I like amaranth working as a grass suppressor/windbreak/DA in the nursery bed, but I wouldn't want it to get too close to the trees. Some are so small they would get lost and shaded out. Also my place is vole/field mouse heaven, so I wonder if the amaranth stalks up against trees would create a cozy habitat from which those creatures might happily chew away the cambium of delicate saplings (this happens with grass without fail). That is the greatest danger to my young trees. There are lots of methods for preventing it, but all require time and attention. I sheet mulch around my trees and sow white Dutch clover which doesn't seem to harbor mice.
Doubtless the amaranth will be more robust each season as seed falls... I will report back about whether amaranth continues to help me strike a balance between not too much/enough protection.
I will re-emphasize here that an amaranth backdrop makes non-permie visitors impressed by an otherwise humble bed (and in my case, constantly strewn with ugly cardboard). There really is something to be said for that. In terms of engaging people with the landscape, I think amaranth by small trees is a win.
FYI there's a nice group of folks in Western MA doing stuff. A certain jolly fellow I know runs some nice community events out of his coffee shop in Pittsfield. Film screenings, etc. In fact I'd say Pittsfield is really getting on a roll permaculturally speaking. Keep us Berkshire folks in mind if you're interested in a meetup or whatever.
Regarding pondweed, my friends have a giant rake attached to a rope. They throw the rake out into the pond, then pull it back by the rope. They also have a little rowboat which I imagine helps. This method has worked for them for decades, and when I have worked in their garden, it is REALLY fun to have all that pondweed.
Regarding hugelkulture slope, there's a picture in sepp's book of a woman leisurely picking from a hugel with a basket... I think wearing a pink shirt. The idea is that the hugel is perfectly proportioned to her body so she can reach the garden- even at the top- without bending or leaning over much. Folks in wheelchairs should also ideally be able to reach the garden easily. The extreme slope is for maximum surface area and accessibility. If you don't care about that, it doesn't really matter. If you do, you're aiming for a hill that you can stand up straight at the base of, reach out your arm over, and touch the crest with your finger tips. That's STEEP! To achieve this, I recommend pinning branches on newly built and seeded beds (all in the same day- you will need an excavator) as described by a few people above. That's how Sepp taught us in Montana and he strongly emphasized that doing it differently is NOT his way.
I myself am enamoured with the Sepp Way, but I believe it will take me practice before I can recreate it by myself. Remember that he has been experimenting with this stuff on his giant farm for a loooong time. The way he explains is his favorite for the above reasons. Now you get to find your favorite. Looks like a bunch of folks have shared theirs in this thread. I always love to read Bryant's take on things, for example. So inspiring!
I know this thread is old, but I'm wondering what suppliers people have used (somewhat recently) for drip irrigation parts or kits. We are building a large rainwater collection system off the barn roof and I am planning to build a rather large drip system off of that for young trees and shrubs.
My initial online search brought me to a supplier with commercial grade expandable and customizable kits... However I am not finding that now. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!
I'm so glad to read about amaranth winnowing. Thanks everyone!
Anyway I am using amaranth as a mini windbreak/dynamic accumulator on the north side of my nursery bed. The baby trees are small, and a couple feet away the amaranth row seemed to create a nice little vegetative wall for sunlight and moisture to bounce against. Delicata grew happily amongst the amaranth, so there will be more of that this year.
It's also noteworthy how handsome the red toned amaranth looked in an otherwise comely garden, with sunflowers and pumpkins behind it to the east of the tree saplings.
I'm also looking for things to go in the blueberry clumps on the south side of my old field mosaic. I'm hoping they'll play well with haskaps, lignon berry, high bush cranberry, ground cover roses... Or is it ill advised to mix bloobs with so many other shrubs?
Cool! I assume that outdoor design is for environments with temperate winters? I'm pretty sure it would freeze solid where I live.
