Browsing articles in "Sustainable Practices"

Gardens and Gardening

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Sustainable Practices  //  No Comments

Gardening for Stress Relief

This article is brought to you by It’s My Nature Aromatherapy and Herbal Comforts Ne.

In its purest form, gardening is about connecting with the earth and resetting our clocks to the simple, natural rhythms of life. Try as we may, we can’t really speed up a tomato plant and make it grow by our time table. We must adapt and in doing so, gardening offers us a gentle reminder about what’s really important in life: food, water, warmth, a bit of loving attention, and some room to grow.

Gardening is one of the fastest growing pastimes in the U.S., as well as one of the healthiest. Beyond its spiritual aspects, gardening can be a great stress reliever. Digging, raking, planting, pruning, and harvesting are physical activities that provide a constructive outlet for tensions that build up in our bodies. Gardening activities draw on your endurance, give you flexibility and strength, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs, as well as helping with weight control.

And with numerous studies showing us that regular physical activity reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and colon cancer, it’s clear that we all must take responsibility for ourselves and do what we can to stay healthy. So if you think you might enjoy gardening, here are some ideas to get you started:

Start small and plant things that you will enjoy. If flowers make you happy, plant a few flowers. Over time you will find what works and what doesn’t. Don’t worry too much about the best way to do things. The most important thing is to just get started.

If you are hoping to reduce stress through gardening, it’s important to make sure that working in the garden doesn’t simply create additional stresses. That means, take it easy. Keep your gardening to-do list short. Stretch before and after working in the garden to minimize aches and pains. Take breaks to sit back, rest and appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Listen to music while you work.

If a large garden sounds like too much work or you don’t have the room, think about trying Micro-gardening. Grow your own plants – food or flowers in containers rather than in a plot of ground. The size of the garden is completely up to you. There’s micro-gardening, and then there’s MICRO-gardening.

If you have access to outside areas such as a patio, balcony or porch, your micro-gardening opportunities increase greatly. You may not even need to buy special pots. If you have old flowerpots, buckets, half-barrels or even concrete blocks, you have the makings of great gardening. Make sure the containers are clean and have drainage holes. If there aren’t any holes, start with a layer of pebbles before adding the dirt.

Herbs grow particularly well indoors. Depending on your cooking style, one plant each can produce all the parsley, dill, thyme, basil and oregano you need for an entire season of meals. Follow the seed packet directions, or buy individual seedlings, and you’re on your way.

Remember that when container-gardening, the plants count on you for their moisture. They might not receive enough rain and dew to grow well, so water the plants when the dirt starts to dry out.

Growing your own makes it easier to get the minimum “five-a-day” servings of veggies and fruits the experts now recommend for health. Recent research confirms that most common fruits and vegetables come packed not only with the vitamins and minerals already known to support good health, but also with “phytonutrients” demonstrated to boost the immune system, retard the aging process, and help heal or prevent many chronic diseases.

Gardening is good exercise, especially if you take a pass on all the latest power tools and put your muscle to the tasks of digging, turning and spreading compost, collecting and spreading mulch, hoeing and picking rocks. Activities like these burn calories, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs.

Even a small vegetable garden can save money. To ensure savings, though, a backyard gardener needs to stick to the basic tools and supplies and keep a tight rein on the temptation to own all the newest gadgets. For the biggest savings in energy, dollars and space, look into intensive gardening, the art of producing a lot of food in a small space.

You just can’t beat gardening for stress relief. The simple acts of planting seeds and tending plants can restore balance and perspective during the most wrenching life crises. Research has demonstrated that people heal faster after surgery when exposed to natural scenery – even looking at photographs of green plants speeds recovery. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Workshops for Teachers and Non-Formal Educators

Jun 25, 2012   //   by McKeever Center   //   Blog, Events, Sustainable Practices  //  No Comments

Sustainability in the Classroom Workshop

June 19-21, 2012

This workshop was made possible through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Education. The workshop has three tracks: Organic Farming/Gardening, Climate Change/Marcellus Shale and a workshop titled “Contemplative Experiences . . . in the service of the earth.”

The participants will spend a half-day (on two days) at local organic farms. Three Sisters Farm has been growing and marketing organic produce since 1989. Here you will find 5-acres of gardens that incorporates the permaculture design principles on their farm. After an in-depth overview of their operation, participants will be assigned tasks and begin their ‘chores’.

The next day we’ll travel to Ellen Benek’s farm outside of Sandy Lake. In addition to an impressive organic garden, the Benek’s produce their own milk, yogurt and cheese from their goats. Once again, depending on what needs done at this time of the year will determine our chores for the morning.

Dr. Randall Wiesenmayer, professor of science education at West Virginia University will begin with the basics of the greenhouse effect and the presentation of evidence that the Earth’s climate is warming. But what mechanisms are causing these changes? Is this just a natural cycle like those that have occurred during the past millions of years, or are human activities the cause?

The last part of the workshop will be Steve Van Matre’s Contemplative Experience workshop. This workshop begins Wednesday evening from 6:30 – 9:30 PM and continues Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM. