A couple of years ago one of my poems was selected for an international women’s online publication. This poem reflected my reverence for my body. Our bodies are amazingly designed, a masterpiece of complex interconnectedness. Yet, we women have been subjected to the media definition of what our body should look like. Most of us do not fit the bill. We’re not skinny enough, too curvy, not the right hair color, too old etc. What makes me sad is that many of the print models are airbrushed to look the way they do, giving us a false impression. Stripped down, they are no different than the rest of us.
The good news is we are breaking down some of these image stereotypes. I see the younger gals going more natural wearing little to no makeup. I see baby boomers, my generation, claiming our aging, celebrating our accomplishments that are reflected in our wrinkles, our grey hair, Our bodies change as we grow older, we fill out, more flexible and use our sexuality more creatively if we choose.
Who are my heroines? There are so many to choose from. On a recent post, I highlighted Jean Houston, Caroline Myss, and Marianne Williamson. For this month’s national and international theme of honoring women, chose my earth teachers.
Seeds: Vandana Shiva: Seed Saver Extraordinaire! Scientist, pioneer, rebel, activist, saw the handwriting on the wall. When big chemical companies were introducing seeds injected with systemic pesticides she inherently knew those kinds of seed manipulations could cause unforeseen consequences.
“In 1991 she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade. For the last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in the conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from across India, and the organization has established 60 seed banks in 16 states across the country. ”
I have read she has had to face great obstacles in her travels of spreading her vision. I admire her courage and fortitude and guiding light.
Plants and Medicine: Rosemary Gladstar: One of our Herb Mothers: I have had the privilege of studying herbal medicine with Rosemary. She and others awakened the herbal movement in the early seventies with the advent of the Aids epidemic. Many fellow herbalists sought out native elders and learned rituals, ceremony to honor the earth. They, in turn, became our teachers, instilling reverence for the species we harvested and consumed.
Rosemary began in California, founded California School of Herbal Medicine, moved to Vermont and began Sage Mountain Herbs. She’s a co-founder of United Plant Savers and the International Herb Symposium, a biennial event, one I have attended and highly recommend. Herbalism has matured. Many of the presenters share their vast experiences of using herbal medicine in practice and offer practical, tested advice. I admire Rosemary for her activism in protecting plant species and offering reliable herbal knowledge.
Earth Partner: Pam Montgomery: Pam was my first herbal teacher. We spent several afternoons way back when, as teacher and student, learning about wildcrafting in responsible ways and learning how to make herbal preparations for family and friends.
Today, she is the founder of Partner Earth Education and has now transitioned into Wake up to Nature, in Vermont. Pam too is an activist seeking to awaken us to our partnership with nature. She is one of the founding members of the Organization of Nature Evolutionaries. or O.N.E. This relatively new organization is working with other organizations that seek to have the legal rights of nature finally recognized. They offer ceremony and ritual to help us feel nature’s deep presence. I respect Pam’s dedication and deep commitment.
All three women embody advocacy, education, and action. Today we have many environmental problems. Like many others, I seek to follow those who inspire us to a more responsible partnership with this earth. Is it easy? No, but that’s where passion and courage come in. We all have unique gifts and talents and as my guest this week reminds us, we can make a difference one project at a time and create change.
So thank you Kelly Rafferty and Kyleigh Hillerud for sharing your story. How in eight short months you took proper action, offered education for informed decision making to your college campus and today celebrate zero plastic bags on campus.
Know you are in good company. Established women, young women starting out, making a difference, Isn’t it great!.
Who do you admire? Let us know. Your comments and stories are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith
Description: Students are making a difference. The University of Connecticut is in my backyard. I receive a newsletter that highlights important work being done across campus. It is here I found Kelly Rafferty and the UConn PIRG chapter tackling ‘zero plastic bags’, taking practical action making this a reality. How did they do? They were successful! The dining Department has done away with plastic bags. Kelly and her group of volunteers polled, presented and accomplished the task of taking plastic bags out of dining services. She and her team offered practical tips, education, and alternatives to students and faculty. After 8 months of diligent work, ‘no plastic bags’ through dining services is now a reality.
