SW Corner good for Mountain Mahogany

ImageThe Southwest Corner of BikeLife surrounded by asphalt parking lot and cement is a tough place to grow plants. The sunflower and iris are crisply hanging on with a little supplemental water.  The Amarillo, Texas winds prevail from the SW. We get hail storms, high winds, over 100 degree days and hard freezes.

front SW with treeMountain Mahogany was suggested to me by http://wichitapermaculture.com/. Mountian Mahogany is a nitrogen fixer, nectar source April -June, drought tolerant, and slow growing. Deer like to browse the leaves, so potentially it could supplement any browsing animals diet. Also it comes back from the roots even when harshly pruned, burned, or topped. Its gnarly appearance, slow growth rate, drought tolerance, and suckering from the roots make it a good choice for our front. With regional growing interest in xeriscape this is a great showcase corner, and people can propagate new trees from the suckers.



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Nitrogen Fixers and Coppice

For the front of the yard I am considering a coppice stand of Ash and Linden trees. 
Linden Trees are bee fodder and dynamic accumulators as described on Romancing the Bee’s site.  

Pollinators will also collect pollen from wind pollinated trees like Ashes. Ashes flower in March, are nitrogen fixers, and rabbits, sheep, and microbs like the leaves. The Texas Ash, Fraxinus texensis, tolerates droughts and dry soil, and needs full sun. 

Honey Locusts are also an interesting bee forage, animal fodder, and nitrogen fixer. 

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Plant Guild Research

This fall September-November 2013 I will be collecting and planting a forest garden at the old dentist office, aka “BikeLife2”, aka my home. I have a lot of research to design the yard with plants appropriate for the area and then research good nurseries to mail order and visit. 
In September and October will be traveling to Michigan and Tennessee to visit family and friends, and attend farming and permaculture workshops. I plan to pick up the right plants at greenhouses and permaculture nurseries along the way. 

The plant list I need to research includes berries, animal fodder, coppice trees, bee fodder, peach tree, white mulberry, plum, apricot, cherry, apple, cotton wood, oak, jujube, dynamic accumulators, and nitrogen fixers.

Guilds are a way to organize plants that meet each others nutrient and physical structure needs. Guilds work in harmony instead of competition to survive and thrive. Midwest Permaculture put together this helpful guild descriptions.   

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Microbiology Play Cards Lesson Week 5

mavrick kidsMicrobiology Play Cards BacCard2 BacCard3

Thank You to Dr. Elaine Ingham for studying the microbiology of soil. Take a look at the soil food web! The above micro organisms are the basis for lively fertile soil!




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Permaculture Principles Kids’ Lessons Week 7-9

Week 7

Integrate Rather Than Segregate

Open Exercise: Have students in a circle. Raise right hand stick it in the center. Students each grab wrist of person to their right. We make a flower and turn the circle clockwise. Then do opposite hand and again a few times.

Walk around Garden: Remind them of patterns and then talk about patterns fitting together. Give points for patterns they notice fitting together, refer to point chart.

Objective: Our Garden grows in relationship with things around. It is a whole within a whole.

Remember the patterns we identified for the past few weeks. For example paths and the planting beds fit together and how they fit together is just as important as the path and the planting bed seperately. Some commercial sciences tend to study one aspect as if it is separate from everything. In our learning we want to see how all things integrate into a system, a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole. We can identify “wholes within wholes.” Two practices help us integrate rather than segregate: first each element performs many functions and second each important function is supported by many elements. Culturally people are trained to identify predatory and competitive relationships. We want to reprogram ourselves to identify and create co-operative and symbiotic/mutualistic relationships to build a strong garden, community, and world.

Activity 1: Use puzzle of different parts of garden we identified in weeks 4-6. Have students see how patterns fit into each other. Talk about how different and still complementary patterns fit well together. Talk about a piece of puzzle is a “whole piece” and then we make a whole puzzle. Extra: have magnets and talk about opposites attracting.

Activity 2: Calm Water Play
Talk about how we water the garden with buckets and water, the hose, the tanks, and the irrigation system. The important need of watering the garden can be done in three or more ways. We use water to water plants and to have fun by playing and thirdly it is helping teach today’s lesson; “so this pool of water is preforming many functions.” Have different buckets, cups, spoons, utensils in a tub of water. Have food colorings or just mud. Talk about how we can split water into different shaped containers. Have them recall swimming and how much fun a huge amount of water is in one place. Talk about how when our feet are in a stream that water connects to the ocean and how the ocean a connects all continents and  the rivers and streams on those continents.

