Designing the flower!

Not all classrooms have four walls.

The centerpiece of this community garden is a flower. It’s coming together a bit different than the original sketch, but I’m loving it and so are the kids! I’ve already planted cabbage, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots with an after-school green team. We still have pruning to complete on existing trees, and I continue moving my black tarps to kill all the weeds. In the next two weeks, we are going to make the full installation. I am very excited!

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Discover Mindfulness in Nature

Please join us in November to experience a deeper level of connection in nature. The classes are free! This month we will be planting and creating our community garden. Check out the progress here. Things are coming together! We’ve even recruited an after-school green team.mindfulness-1

Learning What it Means to be Connected

To me, being connected can be defined in one word: mindfulness. Whether it’s a connection to nature, your career, relationships, yourself, conscious movement in mindfulness will help deepen any experience. This means slowing down to breathe in the moment and avoid rushing through.

What better way to experience mindfully living than while on vacation?

 

Vacation fosters mindful movement – a space to experience with all senses. A person on vacation usually slows down. Certain aspects of life are shifted. For me that includes: no alarm clock (sometimes I need one to be sure I catch an early-morning flight); no pets to feed; no work; no school craze, homework and car lines; I eat out, which means someone else does the dishes and cooks. Vacation creates a chance to detach from stress and daily chaos and to purposely reconnect.

I recently visited the United Kingdom (UK). (In case you missed my debut to the UK last fall, you can read it here.) To say it simply: I LOVE THE UK. It’s a place I feel at home. The UK inspires me with it’s romantic castles, haunting historical architecture, poetic train rides and cooler, damp weather. I easily imagine a permanent home with a crackling fire and Tennyson’s words filtering the steady stream of rain.

Don’t worry I do know what a cold, wet English rain feels like with squishy shoes when you are blocks from your flat. I also know what a crowded weekend train from Oxford feels like. I stood for the entire hour with all the other travelers. I also crammed myself with the rest of the morning rush on the Underground. And somehow this reality DOES NOT change how I feel about the UK. Because there is connection in every moment, and recent history has proved the uncomfortable moments are the ones to pay attention to.

I’ve never had difficulty finding awareness in my surroundings. I’m always very conscious of my physical surroundings. But I haven’t always been aware my emotional body.

 

So how do I feel in those uncomfortable moments?

First, riding a train in London is such a familiar feat everyone gets comfortable and reads. Not a cellphone. Not even an e-book. A REAL BOOK. That made me smile. People talk to each other. Complete strangers have conversations.

There is a relief to knowing you’re on the right train heading in the right direction. It’s a moment to take a deep breath and relax.

Those moments reminded me how to stay connected to who I am and who I am becoming. I used this opportunity to continued to find deeper connection with my needs, wants and feelings. And a deeper connection with myself cultivates deeper connection to the experience.

How did I cultivate that connect while on vacation?

Self-awareness:

The UK surrounds me in a life I find comforting. It was Autumn (my favorite season), and it actually felt like a season I remembered as a child. The UK is where many great writers emerged – a subject I studied in college. (People actually know who Elizabeth Gaskell is AND they can list her books.) And the English garden is a must see and smell – ALL THE ROSES. It’s a moment to fully immerse in what I love, which is, in many ways, who I am.

Self-care:

Every day I did yoga. Many times it was in the kitchen of my flat. Sometimes it was in nature. I also sat and meditated. My favorite spot was the one pictured above. It was a sunny spot in a crowded city center in Oxford. The noise didn’t bother me. The moment still held peace.

Silence:

I took advantage of moments of silence for reflection and to just breath in the experience. A good experience should be given the gift of savoring with all the senses.

“The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

How do you connect while on vacation or holiday? How can you remain in those moments to stay grounded in who you are?

 

 

 

 

Learning to Live What I Sell

Recently, I met a participant during one of my workshops.  She recognized me from a few years before when we had become acquainted during a play date. She explained that she had been exploring all that Pineapple Acres had to offer and wanted to be doing what I was doing. She said she wanted to be me. Of course, this statement can do wonders for a person’s ego, but I realized that besides making me feel good, perhaps I was doing something right.

