurred when the Native Klamaths' Chief of the Below World was rejected by a woman who did not in fact want immortality. A lack of desire for permanence.

Horizon #2

44°17' 5'' N, 121°33' 32'' W
Lundgren sandy loam (66.6% sand, 23.4% silt, 10% clay), dolomitic lime, kaolin, biochar, water from Whychus Creek, found wood, screws.

There used to be water here.
After the water changed course, the millions of microscopic shards of volcanic glass were compacted underfoot by cows. Rolling around in the ashy soil, scratching fly bites. Their collective weight has made digging difficult. I carry garden tools everywhere I go; this particular trowel is a gift from my mother. I break through the compaction and find small red rocks (pumice) holding space.

Horizon #3

44°16' 37'' N, 121°33' 42'' W
Wanoga-Fremkle-Rock outcrop complex (57.1% sand, 31.4% silt, 11.5% clay), dolomitic lime, kaolin, biochar, water from Whychus Creek, found wood, screws.

There used to be water here.
This irrigation ditch continued toward the middle of the pasture, leading to a small pond. It’s possible that this ditch, this little pond, was full of frogs and at night you could hear them for miles. Current water rights are based upon laws that were codified in 1909; I have been told by a handful of folks that these are in need of an update. As this landscape changes, I wonder what compromise will look like.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience.