Posts Tagged ‘get involved’

As an experiment this year, and partially for fun and curiosity, I have convinced HB to let me devote a small section of the garden towards a “three sisters garden.”

Image from Cordite Country Show Notes

The Three Sisters Garden is a method of planting seeds that has its base in Native American civilization.  Many Native American tribes adopted this form of agriculture, but it is said to have originated with the Haudenosaunee, or the “People of the Longhouse” also known as the Iroquois, of the northeastern United States.

The traditional Three Sisters garden, created by the successive planting of corn, beans, and squash, forms a beneficial mini-ecosystem where the plants rely on each other for nutrients, support, and protection.

From Renee’s Garden:

According to Three Sisters legends corn must grow in community with other crops rather than on its own – it needs the beneficial company and aide of its companions.

The Iroquois believe corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, or “Our Sustainers”. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honor them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of green corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters through generations.

A Three Sisters garden is made up of three plants, as previously mentioned:  corn, beans, and squash.  The corn (the oldest sister) provides a trellis for the beans to climb and grow upon.  In return, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, not only adding to the soil, but also supplying a nutrient that corn relies heavily upon.  The beans also stabilize the corn plants, making them less susceptible to wind damage.  The squash, often in the form of pumpkins and other winter squashes, provide ground cover, helping keep the threat of weeds to a minimum.  Planting squash also helps prevent erosion, maintains soil moisture, aids in a cooler soil, and provides a ground cover that may help keep out predators (such a raccoons) that want to harvest your garden!  At the end of the season, most of the plant life can be returned to the soil to amend it for the following garden season.

Sounding good yet?  There’s more!

Nutritionally, this combination complements each other.  While the corn helps provide carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash provide vitamins and healthy oils.

Last week I set up a test plot in our garden, and planted corn.  Once the corn is about 4 inches tall, I will plant the beans.  Two weeks later, the squash (pumpkins) will go into the ground.  I’m very excited to try this!  But beware!  Don’t try to plant all the seeds at once, or else you’ll likely end up with a tangled mess of green growth, and probably not a lot of corn due to the competition.

Want to set up your own Three Sisters garden?  Renee’s Garden has the best format to get you started.

Want more information of the historical value of a Three Sisters garden?  The Bird Clan of Alabama has some of the legend.

Want to read more about how a Three Sisters garden can influence children and how they view the world?  The Center for Ecoliteracy has a beautiful, informative website devoted to this topic.

In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They’re not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day.  – Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)

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Perhaps a little late for this year, but let’s save them for next year, shall we?

10 Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving, by Sarah Newman

Posted at TakePart.com

1. Buy organic. Organic produce and products are so commonplace now that Coca-Cola and Doritos are practically getting pushed off shelves to make extra space for these hot items. Try to purchase from a small, local farmer, but if you can’t find one, then stock up on your Thanksgiving goods at any major retailer. By choosing organic foods, you are helping to prevent the usage of millions of pounds of poisonous pesticides and fertilizers and emission of greenhouse gas. Best of all, organic foods taste better.

2. Save a turkey. Choose the most humane option that will significantly lighten your environmental impact by having a meat-free meal. You can make your centerpiece a hearty, fall-themed vegetarian dish or opt for a tofurkey. Either way, you’ll be saying no to our industrial food system, reducing your global warming contribution and saying yes to a healthy, happy meal. You can also make a turkey happy by adopting it. Yes, you read correctly, save a turkey from the chopping block and give it the gift of a happy home at Farm Sanctuary. For those of you who roll their eyes at my incredible suggestion in tip two of going meat-free on Thanksgiving, I’d suggest you opt for a humanely-raised turkey.

3. Get down and dirty with your food by starting a garden in your yard, porch, window sill or community garden. While the crops won’t be ready for this year’s feast, start now to grow and harvest a bountiful collection of herbs and produce for 2010.

4. Save your scraps. Start your own compost bin with all of your fruit and veggie scraps. By composting, you prevent useful food scraps from ending up buried in landfills and you’ll be able to apply your nutrient-dense soil to your new garden.

5. Dig chicks. I share my small backyard with neighbors in Los Angeles, who are generally tolerant of my outdoor clothes drying, composting and gardening, but I know bringing chickens home would push our respectful relationship over the edge. However, for millions of Americans with their own private backyards, raising chickens is a reasonable feat. Imagine collecting eggs early Thanksgiving morning to enjoy while preparing a pie or soufflé for the big meal. You can learn about how to do this from my 12-year old friend Orren Fox who raises his own backyard chickens.

