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In keeping with National Pollinator Week (June 19-25) I thought this rainy morning that I would write about two related developments:  The creation of a Bee App by the Center for Food Safety that is due for release in September/October but which you can contribute to now; and an all-day webinar sponsored by

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Wild Bee ID App from the Center for Food Safety Is Coming!

Please chip in today to help us build this innovative mobile app >>

 
Sample screens from the proposed Bee App being developed by the Center for Food Safety.

Ever been in your garden and wondered what species a beautiful bee is—or indeed if it is even a bee? Wild Bee ID is a mobile app for iOS and Android being built as go-to guide for identifying bees and bee-friendly plants, creating pollinator gardens, and learning how to get involved in the fight to protect these critical species. 

Most folks don’t realize that we have over 4,000 species of native bees here in the USA.  These bees come in all shapes and sizes and are often mistaken for flies and other insects.  As pollinators, native bees are much more efficient than their cousin, the European honeybee.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is a national nonprofit environmental advocacy group that empowers people, supports farmers, and protects the earth from harmful food production technologies. They work to advance organic and other sustainable forms of agriculture.

One of their longstanding programs has been to protect pollinators from toxic pesticides used in our agriculture practices.  As an established leader in the food movement at the forefront of the fight to protect pollinators, CFS is well equipped to spearhead native bee educational opportunities through both the Wild Bee ID app and their existing pollinator education program.  

I look forward to downloading the bee app in early October. The timeline for the development of this BEE Application is as follows:

June – Fundraising

July/August – App Development and Internal Testing

September/October – Public release

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Mark your Calendar for June 28 Pollinator Webinar!

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Pollinator Health Working Group, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will host a Listening Session to discuss a strategy to monitor native bees in the United States.

June 28 Webinar: 

To connect to the webinar please follow the instructions below:

The conference begins at 8:00 AM Eastern Time on June 28, 2017; you may join 10 minutes prior.
Step 1: http://ems7.intellor.com/login/712919(link is external)
Step 2: Instructions for connecting to conference audio will then be presented on your computer. You will be connected to the conference with the AT&T Connect Web Participant Application - there is no software download or installation required. If you are unable to connect to the conference by computer, you may listen by telephone only at 1-877-369-5243 or 1-617-668-3633 using 0866106# or Find an Alternate Number (link is external). If you need technical assistance, call the AT&T Help Desk at 1-888-796-6118 or 1-847-562-7015. 

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2017 POLLINATOR WEEK POSTER

The 2017 poster, The Monarch Highway, demonstrates the landscape that parallels roadways, like the I-35 corridor, can provide natural habitat to support the annual migration of the monarch butterfly.

Purchase the poster here. http://www.pollinator.org/posters.htm

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Five Things Kids Can Do to Help Pollinators

http://www.pollinator.org/PDFs/NPW/2017/5-Things-Kids-Can-Do.pdf


Build a Bee Condo
http://www.pollinator.org/PDFs/NPW/2017/Build-Bee-Condo.pdf

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Don Featherstone and wife – Photo courtesy Plastics News

Pink Flamingo Day was declared in 2007 by Dean Mazzaralla, the mayor of Leominster, MA to honor the work of Don Featherstone, creator of the plastic lawn flamingo.

While working for plastic company Union Products, Featherstone — a trained sculptor– fashioned the pink bird in 1957 after spotting its real-life model in a National Geographic magazine. During the post-World War II era, the birds could be found in suburban yards across the country. In the 1960’s they were considered tasteless.  In 1972 they made a comeback following the debut of John Waters’, “Pink Flamingos” — a film that has little to do with pink flamingos.

 

YOUR INVITATION TO FLAMINGLE IN GARLAND ON PINK FLAMINGO DAY!

Hosted by Garland Flamingo Neighbors

Garland Flamingo Neighbors are one of many of the growing neighborhood groups in Garland Texas who want to get to know their neighbors better and be more active on the local scene of our community.  Garland Flamingo Neighbors worked with our Garland Neighborhood Vitality Office to see that a Little Free Library was installed in the Garland Community Garden.  Flamingo Neighbors are the official stewards of the library.  We hope you’ll stop by the garden sometime this summer and check out a book! 

You are INVITED

Date & Time:  June 23, 2017 

Call Ana Maria at 214-962-9674 for the time or arrive at 10AM and meet Robert!

Location:      2601 Kimberly Drive Garland TX

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After flamingling at Ana Maria's we hope you'll stop by and see the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road too.  The garden has two or three plastic flamingos as well as several metal ones.

Let's FLAMINGLE on Pink Flamingo Day!!   

Decorate your front yard on June 23 with pink plastic flamingos in celebration. Or any other flamingo decor you have at hand.  I have flamingo ornaments on sale for $6.00.

Let's Celebrate PINK FLAMINGO DAY!!  Flamingos will be out with coffee, tea and cupcakes.

Our new City Council Robert Smith will be stopping by at 10am if you want to come meet him, stop by then.

Also, there will be several items for sale (t-shirts $20, jewelry and other small items by Sarah). 

 

JOIN THE FUN!

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District 8 in Garland Texas is a Happening Place with Involved Citizens!

Not only is it the location of the Garland Community Garden, Loving Garland Green, and the Flamingo Neighbors:  We have Robert Smith representing us on the City Council.  Come meet him tomorrow at 10AM.  You’ll see what I mean.  

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An "Authentic" Pink Flamingo Shares Space in the Children's area with the Demented Bunny.

The pair keep watch over a small patch of corn yet undiscovered by the corn-demolishing beast that is devastating our larger corn patch on its nocturnal visits.  I keep hoping it will get full and stop.  Charlie thinks it's a family of either raccoons or opossums.

