8 AM May 29, 2015 - Bridge at Naaman School Road and Brand is Impassable.

Believe it or not, with a barricade and a Squad car with flashing lights and a police officer blocking the way, one motorist went around the barricade and drove part way into the water before stopping earlier this morning.  Also, unfortunately, according to a report by one of our neighbors at the scene, a couple were swept away in their car earlier this morning at about 3am.  I understood from a neighbor they have found the car but not the couple.  

Bryan Bradford, Garland's City Manager was on the scene at about 7:30 this morning.  Mr. Bradford became our City Manager on May 1 of this year.  He has served our city well in many roles including Assistant City Manager, Director of Organizational Development, Managing Director of Budget and Research, and Senior Managing Director. We are lucky to have such a community-minded caring person as one of our city leaders.

The leadership of the City of Garland at all levels is dedicated to minimizing the loss of life and property associated with flooding events.   


Damage at the Garland Community Garden

Of course at daybreak I had to go down to survey the damage.  I"m happy to report that so far it is minimal.   The worst damage is in the lowest lying area of the garden behind the Children's Garden.  So far all of the bed of the children's garden is still above water and the plants which were installed only a few days ago are still safe and above the water (blackberry bush, spinach, strawberries and various flowers).

The flood plain is located on the north and west side of the creek.  The Garland Community Garden is located on the east and south side of the creek.  While a tiny part of the flood plain is on this side of the creek too, most of the flood plain that shoulders the burden of the flood waters is not located on the garden side of the creek.

Two Scenes Children's Garden Garland Community Garden 7:30 am May 29, 2015 


Life in the Garden Continues to Move Forward

May 28, 2015 – The Beginning of a Hugelkultur at the Garland Community Garden
[Note:  Hugelkultur was untouched by flood waters this morning- May 29, 2015.]


We are beginning a yearlong experiment with a Hugelkultur at the Garden.  Most large commercial Hugelkulturs are made by digging out a hole about three feet deep, and filling it three feet high with rotten logs, branches, untreated wood, manure, leaves, and then piling about a 10 inch layer of soil on top.  The beds are ideally six feet deep in order to be self-contained.  Although still water conserving, beds that are shallower will still need to be watered from time to time.

They can also be made on top of the existing soil and this is the method we have chosen because it is sustainable.  (Digging holes with bobcats is not sustainable because of the energy required to dig the holes.)

Our Hugelkultur Blackberry Experiment

Our experiment has several layers and goals:

  1. To test/prove the value of Hugelkultur gardening method.
  2. To provide another example of the commercial value of the Blackberry as an urban crop in Garland.
  3. To promote growing blackberries in Garland.

We will grow ten blackberry bushes in our Hugelkultur.  In late May of 2016, we will count the blackberries on the bushes.   At an average of two blackberries to the ounce we will estimate the total poundage for the bed.   

Next we will contract with local restaurants to supply them with fresh, organic blackberries.  [Blackberries as a food product can appear in many forms on the table:  soups, sauces for turkey and chicken, fresh on top of cereal, in pies and cobblers, etc.] We will pick and deliver the berries.  At the end of the experiment we will publish a report on the results.

Among our other promotional programs for the blackberry our members are growing as many as possible in pots to give away and to sell as fund-raisers.  We hope to be able to provide as many as ten bushes to every Garland school that wants them for their schoolyard.


This small blackberry bush at the Garland Community Garden has 204 blackberries maturing on it.  Market Value of Harvest:  $51.00

To illustrate the extreme productivity of blackberry bushes, for my area of Garland, Texas, I took a photo this morning (May 28, 2015) of a blackberry bush that was planted down at the Garland Community Garden last year (July 2014).

Its first season for production at the garden shows a count of 204 blackberries this morning.  Since it appears to have finished blooming, this is likely the final count for this year.  These berries average 2 berries to the ounce.  Thus this bush has 102 ounces of berries.  At six ounces a package for an average seasonal price of $3.00 for six ounces (sometimes as low as $1.59 but soon it is back to $3.98 per six ounces even before the season is over here the second week in July), the berries on this bush have a market value of $51.00.  That is more than three times the price I paid for this berry bush last year ($15.00). 

What product/service do you know of that can yield a return on investment like this in one year?  Urban agriculture can be profitable, provided the right crops for the right area are chosen.  Urban agriculture is a fantastic way to boost a local economy.  Unlike a lot of other types of startups, urban agriculture does not need a big front-end investment to get started.


Urban Agricultural Market Support is Necessary for Economic Success

The trick to a successful urban agricultural program lies not only in choosing crops with a high market value, a plant with varied uses, and a plant that grows well with little effort in the designated urban area, but also in creating a support system for bringing the crop to market and selling the produce at a profit for the growers. 

One of the best business structures for this is a cooperative or co-op as they are sometimes called.  When it comes to establishing a co-operative of urban farmers, the design might look like a honeycomb of cells within the municipality.  It could be organized as low as the neighborhood level.  From there, here in Garland, it could then be organized at the district level.  

The type of agricultural co-op I suggest is an agricultural service cooperative. This type of cooperative provides various services to the members.  There are two primary types of agricultural service cooperatives:  supply cooperatives and marketing cooperatives.  Supply cooperatives supply members with inputs needed for production such as seeds, fertilizers, fuel, and machinery services.  Marketing cooperatives help the farmers with transportation, packaging, distribution and selling their products.

One of the many advantages of a cooperative is because of its size, the members can get goods at lower prices.  For the urban farmer whose crops may be too small to be considered worth bothering with by a larger business such as a cosmetic manufacturer or a chain grocery store can pool their harvests with their neighbors.

It is even possible for an agricultural cooperative, depending upon its membership support, to create secondary markets for the agricultural product.  For example, a small food processing plant might be created where the berries are frozen for re-sale, or perhaps a plant that made Blackberry cosmetics or other blackberry products such as natural dyes.  Also as part of its operations, the co-op has a store where they sell products grown by their members as well as products purchased wholesale for their members.


