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
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
Plant saving, plant preservation for future generations are just two of the goals for United Plant Savers. Those of us in the herbal field rely on their up to date ‘at risk’ and ‘to watch’ plant list. Rosemary Gladstar and other concerned herbalists created an organization that was/is deeply concerned about the depletion of our plant populations. They began twenty -five years ago, in 1994, when herbalism experienced a resurgence. Many wild plants hit the airwaves like St John’s Wort and others creating intense demand. These grass root herbalists took their concerns, created UpS, United Plant Savers, and put those concerns into action.
In Rutland Ohio, the first UpS sponsored botanical sanctuary was born where species like American Ginseng, Goldenseal and others are propagated and replanted all over the country. Today many sanctuaries exist all over our country including personal backyards all the way to well known botanical gardens, all striving to propagate, educate their communities on the importance of respecting and using plants with mindfulness to species needs.
UpS also offers the opportunity to apply for grant money to fund your community project. It worked for me. Two years ago, with the grant money awarded to the Garden Path Garden Club in Tolland CT, we created the Turtle Teaching Circle. With parents help and students, a 20′ diameter circle was placed near the children’s garden with 12 stumps marking the places on a typical native American Wheel. Each place on the wheel has a trail quality sign featuring an ‘at-risk’ or ‘to-watch’ plant native to New England. The project is near a community trail with easy handicap access. Students are taught about gardening and seed saving.
We still see a decrease in plant populations due to popularity. I have been to the sanctuary in Rutland Ohio. Meadows and woodlands, forest and trails highlight the diverse habitats needed to preserve ‘at-risk- plants and more. They offer classes in herbalism with experts guiding foraging experiences that are respectful of habitat, plant-specific needs, and place in complex ecosystems. Sustainable regenerative gardening practices are key to the survival of our plants.
I hope you will go to their website and explore their articles, their resources and maybe get to one of their events. They will be honored and highlighted at this year’s International Herb Symposium in MA. If you use herbal supplements and garden, add another herb to your planting list this year to conserve our plant resources. If you use herbal supplements and don’t garden, please consider a donation to UpS.
I have been a member off and on for these past 25 years. We are activists, environmentalists, herbalists, folks who simply care about this earth and her resources, each in his or her own way. Check them out. This is a fantastic time for the organization, a time of honoring the work done and where and how we need to focus today on our journey, our partnership with the earth.