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Ten years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

The Pollinator Partnership is proud to announce that June 19-25, 2017 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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Celebrate pollinators by joining a Webinar Listening session on June 28

This session is hosted by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to discuss a strategy to monitor native bees in the USA.  Details here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/06/05/2017-11554/national-monitoring-plan-for-native-bees-stakeholder-and-public-listening-session 

Dave Hunter from Crown Bees will be at this meeting and has been allotted five minutes to answer three questions:

1.  Why is a national monitoring plan for native bees important?

2.  What kind of information/data is needed?

3.  How would the information be used? 

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 Domestic (European Honeybees), Feral (Migratory bees), and Native Bees

In my opinion, we can say the European honeybee is inefficient, carries diseases and doesn’t play nice with other pollinators.  If that’s not enough, the European honeybees are also not as efficient as other bees at pollinating crops.

Recent research has shown that there’s even a difference in the way domestic and feral honeybees pollinate flowers. A study of apple orchards found that yield increased only when native and feral bees were the ones doing the pollinating, mostly because of their foraging practices. While domestic bees traveled through trees and gravitated toward the areas with the largest flower clusters, wild bees foraged and pollinated equally across the board. This produced a higher yield and a better quality of fruit. [Source: 

http://knowledgenuts.com/2015/08/24/the-important-difference-between-feral-and-domestic-honeybees accessed 06/21/2017]

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Nomenclature for Bees

We have such a mishmash of nomenclature for bees and it varies from article to article.  Here is my own clarification for my readers:

  1. Domesticated European Honeybee—These are the bees that beekeepers manage in hives.  They produce honey that is sold commercially.  They were brought to the USA from Europe several hundred years ago.

  2. Wild bees—This term is particularly confusing as it can refer to native bees, none of which make honey beyond the tiny bit they need for their eggs, and it can be interchangeably used to mean feral honeybees who do make lots of honey. 

  3. Feral Honeybees - These are European honeybees that have escaped the hive and have been living on their own for years in the wild in riparian areas and also in places like the walls of homes.  Unlike the native bees, these bees produce honey.  
     
  4. Feral bees are also called native bees.

  5. Native bees – Native bees are bees that are native to North America.  According to the Xerces Society, we have over 4,000 species of these bees.  With the one exception of the bumblebee, our native bees are solitary creatures that are typically ground nesters.  You won’t be getting any honey from these busy workers but they are incredibly efficient and important when it comes to pollinating our gardens and crops.

  6. Migratory bees – In recent years, to add to the confusion, this term has appeared in the literature.  Migratory bees are European honeybees that are commercially managed to pollinate crops.  Their hives are moved/rented out to farmers who need a crop pollinated.  A farmer in California may need an almond crop pollinated.  Then that hive might be moved to Florida to pollinate an orange crop. 

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BEES AND HONEY ON THE LOCAL SCENE IN GARLAND TEXAS

Here in Garland, Texas we have a whole lot of interaction with these creatures.  To name three:  Queens Winery; thousands of native and European honeybees at the Garland Community Garden; and Cheryl's wall (Story of the recent removal of 10,000 feral honeybees from a Loving Garland Green member’s home). 

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Award-winning Garland wine—made from honey

Queens Winery – Garland, Texas

3433 W Kingsley #6 Garland TX 75041

http://queenswinery.com

Kosher wine made from honey.  Here is one of their descriptions of their special wine:

“It starts with a big rich honey flavor, then transforms from the sensation of tasting honey to drinking chocolate and finishes with just a whisper of spiciness.  Then your toes curl, and your eyes roll into the back of your head and you look for something stable to grab onto.”

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Bumblebee buzz pollinating corn at the Garland Community Garden

Garland Community Garden

Down at the garden we support both native bees and European domestic honeybees.  We have a hive for the European honeybees that is maintained by a group of professional beekeepers and we have little native beehives scattered through out the garden.  We also hold classes once a year on the topic of native bees.

Throughout the spring we have observed the presence of a lot of native bees (mainly bumblebees, sweat bees and mason bees).  It would appear that our European domestic honeybees are playing nicely with their American cousins.

However, I am watching closely the population of native bees closely.  So far, over the three years we’ve been down there I’ve seen their population increase each year. At one point this late spring I counted 22 bumblebees in our corn patch.

A recent Swedish study concluded that European honeybees had reduced the bumblebee population in that area by 81%.  However, landscape heterogeneity drastically modified this effect.  In simplified homogenous landscapes where flower-rich habitats have been lost, fewer bumblebees were found.  No effect was found in heterogeneous landscaped areas.  Once again:  diversity of plant and human life is key to survival of us all.

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CAN BEES READ?  Sign at the home of Loving Garland Green member, Cheryl Andres hung long before she realized they had taken up residence in an outside wall in her home.

Feral Honeybees Removed from Loving Garland Green Member’s Home

Cheryl Andres recently had issues with feral honeybees who took up residence in the wall of her home.  Following are photos and Cheryl’s report of this incident.

Took 6 hours of vacuuming and scooping them into buckets but the "grand extrication" got an estimated 10,000 bees out of my garage wall! 

Honey was delicious but since it was a new hive most of the combs went with the beekeeper so the bees would have something to sustain themselves through the winter, after which they can usually start harvesting it for human consumption.

So my bees have a purpose now - their genes will help in this young man's quest to restore bee bloodlines to a classic, feral (presumably more healthy) state.  Even his helper remarked how very calm and well adjusted they were - which thankfully translated to a lower cost to remove them.

This is what I get for hanging this cute garden flag found on sale - who knew the bees would take it as a "Bees Welcome" sign?

 

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Organic Carrots (8 pounds 14 ounces $12.78) from my garden and Organic Cherry Tomatoes from Charlie’s garden (1 pound $4.05) and five sprigs of fresh organic rosemary from my garden (not shown) $3.00 Total estimated dollar value $29.06 [Infused water made with various organic fruit for the staff at Good Sam’s]

Today Jane Stroud (President Loving Garland Green) and I delivered fresh produce to the Garland Good Samaritans from the NGHS Environmental Club’s citizen scientist garden plot at the Garland Community Garden (squash, green beans, okra, cucumbers, onions, and eggplant). To date that plot has yielded over 48 pounds total (over $108 in dollar value).  Twenty-six pounds of this has been donated to the Garland Good Samaritans.

