“Mother Earth, one of my absolute favorite places……where the sounds, the energy, the beauty and the Life pounds into your every fiber of being, letting you Know that you are alive. I will always respect and honor this gift of creation that we call our home.”
― Peace Gypsy
(Sculpture: Spencer Byles)
When Cynthia Koenig, a young social entrepreneur from New York, learned that millions of girls and women around the world spend hours each day collecting water from distant sources, she decided to create a new way to help people in poor communities transport water and it’s called the WaterWheel. Koenig’s WaterWheel allows people to roll water in a 50-liter container versus carrying it in 5 gallon (19 liter) jugs. Koenig estimates that the WaterWheel can save women 35 hours per week in water transport time, as well as prevent the physical strain that comes from balancing 40 pounds of water on top of their heads for hours each day. Every day around the world, over 200 million hours are spent each day fetching water, often from water sources miles from home, and this task usually falls to women and girls. By freeing up valuable time, the WaterWheel allows women to spend time on income-generating activities that can help pull her family out of poverty. The time savings also means that there is a greater likelihood that girls will be allowed to stay in school, further reducing the rate of intergenerational poverty. After receiving a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada prize to develop the WaterWheel, Koenig founded a social enterprise company, Wello. The company is in an early stage of development and has been piloting the WaterWheel in rural communities in India. Koenig also plans on continuing to make the WaterWheel itself more useful by adding in filtration, drip irrigation kits, even a cell phone charger that uses the rotation of the wheel to charge the battery of the cell phone and give people more access to essentials like communication and education. To learn more about this invention and its potential to transform the lives of many girls and women around the world, check out Koenig’s TED talk at http://bit.ly/1gBdpGt and you can read a recent article in The Guardian about her venture athttp://bit.ly/1dMt7Mh.
It’s surprisingly simple to find your soil’s composition and see whether it’s missing any ingredients. Soil scientists John Parsen tells us how.
To make their fertilizing plans for the season, many home gardeners turn to store-bought soil-testing kits, which can help them determine whether to add chemicals such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. While these tests are helpful for large-scale farmers, soil scientists say they’re often unnecessary for backyard gardeners. For example, nitrogen levels can fluctuate daily, requiring retesting throughout the growing season to gain information you can act on.
University of Wisconsin, Madison, soil scientist John Parsen says the most common problems can be identified with very low-tech methods. “Many kits assume there’s a problem with the soil, and come from a perspective of, how do I fix it?” Parsen says. “In fact, most home soil is probably okay and needs only minor improvements to complement what you already have.” Parsen’s advice? Simply get your hands dirty.
The Soil Checkup
1. Ribbon Test
Moisten a handful of soil to puttylike consistency. Gently squeeze it between your fingers, creating a “ribbon” of dirt. If the soil is too gritty to hold a shape, it’s sandy. If the ribbon breaks after reaching a length of 1 to 2 inches, your soil is loamy, or evenly proportioned with sand, silt, and clay. That’s perfect for most garden plants. If the ribbon reaches 2.5 inches or longer, it’s clayey. Parsen says that adding compost to sandy or clayey soil will create a healthier loam over time.
2. Worm Count
In the potential planting area, dig a 1 x 1 x 1—foot hole and put the soil on a tarp. Sift through and count the earthworms. A dozen indicates flourishing life underground. If numbers are lacking, add organic material to boost the subterranean environment. Parsen says a shortage may also indicate chemical pollutants. Concerned urban growers can take soil samples with an auger (right) and send them to their local university extension office for comprehensive testing.
3. Drain Test
Fill your worm-count hole with water. If it takes longer than an hour to drain, the area could have a drainage problem–you may want to plant elsewhere.
14 acres include 20 outdoor sculptures, artworks among themed garden spaces
By Priscilla Lister Special to the U-T 12:01 A.M.OCT. 13, 2013
Alta Vista Gardens
Thomas Bros. Map: Page 1088, A-5.
Before you go: Go to the gardens’ website to download a copy of its trail map, www.altavistagardens.org/html/trail_map.html. It’s a $2 donation per person who visits the garden, payable at its entry under an honor system. Hikers and dogs on leashes are welcome. The gardens are open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Trailhead: From state Route 78, exit at Vista Village Drive and head north. Vista Village Drive turns into East Vista Way. At Vale Terrace Drive, turn right. Continue past the main entrance to Brengle Terrace Park, and turn left at the second entrance to the park on the Jim Porter Parkway. The address is 1270 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.
Distance/difficulty: I wandered about 1.5 miles along several trails; very easy.
Tucked on a hillside overlooking Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park is Alta Vista Gardens, a 14-acre botanical garden with a couple of miles of trails.
Years in the making, the public “living museum” intends to integrate nature, education and art. Today, it boasts the largest concentration of public art in Vista, with some 20 outdoor sculptures and artworks placed among the themed garden spaces.
Among the specimen trees, shrubs and flowering plants are several that are very rare and many that are simply beautiful.
I began to hike through the garden on a Saturday morning when Bryan Morse, president of the garden’s board and “chief visionary,” was tending to chores. He amiably offered me a guided tour, pointing out several of the garden’s special residents.
“A botanical garden was in the city’s plans in the ’60s,” he said. But it took several decades for this one to emerge.
After the Brengle family donated its 39 acres to Vista for park use in about 1968, the adjacent 14-acre parcel then owned by the Paul Smitgen family was eyed for future acquisition. The city of Vista bought the Smitgen property in about 1990, but it took nearly 10 more years for a botanical garden to come to fruition.
