This Thursday, the RI Senate Finance Committee will be hearing testimony for a allocating funds for farmland preservation. Rhode Island has the most expensive farmland in the country. Developers and their lawyers salivate over open land for affordable housing and solar farm projects, which guarantee them revenue and profit. How does this benefit us economically? Why do we need to preserve this land for farming? Here’s the written testimony I submitted this morning. Please read and consider sending in your own testimony. Let’s flood the state house with letters!
Date: Monday, May 23, 2023
To: Chairman Louis DiPalma, Senate Finance Committee
cc: Representative Michelle McGaw
From: Wendy Fachon, East Greenwich
RE: Support for S560: $5M for the Preservation, Protection and Conservation of Farmlands
Dear Chairman DiPalma,
I live in East Greenwich and am testifying in support for House Bill 6018 and Senate Bill 560, funding farmland conservation in the Governor’s FY 24 budget. Thank you bringing this issue to the attention of your committee, My husband I have been supporting farmland conservation through our weekly purchases at local farms and farmer markets, because the food quality and nutrition is better than store-bought produce that is grown and transported from afar.
When I do go food shopping at a supermarket, I notice that most of the produce is labeled as coming from California or south of the border. Between the breakdown of the food supply chain during the pandemic and California’s worsening climate and water challenges, it is time for Rhode Island to focus on food security for its citizens.
We recognize and appreciate the many quantifiable advantages, beyond food quality, of a local farm economy, because it…
keeps Rhode Island dollars circulating locally
provides over 2,500 “green economy” jobs and over $250 million in revenue
improves food security for all Rhode Island residents
eliminates fuel costs and carbon emissions that result from long distance transportation
attracts matching funds from federal and philanthropic resources
harbors the potential to grow exponentially, resulting in an abundance that can be exported out-of-state
helps achieve climate resiliency and soil fertility, through use of regenerative practices
assures fresher, better tasting food and less spoilage
generates agro-tourism dollars
builds our sense of community and pride
As you know, Rhode Island has the most expensive farmland in the country, making it difficult to grow the local farm economy. And yet, farmland preservation is a good long-term investment that will appeal to voters. I am among the many asking you to include $5 million in the budget to support the Agricultural Land Preservation Commission, which is critical to preserving important RI farmland.
Thank you, Chairman DiPalma and Finance Committee members, for your service and for listening. Please, help pull S560 through the budget allocation process, so $5 million (or more) can go towards farmland preservation in the Governor’s FY ‘24 Budget. Lead us forward.
Friday, April 22, 2023 (Earth Day) – I am in the process of digging up two large beds of garlic, so that I can rebuild the beds and plant them with vegetables. But, what will I do with all this garlic?
I’ll relocate some to serve as companion plants for select fruits and vegetables. Garlic has a strong odor that deters garden pests. It can repel cabbage worms, Japanese beetles, moths and aphids away from cabbage and kale. It can even help deter rabbits and deer.
In addition, garlic bulbs release sulfur into the soil, which helps to reduce fungal infections in nearby plants and fruit trees. For example, garlic is known to reduce potato blight and apple scab.
Garlic is an essential perennial plant for both permaculture and medicinal gardening.
Among its many health benefits for people, garlic is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer. Garlic also a natural blood thinner, however, people should avoid it before surgery, and people on blood thinner medication also need to be cautious.
Garlic provides the culinary benefits of distinct flavor and versatility, and it stores well.
I use a lot of garlic in my cooking. For example, I harvest Rosemary buds and Garlic scapes in July to infuse with olive oil. After pouring the olive oil into a double boiler, I add the flowers, rolling the rosemary between my palms to release the oils and crumbling the garlic scape flowers with my fingers.
Then I heat the oil and flower/bud mixture in the double boiler for ten minutes, turn off the heat, and let the mixture sit for an hour, before straining out the herbs and decanting the oil into a clean bottle.
Still, I have far more garlic than needed, and I am ready to share the abundance with interested neighbors.
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 – According to the National Weather Service, this coming weekend, Rhode Islanders will experience the coldest weather in seven years, as temperatures are expected to drop below zero with wind gusts making it feel even colder. Among my strategies for shock-proofing plants are insulating the roots with a layer of mulch and applying a agrohomeopathy remedy called aconite.