 

 Organic grapes 3 pounds 14 ounces - Dollar Value 1.49 cents pound  $9.23—delivered from my front yard to the Good Samaritans June 20, 2017—grown in the space that once supported a front lawn. 

Today we also included vegetables and fruit from my garden and from Charlie’s garden as shown in the photo above.  Margie Rodgers, one of the founding members of Loving Garland Green also stopped in at Good Sam’s today to deliver from her garden.

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Spreading Urban Gardens by Living Examples

 

Four of the eight 27-gallon pots that Loving Garland Green installed at the Garland Good Samaritans in April of 2017.  All eight pots are thriving and producing beans like crazy.  We also planted calendulas, an edible flower for color.  In one of the pots, Pam Swendig, the director of the Garland Good Sam’s also planted corn, which is thriving with the beans.  That’s the thing about dreams. We have to let other folks in on the creativity and add to the community stone soup.  No one person has the corner on ideas. (Not even you or me.)  We are all in this community together.  The more we contribute our ideas and experience, the better our community becomes. The corn Pam planted in the pot with the beans will no doubt produce some corn.

Bringing the Garden to the People

Imagine our city with pockets of not only organic gardens grown by ordinary citizens like me and you, but also of small organic truck farms operating on land in neighborhoods throughout Garland.  Some of these truck farms would even have a few chicken coops and perhaps a tiny home where the chief steward for that operation lives. 

Imagine walking to your neighborhood truck farm with your family to buy some produce once or twice a week.  That’s my dream for my community and as one of the founding members of Loving Garland Green,

I am working to bring that dream into reality.  Three of the most tangible results include my front yard in which most of the lawn has been replaced by fruit trees, grape vines, blackberry bushes and a few veggie plots; the Garland Community Garden which has expanded from one 32 square foot plot in 2014 to a planted space of over 3,000 square feet today; and eight 27 gallon containers installed at the Garland Good Samaritans in April of 2017.

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The Garland Community Garden, also a Certified Wildlife Habitat, Shares It Bounty with Critters

 

Here is one of 12 ears of our Aztec Black corn that was half eaten on the night of June 19th, 2017.  It was a raccoon, an opossum or perhaps even a squirrel.

We share the Garland Community Garden with an adjoining riparian area that is filled with wildlife ranging from field mice to several owls.  No doubt there are probably raccoons and opossums as well and who knows what else?  I certainly don’t venture into that wooded thicket that separates us from the creek and ultimately the Tollway.

In fact, the Garland Community Garden is one of few community gardens in the USA to be certified as a USA wildlife habitat—due in great part to our adjoining riparian area that provides habitat for all kinds of creatures.  I’ve even seen a roadrunner (chaparral) dashing out into the garden for a juicy insect perhaps.

I wasn’t all that surprised when I surveyed the damage to three rows of Aztec Black corn this afternoon.  But I would be a liar if I didn’t say I was disappointed.  We are planning to use this corn as part of our Fall Harvest celebration the first Saturday in November when we harvest sweet potatoes.  At this point there is still enough left to carry on with our plans to grind it into corn meal and make taco chips for the guests to sample.

For some reason the critter(s) didn’t touch the Oaxacan Green Corn or the Bantam.  But they went after the Aztec Black with the dedication of Carry Nation with an axe.  It took a toll of 12 ears of corn—each one about half-eaten.

Taking Action the Organic Way

 

An owl, donated to Loving Garland Green by Kevin Keeling, and a garden flower propeller were installed this afternoon in the Garland Community Corn Patch (June 20, 2017) to frighten critters.  Being an organic garden as well as a wildlife habitat, we don’t use chemicals and we don’t kill or even trap animals.  

 

Update June 21, 2017 First Day of summer

 Garland Community Garden Bantam Sweet Corn Patch 7 AM - 6/21/2017 
(Notice the opportunist corn moth already laying eggs on the cob.  Nature, ever the scavenger, moves quickly.)

Well the score is not good for the human team but it's great for the opossum, squirrel or raccoon team. The critters took out additional corn.  This time none from the Aztec Black. Instead this time it ate from the Oaxacan Green and our Bantam Sweet Corn.  All total at least 17 ears of corn--not quite half of the total yield from this patch.

Lessons Learned so far:

1. The Aztec Black, Oxacan Green, and Burpee's Bantam corn grow very well in our area.  They can be grown closely together and they produce two ears per stalk which is great.  All are from open pollinated, heirloom seed.

2. The corn will be fenced in next year with some kind of fencing designed to keep four legged pests out.  We would do it today but next year due to crop rotation the beans will be planted in the corn patch and the corn in the bean patch.

For our celebration in November I will try to find some Oaxacan Green and Aztec Black kernels to make into corn meal for taco chips.

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Cucumbers, peppers. squash, mint, kale, blackberries, parsley, beans and eggplant from the Garland Community Garden delivered to the Garland Good Samaritans June 14, 2017. Photo Pam Swendig, Director Garland Good Samaritans.

Sometimes it takes a second look to understand we are realizing our dreams

We may sometimes think we've failed when in fact, we have succeeded--just not in the way we envisioned. My dreams and visions often get re-packaged and I don’t always recognize them when they are right in front of me.  After some retrospect I see that I am fulfilling a dream I had back a few years ago.  It just occurred to me as I was looking at the photo above that Jane sent me this morning.  The remembrance of this dream was stirred yesterday as Jane and I harvested food from the Garland Community Garden for the Good Samaritans.  We were talking about the awful shooting that happened in Washington yesterday—the 70-something man from Illinois who opened fire on some government folks in Washington. 

