Category Archives: Seasons

Querencia Green Reaches Out with Partners

2015 Monsoon News from Joanne McEntire

The accelerating need for adaptive resilience in the US West motivates me to continue the work of Querencia Green: providing outreach and educational opportunities about green infrastructure and water harvesting.  The Juan Tabo Seed Library and the city’s Open Space Visitors Center hosted my Water Harvesting Basics class last spring,  Homeowners with run-down yards or difficult, eroding areas got a new perspective about tending the water/ soil connection.  I’ll be at the Urban Homesteading Club on August 24 with an accelerated version of the class.   Thank you to the site hosts of this free class!  

During the past few months, I worked on a few grant proposals that are leading to new resources for Querencia Green.  A complex project up the watershed of Tijeras Creek holds numerous educational opportunities.  In collaboration with Jim Brooks, the site manager of the Tijeras Creek Remediation Project (aka Soilutions‘ lead man and soil expert), we will strengthen the educational opportunities at the site: hands-on experiences with green infrastructure, suppression of invasive plant species, and improvements in soil health and stabilization.  I first explored the site in early 2014 and reported in the blog post Earthworks Working.

Jim Brooks explores the restored plant community at Tijeras Creek with visitors.

Jim Brooks explores the restored plant community at Tijeras Creek with visitors.

The good funding news: ABQ Involved has provided a small grant for field trips with Highland High School’s Advanced Science class to the Tijeras Creek Project.  A new grant from PNM’s Power Up program will increase the number of field trips and work parties at Tijeras Creek while supporting an expansion of the streambank recovery area.  We’ll post news about upcoming workshops in the next month so you can get out there to dig, pull and rock.  Thank you to the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico and Executive Director Barbara Garrity for your support in submitting the grants, and all the collaborating partners, current and future!

In other ‘free’ hours, I’ve practiced water harvesting design as a community service to the Valle del Oro National Urban Wildlife Refuge, focusing on its old farmhouse, and the Walatowa Charter High School at Jemez Pueblo.  One more service project is in the works.

Practice practice practice.  And observe.

It’s raining, again.

 

 

 

Planting the Water for Green Learning Spaces

Do you have a favorite school, one that you attended, or where your children learn?  Do the outdoor areas provide a natural experience?  It seems that many school campuses around Albuquerque have unused spaces that could offer students outdoor opportunities. Other schools feature water-friendly green infrastructure with new facilities that are designed by professionals.

The swale near the Highland High Science Building in fall season

A few years ago, the Science teachers at Highland High School were happy to move into a new Science building, but there was no landscaping near the main entrance.  Gale Borkenhagen teaches the Advanced Environmental Science class, and she connected with other teachers who realized that the barren space was not going to pass.

Stormwater from the rooftop flows onto the site through two downspouts.  A retired teacher, Maura Montoya, dug a swale to slow and convey the water.  Overflow water was then conveyed into a nearby bare space through a pipe under a sidewalk.  Gale generated small grants from local funders, and bought a number of diverse trees.  Students have helped maintain the grove, with custodians adding water as needed.

Gale Borkenhagen visits the grove in winter.

The grove now becomes a mini-oasis in monsoon season, and it’s a textured, colorful space year-round.  Many of the trees provide shade on the building (saving energy) and an “encounter with nature” that people need for mental health and functioning.

Creative teachers nurture the love of nature throughout the public and charter school systems.  Teachers and students are building and growing edible gardens, and rain barrels or tanks can store rooftop rainwater for use in the dry months of the growing season.  There’s a lot of rooftops on school sites in New Mexico’s cities and towns .

Exploring an unused space at Valle Vista School

Observing the low and high, pervious and impervious areas.

Recently, two visitors explored a barren space with teacher Mike Goss at Valle Vista Elementary School.  Here is an opportunity site for a small grove that students can plant and love.

Currently, the water that flows off the nearby rooftop collects in the space with very compacted dirt, and slowly evaporates.  Instead, it could infiltrate into broken, loosened up, amended soil within earthworks (basins and swales), allowing new plant roots to uptake the water.

 Old and New Drainage Infrastructure

Highland High – drainage area at downspout on old building

Like many old school campuses, Highland High has a number of degraded outdoor spaces and stormwater problems near old buildings.

Look for new buildings that are built by the Albuquerque Public Schools; they may feature green infrastructure that was included in the design and budget for the building’s construction.

The newest building on the Highland High campus features connected basins on two sides of the building, with trees and bunch grasses planted near each basin (below).

