As daylight waned and winter came into its own, the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center (PYEC) began planning for the summer 2022 monsoon season building upon prior efforts to harvest rainwater, build vegetable gardens, and plan future crops. Through collaborations with BRN programs including Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY), and Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag (Water is Life) the youth center is creating a sustainable and rich landscape that creates opportunities for youth to learn and care for the land while growing sustainable food crops.
During the summer of 2021, BECY installed a 2,500-gallon cistern to gather rainwater from the youth center roof. A full cistern and a gravity-fed irrigation system now allows rainwater to support a verdant garden of peas, carrots, onions, lettuce, kale, chard, and broccoli, which is tended to by youth center attendees. Additionally, BRN has developed a landscape plan with the intention of expanding the food gardens, building a food forest, adding pollinator gardens, and providing a passive rainwater chicken coop. When it rains, a small cistern in the coop will fill with water accessible to chickens.
As part of this expansion, students visiting BRN from The Webb School in California and participants from our Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag (Water is Life) program from Baboquivari High School on the Tohono O’odham Nation, came together to install rain basins and a berry patch. The rain basins are connected to the roof with gutters and PVC piping, allowing water to trickle in when it rains. Next, they installed an irrigation system that will be connected to a new cistern generously donated by PYEC parent, Matthew Hendricks of Hendricks Sewer & Drain. Unlike many native plants that require less water, the berries will need supplemental watering during dry times of the year.
Through a series of collaborative workshops led by BRN and PYEC, and funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York Community Trust, and generous PYEC donors, Patagonia youth have since planted six blueberry bushes, three raspberry and blackberry bushes, two pineapple guava trees, and two kiwi vines. These plants were inoculated with compost and compost tea from Deep Dirt Farm. PYEC youth are now completing their finishing touches on the berry patch, removing excess soil and stabilizing the basins with rock. Feel free to peek over the fence across from the Patagonia Volunteer Fire Department to see their progress!
Youth are already planning what they’ll do with the bounty from the berry patch – jam, blueberry muffins, and gobbling fresh raspberries off the bush. Some of the youth have never tasted the fruit that is now growing at the PYEC. The berry patch rain garden and the cistern-fed veggie garden will continue to sustain Patagonia families long into the future.
If you’re interested in learning more about harvesting rainwater in rain gardens or cisterns, sign up for our upcoming free Rainwater Harvesting Workshop series on Saturdays in April, with in-person classes both in Patagonia and Huachuca City.
Blazing New Trails at the BWP
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
At Borderlands Wildlife Preserve, we try to balance providing access to natural areas for humans and keeping our wildlife safe and thriving in the most non-invasive ways possible. We hope to work towards both goals this coming spring!
As many of our readers are probably aware, a recent study published in Nature Climate Change has reported that the west is experiencing the worst drought in 1200 years. Climate change driven by relatively recent human activity has made it 40% worse. Evidence shows that the drought is also not over yet, potentially continuing until 2030.
The continued drought makes life harder for our local wildlife. Borderlands Restoration Network and many other organizations concerned with wildlife conservation act by providing water for wildlife. Thanks to a generous donation from one of our incredible supporters, we have purchased four new wildlife drinkers to install in the preserve. Three of these drinkers will replace previous hand-crafted drinkers, eventually moving to different areas of the preserve. Although both types of drinkers provide much-needed water to animals, these new drinkers are designed to be buried at ground level allowing smaller animals and bugs to access moisture more easily. Two of these drinkers have already been installed, and we are happy to say they are working great just in time for the driest part of the year.
In addition to our new wildlife drinkers, the preserve will also be gaining a new trail, The Discovery Trail (DT). The DT will be located at the main entrance to the preserve just behind the welcome kiosk, with construction starting in March and completion planned for late fall of this year. The DT will allow visitors to discover habitat restoration techniques and local history through a series of small educational trailside signs and demonstration areas. As the coordinator of this project, I am excited to be working on this trail with the help of Tess Wagner, BRN’s Restoration Program Manager. Tess has helped design this trail to be ADA compliant using universal design concepts. The BWP currently has no trails that are universally accessible. This trail will provide access to individuals using wheelchairs, strollers, and others with limited mobility or impaired senses and/or abilities. In addition to being universally accessible the DT will also be open to leashed dogs.
Please stay tuned for more updates and potential volunteer opportunities in the future to help with the completion of the Discovery Trail. This trail would not be possible without the generous donation of supporters and the MTN Dew Outdoor Grant program. Borderlands Wildlife Preserve continues to evolve into a place with more opportunities for all to enjoy nature and provide a haven for our local wildlife. We hope to continue to find the balance between the two and are always open to suggestions from the community. Please enjoy this spring in the Sky Islands and reach out anytime with questions about the preserve and new happenings.
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