I have an old trough in my basement for vermiculture. It's a big step up from (worm factory style) bins for me. This summer most scraps are going outdoors to the garden compost pile, but come winter i will refocus on the worms downstairs.
I got the trough idea from am old magazine. Some folks were using them for a bigger vermiculture operation in Hawaii?
I'm curious about people's experiences with bladder campion, a very common meadow plant here. It is opportunistically dominating the culture in my swale and is quite lovely... Young leaves are edible but bland, flowers are nice, seed heads are pretty and entertaining. I am glad to have this plant, along with pigweed and lambs quarter, giving the grasses a run for their money in the swale's second growing season.
Thoughts? Does anybody love or hate bladder campion? I hope so- either way.
Oikos was selling persimmon seeds which they kept carefully cool and moist until shipping… depending on when you received them they could be ready for stratification (like if you got them in the spring) however they are not selling them right now. I recommend keeping an eye on their site for if/when they offer them again.
I just started growing a jujube from seed and I will tell you from memory my experience...
I bought the seeds from ebay and it was rather expensive to buy only 5 of them, however they came with very detailed germination instructions which went something like this:
-place the seeds in a shallow bowl with hot salt water (it was a specific dilution but I winged it)- discard whichever ones float after 12 hours. (immediately 3 of 5 floated and conitued to float.. leaving me with only two MAYBE viable seeds)
-plant seeds 1 inch deep in a deep pot with rich compost 2 inches apart, water well, and leave for 2 (or 3?) months (I put my pot in a ziploc bag to create a humidity tent)
- then the next steps are fuzzy, because I haven't yet executed them and I am starting several difficult seeds all with ridiculously specific instructions… I think I'm supposed to put them in a cool dark place for some more months and then bring them outside…
If anyone is interested let me know and when I am home I can go look up the source they came from as well as the detailed instructions and leave them here. However I haven't had any results yet so who knows if it's credible...
Thank you everyone for wonderful contributions to this thread.
My idea is to plant bamboo in a place that is becoming overrun with knotweed. There is a scrappy patch of woods on our property with lots of scrubby invasives and weedy things (would be a great place for goats eventually as it is also full of poison ivy) and on the southern edge not too far from a vernal pool (I suspect a creek ran through there long long ago) this patch of knotweed is having a great time clearing out just about everything in its reach… If I can establish the bamboo (which I have no plan for- knotweed is aggressive! advice, please?) perhaps it will outcompete the knotweed and some of the other less impressive individuals in that area. I hope!!
Is it likely to bother the large trees there? From what I have read above my guess is that the dense shade of large trees discourages bamboo from taking over and this would not be an issue.
I wonder if it could effectively outcompete multiflora and wild honeysuckle in some instances. (A loopy cartoon of big hitter invasive ("opportunist," if you will) plants duking it out in a boxing ring dances in my mind.) Perhaps a combination of well established bamboo stands and goat grazing (like that in one of Geoff Lawton's somewhat recent videos) would actually take out heavily occupied rose/honeysuckle zones.
btw this area is separate and distant (separated by cultivated fields) from our diverse and healthy wooded areas. good for weird experiments. plus, we want bamboo. This seems like the best place to grow it. I bought two bamboo plants on ebay (perhaps somewhat carelessly because I am a free spirited individual- I love buying plants/seeds on ebay- despite the risk it often works out) One Phyllostachys bissetii and another "black bamboo" -I forget the latin name offhand. Should I plant them far apart from each other?
I really want Phyllostachys atrovaginata "Incense Bamboo" partly because of the great name and partly because it seems so wonderful. Perhaps I'll eventually go with a legitimate nursery as this seems hard to find. Anyone have it??
I'm in the beginning stages of a similar project (one big swale started this early spring) and this is what I've found:
It depends A LOT on the kind of soil you have and how deep your topsoil is. (Also how high the water table is below.) If the stuff doesn't hold moisture well, things will be generally scraggly except the really tough stuff. (So plant tough pioneer species that will improve the soil for you: dynamic accumulators like comfrey, yarrow, yellow dock… tap rooted folks like mullein, burdock, and DAIKON!… nitrogen fixers like the clovers, vetch, lupin.)
