Community Conversations Connect People

There is absolutely nothing to compete with the problem-solving effectiveness of people talking together and sharing ideas.

Community problem solving happens when ordinary citizens come together to talk about change they would like to see.  Such was the case last night on our downtown square at one of our local coffee houses in Garland, Texas. Deborah Morris, one of our active local citizens who lives in the 2nd District, invited the public (with a special invitation to the Latino members of Garland) for an informal meeting to share ideas about how we might work together to make Garland more viable and inclusive for all.

One of the many things I was reminded is how few degrees of separation we have among others and ourselves. But unless we actually get out and talk with people we cannot make these connections.  

Left to right:  Koni Ramos-Kaiwi—Community Advocate, her son Paco, and Sandra Perez

For example, I met Koni Ramos-Kaiwi last night.  Koni is an articulate community advocate for our Latino residents.  I came home with one of Koni’s business cards.  Words on the back of the card encapsulate the way I rather imagine that Koni lives her life. These words also mirror what I try to remember when living my own life:  It only takes one person to change the world. 

Not only did I learn through conversation that Koni and I have shared inspirations for our community, Charlie learned that he had an even closer connection to Koni.  Koni mentioned that she is from Donna Texas.  Charlie said, “Oh my sister is married to a guy from Donna.  They live in Michigan now.”  Turns out that Charlie’s brother-in-law is Koni’s uncle.  How’s that for a tiny, connected world?

We all have special gifts to bring to the table of our community.  Koni’s son, Paco, is another example.  Paco has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life, but that has not stopped him from living a full life.  Among other things, he has a college education and children.  One of the suggestions from Paco was that our Garland Code Enforcement Department creates a job for an inspector solely to ensure that all our public places are accessible for people with disabilities.  Paco cited a recent example from his own life:  he went to the park with his nieces and nephews but he had to watch them from the curb because there was no wheelchair access to the park.

We talked about streets and sidewalks.  Not all problems can be solved instantly.  Sometimes our tendency is to blame “the City”, but more often than not “the City” and the residents must work together to solve these problems. And some problems are not the responsibility of our local government. For example, as Deborah Morris pointed out when the discussion turned to sidewalks: driveways and sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner.  Sometimes, people simply cannot afford such repairs.  We can work together and build solutions.

Another interesting topic discussed regarded the importance of the appearance of our community.  There may be some who think that making things look pretty by cleaning up our yards and planting flowers is not important.  The truth is that a well-kept community sends many positive messages to the world. 

Peter Kageyama (author of For the Love of Cities and The Love Affair Between People and Their Places) speaks to the importance of creating emotionally engaging places.  We know that people tend to take care of what they love. 

And we need to not only love our yards and properties.  We also need to love our neighbors while remembering that it only takes one person to change the world.  Who knows?  That person may be you.

Cookie Rodriguez loves Garland. 

Speaking of love, Cookie Rodriguez was there last night. Cookie is another Latino community activist we are so fortunate to have in our community.  Cookie was born in Puerto Rico and came to Garland by way of New York City. Cookie heads up the non-profit Christian-based Nu-Life Outreach Center and Street Church (D-Boy) Ministries.

Speaking of beautiful people and things reminds me of my friends, Betty Roberts and Reba Collins of Keep Garland Beautiful and yet the removal of another degree of separation.  Last night I met Mr. Louis Moore who just happens to live across the street from Dawn Peacock, a friend of mine who was also at the meeting last night.  Mr. Moore and his wife had Reba from Keep Garland Beautiful design their pollinator garden.

COME TO THE VOLUNTEER FAIR.  Tonight at the Atrium in the Granville Arts Center here in Garland from 6PM to 8PM and learn how you can love your community better.


Deborah, thank you again for hosting the conversations with Latino people from my community last night.  I have the feeling that a lot of good things will come out of that event.


Photo Wiki Commons

In case you don’t know, Loving Garland Green is the official steward for the Garland Community Garden.  We meet the first and third Monday of the month at 216 East Kingsbridge Drive, 6:30 to 7:30 PM.


At our Monday February 19 meeting Jane Stroud, our President, has promised to bring some Hopniss for us to sample.  If you’ve never heard of Hopniss, you can join my club.  Until a few days ago when Jane educated me, I had not heard of this plant either.  This edible is also known as the “American Groundnut.”