Agrohomeopathy is the use of homeopathic remedies and protocols to improve the health and vitality of pets, livestock, wildlife and plants. It is an inexpensive, chemical free, non-toxic method of healing and protecting plants and agricultural resources from pests and disease. This idea resonates with me, and the application of aconite is my first experience using agrohomeopathy.
Aconite is a homeopathic dilution derived from the plant Aconitum napellus. As a child, my mother would take me wildflower hunting. I remember picking a stem of Monkshood in a mountain meadow and pressing the distinctive purple flower between the pages of our wildflower field guide. At the time, I was unaware of the medicinal value of the many plants we found. I was unaware that Aconitum napellus is toxic and must be handled with care.
Dilution is a procedure by which a substance is diluted, with alcohol or distilled water, and then vigorously shaken in a process called succussion. The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), asserted that succussion activated the “vital energy” of the substance, and that successive dilutions increased the “potency” of the preparation. The dilution procedure is repeated many times to achieve a therapeutic dose. Dilutions are theorized to work on an energetic level, holistically stimulating the natural healing response of a body, animal or plant.
Homeopathic remedies are used by millions of consumers worldwide. Since 1938, homeopathic medicines have been regulated as drugs by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Traditional homeopathy is based on three principles:
Law of similars (like cures like). Something that in large doses creates the symptoms of a disease, will, in small doses, treat it. This is similar to the theory behind vaccines.
Extreme dilution enhances the medicine’s healing properties and eliminates undesirable side-effects.
When choosing a remedy, a holistic approach, assessing the whole person, animal or plant, must be taken into consideration. Protocols are individualized.
In traditional homeopathy, Aconite is used to treat a number of medical conditions, and it is one of several remedies used to help alleviate shock or trauma. In agrohomeopathy, gardeners and farmers use it to treat plants exposed to the shock of extreme cold. Homeopathic Educator, Kristina White, instructed me to apply Aconite to my fruit tree saplings, both before and after the extreme weather event. She had provided me with an Agro Kit, which includes small vials, each holding a different remedy.
I dissolved 12 tiny pellets of Aconite 30C into one gallon of filtered water and gave the gallon a good shake. Then I transferred the preparation to a watering can, which provided me with enough fluid to water three saplings. I applied it in a circle around the bases of my cherry tree and two pear trees, so the treatment would soak down into the roots. I will repeat this process after the extreme weather passes and the day time temperature rises back up above freezing. This is a simple, inexpensive, chemical free and non-toxic method.
Check out my February 2023 Story Walking podcast on “Agrohomeopathy for Healthier Farms and Gardens” with guest, Kristina White, Homeopathic Educator at Your Life and Land. Stay tuned. More good things to come.
My fascination with fiddleheads and ferns began around the time I was creating my Fiddlesticks story CD, which is about slowing down and taking time to see and appreciate God’s creative work through nature. Learn more about the CD here. Now, as I consider options for shade-tolerant plants to include in the ground cover layer of our food forest garden, I have been taking time to research ferns more extensively. Here is what I now know:
A few fern species are edible during their fiddlehead stage, however, most species are toxic. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled tender green tips that unfurl in the spring to become fern fronds. Fiddleheads are so named because they resemble the scrolled end of fiddle or violin. The time for foraging them is brief. Wait too long, and the fiddleheads will have already opened into the feathery fronds of mature ferns, and they will be inedible. As ferns mature, they become more toxic.
The fiddleheads of the Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, are edible. Their bright green coils are covered with thin, brown, papery scales, which will fall away as the frond unfurls. Ostrich Ferns are also distinguished by a deep U-shaped groove in the inside stem. Ostrich Fern fiddleheads should be well-rinsed with cold water and fully cooked before adding them to salads and other dishes. In fact, it is best to blanch fiddleheads in boiled water even before sautéing or cooking in other preparations.
Ostrich Fern fiddleheads are prized for their crunchy texture and delicate flavor, which is somewhere in the range of asparagus, broccoli and spinach. Nutritionally, fiddleheads contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, manganese and copper.
I started a small fern nursery, with specimens I should be able to propagate and transplant to other areas of our property. Propagation is the process of using one or more plants make more plants of its kind. To establish the nursery, I sheet mulched a shady area outside our kitchen window, and I splurged on the purchase of two mature Ostrich Ferns at a local garden center.
The ferns beautify the area, however, there was still a lot of empty space around them, and my husband suggested buying and planting five more. I would love to, however, it would be more costly. Instead, I have chosen to be patient; I will wait and order some ferns online in the early spring. bThose plants will be smaller and less developed, but far less costly.
Alternatively, I could be even more patient and wait for my two ferns to self-propagate naturally. Ferns self-propagate in two ways. They can propagate sexually by reproducing and scattering spores. Not seeds, but spores. For a gardener to create the right conditions for fern spores to germinate and develop into a new fern takes a lot of patience and care. This is, however, the best way to propagate large numbers of new ferns.
Ferns can also propagate asexually, also known as vegetative propagation. Most ferns, after they grow from spores, will begin to spread by means of their creeping rhizomes, the root system that spreads underground. Over time one plant can grow into a colony. For gardeners, vegetative propagation is as easy as physically dividing a fern pant in half, carefully separating clumps of roots and replanting them. This method is easier than growing ferns from spores. Unlike with spore propagation, each new plant will be a clone, genetically identical to the original plant.
Through the vegetative method, gardeners can speed along the propagation of many perennial species. Berry plants can be propagated by cutting shoots and treating them to grow roots. By learning vegetative propagation skills, gardeners can dramatically increase their food forest abundance.
I have plenty of time to experiment with fern propagation, since fruit trees will require some years to grow. The trees will need to grow big enough to be able to produce sufficient shade and moisture to support a flourishing ground cover of ferns.
Two weeks ago, I walked the property of a local fruit grower, Narrow Lane Orchard, which is a family-owned farm. I have been buying Narrow Lane Orchard fruit at my local farmer’s market for a few years now, and finally took the time to go visit the orchard, which is only five miles away from our house. It has taken me far too long to get around to doing this.
About this orchard… back in 2004 Stephen and Sharon Grenier purchased Narrow Lane Orchard to save the 30 acre farm from being developed into residential homes. Expanding the farm’s diversity of trees, shrubs and vines, the Greniers have grown more than 20 varieties of apples, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, blueberries and kiwi berries.
The orchard itself is surrounded by 8-foot tall deer fencing to protect the trees. Visitors enter the orchard through a gate situated next to the orchard’s farm stand. My favorite feature of the farm is the one-mile Nature Trail that winds around through the woods surrounding the orchard and outside the fencing. Here I saw lush green ferns growing everywhere. I have never seen so many ferns in all my life. I felt as if I was walking through a prehistoric forest. This landscape was a clear testament to the fern’s ability to self-propagate, and it was an indication that I could indeed grow ferns beneath the tree canopy on our property.
While researching ferns, I discovered they are one of the oldest groups of plants on Earth, with a fossil record dating back almost 400 million years. Back in the time of the dinosaurs, ferns were actually the main food source for the herbivorous sauropods, the largest animals ever to walk the earth. Ferns also played a vital role in plant evolution, specifically in the development of vascular tissue. Without the development of plant vascular tissue, we would not have berry bushes and fruit trees.
The fern category of plants, due to its long-lived presence on earth, is highly diverse, having evolved into the 10,500 living species that inhabit the earth today. Ferns tend to grow in moist, shady areas among the trees of the forest, which provide the ferns with protection from wind, over exposure to sunlight, and excess heat from the sun. Some species, however, can grow in desert climates.
Within a forest community, ferns have their own important ecological roles. They provide shelter, shade and food to small animals. Bracken ferns are eaten in the fiddlehead stage in the springtime by white-tailed deer and eastern cottontail rabbits with little consequence. As these fern grows into adults, however, their fronds begin to produce toxins, and they become unpalatable. At the same time, insects like grasshoppers and snails can eat adult ferns on a regular basis, despite the increased toxicity. Generally, plants produce toxins as a defensive measure, so they can grow and propagate.
One final fern fact, that bares further research, is their ability to uptake heavy metals from the soil. They can be planted to heal contaminated environments. I think that’s very cool!
Back on July 1, I began cutting down the ornamental shrubs in the center of the front yard to clear the space and replant it with something ornamental and edible – sweet cherry, mulberry and fig trees. Many years ago, the area had been planted with an azalea, two rhododendrons and some yews. The rhododendrons had been slowly dying, and the yews had been devoured by grazing deer. Wild raspberries, brambles, and a large tuft of ornamental grass were beginning to overtake the area, while two black cherries saplings and three white pine sprouts had taken root among the yews. I removed the black cherry and white pine first. Then as I cut away the yew and azalea branches, I found a hidden treasure – two mulberry saplings.
My food forest design specified planting a mulberry tree near this very spot, so the discovery of mulberry already growing here was magical. And, I found not just one mulberry tree, but two. I dug the smaller mulberry sapling out by the roots and transplanted it in the center the back wood lot. The larger mulberry sapling was entangled with the azalea roots, and I left it undisturbed.
This morning, August 4, I began to do some sheet mulching ’round the mulberry bush.’ I started work early, while the front yard was still in shade. The first step in this process was to lay down sheets of cardboard and place newsprint under the gaps and holes. I soaked the layer with a garden hose. This layer will prevent the grass, brambles and weeds from growing back, so we can replant with berry bushes, herbs and clover.
Then I added a layer of wood chips. When the Largess Forestry tree crew removed the invasive Norway Maple trees in the back wood lot, they left me a generous pile of wood chips. I had completed sheet mulching this small area by 11 am. The shade was gone, the sun was beating down, and I was coated with grime and sweat. I was done for the day and ready for a cold shower. Please with the transformation of the center of the front yard, I put away my garden tools and headed indoors.
As I collect more cardboard, I will continue to layer outward from here. Then in the late fall, the area will be ready for planting cherry, fig and other fruit trees, to keep the magic mulberry company.
I begin each day meditating on the Daily Word and its associated affirmations. Today’s word, Generous, came with a message that relates directly to Abundance: “As I give, I share God’s abundance… I always have all that I need to live abundantly, and I share my abundance with others joyfully and freely. I give generously of my resources, talents, and skills,.. I am generous with praise, gratitude, and encouragement. Whenever I give without thought of reciprocation, I center myself in the divine flow.”
I’m thinking about how generosity can flow from my association with Food Forest Abundance. I dream of growing a forest garden full of fruit to share with everyone around me. Considering the example I can set through this endeavor, I begin writing about my own garden adventures to inspire others and show them simple actions they can take to begin growing their own joyful abundance.
Over the past few years, I have struggled to grow a conventional vegetable garden in our front yard. Chipmunks and rabbits wriggled through the fence to nibble away at the bush bean sprouts. Deer reached over the fence to chomp on the kale and cucumbers. Bugs chewed holes in the cabbage and lettuce leaves. At the end of each season, my meager harvest was hardly worth all the time I put into planting, watering and weeding. And so, last year I let the garden “go to weed,” and began reading books about food forest gardening.
This summer the mint runners have run rampant and displaced many of the weeds. In fact, I have an overabundance of mint. What can I do with it? I steep bunches of mint in hot water and then chill it down, and the result is “the most refreshing summer iced tea ever.” Mint freshens the breath and releases compounds that have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, making this an ideal herb aiding both digestive and immune systems.
I can also welcome neighbors to come grab some mint and pull it up by the roots. Take it home and transplant it into pots to keep it under control. But come quick! I will be taking down the fence and covering the ground with sheet mulching to get rid of the weeds and the mint that has grown beyond my control.
I will layer damp corrugated cardboard, compost, dead leaves and wood chips over the area. I will smother away the weeds and improve the quality of the soil, as well as the soil’s ability to retain water. Then I will plant, grow and propagate a variety of perennial herbs and berries in this very same space. When they grow out of control, my plan is to share generously with friends and neighbors.
We decided it would be a good idea to thin out the trees in our wooded lot, to allow more sunlight in to support the growth of understory fruit trees and berry bushes. Arborist Matthew “Twig” Largess came to look over the situation and make some recommendations. Matt pointed out a number of Norway Maple trees. He explained that they were invasive and removing them should be a priority.
Non-native Norway Maples can be easily mistaken for native Sugar Maples. Imported from England in the early 1700’s to use as a shade tree, Norway maple is a popular urban tree. Unfortunately, Norway trees are harmful to the environment. They grow faster than native maples and displace them. Norway Maple canopies are more dense. They leaf out earlier in the spring and drop foliage later in the fall. Native species are unable to survive under the Norway maple’s dense shade.
In addition, Norway Maple leaves contain a toxic latex that harms insects and pollinators. They also have dense, shallow root systems, which release poisonous chemicals into the soil. This makes it difficult for native seedlings to take root and thrive.
So how does one tell the difference between the two types of maple tree?
Norway maple leaves have more lobes, typically 5-7, compared with the sugar maple’s 3-5.
The front 3 lobes of the Norway Maple leaves are often wider at the base, and the front three lobes of the Sugar Maple often widen toward the tip.
Norway Maple leaves are a darker green.
The leaf differences are subtle, so the best way to identify the tree is to remove a leaf, stalk and all, from its stem. Norway Maple leaf stalks exude a milky white sap if cut or plucked.
Norway Maple flowers appear in rounded upright clusters. Sugar Maple flowers droop down.
Norway Maple’s winged pair of seeds, samaras, spread more horizontally when hanging, and the seed flat. The Sugar Maple’s samaras are downward-oriented when hanging, and the seed is round rather than flat.
Sugar Maples are more colorful in the autumn than Norway Maples.
I took a walk around to neighborhood in search of a Sugar Maple and saw not a one. I did, however, see dozens of Norway Maple trees. I finally found a Sugar Maple at nearby Goddard State Park.
Sugar Maple is tapped for maple syrup, making it a likely candidate for a food forest. Furthermore, the plump seeds of the Sugar Maple samaras are edible. Seeds harvested during spring will be sweeter than those harvested later. If the seeds are bitter in their raw form, they can be roasted with a coating of oil or boiled in water (~15 min) to dissipate the bitterness.
Once the Norway Maples are removed, I’m thinking it would be nice to plant some Sugar Maples at the roadside edge of the wooded lot. I checked the Arbor Day website, and, as a member, I can order 3-4′ saplings for $15.99 each. Sounds like a plan.
Thursday, July 7, 2022 – I’ve been waiting patiently, and, lo’ and behold, the first wild raspberry of the season popped out today, with a promise of culinary abundance to come.
What’s more, my Rosemary is in flower. Raspberry and Rosemary, sweet and savory, pair well together. I found recipes online for Raspberry-Rosemary Lemonade, Raspberry-Rosemary Scones and Raspberry-Rosemary Jam Bars. While awaiting the fruition of this years raspberry harvest, I decided to infuse some olive oil with rosemary flowers and buds. And, since my garlic scapes are also in flower, I added some of those.
After pouring olive oil in a double boiler, I added the flowers, rolling the rosemary between my palms to release the oils and crumbling the garlic scape flowers apart with my fingers. I heated the oil and flower/bud mixture for ten minutes, and then turned off the heat and to let it all sit for an hour. Then I strained out the herbs and decanted the infusion into a clean bottle. Once I can gather a cup of raspberries, I will use them to make raspberry vinegar from scratch. The ultimate goal here is Raspberry-Rosemary Salad Dressing.
Besides being a versatile culinary ingredient, rosemary is a natural insect repellent, making it valuable for food forest and organic gardening. Aromatic plants are a safer alternative than chemical pesticides. They are better for health and better for the environment.
Raspberry and Rosemary are only the beginning of my Food Forest Adventure. I am an Abundance Ambassador for Food Forest Abundance. This week we received our blueprint to replace our front lawn with forest full of natural culinary abundance, and THAT is just the beginning. I invite you tofollow my journey around and into the forest, here and through my Story Walking Radio Hour.
Every morning when I eat breakfast, I look at a favorite watercolor rendering of sunflowers on the wall, across from where I sit. It was painted by my Mom. She was gifted. She loved flowers, she loved art, and she loved to create…
When we were kids and took family vacations, one of my favorite memories was when Mom would lead my sister, Sandy, and I in search of wildflowers. We would thumb through her field guide to identify the plant by its common name. Then we would place a sample of the flower inside the book to press it flat and save it. We would find Indian Paintbrush, Monkshood, Butter and Eggs, Queen Anne’s Lace and Black-Eyed Susan. We were enchanted by the names of the flowers, their striking colors and their amazing shapes. After the flowers dried inside the field guide, we would make wildflower art by arranging the flattened flowers on a piece of paper and glue them into place.
Another wonderful memory was traveling the south coast of France with Mom. Just the two of us. I had been studying in Paris, and she flew over after I completed my studies. Our adventure began in her hotel room in Paris. We poured through her travel guides, while we drank wine, nibbled on cheese and apples, and scattered baguette crumbs all over her bedspread. We made our plans, deciding which towns, which museums and which hotels, and we and planned a Eurail trip that would take us from Paris to Avignon, Carcassone and Marseilles. This was Mom’s first trip abroad, ever. The first of many trips, as she began traveling the world with Dad, shortly after this. She loved experiencing new cultures…
When Mom and Dad built their dream house in Florida, Mom dedicated one room to serve as her office and art studio. She spent many happy hours there, playing with her brushes and acrylic paints. She found inspiration from her travels, books and museums, and she loved playing with color to create all different kinds of landscapes. When I was visiting, she would invite me to view a work-in-process with a critical eye, and would welcome suggestions. She painted pictures for her own homes, and sometimes she painted for family and friends… which brings me back to the Sunflower painting on the wall. Thank you, Mom for the many, many ways through which you enriched our lives!
My mother, Elinor Nadherny, passed away last November at the age of 92. I continue to be blessed by her love and influence.
Turning to the next page I found a phone number, written upside down and at an awkward angle across the page. The phone number ended with an extension… 127… which was underlined… three times.
I turned the page again and found a silly poem.
The poem was surrounded with samples of a person’s signature… Emily something… written several times, the way someone practices a signature with the last name of a schoolgirl’s crush. One of the signatures at the top of the page had a halo drawn over the E.
The rest of the journal’s pages were blank… just waiting to be filled. Upon returning home, I went into our study, where one entire wall is bookshelves, floor to ceiling. An overflow of books laid in scattered piles across the floor in front of the shelves. From another shelf on the opposite side of the room I pulled out a reference book titled Angel Numbers 101, because I wanted to look up the meaning of underlined number – 127. The number 127 means “You’re on the right path… stay positive and keep doing what you are doing.”
I studied the signatures more and determined that Emily’s last name was Martin. Emily Martin. On a whim, I googled Emily Martin, which took me to emilymartin.com and a page about a book exhibit that had just opened in San Francisco (2012). The exhibit, mysteriously titled “Exploding the Codex,” was about books and storytelling. I read:
“These books go beyond the traditional format to unveil new ways of presenting and telling stories. Often theatrical or stage-like in their presentation, they pull the viewer into their individual dramas and diverse varieties of form and presentation. The exhibition explores the ways in which a book’s size and dimensions determine our relationship to it and what it is trying to tell us. One can choose between the intimacy of a tiny journal, private and curious, easily hidden as if keeping a secret between reader and teller…”
In that moment of reading, I imagined myself an actress, standing on a stage, surrounded by bookshelves, and holding a mysterious journal in my hand – a secret codex – and I was being pulled into storytelling of the most unconventional nature. Of course, it was all symbolic, and it was a powerful message.
And so, I share this message now, because I believe it is meant for all of us. We each author our own life narratives through our responses to our personal situations… our thoughts… our words… and our choices of action. Life is filled with mystery, and uncertainty, which often requires us to be patient as things continue to play out, and it requires us to respond creatively and positively. “We won’t be askew.” Smile and stay positive.
For tools to help you author your own life narrative go to this page.