Review of The Humane Gardener, by Nancy Lawson

Reviewed by Ann Di Fiore

As a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Audubon at Home Ambassador, I am always on the lookout for books on native plant and wildlife gardening. The Humane Gardener (2017, 224 pp) offers insights on both topics, but what sets Lawson’s book apart from others is her emphasis on creating habitats that nurture all forms of wildlife. Interspersed with chapters on native plantings, creating habitat, and the benefits of decaying plant material are profiles of humane gardeners whose properties range from modest backyards to commercial farms.

Many of the principles Lawson lays out are well known to master naturalists: “Plant for all seasons and sizes” to address “diverse diners”; use “green mulch”—native grasses and groundcovers—rather than bark in between shrubs and trees to improve soil; choose straight species over cultivars; and don’t “love” –overwater and over fertilize—native plants.

Lawson urges us to be attentive to gardening activities that have tragic consequences for wildlife.  In a section entitled “Don’t Mow the Teenagers,”she warns us that mowing, pruning, and raking can cut short the life cycles of ground insects and other animals. Fritillary larvae, for example, crawl onto violet plants in early spring and, as Doug Tallamy puts it, “we murder them with our lawn mowers.”  Baby rabbits in hidden nests and other young animals are vulnerable as well.

When removing invasive plants from our properties, Lawson asks us to “triage” their removal to minimize adverse effects on wildlife that make use of these plants. Early blooming invasives may be the only available nectar sources to bees, fruiting shrubs like Amur honeysuckles may fill a significant part of a bird’s diet.

In The Humane Gardener, Lawson addresses an uncomfortable truth:  the wild creatures most gardeners want to support are songbirds and pollinators. Many other forms of wildlife we consider interlopers—enemies. She enumerates the cruelties inflicted by pest removal services, glue traps, even “humane” deterrents (predator urine, for instance, is captured from caged coyotes and other animals on fur farms). She advocates flexibility and a more generous perspective:  opossums and raccoons eat carrion, ticks, and slugs; rabbits devour dandelions; and moles and chipmunks till the soil, increasing its fertility.

In a world of shrinking natural spaces and biodiversity, Lawson asks us to reconsider our ideas of ownership and make room for all forms of wildlife.  Above all, she asks that we be conscious of the consequences of our routine gardening choices.  She promises that our gardens will be healthier—and more humane—as a result.

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Permaculture Design Certification Course

72-Hour Permaculture Design Certification Course with Wayne Weiseman
August 31-September 8, 2019 at
Heartwood Farm in Louisa, VA.

About this event

A Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course offers a comprehensive introduction to Permaculture principles, applications & design practices and meets the international standard as the 72+ hour foundational course for Permaculture practitioners and teachers.

You will have many opportunities to put theory into practice by doing hands-on, creative activities at Heartwood Farm, where Permaculture principles are actively practiced and promoted. We will do an in-depth site analysis, and students will create designs of different areas on the farm. Special guests will share their expertise as well.

While learning about our habitat and our own relationship with the environment, we will look at how humans have been relating to Earth throughout history and into today’s modern urban times. The three main historical viewpoints we will study are:

Hunter/Gatherer

Training in hunter-gatherer living and nature skills sharpens our ability to see life as it is. We develop hand and eye coordination, and become one with an environment where we must observe and create what we need in an immediate and balanced way.

Agricultural Settlement

Exposure to various methods of sustainable agriculture, i.e. Permaculture, Biodynamic Agriculture, Bio-intensive gardening, the eco-agriculture movement, organic systems, the natural way of farming of Masanobu Fukuoka and indigenous systems of agriculture. You also learn about renewable energy systems (wind, water, solar), ecological building practices (straw bale, cob, cordwood, etc.) and everything from tool making to animal husbandry.

Urban/Suburban

Studying the urban and suburban landscape and learning ways to live sustainably in the midst of concrete and close-quarters. Discover how permaculture design can help those living in urban and suburban areas meet their needs for nutrition, energy and community while maintaining meaningful work and upholding sustainable policies in towns and cities.

Where is this?

This 8-day intensive course will be held at Heartwood Farm in Louisa, VA. Class will take place from 8:00 am to about 6:00 pm each day, with breaks for lunch, and two additional evening activities with served dinner. A light breakfast fare and lunch will be provided each day.

