The Callander Blog

Keeping Up with the Grubers: Chickens 1 Year later

So it has been almost a year since I first posted (in “Keeping Up with the Gruber’s“) about our foray into raising chickens.  At that point we had just brought six two week old chicks home and the coop was under construction.  The family was enthralled with seeing how quickly the chicks were growing and I was happy with my new construction project.  We really didn’t have a clue at that point how rewarding the whole experience would become.


Unfortunately during this period of time our beloved Labrador Milo passed away.  Although we were given some notice and tried to prepare as best we could it still hit our family like a ton of bricks.  What has unexpectedly happened since is how much our chickens have filled the void.  Bawk Obama, Oreo, Blue, Yolko Ono, Betsy, and Fluffy (or the “girls” as my wife calls them) have quickly become part of our family and not just suppliers of our eggs.  They run to us when we open the back door, fall asleep in our arms, and lay peacefully with us on the hammock.  We have also begun to give chicken inspired gifts to each other and have collected an assortment of housewares with chicken motifs.

Yes … we are the crazy chicken family of our neighborhood.  However, as long as we keep supplying eggs to our neighbors they don’t seem to mind.  Oh, and the eggs are tasty…better than any store bought we have ever had.

Brian Fletcher, President

We Are In This Together: Hedgerow Farms Tour

Back in April of this year, I attended my first California Native Grassland Association’s Field day at Hedgerow Farms in Winters, California. The weather was unseasonably cold and wet and I realized when I got to the farm, that I was entirely unprepared for this weather (I don’t even own a proper rain coat!). But the weather did not stop myself or others from attending this event, as there were over 100+ people, who also seemed as unprepared for the weather as I was.   Soggy hay rides aside, we were all excited and anxious to see what was growing at Hedgerow Farms.

Some of the key things I took away from the day were the importance of preserving and restoring our native grasslands;


Beautiful field of Melica californica

providing habitat for beneficial insects including bees and butterflies;


Lasthenia glabrata


Asclepias speciosa

and incorporating native grasses and forbs in our urban landscape.


Whether it’s responding to the drought, restoring the monarch butterfly and bee population or fighting the loss of our native grasslands…we are in this together.

- Melissa Ruth, project manager

Adventures in Urban Homesteading: Working with Contractors

As someone that likes to do everything myself (not only to take pride in the craftsmanship when the job is complete, but also to ensure the job is done exactly as I want it) I have come to realize that sometimes I just have to let it go and let the professionals do the work. That was the case in my latest adventures with home ownership.


My driveway, installed at the same time my house was constructed (in 1945) had seen better days. It looked like the San Andreas fault line in areas with cracks as wide as 2 inches, a driveway approach that was guaranteed to scrape the bottom of your car, and a nice pond next to the foundation of my house whenever it rained.

Knowing my back couldn’t handle demolishing and installing over 500 sf of concrete I drew up some simple plans, contacted 4 local contractors, got very competitive bids, and chose a contractor. Little did I know that as soon as construction began, issues would follow.

My contractor had hired a subcontractor to do the work and the contract between him and the contractor was different than the contract I had with my contractor.  There were constant disagreements with the foreman and I on what was included in the job and what wasn’t. (That is where I was extremely happy to have drawings with everything called out, because whatever wasn’t called out was a battle).  It became apparent that my expectations with the quality of the workmanship and the contractors clearly did not align. In the morning, I would give the construction crews specific directions before leaving for work and when I got home would find that they did not follow my instructions (or the plans).

I am now 45 days into the construction of the driveway and the contractor still has not completed the job.


When all is said and done my back is going to thank me and, although it’s been a trying process, I’ve learned a very important lesson in regards to contractors – make sure that EVERYTHING is in writing before beginning work (and choose a contractor that has already done work for someone you know).

Written by Matt Gruber, Project Manager at Callander Associates

Keeping Up with the Gruber’s

What do bees, home brewing, and gardening have in common?  These are just a few of the amazing things Matt and his wife Rachel have been dabbling in at home.  Their adventures in urban homesteading have provided much inspiration for my family’s own adventures from expanding our own gardening exploits to learning the art of nurturing sourdough starter and baking bread {from Rachel herself}.  Well in our continuing efforts to keep up with the Gruber’s, the Fletcher family recently stepped into the world of urban chickens!


chicken coop almost complete!