Close: Our Garden grows in ___________? Relationship with things around it! It’s a whole within a ________? Whole!

Points: +10 points per “Wholes within wholes” coloring sheet returned colored to front box or next class.

Week 8

Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Open Exercise: In a circle, everyone holds up their own finger in front of their face. Each stares at own finger. Then we keep our gaze on our finger but use our peripheral vision to see the people next to us.

Walk around Garden: Go around stare at one thing like a tomato or bug, keep that gaze then use our peripheral vision to see what is around our focused gaze. Refer to point chart give points for noticing what’s around bug or plants. How plants fit together and how patterns fit together.

Objective: The edges of our garden have productive relationships to our garden.

Peripheral vision is a sense that connects us to the world quite differently than focused vision. Growing food is our focus, and at the same time we have to maintain awareness of the edges of the garden. Edges are where some of the most interesting events take place. We try to maintain awareness and make use of edges and margins at all scales in all systems. When we see edges as an opportunity rather than a problem our garden or design will be more successful and adaptable. We have to unlearn that the word “marginal” means things don’t matter, and re-value elements that only peripherally contribute to our focus. The world is made of edges we try to see all these edges as opportunity instead of problem.

Activity 1: Scavenger hunt around garden edges to identify how edges connect to what’s going on in garden. Compost, animal area, wild flower area, fence, entrances, grass areas, edge of fun jump building, paths in garden, ect. Highlight how there was the “problem” of grass getting into garden so we created an opportunity for compost, animals, paths, and wildflowers. These things only slightly contribute to food production, but they nurture, beautify, keep weeds down and make the garden more fun.

Activity 2: Wall Ball
Use a bouncy ball that can bounce off the wall and the ground; find where the ground is hard enough. Talk about edges of ball, wall, ground, and people. All these interact to make a game. Someone throws the ball at the wall, when it bounces back a person has to catch it after its first bounce. If a person drops the ball or the ball is closest to them when it bounces for the second time, that person has to run to touch the wall. Another person can then get the ball and try to hit the person running to the wall. If the person running gets hit before they touch the wall they are out (get a letter or something.)

Close: What has productive relationships to our garden? Edges! What two kinds of vision? Focused and Peripheral!

Points: Trash Pick up Mavrick Bucks or free play

Week 9

Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Open Exercise: Since this is the last garden class for the summer. We go around circle and each have 10-30 seconds to say what our favorite part of the garden is.

Walk around Garden: Walk around garden and encourage students to say what they like, don’t like, learned, and are going to do next in terms of their own garden, eating, ect. Then talk about how seasons are about to change and that we garden differently in fall and winter than spring and summer. Give points for fitting patterns together refer to point chart.

Objective: As surroundings change we respond creatively.  

Now that y’all have been in the garden for nine or so weeks, do you see food and plants differently than at the beginning of the summer? Has the garden changed since we started nine weeks ago? Change happens every second to everything. We sometimes make change and sometimes change is out of our control and we must respond. Remember talking about patterns, patterns to details? Change often happens in patterns like the four seasons or nutrient cycle: food-to-compost-to-dirt-to-plants and back to food. Changes can sometimes feel threatening like squash bugs destroying squash plants. An uplifting change is a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. We creatively prepare garden for seasonal changes.

Activity 1:  Planet TWINKLE and Rhyming
We are going to do creative brainstorm game. First we will pretend we are on a different planet named TWINKLE, and we want to garden there. We go around the circle and get as many verbal answers to the question as we can. Group has 1 minute to think 2 minutes to respond, you may not talk to each other, but you can ask judge question in 1 minute time. You get one garden point per answer and 5 points for creative or funny ones. In 2 minute circle takes turn in sequence you may not pass or skip your turn. Once time begins it will not be stopped. Speak loudly and clearly. 1. You will be shown a picture of something used in gardening on the planet TWINKLE. You must say something about it or what it may be used for.  2. Make a rhyme with something in the garden; ie the tomato has a rap flow, I have a number of cucumbers, the fence is dense, I am a compost host, the tree is free.