Hopniss is our North American answer to the South American potato.  It is a tuber from a bean plant.  The beans, flowers and shoots of Hopniss are all edible.  The first European reference to Hopniss comes from Thomas Harriot, the resident scientist with Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1585 voyage to Virginia.

This plant has been found as far west as Colorado.  The Hopniss is reported to be a hardy plant that loves to grow in wet places such as stream banks, around the edges of ponds.  Yet it is also drought tolerant—this is a suitable candidate for growing in our gardens here in North Texas.

Old World/New World Garden Patch

As mentioned previously on this blog, we plan to have an Old World/New World bed down at the Garland Community Garden this year.  Half of this bed will feature plants fro the Old World the Europeans brought to the New World and the other half of the bed will feature the plants from the New World that the Europeans took with them back to the New world.  Hopniss will be among the plants featured in the New World section,


Update on Fava Beans and Tulips in the Garland Community Garden

Most beans prefer warmer (but not too warm) weather.  However, the Fava Beans prefer temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees F.  About three weeks ago I planted 15 Fava beans in three different places in the Garland Community Garden.  Shortly after we had that cold snap with temperatures dipping into the teens.  I had given up on them.  Then on Thursday (Feb 15) Low and behold!  The Fava beans have broken through the earth with their lovely dark green leaves.  I think all the beans have germinated.

Jane and I counted emerged tulips on Thursday as well:  28 of 50 tulips are now poking through the soil.


If you want to have fun, learn more about what you can grow in our North Texas area, or taste some American Groundnut, come to the next meeting of Loving Garland Green:

Monday February 19 – 6:30 to 7:30 PM – 216 EAST Kingsbridge Drive 75040 (between Crestone and Naaman School Road)


Mark your calendars for this great community event.  If you’ve “kinda, sorta, woulda, coulda” thought about joining those who belong to and support nonprofit organizations in your community, this is a great chance to meet members and leaders of nonprofit enterprises in the Garland community and explore what possibilities these organizations might offer you to serve and grow.

If you’ve wondered about Makerspaces and especially if you’ve wondered about all the magical tools that maker members use and share, be sure to come to the Fair.  The Garland Area Makerspace group will have a table. You can learn all about what makerspaces bring to the community and you can take a look at a 3D printer in action.  As far as nonprofit organizations go, the Garland Area Makerspace is “nearly new”.  We filed our Articles of Formation with the State of Texas today.

Of course there will be many more opportunities and organizations represented at our Volunteer Fair.  We hope you’ll stop by the beautiful Atrium in Garland Texas.

Admission is free, but it is recommended to RSVP now to help the Kiwanis in getting an accurate count of people in attendance and the number of swag bags.



The Garland Makerspace Discovery Group will be sending off our application to obtain our Certification of Formation as a nonprofit organization in the State of Texas this coming Wednesday.  Our name will be the “Garland Area Makerspace.”

Of course we are very excited about this giant step for our local community but we are looking ahead to the next step, which will be to promote and educate people regarding makerspaces, maker technologies, and what they offer communities. We want our community to be as excited about the possibilities offered by makerspaces as we are so they will join us in our collaborative effort to make our community and world a better place.

Ask three people what a makerspace is and you are likely to get three different responses.  Two things about makerspaces are certain: makerspaces are reshaping education and encouraging entrepreneurship in the USA and the world. They are cropping up everywhere all over the landscape. Many U.S. schools (grade schools and high schools alike) as well as public libraries now have makerspaces.  In fact, Garland Texas may have the largest makerspace in the world.  It's called the Gilbreath-Reed Technology Center which is designed exactly as a makerspace.  This facility, however is only available to Junior and Senior high school students in the Garland ISD.

Makerspaces with adult memberships are places where all kinds of makers come together under one roof:  from blacksmiths to those who use 3D printers to create prototypes.  These makers vary in expertise from the beginners to professionals who earn a living with their maker skills.  The physical structure of the makerspace as well as the necessity of sharing some of the same tools among various members from different disciplines is such that it naturally encourages collaboration—not only between those of the same discipline but also with those from different disciplines.  When diversity is added to the pot, all kinds of exciting and beneficial things can happen.



Among all the great tools and equipment available for makers, the Garland Area Makerspace will eventually have several 3D printers. A lot of people think that 3d printing is the latest technology when actually it has been around for more than 30 years.  Chuck Hall invented this type of additive manufacturing technology in 1983.   Born in 1939, Mr. Hall is even older than the Baby Boomer generation.

