My loving and creative Mom, Peg Lentz, commissioned me to make woven banners for the altar at her church, St. Mary's in Aurora IL. She requested that I use bright colors representing all of the different parishioners woven together into a representation of the St. Mary's community. Upon visiting by the church, I was inspired by the rose window above the altar. It is composed of geometric "slices" of jewel-toned colors. I wanted the banners to be act like woven windows. So, I died cotton yarn to match, and I wove the weft to mimic the jagged "slices." Since Father Tim requested that the banners be different from each other to create more interest, I wove them with varying warps and lengths. It's my hope that these banners add light, color, and beauty to an already beautiful church, and that the parishioners enjoy them. Thank you so much to Peg and Tom Lentz and Fr. Tim for allowing me to be a part of this special project. It was a joy!
Spring Bird recently received some much needed TLC that required an excavator and laying new pipe. As a daughter who grew up watching Caterpillar Tractor's public demonstrations and stood in wheel wells that were double my size, I shouldn't have been shocked by the effectiveness of a little excavator. For the two years that Pat and I have been hacking down honeysuckle and buck thorn, digging fence post holes by hand, and cultivating earth that is more roots than dirt, I was completely impressed by the power and efficacy of the machine.
Before the workers even got started, Pat cleared weed trees from the future work zone, but the excavator still had to remove a few more. Not only did the tractor easily pluck them from their location, but it dug deep pits and trenches, obliterated the ground cover, and back-filled a layer of clay over the rich topsoil like frosting an earthen cake. This final task unearthed many stones that had been buried for who knows how long. As I collected them in my bucket I thought about the animals, insects, bacteria, fungi, plants, and hidden worlds that were displaced by the construction work. Our repairs were a natural disaster to our forestrial neighbors. I had an unsettling feeling, but I know that in time and with our own efforts, new plants will return creating environments for insects and animals to once again inhabit.
Before we could get to planting new ground cover, we had to manage the overflow water from the new pipe which now flowed in a new location at Spring Bird. We decided to dig a small retention pond to slow down its flow to the creek. During that process of excavation, I had many regrets of not utilizing the machine that had been parked at my house for a week. We then dug an overflow channel from the pond that leads to the creek. As I dumped the collected stones into their new home and watched the water level rise I thought again about how we participated in even more displacement --- of earth, water, insects, animals, etc. But, hopefully, we are also creating a place for new life to inhabit.
A couple of weeks ago we piled into the Prius with a tote bag of snacks and a list of destinations. We were on a mission to visit the various Forest Gardening projects in our area. While Pat has laid the ground work for our own Forest Garden at Spring Bird, we were interested in learning about larger projects that involved community support and implemented various non-profit models.
Ever since we have become forest dwellers and surrounded by farms in a more rural setting, we can't help but imagine trees planted on any "empty" plot of land. Whenever we see acreage for sale we dream of planting trees instead of building more houses or stores. We're beginning to explore what this desire means and if it could be channeled into the development of a non-profit geared towards the establishment and sustenance of Forest Gardens.
A Forest Garden is an ancient horticultural method of planting fruit and nut trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial vegetables either within established woodland ecosystems or in mimicry of them in order to produce food. This method of "farming" is lower maintenance and more ecologically sustainable. Climate change will exacerbate many problems inherent to current industrial farming methods such as: soil depletion, dependence on chemical pesticides, susceptibility to drought, and vulnerability to flooding. One thing is certain, our current means of food production will be threatened under future climates.
So, thankfully there are pioneers exploring "new" ways of growing food and teaching newcomers like us how to follow in their Forest Garden paths. These are the organizations we visited:
1. Dekalb County Community Gardens' Five Points Food Forest
2. Amma Center of Chicago's Food Forest
3. Northern Illinois Food Bank: Growing Food Security Garden
4. The Resiliency Institute: Ferry Forest Garden
5. The Resiliency Institute: Whole Foods Market Edible Forest Garden
After driving around Chicagoland all afternoon, we returned home a little slap happy and very inspired to dream up how we can contribute to this movement. We are very much in the brainstorm/exploration stage and kicking around ideas for a non-profit. So, we'd love any feedback, thoughts, and knowledge that you may have, and I look forward to keeping you updated as this project develops.
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.