Turtle Garden Permaculture Outreach!

Jump into June with a Happy Tune!

Submitted by livfully

on Thu, 05/30/2013–15:07

“Turtles are our friends,” says one Turtle Gardener in Falls Village CT and another in High Falls NY. When I was making a project for my 72-hoiur Permaculture Basics Class, my friend Paul Tobin gave me the idea to use only four “legs” off a circular garden of about 6–10' across (or larger for playing in or smaller if more decorative) instead of six rays like the sun design that is used around the world.

Then Paul ( who offers a Caretaker Society to promote awareness of nature such as taught at the Vermont Wilderness School and in native traditions) continued, you would have a Turtle Design and hence, a Turtle Garden which could help people think about turtles. As we help the smaller creatures on the plan-it, they can help us by being part of the ecosystem and inspiring us to learn from their ways of being in the world

. What comes to mind for you when you think about creating a space outdoors to reflect and connect with nature and the four-leggeds, the winged ones, and other two-leggeds (terms used in the native American traditions to describe animals, birds and humans — and huwomans and hukids. How about the swimming ones, the creepy-crawlies, the elements of pacha mama, the earth, the air, the fire, the water (salt water and freshwater?)

Do you take time as my native friend Julie hoped more would do, to Look Up at the sky, see the trees and what’s going on in the realm just above our busy world of human activity? How about taking a blanket outdoors and ‘grounding’ oneself as my friend Nina Anderson promotes ( along with www.grounding.com which says the earth energies are Healing for US-All, and they have devices the replicate those frequencies with electrical mats and bracelets.

What ‘frequencies’ and folks are you ‘plugging into”? Do you feel energy in your body, can you connect with the greater source of energy on the earth and in nature, and be aware how other people, pets and animals affect your energy? These reflections can be part of the Turtle Garden mindset and outreach/

I developed a game to describe P-E-R-M-A-C-U-L-T-U-R-E (short for permanent agriculture’ and ideally I can make a link to that document when I talk to my computer guru friends). For now, the three ethics of Permaculture are Earth Care, People Care and Resource Share. The game let’s each team earn a letter as they learn about principles of permaculture such as ‘conserving energy’, ‘looking at a problem as a solution’, ‘working with nature and being a part of it, not apart from it’, ‘many hands make light work’.

The Design Process includes asking who would like to be involved, finding multiple resources via talent, time and treasure (including money but also loans or trades of tools, funds, plants, or other materials needed for a garden or other project).

Assessing the land for sun, water and other main features — pathways of access to a garden and through a garden — and the location of a home or building and activities to be convenient are all factored in. Sketching a design on paper of a property’s main building(s), trees and plants, roads and paths and then situating a garden accordingly to fit in can help people consider the project more practically and over time.

A simple idea of saving topsoil by covering the ground for the garden with a layer of compost then cardboard and more compost and topsoil can allow one to recycle and save labor in a day. Doing so in the fall gives more time for the cardboard to decompose and keep grass from growing.

Some holes in the cardboard to allow for water drainage or even to plant something in would help, and small trenches along the edge of the cardboard (1–2 feet wide rows or circular pattern) can help catch water and provide another useful aspect to the microclimate created by the Turtle Garden.

Another edging of cardboard around one’s garden can provide an easier edge once mulched, to mow around. The outline of a Turtle with the head and tail used as access pathways (with stones or wood outlining the head and tail features in the ground) or with other access points along the body of the turtle can be easily made.

Using plants to highlight the pattern of the circle, with plantings in a pattern near the head and the tail as well as the arcs of the body is a nice option. Let each person help with planting their favorite herbs, flowers and perennials (yet be ready to divide hasta, iris, or others as needed, so Plant with Care and allow for plants to have space to grow fully). Some of my favorites in the Turtle Garden near the Brick House my dad built are iris, daffodils, hasta, sage, rosemary and thyme (no one has enough time, right, so why not plant some?!), marigolds, fennel and parsley, lambs ears, and other surprises such as comfrey (that needs tending each year and again, make sure folks don’t eat or even touch poisonous mushrooms of other plants or things — with chemicals for instance near where kids may play or try to drink something that could burn their mouth or throat etc…), hyssop, and then I have an extra long swale garden to grow other lovelies such as peonies, sunflowers and black-eyed Susan, asters, daisies, kale and collards, eggplant, strawberries, garlic and potatoes, aspargus, columbine, pumpkin and butternut squash, tomatoes, peppers and basil, lettuce and carrots and beans of course!

Using elements of the edge of a property (but ideally allowing for a 9' tick safety border and keeping grass mowed) can allow for some shade and help keep yard space open for playing and larger gatherings, including parking if needed along a road’s edge. There are many wonderful ideas in Grow Food Not Lawns which I used also in designing my game. I would welcome help in getting the game online and otherwise ready for marketing at this auspicious time when the key word of Sustainability is being touted as an SOS for all of us on plan-it earth. Let US-All feel ready to pull together and make meaningful strides like the famed Tortoise who beat the Hare by steadfast efforts.