I mentioned to Jane as we worked in the garden that I once tried to get on the ballot to run as an Independent for US Congress.  Actually I tried twice.  In order to get on the ballot one needs signatures of 500 registered voters from the district in which the candidate is hoping to represent.  The first time around in 2010 I only collected 600 signatures and only 482 ended up being qualified voters.  Steeled with that experience, the next time in 2012 I collected 2,000 signatures.  I collected every one by knocking on doors and talking with people. 

The instructions from the Texas Secretary of State’s office regarding notarizing the signature pages were not clear to me. I couldn’t tell if only the top page needed the stamp or if every single sheet needed the stamp.  I called and no one I talked with could answer my question.  The last person I talked to suggested I drive to Austin and someone from the legal department from the Secretary of State’s office would do it.

I drove to Austin and a representative from the Texas Secretary of State’s office notarized my signature pages.  Ten days later I got a letter from Greg Abbott’s office telling me that my documents were rejected because they were not properly notarized.

Of course I protested.  I even called an ethics committee that is available in DC for candidates running for national office.  I was told my case ‘was not in their jurisdiction.’  They suggested I consult with the Attorney General of Texas.  The Catch-22 situation was a bit like seeking justice from the perpetrator.

I gave up after a month of trying, but I never forgot many of the very desperate people that I talked with—at least 50 of whom I sat at their kitchen table to hear their stories.  Many of these people, like the man from Illinois, were over 70 years of age living on limited resources that didn’t quite stretch over the entire month.

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Two Stories of Quiet Desperation  

The first story was of a man who was in his mid thirties but was horribly wasted with cancer. He had been home just a few weeks from the hospital. Home care visited him twice a week and that was it for human contact.  His “friends” at work didn’t visit.  He was literally a shut-in.  I told him I would stop when when I was in the neighborhood.   I continued to visit him about twice a week from March until November.  Then one day in November there was a “for rent” sign in the yard and he was gone.  The last month we hardly spoke.  I would just hold his hand.  It was a simple, yet important exchange between two human beings.  He taught me all kinds of lessons--not the least of which was the importance of friends and relationships--real friends who stand by you-- not just acquaintances.  

The second story was of an 80-something man.  He told me that he got by “pretty good” until the last week of the month.  For the last week of the month he ate only peanut butter and crackers and water from the faucet.  That’s living in the USA?  We all might seriously consider the world of people with nothing left to lose that is being created right in our own community—not to mention the entire USA and then take action to make things better.  It behooves us, if for no other reason than self-preservation to reach out to those in need that we call “stranger.”

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Local Is Our Natural Habitat

 These experiences convinced me that the only change or influence I have is at the local level where I can meet people and government officials face-to-face and have real conversations with them.  That’s exactly where I’ve been for the past five years L-O-C-A-L Garland.

I’m convinced that gardens like The Garland Community Garden bring people together and help educate and protect the community.  I thought about that this morning when I looked at the produce we delivered to Good Sam’s yesterday.

I am helping people like the elderly man who subsists on peanut butter and crackers each month—but only if he knows about places like the Good Samaritans--And then perhaps only if he has transportation to get to Garland Good Sam’s.   Sometimes we hold back our gifts because we mistakenly believe them to not be enough, or good enough. In the larger scheme of things, a few pounds of fresh produce from your garden delivered to a local food distribution organization might not seem like much.  However to the individual who gets those 8 ounces of blackberries or that delicious tomato from the garden, your donation is a significant treasure in their diet for the week.  All good deeds add up.  Driving someone to pick up food at a food bank once a month is a priceless gift to that person.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you live in Garland, you could visit the Good Samaritans.  Perhaps you might decide to volunteer for this organization.  If you do visit them, be sure to look at the eight 27-gallon pots of beans that Loving Garland Green and the Good Sam volunteers installed.  Each of these containers will most likely produce a minimum of 30 pounds of beans.  That’s 240 pounds of food from 8 pots.  You could plant a pot of pole beans at your place too.  You could even simply plant a few poles in the ground (We did that too at good Sam’s).  Pole beans are the gift that keeps giving.

 

Garland Community Garden June 14, 2017 – Marie Vining Beans – This pot has thus far produced 12 pounds of beans and the season has just begun.  We anticipate having beans from this one pot from now until the first frost.  Pole beans will slow production down in July and August, but in September until the first frost there will be a second coming.  We installed 8 of these pots at the Garland Good Samaritans in April of 2017.

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In the Larger Scheme of Things

We are more like the Bumblebee than we may realize.  Yesterday I saw yet another bumble bee hanging upside down doing his buzz pollination thing—for himself, the corn and other pollinators.  It’s a good thing to be like the bumblebee that goes ahead and does its thing without considering its importance to the chain of life.  Like the Bumblebee, we are small, when considered against the backdrop of our larger universe. In fact that is the excuse that some use for never even trying in the first place.  Yet the impact of a single human being moving forward in a purposeful manner can make such a difference in the life of another.  We are the gift, but most of the time we forget this in our concerns over the size and appearance of the outer wrappings.

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Bumblebee:  Friend of the Corn, Human Beings and other Native Bees

I’m thrilled there are so many bumblebees and native bees swarming around our corn patch.  Yesterday I also saw several metallic green Sweat Bees (Augochlora pura ).  Sweat bees were so named because of their attraction to human sweat.  In addition to the ones with the metallic green bodies, they are many other kinds of the sweat bee—about 40 different kinds.  (Perhaps I was the one attracting them in the corn patch yesterday.)  But most likely it was the corn tassels that attracted them.  After having much of their pollen shaken loose by the bumblebee buzz pollination* the tassels made “easy picking” from other smaller pollinators like many of our tiny native bee that are often mistaken for flies.  These “Johnny-come-later” native bees don’t have to work hard to get some pollen.