Join us for her insightful discussion on the detrimental effects plastic bags have on our health, the environment, how the use of plastic bags depletes our resources and wastes taxpayers money.
About My Guest: Kelly Rafferty is a junior English major student at the University of Connecticut. She is a member of UConn PIRG, a student-run, non-profit advocacy group. In particular, she has been the campaign coordinator for the “Zero Waste” on campus whose mission is to eliminate plastic bags. Join us for an insightful discussion where students such as Kelly are making a difference one school and one town at a time to reduce waste which helps clean up our environment. Actions we desperately need today.
Transcript: #55 Kelly Rafferty
Students at the University of Connecticut are making a difference one issue at a time. Over this past year, the PIRG chapter volunteers got plastic bags banned from dining services. It’s all part of UConn PIRG’s zero waste campaign. Can we make a difference by decreasing plastic bag usage? These students, 2 of whom are my podcast guests this week and next, said yes. They researched the issue, offered education, got students and faculty to sign petitions and basically got the job done. I’m proud of them for their efforts, their enthusiasm and their willingness to create change, one that promotes sustainability and takes care of the earth for the future.
However, I wondered about the facts around our use of plastic bags today? So, I decided to look into the issue more deeply. It’s simply astounding. And I feel saddened to think we have waited so long to take action over a serious problem that has shown us the error of our ways so graphically. Why are we taking so long to make a difference for us and all species?
Let’s look at the UK: Anna Schavorion who writes in Forbes magazine:
England’s single-plastic bag use before 2015
“The use of plastic bags in England’s supermarkets was out of control in 2014. More than 7.6 billion carrier bags were handed out to customers that year and that figure had been on the rise for the previous four years.
England was the last country in the U.K. to introduce a charge for single-use plastic bags. Wales was the first to do so, in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. All saw plastic bag use decrease by 70-80% year-on-year.”
That translates into a huge decrease in personal usage of plastic bags which means a huge decrease in production. Let’s look at more facts:
- Ireland alone reduced plastic bag consumption by 1 Billion bags between 2001 and 2011 by imposing a bag tax of $.37
- We use 1 trillion plastic bags worldwide, a product that consumes resources, contributions to species deaths, adds to pollution.
- The European Union is beginning to get behind promoting a decrease in plastic bags due to the great harm seen in our oceans and other waterways.
- Plastic baags contribute to malaria in Kenya.
- Camels and other animals such as cows and sheep die from plastic bag ingestion.
- “100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found. Approximately 1 million sea birds also die from plastic. A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate.”
- “There are 5 ocean gyres in the world where plastic gathers due to the current circulation. These gyres contain millions of pieces of plastic and our wildlife feed in these grounds.”
- According to National Geographic: 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the ocean every year from coastal regions. That’s the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world. And 40% of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded.
- How does the US rate in recycling plastics? We recycle 9% compared to Europe at 30%. Here in the Us, we throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually. That’s about 307 bags per person.
- If a ton of plastic bottles is recycled, the energy that is saved is the same as the amount of energy used yearly by a two-person household.
What can we do? A lot. Simply stop using plastic bags, straws and be mindful of packaging. Got your bags in the car and forgot to bring them in? I do that too. But, one student reminded me to reverse bag: put all items into your cart, take to your car and bag them there. When I only have one or two items I tell the cashier that “zero waste is coming. No thanks, I don’t need a bag.”
Got any great ideas for zero waste? Let me know. Thanks. Judith
Description: Kyleigh Hillerud is a sophomore at UConn,a Fine Arts major studying visual media and design. She is also UConn PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Campaign coordinator for PIRG’s Zero Waste Campaign. PIRG is a student advocacy group, non-partisan, non-profit, one where students can join and make a difference in a variety of ways. Zero Waste is an option. Kyleigh, as Coordinator, and her team are celebrating a huge success on campus, taking practical action over the past eight months to effect change. Because of their efforts, dining services have adopted zero plastic bags. Today she and her team are poised to work with our state’s Legislative body to enact legislation for ‘zero waste’ particularly, ‘no plastic bags.’
Join us for an insightful discussion and practical tips.