Why all the fuss about 3D Printers Now?

Since 3D printers have been around so long as an additive manufacturing tool, why are we just now hearing about them you might be asking.  The most likely explanation is that the patent on one of the most common 3D printing technologies, fused deposition modeling (FDM), expired in 2009. Until then, the only places where we could find a 3D printer would be in an industrial facility.  Now instead of $200,000 and more, the 3D printers have arrived to the consumer market for under $2,000 and their sales are growing.  According to Wohler’s Report 2015: Gartner:  In 2009 3D printer sales were 1, 816 compared to 232,336 in 2015.

How does 3D Printing work?

The process for 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process.  Things are built layer by fused layer.  Instead of ink, the printer uses various kinds of materials (plastic, metal, resin, stone, etc.) that are melted at high temperatures in the printer and then poured out in very thin layers onto the building deck of the printer.  The printer “knows” where to pour the material because it has received digital instructions from software in a computer that is communicating to the printer wirelessly or through a physical connection—just as your ink or laser printer knows what words or images to print on paper. 

The computer “talks” to the 3-D printer much in the same way that your computer “talks” to your printer to print out a page.  However instead of Word, 3D printers require software such as Auto-Cad that creates images, which are then sliced into layers for creating the three-dimensional object.  Also, just as you can scan photos and documents into your normal printer, you can scan real objects into your 3D printer—provided you have a 3D scanner.  To do this you place the object (such as a kitchen spatula) on your 3D scanner, scan it, and then send to print.

Who uses 3D technology now?

The medical and prosthesis field use 3D printing extensively.  For example, the majority of today’s hearing aids are 3-D printed.  Dentists use this technology to make things like retainers.  Aircraft manufacturers use 3D printing to make aircraft parts such as 3D print fuel nozzles.  Architects use 3D printing to create models.  Shoe manufacturers use this technology to print soles.  These are just a few examples.

Tiny Home fans take note: one of the most exciting examples of the potential I’ve seen for 3D printing in action is a home that was printed in less than 24 hours in Moscow.  This 409 square foot house features a hall, living room, bathroom and kitchen and cost $10,134.  Apis Cor and PIK collaborated on the design.  Below is another example of a Building on Demand (BOD).  This building is located in Copenhagen’s Nordhavn and was built in the spring of 2017.   

We may not be creating such large objects with the 3D printers in the Garland Area Makerspace right away, but who’s to say what the future will bring us?

CC BY-SA 4.0 – Touted as the first building in Europe made with 3D construction printing – spring 2017


 Monarch on Zinnia Garland Community Garden Summer 2017

Domestic Monarch Recoveries – 2017 Source: [accessed 2/9/2018]

There were 854 domestic recoveries of tagged Monarchs in 2017.  These would be the ones who didn’t make it to Mexico.  From the 100 that were tagged and released by members of Loving Garland Green in the fall of 2017, only one domestic recovery was made.  We are hoping most of the others made their way to Mexico.  I look forward to reading the reports of recoveries from Mexico.  For now the Monarch Watch tagging database is down.

The information on the tag for the one found from our tagged 100 Monarchs is

Date 10/16/2017
City:  Garland
State: TX
ZIP 75044
LAT:  32.966796
LONG: -96.666145
NOTES:  monarch was on the ground, seemed stressed, not able to fly/climb, Found on Canterbury Dr.

Now is the time to plan your 2018 pollinator habitat

Wild Senna –among the seedlings I’m growing for our April seed sale at the Garland Community Garden.  Wild Senna is an uncommon plant in most butterfly gardens—yet it is nonetheless a great plant.  It is a shrubby perennial that grows to be 3 to 5 feet tall and produces lovely bunches of yellow blossoms from July to mid November.  Pollinators love it—especially our native bees.  Senna is also an herb that is the active ingredient in Ex-Lax.

According to the Monarch Joint Venture-- a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration—now is the time to begin planning your 2018 habitat projects.

Now is the time to plan your 2018 habitat project or Monarch Waystation planting.  Monarch Watch is taking pre-orders for milkweed purchases through the Milkweed Market. Most species are $74 a flat of 32, and Texas species are $93.50 for a flat of 50 plants. (Purchases are made at time of pre-order.) Share a flat with another gardener, or use the plants as a fundraiser.  They can resale for up to $5 a plant! These are restoration-quality plants that are trimmed prior to shipping, and because they are pesticide-free, they may carry aphids. Delivery is expected to begin to most locations in early May and to Texas in April, depending on weather. 