So what does Pineapple Acres sell?

To keep it simple: an experience. I hope it’s a connection to nature – a spiritual journey to peace. But it may simply be where your journey needs to be in this moment. And that could be learning a new plant; solving a pest problem in the garden; or creating space for mindfulness in your yard.

I always encourage participants to work from where they are with what they have. I’d like to take that a bit further – and add from who they are. The reason: you’ll be more likely to keep at it and succeed when you acknowledge your reality.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we need to stop imagining we can change in a day, a week or a month. Through gardening, Pineapple Acres offers mindfulness as a journey – not an end goal. Read about garden therapy here to get a better idea to what I mean.

And what better way to make this happen then by living this journey myself. It’s a journey that ignites my curiosity; encourages me to learn; and inspires inner awareness.

Seems to be my most authentic marketing tool. I may be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, a website, flyers, Meetup, etc., but living my slogan: Make every day better with mindfulness in nature, may be an unseen winner in the marketing race.

Because Pineapple Acres isn’t solely about identifying plants and helping them survive. It’s not even about a pretty display of well-placed plants. It’s about accepting where you are and connecting to that moment. Maybe you’re not meditating at the beach. You’re more like me – meditating for 10 minutes amongst the chaos of the afternoon. Maybe you’re not preforming flying crow in your yoga practice. You’re simply standing as a warrior in an unfinished workshop in the company of scattered tools. Wherever you are doesn’t matter. It’s being who you are and moving forward despite or in spite of what that may be.

How to discover this experience with Pineapple Acres?

  • mindfulness in nature workshops (i.e., meditation and yoga)
  • gardening workshops
  • guidance in holistic landscape (aka sustainability, regenerative, permaculture)

How did Pineapple Acres come to be?

Pineapple Acres is a reflection of me, which began here at this blog. Pineapple Acres is this blog come to life. But I don’t want you to be me. I hope to inspire, educate and guide you to speak your own truth while experiencing a deeper part to your own inner peace. That’s big. And, yes, I truly believe gardening and being in nature has that power.

You just need to have the courage to go there.

Pineapple Acres – Where you can hear the whispers of your soul, ground yourself in nature and find inner peace through plants.

Learning How to Design Community in a Food Forest

“Community food forests can reach beyond their physical boundaries in support of civic well-being.” ~The Community Food Forest Handbook

A year ago, I took to planning; educating myself in business and accounting; and taking action to launch my non-profit, Pineapple Acres (which made it’s official debut in April). Here I have had the unexpected experience of interacting with public spaces to install educational food forests. What began as a passionate gardening hobby has transformed into multiple community projects.

My first project was with my girls’ school. It began in February and has been loosely organized and built with a lot of uncertainties. Yet, it has created a low-risk business model for me. I’ve done some things right. Some things have not gone according to plan. And other things have turned out to be far better than expected.

In the middle of this project, I disappeared for two weeks to learn about permaculture design. Here I learned how to observe a natural space and then take those observations and put them into place for a self-sustaining garden. I believe there is a part in this process that does not include soil types, plant selection or sun vs. shade. Yet, it may be the most changeable and possibly the piece that can make or break a project. It’s the human factor. It’s much more difficult to observe the human systems in a public project because they are so complex and often overlap.

At the moment I have three projects taking place on public property. These are projects that fall into multiple phases and move in collaboration with many players. It’s complicated and requires focus and organization. It moves fast at moments for reasons that are completely out of my control. I may be lead on the design and manage the plants, but often I don’t organize the funding or volunteers. I don’t always set dates for work days. You see, when I’m brought in, I’m considered the expert in plants. I don’t usually have the final say in the project. This typically goes to someone who is in charge of the space and, many times, considers themselves a brown thumb or, in some cases, a black thumb. The main governance is controlled by others. And opinions can be many.

