Raising Naturalists

 Raising NaturalistsAt about 4 p.m. yesterday I kicked the kids outside.  They had eaten their snack and done their chores after school and were starting to climb the walls so it was time for them to, as Gabbie puts it, “get their ya-yas out”.  Almost every day they spend an hour outside, more on the weekends, and I believe this unstructured play-time outdoors is critical for their development.  I catch a snippet of their conversation as they head out and it usually starts with something like “now pretend you’re the lion and I’m the princess” and I watch them through the window as they head up the stream with willow branch swords in hand.

There has been lots of talk lately about the importance of getting children outside, and I am happy to see more outdoor and place-based education popping up in curriculum all over New England.  Locally we are incredibly fortunate to have many nature education programs for children – two of note are Four Winds Nature Institute, which trains adult volunteers to share their love of nature with children in the classroom, and Shelburne Farms which is a true champion for outdoor and agricultural education.  At Shelburne Farms there’s a program for every age group, from pre-school right up to post-college residencies, and even one day on the farm can inspire a life-long love.  I especially admire the Teen Naturalist program – it’s a tough age to engage, but such a critical one.

I have written at length in the past about the work of Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods, and co-founder of the Children and Nature Network.  Yet I still find it sad that we need a “Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) Month” or Nature Clubs for Families, but obviously we do.

Continue reading

Thinking Like a Forest – Will Regenerative Design Save the Day?

 Thinking Like a Forest   Will Regenerative Design Save the Day?The concept of Living Systems Design isn’t all that new, but it is still new to many so I’m going to provide some brief definitions and links to some of the pioneers currently doing interesting work in the field, because this is important stuff and these concepts will eventually change the way we live on the L.A.N.D. – by changing the way we design houses, landscapes, and food systems.

Regenerative Design is very similar to the principles of Whole Systems Design, as well as Integrated Design, and Permaculture.  These approaches are based on the idea that we should be designing systems rather than singular objects – that we need to focus on patterns of interconnection to achieve greater efficiency and work within the universal laws of nature.   Continue reading

How Buff is your Buffer? Shoreline Stabilization gets a Makeover

 How Buff is your Buffer?  Shoreline Stabilization gets a MakeoverIf you have property on Lake Champlain or any river that runs into it, then you probably lost some shoreline resulting from the Spring 2011 floods, which reached historical levels, and then Tropical Storm Irene made it worse.  While this discussion will refer specifically to the Lake Champlain Basin, the concepts and bio-engineering solutions are applicable to most fresh-water shorelines in New England, where global climate change is predicted to lead to wetter weather and increased shoreline erosion.

Other than the fact that you probably saw a large chunk of your valuable real estate wash away, there are reasons beyond property value for investing in stabilization, namely human health and habitat preservation.  The loss of natural vegetation along the shoreline is increasing sedimentation and runoff, which leads to phosphorous spikes, algae blooms and decreased oxygen = water quality degradation in Lake Champlain.  Did you know that Lake Champlain is the drinking water source for over 100 towns in VT (probably including yours), and most of them only have chlorinated sand filters.  You don’t want to be drinking polluted runoff and toxic blue-green algae, and neither do the fish.  So what’s the solution to this Big Problem?

“Bioengineering – long-term vegetated stabilization methods with sloped shorefronts”

 How Buff is your Buffer?  Shoreline Stabilization gets a Makeover

Details of brush mattress technique with stone toe protection (FISRWG 1998)

Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but bio-engineering is becoming one of the most widely supported scientific solutions to shoreline stabilization, and this spring many professionals (landscapers, landscape architects, and excavators) are being trained in these methods to make them more available to property owners here in VT.   Now, I understand the impulse in your own backyard to take emergency action by dumping hundreds of tons of rock to stabilize your bank and calling it good, but unfortunately that method probably won’t provide a long-term solution, and when we’re talking about a resource that everybody shares we need to be thinking more collectively.  So here’s the recommended process for a shoreline stabilization project in six steps: Continue reading

Oh My, is that 850 lbs of Veggies Growing in your Yard?

veggie nw view e1327960388870 Oh My, is that 850 lbs of Veggies Growing in your Yard?

There was a time before our return to VT when I spent 5-days-a-week in a very tall office building in Philadelphia and the remaining hours on our living room floor with vegetable seed catalogs and books from the 70′s with titles like The Owner-Built Homestead, and Farming for Self-Sufficiency.  In particular, I was interested in figuring out exactly how much we would have to grow to feed ourselves for one year – not just some of our vegetables, fruit, eggs and meat, but all of them.  I wasn’t living in fear of an apocalypse nor did I have some grocery cart phobia.  I simply wanted to know the answer,  I loved planning, and nothing beats a fresh tomato.  So, I started the research hoping to find one source that would lay it all out and make it easy.  I didn’t find it, and for good reason – Continue reading

Staying Young in the Garden

 Staying Young in the Garden

You know when a garden has the kind of energy that draws people in – like a giant rare earth magnet covered in flowers – It has all the right people, doing exciting innovative things, with respect and great style, and you just want to be there to be part of it.  The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (CMBG) is without a doubt the “it” place in New England for garden lovers, but it’s more than your typical stuffy horticultural destination.  Instead they have created what I would call the ‘Fountain of Youth Garden Experience’ – a place that is simultaneously organic, fun, engaging and technically advanced.  Like an anti-aging botanical body wrap with fresh air and without the claustrophobic spa room and new-age music.  Continue reading