The BRN Native Plant Materials program is so excited about some new projects we're cooking up related to herbalism and bilingual native plant education in the Borderlands-- This video is part of our application to the Mountain Rose Herbs Giving Project, which we hope helps to fund these projects. Thank you so much to Mountain Rose Herbs for supporting important native plant work!
Duke Norton, Patagonia BECY Crew reflects on the importance of perseverance and repetition to restoration work in his last week with the 2018 BECY Program.
For the last week of our BECY experience we worked doing a number of things with a bitter-sweet feeling in us as we reflected on our work with the program. To begin the week we started out working at the Santa Fe Ranch alongside Dean Fish, the Ranch Manager, pulling weeds and building rock structures. This day was memorable for so many reasons: we got to get our hands dirty with the creative writing master’s students from the University of Arizona who joined us in our work, our perception of bees changed from a 'run on sight' to a 'just keep pulling the weeds, they won't hurt you', and we played in the massive sprinkler in the field before meeting the downpour of monsoon.
Next we worked at Francesca Claverie's house building a grey water system water filter, and transplanting plants. The best part about this was that Francesca is just simply someone everybody loves, and her passion for plants is infectious. Working with the nursery plants is always very interesting, knowing that they are native plants, but when you have someone like Francesca there who has what seems like an abundance of information on the plants it puts your excitement in high gear and floors it.
Another day we worked at Dirty Girl Farmette with Summer Lewton, the farm owner and founder. I personally really looked forward to working here because I had worked there three years previously. Before it had been just a tiny sectioned off part of her yard that was much like a regular house garden, and I remember her discussing potentially buying the acreage behind her to expand, and guess what.... she did! Now she is kicking butt, selling produce to whole foods stores in our community and surrounding areas, and empowering youth by giving them days like this to work alongside her and admire her success as a small town farmer. That's most of what I took away from the day, and I think many others did as well.
The last day!!!! The last day was a trip out to Harris Heritage where we worked with Denise Purvis doing... can you guess? That's it! Pulling more weeds! In all seriousness, as redundant as much of our work seems it's insanely rewarding at the end of the day. Regardless of your attention span the work that you may feel you are doing over and over again is something that is valid, and necessary. It's pretty gratifying to know that you, some group of kids, are working in the heat of an Arizona summer, doing the same thing almost every day because it takes a whole lot of doing the same thing to fix what it is you're trying to restore. Not many can say that their perseverance was for more than themselves, and essentially that is what it is we do in BECY. We work day-to-day getting caked with dust, sun, and bees to make a better environment for more than just ourselves. What I'm really getting at here is that when we pulled up to the farm just to start pulling some more weeds you better believe we put on our music full blast and our hoes in those roots. What better way to remember the program then to finish it off with all those things that resonate like weeding, some jams, and the good ol' sun.
Field School 2018 Wraps Week 1: Monsoon Rains, Indigenous History, Restoration Economy Big Ideas, and Arts & Culture Along Ambos Nogales
Lily Christopher, Field School Facilitator, reflects on our first week of Borderlands Restoration Network's First Week of Field School 2018.
On July 16th Borderlands Restoration Network kicked off our second annual Field School. With eleven participants representing five different nations, we began by orienting the group with their new home for the next four weeks. Amy Juan opened with the indigenous history of the area. We toured the San Rafael Valley with Ron Pulliam and Gooch Goodwin where we were able to see the border and learn the history of the sky islands. While driving in the valley, we received an extraordinary monsoon rain. What could be a better introduction to this beautiful borderland region?
As the week continued, we offered introductions to the hydrology and geology of the area that included tours of abandoned mine sites. We explored some of the geopolitical issues surrounding the borderlands region with talks from Father John Fife, founder of No More Deaths, and our very own David Seibert, BR Managing Partner. By Thursday, we were ready to start delving into what BRN does best, restoration ecology and the restoration economy. With talks from Executive Director Kurt Vaughn and founder Ron Pulliam, we started an ongoing dialogue with participants about some of BRN’s foundational and developing big ideas.
We ended the week by exploring a small slice of the arts and culture of the Borderlands, with a photography exhibit at our local Tin Shed Theater with RAEchel Running, curator of the Lens on the Border photography exhibit. Then we wrapped up the week with a creative activity along the ambos Nogales border, with regional author Francisco Cantú. After which, a group of participants left for an optional field trip to Sonora to explore some farms, ranches, and archeological sites on the other side of the line.
Check back with us later this week for photographs and reflections from Field School participants about their experiences during the field trip across the border.
Borderlands Restoration Network held its first of 6 Art+Ecology youth workshops at the Patagonia Library on July 11th. The workshop was free and open to the public and was organized with help from the Patagonia Creative Arts Association and support from the Patagonia Regional Community Fund.
Perin McNelis of BRN's Native Plant Material Program talked with participants about cultivated plant varieties and their wild relatives that are native to this region, and the importance of wild native plants to both humans and ecosystems. She highlighted the Coyote Gourd and its value in Ecological Restoration work. Then, Zach Farley, local artist and musician of Home Grown Instruments, guided the kids in creating custom designed gourd shakers that they got to take home.
The next Arts + Ecology workshop will take place on August 29th, so stay in touch through our Public Calendar and Facebook page for more information about this program.
Borderlands has been busy preparing to welcome our 2018 Field School participants. Thanks to a generous donation of beds from Windsong Ranch, we were able to outfit space on our Old School campus to house participants.
This would not have been possible without the support of our staff and volunteers, specifically the herculean efforts of Yari Cortez and Travis Gerckens, who consistently went above and beyond to prepare this space for our guests.