Today is going to be a beautiful day.  I hope you are able to enjoy it.


So why do so many people not participate in local government?

Local government and the people we elect to sit on our City Council, have a lot of power over our lives and the quality of life in our community.  They set the overall direction and vision of our community through long-term planning and then ensure that it is achieved.  Local government is responsible for managing and delivering a range of quality services to the community such as public health, recreational facilities, local road maintenance and public libraries.  They are the ones who make local laws that the rest of us must follow. These laws cover issues such as activities permitted on public land, whether potholes on your street get fixed, codes that govern what you can or cannot do on your own property, animal management laws, use of infrastructure and more.  These people have a lot of power over us.  In fact they directly impact our lives much more so than either state or federal governments.

Local government does not always listen to the people.

Although they are supposed to listen to the voices of the people, it is important to remember they do not have to.  We don’t have to look back any further than October of 2017 to see an example of this in action in Garland.  On October 17, 2017 six members (majority) of the City Council voted against the wishes of over 200 residents who had signed a petition asking them to hold off on demolishing the Armory at Central Park.  The armory was demolished at taxpayer expense less than two weeks later.  The signatures were placed on their desks prior to their vote.  There can be no mistake they knew what they were doing but getting their way was more important to them than representing the voice of the people.  Two of the members who ignored the expressed wishes of the voters are running unopposed for the upcoming May election—David Gibbons and Rich Aubin.  Voter apathy doesn’t run much higher than this.


You have until February 16 at 5pm to file to run as a candidate for Garland City Council in our May election.  Please step up to the plate.

It’s easier than you may think to step up and serve your community. 
Filing information:

The City Council is made up of ordinary Garland residents.   If you are not a felon and are duly registered to vote in the City of Garland you are eligible to apply.  If you have a friend whom you think could serve our community—talk them into running.


Only Ten Days from Date for City Council Candidate Filing in Garland

So here we are in Garland, just about 10 days out from the deadline for candidate filing as a member of the City Council or the office of Mayor and we have no candidates who have filed to run against incumbent David Gibbons in District 1 who was elected two years ago with no opposing candidate; Rich Aubin in District 5 another incumbent running unopposed the second time for his second term; or Deborah Morris running for the first time in District 2.

Since the mayoral election will be a special election, we have to wait until City Council announces it before those candidates step forth, but several people have petitions of interest circulating for this office.


Garland is a minority/majority city

When it comes to race, I’ve noticed that it is a topic that is somewhat designated as impolite to bring up for discussion.  And I don’t know if it figures in as a significant factor in this discussion on why non-Hispanic whites make up 36.7% of the population of Garland while 75% of our City Council are non-Hispanic whites.  I wonder what would happen in Garland if more of the majority not only stepped up to the plate and voted but also ran for office?

Garland is a Minority/Majority City—meaning that we have more Hispanics, Latinos and people of color than we have white/non-Hispanics—yet serving on our city council we have one Hispanic and one Black man.  The map above shows distribution by percentages of white non-Hispanics in our city.  The darkest rust color indicates the highest concentration of white non-Hispanics at 78%.  The light gray is at 2% or less of white non-Hispanics. Source:

There are people who will tell us that race doesn’t matter in the USA, but when I look at charts like the one shown below, I have to ask, Really?  Is this distribution just an accident? Is perhaps part of this reality related to representation in local government?  I don’t know, but I do know that in order for representation in our government to better reflect the demographics of our city, more than the typical 5% of registered voters are going to have to not only show up at the polls, but also run for local offices like City Council.


If you know of someone in Garland whom you think would make a good City Council member, send them the link to this post.  Better representation makes better communities.  Another point: Perhaps the reason we have such low turnout of voters at local elections in Garland is because we so often only have one candidate to vote for.  In these cases, those who say "why bother" have an excellent point.  In those cases, vote/don't vote = same outcome.  Only ordinary people like us have the power to create a better world with better representation.


Unlike national campaigns for Congress, or even state elections, you don't need a large bank account to win a local election for City Council.  If you have good ideas and if you are willing to walk neighborhoods and talk with people face-to-face for the next three months, you have a good chance to win your election.  One person at a time.