To help navigate this process, I’ve been studying the book, The Community Food Forest Handbook by Catherine Bukowski and John Munsel. This book is excellent. And to my surprise, already in chapter 2 they address the human piece and the effect it can have on the success of a project.

For example, for my initial school project we have moved through four stages. Each stage encompassed different volunteers. I have never worked with the same group. I’m the only stagnate piece (and my children at times). And sometimes I’m the ONLY piece. I spend many Sunday evenings checking in on the gardens, weeding, mulching and watering. We are currently in Stage 5, which I qualify as ‘maintenance’. This is the area where, if I did everything right, I should simply be the guide and no longer the lead or the most engaged in the plant part of a project. If I were to leave the gardens unattended others would move in to help. I believe, I could completely walk away and the gardens would survive. That feels good.

Yesterday, I initiated a work day. Teachers have claimed their gardens; science projects are lined near the butterfly gardens; and someone else located mulch. A few weeks ago I almost fell over when I found two dump truck loads of mulch. Others in this school community are choosing to continue with the gardens on their own. And I didn’t have to do a thing!

You can prep soil; install drip irrigation; and plant native plants all to help ensure a low-maintenance gardening experience, but there comes a time when other people will need to be present. What happens if the weeds break free from inches of weed-barriers you laid down (oh, and they will)? What happens if a landscaper decides to mow over the trees you just planted? Or a person doesn’t recognize a pineapple plant and hack it down with the neighboring grass? Someone takes your hoses and locks them in a locker that you do not have access to. Someone takes your pitch fork promising to mulch, and you haven’t seen it in sevens months. These things can happen. Believe me. Everything I’ve just listed has happened.

In permaculture design, we learned to observe things and then interact with the flow. I’ve learned how to move with the flow – even when it’s a bit choppy.

What I learned:

  • Talking with public maintenance or landscaping crews that are already in place is key.

One evening I was heavily scolded for watering plants. I didn’t blame the maintenance staff. They had no idea who I was or what I was doing. I may have had permission and a key, but clear communication is vital to ALL involved in the public space. I’ve also experienced the above examples of having trees, ferns, bromeliads, and pineapples mowed over. I know not every plant survives, but this was gardening murder. I cannot be at the school gardens 24/7. It’s impossible. But it’s possible to have a conversation and hope others using the space can work with you. Even if they don’t know plants, most often people are respectful of your work.

  • Organizing volunteers is important. Find groups that will commit. If you can’t organize the groups, many times the leader within the public space can.

With my girls’ school garden I have worked with university volunteers, church volunteers, PTA volunteers and family volunteers. All volunteers are welcomed, but not all volunteers are created equally. Many of my volunteers know absolutely NOTHING about plants. Still, if you guide them well, they can haul mulch, weed, plant and actually have fun. Even on days where no one should be outside. This is also a key moment to keep volunteers engaged. Providing water, work gloves and then talking about what the gardens mean to me has been enough to find support.

  • Funding is important! And complicated.

Grants are available for many school or community gardens. This is also an opportunity to bring outsiders into the project. You can do fundraisers; ask for community sponsorship; or donate yourself. Funding is an opportunity to bring in local involvement. Be strategic about this process.

  • Free stuff is good. Real good.

In my first project we reached budget (which was provided by me) at Stage 2 of 4. So we became creative about locating free stuff. Examples: propagating plants; contact tree companies for free mulch; ask volunteers for free plants. From my experience, the more people you share your project with, the more likely they will be willing to help. I had wonderful contributions from a local gardening club.

  • Community engagement is necessary for the long-term.

I’m impressed at how much community can be embraced around a garden. Not everyone can identify the plants or even know how to keep them alive, but a garden may be appreciated for the color of the wildflowers; the shade of the live oak; or the butterflies and bees busy moving in the sun. A garden provides a meditative space or an opportunity to sweat out your stress. There is something for everyone in a public gardening space. You just have to observe those within this space and move with it.

I believe in community projects, I have represented a gardening Yoda guiding others to understanding. In the end, it takes a village to make a community gardening space succeed.

