In contrast to the fragmented systems we found around Fez, the Zarka Valley has a functional network of acequia. Little need for a mayor domo to direct the use of water, there is plenty to take when needed, as the river fed by the Zarka (blue) spring flows constantly. The fields are growing corn, interspersed with livestock fodder like clovers or alfalfa to replenish the soil for a few years between growing out the corn again. Along the edges of the fields, blooming oleander and various medicinal herbs flourish. The ditch system is well maintained and the government restores the concrete ditches, which look like they were recently refurbished.
Summer 2022 – Tetouan, Morocco
As we explored the living history of Acequias in the Rif, we collected plants that thrived along the networks of waterways and outcroppings in the area. Our studio time was focused on making impressions of these plants on the press provided by Green Olive Arts. Instead of making individual plates, we placed a piece of plexiglass atop the press bed, on which we inked directly before arranging plant material then paper.
Published in the Weekly Packet’s ‘Another View’ on July 14th, 2022
Driving along the head of the Bagaduce River during the alewife migration, one can easily spot dozens of Bald Eagles feasting on this keystone species as they make their way up to reproduce in the freshwater ponds that dot the watershed. According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, ‘alewives tie the ocean, rivers and lakes together and are recognized as an important ecological ingredient for restoring healthy fisheries and watersheds” Spearheaded by fishery activist, Bailey Bowden, the successful restoration of the alewife fish ladder into Pierce Pond has revived local alewife populations which in turn has increased available food for wildlife while bolstering our local fisheries by providing desirable bait fish for lobstermen.
Keystone species are organisms that help hold an ecosystem together, and without them our wildlife communities would look quite different. In contrast, invasive species disrupt functioning ecosystems, harming the local environment. Invasive species are often introduced to a site with fill dirt that is brought in during construction. Unfortunately, the highly invasive ‘Bishop’s weed’ seems to have exploded from some of the fill that was used in restructuring the road behind the public boat launch into Pierce’s Pond, and it has started to spill into the pocket-sized meadow along the fish ladder.
Last summer, members of the Halcyon Grange joined the Blue Hill Garden Club to start the long and arduous process of suppressing this invasive species. Because the site sits along the stream, chemicals are not allowed, and it will take time and diligence to oust this aggressive species. If even a tiny bit of the root material is left behind, it will take hold and return with gusto. Over the several years since the completion of the ladder, local community members have done an extraordinary job in stepping up to account for the increased numbers of fish making their way up to the pond. Now locals and visitors alike are invited to participate in tending the shoreline in order to eradicate the weed before it takes over the entire site.
On Saturday, August 13th the Open Air Arts Initiative will host a free workshop where participants will creative a collaborative ‘habitat sculpture’ atop the patch of weed while learning how to quell invasive species without the use of chemicals. A collaboration between the Cynthia Winings Gallery, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the SEED Barn, OAAI inspires people to creatively connect to the natural world around us. Deep connections with the landscape are fostered through tending it. During the process of creating a sculpture using materials found on site opens the space to express ourselves in ways that considers our relationship with the natural world around us.
Because the process of ousting this invasive species will take so much time, the organizations are approaching the shoreline restoration with the idea of long-term collaborative tending of this common access space. Instead of simply accomplishing this task with a singular event, folks from here and ‘away’ are invited to participate as they pass through and enjoy the site. ‘Many hands make light work’ and instructions on how to expel the Bishop’s weed as well as how to tend to the long term needs along the lakeshore area are posted online as well as at the site itself. Look for information on the kiosk located in the outdoor classroom and at www.virtualvoices.org
When you see the emergence of the Bishop’s weed, please feel free to help eradicate it by either digging it out and placing all of the plant material in a garbage bag before disposing of it at the dump, or suppressing it with several layers of cardboard which may be camouflaged with sticks an leaves found on site.
What IS Bishop’s weed?
Aegopodium podagraria or Bishop Weed is the wild form of the nursery plant, ‘Snow on the Mountain’ and is very, very aggressive. Snow on the Mountain has variegated leaves and was promoted by the nursery industry as a shady ground cover. After going to seed, it reverts to its non-descript native form of solid green leaves. It is native to south central Europe and was used as a food plant by the Romans, and as a medicinal herb by monks, who carried it into northern Europe. It can still be found growing in patches around monastic ruins throughout the continent and descriptions of its use are found in monastic writings such as Physica by Hildegard von Bingen.
