A Rain Garden in the Making 8.4.18

Jumping from a home landscape to a specialized garden in the community is a huge leap on many levels.  The size and the scope of the project just multiplied by too many factors to count.  I have barely pitched the project to the President of the Board of the 501c3 that owns the Community Park and drawn up a basic Site Plan.  Just 6 days later, there is a 22 x 26 hole dug in the ground!  Wait, what?

rain garden, site plan, design, storm water, runoff, public park, initial, proposal, draft, drainage

Initial Site Plan Huntertown Family Park Rain Garden, August 4, 2018

When I heard that there would be a Kubota tractor available to scratch-dig the rock hard base of the proposed Rain Garden, I had to move quickly!  I was going to try to attend the Community Park work day on Saturday to get a sense of how things worked, meet some of the volunteers, and learn more about the park facilities.  The Pres gave me a more detailed tour of the grounds, introduced me to “the guys,” shared some more history and vision, then mentioned that they would be finishing that afternoon, the prep for a sidewalk adjacent to the proposed rain garden area.  The tractor would be available after that, wow, in about 3 hours!

I noticed some mega weeds around the entrance to the park so I grabbed my shovel to do some impromptu weeding; I did what I could in the hot sun.  A really nice man came over from where he and his wife were staying with family across the street and offered to donate some mulch to the Park.  His brother-in-law had just bought a local landscape supply business and this man wanted to know if we needed anything before an event coming up the next weekend.  I gave him the President’s contact information and mentioned the rain garden project ’cause, hey, there are already mountains of mulch already on the property but not landscape-quality; tell him Julie would love the offer of some “dark hardwood mulch!”  (Later the Pres just smiled; I’ll bet it’s a go!)  By the time I left the park, I had met this man’s wife who became my first volunteer for the Rain Garden Project.

Off to Walmart I went to pick up some marking paint for the Pres then came home to prepare some treats for these amazing men.  My energy was waning but some kind of momentum had taken over.  A bunch of food, a glass of chicken bone broth and a ton of water helped revive me enough to keep going!  I had most of the ingredients at home for chocolate cookies and a gallon of lemonade; surely some “appreciation treats” would be welcome as temperatures soared above 91 degrees?  The conditions were tough on everyone for sure.  By 1:30 p.m. I was back at the park to hang out in the shade of the picnic shelters and learn.

I am learning as much about general carpentry and construction as I am about how members of a community can work together, how much fun these men have just hanging out with each other no matter what they are doing.  Most of them are retired from the trades and in their 40’s and 50’s.  Building this Community Park is how they love to spend their free time together after breakfast at the Kitchen Table restaurant down the street.  Perhaps it has a lot to do with the years they all once worked together in one way or another and the small town friendliness I had never witnessed up close from our housing addition across the highway.  The Pres treated all of them like contractors, co-workers, brothers, and sons alike.  It was beautiful to witness as they helped to craft the public facility already enjoyed by dozens of folks every day.  They worked REALLY HARD that day in their respective projects!

Kubota, rain garden, community, project, Huntertown, family, park, runoff, storm water, digging, construction, volunteers

About 3:00 p.m., the man in the Kubota tractor was ready to scratch-up the base of the rain garden.  Its claw-bucket digging down few inches deep didn’t loosen up the nasty crab grass in the compacted clay/sand mix so down a full foot he had to go.  It took about 30 minutes to complete the 22 x 26 foot area, much like the shape of a baseball diamond in miniature.  As I do additional calculations we might need to increase the size of the rain garden yet that is still bigger than the initial site plan noted above.  I realized that those dirt clods would be rock hard within half a day so I tried to weed a few chunks of those grass plants as I could in the searing heat . . . with a couple of breaks just to cool off a bit.  It took a long time, leaving much more for another day and team of volunteers.  Even I was munching on a chocolate cookie and drinking lemonade before the day was done!  🙂

Sunday morning the guys would be meeting again for breakfast at the Kitchen Table before finishing adding the mesh to the sidewalk plus other preparations before the delivery of concrete on Monday by 2:00 p.m.  I was glad that the Pres had shared with me about the sidewalk so I could ask if they cold add the crushed limestone instead of dirt along the outer edge; this would match the other stone edge already in place along what would become the top of periphery of the rain garden (i.e. the front horizontal and right perpendicular edges in the photo above).  It might not be the most aesthetic choice of materials however those two stone borders would definitely be easier to maintain than a berm made of dirt that would eventually grow weeds.  While I have begun seeking  volunteers from the Master Gardener and Native Gardener groups locally to help build and maintain the the rain garden, I see signs all over the park of “good idea” projects that don’t look as good anymore, lost to poor follow-up.  Low maintenance must be part of this garden design!