Activity 2: SPUD!
Have a ball. Number the kids off. Circle up. Throw the ball in the air high as you shout a number. That kid with that number runs to catch the ball the others run as far as they can from the ball. Once the kid catches the ball he/she shouts SPUD! Everyone freezes. The catcher gets to take 3-5 giant steps towards one person then throws the ball to tag them out. The person trying to be tagged must keep at least one foot frozen to a spot on the ground and try not to get hit. The person who catches the ball throws it up next. Each time someone gets hit by ball they get a letter in SPUD, when spud is spelt out they are out.

Close: When things change what do we do? Respond Creatively!

Points: Give food and herbs to kids to take home to their families or teachers.



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Permaculture Principle Kids’ Lessons 4-6 week.

Week 4

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Open Exercise: Based on Design from Pattern to Detail, Sit in circle say we are in a pattern of a circle, trees grow by sending two branches out of one, the sun always rises in east and sets in west. Go around circle and help students identify a pattern around the garden.

Walk around Garden: Show the ‘cut-and-come-again’ herbs. Talk about grass growing, trees shooting up from stumps; ie mulberry shoots by water tank. Talk about tree as shade. Talk about sun rising and feeding plants every day.

Objective: Renewable resources are renewed and replaced by natural processes over reasonable time.

Remember the Story of Stuff the first process was ‘extraction’ taking materials out of somewhere and putting them into ‘production’. Some materials like plastic made from fossil fuels and aluminum extracted from mining, are non-renewable, that’s why we recycle. Our cotton cloths are renewable but they are grown with petro chemical pesticides which are not renewable. Heat and electricity, energy, is renewable our bodies make it, thunderstorms make it, but right now Amarillo’s electricity comes from coal. Remember the 7 Fs; plants can grow us what we need and plants renew each day they grow.

Activity 1: World Café of renewable resources. Have two-three large sheets of paper with markers at each paper. Students have 30 seconds to draw or write renewable resources on paper, then one student stays at the paper and other students scramble to different paper and add onto renewable resource brainstorm of that paper for 30 seconds. After a few go-arounds we hold up the papers and see what the group came up with and talk about renewable resources.

Activity 2: Game: “Solar Cloths Dryer”
Divide into two teams. Have two buckets full of water and wet dish towels or fabric. 15-20 feet from buckets is a clothes line or fence with a potted plant beside it. Show students what is acceptable hanging and cloths pinning of towel; poorly hung towels don’t get points. Students must grab wet cloth from bucket, run up and wring water on potted plant then hang and cloths pin towel on fence or line. Students get points for each towel properly hung, and for watering the plant each time. Securely pinned towels

Close: What kind of resource are plants and heat from the sun? Renewable! Why? They can be replaced over reasonable time!

Extra Points: What is not renewable? Aluminum and plastic made from petroleum/gas. Bring bottles and cans to recycle 1 point per bottle and can.

Week 5

Produce no Waste

Open Exercise: Based on Design from Pattern to Detail. Sit in Circle.  Remember noticing patterns? We will try go-around circle and identify patterns we see again. Actively listen to each student

Walk around Garden: Look at Compost and trash area, look at worm bin. Talk about nutrient cycle and community dynamics that allows for decomposing.

Objective: Turn waste into a resource.  Human waste is food for microbes and bugs, bug and microb waste is a food for plants. We call this the Nutrient Cycle.

‘Waste’ as a verb is “use carelessly,” adjective “discarded as no longer useful,” noun “to use something without purpose,” ie waste of time. We want to use our time, water, nutrients, our human efforts, and plants wisely. Pollution is a waste; ie the exhaust from our car comes out the tail pipe and didn’t help the car run we are finding out car waste causes asthma and other diseases. Poop comes out cows and it can be seen as a waste or resource. Waste in feedlots and resource for microbes and plants in grasslands. In our garden we may have a bunch of weeds, we don’t have an excess in weeds we have a deficiency of animals to feed weeds too. Waste is only waste when “an output of any system component that is not being used productively by any other component in the system.” Show soil food web graphic. Talk about soil foodweb being a system we can manage to turn waste into resource.

Activity 1: Pick worms out of worm castings. Start seeds or repot plants in mix of worm castings, top soil, coir. Students can take seeds home and leave some at garden.

Activity 2: Pretend Game
Students choose from cards to become a bacteria fungi, nematode. Then they run around pretending giant vegetables and plant roots around them. They use their powers on the card and say what plants or animals they help grow. It ends by them being eaten by whatever is on their card.

Close: What do we want to see waste as? Resource! Turn waste into a resource!