Young tiny tree seedlings get readily choked out by the cover crop seeds you planted as well as those you didn't. Same for tender starts. Grasses and annuals get huge and snuff out our tiny woody friends. A border of cardboard or some other such mulch around a young plant helps to defend the above ground space (and below, I'd think) but then leaves a tiny tiny tree or shrub seedling vulnerable to heat, drought, and animals. Not a high survival rate. However, may be a different story with something "weedy" like black locust. Haven't tried that yet. (And ALSO maybe of the many tree seeds I planted, some have survived and I will see them in the spring. But it doesn't look hopeful…)
Large trees planted in need lots of water. Small bare root stuff and scions might do ok, but better with (cardboard) mulch so as not to be intruded upon (also retains moisture).
Seeds are a small investment of money but you really have to take care of them… (I know that may be obvious but I really learned it this year trying to grow trees. I have a lot that lived but such a small percentage to what died! Mostly fried in the sun.) Perhaps you can grow a bunch of babies from seed in pots in Arizona and then move them up to WA in a couple years when they are stronger. It may seem silly but I recently did a smaller version of that and found it to be cost effective and productive, if not a little crazy.
Sorry if this informations seems scattered. If you have any questions, just ask. I've been thinking about this a lot and experimenting a bit for the past year and I'd be glad to share anything that might be helpful.
I also wrote in excessive detail about my swale planning planting in another thread and showed pictures of it this spring…. :
I am interested in learning more about education opportunities regarding food as medicine.
I see quite a few people are fans of the Weston A Price Foundation- I am happy to learn about them as I have been a Sally Fallon fan for quite some time.
I'm also really into Paul Pitchford's work, and I heard he used to teach workshops and a year long intensive that he's no longer offering.
I've looked around online but it's hard for me to discern between conventional nutrition and more adequate truly holistic programs for learning. Do any of you have a grasp on what's out there? I'd like to be able to compare and contrast a range of options recommended by this community.
Since the scoby metabolizes the sugar, maybe don't worry too much about trying to replace it with a less refined sweetener. I use white sugar because it makes my mothers happy. They convert it into magical kombucha anyway- it's not like YOU will be drinking white sugar. Then, when you bottle condition it (for fizz/aging) and the scoby is thus removed you can add whatever sweetener you'd like- honey, tree syrup, fruit syrup, brown sugar, etc to balance out the flavor.
I have a decent update with pictures to share. My first swale was dug last month by an excavator friend of mine then raked, seeded, and sort of mulched by a pack of helpful friends.
If you've read my previous post about my elaborate swaleplans, I must say that they were very helpful for me and for the most part were loosely followed. You can see what my soil typically looks like in photo below. Pretty different from Dan's, it seems, so the physical profile of the swale is different from his- much shallower and wider to avoid dramatic collapse and erosion. In practice it ended up being slightly shallower than 2' deep ditch/2' high berm and a bit wider than the expected overall 8' width. The area covered is about 280' long, but because the swale is on contour and snaking it's longer than that.
It seems like this is a suitable shape for the soil and site. This is largely a soil restoration project to build up organic matter/nutrients starting at the site of the swale, so larger surface area is cool. More room to plant. Downhill will remain a clover/hay field harvested for our friend's organic cattle herd (but eventually- more swales) and uphill of the swale will start being developed as zones 1 and 2 this summer.
Anyway, PLANTING: loose zones with different seed.
(First of all, some sparse cardboard sheet mulch was put down, but I'll get back to that later.)
-EVERYWHERE got daikon. This partly due to my friend Armin's suggestion and reports of how delightful the effects have been in his own swale projects.