About My guest: Kyleigh Hillerud is a sophomore at UConn, studying visual media and design, a Fine Arts major. She is also UConn PIRG Campaign coordinator for PIRG’s Zero Waste Campaign. PIRG is a student advocacy group, non-partisan, non-profit, one where students can join and make a difference in a variety of ways. Zero Waste is an option. Kyleigh as Coordinator and her team are celebrating a huge success on campus, taking practical action over the past eight months to effect change. Because of their efforts, dining services have adopted zero plastic bags.
Transcript: #54 Kyleigh Hillerud final
“To forget how to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” M. Gandhi
It seems like nothing much is happening to the natural world around us. Winter has a couple of weeks yet to linger around. Though hostas peek through the snow, spring bulbs sprout a few leaves and tease us by popping up a little early, it’s still winter. This time and place on the wheel are traditionally thought to be a quieter time, a time for making garden plans, checking seed supplies, a time for dreaming of the blossoms to come. A tension builds though, before spring’s explosions of flower and beauty. Can you feel it? Though we have snow on the ground here in the NE, birds are more active, even tree buds are more obvious.
My podcast guest this week, Dan Blanchard, Author, Teacher, Coach is passionate about growing positive relationships. He shared a couple of stories about how his honesty, though not popular in the moment, touched a student. Dan reaped the rewards years later.
Working with our soil is about relationship too. Soon we will be digging in this dirt, itchy to plant seeds. What is your relationship to dirt? Sounds silly but to farmers and gardeners, the soil is the source of fertility on this planet. Do you take the soil for granted? What does soil mean to you? Have you taken a walk lately, felt the cold bite your cheeks, felt the sun getting warmer, appreciated the clear blue skies? What about putting your awareness to the ground, where so much is taking place. Tension is building. It has to. It takes tremendous energy for a seed to break out of its shell and begin its journey of growth and potential. Like the teenagers that Dan works with, we have to wait and watch. Under the right conditions, we blossom and so does the earth.
Getting back to our gardens: I highly recommend a soil sample of your garden beds before you plant. Contact your local agricultural extension office to obtain a kit and easy directions. The fees are usually nominal and the results worth it. Or use a lab like Logan Labs in Ohio for a more comprehensive analysis which I highly recommend. It cost a little more but if micro and macronutrients are not in proper ratios you could be wasting your time and money adding amendments that will not be able to be utilized. Also, take a separate sample for different areas. For example, collect one soil sample from your vegetable area, a separate sample for the ornamentals, And again, take a separate sample for flowers or for blueberries. Different types of plants have different needs.
Lastly, if or when you can, take time to smell the soil, feel it….be grateful. It is our lifeblood. We have not been good stewards either. Remember “humus” comes from the same root as “humble”. So being grateful begins to foster a more meaningful relationship, a more respectful one with the dirt beneath our feet. If it works for us then it works for all that we seek to grow. Remember all comments are appreciated. Judith
Description: Can we use the holistic model to grow better men? Yes, we can, with diligent effort, consistent parenting and more. My guest this week, Dan Blanchard, special education and social studies teacher in Connecticut’s largest inner-city high school was chosen by the AFT-CT as the face and voice of educational reform. Together we use the holistic framework for this podcast to go deeper. Dan tells us a story about how his honest approach to his students makes a difference.
About My Guest: Dan Blanchard the Best-Selling Author, Award-Winning Speaker, and Educator, as well as, two-time Junior Olympian Wrestler, and two-time Junior Olympian Wrestling Coach grew up as a student-athlete. However, Dan admits that as a youth he was more of an athlete than a student. Dan has now successfully completed fourteen years of college and has earned seven degrees. He teaches Special Education and Social Studies in Connecticut’s largest inner-city high school where he was chosen by the AFT-CT as the face and voice of educational reform and is now on the speaking circuit for them. Dan was with the team that put forth Connecticut’s new Social Studies Frameworks and is also a member of the Special Education Advisory Board to the Connecticut State Department of Education. In addition, Dan is a Teacher Consultant for the University of Connecticut’s Writing Project. Finally, Dan is a double veteran of the Army and the Air Force.
