Categories
Musings

Summer reading

I always loved books, but I had much less time to appreciate them in college and while working in Somerville.  By taking the summer off, I freed up a lot of time for reading.  Some has been purely for entertainment, but I’ve also learned a lot from books, articles, and magazines this summer.

It’s hard to tell if novels just seem better because I have long uninterrupted sessions to spend with them, or if I’ve hit the jackpot and picked a great string of books to enjoy.  The following titles come highly recommended (if the story sounds interesting to you, that is): Shadow of the WindMe, Earl, and the Dying Girl, City of Thieves, 1Q84, and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.

I thought Michelle Obama’s American Grown did a great job of justifying the need for a continued surge in school gardens to unite communities, reconnect Americans with where food comes from, and increase physical activity.  The recipes, growing tips, and photos sprinkled throughout the book turned it into a beautiful and practical resource for school and community gardeners.

In a recent New York Times Opinionator, Tim Kreider articulates many of the reasons I’ve chosen to move to Vermont and take the summer off.  His The ‘Busy’ Trap article explores the culture of busyness that I felt overwhelmed by in the city.  As I planned my move, I felt like I was aware of a secret that others didn’t realize yet – one doesn’t always have to be busy to be a good staff member, a good friend, and a good citizen.

As Kreider writes, “The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it….Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”  This sentiment has proven to be true for me as I find clarity and energy while recharging this summer.  I know not many people are lucky enough to be able to retreat to such a beautiful place.  However, many friends who respond “Busy!” when asked “How are you?” do choose (and are overwhelmed by) their pace of life.

I’m currently making my way through the most recent Orion Magazine.  In it’s 30th year, the magazine is still producing incredibly well written pieces indended to create a philosophy of nature.  As the editorial explains, “When our philosophy of how to live helps us imagine a future worth having, we find the personal and cultural resolve to do what we know is morally correct.”  I love how the magazine tells individuals’ stories that always seem to build on each other to offer concrete and informed opinions about how to move forward in our world in a more resilient way.   Given my recent work in urban agriculture, it is no surprise that one of my favorite articles was Revolutionary Plots.   The line following the title sums up the article: “Urban agriculture is producing a lot more than food.”  Covering rural/urban divides, youth development, hunger, education, and community connections – this article tells a great story and definitely worth reading!

I’ve happily consumed many of the books on the top of my “to read” list, so new suggestions are welcome!  I’d love to hear what books, articles, or magazines you’ve loved this summer.

My love of books (and mud boots) goes way back, 1989
Also 1989, the first garden plot I was in charge of.
Categories
Home Gardens Musings

New Growth: Seedling Inspiration

It’s still the perfect time to plant seeds!  We are not quite to our May 1st frost-free date in Somerville, so hold off on heat-loving tomatoes, basil, eggplants, and peppers.  Cilantro, spinach, lettuce, peas and dill are great choices to sow directly (put seeds right in the ground outside) at this time of year.  Remember that peas will need trellises to wrap their tendrils around.  Baby greens, if cut off above their “crowns” (the part where the leaves grow out of the stem), can re-grow a crop up to three times!

Watching my seeds sprout and grow in the spring is good for my mental health.  I watch my little lettuces and peas like a mother watches a child.  No matter how busy I am, I take a moment every day to visit the porch, take in a deep breath of fresh air, touch the soil to test for dampness, and observe the minute changes that gradually accumulate.  Plants – given sun, soil, water, warmth and air – have a remarkable ability to grow.  Conversely, we adults caught up our culture of stress, work, and extreme busyness have our ups and downs.  We have days we feel tall and strong, but we also have days when we want to curl up into a ball and go into hibernation.  I’ve found it especially important to take time to take a walk or visit a park during my time living in the city.  Want to read more about nature’s effect on mental health?  Check out this article!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Musings

Connectors

My most recent weekend visit to Vermont provided me with some time for introspective reflection.  I thought about my strengths and weaknesses, both personally as a friend and professionally as an employee.  I thought about what I value in my urban community, and what I miss about my rural roots.  I thought about my career path, and those of my parents and friends with whom I spent the weekend.