Some interest in the rain garden project grew among the guys, just by being there, hanging out, and helping here and there where I could.  One gentleman told a story of how he used Roundup to kill all the grass in his yard before re-planting his lawn.  So we talked about the effect of glyphosate on beneficial insects, how it can effect plants in the area for up to 6 months, and how it would basically not work with the project here.  Beneficial insects pollinate the flowers of the tap-rooted plants that hold and filter the water runoff plus help prevent all the flooding that lasts for days on this side of the bathroom building after heavy rains.  No insects, no healthy plants, no rain garden.  Another man suggested using the extra pavers they had on the property which we could use for the outer border (i.e. to form the berm that prevents spillover; we would add drainage windows too).  Even the Pres said he could probably work with a local landscaping company to build a flagstone path through the area which would enhance  interest for visitors in addition to helping with weeding and such.  I agreed, taking lots of mental notes.  Chances are that I will see these hardworking men again . . .

rain garden, Huntertown, family, park, runoff, storm water, native plants, Monarch butterfly, community, project

So tonight I put together a flyer about the Community Family Park Rain Garden project.  How poetic to set in motion something like this that will actually come to fruition through the “organic” interest and talents of so many wonderful folks in my community.  Momentum has started as I continue to recover from a setback in July.  So grateful to have something else focus on:  my own Horticulture Therapy!  The flyer will likely become a temporary sign along the edge of our big dirt hole so that folks attending the Heritage Festival this weekend will know that something really cool is about to happen there soon.  Maybe some will join in and help?  I feel really privileged and honored to have this opportunity that came about just by taking a little online class, just by making a little post on Facebook, .  There is so much more going on here and it transcends me for sure.

Then again, that is always the case now isn’t it Gentle Reader?  Yeah God!  JJ

Isaiah 58:11

11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

 

A new meaning for rainy days

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down . . .”  sang vocalist Karen Carpenter many decades ago.  I respectfully disagree.

rain garden, rock, garden, water, flooding, filter, natural, native plants

How poetic is it that after a very trying month of family care-giving, family drama, summer travel, and exhausting events out in the elements that our “rainy days” of late could turn a corner to mean something else?  Enter here the Master Rain Gardener Class offered by Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner in Michigan.  Let us turn the rains of life into something good!

Rain gardens are specialty garden beds designed to filter water runoff from hard surfaces in your landscape.  They help to manage potential flooding, attract beneficial insects and wildlife, often include plants native to the region, and are simply lovely.  I am halfway through the 5-week class and am hooked on this idea.  I included a rain garden in our class project for my Master Gardener training which is where this interest began.  Connection with a local Native Master Gardener and her native plant nursery furthered my intrigue so I included butterfly weed and a native hibiscus in one of our garden beds.  Now its time to get serious . . . and fast before the class ends in 2 weeks!

I posted a plea on Facebook looking for anyone who would like to work with me on a rain garden project for my certification as a Master Rain Gardener.  A self-called “community connector” responded and put me in touch with the President of the Board for the not-for-profit that manages a large park in our hometown.  He is interested in the idea!  There is already an environmental education project for kids on the property.  I took some pictures before and after a huge rainstorm which suggested some viable locations.  We will be meeting soon!

Below I will post a picture of the location I am recommending that is adjacent to the cinder block building that houses the public bathrooms and vending facility.  The location is highly visible to patrons of the park, there is a water outlet nearby to help in getting the plants established the first year or so, and there is already evidence of water accumulating in a low area.  There is much work to do and many unknowns should this project go forward.  No problemmo.  The beautification project in our housing association took six months to come to fruition and is largely a success to day.  Besides, I kinda like this theme more than the other “rainy days” in my life of late!

