A few weeks ago I started to second-guess our decision to keep our house in Portland, rather than selling it when we had the chance before starting grad school down in Eugene. A weekend of back-breaking labor in Portland though cured me of that feeling.

When we say we’re “going home”, we still think of that house as our home. The house smells like our house. We remember how the paint colors inside change depending on the light of the day. The backyard holds memories of garden parties, picking currants for morning pancakes, and watching the chickens roam around the patio while we sip coffee.

The garden there has been an evolution. First it was grass, then came fruit trees, then raised beds, then berry bushes, and still more. There are more things I want to plant, but I am holding off until we move back in to care for them in those delicate first few years.

One thing I have wanted to do for a while was create clear, tidy paths though the garden to hold the space together. We recently checked that one off our list and I think it looks pretty awesome. It is far from the most sustainable project we have done back there, so it was a complicated decision.

The most glaring unsustainable choice we made was to line the paths with a weed barrier fabric. We did not choose the somewhat effective natural burlap – we choose the 30-year polyester fabric. I have concerns about whether it will even biodegrade after that time. But we don’t use pesticides or herbicides, so the trade off is reduced weeding, saving time and energy.

The next unsustainable aspect of our paths is the small river rock we ordered from Mt Scott Fuel to line the paths, on top of the weed barrier. Often we order things like rock, gravel, sand, etc and never give a thought to where it came from. But most likely a riparian area was disturbed because I wanted that rock. Salmon have fewer rocky areas to lay eggs – that kind of thing.

Sustainability is never really so simply black and white. But those paths look pretty spectacular if I do say so myself.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson