Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Building Soil for Health, Climate & Profit

I often talk about how important healthy soil is for healthy gardens, yards and farms.  Well, what does that actually mean? 

Soil is the foundation for all plant life.  One tablespoon of healthy soil contains millions of bacteria, yeasts, molds, fungi, and other microbes. 

Print this coloring page for your kids or classroom
These organisms are vital to the natural processes of the environment by recycling nutrients, protecting plants from pests and diseases, and allowing plants to receive nutrients from the soil.  Nutrient rich plants are healthy food.

 
Organic matter in the form of compost and mulch feed the soil microbes.  It also increases soil porosity, workability and moisture-holding capacity.  Increasing your soil organic matter by only 1% can hold more than 20,000 gallons per acre of additional water in the ground.  This increased water holding capacity can help your grass, plants or crops survive longer dry spells with less stress.

 
Composting your food and lawn waste is one way to boost organic matter and life in your soils.  Using wood and straw mulch around your trees and shrubs is another way to increase organic matter.  While worm castings and compost teas can boost soil life.
 
Chop & Drop your weeds and mulch plants, that helps too!

See these forward thinking farmers share how taking care of their soil improved animal health, increased profits and resiliency.

Soil Carbon Cowboys from Peter Byck on Vimeo.
Meet Allen Williams, Gabe Brown and Neil Dennis - heroes and innovators! These ranchers now know how to regenerate their soils while making their animals healthier and their operations more profitable. They are turning ON their soils, enabling rainwater to sink into the earth rather than run off. And these turned ON soils retain that water, so the ranches are much more resilient in drought. It's an amazing story that has just begun.


It's not just ranchers either.  Soil health practices such as cover crops and no-till can result in an economic return of over $100 per acre for corn-soybean farmers!

Storing more organic matter/carbon in the soil can possibly even fight climate change, read more from Civil Eats.
  

With benefits such as these it's no wonder Soil Health is the next big trend:
A new idea: If we revive the tiny creatures that make dirt healthy, we can bring back the great American topsoil. But farming culture — and government — aren't making it easy.
Soil Health: The Next Big Trend Turf Magazine
Integrating biologicals into your program is smart, simple and cost-effective.
 
As homeowners a major problem in newer developments is the degraded soils, compacted with little organic matter.

Builders strip topsoil off developments to build roads, driveways and homes, but some fail to return it, said John Swanson, a conservationist at Polk Soil and Water Conservation District. "People are left with a rock-hard, compacted soil that builders roll the sod right on top of. It doesn't absorb water much better than concrete," he said. "Homeowners are left with a yard that's not very healthy." The Des Moines Register


We can do things to fix this such as deep-tine aeration, compost addition and supplemental biologicals.  If you are building a new home ask your builder about amending your soil prior to sod or seeding.  Also avoid working wet soils and consider stepping stones or pathways on high traffic areas to avoid compaction.  More tips can be found on our post about the Good Neighbor Iowa program.  Abundant Design can help with any of these and more.


Have a great Fall week!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Grow! Community

Last week we attended and shared about the Good Neighbor Iowa event.  This is one way to be a good neighbor by not using harsh chemicals on your lawn.

Being responsible with what we put on our lawns is important, but even more important are the personal relationships we develop.  People Care is one of the Three Ethics of Permaculture.

With the tragic news out of Las Vegas and lots of other bad things going on in our country, cultivating a feeling of community is critical.  Communities with strong relationships are stronger, more resilient.  People who feel part of a community are not likely to lash out violently. 

You and I are empowered to help stop these acts. 


Community food forests and healing gardens are also places where people can interact with their community and nature.  They can also be beneficial helping people overcome traumatic injuries and experiences.

"Even if a person is unwilling or unable to be active in a natural setting, studies prove just living near nature and trees can have such effects as better test scores for girls and decreased instances of domestic violence. Access to nature simply makes people exhibit “more pro-social behavior.”  Read more "Heal the Landscape and Ourselves"


Community organizer Nimrod Hochberg, of the Kidron Food Forest, is building relationships through their community food forest in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“Every Friday people come here, get together and plant.
We are creating a community.
And people need it.”

Although I'm not a huge country music fan I do like certain songs from all across the music spectrum.  I remember I liked this one that makes me think about being a good neighbor and building strong communities.  I wonder how things would've played out differently if the people we see as monsters had spent a little more time in nature or with their neighbors on the front porch.


I hope you'll take time to visit with your neighbors, coworkers and maybe those you don't normally interact with.  We may never know the impact we'll have!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Good Neighbor Iowa, Des Moines Kick-off

Yesterday was the Good Neighbor Des Moines Kickoff EventGood Neighbor Iowa is a statewide public education campaign to reduce children’s exposure to commonly-used lawn pesticides. It involves school districts, park managers, childcare centers and other community leaders who are demonstrating that it is possible and practical to manage large areas of turf without the use of pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides or fungicides.
 
 
Their ultimate goal is to transform our culture so that we appreciate diverse lawns as a way to protect child health, water quality, and biodiversity.  These goals align with Abundant Design's work and I was glad to attend and promote their mission.
 