Heartwood is a sustainable diversified farm in Central Virginia using permaculture principles to raise pastured pork, ducks, chickens, rabbits, eggs, vegetables and herbs. It’s roughly 15 minutes to Gordonsville and 30 minutes to downtown Charlottesville, where restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, airbnbs, etc. are abundant. Camping will be available on the farm, however students must bring all of their own camping equipment.

Why take this class?

Because this course is a game changer. It brings into focus practical principles and ethics that many of us have forgotten or dismissed. It is like picking up a master key that unlocks many doors leading to abundance and health. Students have repeatedly stated they have found that by regenerating the earth and improving their relationship with it they have regenerated themselves in the process. You want this master key!

Topics covered

  • Permaculture ethics & principles
  • Concepts, themes, method of design
  • Climate & microclimates
  • Plants, gardening & farming systems
  • Primitive skills & foraging
  • Landform & water movement
  • Alternative energy & natural building
  • Seed saving, plant propagation, grafting
  • Soil fertility & soil management
  • Native medicinal plants identification, uses & preparation
  • …and many more!

Early bird tuition (until 5/31/19): $900. Regular tuition: $1,100. Standard processing fees apply. Includes breakfast and lunch each day, plus two dinners. Camping available on the farm, other sleeping accommodations (hotels, airbnbs, etc.) are the responsibility of the student. Students will receive the Permaculture Design Certificate on the final day of the course.

*Limited 1-Day Workshops Available for two of the course days. Workshop attendees will not receive a PDC certificate*

(9/4/19): Soil Fertility & Mushroom Cultivation – Full day workshop (8am-5pm). We’ll cover basic soil biology, organic methods to build soil fertility and how to build an at-home composting system. Also learn how to grow your own edible/medicinal mushrooms at home with fresh log inoculation techniques! Includes a chainsaw use & safety demonstration.Fee: $120.

(9/7/19): Fermentation; Herbal Medicine; Live Animal Process, Cooking Demonstration & Dinner – Half Day Workshop (1pm-8pm). Hands-on introduction to lacto-fermentation and folk herbal medicine traditions. Livestock process and cooking demonstration will be done by farm owner, Zac Culbertson. Learn the basics of how to process poultry, raised on Heartwood Farm. Includes a delicious cooking demonstration and a wonderful group dinner! Fee: $75.

About the Instructor

Wayne Weiseman is a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant and author. He was certified to teach permaculture by Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture, in 1999. Wayne has taught hundreds of Permaculture Design Courses around the world. He has served as a consultant and lecturer to educators, school administrators, business leaders, and others internationally. For 15 years Wayne managed a land-based, self-reliant community project combining organic crop/food production, ecologically-built shelter, renewable energy and appropriate technologies.

Wayne is a co-author of an authoritative book on integrated forest gardening and plant guilds that was published in August, 2014.

For more information on the instructor, Wayne Weiseman, go to: http://www.permacultureproject.com/

Questions? Please email permacultureproject@gmail.com

All Ticket Sales Are Final and Non-Refundable

A regional request for volunteer help with a study on the Bradford pear 

Question 1: What is the most recent invasive tree added to Director of Conservation & Recreation’s invasive plant list?
Answer: Callery Pear, aka, Bradford Pear: Pyrus calleryana Decne

Question 2: What can we do about it?
Answer: Support a regional research project by collecting leaf samples.

Callery pear is one of the most rapidly-spreading invasive plants in the eastern U.S. This plant stems from cultivars of ornamental pears, most commonly the Bradford pear. Callery pear can have long thorns and grows singly or in thick patches in old fields, roadsides, or forested areas.

The Callery pear population genetics study, under the direction of Dr. David Coyle (Clemson) and D. Hadziabdich-Guerry (University of Tennessee), is determined to better understand the genetics of this cultivar to inform future management tactics. To this end, foliar samples are needed from Virginia. The protocol is simple and the only cost is time.

Detailed information and how to send the samples is in the attached pdf, which can also be found on the study’s website.