Personal Note:  Life after Loving Garland Green 

Perhaps, after I step down as President of Loving Garland Green on October 31, 2015, I will form The Garland Texas Urban Agricultural Cooperative.  I had thought of calling it "The Garland Blackberry Growers Association"  but that name limits the scope of the organization.  Blackberries are not the only cash cow crop that can easily be grown in Garland.  For example, we also have the loofah.  This year Loving Garland Green is testing the market value of this crop more fully with a larger crop.  Last year we grew 24 loofah from a five-gallon bucket and sold 12 of them for $2 each at the Garland Market Place. And no doubt there are other easy to grow urban crops with high dollar market  value.


Children from last year's Bremerton Washington's 25th Annual Blackberry Festival

Only the most cursory of research efforts can yield positive proof of what great things can happen to a local economy that moves just a little bit toward a plant-based economy.

This year Bremerton Washington will have its 26th an annual Bremerton Blackberry Festival on September 5, 6, and 7. The Festival is the biggest annual fundraiser for Bremerton Rotary. Funds raised are awarded to non-profit organizations and for projects in their community. 

[Note:  Blackberries are in season from the end of summer through early autumn in many locations. According to, blackberries in the United States typically hit the peak of their season in July if you live in the north, or June for southern dwellers. To ensure a supply of ripe berries throughout the growing season, plant a mix of early, mid-, and late-season blooming varieties if you grow your own blackberries.

Here in Garland the season is a six-week time that varies between the last week of May and the second week of July.  Thus, we would need to plan our festival for the second or third week in June.]


Compared to other festivals celebrating fruit harvests, there are not so many for Blackberry festivals.  I did not find a single Blackberry Festival in Texas.  The closest blackberry festival to Garland I found is in McLoud Oklahoma.  They hold their festival the first weekend in July. McLoud claims to be the "Blackberry Capital of the World" after they sent a crate of blackberries to President Truman.  This town is located just about dead center in the state of Oklahoma.  According to Wiki, its population of 4,044 in 2010 represented a 14% increase from 3,548 in 2000.  That's an interesting trend that might be worth looking into.  They must be doing something right.

  • McLoud Blackberry Festival -  first weekend (Friday and Saturday) in July: open 5pm to midnight; 8am to midnight with fireworks at 10pm Saturday 
    McLoud, OK. Phone: 405-964-6566.Email: The festival began in the 1940's as a celebration of the end of harvest season for the local cash farm crop, blackberries. The town received national media coverage when the Blackberry Growers Association sent a crate of berries to President Harry Truman.

The association disbanded in 1963 due to a poor market and farmers moved on to a more lucrative crop. While blackberry farming may no longer be the agricultural strength of McLoud, the festival celebrated each year continues to be an exciting event for the town and draws thousands of attendees from throughout the nation. (UPDATED: July 13, 2014, from their website)

[Note:  I think it’s time for McLoud to revisit the market for blackberries.  Fifty years later it has changed. And now there are even nonfood uses (cosmetics and herbal applications) for blackberries that were not there 50 years ago.]


Jasper Florida features a Blackberry festival on June 12.  Their celebration includes a Wild Blackberry Bake off, pancake breakfast, country store, children games & crafts, amusements, crafts, entertainment and antique car shows. Free admission, face painting, pony rides, etc. 

Possible food products from blackberries:  frozen blackberries; blackberry jams and jellies; blackberry syrup; blackberry ice-cream; blackberry pies; blackberry smoothies; blackberry wine; blackberry bath products such as soap, shower gel, shampoo, hand and face creams.


Blackberries and Garland

This one crop does have the potential to add thousands of dollars to the local economy of Garland.  If you consider that it only takes one year to grow four blackberry plants (cost approximately $50.00 to install) to a maturity that will yield approximately 100 pounds of blackberries (average market value between $700 to $800), you will understand what I’m talking about.  And all of this in a total area of 32 square feet.  [How do I know?  I did it myself in my own front yard.]

Once again, the fastest way and cleanest way to lift up a local urban economy is with local urban agriculture.  In addition to encouraging citizens to grow some of their edibles, leaders should also encourage all citizens to participate in growing a few local cash crops (such as blackberries and loofah for Garland) to sell. 

A Blackberry Cooperative could be formed by the Urban Blackberry Growers to serve the Garland Urban Blackberry growers.  Members of the co-op would work to see the farmers got the best prices for their raw materials.  They would also focus on promoting non-food uses for the product as well.  Perhaps as part of their activities they could establish a local company that makes blackberry hand creams.

If we create the raw materials, businesses will rise up and move in to support production of these raw materials into other products.  Ideally, for the benefit of our community, all of these activities related to production will stay in the local economy.  Plant-based economies also offer great opportunities for establishing a few cooperatives as well.  All communities need a mix of business types:  some chain stores, some mom/pop operations, some small businesses (under 100 employees), and a few cooperatives in order to create a stable local economy that grounds the community.  We need to consciously make these efforts to improve our local economy.  We can do it.


 Promoting Urban Agriculture in Garland

I’ve been promoting urban agriculture in Garland Texas since 2010.  (After one of the biggest heists pulled yet by our Congress in the Fall of 2008 when they forked over billions of our taxpayer money to bail out the big banks, it took me two years to realize the only way things are going to improve is if we all work together to make our local economies more secure.  The people who are supposed to represent us in DC and in Austin for the most part are clueless regarding the needs of Main Street.  Furthermore, most of them give no indication of even caring.)

The first step with a local urban agricultural program is to designate a plant that has high market value, many uses, and grows well in the local area. (For the Garland area I’m convinced this is the blackberry.)  The initial plant chosen to begin an urban agricultural program should be one that can be grown to maturity in no more than two years, as most local economies needed help 5 years ago.  Thus you wouldn’t want to begin your local urban agricultural program with a pecan tree, for example since pecan trees can take 10 to 15 years to mature.

However, the urban agricultural program of any local community, should like any financial plan to build a community’s economy, have both short-term and long-term goals regarding the crops chosen to grow to boost the local economy. 

Garland should also take a look at the pecan market.  I know from personal observation of the obvious that 1) pecans have a high market value at $12.00 a pound shelled    2) pecans grow well in Garland as evidenced from those in our local parks and people’s yards and the fact that our local organization, Loving Garland Green, has made close to $1,000 from the sale of pecans over the past two seasons. 

