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 31, 2016

Happy Halloween & Happy Tummies

Happy Halloween!

What great weather we’ve had for Beggar’s Night where all the little ghosts and goblins, (or princesses, firefighters and spacemen) run from door to door Trick or Treat!-ing for candy goodies. Greeted by smiling or growling Jack O’Lanterns, the costumed neighborhood kids are on the hunt for Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers Bars.
Actually as far as candy goes, these are actually some of the healthier choices. The endorphin rush from the sugar and chocolate makes the little ones (and sometimes their grown-up guardians) feel happy, and the protein from the peanuts and peanut butter* will help you feel fuller sooner and cushion the sugar crash that would come from plain chocolate, sweet tarts or candy corn alone.
*Apologies to those with peanut allergies
How about a Snick-a-Loaf?
Avoid "Bad Candy"

Make Better Choices
When you are a Beggar there usually isn’t much choice, but more healthy options for treats include caramel apples or caramel popcorn (like Cracker Jacks), which are high in fiber and other good stuff, to go with their calories and sugar.
Don’t Worry So Much
It actually takes quite a few pieces of candy (~30-50) to equate a pound of fat (3500 calories).

Be Mindful
Savor the enjoyment that eating treats bring. Avoid just chewing once or twice and swallowing. A New Zealand study of 300 people found that people who associate eating chocolate cake with guilt were less successful in maintaining their weight compared with those who viewed it as a celebration. 

Recover when you’ve eaten too much junk.
Donate your leftovers to avoid having the temptation day after day. Go back to eating normally with healthy choices as soon as possible. Foods high in fiber will help to feed healthy gut bacteria, they’ve just had a sugar binge too. Eat plenty of leafy greens, berries and other foods high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals to fight free radicals and prevent inflammation associated with too much sugar. Drink plenty of water to keep your systems hydrated as it processes all that sugar and flushes out waste and toxins. Dehydration can also lead to fatigue and sluggishness that adds to those feelings in your sugar crash.

Rest up so you can better adjust to the time change, even if we "gain" an hour, coming this weekend, and have a great week!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cherry Glen Learning Farm

This morning I had the pleasure of visiting with Ray Meylor at the Cherry Glen Learning Farm.  We talked a little business but mainly about all of the great things they have done and are planning there as we walked around the property.
Winner of the 2016 Urban Ambassadors Project of the Year
Cherry Glen Farm is a small farm on a quest to bring real sustainability to our local agricultural lands.  Located right by Saylorville Lake, and at the base of their watershed they have a unique opportunity to clean the agricultural runoff that flows towards one of the Des Moines metros main water sources.
They use two retention basins to capture this runoff, where it is stored and utilized for irrigation of their crops.  The water is available all summer long and is high in nitrogen which gives the growing plants a nutrient boost.  Sediment traps remove the suspended silt before it enters the catch basins where it would eventual fill and clog them.

The water system keeps the nitrogen and phosphorus (tied up in the sediment) from entering Saylorville Lake where it could contribute to toxic algae blooms, fish kills and the nitrate levels that need to be mitigated by the Des Moines Water Works.

The land had been in conventional agriculture production and research farm testing previously.  The soil had been degraded and what remained was compacted, lifeless clay subsoil.

"I broke a plow on it!" says Ray. 

But that was before he started adding compost, wood chips and biochar to raise the organic matter which feed the soil life and increased its workability.  This year they dug the sweet potatoes by with their bare hands, with some tubers as big as a squash! 

In addition to vegetable production Cherry Glen Farm has started an agroforestry section with chestnuts and hazels, prairie plantings and keep many beehives going.  While I was there Ray showed me his mite control process and the benefits of the plant diversity and herbs grown nearby.  Thymol and Hopguard® are commonly used bee miticides, but are not used at Cherry Glen where thyme and hops are grown.

Hives in the hoop house

Mite control with warmth
The herbs are grown by a local herbal study club and are used in some of the cooking classes.

The second main part of the farm is the learning center.  This non-profit venture is setup to provide education for the community.