-Every 50 ft or so- at a spillway site the width of the excavator bucket- we seeded a path of white clover crossing the swale. We tried to avoid planting anything else over these paths
-The slope descending into the ditch was seeded alternately with 1.) a mix of buckwheat, hairy vetch, and winter rye (last of which I believe got eaten before it germinated) and 2.) a mix of red and crimson clovers with poppies 3.) the aforementioned white clover paths
-The bottom of the ditch, which is basically subsoil, was seeded with sweet yellow clover, which seems like an awesome plant, though I don't have any previous experience with it. Essential to my long term plan is cutting down every single one of these plants next summer before they go to seed. Very excited about the biomass that whole thing will produce.
-I kinda forget what the uphill slope of the berm was planted with… other than the white clover path patches. But it definitely got covered because it's loaded with germination. I think it got a lot of red clover as well as the mix that covered the downhill berm slope. Most of the russian comfrey roots were put in that zone as well (about 14, maybe fewer) A few days ago I put in blue and wild indigo seedlings, a few rue, and garden (french) sorrel there as well. (all my transplants were started indoors this past february)
-Top of the berm got a wide seeding of wild thyme and patches of lupine which will need to be thinned out. Bare spots will be filled in with dragon's blood sedum as another drought hardy ground cover. Just transplanted in were a fair number of hyssop and sheep sorrel plants.
-Downhill slope of berm got a seed mix of chives, yarrow, feverfew, and crimson clover. Heavy on the aromatic pest confusers (though not sure it will make much of a damn difference for larger creatures) since most wildlife will be approaching from the woods on that side.
Once seeded we spread around some available brush (from recent fruit tree pruning) to help keep the cardboard in place as well as seeds (very windy) and discourage birds from eating everything we just threw down.
There are still many more indigos to transplant in once they're a bit bigger as well as a few hyssop, dunbars and goose plum, oikos wild pear, black ever bearing mulberry (though may save those for other places), and sea buckthorn for the southern end bordering the neighbor's property with a very large and sprawling house. I also direct seeded paw paw along the north wet end of the swale (underground spring below) and some plum and pear along the length of it here and there- we'll see how they fare. They are mostly flagged so I can keep and eye out for them.
My intention is that the cardboard will make space for me to pop in transplants later. I like doing that- cut a hole and drop the transplant in. I find it is also useful to plant around. Creates above and below ground space- I put a bunch of my hyssop and indigo plants just outside the north edge of the cardboard so that there's a clear space for sun open to the south of the plant. If that makes any sense.
From what I understand, a landrace has extremely wide genetic diversity and the ONLY selection being done is by survival of the fittest. You don't fertilize, you don't water, you don't protect from pests. What lives stays in your landrace gene pool, what doesn't make it- bites the dust. This way, you get plants that are truly adapted to their environment. You even keep the weird, less tasty ones around because they may contain genes that help your crop survive a drought one unusual year or something similar.
A landrace has MANY varieties and somewhat unpredictable outcome because of its diversity. You can name a landrace... but if there is a specific predictable variety with a name then it is most likely not a landrace itself, though it may come from one.
Any time you select for something you are making your landrace less landracey.
I too am interested in landrace gardening and I started a thread on it here:https://permies.com/t/26015/plants/Landrace-seed-gene-pool-preservation
It seems some folks are intentionally breeding some plants with very high genetic diversity in the same spirit as landrace development. The people over at Oikos are doing a bit of that. You may want to check them out.
Thanks everyone for all the info in this thread! And thanks, Dan, for all you've shared. Beautiful photos, too.
I'm currently monomaniacally planning a similar swale for implementation this early spring in Massachusetts. We have quite sandy, rocky soil that was used for pasture for a long time, then went fallow, and now for some years has been cultivated for hay by a dairy farmer friend of ours. (Though I don't plan to till it anymore myself, I've gotta say there's been a distinct improvement in the soil quality as a result of his efforts- large rock removal, cow manuring, and nitro fixing planting for several years.)
