The Water-Purifying Storm Drain

Some trees in the municipality have come down, which means free wood chip mulch! I am glad to finally start covering up the newspaper mulch layer around the swale.

I have been picking up urban concrete waste, rocks, shells, and ceramic waste, in order to make a drainage layer in the water reservior. It’s all coming together in bits and pieces of recycled materials. As with the clay extraction project: a little bit of collection and recycling each day adds up to a lot of raw materials.

This water-collecting and filtering project has been a few months in the making: building a wood hügel, digging a swale, planting an edible tree and shrub border, planting pollinator-feeding erosion control seed mix on the berm, and planting semi-aquatic irises that filter water and hyperaccumulate pollutants like heavy metals

Once finished, this crescent-shaped drain should relieve flooded conditions on the grass plane and patio, while providing a space for the disposal of local concrete waste and broken ceramics.

In a few years, it can be mulched over and turned into a rain garden.

I based the idea on things I read while learning about landscape stormwater management, phytoremediation and phytomining: I wanted to use largely botanical, recycled, or self-harvested components to build a drain that also functions as a place to process waste, and as a habitat and source of sustenance to local wildlife. It’s modelled on a bioretention water processing/groundwater recharge cell.


A number of the drainage elements — especially shells and concrete — are also meant to catch small amounts of water, in order to provide drinking water for the beehive I am currently installing.

Seeds are germinating on the berm, so soon the whole thing will be covered in flowers, and yet again virtually unrecognisable!

The whole project has been free of cost, and made with recycled, collected, or traded materials.

Please, stay away from me.
There is nothing here for you to see.
I don’t want your company this evening.
I’d rather sit in peace and drink this tea,
write poetry while listening
to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell sing
about mountains, rivers, and that real thing.

Please, stay away from me.
There is nothing here for you to see.
I don’t want your company this evening.
I’d rather sit in peace amongst the birds and bees
of which I praise in my poetry.

The birds and bees
they don’t exist
but live within
my imaginings:

you and me
(this girl I love)
reclined on beach sand
with clear skies above
and water so blue
that it feels brand new
to us

but instead
I am stuck
with these blues inside,
my oh my!
what I would do
with a day full of happiness
‘fore I die.

Please, stay away from me.
There is nothing here for you to see.

—  Blues! Stay Away From Me by J. Harris

Halictus (Seladonia) tripartitus “Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Balsamorhiza sagittata “Arrowleaf Balsamroot” Asteraceae

Missoula, MT
May 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Another species of small Sweat Bee in the genus Halictus. If you’re interested in attempting to identify these bees with a dichotomous key (there are only 10 species in the Northwest, so it’s not too difficult!), check this one out here. Once you learn more about these little guys, you start noticing them everywhere!

Yay!! I’m really excited about it so I’m glad you asked. My dad used to keep bees years ago, and I got him new gear for Christmas and he wanted to make it a family project. He went to pick up the bees he’d ordered today and ended up getting an extra hive (bees and hive and all) on the spot! 🐝🐝🐝 Now’s about the time you set them up so they’re ready for spring. We’ll have to feed them for a while but after that they’re pretty much self-sufficient. Do you wanna keep bees too? I can ask my dad anything you want to know. :D