Why may you ask would I welcome more responsibilities, and mess, while trying to manage a growing landscape architecture firm….the eggs of course!  Well, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.  The building of the coop satisfies my construction and design cravings, raising chicks has unleashed my wife’s “mother hen” qualities, and the feeding and care will hopefully teach my two young kids about responsibility and chores.  In all, these chickens represent another vehicle helping us to create a healthy and happy home life while hopefully bringing some of the hard work and family values found on rural farms to our little urban oasis.


Written by: Brian Fletcher, President



Adventures in Urban Homesteading: Installing Irrigation

As landscape architects we often find ourselves sitting in the office designing details and specifying products that we’ve never actually seen installed. That’s why we try to get out in the field to review projects during construction. But when you are actually doing the work yourself, it takes the learning experience to a whole other level.

A few weeks back I experienced the pure joy of installing my own irrigation system. With almost 10 years under my belt as a landscape architect and being responsible for the design of dozens of irrigation systems you’d think that I would only be slightly smarter at the finish of the project than at the beginning. But as I’ve figured out countless times over my life, the motto “Learn by Doing” (thanks Cal Poly) really holds water.

Before Irrigation along fence line

Before Irrigation along fence line

Operating a trencher, laying out pipe, assembling drip valve kits and remote control valves, laying out drip irrigation properly, connecting the wiring, programming the controller, and planning for future improvements so that I don’t have to dig more trenches was much more work than I thought when I was drawing out lines on a piece of paper. Thank goodness I have a strong back (although, after the installation, it’s a little less so). It really drove home the point of why you should combine irrigation lines in one trench and limit the amount of trenching…trenching is not easy, nor is clearing out dirt where you changed directions in your trench. And connecting remote control valves and drip valve kits is quite arduous. It made me really appreciate the fact that there are pre-assembled pipes for laying out multiple valves in a row (although I didn’t think of that until afterwards on a trip to Ewing to tie up a few loose ends).

The fact is that, after finishing the installation, I had a much better understanding of drip irrigation, irrigation design, and the cost and hard work that goes into the installation. I’ll be designing with all that in mind. And not only was the project a good learning experience, it also has produced serious results. My garden shot up a couple weeks after the installation, my grass is much greener, and my ornamentals are healthier than ever. Sure, my water bill is higher, but I could take comfort in the fact that I can adjust everything with a few simple pushes of buttons. And I am not standing in the yard with a hose in hand wasting time watering…I’m sitting in the yard admiring all my healthy plants and fresh produce.



Matt Gruber is a landscape architect and project manager at Callander Associates. He and his wife, Rachel, bought their first home in 2011 and have since put their interest in urban homesteading to practice. Look here for future posts by Matt on brewing beer, growing food, and other adventures!

Work Hard, Play Hard: Valley Office Rivercats Outing

In spirit of a work hard, play hard philosophy, the Rancho Cordova office decided it was time for some fun!  The crew, along with their family members, enjoyed an evening of hot dogs (or in my children’s case…just cotton candy!), merlino freezes and ice cold beverages (adult ones that is) at Raley Field stadium while watching the Sacramento Rivercats! We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The game went into extra innings and while the Rivercats lost, some of us stuck it out to the end to watch the amazing fireworks show.

This is the second year in a row we have enjoyed an evening like this with our Callander Associates family.  Callander Associates designed the new entrance to Raley Field back in 2011.  The owner was so pleased with our firm and the design that after construction was complete (and the Rivercats season started), had invited us out to enjoy an evening ball game to celebrate the project’s success and cheer on our local minor league team. Thanks Callander Associates and Go Rivercats!

Raley Field Entrance Designed by Callander Associates

Sonja Ditto, Human Resources Manager


Have you met our newest Callander Team members?  Chances are you haven’t had the pleasure yet, but if you have, you’ll understand why we are so excited that these three individuals decided to join our firm!  We are proud to introduce you to our newest team members:

From the Left: 

Meet Pierre Chin-Dickey

Pierre is a UC Davis graduate who joined our San Mateo office in May of 2013.  Make sure to ask him about the Redbull Flutag and what his “flight” record is when you talk to him next!

Meet Brenna Castro

Brenna is a UC Davis graduate who joined our Rancho Cordova office in January of 2013.  Next time you talk to her ask her what she caught when she was visiting the Everglades!

Meet Amy McNamara

Amy is a Penn State graduate who joined our San Mateo office in April of 2013.  If you get a chance to talk to her, find out what trails or new restaurants she has explored recently!

Our vision statement says it all “Great people building community through exceptional service and indelible design”.  We are thrilled that these “great people” have joined our team!

Sonja Ditto, Human Resources Manager