 
 
 
Four main tips for a healthy lawn without pesticides:
  • Mow high (at least 3”) so that grass develops strong roots to compete against weeds.
  • Over-seed and add compost periodically. In Iowa, late Aug-Sept are the best times. If there are bare areas, rough them up and seed them.
  • If you have high foot traffic or athletic fields, aerate and seed.
  • Consider converting certain lawn areas into native Iowa prairie plants.
You can do it yourself or have your maintenance service do it and encourage your school local parks and churches to take part as well.  To learn more, please see their Resources page.

For even more resources on natural lawncare practices visit RichSoil.com

Dogpatch Urban Gardens (DUG) hosted the event, with other organizations attending who support Good Neighbor Iowa's mission. 
Kids Yoga in front of DUG's new Hoop House

Farm Baby Foods had their local, organic baby and toddler food
 

The Cutler Kitchen had energy bites, Brightside Kitchen brought treats and local coffee. Des Moines Children's Museum brought their "Let's Play Outside" exhibit.  The Des Moines Water Works provided refillable water bottles to the first 100 guests.

Urban Ambassadors shared their mission to empower and inspire sustainable living

I talked to a lot of great people interested in healthy yards, and healthy landscapes like Abundant Design provides. Brandon from Browne Atlas joined me and shared information about their worm castings.

Chatting with visitors interested in sustainable & regenerative land use and permaculture
 
 
Good Neighbor Iowa will provide you with a yard sign (in various colors) to show your support and invite conversation with your neighbors.
 
Here's our yard sign in purple and gold for Waukee, even if they said UNI :)

 


Saturday, September 23, 2017

National Hunting and Fishing Day

National Hunting and Fishing Day got its start in 1972 after President Richard Nixon urged all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in ensuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac

Politics aside, the Nixon Administration actually had a pretty good environmental record.  National Hunting and Fishing Day is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of every September and is designed to promote others to get involved in hunting and fishing.



My hunting (and fishing) background is one of the reasons I am passionate about the environment and conservation.  If I can bring a bit of nature to your backyard where you can also forage for fruits, nuts and berries in an environmentally sound way that's a win-win.  If you have a bit more land, we can design it for abundant and diverse wildlife, that includes wild game.





After years of declining numbers a new emphasis on clean food and ethical sources of meat, hunting is on the rise with younger generations.

“It feels more responsible and ecologically sound to eat an animal that was raised wild and natural in my local habitat than to eat a cow that was fattened up on grain or even hay, which is inevitably harvested with fuel-hungry machines,” writes Christie Aschwanden, a self-described “tree-hugging former vegetarian.” 
 Read more: "Hipsters Who Hunt" on Slate.com

Now the question is how will this renewed vigor for locally produced food affect hunting in America? 
Experienced sportsmen may be rolling their eyes at all of this, imagining a bunch of yuppies tramping through the woods and scaring off all the deer. And they’re probably right—these new hunters will inevitably foul opportunities at game, as would any nascent sportsman. But despite however self-important or naive these hipsters may seem, their presence should be embraced nonetheless, for the sake of the sport and wildlife, both of which they seem bent to encourage. These eager, engaged sportsmen may provide the jolt of enthusiasm needed to combat the misguided and poorly informed anti-hunting rhetoric that too often proliferates through the creative class. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how deep their convictions run if shooting game doesn’t stay in vogue. 
Read more: "The Rise of Hipster Hunters" on Sporting Classics Daily 


If you want to discuss and learn more from a Permaculture perspective head over to the Hunting and Fishing forum at Permies.com

from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

So enjoy the day afield (or consider doing so later this Fall if the 90° temps don't inspire you), be part of the time honored tradition and celebrate the conservation successes brought to you by America’s hunters and anglers.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Resplendent September - amazing opportunity and potential


Things are HOPPING! 
And I'm not just talking about the rabbit that lives in my herb garden :) 


We are working on several projects from rain gardens, back yard retreats and patio rebuilds with functional plant design.  Multiple jobs at once is pretty rare for Abundant Design, but the weather has been good and material scheduling and available help has worked out well.  I'm energized by people excited for new functional landscapes, healthier lifestyles and the benefits of natural settings.




I also treated my own lawn with predatory nematodes as a chemical-free way to help control Japanese Beetles


September is Preparedness Month, which is a big deal with hurricanes and wildfires in the news, and although not really tornado season, we live in an area prone to them.  Besides, winter is approaching and several years ago, although not too far off the beaten path my mom and dad were out of electricity for over a week following a blizzard!

For lots more tips listen to "Why Practical Preparedness Wins the Race"


Here in Iowa, some troubles for Versaland, a permaculture styled regenerative farm near Iowa City, with the Johnson County supervisors. Grant Schultz messaged me Friday, Dan Grubbs asked me to share, and here's The Urban Farmer Curtis Stone's video call for support along with Grant's video.

If you are nearby, Grant would appreciate your support at the Johnson County Board of Supervisors rezoning meeting September 14th (This Thursday) at 5:30pm
Johnson County Administration Building
913 South Dubuque Street
Iowa City, IA 52240


Blank Park Zoo's Plant.Grow.Fly. Monarch Festival will be held at Blank Park Zoo on Sunday, September 17 from 12-4 p.m.


Enjoy the exciting transition from Summer to Fall!