Perhaps part of the long-term plan for Garland’s Urban Agricultural program will include planting pecan trees as many of them in our parks are reaching the end of their long lives.


We Need a Makerspace

Once again, our city needs a Makerspace where citizens can come together to work to promote plans that will grow our city’s local economy and benefit the residents.  Where can we have that space?  Perhaps instead of waiting for it to happen, I'll do what I did with Loving Garland Green and turn my own home into a Makerspace.  I will if I have to, but an official Garland Makerspace located on or near our downtown square would be so much better.

 “. . .  A Makerspace is a community-directed facility where people share knowledge and resources such as tools, to prototype industrial and technological projects. Depending on local interest, makespaces can cross-pollinate between industries or be focused on a specific niche such as metal working or electronics technology. The creation of a makerspace as a strategic incubator space will be designed to facilitate, encourage, and support local creatives/talents. The Makerspace will leverage the enthusiasm of the Garland community to serve as a point of convergence and landmark for the emerging creative district.  . . .“  From “A Better Plan for the Other Side of the Tracks” by Robert Steuteville – Better! Cities and Towns


It’s quite simple. Here are the steps:

  1. Find a plant that grows very well in your community—a plant that can be put into the native soil that only needs slight amendment with expanded shale—a plant that you don’t have to baby; a plant that even folks who claim to have a black thumb can grow.
  2. It’s even better if this plant is one that is pricey in the grocery stores.
  3. It’s even better if this plant freezes well.
  4. It’s even better if this plant is extremely healthy to eat.
  5. Be the example.  Grow this plant in your own yard.  Keep track of its production.  Take photos.  Tell people in your community about it.  Blog about its progress.
  6. Give away cuttings and encourage people to install the plant in their yards or own their patios.  Talk to people and encourage them to talk to you about the plant.
  7. Look for ways you can create more uses and applications for your plant product.
  8. While you start small, always have a larger than life vision for your project lurking in the background—a vision that you don’t want to initially share with too many people because they might call you “crazy.”

NOTE:  After meeting all the requirements for steps 1-4, keep repeating steps 5 and 6.  Before you know it, in two or three years, news will spread and you will be well on your way to creating a market in your community that did not exist prior to your efforts. 

New markets also support existing markets.  For example, increased blackberry production in Garland will mean that local cottage industries such as Fat Lady Foods, a local jam and jelly company owned by Melissa Childs-Wiley here in Garland will have a generous supply of blackberries from which to make her jams.  Because the berries are grown locally, she will be able to obtain them more economically. 

As a community, we will become more connected in mutually beneficial relationship with one another.  The Garland urban farmers who grow these blackberries will be going to our local garden stores and nurseries to purchase garden tools and other garden supplies.  In addition, these nurseries could also become their customers as residents could sell their locally grown cuttings to the nurseries for resale and/or residents could sell the cuttings from their own homes as a cottage industry.


Evolution of Four Blackberry Plants

July 12, 2013 two blackberry bushes each were planted in the two front beds nearest the sidewalk in Garland Texas.

Below June 2014, less than one year later the two blackberry bushes fill each of the two raised beds.


Below, June 2014 blackberries being weighed for market.  ". . . that brings the grand total to date up to nine pounds of black berries from one bush.  At $3.98 for 12 ounces (Walmart prices), the current market value for my Blackberry harvest thus far this year is $47.76. And the good news is:  There are still at least two pounds left on these two bushes AND there are two bushes behind it in another raised bed that are poised to yield at least as many blackberries starting next week. . .


May 25, 2015 -  Even two of the blackberry plants are too large to feature in one photo.  The berries are red but in a few days they will start turned to a dark blue/black color.



 1.    Find a plant that grows well in your community. (Few plants grow better in Garland than blackberries.)

One thing is certain, unless it is Pokeweed in Charlie’s yard, I have yet to find a plant that grows easier and better in Garland Texas than the Blackberry—particularly the thornless variety with the Native American names such as Arapaho, Apache, Kiowa, and Navaho.

Last year (2014) in their second year, four blackberries in my woodland garden produced 62 pounds that I counted.  Most likely these bushes produced even more because every Monday (now the first and third Mondays) I have between 10 and 20 people who come to my home for Loving Garland Green Meetings.  In season, most of these people pick and eat blackberries off the bushes on their way before and after the meetings.)

2.    It’s even better if this plant is pricey in the grocery stores. (Blackberries sell for as high as $4.98 for six ounces in the winter)

3.    It’s even better if this plant freezes well. (Blackberries are easy to freeze and when they thaw they taste just like fresh berries—unlike strawberries, which tend to thaw mushy.)

4.     Even better if this plant is extremely healthy to eat. (Blackberries contain high levels of anthocyanin (83-326 mg/ 100g) which work as antioxidants to help fight free radical damage in the body.)

5.    Be the example.  Grow this plant in your own yard.  Keep track of its production.  Take photos.  Tell people in your community about it.

Blackberry Harvest has Begun – June 1, 2014

More on the Incredible Ever-Producing Blackberry Bush – June 9, 2014

Add another $8 to the Blackberry Bounty – June 10, 2014

Agriculture and Community in the USA are changing. – May 2015 

6. Give away cuttings and encourage people to install the plant in their yards or on their patios.  Encourage people in public places who are not ordinarily associated with urban agriculture to grow the plant.

I have given away numerous cuttings from my blackberry plants and I encourage people to plant them wherever I go.  Loving Garland Green sells blackberry cuttings at our plant sales and at the local Market Place.  In addition, through our work with our local pubic schools, we now have counselors and teachers at one of our schools, Beaver Tech, who are planting blackberry bushes on the school grounds.  Because of its low-maintenance requirements, the blackberry is a great choice. 

Just imagine if we started planting blackberry bushes in our riparian areas that interface with our waterways, in our parks, on vacant lots, etc.  We would still help purify the polluted storm water runoff from the streets before it reaches our waterways, but instead of useless weeds, we could have plants that would benefit residents with their fruit production.  As for “natural” plants in the riparian areas near our water ways, with the exception of the Spring Creek preserve, much of the land that directly interfaces with the creeks in our area is land that was once residential land.  Thus we have an abundance of not only “domesticated” vegetation such a privet hedges and honeysuckle, we also have certain plants such as bamboo and chinaberry trees that are designated as invasive species.

