By: Arriana Ochoa-Tovar, BECY participant
Monday morning week five started with a gorgeous morning in the Wildlife Corridor. The BECY Patagonia crew met with Ron at the main entrance to get some background info on the area being worked on. Important things that stuck out to me where that the Arizona Game and Fish says the area is the most important wildlife corridor to a number of species including jaguars, over 10 million dollars has been put into the property, and it's also what links Mexico to the Sky Islands. (To know more about the Wildlife Corridor visit that section of the website.) After talking and walking with Ron, the group started work on staged rock for new erosion control structures and repairs on past structures. The work day went well despite missing a few crew members and feeling a bit weighed down by the weekend.
Tuesday's writing workshop with creative writing students from the University of Arizona with the crew looking forward to sleeping in and getting to wear 'normal' clothes, Tuesday seemed promising. Walking into the conference room that morning, I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure how serious the group would take the writing workshop. I was very surprised and impressed at the vulnerability and honesty of the group in their writing.
We wrote about childhood memories. BECY, wrote a poem as a group, and learned new ways to get creative juices flowing in the mind. The leader of the workshop, Logan, facilitates youth slam poetry and other writing programs, so he was a natural leading the group and encourage raw creativity. Tuesday was definitely a bonding moment for the group, full of emotion and acceptance of one another.
Wednesday at Deep Dirt Farm at the Deep Dirt Institute are always very impactful for the group. Kate gives us so much information to soak in and take away with us. To start the day, she shows us around. Intern McKenzie shows the group how to use the composting toilet and then we get to work.
We're digging holes for railroad tie posts for a fence and gate around an area in the institute. We start the work day learning how to use an auger; it was a fun time for all of us.
Then comes the digging contest! We need to dig holes 30 inches deep for the railroad tie posts. The group has a hard time reaching that depth, so we soak the holes dug and allow them to percolate while a rock edge is built onto the side of a path. Kate decides the project will be finished by Field School students later this summer and our work for the day is done.
At the end of each day Kate asks the group what they took away from the day, and what they plan to put into action. It was inspiring to hear what everyone said. All learned to be more conscious of everything they're consuming. Kate's projects are expanding!! (To learn more, visit the Deep Dirt Institute.) It's incredibly inspiring and an honor to get to come back year after year.
Thursday-July 4th, Day off.
Friday's Workday Friday started in the area of the Wildlife Corridor Ron named BECY Gulch. We quickly analyzed the area and resources available, and got straight to work. Three erosion control structures were completed. Later in the day, before lunch, we were asked to locate and analyze three different sections of BECY Gulch and report back to Ron. He needed to know how much rock would be needed, what kind of erosion control structures would be made in what areas, and the time it would take to complete all necessary work on the areas.
We were invited back to Ron's residence for a lovely lunch and we gave our reports on BECY Gulch for future work references. It was an amazing learning experience for the entire group. We were able to show Ron our abilities to read the land, which can be the hardest part of restoration work. The work week was extremely successful, rewarding, and education filled.
Written By: Andrea Bond, BRN Intern
Hello, Andrea here! Borderland’s BECY program recently did a planting project at Patagonia Flower Farm, planting native plants for both use and appearance. One of the most abundant species they planted was the Arizona Milkweed, definitely a plant worth a blog post! So this weeks blog is about the genus Asclepias--The Milkweeds.
While some may call this plant a weed or dangerous, those are both misconceptions. First, the Milkweed is a necessary native plant with a nice appearance, not a weed. Second, it is possible to eat too much milkweed and be harmed by the toxins inside, but it takes a large amount and animals don’t like to eat this bitter plant. Small children should be warned about the potential danger, but the danger is not so large that the milkweed should be outed from your yard or garden.
So why is the milkweed so necessary? Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweeds, meaning the survival of the monarch is directly tied to the survival of this plant! Monarch populations are decreasing alarmingly, so having milkweeds in your yard or garden is one of the best ways to support these beautiful creatures. Milkweeds are also used by many, many other pollinators, and are an important part of supporting all pollinators in our area.
Milkweed is not only useful for pollinators, but also humans! Herbalists have used milkweeds for everything from chest pain to fever, warts to indigestion. Saying it has widely varied uses is an understatement! However, while these are traditional uses, milkweeds are strong enough that they are not good for tonics. Leave this one to the professionals.
The steroids called cardenolides are thought to be the root of many of the milkweed’s uses. Different milkweeds have different levels of these cardenolides, and there are many different milkweeds across the United States. Here in Arizona, there are at least 29 native species, though the one the BECY students planted was the Arizona Milkweed.
Another special part of the milkweed is that Native Americans traditionally used milkweed for repelling insects, and the fiber inside milkweed stems and seed pods to create products like bowstrings, nets, baskets, and more. The milkweed was also used by the United States during World War II to line life jackets and flight suits, serving an important role in wartime shortage.
Perhaps in the future we will see more uses for milkweed, in pest control, down substitutes, or more! It’s always fun to have plants with stories in your yard or garden and milkweed has many and many great uses.
We will have several different kinds of milkweed available at our Monsoon Plant Sale tomorrow 9 - 3PM. Perfect time to pick a few up for your yard!
Written By: Andrea Bond
Hello! I’m Andrea, a veteran of BRN’s 2018 Field School, currently interning with the Seed Lab and Nursery. Part of my internship is to write a few blog posts focusing on native plants we’ve been working with, and how these plants are good for human uses, as well as ecologically.
That’s me on the right!
(Please note that I am not an herbalist or medical doctor. I am only conveying information I learned from various references.)
First up is Monarda fistulosa (var menthifolia), aka: Bee Balm, Wild Oregano, Mountain Oregano. My first day working at the nursery we took cuttings of bee balm plants to further propagate them, which smelled very good!
Image Retrieved from The Xerces Society, check them out at https://xerces.org/
In addition to being used by many pollinators, most notably moths and bees, this plant is also a beautiful addition to a yard/garden. What makes it special is the thymol, carvacrol, and eugenol compounds it contains—similar to its “cousin” oregano (both plants are part of the mint family Laminaceae). Scientific studies have been conducted on these compounds’ medicinal properties that support the traditional medicinal uses of bee balm by Native Americans and oregano by Eurasians.
Like oregano, bee balm can be eaten as an herb either fresh or dried, for flavor and the vitamins and antioxidants it contains. Its herbal flavor is similar to oregano and other mint relatives, and somewhat like bergamot. In teas, poultices (for skin wounds), infusions, and tinctures it is great for immune system support, and to fight bacteria and inflammation.
I was introduced to bee balm by it being infused in honey, which is used for allergy symptoms. It’s a simple preparation using fresh leaves left in honey for a certain period of time (around a month, but it varies depending on the strength you desire and the potency of the leaves), and then strained out leaving the honey flavored and infused with the phenols from the leaves. Remember to completely submerge the leaves in the honey, so that they do not rot. Honey is amazing by itself, but infusing it in this way gives you an extra boost when you need it.
Thanks for reading! Look out for parts two and three of these Plant Power posts!
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