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.)