7.    Look for ways that you can create more uses and applications for your plant product by connecting and networking with other people in the community and beyond.

First begin at the local level.  For example, in Garland we have Fat Lady Foods, a local cottage industry that makes jams and jellies.   This is an existing local market that needs blackberries.  Melissa Childs-Wiley, owner of Fat Lady Foods, purchases as much of the raw materials for her jams and jellies as possible from local suppliers.  Other possible purchasers might include local restaurants.

 8.     While you start small, always have a larger than life vision for your project lurking in the background—a vision that you don’t want to initially share with too many people because they might call you “crazy.”  But don’t worry.  Almost everyone who has ever had a large vision has been called “crazy.”

My vision is that we will have so many urban gardens in Garland growing blackberries that our city becomes known as “The #1 Blackberry Capital of Texas.”  We will have a Blackberry Week with blackberry cook-offs held down on the square just as many towns have barbecue cook-offs.  We will conduct studies to prove how much blackberry production has added to the bottom line of our local economy.

If promoted to the fullest, the blackberry could raise our local economy up many notches.

But what if you glut the market?  Yes, its true with some products this is possible, but blackberries (and most plant products) do not face this possibility because with only the slightest effort one can increase and sustain the demand for a plant product by promoting all the different ways that it can be used.

With the blackberry as an example, of course you begin with the initial ripple, which is almost entirely local:  It is a food product that is sold and consumed locally—to citizens who purchase and eat fresh blackberries.  From there, as production of blackberries increases in Garland, the food product is sold as an ingredient in other food products sold locally such as for the jams and jellies sold Fat Lady Foods.  Another possibility is to sell the fresh blackberries to local restaurants such as our own Garland Main Street Café.  For the month of June, they could purchase local blackberries and promote them as fresh berry cobblers from Garland.

Other expansions of the blackberry economy include creating a local company that freezes blackberries and ships them to various markets in the DFW region.

Still other expansions of the Garland blackberry economy include non-food applications of the blackberry.  How about starting the “Garland Blackberry Skincare” product line?  Perhaps we could attract a high-fluting manufacturer such as Yves Rocher to our community.  This company already has a botanical line of skin care products that include blackberry hand cream, blackberry exfoliating shower gel, blackberry silky body lotion, blackberry shower gel, and blackberry soap.  J.R. Watkins sells anti-aging blackberry cream  (cruelty-free and eco-friendly).  Of course some local hard working entrepreneur could start his or her own blackberry skin care product line.


Eventually your promotional efforts will begin to take hold in your community and grow.  The key ingredient to all this is that YOU be the example yourself.  You are the one who makes the difference.  You are the key to your own success in these efforts and ultimately the success of many more people in your community.  Some call this “leadership.”


 Garland needs a Makerspace – a place where citizens can come together and share their ideas to build a stronger, healthier, wealthier community

“. . .  A Makerspace is a community-directed facility where people share knowledge and resources such as tools, to prototype industrial and technological projects. Depending on local interest, makespaces can cross-pollinate between industries or be focused on a specific niche such as metal working or electronics technology. The creation of a makerspace as a strategic incubator space will be designed to facilitate, encourage, and support local creatives/talents. The Makerspace will leverage the enthusiasm of the Garland community to serve as a point of convergence and landmark for the emerging creative district.  . . .“  From “A Better Plan for the Other Side of the Tracks” by Robert Steuteville – Better! Cities and Towns

So what is the next step?  What can you contribute to realizing the dream of a Makerspace here in Garland?  What will be your role?  What are you going to do?



The possibility of creating a secure, healthy plant-based economy here in Garland has proof of concept. To the extent this concept is realized remains to be seen, but as to the possibility, there is no doubt.  Blackberries are but one example.  Currently down at the Garland Community Garden members of Loving Garland Green are experimenting with the following possibilities:

1) Growing hops as a commercial urban crop.

2) Growing Loofahs as a commercial urban crop.

3) Growing sweet potatoes as a commercial urban crop.

Also we are considering the following possibilities:

1) Creating a Hugelkultur bed in June and planting blackberries in it in the fall.  This bed would be set aside as another example to illustrate and promote commercial value of the blackberry plant in Garland as well as to test the claims made by those who promote the Hugelkultur by saying (among other things) that if it is built initially at a height of six feet that no irrigation will be needed.  The blackberries grown in this bed will be sold to local restaurants and also to local entrepreneurs who make food products from blackberries.  [Note:  We have 16 other blackberry plants at the Garland Community Garden, the produce from which is to be shared with food banks.]

2) Building Terra Perta-- Loving Garland Green want to undertake a study to learn more about this soil and methods we might undertake to create it.  We want to explore the possibility of creating this soil and selling commercially.

3) Exploring the feasibility of growing gardens vertically on walls in downtown Garland in 2016.


A Member from the Local Yokel Urban Farmer's Party


and furthermore, TPP may be a good reason to start growing your own food. 

(But this is only an educated guess based on history of how other US trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade agreement have devastated the American job market and ruined small farmers in other countries.  It’s an educated guess because Congress is not allowing the American people to see what’s in this agreement before it is voted on; therefore, I can only guess, as can many of the Senators who likely aren’t even reading the trade agreement.

As I read somewhere recently:  "The real point of these “free trade” agreements is to allow for a free flow of commodities, intellectual property, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and GMOs around the world, not protect the American people.)"


If the American people paid more attention to what their elected officials did in office than to the homage they pay to the party they identify with and to the campaign rhetoric of the candidates from their party of choice, few politicians would ever get re-elected and most of the lives of the people who live on Main Street would improve.  But this is not the case.

Instead, the politicians from both parties rile up and polarize the American public with their campaign rhetoric, which is designed exactly for the purpose of dividing the people into two opposing camps.  To do this, their rhetoric is focused on irrelevant useless topics such as whether or not the candidate wears a flag pin (most of which are made in China anyway).  Real issues such as the need for jobs for Americans and the rising poverty in our nation are not among the topics.


