Sunday, January 29, 2012

Community Dynamics: Learning from the Past to Understand the Present

History plays a vital role in the practice of Permaculture. The story of the landscape can be learned through books, soil tests, artifacts and other various methods to learn how the land was once cared for before and after human disturbance. By learning about the story of a landscape, we can grasp an understanding of the forces that have created the environment that we are familiar with today and we can change it to what we desire. Taking this same concept, we can utilize the same tools to understand our community and where it is today.

On January 28, 2012, Community Cultivators Dallas-Ft Worth ventured into the Southside community in Ft Worth. We were invented for tea and crumpets with Ms Brown, the Director of East Ft Worth Montessori Academy, her co-workers, family, and friends to discuss the future of Southside.

Our meeting started off with a tour of the the home and its story. 1414 Evans Ave is one out of three homes in Ft Worth that still remains in the Victorian style architecture and has stood there for over 100 years. The only information that was found on the first people to live in the house were the Nickles family, and the second family to stay there was the Nickles-Mickles. All other information has been lost to time. As other members trickled in, we all sat down and began to expand the story to the neighborhood and the city.
As we gathered in the living area, Ms Brown ventured into the past to paint a picture of the Southside community. It was once the "Black Mecca" in Ft Worth during the days of segregation and colored people had businesses up and down Evans Ave thriving from their strong sense of community. Everyday, people would be walking and enjoying the environment that they co-created together.

Down the street from the house, the Ella Mae Shamblee library is named after an African woman. Ms Shamblee borrowed books from libraries ad would walk and down streets with a trolly of the borrowed books so that children could read at home and become educated. Her legacy lives on as the local library is filled with various books and materials for the entire Southside community.

In time, as de-segregation was unfolding the wealthy African Americans in the area did what most wealthy families do. They moved out, the wealth of the community left, and the Southside area fell into poverty.

After the story, we sat down for tea and a lite snack. This ritual is being utilized by Ms Brown to invite anybody into her home to talk and discuss the future of the area. She's brought in homeless people to hear their stories and to show them respect and care as a fellow brother or sister.

The discussion of the past shifted into action, we went for a short walk to an area that is being re-developed to revamp the area. As we walked out, our stroll through history revealed truths about education, the civil rights movement, and gardening that we were once ignorant about.

Within the Southside area, Raziq Brown, Ms Brown's son, told us about the home of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement for Colored Peoples, the many churches that are in the area, the Civil Rights movement in Southside, the education of African Americans, and the introduction of gardens and animals to the African community.

We made short stops along the way and came to the Ella Mae Shamblee library. Next to the library was a rest area for people to sit down, enjoy the view of the area, and walk a path that told the history of African American struggles in the recent past.

In 1957, the Botanical Gardens and the zoo were finally opened to African American children under the sponsor and supervision of a white family. In other words, Africans had to let their children go with a family they've never met and let them be watched by that family to go to a garden or a zoo. This was only 55 years ago. The negative connotations of gardens and zoos are communicable from parent to child to grandchild. At the same time, some African people remember a day when they could walk down the street and pick fresh fruit from any yard on their way back home from a day's work or from school.

Our journey through time brought us back to where we are and what we have to do now.

Simply by learning about the past, we have experienced a small snippet of the struggles of a large part of our community and gained an understanding of the hurdles we face today because of it.
By learning about our past, we can understand the present, and we can direct the future.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Landscape Design: Draw Ponds on Sketch Up

Water is an Essential part of Any Landscape. Learn how to use Sketch Up to draw Irregular 3D objects to make ponds.

Note: I'm not actually putting a pond at this site and I didn't go over design features for site allocation for ponds. It's just for demo purposes. You can find information on design features through keyline design which you can find here: (I recommend watching all 5 in the series, great stuff.)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Landscape Design and Analysis: Draw Contour Lines with Google Sketch Up

Sketch Up is a free tool provided by Google that can be used for landscape design as well as designing 3D models for architecture, innovations and more. This one tool can be used to do a basic site plan that is perfectly scaled. You can also use it to draw trees, add layers to do your multistory Forest Garden, and more.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pattern Languages: Using the Toroid and the Double Helix for Self-Reflection and Expansion

I've reflected on the previous post on Pattern Languages and the book I'm currently reading, Holistic Management by Allan Savory.

It didn't occur to me at the time of writing the post on Pattern Languages: Links between Lesson Plans, Individual Dreams, and Community; evidently, I was using the material in Holistic Management to reformulate and structure life with definitive and known patterns. 

Allan Savory has a template for creating a Holistic Goal through the realization and creation of a Statement of Purpose, Forms of Production, and Future Resource Base. In short, the Statement of Purpose is the abstract foundation that expresses and defines the meaning of what you are doing. The Forms of Production are the assets that you have access to that will fulfill your Statement of Purpose. These Forms of Production will be leveraged to create a Future Resource Base which will then become your Form(s) of Production in the future with a new Future Resource Base.