I believe my swale will be of similar dimensions to yours, Dan. Though because of the extremely fast draining nature of my soil I'm thinking of making it wider and shallower. Any thoughts on that would be gratefully accepted.
So this is the planting scheme I've been dreaming up (and sources) from uphill to downhill. I've divided it into 4 long horizontal zones: 1. descending into trench 2. bottom of trench 3. uphill side of berm 4. downhill side of berm (of course I'm sure it'll be more wild than regimented by the time all said is done)
1. The "descending into trench" section borders my backyard and I'm planning an alternating sheet mulch cardboard pathways with patches of the following in between:
borage (from seed) & woodland strawberry (oikos)
clover & poppies cover crop mix
2. Bottom of trench and base of berm:
huang qi, french or garden sorrel, indigos (wild or yellow) and (true or blue) as well as indigo bush, paw paw from seed (may start it in paper pots around now and place outside- currently stratifying in the fridge), comfrey (root cuttings from the garden), and lambs quarters because it is delicious
3. Berm- uphill side: this will be the driest area especially until organic matter builds up in several years
hyssop, kidney vetch, monarda, some pear and persimmon from seed, sea buckthorn, sheep sorrel, maybe some plum (from seed)
4. downhill side of berm
tall trees: most of the pear and persimmon seeds, white oak (from found seeds, currently in pots outside), mulberry from seed, wild goose plum from seed (future understory), shagbark hickory (found seeds- also in pots outside but I might have blown it by lazily keeping them in my car since fall... pretty dry in there...) and beloved paw paw
ground covers: red clover, sheep sorrel, radish (daikon type), fava bean, marigolds, asian mustards?, and possibly lambsquarter.
This is my first swale and I really don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going for functional soil building and hydrology repair. The swale is positioned behind my house towards the top of a gentle slope and because the soil drains so fast and the swale will be shallow I believe there is reduced risk of berm collapse or major erosion in the case of very heavy rain. (Actually most of the water moves through a deep underground spring... which has an intimate relationship with my basement...) This is why I'm willing to try sheet mulching in patches. It also will help me save on seed. Much of what I'm planting is expansive and will fill up places previously covered in cardboard in the second and third years (I'm guessing). Sheet mulching has been reeeally fun for me in the past two years of experimenting with it- so hopefully it won't create an erosion disaster in this case.
I know this is a lot of species, but some of them I only have a handful of and almost all of it I'm starting from seed (three indoor flats going right now... due to germinate in FOREVER agh I'm so excited) so by implementation time I probably won't have as much to start as I'm planning here. I got a lot of seeds from Horizon Seed which sells stuff that elsewhere can only be found as live plants (more expensive) but can be very challenging to start from seed (so if you're not diligent they don't always work out) and Oikos which breeds perennial crops for my zone (very cold hardy) and has pretty awesome prices. Oikos also has tree seeds available at fair prices when they have an excess available. (this determined the bulk of my tree species.) I also got some stuff from Jung's (very cost effective). The rest is scavenged.
In the fall I will be able to perhaps get some more food bearing trees and shrubs. I've been thinking service berry, quince, elderberry, currant, chestnut, etc but I will have a better idea further on.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated... and any questions as well. Some parts of my plan I'm not too sure about- like planting alfalfa and rye (even though it'll be in manageable edge patches) and direct sowing so many tree seeds. (100 pear, 100 persimmon, 50 plum, 25 paw paw) I've had pretty good luck with planting in paper cartons like used for milk and ice cream. Perforate the bottom with a sharp knife for drainage and then plant the whole thing later in the ground- roots grow right through the perforations and then the whole thing degrades. Half gallon milk jugs are tall and narrow so they might allow for the development of a long tap root like the paw paw has- then as soon as the ground is thawed, plant the whole deal so that fickle tap root doesn't get insecure/pent up/alarmed.
Whew! Thanks everyone. If you read this whole thing, you're just as far gone as I am. I've been crouched over my computer and books researching swales, guilds, and all related material for days straight (snow days this week). I'm really obsessed with this project. I needed to share. Hope it's of some use or interest to somebody.