This much we do know about the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP), which the Senate just passed yesterday:  It gives President Obama alone the full authority to negotiate this trade agreement.  We also know that its proponents claim that it aims to counter China’s rising power.  However, this is just a claim made by politicians.  The American people don’t know what is in that bill because they aren’t allowed to see it.  Even the Senators reviewing it had to do so in a closed room and they were not allowed to take notes.  Why the secrecy?

The bill is now headed for the House of Representatives.  If the House passes this bill, President Obama will have the power to negotiate trade pacts with other countries and submit them to Congress without lawmakers being able to introduce amendments to them.


For you Texans, you might remember that both Senator Cornyn and Senator Ted Cruz voted for this bill.  As I’m sure most of you realize, both of these men have done almost nothing but rail against Obama every chance they get because they know that’s the red meat the people who voted for them want to knaw on.  Keep them polarized and riled up against Obama.  [Possible Strategy at work here:  Then they won’t notice how we vote.  All they care about is that we don’t like Obama.]  Unfortunately the majority seem to fall for it because other than my query below to Senators Cornyn and Cruz which holds their feet to the fire, I haven't read of others doing this.

So with all their reservations against President Obama which both men have been so public about, a thinking person would ask:  why on earth would they vote for a bill that turns over the henhouse to a man they have more than once called out as the fox?  You’ll have to think and figure that one out for yourself.


My own theory on this is that there is no daylight between the Democratic and the Republican leadership.  They all are after the same thing, which basically is to increase their own personal wealth while in office.  If you look at the net worth of these people who have been in office for a while, you can see they have been quite successful at doing this.

But I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Therefore, I sent the following message to both US Senators from Texas, Cornyn and Cruz.  I’ll let you know if I get a response.


Dear Senator;

I know from your campaign rhetoric that you do not approve of President Obama's leadership any more than I do.

That being recognized, I have to ask:

Why on earth then would you vote for a bill that will give Obama alone the full authority to negotiate the trade agreement?  WHY?  This implies to me that you trust his judgment.

In fact sir, I would ask that since even Senators and their staffers who read the bill are not allowed to take notes on the trade agreement out of the room:  1) have you in fact even read this bill that you are voting on and 2) why should it be secret?


Elizabeth Berry



It’s time to tear down, that much I’ll concede—but tear down and replace, or simply tear down—that is the question.  And I think this morning as I took this photo:  If I tear down, I may have to fill in this low-lying area on my neighbor’s side. Change is rarely easy for me and often it is preceded by much grousing on my part as to what is the best direction to take.  Not being a church-going person, I turn to poetry for support.

MENDING WALL – Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 
that sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun, 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.  .  . .

He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. 

.  .  . 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 
where there are cows? 
But here there are no cows. 

.  . .  He will not go behind his father's saying, 
and he likes having thought of it so well 
he says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Ironic but Frost’s famous poem, “Mending Wall” is often cited as being a good reason for fences and the line “good fences make good neighbors” is quoted in support of fences.  The truth is that Frost was mocking his neighbor for clinging to a worn-out cliché handed down by his father that had no truth to it. Frost points out in the poem:  “But here there are no cows.”



As I gaze upon my dilapidated fence that seemingly becomes more dilapidated by day if not the hour, I find myself leaning more and more toward the possibility of simply taking it down and not replacing it.  Yet, a part of me clings to the old notion of a fence.  Thus I seek more proof that having no backyard fence is a good idea and I’m finding plenty of evidence to support no backyard fence. 

In his book, Happy: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery, published in November 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the author points out that American cities are experiencing a crisis of social disconnection and urban design is part of the problem. 

I can definitely attest to the truth of this statement.  In June of 2013 I had lived in my home here in Garland for 9 years.  In that time not one person had ever stopped to chat when I was in my front yard(although for 9 years I was in my front yard from time to time to get my mail, pull weeds from the lawn and trim my shrubs). 

Then I decided to dig up my front lawn and begin to build a woodland garden with fruit trees, berry bushes and perennials.  From June 12 to August 16, I estimate that close to 200 people stopped to chat with me—people driving by in their cars literally stopped, parked, and came over to talk with me.  In fact, it was from these casual meetings that a few months later Loving Garland Green was formed.

Our standard urban/suburban design is a well-manicured expanse of lawn in the front yard, a few low shrubs stuck up near the foundation of the house, and a Bradford Pear or some other ornamental tree stuck in the yard half-way between the house and the curb. 

The only time that most are in their front yards is to get the mail, and to mow the lawn.  Those who hire others to mow their lawns spend even less time in their front yards than I do.   Yet it is amazing how invested some are in maintaining the status quo of this type of useless landscaping by insisting their neighbors follow along as well.  I didn’t encounter any resistance in my neighborhood, but I have friends living in other neighborhoods who report difficulties with neighbors when they tried to break out of the prescribed format for front yard landscaping.



Ross Chapin, in his book, Pocket Neighborhoods, points out that streets are more than the routes we take to get somewhere else.  He advocates that we think of streets as rooms whose walls are made of building facades, trees, hedges and fences.  When traffic slows to a walking pace, streets can also become the neighborhood commons where neighbors meet and children play.  I know this sounds fantastically impossible to some, but if we can slow to 20 miles an hour in a school zone, we can also do it elsewhere.

Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer pioneered the Woonerf concept.  “Woonerf” translates from the Dutch to “living street.”   Traffic signs, according to him, are an invitation to stop thinking.  To control traffic, and particularly to slow people down, he advises confusion and ambiguity.  Without clear signals, signs or boundaries, drivers pay attention and slow down. 

I find a great deal of truth in this as more than once in my life, I’ve gotten off a main road and onto a narrow gravel country road with barely enough room for two cars with ditches on either side.  In these situations I am on full alert and indeed I slow down and pay attention.

In the Netherlands, Woonerfs have no lane markings, curbs, sidewalks, signals or crossing signs.  They are surfaced with paving blocks to signal a pedestrian zone.   Unsure of what space belongs to them, drivers become much more alert.  The outcome of Woonerfs has been drastically slower traffic and far fewer accidents.

Read more in this study:   The Woonerf Concept .  (The concept of Woonerf is not new.  It was developed in the late 1960's by the resident of Delft Netherlands who were upset with cut through traffic in their neighborhoods.  Streets are designed for people--not just traffic.)