6. Read labels. When purchasing Thanksgiving items at the market, choose items whose labels you can read. I’m not referring to the font size, which can sometimes make you feel like you’re doing an ad-hoc eye exam at the store. Rather, choose products with five ingredients or less and with words that make sense. If it’s unpronounceable to your mouth, imagine how disagreeable it will be to your stomach.

7. Go union. Millions of workers toil daily in fields across the country to bring foods to your table. Look for a union label when buying for your meal to ensure that your foods harvested by people who are the backbone of our country.

8. Celebrate diversity. By eating endangered foods, you’re actually helping their survival. I’m not referring to a Gray Whale or African Elephant but to things like a Sierra Beauty Apple, Bull Nose large Bell Pepper, Sheboygan Tomato and Sea Island Red Peas. Eat these beauties to help keep our food sources diverse, support farmers keeping these varieties alive and enjoy consuming new foods (how can you not love something called Bull Nose?).

9. Go paperless. Forsake paper products and opt instead for reusable cutlery, napkins, plates and glasses. Add extra beauty to your table by collecting leaves and other outside goodies as centerpieces.

10. Drink (tap) water. Skip wasteful, unregulated bottled water in favor of tasty, reliable zero-calorie tap water. If you’re concerned about the quality of H2O from your kitchen faucet, invest in a water purifier. Drinking tap water might not make you look like Jennifer Aniston but you’ll definitely look a lot smarter than her with a plastic bottle.

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If you’re in Lynchburg this coming Saturday, October 24, consider joining the RUN FOR THEIR LIVES. I really want to participate, although I’m definitely not in running shape!  It’s also the same day of the annual festival and auction for the local Mennonite church, so it’s a small dilemma.

Run For Their Lives is a 10K race, 5k run/walk and Youth Run in Lynchburg, VA that aims to place the spotlight on sexual slavery worldwide but specifically in Southeast Asia.

Poverty in Thailand has forced hundreds of thousands of women into sexual slavery and prostitution. It is estimated that two children are sold into slavery every minute.

Run for them. Run for freedom.
Run for their lives.


Poverty in Thailand has forced hundreds of thousands of women into prostitution. It’s estimated that close to 300 million dollars is transferred yearly to rural families by women engaged in prostitution in urban areas.

Imagine finding yourself in a situation where your final means of survival for yourself and your family is to sell the very last thing you have left…your body and self dignity. This is precisely what has happened and is currently happening in areas all over Thailand.

Right now, as you read this, women are sacrificing their dignity and self worth in order to provide for themselves and their families. This is an issue of poverty.

There are more than 300,000 prostituted persons in Thailand. It produces an approximate annual income of 27 billion dollars for the sex industry.

In order to purchase a girl for a night in Thailand, the customer must pay what is called a “bar fee.” The customer must pay this fee to the bar owner, in order to have the right to the girl for the night. This fee is approximately $24.

The idea behind Freedom4/24 is that you can purchase the freedom of a girl for 24 hours for a mere $24. This money will be given to an excellent organization called Beginnings. The employees at Beginnings go into the bars, purchase this night of freedom, and then tell the girls about alternative means of survival and opportunities for life that they could never have imagined. These opportunities include: education, employment, and health care.

Information from the Run For Their Lives website and Freedom 4/24.

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Extreme Stream Makeover

On October 19, 2009, the James River Association, with the help of local government, businesses and organizations, will kick off Extreme Stream Makeover 2009! This year’s project, the third of its kind, will take place in the Blackwater Creek watershed. This watershed includes portions of Bedford and Campbell Counties, as well as the City of Lynchburg.

Extreme Stream Makeover (ESM) is a week-long, local project aimed at sparking greater community involvement and public action to improve and restore water quality through a series of low impact design projects. In this case, low impact design refers to reducing the amount of rainwater runoff from roads, buildings, parking lots, and managed turf that enter streams and creeks and ultimately, the James River.

Activities will begin with the opening ceremonies on Monday, October 19. Hundreds of volunteers will work at various sites throughout the watershed including Jefferson Forest High School, Peaks View Park, Blackwater Creek Athletic Area and several shopping centers along Wards Road.

For more information, or to volunteer visit the JRA Extreme Stream Makeover website!

What Is Extreme Stream Makeover?


Extreme Stream Makeover is a watershed restoration initiative developed by the James River Association with three goals in mind:

  1. To improve the health of a local degraded watershed.
  2. To increase public awareness of upstream, local & downstream water quality issues.
  3. To improve knowledge and know-how regarding solutions to local water quality and quantity issues on an individual or household level.