Stay tuned.  Always something goin’ on over here and if it’s green then, for me, it is good!  JJ

flooding, Huntertown Park, community, project, rain garden

 

The Technical Side of Green

Now for a little detour from my usual posts to a topic from my professional website on the benefits of viewing greenery in the landscape.  Be sure to take in some natural plantings this Winter wherever you are.  What evergreen trees and bushes are still leafed out or putting on a show from their peeling bark or knotty branches of interest?  Subtle hues of beige and cream, dark brown even red can pop against a fresh snowfall, glisten when covered in layers of ice.  Taking a moment to capture these scenes is good for us!

Here’s my article published this month in the Allen County Master Gardener newsletter and at Two Step Solutions.  Enjoy!

boy, under a tree, child, reading, book, green spaces, nature, benefits, viewing, attention

The Technical Side of Green

By Julie H, Advanced Master Gardener

There probably isn’t a person big or small that doesn’t like the view of a lush countryside, bubbling brook, or vibrancy of the Fall colors in the Midwest to brighten his or her day. “Natural elements grab and hold our attention in effortless ways, even in urban settings,” and this has a profound beneficial effect on us according to research by Dr. William Sullivan, Professor and Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Illinois.

In his book chapter* entitled, “In Search of a Clear Head,” William Sullivan shares research supporting the premise that:

It is clear that being in or looking onto a green space can improve people’s ability to focus their attention. But is the effect of green space on attention useful to a variety of people under a variety of circumstances? The evidence shows that a wide range of people benefit from exposure to green spaces. Studies have demonstrated links between green spaces and higher performance on attentional tasks in public housing residents, AIDS caregivers, cancer patients, college students, prairie restoration volunteers, and employees of large organizations.

Green spaces help us to recover from mental fatigue, help us make better decisions, and behave with less irritability. Simply put for our homes, work, schools, and communities:

We need nature at every doorstep!

Further, the more senses that are engaged, generally the more stress reduction occurs as well. In one study, students looking out a classroom window onto a natural space had the power to improve test accuracy TENFOLD! So why are we sending students into windowless classrooms? This is something important to think about as we craft study and workspaces at home and in our communities.

So you might ask if these benefits would include an adult playing golf? A child engaged in athletic team sports? “Yes” for the golf although probably more from the exercise than the putting “greens,” and “No” for outdoor sports. Although the playing field may be a green space and it is usually good to be outdoors, the benefits are better during unstructured activities. Better examples would include walking in display gardens (!), growing a few vegetables, viewing natural waterways, and even observing animals in their native habitats. Taking a walk outside is generally a good idea for many reasons yet in another study, only students who walked in an arboretum showed statistically better test scores than ones who walked in the downtown area of their college town.**

To boost the restorative benefits of everyday contact with gardens and green spaces, view and actively engage in those spaces around you. Such is the heart of the Master Gardener (and other community horticulture, 4H, gardening) programs isn’t it? Engaging the public in educational, exploratory, and experiential gardening activities is the fun and heart of what we do as Master Gardeners for persons young and old. A little “dose of nature” is a great low-tech idea for all of us.

*Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing Out Our Best; Edited by Rachel Kaplan and Avik Basu.

**Based upon William Sullivan’s lecture entitled “Attention Restoration” presented at Gardens that Heal: A Prescription for Wellness; Chicago Botanical Garden, 5.10.17.

 

The people you meet

Facebook-Phone

We may never have shared

A cup of coffee or tea

But you are my friend

Even when your face I cannot see.

Seems strange to those

Who are able to come and go

That a virtual friend

Would be as real as one I have known.

For although face to face

Is the best way by far

To carry the love, the tears

The joys from here to thar-

Then if life doesn’t work

Like the norm as it does for me

I am glad there are others

To be your hands and feet.

The Lord counts each of us

His friends though He is not here

No longer flesh but in Spirit

And He will always be near.

Perhaps it’s nearly the same

With my friends when housebound

That chat via Facebook or Skype

Is messaging as if hanging around.

Who cares what we wear

Or go when together my dear

My ‘Droid knows you’re there

And I’ll always for you be near.

Like a brother, like a sister

A cyber-version of sorts

I am grateful just the same

When life is a bite in the shorts.

Thank you for being

Out there and in my heart

Drop me a line sometime soon

In turn I will do my part.

We’ll help each other along

To get through this life

Having travelled the world

Sometimes all in one night!

This little ditty now ends

Godspeed and blessings galore

For the people we both meet

Adds life to our adventure and more.

With love,

JJ