Morse, who is a landscape contractor with his own firm, Expanding Horizons, became involved with the garden in about 2003. “I’ve personally made every trail here with my tractor,” he said. The Boston native has lived in Vista about 30 years, having graduated from UC San Diego.
He has masterminded the shape of Alta Vista Gardens today and even has visions for how it might evolve over the next 50 years. Lots of plans are in the works. But with everything donated and done by volunteers, funds are needed to implement some projects.
About 20 themed garden spaces are in existence or being planned. One of the first I encountered near the entry is the Children’s Garden with its Jeffrey Stein Children’s Music Garden. Here are several musical instruments, including an amadinda (an African xylophone), a Piano Pebble Chime that makes lovely tones when small pebbles are placed in its holes, a whale drum and a chime wall.
Also in the Children’s Garden are a “tube tunnel,” made of several huge cement pipes placed in a meandering pattern, and several colorful sculptures, “Tail Spin” by Melissa Ralston, “Miro Kite” by Mindy Rodman and Paul White, and “The Constellation Tree” by Fritzie Urquhart.
One of the garden’s most recent creations is its Medicine Wheel in the Desert Garden. With help from Native American Craig Kessinger, Morse designed and placed the rocks and plants that define the Medicine Wheel. “The whole circle is 32 feet with 4-foot trails and four quadrants,” Morse said. “Sacred geometry makes a difference, and it respects the four elements: air, water, earth and fire.” In the center is a stacked rock monolith. Each quadrant features plants in a certain color: black, white, yellow and red.
“Craig uses dousing rods to find energy fields and says there is a vortex in the right quadrant,” Morse said.
Another special place is the garden’s Labyrinth. Built around the “Broken Link” granite sculpture by Tony Imatto, the Labyrinth consists of a single path that circles the center five times, with circuits planted from the inside to outside in succulents, Mexican feather grass, sweet pea bushes, lavender and rosemary.
Labyrinths, which date to Celtic times, are said to enhance right-brain activity. You simply walk in the circles to the center and then back out again. I’ve always thought they help to illuminate the joy of the journey as well as the destination.
Just below the Labyrinth is the Cycad Garden, with its Wollemi Pine, a purchase of this rare “living fossil” tree that has lived since dinosaurs roamed the planet. This pine tree was auctioned in 2005 in Australia and brought to Vista, where its dark green, bottlebrush foliage is a treasure of the garden. The neighboring cycads, including sago palms, also date back to the Jurassic era and can each live a very long life.
Work has begun on the Japanese Garden, which Morse envisions will one day include a traditional tea house and a large pond. Today, some conifers are planted that will sit outside the pond, along with several red cherry trees and several types of bamboo.
There are two ponds in the garden, including a large one in the Ceremonial Garden with a new lotus plant, centered by Lia Strell’s “Golden Torsion” sculpture; and the Lower Pond and Patio, filled with water lilies and overlooking a fine view down into the park and across to the horizon.
“On the clearest days in December, you can even see San Clemente and Catalina islands from here,” Morse said.
He has deliberately added plants to attract butterflies, including milkweed, the host plant of the Monarch; and passionflowers, which are favored by Fritillary butterflies.
Head to the gardens anytime to walk its peaceful trails and admire its colorful collections of specimen plants and outdoor sculptures.
Priscilla Lister is a freelance writer from San Diego.
This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries regarding a pond on his property. It was sent by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality, State of Pennsylvania . This guy’s response is hilarious, but read The State’s letter before you get to the response letter.
Dear Mr. DeVries:
It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:
Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.
A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.. A review of the Department’s files shows that no permits have been issued Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.
The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially fail ed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2007.
Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action..
We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in
this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.
David L. Price
District Representative and Water Management Division.
Your certified letter dated 12/17/06 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane , Trout Run, Pennsylvania .
A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood ‘debris’ dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials ‘debris.’
I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.These are the beavers/contractors you are seeking. As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.
My first dam question to you is:
(1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or
(2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?
If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. (Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.)
I have several dam concerns. My first dam concern is, aren’t the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation — so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.
The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names.
If you want the dammed stream ‘restored’ to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers — but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English..
In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers’ Dams).
So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2007? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice by then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them.
In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your dam step! The bears are not careful where they dump!
Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.
& THE DAM BEAVERS
Practical Action has developed a technology to allow farmers of Bangladesh to grow food on flooded land. The rafts, 8 metres long and 1 metre wide, are made from hyacinth which is available for free locally. Soil is put on the surface of the raft and then the seeds planted in the soil. Summer and winter vegetables such as gourd, okra and leafy vegetables are grown.
The floating gardens provide vital food for people even during the annual monga (period of food shortages) and they can also provide an alternative source of income through sale of any surplus in the market. The rafts can be moved from place to place so are also suitable for those that have temporarily or permanently lost their homes and land.
Families are trained in pit cultivation – making 30cm x 30cm holes for planting vegetable seed. Every household has ten pits to grow vegetables and is given ten different high yielding varieties of fast growing vegetable and groundnut seeds.
Training is provided in new techniques to cope with the conditions in order to grow more and better crops throughout the year. People are shown how to protect against plant disease and insect attack using organic control methods (e.g. home made botanical insecticide). Advice is also given in making seed-beds, preparing compost and enriching the sandy soil with compost and manure.