Gardener Bruce Swee honored

The MacGyver of Interbay P-Patch recognized by members

For 12 years now, Bruce Swee has been a source of innovation at the Interbay P-Patch, dreaming of solutions to reclaim rainwater in an artful way, to figuring out how to keep the rats away from gardeners' fresh corn.

The artful water reclamation was accomplished by crafting a fountain sculpture that uses 45 percent recycled steel and a pump that uses solar-powered marine batteries that were donated and which connected to an inverter that now powers lights in a tool shed, too. And how did Swee beat the corn-stealing rats? Well, after trying mineral water on the corn tassels didn't work and the use of coyote urine was dismissed, Swee made corn cozies: hardware cloth that is wrapped around each cob and crimped at the top. The MacGyver-like ingenuity worked like a charm.

"We tested them and they work really well," said his wife, Chris Schaefer.

Swee has also been the go-to guy in getting much of the recycled materials used all around the P-Patch, from the roof of the equipment shed originally used as a walkway cover at the Sand Point Naval Air Station now Magnuson Park, to an original flagpole from the 1962 World's Fair.

For all of Swee's efforts and innovations (he does have a garden in the P-Patch, too), members of the Interbay P-Patch honored him with a potluck dinner event at the P-Patch.

The P-Patch, which is the third largest in the city (next to Magnuson and Picardo - the latter named after Rainie Picardo from which P-Patch gets its P) is a living example of sustainability. And to extend that effort, the P-Patchers, led by Swee and Ray Schutte, wrote a Climate Action Grant proposal to Seattle's department of Neighborhoods that would pay for a sign and for a brochure that P-Patch members would create and write in eight languages, which would identify all each of the patch's sustainable and agricultural aspects, and feature a map so visitors could walk around and get a sense of what landmarks are where. For example, the patch features cobblestones in its entryway and an adjacent planter, stones that had originally been used as ballast in ships and later as stones for Occidental Park. Then there are the arbor entrances that are made with portable toilet frames, which Schaefer called, "just beautiful," that had been owned by the city and that were discarded when the city went with the automatic-flushing johns.

With plenty of feedback from P-Patchers, Schutte wrote the grant last year, which illustrated for the city the numerous ways in which the P-Patch was self-sustaining. The P-Patch awarded $11,550. Cast Architecture of Ballard donated the sign's design. Cast also designed the main shed which features a translucent roof.

The new funding paid for the signage materials and Swee assembled it. The sign is made completely with recycled materials, in particular Cor-ten steel, which when rusts, hardens and rusts no more - similar to Richard Serra's Wake sculpture installation at Olympic Sculpture Park a couple of miles to the south.

"I think the sign is stupendous and I have to be impressed with the raising of the flagpole, which we did it without a crane," Schutte said. "Overall, it's [Swee's] ingenuity in getting things done."

Swee is also working with volunteers on the brochure, which members hope to have done in time for the Sept. 23 Annual Harvest Banquet at the Yessler Community Center.

"Bruce is self-employed as an artist and graphic designer and he just knows how to build and repair things," Schaefer said. "We've been compiling a list of all the things he's been responsible for and it's a huge list from plumbing to building to art work. He's done an incredible amount of stuff."[[In-content Ad]]