 Albuquerque High - Albuquerque Daily photo


One of my favorite urban re-use designs is the conversion of the old Albuquerque High into 234 homes in 7 buildings plus the new BelVedere/Urban Courtyard Living block of 13 buildings.  Eight years ago a five-day public charrette at the First Baptist Church gave birth to the Edo Master Plan—unanimously passed by the City Council in March of 2005.


When people get together at a local level, fantastic and wonderful things begin to happen—things that we alone could never have dreamed, much less realized.


“At that moment she was changed into a wonderful little elf.”
from the book  The seven wishes in Julbocken, 1907  by John Bauer illustrated by Swedish artist, Alfred Smedbergs


About fifty fireflies all at once began to twinkle and dazzle the deepening shadows in the woodland garden of my front yard.  Monarch Butterflies and fireflies are featured in two  of my most remarkable experiences/encounters with nonhuman beings thus far in my life. (Who needs creatures from outer space when there are so many worlds and remarkable life forms right here on our planet Earth?  Did you know there are more creatures living in a tablespoonful of garden soil than there are people on the planet?


In 1998 I read a description of a firefly experience in a book (I can’t even remember the book now but the description is still vivid in my mind).  The author described walking along the edges of rice paddies in Bali at night.  The stars above were huge (as they can only be when one is so near to the equator).  The still water in the rice paddies mirrored the stars above.  As he was walking, the fireflies gradually began to appear. He described the feeling as being keenly aware of the heavens above while walking on the stars below, surrounded by the teeming life and vibrancy of the fireflies.  He described it as being aware of all the possible worlds at once and recollected that he had difficulty maintaining equilibrium.

I became obsessed that I must have that experience too.  Usually I take things as they come in a somewhat lackadaisical serendipitous way enjoying what shows up on my road (most of the time.)  But this was different.  This was something I wanted to happen. 

Three years later in 2001 I went to Bali with a dear friend. I had been to Bali before but this time part of my determined purpose was to have the firefly experience.  We were staying a few days in Ubud (a village in Bali) with an artist friend. One night we slipped away for a walk with the stars and the fireflies in the rice paddies. 

It was such an unforgettable and indescribable beautiful experience of completeness. We walked for over two hours.   In less than six months after that lovely experience my friend died in an instant.  I think of him often, but I especially think of him when I see fireflies.  And yes, I still persist in asking that useless question why.  Why couldn’t it have been someone I never met instead of him?  Selfish, yes, but nonetheless true.


There is a Japanese legend that says that fireflies are the souls of the dead.  The Victorians believed that if a firefly got into your home, someone was soon to die.  (Remember these were the same people who cut locks of hair from dearly departed ones and braided it into jewelryThese are the people who raised mourning to a permanent lifestyle.  I have little faith in their judgment.)  When/if a firefly gets into my home, I will greet it as the soul of a departed beloved and consider it as a brief comfort. 


Native Americans also had their firefly traditions.  In an Apache legend a trickster fox steals the fire from the firefly village. He doesn't get it all but he does escape the firefly village with a piece of burning bark that he gives to a hawk.  The hawk flies off with the burning bark in its mouth.  Embers from the bark fall as the bird flies and that is how the Apache people got fire.



Their flashing light show is how they communicate with each other—especially for courtship rituals.  Males flash to let the ladies know they are looking for love, and the females respond with flashes to show their interest. 

When you see fireflies, or “lightening bugs”, flashing their lights, you can rest assured that love is in the air and all is well in the garden and the woods.  


Fireflies and fairies will be featured at our Midsummer Eve celebration down at the Garland Community Garden, Sunday June 21 which also happens to be the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year.  In Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia, Midsummer's Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only Walpurgis Night (to welcome spring usually May 1), Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.  




Chris Savage, Vice President Loving Garland Green

Notes and More on Soil Improvement with Charcoal

Last night, Chris Savage, Vice President of Loving Garland Green, made an interesting presentation at our weekly meeting on the topic of Terra Preta (“Black Earth” in Portuguese).  Chris has been experimenting in his own garden for the past few years with the development of Terra Preta.

Terra Preta is a type of dark soil that is found in several countries in South America (particularly in the Amazon) and beyond.  It consists of up to 9% charcoal, pottery shards, animal manure, fish and animal bones, plant compost.  The ingredient not often found in various soil mixes is charcoal.  Yet charcoal, according to research from Cornell University, is the magic ingredient that makes the difference. Bio-char, it turns out, is very stable in the soil and it is believed to provide and retain nutrients for millennia.

Because of the high fertility of Terra Preta, continuous cropping for longer periods of time appears to be possible from a soil fertility point of view. How long a field can be continuously cropped and what can be done to prolong this period is not yet clear. Petersen et al. (2001) reported that Terra Preta soils in Açutuba were under continuous cultivation without fertilization for over 40 years. [Source: accessed May 19, 2015]

Arbuscular Mycorrhiza, an important soil microbial fungus that attaches to the roots of plants, performs a function similar to saliva in the human mouth:  it begins the breakdown of the nutrients in soil so that plants with vascular systems can better absorb these nutrients.  Apparently this fungus particularly likes charcoal as it is found in abundance in Terra Preta.

Other sources for information in this article:  Science Brief from Cornell University. - accessed May 19, 2015]



After creating/purchasing your fresh carbon, it must be charged by soaking it in a nutrient tea (such as compost or worm tea) prior to use.

1. Make your Bio Char the Hard Way

Here one way to make your own bio char, but check with local burning permits and your fire department prior to attempting to do this.   Frankly, this looks like too much work for me.   Make Your Own Bio Char and Terra Preta: 
[ - Accessed May 19, 2015]

2. My Potential EZ Way

I may experiment with this method.  This way I don’t have to worry about breaking any burning laws:  Partially burn a log in one’s fireplace and then pour water on it when it is about half-way burned.  Chop that up and then add at the rate of 9% to your existing garden and see what happens.  [Note:  Key word is “potential”.  This method is untried by this author.  As of now the “potential” exists only in my mind.]

3. A Really EZ Way
One of Loving Garland Green’s members, Cheryl Andres, suggested using the small chips of activated charcoal that can be purchased at an aquarium store.  [Be advised that 22 ounces of this stuff costs about $12 at most stores.]  You would need about 40 pounds of it for a 4’ x 8’ bed and this would cost you about $480 just for the charcoal.