Upon returning to the city, I also returned to an overflowing inbox demanding my attention.  A handful of the new emails were forwarded job opportunities, requests for informational interviews, and reminders of gatherings of various professional networks.   I also received the weekly digest of articles sent out by Linked In to members in the “Non-Profit Management” field. One article resonated deeply with me, and pulled together many of the seemingly random streams of thought I’d had recently.

The article, entitled “Forget Networking, How to be a Connector,” describes a type of person who thrives on bringing people together and linking others to opportunities and people who might help them achieve their goals.  “Networking I see as a means to an end,” says Jill Leiderman, executive producer of the late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live. But connecting, she explains, is about using a genuine love of meeting people and making friends to engage and assist one another.  Exactly!  Though there were certainly traits described in the article that don’t match mine, I did finish reading with an excited feeling.

I love listening to friends explain their current challenges, but only if they are willing to listen to the practical and action-oriented advice I craft as they talk.  Whenever I see a job opportunity, I take a few minutes to forward it to past interns, volunteers, and recent graduates who might be interested.  Somehow I always find time to accept requests for informational interviews.  It’s an exciting time in farm-based and outdoor education, and I’m energized by the crowd of people who are trying to enter the field.  Hopefully these daily actions will pay off for me as I consider what’s next on my career path and plan a move to Vermont, away from many of my professional networks.  Then I will need to depend on other connectors to help me establish myself in a new community.  Read the article here, and check out some photos from the weekend in Vermont:

by Katie Rizzolo
By Dina Schulman
by Terry Dinnan
by Katie Rizzolo
Categories
Children and Nature Get Involved! Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To School Gardens

2010 Reflections

Volunteers at the 2010 Maple Boil Down
Volunteers at the 2010 Maple Boil Down

2010 has been busy! The year started with two major seasonal projects for me at Groundwork Somerville – The Maple Syrup Project and our April Vacation Camp.  I made my way around huge learning curve and a floded office which tested our resilience as an organization.  Thanks to a large network of friends of GWS and energetic volunteers, we reached more classrooms than ever with the Maple Syrup Project and boiled down 130 gallons of sap to make just over 3 gallons of maple syrup despite torrential rains that started on the second day of the “big boil” and flooded the city and state.  Displaced from our office, staff worked from coffee shops and living rooms.

Spring Harvest at Argenziano School
Spring Harvest at Argenziano School

Somehow planning and outreach for April Vacation Camp happened and we moved in to our new office just before my 30 campers gathered at the Growing Center to work in the gardens, explore the center’s many mini ecosystems, and cook each of our mid-day meals together. June 1st marked my first full year at GWS and entry into programming that I have coordinated before.

Garden Youth Crew planting at Winter Hill School
Garden Youth Crew planting at Winter Hill School

Our summer was the biggest ever – 24 high school students were employed by the Green Team program along with their 3 assistant supervisors and 3 supervisors; 12 young adults and three supervisors worked as National Park Preservers doing historical renovation in Concord and community service in Somerville, 12 middle school students earned stipends for their work for the Garden Youth Crew, and we worked with hundreds of elementary students in school-yard gardens across the city.  Garden workshops on vermiculture, salsa dancing and salsa making, yoga in the garden, and using garden herbs to make tea connected Groundwork staff with old friends and new and enthusiastic neighbors.  People commented that they kept on seeing Groundwork Somerville staff in brightly colored GWS shirts biking, gardening, and lending a hand throughout the city all summer long.

Carrot harvest at East Somerville School
Carrot harvest at East Somerville School

In the fall, we celebrated our harvest with parents, friends, and students in the school gardens and teamed up with the National Park Preserver team to put all the gardens to bed before Thanksgiving vacation.  As with each season in the gardens, I was constantly challenged, energized, and amazed by the great questions, observations, and actions of our elementary Garden Club members.  The end of the year is my quietest time of year when I can reflect and asses the past year and gear up for the next season.  Volunteer recruitment and planning for Garden Clubs and the Maple Syrup Project starts so the pieces are in place for the new year.

2010 started with some of the most challenging feats of coordination I have ever attempted and ended as I found a balance between professional and personal life – neither dominating the other.  My fellowship with the Environmental Leaders Program helped me hone my vision, reminded me to be grateful for the opportunity to have a job that helps my community and the environment, stressed the importance of balancing personal and professional needs, and connected me to an amazing network of folks working for the environment.  All-in-all, it was an amazing year of learning, growing, and finding stability and sustainability.