Through their partner organizations, group classes are scheduled to provide hands-on demonstrations of sustainable agriculture, healthy cooking and eating, financial resiliency and energetic and sustainable livelihoods.

Watch for more news and classes available from Cherry Glen Learning Farm on their website or by following their facebook page.
Read about my Permaculture Series coming soon!

Have a great week, and as I mentioned last week the colors are really popping!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Power of Healing Gardens

Spending time in natural settings is great for overall health and well-being.

Without it our children can even risk disease as described by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. 

Nature's positive effects on health are being studied more and more with stronger evidence all the time.  One of the most recent studies came out of Harvard, the departments of Epidemiology and Environmental Health.  Their findings suggest close proximity to natural spaces-
  • lessen adverse environmental exposures 
    • air pollution
    • noise
    • extreme heat
  • increase physical activity
  • increase social engagement
  • lower stress
You can read the full paper or download the .pdf verison here.

There are an increasing number of scientific papers showing how being around dust could be helpful in preventing asthma.  There are also about the health benefits of getting your hands (and feet) dirty

Spending time in natural settings generally means physical activity, exposure to fresh air and is great for prevention!  Anyone who has spent time in nature knows the pleasant feelings that comes with it.

But sometimes we get sick, or are injured. So how can we use this information?  This is where modern medicine is taking cues from the natural world and using Healing Gardens to benefit patients and even staff! 

Healing Gardens are green spaces in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities that specifically aim to improve health outcomes.  They promote healing and provide a place of refuge for patients, their families and staff.

Roger Ulrich was one of the first to promote a patients "View through a window..." can effect patient outcome - patients had fewer negative evaluative comments, took less medicine and averaged a day quicker post-operative recovery stays.  His influential work in the early 80's has been cited thousands of times and continues to influence healthcare facility design. 

Some of the documented benefits of Healing Gardens include:
  • Shorter post-operative stays
  • Less use of potent drugs
  • Better attitudes
  • Contribute to feelings of: 
    • wholeness & health
    • calm, relaxed
    • the ability to think & cope
    • being refreshed
    • improved strength
More and more hospitals are adding healing gardens, especially for their Oncology and Alzheimer care units.

I was really excited to unveil the preliminary Healing Garden design at a presentation for a Des Moines based Wellness Center this weekend!

The plan includes common and private seating areas within and viewing natural settings.  Both sunnier and shadier areas are planned for all season enjoyment.

Sustainable and ecological design practices were also used to plan a walking path throughout an eventual prairie wildflower area, woodland, orchard and natural play space.

In addition, Permaculture techniques were applied to capture and store rainwater for the community garden and multiple orchard style areas that include guilds and companion plantings. 

This design incorporated several features that Abundant Design can design, install and manage for your property.  Contact me for any of these for your home or business.

If you are healthcare facility looking to improve patient outcomes, call us today!

The weather is perfect for being outside, and the fall colors are really showing.

The Sumac, Aronia and Blueberry are catching fire; and our Ash trees are pure gold! 

The peak color should be this week and next weekend!  Read more at Travel Iowa for details.

Go outside this week, enjoy the colors and stay healthy!!!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Raised Beds of Steel, with a Hugelkultur twist

A chill is in the air!  These raised beds were done just in time for a great looking Fall garden, with brilliant mums, colorful kale, lettuce, spinach and more!

This project began at the 2016 DSM Home + Outdoor Living Show.  The customer had come to see the Beekman Boys but happened to see my talk on edible landscaping, visited the feature garden and liked what Abundant Design was all about.

She had also visited a vineyard earlier that had some large steel raised beds that she really liked.  Since she had an existing perennial planting on her property line, she followed up with me to see if I could copy those for her yard.

After doing some searching and finding out how the vintner had acquired his structural steel for his planters, I knew this was going to be a stretch to hit the budget.  The trick was to minimize the visible wood and yet maintain structural integrity of the boxes. 

