Spring Beekeeping Workshop

Spring Beekeeping Workshop
Demonstration Hive

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Podcast on safegroundlandcare.com with Bernadette Giblin

My dear friend, Bernadette Giblin, a phenomenal organic land care professional (NOFA certified) and a mover-and-shaker in spreading the word about caring for lawns and sports fields organically, invited me to be on her podcast the other day.  We had a sweet conversation and explored many topics.  You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link:


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Graduate Institute Ecotherapy Program

I am privileged to have been invited to speak at the Graduate Institute in Bethany, Connecticut in their Ecotherapy Interest Group meeting on Monday, June 23 at 6 pm. The Ecotherapy Interest Group is held once a month in conjunction with the Graduate Institute's Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability certificate program.

I will be giving a presentation on Permaculture as Healing Art

Please feel free to pass along this information to those who may be interested: http://www.learn.edu/pages/news/entry/permaculture.html

This meeting is open to the public and I hope that you can join us. TGI requests that you RSVP on their website (www.learn.edu/events).

The Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability certificate program is well underway and is progressing with great vitality. Staff will provide an update on the program at the next interest group meeting.

New Rain Garden Installation in Municipal Greenway along Steele Brook

Successful rain garden installation today in Watertown, Connecticut along the Steele Brook Greenway. This is a combined private and public venture to convert an overgrown eyesore in the floodplain of the brook into a beautiful and ecologically appropriate public space.

Rain gardens are being installed more often now as people recognize the need to deal with stormwater runoff in ways that are better for the environment.  Stormwater that runs off roads, driveways, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces, carry pollutants into rivers and streams and also flow very fast, often overwhelming municipal storm sewers and causing local flooding. As more rain gardens are built, we are seeing a slow down of this problem and a reduction of pollutants reaching major bodies of water.  In Connecticut everything drains to Long Island Sound which receives large amounts of contaminants.

Rain gardens allow stormwater to infiltrate the soil where soil micro-organisms as well as plant roots help to metabolize contaminants and reduce the amount being drained into the waterways.

 Before installing the Watertown Greenway rain garden today, the area was grass with invasive Japanese Knotweed growing all around the area.

After excavation and soil removal, new, clean topsoil was spread over the newly created depression

Although, excavating and sculpting the rain garden depression and removing the root filled soil, was the first step.  I am afraid the knotweed will return.  Actually, I am positive it will, so a vigorous and regular maintenance plan will be in place to eradicate it manually whenever it appears.  I have used, and will use again, a product known as Burn Out which is an approved substance in organic certified landscape care.

It rained heavily a few times prior to planting day and so the lowest areas of the rain garden depression were extremely wet and soupy, like cake batter.  Impossible to walk on - one planting volunteer lost her shoe in the mud and it had to be dug out!  We resorted to standing on thick layers of cardboard to get some stability in the mud.

I also used a thick layer of cardboard around the perimeter to discourage the weeds and also to keep the grass back from the edge of the planting area.  I don't want the mowers to get too close to the shrubs around the top of the rain garden!

Plants used in the rain garden were chosen first and foremost for their suitability for the soil moisture conditions at various elevations in the rain garden.  In the center is the wettest area.  Here we mostly used perennial plugs featuring Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed), Liatris spicata (Dense Blazing Star), Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset), Hibiscus moschuetos (Swamp Rose Mallow).  We also used large pots of Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern), and Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern).

Around the top of the basin, I planted 2 large Betula nigra trees (River Birch), one of my favorite birches, it tolerates a wide range of soil moisture conditions.  Also, I chose Viburnum cassinoides (Wild Raisin), a lovely native shrub with white spring flowers and edible fruits.  If you can get to them before the birds do they can be eaten raw or cooked into a preserve.  Other shrub choices for the upper areas were low bush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, and lastly, Myrica pennsylvanica, (Bayberry).  Bayberry is a another lovely native shrub with a semi-evergreen habit.  Edible leaves are sweetly aromatic and make lovely tea.  I also use the leaves in soups etc.  The little grey berries are loved by migrating birds.  People have used them for making scented wax candles, too.  I also used a few Andropogon gerardii,(Big Bluestem) in the drier places.