Remembering Groundhog Days Past

Groundhog Day is today, February 2.  According to legend, if the groundhog comes out of its hole and sees its shadow, it will be frightened and will scurry back to its hole.  Thus we will have six more weeks of winter.  Here in Texas, we don’t have to worry about Groundhogs seeing their shadows because groundhogs are not indigenous to Texas.

Back in 2015, Robert Smith, one of our local businessmen here in Garland, secured a groundhog from Georgia for a Garland Groundhog Day celebration. Her name was “Gretchen.”  Mayor Athas and other local dignitaries were present.  The mayor read a proclamation stating that Gretchen had seen her shadow when emerging from her hole.  Thus we were destined to not have an early spring. Apparently the legend has some merit as you can see from the photos below that I took in the Garland Community Garden on March 5, 2015 when Margie Rogers, Anita Opel and I went to play in the snow.



Margie makes a snow angel while Anita stands by the snow woman we made- 03/05/2015 – The official measurement at DFW was 3.4 inches.  In Garland, my official measurement was 4.1 inches.  It was a lot of great snow.

The only other memorable Groundhog Day I can remember is one I had in 2001 when, like Bill Murray I had two Groundhog Days.  Like so many events in life, the possibility was due to a fluke of timing.  I was flying back home to California from Jakarta. When you fly west from California, if you fly far enough and not too far, you’ll fly into tomorrow.  On the return trip, you are flying into yesterday. Jakarta is about 23 hours away from Los Angeles (for flights that stop once in Hawaii for refueling). I would never have been aware of repeat experience if the pilot had not called our attention to it. Groundhog day has been a holiday often passed unnoticed in my lifetime.

Citizen Science Tulip Project

Tulips are up at the Garland Community Garden!  Yes they are peeking up through the earth.  I’m impressed at their prowess.  We planted them 7 inches deep on January 6.  Here is our progress as noted on the map.  The green indicates the places where the bulbs have pushed through the earth.  Growing is a miracle that never ceases to leave me awestruck which is one of the reasons I love the garden so much. 


Tulip Map from the Journey North Citizen Science Tulip Project:  Green indicates where tulips have pushed up through the earth – Feb 2, 2018


Jane, President and leader of Loving Garland Green (stewards of the Garland Community Garden) is busy planning lots of new projects and interesting things for the coming spring.  Among other things, this year the garden will have an Old World/New World garden plot; and a Three Sisters Plot.  In addition, I may get around to planting that weed plot I’ve been promising to plant for the past three years.  It’s amazing the number of edibles we label weeds and disregard as a food source.  Dandelions are a prime example.  The pilgrims brought this plant over with them as a winter green.  If they could come back and see how we now spend billions of dollars on Roundup every year to eradicate this edible from our lawns, I’m sure they would be shocked.

Speaking of shocking things, here in Garland, we still bag up our leaves and place them curbside to be carried off to our landfill.  In 2016 Loving Garland Green began our November Leaf Awareness Campaign.  The purpose of this campaign is to increase public awareness regarding 1) that our leaves go to the landfill and 2) leaves ideally need to stay in the area where they fall because they replenish the soil.

Soil, the thin layer that covers the earth’s surface like skin is an undervalued and endangered natural resource. According to soil expert Winfried Blum, worldwide only 12 percent of the land area is suitable for farming.  That area is supposed to insure food security for 7.5 billion people.  Removing leaves from your yard in Garland is equivalent to removing future soil and sequestering it in a landfill where it is taken out of circulation for years.

In 2016 we rescued 713 bags at an estimated 21,290 pounds.  This may sound like a lot, but unfortunately 713 bags of leaves is tiny when measured against the bags of leaves that are likely taken each year from the homes of Garland residents to the Hinton landfill.  Given our approximate 80,000 households and estimating low at five leaf bags per household, we send close to a half million bags of leaves to the landfill each year.

This year Loving Garland Green did not pick up leaves, but we do have approximately 50 bags that citizens have left at the garden.  I’ll get down there sometime this week to mulch them.


NOTE:  You really can’t leave the leaves where they fall, as they will create a blanket over your lawn that blocks the sunlight.  You need to mulch them using a mulching blade on your lawnmower.  The tiny pieces will sink down to the ground and you should still be able to see the grass sticking up.  If you have too many leaves, mulch them and either bring to the Garland Community Garden or use to start a garden for your family.