Other Ways to Create and Not Create Bio Char

Chris advised us that it’s a tough job to make your own bio char by smashing briquettes.  According to Chris, it’s extremely messy and produces fine particulate dust that can harm your lungs.  He recommends soaking the briquettes in the compost tea, working them into the soil with a shovel, and then whacking them with the shovel.  Another member suggested using a rotor-tiller.

BE ADVISED:  Do not use “Quick Light” or “Easy Light” charcoal or the purpose of creating Terra Preta as it contains unwanted petroleum compounds.



Membership is free and we are open to the public.

We now meet the first and third Monday of each month at 216 East Kingsbridge Drive Garland Texas 75040.  Of course, be sure to stop and visit anytime you see us working in the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road.  We always have time to talk garden.


Carol Garrison and Daniel Bell’s front yard urban garden here in Garland on April 27, 2014.  Today it is even more lush and beautiful.  Read more about them, their urban garden and their chickens at Hipster Farmers.

Even the very definition of home is changing.

Part of this change includes a return to lifestyles that were more familiar to the 1940’s—a time when every family had their vegetable garden. As I drive around my hometown of Garland I see more and more gardens—in people’s backyards and also in their front yards.  It would be interesting to take a census to learn how many urban gardens we have where edibles are growing and how long they have been in existence.

And speaking of definitions:  All this attention to urban agriculture has resulted in the addition of many new words to our vocabulary.  Now we have words such as “Agriburbia, agritopias, agritopian future, urban farmers, farmtopia,” and no doubt more to come.


Building New Mini-Communities

Recently I wrote an article titled Creating Thriving Urban Neighborhoods in which I discussed the concept of Pocket Neighborhoods-- small clusters of 8 to 10 houses, gathered around a shared area, that foster community and yet preserve some privacy. One of the features of these pocket neighborhoods is that these cottages (average 1000 square feet) are arranged around a beautifully landscaped commons that often also includes a community garden.  The landscaping is layered so as to preserve a sense of depth and privacy to the front porches of the homes.  Homes are very carefully designed with features such as skylights in the bedrooms to preserve privacy.  All the homes have porches that face the commons area.  The residents share in maintaining the beautiful grounds and gardens.  These small clusters of homes are designed to provide privacy when one wants it and to also offer opportunities for interacting with one’s neighbors at times when one desires that.  All the front porches face the commons area.


Transforming Existing Suburbs Into Community Friendly Environments

Equally interesting are actions that people are taking to develop their own existing neighborhoods into real communities where people know and talk to one another.  Anonymity is losing the high value it once had on the American psyche.   As mentioned previously, some of these steps include moving a picnic table to the front lawn and building a Little Free Library for their front yard, and not replacing a backyard fence (a good way to save several thousand dollars).  Other steps residents have taken include blocking their alleys to through traffic.  Only city workers and residents have access to these alleys.  Studies are showing that such a move reduces crime in the neighborhood.

In the 1990’s Ecke Ranch, once the nation’s largest producer of poinsettias in Encinitas CA (coastal beach city in San Diego County) sold 850 acres of land to developers to create tract homes.  Last year the Leichtag Foundation, a Jewish nonprofit organization put Daron Joffe, a 38-year-old agricultural consultant, in charge of the remaining 68 acres they purchased from the Ecke Ranch.  These 68 acres are in the middle of all the tract homes.  Joffe’s plan is to introduce a farm into the existing suburb.

Last fall Joffe and his team began work on a five-acre food forest that will be layered with plants like plum, date and pistachio trees and will link up to a public trail.  Food not donated to charity will be free for taking.

Note:  If you want to read more about a food forest, or woodland garden as they are sometimes called, I recommend WOODLAND GARDENING – a book on woodland garden design published by Plants for a Future (An English charity)  ISBN 9781484069165

Agriburbia, a Colorado land-planning company, hope to transform the nation’s burbs by converting 31 million acres of idle lawn to food production.  Among the visions of this group include transforming the roughs of fairways into kale and corn gardens.  They have developed a three-quarter acre model outside Denver.


Garland Texas Is Exploring the Possibility of Agri-Urban Designs for Our Community

Doug Athas, Garland’s forward-thinking mayor, is leading efforts in our community to rethink the design of our neighborhoods to make them more neighborhood community friendly.  Among other things, Mayor Athas has been a driving force behind transforming the harsh brick-scape in the center of our square into a softer more people and agri-friendly environment that is designed to serve people better.  In addition to this project, the mayor is supportive of many other efforts to rethink and transform our urban and suburban areas into more community-centric spaces.  Read more about these efforts in “A better plan for the other side of the tracks.

And speaking of the development of food forests, our Parks and Recreation Department here in Garland also seem to be a little bit ahead of the curve.  Most of our parks feature mature pecan tress that are over twenty years old.  Residents come and harvest pecans from these trees for free every fall. 

And as far as turning our community-owned land into urban gardens, our public schools here in the Garland ISD are also getting into the act.  In February of this year Beaver Technology Center, a magnet school here in Garland, offered an elective, URBAN GARDENS FOR KIDS (a course developed by members of Loving Garland Green and some teachers from Beaver Tech).  The eight-week course was so well-received that it was offered again for the last eight-week term of the school year. 

Then, just this week, I received an email from Marcie Romero, a counselor at Beaver Tech, who told me that they are installing some blackberry bushes at Beaver.  In the fall, members of Loving Garland Green hope to assist the Beaver Tech students in planting and seeding a butterfly garden.  This garden in the spring can be used as an outdoor botany/biology lab for studying plants, butterflies as well as beneficial and non-beneficial insects.

In addition to the efforts mentioned above, Garland has not one but two demonstration gardens in the making:  the Garland Community Garden located at 4022 Naaman School Road and a Texas AgriLife Demonstration Garden located on Rowlett Road in South Garland.  Both gardens are new as the life span of gardens go. The Garland Community Garden was begun last year on April 12, 2014 and the Texas AgriLife Demonstration Garden was begun just a few months ago. Both are dependent upon volunteer support and donations from the public.