Summary of the basics

  • Find one or more patches of “wild” callery pears of at least 10 individuals (different sample/patches locations should be at least 15 miles apart).
  • From each individual tree (10 trees total/site), collect 10 leaves. (Ten trees in a patch are required.)
  • Put all 10 leaves from each tree into its own envelope with the GPS location noted and if the tree is thorny or not.
  • Put newspaper in between the leaves – this helps them dry out and ensures they don’t mold on the way to UT.
  • Therefore, each sampling site would have 10 envelopes (1 per tree) to send in together.
  • Envelopes can be FedEx’ed to UT (for free!) Details given in information sheet attached.

Questions?  Contact Dr. David Coyle: dcoyle@clemson.edu

Children’s Science Center program needs macroinvertebrate IDers, June 30th & July 14th

Loudoun Water, 44865 Loudoun Water Way, Ashburn, VA 20147
Saturday, 30 June 2019 and Saturday, 14 July 2019
10 am – 1 pm both days

Each summer the Children’s Science Center selects a citizen science project to highlight and this year it is Creek Critters app and stream monitoring. Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) will provide some Creek Critter support and Loudoun Wildlife will help with stream monitoring.  A few stream monitoring volunteers are needed to help with the event. Please note that there is nothing at the treatment facility that meets any stream monitoring protocol.

The agenda for the two events is to set up three stations for guests to rotate though:

1. Stream walk lead by Loudoun Water.
2. Creek Critter App and Stream Monitoring demo lead by ANS (need 1-2 people to help with the demo and who know a bit about Creek Critters).
3. Macroinvertebrate identification session lead by Loudoun Wildlife (Need 1-2 people to help with macro ID).  They will be pre-catching marcos for their demonstration.

Folks that love working with kids and their families and can help with macro ID at the two stations. For more information, contact Kara Pascale.

Marine birds and mammals of the Southeastern United States pelagic trip, July 6th

Outer Banks, NC
Saturday, 6 July 2019
All day
Fee: $175 (includes gratuity, participants are responsible for accommodation)

In an earlier post, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia advertised a two-part workshop on marine birds and mammals of the Southeastern United States.  There is no requirement to take these workshops to attend the field trip, however registrants for the class have priority to register for it.  The trip will depart from Hatteras Village on the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  There is no limit on registrations for the workshop but the pelagic trip is limited to the capacity of the boat (19 people).  Register for the field trip.

Call for entries: Virginia Master Naturalist Photo Contest

Were you taking your family on a bluebell walk and took a perfect photo of light filtering through the tree canopy? Were you documenting a citizen science project and snapped a great blue heron as it took off from the shoreline? We want your photos!

The  Virginia Master Naturalist program is sponsoring a statewide photo contest. Each chapter may submit one photo in one of five categories:

Virginia Native Wildlife (Category Code: Wildlife)

Virginia Native Plant and Fungi World (Category Code: Plant)

Virginia Native Landscapes (Category Code: Landscape)

Virginia Native Macro and Night Photography (Category Code: M&N)

Virginia Master Naturalists in Action (Category Code: VMN)

Simply upload your photos to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #FMNphotos19.  Please include the category for which you are submitting the photo and your name in the photo identification.

Our Fairfax Master Naturalist (FMN) chapter will accept entries from our members in good standing until 11:59 pm on Friday, 5 July. Winners will be notified by Friday, 19 July. The photographers of the four winning entries must forward their entries to the statewide competition by 11:59 pm on Friday, 9 August. Participants agree that all images submitted may be used by the FMN program for our website, newsletter, social media and other promotional purposes. Photographers will receive a photo credit.  See the 2018 VMN winners here.

Photo Editing
Permitted modifications:

  • Cropping, resizing, and rotating photo
  • Red-eye removal
  • Corrective functions to improve the natural appearance of the image, such as white balance, brightness, contrast, levels, color balance, saturation, sharpening, noise reduction

     Modifications not permitted:

  • Adding, removing, or replacing elements
  • Artistic filters
  • Added borders or frames

Photo sizing: All photographs must be high resolution digital JPEGs and winning images will be sized for optimum viewing in a PowerPoint presentation.

See the complete rules here.

