Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Downtown Project - School Garden

This project makes my bone marrow quiver with passion. I am a proud graduate of Las Vegas Academy, with memories of cooking an authentic German feast in the church’s kitchen to experiencing my first kiss by the tree under the stained glass windows. A decade later, I am deep in pursuit of connecting my love for children and gardening. When I learned about this project, I felt the horn of Neptune echo through my blood. (If my overt metaphors are making you uncomfortable, just please understand that I’m trying to convey falling in love with a possibility.) I was equally excited to bring my fellow permaculture teacher and friend, Cindy, in on the project. I love her brain and am always looking for an excuse to bask in her brainstorm. This project seemed to embody what Cindy and I have spent countless hours chewing on pencils over. How are we going to get schools to love gardens as much as we do?
So far as I understand, this will be a private charter school beginning with 0-5 years, each year adding a grade. The students will mostly come from working families, primarily those that work with Downtown Project’s sugar daddy, Zappos. The goal is to create a very hands-on curriculum centered on a garden that feeds the students and their families with an after school program designed to cook hot meals to take home and, occasionally, a community dinner at the soon to be events center, the former church.
Cindy and I met up with the established team of directors and planners at the site of the future charter school last Thursday. We both took time off from work, driving from our suburban homes, and arrived eager to discuss with pads and pencils ready to go. Ideas were flying out of my mouth, unedited and unbridled in enthusiasm.
  • Start a compost bin, this way you spread interest in the school garden and community center by getting the LVA kids involved through a Foodie/Garden Club and even the neighbors (you know, the people that live right across the street), and at the same time generate a source of nutrition for the soil that will in turn nurture the community.
  • Contact Nevada Fish and Wildlife and the local Tortoise Rescue Group and designate part of the garden space to native flora and fauna, making a connection for inner city kids and adults between the importance of preserving wild spaces and our local food heritage.
  • Promote water harvesting within the soil so families learn easy and applicable ways of honoring this valuable and essential desert resource. 
We were given a quick tour of the outer perimeter painting a picture of what was already designed in the plans. At the mention of turf, a small sigh wriggled between my clinched lips. At this point, I got the impression that my input was more like a slip of paper in the suggestion box. Please believe, I do not mean to discredit that at all. A suggestion box is important because at least the opportunity to provide input exists, right? Realistically, I felt that this beautiful opportunity has already set sail with a boat full of movers and shakers. Bon voyage and god speed! I’ll be there to smash the champagne bottle and wave. Time to start building my own boat.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On a note regarding local activism,

A friend posted on his blog today, a very overwhelmed and poorly edited post, lamenting about the state of local activism in Vegas. Frankly, I'm tired of people talking about the need for change. It's all around us! Las Vegas clearly has its sins, but I couldn't be prouder of my city. In the ten years since I've graduated from OG Las Vegas High, downtown has erupted in culture. This can only be accredited to neighbors, community leaders, and Las Vegas's very own breed of local. This perception that many local activists subscribe to limits possibilty. Small changes deserve attention too. Yeah, you know what, I'm overwhelmed too. Everytime I see a dog running around the neighborhood with no one to love him or remember the Texas sized trash pile in the Pacific or read yet another headline about how our Federal government continues to favor the ever-failing dollar over humanity by silently slipping legislation through to support GMOs in our food, I feel like this is all too big for me to fight. And I'm right. What's no too big for me, Jessica Penrod, to fight, is ingratitude, societal barries of what I'm supposed to do in relationships/career/finances, and squash bugs (though they remain invincible, I persist). All I'm saying is, people, open your heart and your lovely eyes and look out and appreciate the beautiful and small things that make this town a beautiful and small place to live. Can't see it? I know plenty of beach towns that are easier on the eye about 4-5 hours west. Take plenty of water and send me a postcard of your journeys. May you find that beautiful place you wish you lived in. May your heart and eyes open to recognize it, otherwise you'll be looking for a long time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Planting the Seeds of Intention

Lately, while watching bees stumble around the compost bin at the garden, I've felt this complete serenity and explicit joy, it almost brings me to tears. Most of the visuals that occur as I meditate are in relation to a garden, worms and seeds buried in the soil brimming with possibilities. The image of growing hops and wheat gave a shudder in my spine. I could feel my great-grandma sitting on me, insisting I locate her hollyhock seeds and preserve my seed heritage. Potatoes for abundance, sunflowers for wisdom. A teepee of sugarsnap peas and morning glories, grape arbors. And bees!