If you call any of the folks involved in these organizations, I'm pretty sure they'd be helpful and give you an idea of what would be best for you. People travel quite far to do the program I'm in. It's very enjoyable and the company is excellent. I think a course is probably much more beneficial than studying on one's own. It makes otherwise dense and abstract information more relatable, and allows one to not only see the processes in action, but also to meet and get to know admirable grounded people who have committed much of their lives to Biodynamics and know its rewards well. Way cool!
Alright! Here's my outline. Sorry formatting didn't transfer as nicely as I had hoped. If you want a document file see attachment for pdf:
Note: This outline is organized by content- not chronologically. Its purpose is to compile and organize a body of possible material- that's all. For this reason actual "lesson plans" are not described at all. Some may seem very dry because of wording- they are actually way more fun than they may sound.
Garden Ecology and Art
1. Garden Ecology
I. Garden Ecology
- activity: garden scavenger hunt
A. Plants- Botany
1. Plant Physiology
-discussion: what plant parts do we eat? 10-15 min
-activity: plant dissections
-activity: your mutant fantasy plant (drawing) 20-45 min
2. Basic Plant I.D.
-discussion: safety in the garden- ask before you eat
-activity: the great radish hunt
-activity: leaf rubbings
3. Plant Behavior
-discussion: how plants prefer to be treated
-activity: seed starting in ziploc bags
-activity: growing avocado and mango pits
-activity: making clones- sprouting spuds, pineapple tops, carrot tops, onion pieces
-activity: graphing plant growth in the garden
-activity: rooting cuttings from willow hormone (2 days)
-activity: trying different substrates
4. Plant Ecology
a.) Plant uses in the Garden (Permaculture and Biodynamics)
-discussion: what do plants need to survive and where does it come from?
-activity: Guild Build Game (needs development)
-activity: chop and drop
5. Ethno-Botany: Cultural Use of Plants
a.) Plants as food
-activity: garden tasting tour
-activity: herbal sachets
b.) Plants from other cultures
-activity: native vs. immigrant
-activity: mapping movement of people and plants
c.) Functional Plants
-activity: mini willow construction and living fences
-activity: dye bath from garden plants/grocery store vegetables
B. Animals- Biology
1. Worms and Vermiculture- using my 5 tiered "worm factory 360"
-discussion: how worms prefer to be treated 3-7 min
-activity: daily worm observation and maintenance 3-10 min
-activity: adopt a worm
-discussion/activity: worm physiology- build an earthworm 2 days
-activity: designing and building a bigger and better worm bin from unconventional materials. design: 20-30 min. implementation: 1-2 days
-activity: harvesting the castings! identification of organisms, worm count, weighing the harvest, etc 15-30 min
-activity: making worm tea
2. Insects and other bugs
a.) Pollinators and Flowers
-activity: the great bug search
-discussion: insect physiology
-activity: make and hide your own camouflaged paper bugs
-activity: invent your own specialized flower/pollinator relationship (drawing-comic strip) 15-45 min
-activity: carpenter bee house
3.Microorganisms- see compost and soil science
-discussion: who are we to call anyone a pest? (adaptive system design)
-ongoing discussion: beneficial roles of "pests"
-activity: debate- humans vs. pests
-activity: pest/predator observation and documentation
-activity: pest control experiment (homemade slug traps)
5. Humans as Educated Stewards- rethinking our role as animals
6. Vertebrates in the Garden
-activity: toad houses
-activity: the great toad release
-discussion: what mammals are found in the garden?
-activity: nocturnal animal tracking
-activity: not your average bat house
-discussion: how can birds work for us?