For questions, contact us at vmnfairfax@gmail.com with the subject line: FMN Photo Contest

 

Earth Sangha workdays all summer

Join Earth Sangha on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays for regular nursery workdays. Volunteers can help with weeding, preparing pots, sowing seeds, and transplanting. Please wear shoes that can get muddy and bring your own water.

Contact Matt Bright if you have questions about the schedule: For safety reasons, we may have to cancel volunteer workdays and nursery hours on short notice because of inclement weather. If you have any questions about scheduling at the nursery call or text Matt Bright at 703 859 2951.

Where: The Nursery is in Springfield, Virginia, in Franconia Park, which lies just south of the Beltway, and just east of the Beltway’s intersection with Routes 95 and 395. The address to our entrance is 6100 Cloud Drive. Access is from Franconia Road (644). From Franconia, turn north on Thomas Drive, less than half a mile east of the 395/95 intersection. There is a traffic light at Thomas. From Thomas, turn right onto Meriwether Lane. Turn left onto Cloud Drive. Please park in the parking lot at the bottom of the entrance road, then walk down the dirt road along the community gardens. Our nursery lies beyond the community gardens.

Contact: Matt Bright (mbright@earthsangha.org or 703-859-2951)

Explore a working landscape at Manassas National Battlefield Park

You’re invited!

A coalition led by Master Naturalists from both the Merrimac Farm and Fairfax chapters, called Heritage Habitat, is crafting nature tours for the public at Manassas National Battlefield Park and Conway Robinson State Forest.  The theme is “Heritage Habitat – A Working Educational Landscape”.  The National Park Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension have been strongly active and supportive of expanding interpretation at those two sites.

After months of preparation, we launch on June 1, 9:00-11:00am with our first walking tour at Brawner Farm in Manassas National Battlefield Park.  All Master Naturalists are invited!  Come for an educational trial run of this program.  In addition to learning about how the landscape is managed, we’ll be looking for feedback on the program.

The battlefield maintains a historical pattern of field and forest through hay field leases and use of prescribed fire.  Conway Robinson State Forest, in Gainesville, is a working demonstration forest, with active management of species composition though thinning and harvest of trees.  Both sites are rich in biodiversity as well as history, and excellent places for introducing the general public to the challenges of managing land to keep it “natural.”  

The Heritage Habitat team is also looking for more volunteers to support or even lead several tours per year, to add to posts/pictures on Facebook, and to explore the sites in more depth.  Interested?  Contact Bryan Graham at bryan.graham@djj.virginia.gov or Heritage Habitat at HeritageHabitat@yahoo.com .   Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/HeritageHabitat/ ; Twitter handle @HeritageHabitat

No registration is required, but please RSVP to one of the email addresses if you’re planning on attending.The location is the Brawner Farm interpretive center in the Manassas National Battlefield Park.  From Lee Highway (US-29 ) driving from Centreville, turn right (north) at the traffic light onto Pageland Lane.  After about 2000 feet, the entrance is on the right.

From homo sapiens to geo sapiens: The quest for the earthwise human

Thursday, June 6

6:30-9 p.m.

Yorktown High School, 5200 Yorktown Blvd, Patriot Hall, Arlington

Please join EcoAction Arlington for a special evening featuring Martin Ogle, the former chief naturalist for NOVA Parks. Ogle’s presentation will combine the concepts of the Gaia Theory, the idea that living organisms and inorganic components of Earth form a single living system, with new ideas about creating a green economy that works for people and the planet.

This timely and unique talk will challenge participants to envision new educational themes as well as careers and business concepts that are compatible with human nature and Nature as a whole. It will advocate for bringing these ideas to young people–especially high school students–to empower them to create a better world. Ogle believes that our response to social/environmental challenges should reflect new understandings of human society as a seamless continuum of a living planet.  He uses the phrase, “Geo sapiens,” to capture this new sense of ourselves as “Earth-wise.”

This presentation will expand our thinking about how human creativity itself, as an extension of Earth’s life, can inspire and enable us to apply that creativity directly at our most pressing challenges.

The event is free but registration would be appreciated.  You can RSVP here

Thanks to our event co-sponsors and exhibitors:

Earth Force , For A Strawless Sea, Leaders in Energy, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, and St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School.