*Buzz pollination

Bumblebees are not tidy pollinators like the European honeybee who efficiently store pollen in pockets on their hind legs.  In the bee world, bumblebees are like large hairy bears.  They shake the anthers (the parts of the flower holding the pollen) using a process that scientists refer to as “buzz pollination”.  All of the bumblebees I’ve observed will walk all around the flower until they locate the anther of the flower.  Then they turn upside down and vibrate for a few seconds to shake the pollen loose from the anther.  Using their legs and mouth, they contract their flight muscles to produce vibrations that thus release pollen grains from the anther.  Perhaps they don’t always turn upside down.  I don’t know.  All the ones I’ve observed do.  View a video of a bumblebee buzz pollinating at this link: 

https://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/faqs/buzz-pollination

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Understanding the Big Picture

Pollen is a big deal—a critical substance for human life.  I know it makes some people sneeze, but without pollen and without our pollinators, we would starve to death.

As pollinators, Bumblebees contribute to our food security and the healthy functioning of our ecosystems. They are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary not only for native plant reproduction, but also necessary for creating seeds and fruits that feed us.  And, as observed yesterday and today, Bumblebees support other pollinators as well by making it easier for them to get pollen.

Like much of our wildlife, due to the destruction of their habitat with encroaching urbanization, the bumblebees have drastically declined in numbers over the past twenty years in particular.  One species, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) is now (as of March 2017) on the official list as an endangered species.    This follows an 87% decline in this species population since the late 1990s.  It is found in only 13 states.  [Texas is not included.]

Folks who look upon the destruction of a species as no big deal are people who lack an understanding of the bigger picture of the interrelatedness of all life on our planet.  All plants and animals have a role to play in the vast chain of life.  The loss of even one species has a negative effect on the entire chain. 

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Urban Agriculture and Ordinary People Can Recover and Save the Natural World

I am convinced that ironically it's people who live in urban areas who have the most power to recover and save not only the natural world, but our agricultural system as well.  We can do this by restoring habitat for nature right in our own yards and city parks by using these areas for growing native plants and a few edibles.  In urban and suburban America, we still live in an upside down world where the lawn rules supreme with a few shrubs up near the house and perhaps a few pansies around the mailbox.  We will have to change some of the things we tell ourselves about our lawns.  Perhaps a good starting place would be asking ourselves: who or what does a lawn serve—especially in the front yard.  Children don’t play on them and they do not support any life—how could they with the amount of chemical fertilizers and Roundup that are poured on them year after year?

Sometimes it seems as if we are devolving instead of evolving as a species.  For example, 300 years ago the European settlers coming to the USA brought dandelions with them as a winter green.  Today, we spend billions of dollars every year to eradicate this plant we now identify as a “weed.”  These activities are made all the more absurd by the fact that when our weather turns hot, the dandelion dies anyway.  If more of us could only develop an affinity for dandelion greens and dandelion tea.

But I take heart from what is happening in urban areas much larger than the city in which I live.  For example, Paris, France, with a population of 2,241,346 people is also a metropolitan area that has been pesticide-free now for fifteen years.  One of the pleasing results of this is that the European honeybee is thriving there.  Today the city boosts almost 400 hives.  This is good news, but over a century ago there were more than 1,000 hives in Paris.  These hives almost totally disappeared in the decades after World War II.  Recently they did an analysis of the honey made in Paris and discovered it contained more than 250 different pollens.  In their countryside, there can be as few as 15 or 20 pollens.  [Source:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-10942618 - accessed 06/11/2017]

All it takes is for individual urban homeowner and even apartment dwellers to choose to plant a few edibles or native plants.  Put some diversity into the urban landscape.  Then observe, enjoy and learn from what you plant and the visitors to your habitat and garden.

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Water Conservation

A great argument for a garden over a lawn is water. A garden uses 66% less water than a lawn.

Source  http://urbanplantations.com/water-conservation-fruit-and-vegetable-gardens-vs-lawns/ 

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The two photos above were taken at the Garland Community Garden corn patch.  The photo on the left shows two newly-formed ears of Aztec Black corn on one stalk.  The photo on the right shows the male tassel at the top of the stalk.  Initially the ears of corn appear to be all silken hairs coming out of a tightly curled leaf.  The silk is important, as it is the female part of the plant that receives the pollen from the male tassel.  When folks want to combine desirable characteristics from other varieties of corn they will take the male pollen filled tassel from one type of corn and dust it over the female silk of another ear of corn. There is a little more to creating hybrid corn, and scientists have a much more precise scientific protocol they follow to control the process, but this is basically the way it is done. – Garland Community Garden June 8, 2017

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It’s a fact.  Many of the corn stalks at the Garland Community Garden have ears of corn.  So far the Black Aztec is the most productive with ears.  Almost all the stalks on its three rows have two ears of corn.  (I'll count the total today if it stops raining.) This is outstanding since corn growing as closely together as we have it in the garden usually only produces one ear of corn per stalk.  At the most corn produces two ears per stalk. (I suppose some super GMO corn might produce more but non-GMO sweet corn typically is limited to 2 ears per stalk.)

CORN ATTRACTS BUMBLEBEES

Corn, according to most “experts” that I read, is pollinated almost entirely by wind.  I guess the swarm of bumble bees and other native bees down at the Garland Community Garden didn’t get that memo.  This afternoon they were thick on the tassels of our Aztec Black and Oaxacan Green corn and they were doing what is called the bumblebee "buzz pollination.”  They hang onto the plant and vibrate to loosen the pollen in the tassel pod. I love to watch them doing that.  I didn't see any ears on our Bantam which is planted in a patch in front of the Aztec and Oaxacan Green but it was planted a week after and to tell the whole truth, I was in a hurry and didn't check real closely. 

I snapped off a couple of tassels and shook them on the silk of the new ears of corn, dusting both ears on each stalk--just in case the bees missed some. If you've ever eaten an ear of corn that is missing kernels, that usually means the corn didn't get adequately pollinated.  Corn grows with one ear higher up on the stalk and this is the one that usually gets sufficiently pollinated. (I know most of you know this so bear with me but a few might not.)  The second ear, located farther down the stalk is somewhat in the position of mammals who get the "hind teat."