Taking this into consideration, I renamed the Statement of Purpose, Forms of Production and Future Resource base to Purpose, Foundation, and Future Foundation, respectively. They carry the same meaning and definitions. To me, they are easier to digest, to correlate and to reference.

Individuals, organizations, and communities often forget the purpose of their existence when the true Purpose does not feedback to the heart and meaning of what is being done. The Foundation should be a reflection of the Purpose and if it is not, corrections should be made so that the Future Foundation is the desired Foundation. Likewise, the Future Foundation that is achieved (which then becomes the new Foundation) should be reflected upon to determine if it holds true to the Purpose.
With this understanding, I drew a diagram to depict the function of these three items (Fig 1).

Figure 1

 This pattern creates a cyclical nature that reinforces each component, a self-recycling loop. By simply showing that each component continually affects the other you get the pattern of the Toroid (Figures 2 and 3)

Figure 2
Figure 3

Adding this function gives us a more representative model of what occurs with a Holistic Purpose, Foundation, and Future Foundation. The individual or organization continually feeds itself and thrives to achieve its potential. As time progresses, the Purpose, Foundation, and Future Foundation shifts to correct itself or expand. The depiction of the Toroid shows the self-feeding and reflective mechanisms but does not depict the expansion of the Purpose, the Foundation, and the Future Foundation.
Adding to this, we can call the beginning Purpose-0, Foundation-0, and Future Foundation-0. As an individual, organization, or community realizes a Holistic Goal with Holistic management, each component evolves to Purpose-1, Foundation-1, and Future Foundation-1. As this expands the components evolve to Purpose-2, Foundation-2, and Future Foundation-2. This model then creates three Toroids that nest one on top of the other, Figure 4.

These Toroids each realize a new state by leveraging the support of the previous Toroid. The dots on the picture represent the leverage point. Now, these Toroids are still connected and in reflection of the one above and below. Connecting the dots creates the pattern of the next pattern, the double helix.

Remembering these patterns can aide us in picturing how we can correlate our subconscious thoughts, conscious thoughts, and our actions to stay true to ourselves and each other. In this way, we are able to continually reflect on the ripples and disruptions that we channel into our surroundings to create a meaningful Holistic Purpose, Foundation, and Future Foundation for Life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pattern Languages: Links between Lesson Plans, Individual Dreams, and Community

A Little History
My name is Chow. I garden and teach lessons for the Outdoor Learning Environment at East Ft Worth Montessori Academy. I've been here for since August of 2011 and this is my first time to teach children about anything. So I did what I knew, look at pattern languages to see how I could leverage their creativity and desires to teach them what they wanted.

In another picture, there is a Community Cultivators Dallas-Ft Worth originating and developing the community has been step one. We're a dispersed group of individuals with miscellaneous talents and gifts. The vital question became, "how do we harness our community assets?"

The previous idea of community assets is next in succession from the individual and their own personal dreams and goals. Although, both can be cultivated simultaneously when the proper resources are injected to develop new patterns.

That should do it.

Onward to the lesson plan.

Table of Contents + Titles
The beauty of education through Outdoor Learning is the adaptiveness we have to focus on what we observe through the children's excitement and participation just as they observe us and the environment to discover knowledge instead of being told or fed the answers. In fewer words, our teaching methods can change within the moment to cater to a particular interest. To organize this self-discovery, the children are equipped with their own journals with a table of contents to structure their documentation of their explorations. Funny thing is I never did that myself until I saw that these children's organizational skills were far superior to mine.

Since August, I've been preparing to teach lessons to these children from my observations of them and my experience in life. Let the teaching begin!

This week, I've been placed to teach 2nd grade classes about a lesson topic of my choice. Naturally, the kids have shown interest in things that are animated. It's irresistible, and it somehow narrows their attention to that life force. At East Ft Worth Montessori (EFWMA), we have chickens, goats, and rabbits. From previous conversations from another Outdoor Learning Educator, the kindergarten class didn't remember anything else she taught except for those three things: chickens, goats, and rabbits. They remember most of the details about the animals but couldn't recall the conversations about weather or anything else that they have covered in the past few months.

Observation: Teach them what they want to know and don't strive too far from that at first

So I decided to add a new addition to complement the other animals and make life easier at our school farm while teaching about a life force that they're somewhat familiar with, earthworms .

The Lesson Plan

It's often assumed that kids do not know much about a particular subject. The case though is that many of them are more familiar than we may know. In economic theory, adverse selection occurs from asymmetrical information for the purchase of goods and services. For example, if you were to buy a used car the dealership has better information at the moment than you do. To cure that, you may take the car in for inspection and determine if its worth their asking price.