Virginia Master Naturalist Statewide Conference and Volunteer Training

The 2019 conference will be Friday, September 20-Sunday, September 22.  Pre-conference field trips and activities will take place during the day on Friday, and the main event will run Friday evening through Sunday mid-day.

In 2019, the VMN-Headwaters Chapter welcomes VMN volunteers from across Virginia to the Shenandoah Valley. The event will be based at the Massanetta Springs Camp & Conference Center, five miles from downtown Harrisonburg.  From there, it is a short trip to terrific field trip sites, including Shenandoah National Park, George Washington National Forest, several Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Natural Area Preserves, the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, and more.

Registration Dates and Types

Early Registration will open in mid-July and Regular Registration will open in mid-August, specific dates TBA.

Two registration types in 2019:

  • Full Conference – $185 during Early Registration, or $200 during Regular Registration
  • Saturday Training Only (price includes Saturday lunch) – $75 during Early Registration, or $85 during Regular Registration

Information on the agenda and lodging

Volunteer Reston honors Doug Britt for community service

Doug Britt was honored as one of two 2019 Volunteers of the Year, for his efforts to guide Reston into becoming a member of the Biophilic Cities Network. In 2018, Reston officially became the 13th partner community, joining such biophilic cities as Singapore;  Sydney, Australia; Wellington, New Zealand; Oslo, Norway; Edmonton, Canada;  Portland, San Francisco, Austin,  and Washington, DC. The successful application to join this prestigious Network came about as a result of a recommendation made by the Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER) Working Group, led by Mr. Britt. The RASER Working Group was established by Reston Association’s Environmental Advisory Committee in 2017. It was charged with the task of assessing and documenting the environmental conditions of the community to establish a baseline against which future changes could be measured. Doug served alongside five other Fairfax Chapter VMN program graduates: Don Coram (who won the 2019 Volunteer Reston 55+ Volunteer Award), Robin Duska, Linda Fuller, Lois Phemister, and Claudia Thompson-Deahl, all of whom helped prepare the RASER.

The first RASER was published in July 2017. It evaluated 16 separate environmental attributes of the Reston community, concluding with a postscript arguing that Reston is a biophilic community by design and intent of its founding principles. Reston’s particular way of connecting its natural areas to its residents (through its many walking paths, trails, Nature Center, recreation areas, and education/outreach programs) maximizes such connectivity and promotes more frequent, longer duration, and more immersive interactions, while the preservation of Reston’s green spaces also creates healthy viewscapes from much of the built environment.

The current RASER was completed by the Working Group in November 2018. The report updates and expands upon the first RASER. The 2018 report evaluates the status of the following environmental attributes: Air Quality, Streams, Lakes & Ponds, Stormwater Management, Drinking Water, Wastewater Treatment, Urban Forests, Meadows, Wetlands, Landscaping & Urban Agriculture, Birds, Mammals, Reptiles & Amphibians, Invertebrates, Wildlife Management, Hazardous Materials & Toxic Wastes, Light Pollution, Noise Pollution, and Education & Outreach. 

All together, the Working Group analyzed and reviewed more than 325 data sources and scientific reports during the summer and fall of 2018 by the Working Group. Each environmental attribute was then given a qualitative status using a traffic light icon to distinguish between “good”, “fair”, “poor”, or “undetermined”. The last designation indicates that not enough data exist to make a reasonable assessment at this time. The full report includes 135 graphs, tables, maps and photos, along with a complete list of references for readers interested in more detailed information. The current report also expands on each environmental attribute analyzed by including information about how each attribute relates to Fairfax County’s current Environmental Vision document (something that was not included in the earlier 2017 RASER). 

Another addition to the current RASER is a “Recommendations & Report Card” chapter. It describes 11 new recommendations for improving or protecting Reston’s environmental quality, and evaluates progress made towards implementing the 61 previous recommendations listed in the 2017 RASER. Nearly 2000 hours of uncompensated volunteer time went into the production of the RASER and implementation of many of its recommendations. 

The complete 2018 RASER (and its Executive Summary) can be viewed at the Reston Association’s NATURE OVERVIEW.

This work falls under Service Project C-245. Mr. Britt welcomes the service of Fairfax Master Naturalists who are interested in contributing.

Full account of the awards and the activities that led to them