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An Intelligent and Uninvited Guest in the Corn Patch

The seeming intelligence of insects is amazing!  When I was snapping off a tassel to pollinate the ears of corn, I noticed a little critter, about half an inch long, on one of the stems of the tassel.  It looked like a small moth or a skipper with closed wings.  I wanted to take a photo of it with my phone and then try to identify it later on the Internet.  As I turned the tassel, the little creature kept moving to the underside of the stem where I could not see him.  It was comical.  I never could get a photo of it.  It kept moving to the underside of the stem.  So, after giving up in my efforts, and being the generous garden goddess that I am, I deemed it should live and didn't squash it.  However, the generosity of my current kind heart may not extend to next year.*

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What will we do with this weird corn we are growing? (If it completes its life cycle and becomes a healthy ear of corn)

The Aztec Black and the Oaxacan Green will be ground into corn meal and used to make taco chips for our November 4 Fall Harvest at the Garden when we'll be harvesting the sweet potatoes and the loofahs.  If you've seen blue taco chips, they are made from Aztec Black corn meal.  The Oaxacan Green is usually a cultural local tortilla made in Oaxaca.  We might have tortillas or we may toast them into chips.

The Bantam Sweet corn we will share some with Good Sam's and use the rest for seed to share with the community as seeds for next year.

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Teosinte  (The ancestor of Corn)

We also have an entire patch of Teosinte down at the garden.  Teosinte is the common name for a group of four annual and perennial species of the genus Zea native to Mexico and Central America. While the maize and teosinte plants share a similarly robust growth form, their female inflorescences or ears are strikingly different. The teosinte ear possesses only about 5 to 12 kernels, each sealed tightly in a stony casing.  However, it is noteworthy that the ancients still pounded these seeds into meal and made bread from it. The best estimate is that maize was domesticated between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. 

Susan Metz, one of our many community friends of the garden, donated the seed for this patch.  Susan has all kinds of degrees in horticultural and agricultural science and has been involved in agricultural research her entire life. Thus she has access to all kinds of exotic seeds that she shares with us.

Teosinte takes about 120 days to mature.  By the time we got all the Bermuda grass out of this plot and the Teosinte seed planted, the Aztec Black, Oaxacan Green and the Bantam were already about 6 inches high.  (Thus this plot is behind the other corn plots as the maturity cycle for all our other corn is about 90 days).  

Corn or Maize has been traced back to Teosinte.  Horticulturists are doing many different experiments these days with teosinte and other species of corn creating hybrid plants, as teosinte is especially disease resistant.  I plan to learn more about hybrids over the winter with my reading. I'm still holding a somewhat of a paranoid stance toward participating in the development of hybrids, as their seed in the next generation are so iffy.  In fact, except as part of some experiment, I wouldn’t even bother to save seeds from hybrids and plant them.  If you’ve ever saved seed from produce purchased at the grocery store and then not have any good results (poor produce, or sometimes none at all)—most likely it’s because the seed you saved was from a hybrid.

We will share some of the Teosinte (Tay O sin Tay) seed with school kids and also we plan to grind some into corn meal for our Garden Harvest Festival November 4 that we'll make taco chips out of.  Imagine the experience of eating the same food that people ate almost 10,000 years ago!

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*Suppressing Competition for the Corn

I did a little research yesterday when I got home from the garden.  I am a little concerned that the insect I saw on the corn tassel might have been a baby Helicoverpa zea.  In its larval stage this moth is known as the corn earworm.  We’ll see what transpires with the corn.  If this is indeed a corn pest and it destroys most of our corn crop, then next year we will take definite action.  If it only eats a small part of our crop we will likely live with it.

If it is determined that we won't have any corn to eat otherwise, we will order a box of nematodes next year.  The going price for the gardener is $36 for 1,600 square feet.

Entomopathogenic nematodes, which are available commercially, provide good suppression of developing larvae if they are applied to corn silk; this has application for home garden production of corn if not commercial production (Purcell et al. 1992). Soil surface and subsurface applications of nematodes also can affect earworm populations because larvae drop to the soil to pupate (Cabanillas and Raulston 1996). This approach may have application for commercial crop protection, but larvae must complete their development before they are killed, so some crop damage ensues.

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Chairs, donated by Kevin and Chris, friends of the Garden - June 7, 2017

A true community garden is like the stone from that old fable, “Stone Soup”.  If it’s working well, the garden encourages folks to share their resources.  There are so many good feelings, community connections, and packets of love in many other forms (bricks, trellises, yard furniture, soil, etc.) left at the garden that I imagine a vapor of love and caring surrounds it.  Over the past three years several people have reported to me they feel like the garden is a healing space.

One of our neighbors came down to the garden and planted two tomato plants—both of which are thriving.  She does not have a place for growing tomatoes in her yard.  Her husband who is dying of cancer loves tomatoes from the garden.  She planted the plants for him.

A young woman whose grandmother recently died comes down to the garden about once every ten days or so and weeds.  Her grandmother was a gardener and weeding makes the young woman feel closer to her.

Several times a month we have visitors from clients at the health spa located next door to the garden.  These people report the garden’s peaceful, calming effect.  Many studies investigating the Biophilia hypothesis substantiate their reports.

The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life and that these connections result in healing effects such as lowering blood pressure, calming a racing heart, etc.  Edward O. Wilson suggested that human beings have an innate urge to affiliate with other forms of life.  

 

Trellis and Sweet Potato Pots—Garland Community Garden June 7, 2017

A Community Garden Brings the Gift of Togetherness and Community Connectivity

Yesterday Jane and I installed five huge pots of sweet potato slips. These pots will be part of our Sweet Potato and Loofah Festival that is planned for November 4—the first Saturday in November.  This event is a combination of fun and education for our community. 