-activity: not your average scarecrow
C. Mushrooms- Mycology
1. Mushroom Safety
-discussion: mushroom ID and safety protocol
-activity: deadly mushroom game
2. Fungi Physiology and Ecology- through cultivation
a.) Mushroom Kit
-activity: daily observation and maintenance
b.) Mushroom Bed
-activity: design and prep
-activity: inoculation with spent kits
-activity: daily observation and possible maintenance
c.) Wild/Native Fungi
-activity: cultivation from wild samples
D. Compost and Soil Science
1. Playing in the Dirt
-activity: miniature ponds
-discussion: what is soil made of?
-activity: soil sampling and analysis
-activity: mulch experiments via path maintenance and observation
2. Vermiculture- see #1 under "Animals" above
3. Bokashi, LAB, BIM, EM, and IMOs
-discussion: microorganisms in our lives (ongoing)
-activity: LAB cultivation and observation (ongoing)
-activity: Sourcing native Beneficial Indigenous Microorganisms (30 min)
-activity: looking at microorganisms (and drawing them) (30-40 min)
-activity: bokashi inoculation or newspaper bokashi (15-30 min)
-activity: ongoing IMO vs. worm vs. regular compost systems
A. Observational/Imaginative Art
1. Field Illustrations
-discussion: field illustrations throughout the ages
-activity: drawing in the field (30-60 min)
-activity: "Drawing from Nature" exercises/meditations (5-15 min)
2. Still Life Drawing/painting
-discussion: setting up a still life
-activity: micro/macro charcoal drawings (1-2 days)
-activity: bouquet still life paintings (1-2 days)
3. Art for the Garden (also see habitat building activities under "Animals")
-discussion: the role of art/artists in the sustainability movement
-activity: constructing informational signs and markers
-activity: functional garden decor for bird repel (1-2 days)
-activity: edible mandalas
-activity: stone creatures
-activity: not your average scarecrow (also under "Animals")
-discussion: gardening as art
-activity: upcycled garden containers
-activity: vertical growing systems
4. Art from the Garden
-discussion: fine art from organic materials
-activity: leaf print textile art (after traditional Indian tapestry design) (1-2 days)
-activity: pressed specimen portraits
-activity: making paint from scratch
I agree that we all learn by doing. I believe that can be assumed. I'm not going to have these children sitting in the garden with me filling out xeroxed worksheets about how to plant seeds.
Let's also assume that wise teaching practices will be in effect. No kid will be forced to do something their not into, etc.
I personally was raised by homesteaders and the garden/forest/meadow/creek/pond was my every day playground. While not a parent myself, I make a living teaching and working with children- so I am familiar with the driving curiosity of children, finding and enjoying "teachable moments," etc. It is all very good and rewarding all around.
So let's say that I'm working with children who are all raised much in the same way. They are precocious, focused, and relatively well versed in the garden and extended environment. Furthermore, it's not a group of 2-6, it's a group of 10. If you are familiar with working in such a situation, you may anticipate some common phenomena. Even the most well behaved and interested kids usually need guidance in listening, staying focused as a group, and channelling their energy. This allows them to pay attention for 5 minutes so they know what's going on and can then have fun with it without getting distracted by their friends or whatever. In some environments, this is less important, but in a structured day camp system in which the kids want to learn, play and have fun... it's our job as teaching adults to make things clear and accessible for them- just enough structure so that there is a foundation from which to explore and get really wild.
By next week I will post the "curriculum" I'm putting together. It may sound formal, but with structured lesson plans and planned activities, I will be able to provide a structure for the kids if that's what works best for them. Naturally a garden itself provides structure- as in horticultural therapy, we learn about our own needs by learning about the needs of plants. Same goes for animals in the garden, etc.
Some reasons I can't "just" garden as my program:
-This program runs from morning through late afternoon. A couple of the groups each day will be with me at the hottest time of day. This has been a real problem in the past for the gardening program there.
- The children get bored gardening for an hour (or more) a day every day (in the past, with other teachers). It's a five week program, so there's time for LOTS of gardening, but there has to also be LOTS of other projects that enrich the gardening. For example, science experiments with plants or fungi that can then perhaps be transferred into the garden. It can be simple, but it has to feel fresh for the kids. They are here for summer camp and need a balance of consistency and spontaneity.