NOTE ON BLACKBERRIES - When it comes to Blackberry bushes in Garland, you can call me “the Johnny Blackberry Seed.”  There are just not enough good things that I have to say for this edible. It is rich in antioxidants.  If you want to preserve some for future use, all you need to do is rinse them, pat them dry, and store them in freezer bags.  They freeze very well and they taste like fresh berries when thawed. 

As for growing them, nothing could be simpler:  Find a place in your yard with enough space to allow for the bush to grow to 7 or 8 feet tall and up to six feet in diameter.  I suggest you purchase a potted thornless blackberry bush with a Native American name such as Apache or Arapaho.   Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball.  Mix the native soil with some expanded shale and plant.  Blackberry bushes are drought tolerant and like Okra, appear to thrive on neglect.  They would be a perfect edible to plant on our school grounds here in Garland. 

Also consider that by the end of June Blackberry prices will be at about $5 for six ounces.  I’ve had my four bushes for three seasons now 2013, 2014 and 2015.  Last year these bushes yielded 61 pounds.  If you calculate the value at peak prices, that’s over $600 worth of food.  And beyond occasional watering, they require no care.  They also appear to be pest and disease resistant, as I’ve never had any problem with them. [Bush Blackberries are not nearly as invasive as the vine variety, but you do need to keep the longer branches from draping on the ground or they will take root.  Another solution to that “problem” is to allow the branches to root, dig them up, and sell the transplants.]  


No, we can never be 100% safe, but there are steps that communities can take to offer protections against terrorist attacks. 

While flag-waving has value as an expression of patriotism and loyalty to one’s government, it does little in terms of providing actual solutions to serious problems.

Terrorism is not new to the USA.  We’ve always had terrorists among us and as I mentioned earlier with the example of Kehoe who in 1927 blew up a public school killing 38 children and injuring 58 others. [Had he been able to fully realize his plans, Kehoe would have killed hundreds of people but something went wrong with his detonator.]  We are likely to have people like this among us always – here in the USA and all over the world. 

However, particularly in addressing the issues of the current wave of terrorists who claim to be Islamic, there are several things that Americans can do to improve this situation.

1) Figure out ways to identify and reach out to individuals in our community (and in fact the world if we have those means) who are in a downward spiral away from identification with their community and do something to pull them back in so they reestablish their identity and connection to the community.  We know the profile of the young men who are attracted to terrorist cells.  They are between the ages of 20 and 30 and often they are members of a minority group who feel disenfranchised from the larger community and are looking for a place to belong and feel important.  With this much knowledge, we should be able to do something in the way of intervention/prevention.

2) Teach our children how to think and reason--not merely regurgitate “facts” they are told by adults.  I've just this past week suggested to some of my teacher friends that perhaps we should offer an elective that teaches kids how to be more aware of how advertisers try to manipulate them.  The same kinds of tricks that advertisers use, cult leaders and leaders of terrorist cells use to recruit their young impressionable victims.  There is a lot of value for our kiddos in learning [how] advertisers manipulate them.  PBS has a fabulous course for kids on advertising tricks of the trade.  It is absolutely fabulous.  I would love to see every single one of our kiddos exposed to this information.  


 3) Educate people regarding all the many faces of Islam.  Just a one-page fact sheet might open the eyes of some people--especially when parallels are drawn between Muslims and Christians. Although I’m sure there are those who would take exception, I find it quite amazing how similar their organizations are.  For example, both religions are broadly divided into two factions.  For the Muslims, it’s the Shia and the Sunni.  For the Christians, it's the Catholics and the Protestants.   

Both religions are fractured into many sects.  Islam is divided into at least 50 different sects or schools of thought and many of these sects are as different from each other as the Westboro Baptist Church is from the larger body of the Baptists.  

To view adherents of Islam as one giant united sweeping body of locusts bent on world domination, as some do, would be laughable if this mistaken viewpoint did not come with awful consequences for innocents.

When people tell me that "a Muslim is a Muslim, they are all the same", they reveal a certain lack of knowledge regarding the Muslims and their complex religion.  For one specific example, they show they do not know that ISIS, a fundamentalist sect of Islam, has vowed to kill all four million Shia Muslims in the world because according to ISIS, the Shia don't follow the law of the Koran.  One could hardly say then that the Shia are united with ISIS.  Also such a declaration indicates an unawareness of the Muslim persecutions of the Sufi, another Islamic sect (that also has 14 different variations within its own sect). In light of this, think of all the different kinds of Baptist churches. 

Muslims are no more united than are the Christians, even within their own narrow sects or schools of thought.  There are not just Sufis; there are at least 14 different sects of them and they don’t agree among themselves. 

There are not just Sunnis, there are many different sects of them and some of them like ISIS are extreme fundamentalists who interpret their ancient religious text literally while others do not. 

Using the Christian religion as a comparison, there are not just Baptists.  There are so many Baptist denominations I can’t count them all.  Go take a look for yourself.


Religions Evolve

Also, it’s important to remember the face of Islam is changing and evolving.  Among their sects they now have a "non-denominational Muslim" group and just last night on KERA news I saw a story about a group of Muslims in Africa who have begun a sect called "Open-Muslim".  Sixty-year-old Taj Hargey, an Oxford University graduate, is the man behind this new mosque– a mosque he sees worthy of being replicated in other parts of the world.

In this Mosque the women can speak and they worship in the main area along with the men.  They are also open to the gay community.  Several of these "Open-Muslim" mosques have opened up all over the world.  A few are in the USA. 

Of course there is uproar among many of the other Muslim groups about this, just as there is uproar among many Christian communities regarding acceptance of Gays and welcoming them into their houses of worship.  There are Christian Churches in the world where gays are not welcome just as there are Mosques where they are not welcome.  No particular religion it would seem has a corner on exclusivity. Among the Christians, for example, many churches have communion that is closed to non-members of that particular Christian branch even though communion is a ritual that is practiced in many, if not most all Christian Churches.

Below are links to that Open Mosque in Cape Town South Africa.  Imagine that!  A country that was home to the repressive regime of the Apartheid from 1948 to 1994 is today home to this expression of religious freedom in the Islamic faith.  Perhaps anything is possible.