This installation was made possible by the donation of a wooden trellis by at this moment, an anonymous donor.  I’m checking the source out with one of one our local businesses here in Garland—The Tin Lizard  (a local Garland business) as they mentioned the possibility of donating a trellis.  It was left when a steward was not in the garden.   The pots are another example.  I made them from environmental cloth that was donated to us from the Byron Nelson Classic last year.  They had used the cloth for shade and to create temporary fencing.

 

A beautiful picnic table and the two blue chairs in the background donated by friends Kevin and Chris. –Garland Community Garden June 7, 2017

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The Garden brings with it the gift of FOOD AWARENESS

One of the many gifts of a community garden and growing at least some of the food we eat is the resulting awareness of the connectivity of the food we eat to nature and to our health.  We develop a deeper appreciation of food and are more likely to adapt more sustainable life styles, make healthy food choices, and reduce food waste.

Food waste is a huge issue in the USA but the good news is that we can all do our part to end it. 

It is estimated that over 40% of all the food we grow ends up in landfills.  That is not acceptable and I believe that beginning at the local level as individuals we can change this.  We do have support from our government at a national level which I consider ironic since part of the reason we have such an unsustainable agricultural system in the USA is because of government subsidies of billions of taxpayer money that is paid to mega food corporations like Cargill and ConAgra every year.  

Still, my philosophy is that we should take advantage of the few programs offered that actually do benefit us.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency supports the sustainable management of food with their Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) program that is open to businesses and organizations.  Participants in this program prevent and divert wasted food from their operations by following the Food Recovery Hierarchy.  The Hierarchy recommends actions in the following order:  prevention, donation, composting and/or anaerobic digestion.  Among the national award winners in 2016 were Sprouts, Town of New Paltz, and Lanikai School ( k-12)

  Learn more about this program at

https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc

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Two pounds of Italian flat beans and yellow Marie Vining Beans from the Garland Community Garden—June 3, 2017—You cannot even purchase these heirloom beans in a grocery store.  How can the value be measured?  It really cannot.

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The Most Promising Real Estate Is On the Edge

For a better world:  Take chances, live on the edge and use your heart instead of numbers to take measurements of your achievements.

I was thinking last night as I recorded the amount and value of vegetables that I harvested from the Garland Community Garden on Saturday—6 ¼ pounds of produce with a $10.53 current market value.   The real core of things that are truly of value lies much closer to the heart and the human spirit where things tend to fall into that category of priceless and are in fact as immeasurable as love.

Still, out there in the “real world” as we call that place where the good, the bad and the ugly bump into each other on a regular basis, we persist in our attempts to measure the immeasurable.

Always Remember the Value of Courage

There will always be resistance to new ideas but that should not deter people from stepping out of their comfort zones to move forward—it’s called progress.  And so was the case with the Garland Community Garden in the beginning.  For some reason, most of us fear change—primarily because with change often comes the relinquishing of control and power coupled with the specter of the unknown.  Yes, we actually had folks who were opposed to having a Community Garden.

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Living on the Edge

Most of us prefer to live our lives in the comfort zone of the familiar and are reluctant to venture to the edge, but it is on the edge where all the wonderful and almost magical new things transpire.  This is especially true from an environmental perspective.  “Edge” is a key concept in ecology.  In fact, we have what is known as “the edge effect.”  And this is really why I so much had my heart set on the current location of the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland Texas.  In nature we have edges everywhere.  At the Garland Community Garden we have the creek, the riparian area and then the edge where the garden exists between the riparian area and the meadow that is maintained by the city.  I knew if we put it there that our garden would someday be not just good, but great.

Many members comment how well things grow down at the garden compared to the gardens at their homes.  I attribute that to the location of our garden on the edge as well as to the emerging design of our garden based on our dedication to permaculture principles and organic gardening.  Furthermore, each year as we continue to rebuild the poor soil that was there in a manner that is in keeping with natural processes, and as we learn from the experience of stewarding this space, the garden will get better and better.

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About the Design of the Garland Community Garden

Our garden is the boundary or edge between two ecosystems: a riparian area and a meadow.  In permaculture, one of the principles is to maximize the edge and that’s what we are doing at the garden.  We are maximizing the edge between the riparian area and the meadow.  More and more our beds in the back and even some in front are following the natural principles of what happens in the riparian area as we modify them with hugelkulturs to mimic what happens on the forest floor.

The edge is rich with biodiversity.  For example, where the river meets the land, the species that live in both environments are present in additions to new species that live in the transition zone known as “the edge.”  The edge is richer than what lives on either side.  The edge is where things happen.  As the edge effect increases, the boundary habitat allows for greater biodiversity.

Maximizing the edge in our garden has been part of its design from the very beginning.  Straight lines and smooth shapes reduce the amount of edge.  Notches, irregular shapes, mounds, pits, etc. increase the edge.  That is why you only see three beds in our entire garden fashioned as rectangular, linear, wooden beds.  All the other beds are irregular shapes and tend to be mounds.  These beds increase the edge in the garden. 

Although we will always have a certain amount of vegetables in the garden, each year we will continue to add edible perennials that grow well in our area.  The blackberry is one of these plants.  Currently we have about 25 blackberry plants in the garden.  The garden is still expanding in terms of its beds.  This year we added four new beds and also combined two beds to make the experimental garden for the North Garland High School environmental Club.

All in all we are evolving more or less toward what is called “a forest garden”—a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production system based on woodland ecosystems.  In the 1980’s Robert Hart applied forest gardening in temperate zones for the first time.  Prior to him this was an ancient method limited to the tropics.  He followed the maxim of Hippocrates to “make food your medicine and medicine your food.”  I estimate that it will take us about ten more years to realize our garden as a forest garden.  And it’s possible we may never reach this goal.  Still that’s no reason for not aiming for the stars.

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What if Garland Community Garden and Its Stewards Never Existed? 