A visit to an urban farm network just above the Oued Martil that flows through Tétouan showed there is still a functioning Acequia right in town! A system of ditches directs runoff through fields, but since the water comes out if the city it is not the cleanest. The farmers use the ditch water to grow fodder for the livestock..mostly alfalfa….and !! Livestock there is. We met chickens, sheep, goats and COWS. There was a small dairy tucked in the bushes in a rambling structure of corregated iron with Victorian cast iron details in the window. Other than the alfalfa, the animals ate a lot of dried bread. This re-cycling of what would otherwise be food waste was significant. Over tea one afternoon, our Moroccan companions were shocked to hear how westerners throw out 40% of our food. Such extravagance and waste! Certainly a foreign perspective for a community that produces what it consumes and directs any leftovers to other species to enjoy. Wafa laughed and said, ‘When we find a corner of bread on the corner, we will even lift up the crumbs to a ledge so that the birds may enjoy it!’
We were taken to this urban farm network by Anass the beekeeper. We crouched through a tunnel in the huge grasses that run rampant when unchecked to follow the ditch. The water ran across the top of a field stacked with veg, but the farmer opted to pipe in clean springwater to grow plants consumed by people. Herbs and medicines grew amidst vegetable plots, which skipped around to grow haphazardly in other places. A bit wild… integrating volunteers and native plants that were allowed to grow where they chose. Fruit trees dotted the plot, with figs fruiting at the time. Lettuce and parsley were going to seed with seeds being saved in a tarp strung up in the tree. A recently harvested field was just planted with young corn and being prepped for a new sowing of seed in the shoulder season. Purselane thrives as a nutrient dense groundcover that tamps out weeds. The glowing purple flowers of artichokes are foraged by the black and yellow African honeybee, and grow with a huge sage bush. As we left, the farmer started harvesting coriander, bunching them up as he readied them to go to market.
Orchestrated by Daniela Garza
Friday, April 15th, 2022 4-7pm
Walker Fine Art – 300 W 11th Avenue, Denver
Identifying credible partners on the ground and allocating resources to help address the unmet needs of women residing in war and conflict ridden areas. From their website, “The lives of Ukrainian women have been shattered by the Russian invasion. More than 2 million people have fled the war—most of them women and children. Through our Conflict Response Fund, we are identifying credible partners on the ground and allocating resources to help address the unmet needs of women facing this crisis.”
Providing psychological services to children traumatized by war, specifically in Ukraine. From their website: “None of a child may be left alone with a war trauma. This is our mission. With your help, we give psychological and psychosocial support to children who suffered as a result of war operations. It helps them to win the consequences of the war and develop themselves. We also help families to cope with everyday difficulties, treatment and rehabilitation of children, giving an individual support. To give children a voice we create a video content, and we are also engaged in promoting children rights in order to change the children’s rights protection system in the country. Our objective is that every child who has suffered from the war in Ukraine must get psychological help in time. Our values: respect to child’s dignity and rights; understanding of the needs of every child to be heard; faith in getting the best results only with the help of partnership and mutual aid. We are working in various villages and towns along the frontline in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
Slow Food International
Raising funds to support Ukraine in two ways:
1) Saving Ukrainian biodiversity. To support those farmers who, even in wartime, have not left their farms and continue to work under the most difficult conditions, risking their lives to preserve the animal breeds and plant varieties they grow in order to nourish their local community and feed the future. We are making a plea to the global Slow Food community to support them financially with a donation.
2) Keeping knowledge alive. To create matching opportunities between Ukrainian Slow Food Community members and their counterparts throughout Europe, thus allowing for refugee farmers and food producers to be hosted by fellow producers to facilitate a meaningful opportunity for learning and exchange. Beekeepers to be matched with beekeepers, cheesemakers with cheesemakers, and so on. We believe this exchange will not only allow for Ukrainian food producers to keep practicing their trades in exile but will be a fruitful exchange of skills: skills which will be vital for the post-war reconstruction of the country.
Drawing influence from ancient practices of tending the landscape, we teach students about relationships with plants. Historically, Penobscot of this area did not cultivate crops in a way that disturbed the soil, instead they work within the landscape, like forest gardening….suppressing plants that are not as useful and encouraging those that served a purpose.
We have the intention of maintaining an open woodland around the outdoor classroom at Pierce’s Pond fish ladder. There are a lot of Gray Poplar that wants to fill the area with thickets. While Gray Poplar is a native pioneer species that holds wildlife value, it does serve the intentions expressed for maintaining open woodland, so we work to suppress it, while letting the beech and oak trees grow.