The visible goal is the restoration of a neglected tributary of the James River.  This goal is accomplished through the management of rain water runoff through localized projects such as the construction of rain gardens and BayScapes, the installation of rain barrels, streamside buffer planting and trash clean-up.

What is a watershed?

A watershed is a region draining into a river, river system, or any other body of water. All of the water that falls as precipitation or flows over the land as runoff in a watershed ends up in the same body of water. In other words, a watershed is a drainage area.


The Extreme Stream Makeover (ESM) is a weeklong restoration project designed to improve the health, sustainability and aesthetic appeal of a selected stream within the James River watershed.

During the planning process, involved parties work together to promote watershed awareness and pollution control throughout the community.  Partners assess the creek and surrounding watershed to identify and document existing and potential pollution problems.  This assessment helps to identify and prioritize projects.  ESM project locations are selected based on the site assessment, feasibility, landowner permission and opportunity for water quality improvement.

Implementation is a week-long process that puts in place a series of rainwater runoff and pollution reduction measures as well as habitat restoration projects.  Each day, approximately 100 volunteers from the community will participate in the restoration activities.  Depending on the project selection, participants will remove trash, learn how to construct and install rain barrels, plant steamside buffers and build rain gardens.  Every facet of the restoration project is accompanied by an education component – it is important that people not only learn how to do these projects, but that they also understand why they are doing them.

The ESM also incorporates a series of lessons, designed to correlate with Virginia SOLs, for local students.  In the past, the James River Association (JRA) has gone into local schools to teach about the James River watershed, emphasizing watershed health, management and conservation.  Students will learn how and why selected projects can improve local creeks, the James River and beyond.

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Friday night, Randolph College (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College) hosted the first of a series of talks on sustainable living.  To start the series of talks, Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man engaged the audience with his year-long experience of living “off the grid” with his wife and daughter in New York City.

No Impact Man Colin proved to be an interesting speaker.  His book is on my “to read” list, just behind Dan Brown’s new novel and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (both of which I’m half way through), and so I knew little of the book’s details other than what I’ve read in reviews, detailing “his life as a guilty liberal who finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, and generally becomes a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons-loving wife along for the ride.”  Overall, it is an interesting topic to me, much like Alisa Smith’s The 100-Mile Diet, or Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  And so after work on Friday, I rounded up my willing husband and we made it across town to Randolph College.

Speaking to a nearly full auditorium, Colin’s talk was part memoir, part lecture, and part critical thinking to engage the community.  A lively, humble speaker, he read thoughtfully selected excerpts from the book to establish his points.  Colin believes that we’ve come to a point in history where everyone must be willing to make changes for the good of the planet.  As he put it –

As a society, we have reached the point where I believe that we are past the point where “everyone can do one little thing to make a big difference.”  Instead, we are at the point where everyone must make large changes to their daily lifestyle in order to save the planet and themselves.

After seeing the impact of his blog, Colin went on to help fund The No Impact Project earlier this year.  The No Impact Project is an international, environmental, nonprofit project founded in the spring of 2009. The mission of the organization is to empower citizens to make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics.

The organization has teamed up with Huffington Post to launch the No Impact Experiment which runs October 18 – 28, 2009.

The No Impact Experiment is a one-week carbon cleanse.  It is a chance for you to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern “conveniences” you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money.

HB and I have decided to sign up for the experiment, and see how it goes.  We are constantly trying to figure out how to reduce our impact and keep things local.  The experiment has a “How-To Manual” that goes over what is involved in the week-long experiment which includes daily challenges and support.  The website encourages daily blogging about the experiment, and spreading the word to get as many people involved as you can.  The experiment involves a pre- and post-experiment lifestyle survey, and a 6-month follow up to the project to gauge the success.

Sound impossible?  Well, nothing is impossible, right? To me, this is a challenge to live as sustainably as I can for one week and see the impact it has upon myself, my husband, our friends and family, and the environment around us.  We won’t be able to do everything, I’m sure – neither of us can afford not to drive into work or simply use mass transport — we live to far from town for that.  But it can make us conscious of our impact, and that alone is worth it. And as the little disclaimer says at the bottom of the page-

Please note, that we do not want you to feel limited or overwhelmed by our ideas.  Define your experience.  Do as much as you can, adapt it to your life, and like most challenges, the more you put into this, the more you’ll get out of it.

So let’s sign up, get involved, and help this planet that so graciously lends itself to us.


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