Large basin with winter rain in front of new Highland High School building 

Seasonal Notes – Spring into Resilience

Water resilience rebates, free classes, and hands-on training

It still feels like Spring in mid-May, with snow dusting the tallest of the Sandia mountains—a perfect time to develop more resilience in using water.  Affordable or free materials and diverse learning opportunities make it even more possible to conserve and re-use.

If you really want to get your feet wet, Catlow Shipek from Watershed Management Group shares the news about their Rainwater Harvesting certification course in Albuquerque.   Bring it!

Tree love = mulch

Mulching shades the ground, retains moisture, and nurtures the small and microscopic critters that create living soil.  Wood mulch is sold at nurseries and by soil expert / local provider Soilutions.   Professional arborists and tree care companies may have extra wood mulch from the trees that they prune and remove, and you can pick up a load if you shovel it.  Or, DIY and recycle your branches and dead trees by renting a mulcher from a home and garden store.

Once you have the mulch, form an area around the tree’s drip line that will contain 3 inches of mulch.  Explore and view TreePeople‘s video for more.

Roll out the rainbarrels. (It will rain.)

Rebates for rain barrels are available from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.  You buy a barrel and send in the required form with the receipt.  The rebate amount is based on the size of the barrel.   (Also, a program that recognizes the drought’s impact on the urban forest, “Tree-bates,” helps pay for tree maintenance, such as irrigation equipment, fertilization or professional tree care.)  Free short classes on efficient outdoor water use, xeriscaping and how to benefit from the Water Authority’s rebate program are offered every month.

Living in the country?  Property owners in the unincorporated area of Bernalillo County who aren’t customers of the Water Authority can qualify to receive a 100-gallon rainbarrel with installation support for $40.  Rain barrels can provide water during wildfire emergencies as well as water for animals.

Materials for rainwater harvesting projects can be found at no or low cost through the ABQ Freecycle group and on Craigslist – farm and gardening.  Billy Kniffen is an terrific water harvester and offers videos on DIY barrels.

Watershed Management Group announces Water Harvesting  course

Catlow Shipek of the Watershed Management Group (WMG) provides this news:  WMG, a non-profit educational organization, is excited to bring its Water Harvesting Certification course to Albuquerque.  The 7-day intensive program, which will be offered September 15-21, provides the highest quality and greatest depth of training in integrative water harvesting offered in the nation. Join our list of Certified Practitioners to integrate new skills and knowledge into your practice, educational, or advocacy work.

This unique course includes hands-on training through actual implementation of a rain garden, plastic rain tank, and a laundry greywater system.  Instructors will include author Brad Lancaster, WMG co-founder Catlow Shipek, and Santa Fe based permaculture and water harvesting designer Jeff Adams.  An early registration discount is available until July 18th.

 

Seasonal Notes

The autumn season arrives at its mid-point in early November, when we return to Standard Time and clean out the garden.  While the sun seems to tilt to the south, my querencia includes the Growers Markets all through the area, to exchange smiles with farmers and buy local squash, beans, chile and apples.  Upcoming seasonal market days are posted in COMMUNITY EVENTS until Nov. 9.

Halloween has changed over the years, with fewer homes and neighborhoods embracing “Trick or Treat!” and community organizations taking up the slack with indoor events.  Social norms may change, but the pleasure of displaying ourselves in costumes hasn’t budged.  Dia de los Muertos is celebrated with altars and the Marigold Parade through the next week.  One of my favorite memories includes Halloween nights in chilly upstate New York, when all the kids would walk the local streets as dusk became very, very dark, with real jack-o-lanterns and lit doors welcoming us at many houses.  While walking, I watched the sky turn dark, and began to love the night.

If you have real pumpkins this week, share the remains at the Pumpkin Smashing Festival at the International District Community Garden on Nov. 2.  Celebrate fall, contribute to their composting system, and be part of a community project in the Southeast Heights.

Compost happens!

Our gardens and farms hold beauty as the process of decomposition becomes apparent.  In our arid landscape, compost is an essential component of productive soil.  Start composting this fall, when there are plenty of plant materials to mix with your kitchen’s green waste.  Collect dry  leaves and store them in a wire cage or in a pile covered by a tarp.  Do some research to select your composting method before you start; composting classes and useful information are easy to find at Bernalillo County Master Composters.

Too much plant material to handle?  Ask a gardening neighbor if they can use it to build up their compost piles.  The City picks up brushy and leafy plant materials on green waste pick-up days for their compost and mulching operations, which is a better way to decompose than in the landfill!

What’s your activity to participate in the changes of autumn and care for your favorite place?