As time went on I noticed my friends at The Holton Homestead had built some shorter steel boxes that I thought I could modify a bit to fit the bill. 

80' would have been a considerable amount of fill and corresponding cost, so the plan became three 16' long x 3' deep x 3' high with a 16' bed between each.

When I was first contacted the border looked like this...

By the time we had finalized the plan it had grown some!
We got right after it, knocking down the plants, and the several trees that had decided to grow 'along for the ride!'  We tore out the existing fence, and measured out the spacing for the boxes and beds.

Next we dug holes for the posts and made sure our spacing was right and the depth was right to follow the land flow but also keep them looking somewhat level. 

The panels were fabricated, placed and 'leveled.'  The walls were then tied together in the middle to prevent bowing, and the ends were capped. Trellises were added for vining plants in the back, both on the boxes and the ground level beds.

To reduce some of the fill material needed and to gain some of the many benefits of hugelkultur, maple and cherry logs were added to the boxes.  These were salvaged from Trinity Tree Care's waste stream.

  • holds/wicks moisture from the subsoil
  • decaying wood provides nutrients
  • sequesters carbon
  • mycorrhizal fungi activity extends root function

The compost soil fill arrives, and is added making sure to get it in all of the pockets under the wood.  We just beat the rain that night!

Just in time for the fall garden planting!

I love the way these turned out, with great looking plants already started.  I'm also look forward to hearing how the wood cores function over time in these raised beds.

Would you like some taller raised beds (that will allow gardening without bending over!) with a wood core, trellises or more?  Or maybe a ecologically designed edible oasis is more your thing.  Either way, send me an email or give me a call and we'll get you all set up!

Have a great week!

PS:  While we were finishing up, the homeowner had an add-on project to keep creeping charlie at bay along the rest of the property line.  After initially thinking pound-in green steel edging, I showed her an idea starting with some leftover material for a  edge with similar function and a matching look. 

The before:

and after:

Sunday, October 2, 2016

More Apples... to get Healthy & Ripped!?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
That's not just an old saying.  It seems fairly regularly a study is released showing just how good these sweet, crisp treats can be.  The health benefits of apples go one and on; benefitting overall health, helping with weight loss and might even get you ripped!
Last week I explained my love for apples, and how they are high in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients.  They also have almost no fat, sodium or cholesterol.  Plant rich diets, like those including apples, are linked to lower incidences of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Here's a weight loss tip from the CDC:
Losing weight doesn't have to mean eating less food. By substituting fruits and vegetables for higher calorie foods, you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories. Instead of grabbing a high-calorie snack from the vending machine, try packing some cut-up vegetables or fruit from home. One snack-size bag of chips (one ounce) has the same number of calories as a small apple, one cup of whole strawberries AND one cup of carrots with one-fourth cup of low-calorie dip.

While losing weight will increase definition of your muscles, apples also have another trick.  Not up it's sleeve, but in the skin!  Ursolic Acid is a chemical found in apple peel that helps give it a shiny appearance. It also was found, by University of Iowa researcher Dr. Christopher Adams, to help mice build muscle and increase their grip strength while also preventing muscle atrophy.  Further studies will look at effects on humans, and determining effective dosing.

The media picked this story up a while back, and as typical, ran with it :)  You can read more of those articles here:

I bet the concentrations needed for incredible hulking muscles will end up requiring large amounts of apple peel being consumed.  But some can't hurt, and with all of the other benefits of apples, you can bet eating apples will do you good!

Have you ever wondered how bad it would be to eat an apple without washing it? 
Many varieties thrive here in the Midwest, and with commercial apples at or near the top of the "Dirty Dozen" list each year for residual pesticides, growing a tree or two in your own backyard is a wonderful idea! 
We still have a couple good weeks of tree planting season.  I will give a great deal on planting apple trees the month of October! 
How about a Two Tree Fruiting Wall with Five supporting species for $597+tax? 

Can you believe it's October already!?!?! 
Maybe you can 'bob' for apples at your next Halloween party.

Have a great week!