I have found myself making a home on a narrow boat on the canals and rivers of Britain for many reasons, one is that I need to be here for the development of GreenHistory, a new venture of Rigall/Design. But, I also have noted that living on and making a narrow boat a home fits my natural inclination to work on home projects. And, since this is both a home and a vessel that moves with a number of system parts, engine, pumps, solar panels and all of the connecting wiring it seem to also fit into a portion of, perhaps the fringe, of what has been labeled as the Maker Movement. The central idea of the Maker Movement is that we need to add action to ideas and take a hand in making practical the concepts which our naturally and innate creativity as human beings lead us to.
One of the most quickly noticed aspect of narrow boats is that there are never two alike. They share many qualities and abilities since they all must perform the same duties, float, move, go through locks, house human beings and moor and stay where we put them. But, there are many very personal ways to express these aspects of the boats and each owner has made their boat unique in how they have built or added to the basic hull.
I have been busy turning my narrow boat, NB Poppy, from a pleasant and well-maintained weekend vacation boat into one that could be lived on all year long. This has been centered principally on adding a reliable and independent power source for our 21st c. tools and adding a source of heat that will support human life during the four seasons of Britain. The adding of a multi-fuel stove (wood and coal) necessitated the moving of the electrical panel and in doing so, meant the building of a new cabinet and understanding the wiring. Adding the stove also meant adding a hearth and this meant designing how to live closely with a very hot bit of metal safely.
I think, as an enthusiastic member of the Maker Movement, these design problems have been nicely solved and I hope the photos show that. The electrical cabinet houses the new solar panel controller and is the charging station for laptop, tablet and telephone. The hearth is both a rugged piece of natural stone, (curiously and typical of our time it was purchased in the UK after being imported from India!), reminding me of Alaska, and sits on a wood/coal storage box which will keep several days of wood dry and drying and ready when needed.
If any of you want to learn more of the Maker Movement you may want to check out the Christian Science Monitor’s article on maker spaces in my old home town of Detroit, in this link, http://www.icloudmobilemedia.com/t/31190?token=NzRmNzRkZTMwM2MwYWFiZWY1ZmM2Mzg4ZjdkYWRiYTZkMDU3OTFhMg==
This post may be particularly personal for those following GreenHistory for there interest in garden history and garden tours but as I put Narrow boat Poppy in shape to perform well as my UK home it has dawned on me that a 12 volt system without a means of charging it continuously isn’t very useful so I have found a great engineer that can provide and install a solar panel and controller that will allow me to live on the canal without running my Lister diesel just to keep the lights and water pump working. I have been in a very nice marina with all the services you can expect while awaiting the arrival of the solar controller. This has been a good week since I now know what it is like to be moored in such a community of boats. Since Poppy isn’t equipped to attach to the utilities it has been just a good place for showers, laundry and charging my laptop and its accessories.
Poppy can hook up to shore power but it doesn’t invert this to 12v so the water pump isn’t helped by being so near so much power!
The intended use of a narrow boat as a UK home for GreenHistory looks like it is working well. While there have been some remodeling projects to make the boat fit a bit better the intended use the fact is that it provides a beautiful residence in what can be typically a beautifully connected location due to the coincidence of the canals with the trains. The work now for establishing the tour and coursework for GreenHistory is being taken up. Several photos of Poppy in our current location is shown here. As always, much more news to follow.
After two weeks of living with NB Poppy and having to use a ladder to get into her we have now joined the boating community on the River Lea. It has been a great experience working with the Lee Valley Marina in Stanstead Abbotts. It all worked out well and Poppy is ready for her next adventure. I have included some photos of the process, New photos of her finished and in the water will follow in the next post.
The planning of the trip to find a narrow boat in the UK centered around the Claremont Fan Court School’s garden history lecture, which occurred on April 12th this year. This date was set and so all others corresponded. The first thing to do was go and visit my daughter and family in Kenai, Alaska. It is infinitely easier for me to move myself around the world than to take in tow two girls and all of their various car seats and luggage, not to mention the golf clubs so this was an important trip to make before I made my way to the UK.
Please note that Iceland Air hubs out of Reykjavik and has a non-stop flight from there to Anchorage! To anyone moving around the globe I would highly recommend this as your hub. Iceland Air has its act together!
Attached are some photos of the Alaska branch of the family’s home in Kenai and some pertinent photos.
The continued evolution of the Rigall/Design firm to include GreenHistory as a major client or project is proceeding well. The intent is to offer a tour/course which gives a small group of participants an overview of garden history or the history of designed landscapes using the gardens and historic sites open to the public in the Southeast of England. A week’s guided tour of 8-10 gardens with corresponding lectures and excerpts from relevant texts on the garden’s creators and historic context will leave the participants with an understanding of gardens that is more history than horticulture.
To do this effectively a UK presence is needed and from that need came the decision to find a narrow boat to use for this purpose. Upcoming posts will detail, which may be more interesting to my friends than the general public, the process and what I have seen in the doing. More to come!
The balance of the Claremont Landscape Garden, held and being maintained by the National Trust since the end of World War 2, is composed of the campus of Claremont Fan Court School. The school is sponsoring regular talks on garden history. They have had Professor Timothy Mowl and author Jane Brown speak to large gatherings in the mansion. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet people interested in garden history and to meet in a fantastic historic space. This year the organizers have invited a panel of experts to discuss the issues confronting any organization responsible for sustaining a historic landscape.
The National Trust’s calendar of events describe the event below.
Visit Claremont House to hear a discussion about Sustainable Historic Landscapes. Last year’s talk was standing room only!
Claremont School hosts a lively discussion about Sustainable Historic Landscapes with Garden Historian Dr Kate Felus, Landscape Architects Dominic Cole and Chris Churchman and Architect Michael Phillips. A pre-lecture lunch of soup, a sandwich and hot drink in the Claremont Landscape Garden Cafe will be available at £10 per head. (Pre-booked only)
You can book tickets at www.claremont-school.co.uk/181/garden-lecture or at the door.
“Pam Warhurst: How we can eat our landscapes” I thought the key message in this talk was her recognition of the importance of buy-in from a dedicated group of participants. Organically formed organizations eventually need to find their foundation within the structure of the community and not a dependence on the original leadership. It looks like this is exactly what is happening here. I’m not sure how landscape architects could find a way of helping this, perhaps it will be simply finding a way to create an alliance. I hope she can see the beauty in the garden that isn’t edible as well. Click on this link to see what she has been able to do! http://www.ted.com/talks/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes.html
I am moving away from my static Rigall/Design website and into a more active web presence with this new WordPress site. This will take much learning and changes in habits so please excuse the current roughness of the site. I am jumping in and learning while swimming in this new environment. As the conversation begins I look forward to meeting more people interested in gardens and garden history. We will see.
A conversation about landscape architecture and garden history