-While I would never insist that a child do something they don't want to do, if 80% of the group isn't engaged with our activit(ies) at least 80% of the time, I'm not doing a good job as a teacher. I should have interesting options for when a kid needs a break, when the group needs to expend a lot of excess energy, when it's too hot, when my first idea is a flop, when all our seedlings die, etc. If somebody just needs to chill out alone in the shade, that's one thing, but if the kids are just uninterested then their needs aren't being met as people.
-This is an Art and Science day camp. The more diversity and information I can incorporate into my program, the more appealing it is likely to be for our little arty scientists.
I have taught ecology and alternative agriculture to children before and I know a lot of cool projects and activities. I also love the suggestions here on the forum. I think a lot of people here are interested in developing more and more ways of sharing our own ideas and explorations with children, and there are A LOT of different contexts in which to do that with widely varying constraints. So thank you for all your input and for a continued interest in education for everyone...
But I have specific questions, whether you have/work with children or not:
-How can we teach ecology, botany, biology, and soil science with the garden? Children need compelling interactive activities that last the right length of time.
-How can we apply permaculture design to an educational program? (Re: Holmgrens Principles and Practice- permaculture design can be applied to anything http://permacultureprinciples.com) What does it LOOK like?
-What insane looking plants do children love to see, smell, touch, taste, etc? (i.e. amaranth)
I am developing an art and agroecology curriculum for a summer program, ages 5-13. I would love to share an discuss my/your ideas. I have experience teaching ecology and agriculture (and art. lots and lots of art) to children but never before have I had so much freedom or the opportunity to design the garden as a classroom. Unfortunately the program ends beginning of August- in Massachusetts at high altitude, peas aren't even ready until July.
I hope to incorporate the use of: plants, vermiculture, compost, mushroom cultivation, and more... I have many specific ideas that I will be happy to share here, but they are not organized yet so I will have to share later.
I love this thread and appreciate people sharing their sites/etsy stores.
If it interests anyone, I was recently interviewed about my experience using Etsy: baxnyc
I am using it to sell printed material. I am finding that original artwork is too expensive for most people, so if I can transmute my work into cards, calendars, stickers, etc hopefully eventually it will become a significant income for me. I really appreciate all the advice posted above! Thanks!
aaaand, if you'd like to check out my 2014 wall calendar for sale, you can find it here
I'm new to biodynamics but I will say this:
Seeing, smelling, and feeling the product that comes out of those cow horns after they've been dug up.... is pretty interesting.
I can't say I'm all geared up to start practicing biodynamics myself, but to be a gardener and experience these substances firsthand (in the biodynamics class I'm taking) is really different from reading about it and trying to wrap your brain all around it. (It also helps to have it explained by people who love to garden that way, who love the lectures, who love the preparations.)
I recommend a tactile encounter to anyone who demands scientific experiments. Sure, experiments are important- but they are not all that is needed to create understanding.
Well, cool! I need to organize with my people, but tentatively I am thinking I'd like to try to leave Westchester Thursday night, stay at the family homestead in Southern Berkshires, and head up to UMass Friday morning. I will be driving myself and at least one other. Anyone interested in a ride should contact me!
Also I will be staying in the area after the conference so my friends may be looking for a ride home toward the NYC area. They are sweet folks. Presumably they have real jobs and need to get back home for work on Monday, but I don't know for sure.
Is it likely that all we permaculture folk will be brushing shoulders anyway, or should we make a plan for contact? I know I will see Jim at the Jacke workshop. In my registration (today) I suggested Permaculture as a meet-up topic and said that I would be willing to "lead discussion" just in case nobody else would. Not sure if that was a good idea or not- I'll leave it to the event organizers to decide.
I'll have my phone on me during the conference. If you want my number, pm me.