For information, it's alleviated by asking the simple question: What Do You Already Know?

From that point you've determined their current understanding or lack of understanding about a particular subject. Many people are misinformed about a particular topic and may not realize it. For instance, many parents are afraid of bees hurting their children or maybe just themselves. In effect, the children become scared in the environment with the sight of bees and do not behave correctly around them increasing their chances of being stung, an unfortunate event for the child and the bee.

At this point, the foundation of knowledge can be steered into a new comfort zone with proper information and time. With certain individuals, changing the paradigm of fear or ignorance may take a different approach.

From the point of their current knowledge base, we can then move towards the next area of participation and involvement: What do You want to Know?

Future based perceptions allow the children to abstractly grasp their thoughts and desires about a particular subject and begin communicating it to the world. In the case of earthworms, the kids were fascinated with how they reproduce.

The beauty of this simple question also allowed me to gauge their interest and alter my lesson to address those wants and move into other areas to show how they complement each other. In this case, the reproduction of earthworms also requires the foundation of knowledge about their habitat, shelter, food, air, water, and so forth.

In this manner, the children can link how the worms reproduce but also need other elements to thrive. Producing baby worms continuously won't be beneficial unless the habitat is conducive for it.

Once I've determined What they Already Know and What they Want to Know, the lesson moves into the area of Observation and Analysis.

Using their prior knowledge and their desires, they can now view an earthworm and see for themselves if they can answer their own questions. In one class period, they may determine new insights, but the likelihood of answering everything is limited to the duration of the lesson, which is not long enough.

However, they get to answer for themselves, and I only serve as a guide to steer their thoughts to general concrete ideas. For instance, the children were able to identify that the worms enjoy darkness. The following question would then be to determine how do earthworms react to light and have them determine for themselves from their previous knowledge base why they react to light in that manner. Simple answers would be "it dries them out." Great! They're then rewarded with the simple act of holding a worm.

Onwards! From there, I move into the altered lesson plan. The components are dynamic so that I can move to different areas: anatomy, reproduction, habitat, etc. In this way, I can teach the lesson that they wanted to know just as their observations in nature may have taken place outdoors.

So. .

what does this have to do with individual dreams and community assets?


Individual Dreams and Communal Assets
As an individual, my dreams and goals are to create a world we all want to live in. To determine a plan of action, I would first start by determine What I Already Have and Know.

Much in the same fashion as the lesson plan for the children, I am selecting talents and gifts that are already acquired through my life experience. It's a leverage point to then determine the future state of assets, my dreams. Another way to say dream though is What I Want to Have and Know.

From there, I can seek members of the community, online or local, to determine how I can leverage my current foundation (knowledge and skill set) to reach my desired goals.

Likewise, once an individual can harness this, working within communities is the next step within the succession. Individual goals can be accomplished alone. However community support speeds up the succession through the accumulation of individual foundations and dreams.

Going back to the lesson plan, what does a community have and what does the community want.

Patterns don't have to be complicated. It's like a math problem where you change the variable X to Y, a metaphor to relate those same variables using words, or a piece of art to communicate beauty.

You can search within, or look around only to find very similar if not the same answers.

It's all very funny in the end. It took communities, individuals, and this school to get me to realize how similar and the same they all are.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Community Cultivator FunRaiser

As you may or may not already know, Community Cultivators is at a very important moment of growth and development and we need your help. Over the past year and a half we have done some incredible things together and really made the best of the worst summer in Texas history. Today, we have visions of taking C^2 to the next level and beyond. We seek to develop a new level of community creativity and interactivity that we want you all to be apart of... and we'll all need each others help to get there!

Through the commitment of hard working people such as yourself, we've change many landscapes, shared many meals, moved mountains of mulch and showed how permaculture can be applied even in the most urban of environments. Over the course of this adventure, we've managed to "fund a movement" without any substantial funding. It's incredible to think about all that we've accomplished together!

As we move ahead there are opportunities awaiting us on the horizon that will allow us to expand our services and our ability to cultivate more resilient, healthy and happy communities. Some of these opportunities, however, come at a cost.

As a community, we would still much prefer to find the talent needed to perform this work within the community, people who share our vision and mission and who want to continue to see the community thrive, without having to ask for monetary donations. This is the kind of world we would like to work toward, one where money is the last medium of exchange considered rather than the first.

Sharing the skills for a better community

Here are a few of the skills we are hoping to find within the community:

Web Programer: Someone with a strong knowledge of open source technologies who can help us develop an interactive website that will serve as a tool to help empower individuals to engage with their communities worldwide and cultivate a healthy and cooperative network from which to share ideas and inspiration.

Graphic Designer: Someone who can channel the community feel into an inviting and interactive user interface for our developing website.