List of a few things in our community that would never have happened:

  1. Eleven people in Garland would not have a garden built in their yards.
  2. 60 students at Beaver MST would not have had an eight-week botany elective class on Community Gardens.
  3. Watson MST students would not have a hugelkultur in their schoolyard garden.
  4. North Garland High School would not have a butterfly garden.
  5. A group of home-schooled children would never have had the opportunity to learn about the value of native bees in a garden.
  6. 60 Watson MST students would not have had a four-week course on composting.
  7. Many Garland ISD students would not have been able to see a monarch caterpillar transform into a butterfly.
  8. 110 Watson MST students would never have experienced a two hour tour of the garden that includes lessons in loofah shucking, worms, soil building.  Some of the students on this tour picked blackberries for the first time.
  9. High School students such as those from the North Garland High School Environmental Club would not have been able to have a three-month gardening and leadership experience.
  10. Most likely several hundred people in our community would still be thinking that leaves put curbside in bags go to be recycled when in fact they go to the landfill.  Loving Garland Green’s November 2016 Leaf Campaign changed that.
  11. 69 Beaver MST first-graders would not have had a garden experience that included planting five containers of sweet potatoes.

AND there is more.

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You don’t have to go to Iowa to see “Knee-high in July”.  You can go to the Garland Community Garden and see corn “Chest-High the first of June” – Corn Patch Garland Community Garden June 3, 2017 – We even have chairs at the garden that you can use to sit and listen to the corn grow.  Here is the scientific explanation of sounds that plants make when growing:  http://cropwatch.unl.edu/2016/can-you-hear-corn-grow-yes accessed 6/3/2017

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The Garden Is Life

Since the beginning the human race and the story of The Garden of Eden, the garden has stood well as the metaphor for life.  I came upon this thought as my own mind rambled while thinking about our student project and how much the garden has to teach all of us—not just the young people in our community.

Being this time of year, graduation was also on my mind and topic brought to mind graduation speeches and advice that the more experienced in lessons of life provide to our youngsters.  How well the garden as metaphor for life serves speechmakers.  For example, who hasn’t heard these well-worn clichés:  “you reap what you sow; keep the weeds our of your garden and your life; untended gardens turn to weeds; a well-tended mind, like a well-tended garden provides refuge in times of adversity . . . “

I decided to see what was out there in the world on the topic of “garden as metaphor for life” so I Googled it and received almost two million results (1,790,000). 

So here goes for what a few of those 1,790,000 folks had to say about the garden as metaphor for life.  Check out the sites for details.

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From Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen:

http://www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com/11-reasons-why-gardening-is-the-perfect-metaphor-for-life accessed 6/3/2017.

11 Reasons why Gardening is the Perfect Metaphor for Life

  1. You must be willing to do the Sh*t jobe.
  2. You must have a vision and big dreams.
  3. You must be willing to plant the seeds and plants.
  4. You must clean up after yourself.
  5. You will need to learn how to deal with things that are totally out of your control.
  6. If you don’t do the work you don’t eat.
  7. You need patience.
  8. It’s hard to do alone.
  9. It’s good to be thankful.

10. Sometimes you have to let things go.

11. It’s all about love.

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 THE SURVIVAL MOM

http://thesurvivalmom.com/why-gardening-is-a-metaphor-for-life  Accessed 6/3/2017

Why Gardening is a Metaphor for Life

  1. You need to build a strong foundation before your start to see the results.
  2. Don’t fight nature.  Go with the flow.
  3. A garden is like a relationship.  Maintenance and perseverance are the key in the long run.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”—Martin Luther

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 Michael Pollan:  How  Gardening is a Metaphor for Life

Like most gardeners, Michael Pollan, celebrated author of many books on the topics of eating, food, and gardening.  In one of his books, Second Nature:  A Gardener’s Education, Pollan writes that “The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist.  Being a gardener, he says, teaches you that life isn’t always about you and what you want.  You can’t control everything.  There are other living beings that you share this place with.  Unless you respect what they need, you are not going to get what you want.”  This book is often considered a manifesto for gardeners and environmentalists.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/second-nature-michael-pollan/1101957219  Accessed 6/3/2017

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Gardening is the Best Metaphor for Everything.  Even Engineering

Sami Grover—Business/Corporate Responsibility

https://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/gardening-is-the-best-metaphor-for-everything-even-engineering.html accessed 6/3/2017

The revolutionary idea to me from this article is that something as organic and nonlinear as a garden can be a metaphor for something as non-organic and linear as engineering.  Grover points out that the answer to the sustainability puzzle may be to give up on the notion that we can design a solution or answer to sustainability.  Instead, this author suggests we need to identify how we can create the best “soil” for growing these answers.  If we view our world through engineering or mechanics, we postulate that if we do X then Y will follow.  The world doesn’t work that way.

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Gardening has a Close Relationship with Spirituality

There are many biblical parables invoking imagery of the garden — the pruning of vines, sowing of seeds, and harvesting of grapes.  Taoists believe that miniature gardens are the earthly copy of Paradise. In Islam, the four gardens of Paradise — Soul, Heart, Spirit, and Essence — symbolize the mystical journey of the soul.

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Six Ways Great Leadership Is Like Gardening

John Brandon – Inc.

https://www.inc.com/john-brandon/6-ways-great-leadership-is-exactly-like-gardening.html accessed 6/3/2017

  1. Look for growth
  2. Nurture in any way possible.
  3. Plant Seeds.
  4. Get excited about progress.
  5. Remove impediments
  6. Praise consistently.

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Reap What You Sow!

Update on harvest from North Garland High School Environmental Club’s plot at the Garland Community Garden.

I just got the word from Jane this morning that the following was delivered to the Good Samaritans yesterday:

“So I got a big dent made in that Bermuda patch until I ran into the resident fire ants. Then I harvested bush beans, cucumbers and basil.  I took all but for about 1 lb of cucumbers to Good Samaritans.

Bush Beans  1 lb 3 oz

Cucumbers  4 lb 5 7/8 oz

Basil                    8 3/8 oz”