“Many hands make light work.” ~ John Heywood

 

Regenerative Gardening Program

This month we are focusing on bees and Florida pollinating plants. Below are the schedules ’til the end of the year. The classes are free! Please consider joining me to learn more about the world we live in and for some fun hands-on activities.pumpkinsmindfulness-1holiday-1

Perma – what? Defining What Permaculture Means to the Average Person

banana-branch-bunch-214158
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

I’m going to invite you into a conversation I had a few months ago with my permaculture design mentor:

My mentor: “Do not use the term permaculture.”

Me: “Why?” (For the record, in this moment I thought this term was AMAZING and wanted to tell everyone.)

Mentor: “Because if you have to define something you’ve already lost your client.”

I did not completely understand the extent of one’s confusion with this term, but this soon became very clear the further I got along in my business, Pineapple Acres, an outdoor classroom meant to educate in gardening, edible landscaping, and mindfulness. I began to realize most average gardeners (possible subjects interested in permaculture) didn’t know what this word meant even after it was defined. Most home owners didn’t want an explanation to how edibles could be added to their landscape; they simply wanted ‘pretty.’ They didn’t care if you could eat it or not. And I didn’t even attempt this term with my non-gardening friends.

What is permaculture?

By definition permaculture is: the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

But what does that really mean? I’m hoping to answer this question by not actually answering this question.

So here I was with a word that had triggered a dream, but had the potential to critically confused my prospecting clients.

Why would a word that defines my life and career be a word that I should not use?

agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before I answer that question, I’d like to take you on my permaculture journey as a way to show you a glimpse of a permaculture lifestyle in basic terms.

About 12 years ago, I was loosely introduced to the term by a friend who was studying urban planning, but who also had a knack for natural/native landscape design and gardening. He and I had even planned to begin a commune-like homestead where our partners provided money so we could tinkered in the fields. That dream turned into the reality of a shared community garden to a small farm where we spent many hours experimenting. I learned to defend chickens from a healthy population of raccoons; to winterize a bee hive; to install rain barrels to water animals as well as plants; and to prune raspberries and blackberries. I owned things like a dehydrator, pressure cooker, and hot-water bath canner. We were serious gardeners. I sold organic eggs and even invested in a book called, “The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It,” by John Seymour. My farm was fun and comfortable, but I never labeled it permaculture; we called is sustainable living. Yet, it was ingrained with permaculture and taught me skills that have given me the status today as “the one in the room who knows what they are talking about.”

two brown hen and one red rooster
Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

It was a really great time in my life. I’m now trying to replicate this life in the tropics on a smaller scale in a more urban area.

I’ve educated myself in permaculture through a permaculture design course taught by Koreen Brennan with Grow Permaculture.  You can read my story here. It transformed my life in ways I never anticipated. Embracing permaculture is not just an agricultural design technique for me. It has become a way of life.

How permaculture became my life:

  • I’ve learned to live consciously considering a view that embraces health for the mind, body and spirit.
  • I’ve learned to observe what I see and interact with the flow of the reality.
  • I’ve learned to see the connections of every element in my life and through those connections see a bigger picture.
  • I’ve learned to view a problem as a possible solution.
  • I’ve learned to let things be and control only what is in my power. (Sometimes in a design this is referring to the client.)

These are techniques I use in design for a workshop, a garden or a relationship. There is no limit to a healthy holistic view. And that is where I anticipate to take my clients.

variety of fruits
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Because my clients do not come to me for a vocabulary lesson. And the definition of permaculture doesn’t even begin to share the magic. A definition is just words, but an experience is lasting. So from now on, I do not run a permaculture-based business. I don’t even run an edible landscape business.

I have the ability to introduce you to world that will nourish your mind, body and spirit, but you won’t know it’s through the principals of permaculture.

Because that is not why you will come to Pineapple Acres.

You’ll come to Pineapple Acres ready to educate yourself in nature, but you will leave with sustenance to last a lifetime.

And that is the definition of permaculture.

Remember to keep moving, experimenting and learning. Eventually you’ll discover what you need in the garden, in relationships and in life.