Legal Professional: Someone who can provide advice on the best ways to structure and organize C^2 to most effectively actualize our vision and mission. Someone who can help to navigate the legal bureaucracies for the benefit of communities everywhere.

If you feel like you'd like to contribute in any way, even if you don't feel you have the skills mentioned above, please contact ... your community appreciates any and all support you can lend!

Other ways to lend support

If you'd like to contribute, but time is not your most abundant asset, we understand. We want to make it easy to take part in the cultivation of community no matter what your means or personal situation is.

One of the ways we are trying to raise money, that doesn't cost you any, is to have our community (who are Wheatsville Co-op Owners) choose us for a "Write-in" vote on the "Community Action Wednesday" groups. Simply go to enter your information, select the board candidates you'd like to vote for, select nine possible Community Action Wednesday groups from the list at the bottom of the page and finally, check the box next to the empty text field and write in Community Cultivators.

With that one simple act, you could help raise $1200 to $2000 plus for your community! What a great opportunity!

Last by not least

Throughout the past year and a half you have helped us grow and expand in ways that we could have never expected. Your contributions of time and energy have been invaluable to the community and have allowed us to literally transform peoples lives. In order to help us keep the fun going, we need your help... Help us raise the FUN by raising some FUND$!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Integration of Concepts and Ideas: The Chicken, Black Soldier Fly, Earthworm Composter

Permaculture can be continually and infinitely expanded on the developments of systems and the combinations of systems.

I've been recently reading up on the integration of black soldier fly (Hermetia ilucens) and earthworms such as red wigglers (Eisenia fetida). Referring back to the permaculture chicken, it is beneficial to determine the necessities, habits, behaviors, intrinsic traits and so on of the organism.

To integrate black soldier fly and worms requires the same concept. After considering the process, it can become clear what are the hurdles that need to be addressed to move out of the limitation of the impossible, to the possible, experimentation and trials and finally the reality.

Black Soldier Fly enjoy temperatures of 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit while Eisenia fetida enjoy temperatures ranging from 70-84 degrees for optimum health. Furthermore, black soldier fly effluent attracts the female fly to lay eggs there. If earthworms are to coexist in this environment, they have to endure the temperature extremes. The liquid effluent from the soldier fly also creates a dilemma if the worm castings are desired for garden beds.

These limitations present the dynamic of what needs to be considered for this integration to be successful, and there lies an answer (in the title). Lets consider the life cycles of the black soldier fly.

Black soldier fly can reduce food and manure by 95% within a day. Containers are also created so that the soldier fly are self-harvesting as the mature pupae search for ground to metamorph into the adult fly and reproduce.

Since they are self-harvesting, black soldier fly can feed themselves to a flock of chickens who will then form a package of fertilizer for our earthworms to digest into rich castings. In the picture below, the BSF bin can be placed next to the coop. It is missing a ramp for the pupae to travel to their fatal death. Some can be saved to ensure that the populations of Black Soldier Fly larvae remain adequate for chicken feed or expansion.

There does lie another issue of the chicken manure being too hot and the habit of chickens to eat insects such as worms. This can be turned into a benefit and an opportunity.

Eisenia fetida is preferred due to its nature of processing large amounts of food. However, chicken manure is rich in nitrogen and will spark a compost pile when added with water and carbon sources such as paper and cardboard in a worm bin. Furthermore, we don't want our worm populations to dwindle as open chicken feed.

To cure these ailments, we can seperate the worm bin into seperate areas based on the temperature. One region will be for hot activated compost, warm compost, and cool worm castings. We then create a barrier between our chickens and the worms so we can allow the worms to happily multiply and reproduce while still having the chicken manure drop below to be composted.

By simply mapping the resources of each of these organisms we can move toward potential systems that cater to the ecological and economic success through permaculture. Although this does not entirely address the integration of black soldier fly and earth worms, it can still be separately integrated and complimented. For example, food sources such as duckweed for fish in an aquaponic system are separate from the fish or animal source since they can be diminished if not readily available, endangered, or shifted from optimum conditions (temperature, habitat, etc).

Furthermore, the effluent from black soldier can still be utilized to enhance earthworm health and vitality. Collection bins to collect the black soldier fly effluent can be dumped into the earthworm bin and further digested. Since the chickens are above the earth worm bin, they will work to prevent the infiltration of black soldier fly into our worm bins. This also can be partnered during a season of the year when the black soldier fly is not or cannot reproduce along its life cycle.

Other potentials exist as well to create further possibilities. For example, the chickens can be positioned above an aquaculture system where their manure will feed bottom feeders who feed plants through an aquaponic system.

The next evolution is to integrate these concepts within our social realm so that the disciplines of ecology, economics and sociology are utilized to create new potentials for solving world problems. The next post will provide a framework to cure the social diseases of our society (such as poverty and its associated ailments) by using these methods to create the foundation of our well being.