BRN is looking forward to kicking off our 2nd Field School this Monday, July 16th with sessions orienting participants to the History and Ecology of the Sky Islands region with Kurt Vaughn, BRN Executive Director, Amy Juan, Tohono O'odham member and activist, Ron Pulliam, founding member of BRN, and Gooch Goodwin, Patagonian local and naturalist .
BECY Field Notes
by Yasmine Quiroga
Two weeks ago, the Patagonia BECY crew went camping at the 47 Ranch out in Douglas and worked with the Douglas crew. The whole week we were building trincheras with rocks. These trincheras are supposed to bring back life and vegetation to the land, also to stop erosion within the land.
I learned many things during this camping trip, Dennis [Moroney of 47 Ranch] is a very knowledgeable man and definitely taught us all a lot about the land and the ranch itself. I think that it’s very important for youth to be learning and doing the things we have been doing during the BECY experience. It’s important to me not only because it’s something that needs to be done, but also because we get to help out locals with projects that you can’t do with only one person.
For more information about Trincheras, please read Jordan Sene's blogpost from the first week of the BECY program. Her post also includes downloadable flashcards about natural structures used to heal the land:
Week 4 Reflections from Cristina Molina of BECY Nogales
Camping is one of those activities that has the potential to turn from a positive experience to a negative experience fairly easily. Thankfully for me, my BECY camping experience was a positive one filled with learning opportunities and great memories with a group of new friends.
The week of June 25th was a highly anticipated one for the BECY Nogales group. The weeks prior were spent planning meals and cooking teams, packing lists, traveling buddies, and learning as much as we could from the T4 ranch worksite. Since we weren’t sure what to expect from the 47 ranch, we prepared by learning about a number of different rock structure options that can be used in various types of watershed restoration.
Finally the week of camping arrived! We all packed up our cars, packed up ourselves, and hit the road! Our drive started in Nogales, turned into a beautiful scenic route and ended in McNeill, Arizona. Before going to set up camp, the crew stopped at the 47 ranch to scope out the site and meet the ranch owners.
We met Dennis, a rancher with some serious beard game, who was overjoyed to have another BECY crew to help his ranch prosper. We learned that Dennis raises a special African breed of cattle that provides for a delicious cut of beef. These cows need special care and more importantly, a place to graze. The problem 47 ranch suffers from is erosion caused by overgrazing. Overgrazed areas lack vital plant life that holds sediment in place. The weak earth is then more susceptible to devastating erosion.
After that we set up camp at White Water Draw and prepared for a week of hard work. We got up early, worked into the afternoon in some pretty intense weather, and really felt the effects of our efforts. The area didn’t immediately look a million times better but it did look a million times more promising. We felt that we had ensured the ranch a more prosperous future and that we became a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Camping wasn’t easy. From the showering in trees, pitching tents on the dry, cracked earth of White Water Draw, extreme weather, and worrying about whether Mexico was going to qualify for the World Cup, our struggles seemed endless. However we were able to overcome them and become closer as a crew and as friends. The most important takeaway from this experience, to me, was the incredible bond I was able to create with my co-interns. It makes the work we did so much more meaningful.
BECY Field Notes
by Stephanie Adams
From the 10th to the 15th the Douglas BECY crew impressed me even more than the week prior. The first week of educating our interns about watershed structures was a success and played a huge roll in Pinary! The interns were able to observe and even repair a few of Douglas BECY’s structures from last year. I personally believe this is what allowed them to understand the importance of the structures they were building and encouraged them to build effective and sturdy ones in the following days. Seeing that our beautiful structures from last year almost looked untouched made me feel like I was truly making a difference with the work we do. I screamed when we saw our giant Zuni Bowl holding up so well!
The crew worked their way up to the very top of the watershed and built Trincheras, Zuni Bowls, and even Stickcheras! They displayed what they learned from the week prior about where and why to place a structure in a certain area of the watershed. The following day we were finally at the top of the watershed and didn’t see much erosion that needed to be handled so we moved on across the mountain to different watersheds and found one that had been previously maintained. With that in mind we still decided to work our way up that one to see if there were areas that needed structure placement, this was honestly one of the most brutal hikes, as it was at the hottest time of day and we were already worn out. But our crew still kept their heads up and pushed forward. They made me so proud that day.
Furthermore, the next day we worked in a watershed that had two large drainages, so we split into smaller groups of 3-4 people to get more done. Even with the smaller groups everybody knew their task and made effective structures! By the end of the day we had close to the whole watershed complete.
Thursday the 15th was an exciting, relaxed day as we took a beautiful nature hike in Rustler. While we hiked Lily helped to point our native plants and creatures such as the native desert lilac, grasses, mullein (lambs ear), and 2 different bee species. She also educated the crew of the importance of not planting non-native grass species because they can become invasive and bad for the land. The hike was interesting, and the scenery had a lot to offer, we were even able to see several white tailed deer!
As we almost reached the top and were taking a break, Lily made a very important suggestion to head back down the mountains as clouds began to move quickly our way. At first a few of us doubted the likeliness that it would even rain but on our way down it began to rain heavily and even hail! If it weren’t for Lily keeping a cautious eye out for us we would have been stuck at the top in a storm. Although it ended up in rain and mud I can say we definitely had an amazing time and I even learned a few new things myself.
The BECY Douglas crew is one of the hardest working groups I know and even since day one, In all honesty, they surpassed my expectations and by far impressed me with what they learned. To sum it all up, this crew kicks butt!