When the fish ladder was constructed, a deep rubber liner was sunk into the ground to cut off seepage and direct water through the ladder. This changed the moisture content in the soil, and we are curiously following the transformation from wet to dry forest. Three years after the first wave of hugelCULTURE, Gray Poplar is showing itself again. We will be coppicing the young sprouts again and using the leaves to help oust the invasive Bishop’s weed that is taking over the meadow…making use of material found on site
The woodland path is a short trail that runs adjacent to the meadow and follows the fish ladder downstream. Find a sign at the end that follows the history of the site. We are working with plant communities that come from upland dry forests of the area.
In order to direct the outflow from Pierce’s Pond, a dam was constructed with a deep rubber lining going down the middle to prevent underground seepage and keep a robust flow through the fish ladder. The ground was super-compacted, making the growth rate extra slow to establish plants there. Sedges that exploded in the hard scrabble of the ladder are present, just miniature…as are many of the varieties sown from seed.
The final shots are views of the dam as it slowly fills in after 3 years of sowing seed and adding plugs.
HELP OUST THE BISHOP WEED!!!
If you see the ‘Bishops Weed’ which has exploded out of the rocks supporting the parking lot, please help us eradicate it.
Big patches are smothered with 3-4 layers of cardboard, topped with organic material (Gray Poplar) cleared out of the outdoor classroom area…or extra mulch/leaf-litter brought from home.
Smaller patches are dug out & taken to the dump in plastic bags. If even a small bit of the rhizome is left in the ground, a new plant grows in with ease. It is important to stay on top of the outbursts before they really take hold.
Bishop weed is one of the most difficult Invasive species to eradicate. As the site is right along the river shore, NO CHEMICALS ALLOWED!! Invasive species disrupt the ecologic rhythms of an in-tact ecology. Migrating fish need protein! Amongst other functions, native plants support insects to feed the Alewives coming up the ladder
We are taking a long term and sustained approach to contain and smother it. We invite community members to help tend the space, in order to maintain natural systems that supports shared resources that migrate here from the sea.
Construction fill often brings invasive species to a site, and there was an explosion of the invasive Bishop’s Weed in the pocket of open meadow situated between the woodland path and the fish ladder. Because we cannot use chemicals so near the river shore, we invite folks to help tamp out the weed using layers of cardboard and mulch (dry leaves, small sticks and other organic material) The roots are pervasive, so if digging out the edges of the patch, make sure to bag and dispose of the entire plant material.
Follow along the approach we are taking and feel free to jump in and participate as you are passing through to enjoy the site!
What IS Bishop Weed??
Brought to this land as the nursery plant, ‘snow on the mountain’, the plant reverts to it’s native form of solid green leaves once it has ‘skipped the fence’. In fact, it is a medicinal plant in Europe. From Wikipedia: “The tender leaves have been used in antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages as a spring leaf vegetable, much as spinach was used. It is commonly used for soup. Young leaves are preferred as a pot herb. It is best picked from when it appears (as early as February in the UK) to just before it flowers (May to June). If it is picked after this point, it takes on a pungent taste and has a laxative effect. However, it can be stopped from flowering by pinching out the flowers, ensuring the plant remains edible if used more sparingly as a pot herb.
“It also had a history as a medicinal herb to treat gout and arthritis, applied in hot wraps externally upon boiling both leaves and roots together. Ingested, the leaves have a diuretic effect and act as a mild sedative. Its use as a medicinal herb has largely declined during the modern era.
“The plant is said to have been introduced into Great Britain by the Romans as a food plant and into Northern Europe as a medicinal herb by monks. It is still found growing in patches surrounding many monastic ruins in Europe, and descriptions of its use are found among monastic writings, such as in Physica by Hildegard von Bingen“
An afternoon at the Tapley Farm in Brooksville explores how mowing practices can support wildlife in Maine’s meadows.
The Tapley family was influential on Maine’s early maritime industry. Their deep water wharf overlooks Castine, maintaining ties to the sea, and the land continues to be tended by the descendants of these early settlers. Currently maintained by the Gregor family, the site is used for creative engagements facilitated by the Tent Project, and serves as grounds for community engagement through cultivating food that is given away to the local community via the Magic Food Bus. A large part of their intention with tending the meadow landscape is to support local wildlife. The Open Air Arts Initiative hosted this event to explore ways we may challenge disruptive and misunderstood mowing practices to educate on how to maintain meadows to support wildlife.