These plants were also chosen for aesthetic appeal and for wildlife habitat, pollinator insects and bird habitat, especially. Of course, it all has to mature and I'll be watching carefully this first season to make sure the plants settle in to their new home well and do not have to compete with weeds.

None of this would have been possible without the volunteer help of members of the Watertown Garden Club (whose names I'm not publishing as I don't think they would like that out in cyberspace!.  Thanks so much, everyone!  You were terrific!

And with yours truly in the middle

I can be reached at my e.mail:  cynthia@hgconnsoil.com for consultations or design services for rain gardens, riparian buffer plantings and general ecological landscape planning and design.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Short video on state of the art amphibian road crossing tunnel

Most of our native amphibians are at risk of death when migrating across roads to their breeding sites.  Here is one solution:


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

CT-NOFA Winter Conference last Saturday

We were privileged to present two workshops last Saturday at the annual winter conference of CT-NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Organization).

The event was held at the campus of Western Connecticut State University and there was the largest attendance ever recorded for the midwinter conference.  What an achievment for the staff and volunteers of NOFA.  Way to go guys!

Stuart and I presented workshops on building a Cob Oven and on Raising Shiitake Mushrooms.  You can see our power points at www.hgconnsoil.com and click on "Press Releases and Link".

Also, here is another link to a terrific write-up of the event:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scientists "discover" importance of soil carbon!

It's never too late for academia to catch up with what a lot of us have known for a very long time - that soil is vital for the health of the planet.  In so many ways, and in the following terrific article from Yale University, scientists have "discovered" that putting the carbon back into the soil (yep - that's the carbon we let escape by employing ill-advised agricultural techniques) we may be able to arrest climate change and at the same time make the soil healthier for our agriculture too.  A win-win situation if ever I heard one.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Practical Beekeeping Workshop announced

Beekeeping With Al Avitabile
6 April 2014
1:00 pm
Fee:    $40

Outdoor Demonstration and Lecture

Eminent beekeeper and bee researcher, Al Avitabile, returns 
to the Center for Sustainable Living for another spring workshop. 
Al’s previous workshops at the Center have been our most popular 
events.  Al will share his expertise and vast knowledge with us.
Al is extremely generous with his time and spends as much time
as needed to cover all topics that are brought up by attendees. 
Previous workshops with Al have included visits to local bee yards
to observe various practices and maintenance projects first-hand.

This workshop is a must for all existing or new beekeepers. 

To register for this program please visit www.hgconnsoil.com for a registration form.

Albert Einstein quotes worth sharing

I seem to be seeing quotes by Albert Einstein all over the place these days.  Perhaps people are waking up to the truth that he brought to the world - we are all connected.

Here are a couple of quotes I've seen recently:

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us, "Universe", a part limited in time and space.

He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the  rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness."

and also:

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better"

SOUNDS LIKE PERMACULTURE TO ME!  Perhaps Bill Mollison got some of his inspiration from Einstein when he realized that humans were part of ecology and cannot be separate from it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 workshop schedule at Center For Sustainable Living

Please visit my website at www.hgconnsoil.com to see a complete schedule of Permaculture and sustainability workshops for 2014.


Judaism observes a year of "fallow" known as the "Shmita Year"

My dear Rabbi, Andrea Cohen Kiener has written a beautiful and thoughtful interpretation and explanation of the Shmita year. This special fallowing of the land is written into the Torah and demonstrates an understanding of agriculture little known today in commercial agriculture. Click on the link below to read Rabbi Andrea's blog:

Upcoming NOFA Organic Land Care Accreditation Courst

Here is an opportunity for all landscape professionals to deepen their credentials and become certified organic land care professionals (OLCPs) through the Northeast Organic Farmers Association.  Well known throughout the nation as the leading certification program for landscapers to thoroughly learn about organic methods of landscape design and maintenance, this course will be held at the Community College in Norwich, CT. from 10 February 2014 through 13 February 2014.

For more information about the certification program, click on this link:


As you scroll through the topics sessions, please note I will be teaching a segment on Permaculture on 2/13/14 at 9:00am.

Hope to see you at this event!