Transcript: Dan Blanchard
What’s your favorite Italian dish? Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorites, especially with a flavorful tomato sauce. It’s funny though that we think of Italian cuisine with tomatoes when they are thought to originate in the Americas. Settlers, not sure who brought this flavorful plant back to Europe in the 16th century. There are some plants still in the wild of Peru and Ecuador. Thomas Jefferson grew them but it took till the 1800s for tomatoes to find a place back here in the Americas. Today we grow hundreds of thousands of acres of tomatoes. Most of our tomatoes are cultivated and often have trouble resisting pests and diseases.
Tomato is a member of the nightshade family, which may be why early conquerors in central and south America thought it was poisonous as many nightshade plants are poisonous. My podcast guest this week, Craig Floyd, manager at Coogan Farm in Mystic Ct., devoted his interview to growing healthy, vibrant tomato plants with high yield. How? Here’s a recap of his fabulous tips.
- Soil: A soil test is a must: tomatoes need four minerals in particular: Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, and Nitrogen. We recommend Logan Labs in Ohio who offer a more comprehensive analysis.
- Seed: Choose heirloom or organic seeds. Add an innoculant to your seed bag which can help germination time.
- When planting choose the biggest, fattest seed from the lot.
- Don’t plant too early. Do transplant when seedlings are 4″ high. Any taller they may not fulfill their potential.
- Plant 60″ apart. Place four basil plants around them or another companion plant like carrots.
- Drench seedlings with compost tea before transplanting. Then, water every day.
- Microbiology is so important. Add mulch material around plants every week. They need a good dose of worm castings, seaweed. Seaweed unlocks nutrients and keeps some bugs away.
- Craig keeps three main leaders and removes suckers.
What is the tomato’s potential: try 22′ long yielding 300 lbs of fruit. That’s a wow in my book. When I visited Craig in his Giving Garden recently, he showed us his hoop house with poles high up to capture the growing vines. Can’t wait to visit in the spring and summer and watch their progress from seedling to fruit producing. The best part is that the food banks in New London reap the benefits. Healthy sustainable food is given to feed the food insecure: inspiring and motivating, I highly recommend you make the Coogan Farm and nearby nature trails a place to visit this summer.
If you go, share a pic, tell us about your experience. We’d love to hear from you.
Please share. Thanks. Enjoy. Judith
Description: Craig manages the Coogan Farm part of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic CT. He’s often at the Giving Garden, turning over the compost pile, checking on seeds, working with his volunteers creating 11,000 sq feet of edibles. Dedicated and passionate about feeding hungry children, he’s a wealth of knowledge. In today’s podcast, we talk about tomatoes, those red luscious fruits that are best eaten freshly picked on a hot summer’s day.
Did you ever wonder what a single tomato’s plant potential is? Tune in for specific growing tips and how to’s for superb healthy tomato plants with high yield.
About My guest: Craig Floyd. Farm Manager for the Coogan Farm in Mystic CT. Craig manages 11,000 sq feet as part of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. He’s passionate about using his extensive farming experience creating a sustainable, healthy no-till,, no-spray garden in order to give quality food to the needy. He watches children with emotional and physical handicaps change as they roam the garden. It works for adults too. I encourage everyone to put the Coogan Farm and Nature Center Trails on their to-do list this year. It’s worth it. and if you have the time, why not lend a hand? Volunteers are always welcome.
Transcript: #52 Craig Floyd #2
I am deeply honored to have the pleasure of interviewing Gunther Hauk again this week. His wisdom, his experience as a biodynamic farming expert and honeybee expert make him one of our true elders.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Spikenard Farm and Honeybee Sanctuary, in Floyd VA, a few years ago. I lived near Culpeper, VA at the time and got up early to make the 5-hour road trip so I could arrive by 9:30 am. After introductions, Gunther, of course, puts all volunteers to work and we got an assignment. We seeded an additional wildflower area for the bees. We harvested weeds for the compost pile, all accomplished in a light misty rain. He hoped for an opportunity for me to experience a swarm, but not that day. We ended the morning with stimulating conversation and lunch.
I felt honored to be a part of their workday. The folks I met deeply cared for and respected the honeybee species in particular but also nature in all its complexity. I recorded my experiences here. Go to my blog post: Beauty and the Bees: https://www.judithdreyer.com/gardens/beauty-and-the-bees/ for more.