Treat for Student: They can take plants or planted seeds home

Week 6

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Open Exercise: Based on Design from Pattern to Detail. Sit in Circle.  Remember noticing patterns? We will go around circle and each make a unique pattern with hands. Actively watch each student. Then we each find a spot alone. For 3 minutes of silence we look at map of patterns we have been coming up with last two classes.

Walk around Garden: Talk about patterns and what students noticed on map and anything to add.

Objective: When we move slowly through garden we notice many things.

Remember that simple patterns are usually the strongest. Small and slow solutions are usually the most humane. When we take time to grow food, to fix a broken machine, eat food as medicine, compost waste from the Mavrick we are using small and slow solutions. Large solutions are: shipping tons of food on trains or trucks; buying a new car instead of fixing it; eating whatever food we want then having to pay money for medicine; expecting the whole city of Amarillo to compost before we start composting. Small and slow solutions come from our arm’s length at a human scale. “Hurrying up is what you do right before you mess up.” When we are in a hurry we can’t see everything we need to see. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Activity 1: Imagine quickly flying over garden in helicopter, what did we see? Then imagine driving by, jogging by, riding a bike, and now slowly walking. Walk through garden in slow motion bending down to smell, reaching up to touch turning to look at shade or sun ect.

Activity 2: Slow Motion Game
One student will do an action and/or say something. The next two people have to do action and words in slow motion. Let everyone have a turn. Talk about how much more we notice their face or syllables.

Close: So how do we want to move through garden? Slowly! Why? Slow and steady wins the race!

Points: +5 points extra when next time I see them around Mavrick they start walking and talking in slow motion.

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Permaculture Principles Kids’ Lessons Week 1-3

This year the High Plains Food Bank hired me to teach nutrition, gardening, and put in a garden at the Mavrick Boy’s and Girls Club. Please feel free to use the lesson plans I put together; Here are 1-3 of 9 lessons for the summer. The visuals are in separate posts. The lessons teach K-5th grade of kids about Permaculture Principles.

Week 1

Catch and Store Energy

Open Exercise: Based on Observe and Interact: We sit in a circle on the ground. We go around the circle practicing ‘active listening’ and each student observes something on the ground in the circle.

Walk around Garden: As students walk around explain for the next three weeks/classes we will be getting garden points for observing and interacting with the garden. Refer to garden point chart.

Objective: Plants catch and store the sun’s energy in their bodies. People and animals use the energy stored in plants.

Many students already understand plant leaves create food from sunshine. The more leaves we have, the more sunshine they catch, the more energy available to animals and people. Our society talks a lot about saving energy, in terms or electricity – turning off lights, in terms or gas – getting better gas mileage. Forms of energy like gas and coal (where most of electricity in Amarillo, Texas region comes from) are fossil fuels, ancient deposits of material that we burn to ‘make’ energy. The sun rises every morning. Plants turn the sun into food, building material, cloths, and more. How can we use plants to catch the most energy? We can plant plants in an area, for a long time, densely. Forest Gardening is one way to plant an area, densely, with perennial plants to last a long time (100s of years). Garden like the forest with layers of vegetation: tall trees, low trees, shrubs, herbs, ground cover, and vines.

Activity 1: Show the students the energy flow tetrahedron. Explain area like a row of plants (ie tomatoes), then time as the plants grow more leaves with more time, explain density by adding basil between the tomatoes in a row. Area x Time x Density. Now use rope and signs to have the kids make the energy triangle with labeled lines. Have them imagine whatever plant they choose in the triangle with all the leaves catching the sun.

Activity 2: Game: Sun Beams and Plants
Talk about the basil between the tomatoes and say forests grew because a forest knows how to capture the maximum amount of sun. How? Let us hold up the signs: tall trees, low trees, shrubs, herbs, ground cover, and vines. Tall and short plants, climbing vines make sure to catch as much sun before it hits the ground. We are going to play Sun Beams and Plants, (Sharks and minnows). The first plant picks a sign to wear and each time someone joins the plant side the player picks a sign to wear until everyone is caught and we declare ourselves a ‘Forest Garden’ that catches all the sun beams.

Close: Have students form six layers of forest garden together with their bodies and/or holding signs. What are the plants catching? (Teacher pretend to send sunbeams) Sun! to what? Turn into energy for people and animals.