Let me know what you find out when dreaming up your own fun in a land full of Turtle Gardens, which can simulate a living, vegetative Turtle travelling about the town and countryside (and yes into urban places as well with container and rooftop gardens..it’s a concept that’s ready to grow with out times and imagiNations!) I’ve discovered that being a Turtle (or Turtell or TalkTell) Gardener can make life a lot more fun and inspiring as well as practical. An extra tip is to Talk your Talk at a Toastmasters Meeting where folks intend to help each other speak and interact with others more effectively with a timed, planned, welcoming forum. Find a meeting to visit for free online at www.toastmasters.org .There are also helpful tips for growing a business on www.aier.org which more people are braving out of desire or necessity.

Planting an ‘extra row’ and sharing surplus can be a friendly way to enjoy the bounty of one’s efforts. A potluck picnic (always savvy about allergies and appropriate adult supervision for youth under 18, due to legal concerns) can help folks showcase a favorite recipe and again share the workload. Finding ways to have a bulletin board (a cork board under cover) can help neighbors keep in touch about local events. See www.OurBerkshireTimes.com for more ideas such as their Berkshire Calendar free listings.

The Community Mission (no longer in operation) — www.thecommunitymission.webs.com — in Canaan CT is looking to promote networks for free clothing and food banks as well as a Community Connections Day meeting the 3rd Sunday of the month under a pavillion in town from 12–5pm for non-profits and others to join forces and do outreach. All these small efforts add up.

Community Foundations often help fund projects for existing non-profits such as daycares, with a new Community Garden of 30 plots being instilled in Salisbury CT. The Food for Thought day in Fairfield CT each spring, along with their Earth Day, at Warde High School provide unique ideas for other towns to copy.

The Warner Theatre in Torrington provides a venue for Women of the World each September for a day (at a fee but maybe others can help a friend attend for about $125) with motivating workshops and lunch. Ushering at such theatres can be a wonderful way to have fun and ‘give back’ and build one’s resume at the same time. All of these kinds of outreaches can be considered in light of ‘growing good things for oneself and others’ and ways to introduce youth to the bigger world as a place where they are welcomed and can work.

These are free ideas, but not sponsored by any state, town, school or organization so one must clarify that on any poster or email or other notice so people do not get confused. Saying that parents and caregivers need to be responsible and assume liability and accompany their youth is helpful. Boundaries need to spelled out each time so all involved are clear about the kind of ‘gathering’ one is having or promoting.

Be careful to check with the state, town and local area about any permits, insurance (possibly one’s own homeowners or a special rider for a one-time event etc.) These kinds of details can be difficult for many simple efforts to get off the ground, but these are some general suggestions!

Share an event that makes your community more ‘Turtle Friendly or People Friendly’…are there spaces you can visit to enjoy nature for a walk, a rest, a get-together with other friends and families (why not enjoy the local public swimming area from 3 to 5pm on the date of your child’s grade they will enter such as on July 1st and August 1st for 1st graders, and the 2nd of the summer months for 2nd graders, on up though meeting on the 8th for 8th graders, 9th for 9th graders and so on through seniors on the 12th and then ‘everybuddy else on the 13th’? These simple concepts can help more people plan to do something to recognize their garden of friends in a similar class, a club, a neighborhood.

Having appropriate adult supervision and only doing age/skill appropriate outings is important. Parents should not give other people’s teens or children permission to do dangerous or spontaneous activities without clear permission from Both Parents and their local community guidelines.

For summer, water activities need particularly close supervision even at home pools but also at rivers or lakes one is even just ‘going to look at’. Overall, safety and respect need to guide one’s PLANS (People Living, Learning and Loving with Agreements and Networking through Schools, Society and Socializing — in person or online, on the phone or through others.

Please be aware there are growing restraints placed on our ‘freedom of speech in America, so that if one is at a court, hospital, school, library, church, town meeting or other event, the rulles of that particular institution or group can limit one interacting with others even verbally.

Many people can have court orders they need to folllow during a criminal (protective order or restraining order), divorce or custody situation, for years on end, where they can no longer enter a person’s house without written permission (and sometimes not at all) or can no longer communicate with a certain person(s) within a number of feet or many other stipulations. It is helpful for anyone organizing an event to be aware of such terms and clear about who is allowed to supervise children who are attending, including rides to and from an event. The overall idea is to have fun, yet also to be practical and clear about plans on all levels.

Letting people write down a note or have a checklist of contact information which is again safely maintained for the intended uses and not shared without permission could be a good step for all parents in a class or other group or neighborhood to have.Building up helpful networks to share tasks of childcare, pet care, home care or errands to a store, rides to work or other appointments could be done voluntarily in each neighborhood with a few contact people perhaps relaying information or using sites such as www.care.com and www.211.org.

Overall, feeling supported by nature and the nurturing of our communities can provide for a friendlier, safer, more sustainable time in our patch on plan-it earth. Thanks for sharing a tip or two here or call in anonymously at 860–626–5199 and I can convey some of your ideas for you on this forum if you’d like me to. All the best in finding a place to rest and enjoy the world with new eyes as a Turtle Gardener and to tell a new story or share information as a Turtell Gardener on pacha mama today!


small garden projects

June as a time to think and grow in positive ways



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Catherine Palmer Paton

Catherine Palmer Paton

Catherine Palmer Paton of CT is the mom of a heroic teen son Kaelan who passed saving his friends from dangerous water in 2009. Writing on Livfully.org also.