The Nursery Garden:
Increasing plant diversity
We began the afternoon gathered in Carol Gregor’s garden. Keeping gardens near to our own habitations encourages us to consider ‘home’ as spaces that include outdoor spaces as we provide nourishment and shelter for pollinators. In consideration of the history of the site, we spoke of plants that arrived by sea in the early colonial medicine chests and how some of these plants have become a naturalized part of our landscape. After acknowledging this land as summer grounds traditionally used by the Penobscot, we spoke of connecting with our own heritage to develop a regard for the relationship to plants considered sacred by our ancestors. We invited participants to observe both native and naturalized plants without judgement, in order to recognize relationships within the landscape, both native populations and those who have arrived ‘from away’. One difference in our contemporary relationship with these 2 groupings of plants is that we may feel free to harvest the naturalized plants without worrying about disturbing the rhythm of the local landscape. As conservationists look more to indigenous populations for guidance, it is important to recognize that while we may learn from their approaches of tending this landscape, it is not really our place to mis-aproppriate their cultures. Instead, we are advised to rediscover our own sacred ancestral relationships with the land and the ecologic communities that inhabit it. We all contain these histories but some of us are more severed from our past than others. Learning about the uses of plants brought here from Europe by early settlers opens pathways of connections to our ancestral relationships with plants considered important enough to be included in their medicine chests and larders.
Having said that, we also recognize that native plants have co-evolved with insect, bird and mammal populations so that local wildlife is in sync with the rhythms expressed by plants that were here before the arrival of Europeans. When we think about increasing the diversity of meadows we tend, we focus on cultivating native plants to augment plant diversity found in larger meadow spaces. Because of the density of plants found in Maine, it is nearly impossible for seeds to take hold if simply scattered into a mature field. Native plants need open ground to become established and often take two to three years to fully mature. Some need extra tending so they may flourish. By adding small patches of native plants to the gardens we tend close to home, we can keep an eye on them and allow them the space to thrive. Direct sowing avoids the use of plastic pots associated with nurseries and allows the plants to adjust the soil into which they will be placed from the getgo. As they establish themselves and start to outgrow the small spaces of a cottage garden, then it is time to transplant the larger plants to the field, where they may take hold with mature root systems and start populating meadows with a more diverse range of flora. In Carol’s garden, we see native roses, milkweeds and New England asters growing alongside oregano, lavender and cosmos, all of them happily feeding the scourge of buzzing pollinators.
Observation & Relationships
On the walk through the meadow to the site of Carol’s labyrinth, we take a slow approach to observe what is already growing in the meadow. We talk about plant communities and paying attention to what grows well together. Scale is an important consideration as we think about how to cultivate a community of native plants within our own tended spaces. Roses grow well with blueberries, and are layered in with mosses and rushes. flowers, berries, and bunching stems providing nourishment for pollinators, birds and shelter for both. It is vital to let all of these plants grow to maturity through the extended season to promote habitat for local wildlife. If we sever the landscape in the middle of summer, we take away the flowers feeding the pollinators, which in turn takes away food for insect loving birds. It severs the capacity for wildflowers to mature into seeds, taking food away from migratory birds and forage for winter resident bird and mammal populations. Meadow nesting birds are increasingly some of the most endangered species in the area because their homes are destroyed and they cannot reproduce.
Why do people mow mid summer?
Because it is easier for the mowing COMPANY to get through the field. Waiting until November or April increases the risk of the soil being too sodden, or the grasses laying down like a mat. However, to maintain open space we only have to mow every two to three years. So if a season presents too difficult a task to mow, it’s fine to wait another 6 months to a year or more to mow the area. Often meadow stewards will alternate mowed areas so that the plants have a couple of years to mature, regenerate and the next generation grow out before being cut.
Observation allows for consideration on how to shape layers into the perimeters of the meadow. If we do NOT mow, the meadow will return to forest. In thinking of transitions into the surrounding forests, we may encourage a diverse range of woody plants like native viburnums and dogwoods to fill in along the sides to soften edges of meadows. These berry producing plants provide essential food for migrating birds and act as windbreaks and pollen sources for early season insect forage. These bushes will spread easily into a meadow, so it is important to maintain consistent mowing along the perimeter of the woody shrub layer to prevent this from happening and to maintain open space.