* Points: students can take Forest Garden Layer Color Sheet 1 or 2 to completely color and bring back for 20 garden points. They can turn in garden box at front desk whenever ready.

Week 2

Obtain a Yield

Open Exercise: Based on Observe and Interact: We sit in a circle and remember observing things on the ground, this time we observe what is above and outside of circle. We go around the circle practicing ‘active listening’ and each student observes something while everyone else listens until their turn.

Walk around Garden: As students walk around explain for this is second class observing and interacting with the garden for garden points. Refer to garden point chart. Point out medicinal plants: mint is good for rehydration, lavender calms anxiousness, rosemary helps focus. Point out fertilizer and cover crops and dynamic accumulators: lambs quarter, buckwheat, clover. Admire a beautiful flower.

Objective: As gardeners we want to grow plants that produce the 7 Fs: food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, ‘farmaceuticals,’ and fun.

We talked about plants turning sunshine into energy. As gardeners we want to harvest energy to stay alive. The more energy we help useful plants capture the more we can be healthy and happy. Gardeners that can grow a large harvest and use it wisely can meet the needs of themselves and others. Many human needs can be met by established gardens, remember time, area, density. People can use the sun’s stored energy as the 7 Fs: food to eat; fuel like for a campfire or bio fuel for cars; fiber for our cloths and rope; fodder means animal food; fertilizer because some plants help other plants grow; farmaceuticals (really starts with ph) plants can be our medicine; and fun as flowers for decoration, trees to climb, and dyes to color our lives.

Activity 1: Song

Words                                                                   Motions
– Food to feed our body and minds          (strong arms and then point to head)
– Fuel to heat, light, and run our lives      (rub hands, point up, running arms)
– Fiber to cloth and tie                                    (pop collar, tie shoe)
– Fodder food for animals                             (put bull horns on and shake head with each syllable)
– Fertilizer to help our plants grow                            (with partner: one waters one grows)
– Farmaceuticals plants as medicine         (hold hand on forehead, eat leaf,                                                                                                                                                  remove hand, and smile)
– Fun! Plants to enjoy and play                   (smell flower, act like swinging in tree)

Activity 2: Scavenger Hunt
Students have 7 minutes or whatever time, to search around garden and outside garden to gather something to represent food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, farmaceuticals, and fun. Offer help and help students when they need it to identify plants mentioned in garden walk.

Close: Name the 7 Fs.

*Points: students can bring bag with plants from home representing 7 Fs for 20 garden points.

Week 3

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Open Exercise: Based on Observe and Interact. We go around the circle practicing ‘active listening.’ Each student makes a noise of what they feel like. Then we have 10 seconds to each find a place by ourselves to observe and interact in silence for 2 minutes.

Walk Around Garden: Notice how things have grown since we first started, taste things, measure with hands. Notice positive, ie growth, negative, ie bugs or smelly compost. Refer to garden point chart.

Objective: A Feedback loop gives information for us to make decisions now and for the future.

What is feedback? Some people think of it as complement, judgment, or criticism; ie “What did you think of my song?” “It was strong and beautiful,” “it was out of key,” “I didn’t like it.” Well from those responses, or feedback, we will make decisions on singing again, correcting the tuning, or not singing for that person again. Feedback loops are when information from the past or present help us make decisions about the present and future. Last time we talked about the 7 Fs; these are positive feedbacks that appear when we are gardening well. Negative feedbacks are sometimes slow to show up; ie we don’t drink water all day and by night we have a headache, feel tired, and are hot, we are dehydrated, but it takes a while to figure out. Ancient cultures warned about negative feedback loops: The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation.

Activity 1: Watch Story of Stuff on Internet
Introduce movie as Story of Stuff and say after movie will compare what we can potentially get out of our garden with compared to production shown in movie. The feedback loop good or bad is a small one we can quickly see in the garden, and a large one that is difficult to see from the goods coming from far away like in the freight trains next to our garden.

Activity 2: Swing Rope Around and kids jump over it.
Our bodies are one of the most important tools to read feedback loops. Our five senses can observe and interact like we do in the garden. Our bodies have many systems to sort through information: when we are sick we need to look back something in our environment that is sick. As the rope circles around we want to jump over it. We are paying attention to the fast or slow moving thing and we will jump fast or slow in response.

Close: What word did we learn today? Feedback loop! What does a feedback loop help us do? Make decisions.

Points: non for this week, can pick up trash at end of class for Mavrick Bucks.

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