Needless to say, I had much to ponder on the ride home. I hoped to capture something of the essence of their efforts through my writing. When the podcast series began I thought of Gunther and I am so grateful for his time and sharing over this past year.
Today though I want to share something about pollinators. Pollinators are more than honeybees. The Polliantor.org site says this:
- “More than 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals. Most (more than 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and bees.
- In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.
- Monarch butterflies have declined by 90% in the last 20 years.
- 25% of bumble bees species are thought to be in serious decline.”
I found this great offer from the pollinator.org site. They have planting guides for all types of ecoregional climates. I happen to be in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest area. The guides are colorful with great tables and resource information. I highly recommend them.
What can we do today?
- Donate to your favorite nature organization. Support their work. Pick a local one like a land trust and one national. Spikenard Farm and Honey Bee Sanctuary and Pollinator.org rely on donations to continue the great work they are doing. “The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Signature initiatives include the NAPPC (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign), National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides.”
- Buy Heirloom and organic seeds. There are so many great companies, often local, such as Truelove Seeds ( my podcast guest 2 weeks ago) to buy from and support.
- Plant pollinator-friendly plants, add more if you can.
- Consider replacing lawn with more natural foliage that supports our pollinators. At the Garden’s Gate has a practical chapter on how to do so.
- Start a seed saving bank at your local library.
- Learn about one new beneficial bug. Learn to properly identify it, its habitat, how it mates, what it needs for food and where it fits in with its local ecosystem. For me, I am going to learn more about praying mantis.
What critter will you choose? Let me know. I enjoy all your comments and stories.
Please share. Thanks again. Judith
On the top of a hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Floyd, VA sits a sanctuary devoted to bringing and allowing bees to function and exist as their nature intended. Gardens grace the land with seven types of hives placed in a circle in the midst of plants that support their needs. Though mist and a gentle rain surrounded the day work continued and I was grateful to be of some help at the Spikenard Farm and Bee Sanctuary.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit this farm and bee sanctuary recently. Lending a hand where needed I met Gunther and Vivien Hauk, author and the founders of the sanctuary. I also met Jane, Summer and Rick sanctuary staff members. Together we planted an annual garden bed working side by side sowing seeds such as flax, poppy, zinnia, and sunflowers to name a few. Together we lightly hoed to tamp the seeds into the turned earth. It is said that “many hands make light work”. It’s true. We had this area seeded and hoed in no time working cooperatively. Teaching, learning, helping got the job done in a pleasurable way. I couldn’t help but wonder what songs my Native American ancestors would sing while getting the job done!
The intentions of supporting and sharing the healing of the bees and supporting the land were part of my purpose in going. After weeding in the vegetable gardens we broke bread, shared stories. Then Gunther and I walked the property edges. He showed me future plans for expansion all in keeping with the concepts of biodynamic farming and beekeeping.
Before I left we checked on a recent swarm. Beautiful combs were formed on the hive slats. I was in awe of the gentleness and caring he and his
staff showed. Vital, intense, committed to giving to the whole is the dynamic of a hive. It was a pleasure and a privilege to visit this lovely and well cared for ground.
I have mentioned the plight of our honeybees in previous articles and discussed the concept of relationships in some measure. Biodynamic farming builds and enriches the soil. Biodynamic beekeeping cooperates with the natural order of the Hive, maintaining the integrity and health of these beautiful creatures. We can co-create with the resources beneath our feet and share these resources supporting the dynamic of respectful partnership.
Also, Gunther and his wife are Waldorf School trained teachers. The Biodynamic way of farming comes from Rudolph Steiner as does this education model. For more information on Rudolph Steiner’s model for teaching and Biodynamic farming methods and philosophy visit the highlighted link.
Spikenard Farm relies on the support and donations of you and I. I ask all of you dear family and friends to consider donating to this worthwhile model.
“Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary
445 Floyd Highway North
Floyd, VA 24091
For donations in stock please email us email@example.com
All donations are fully tax deductible.
We thank you in advance for your investment in the future of the earth and our life with the bees.”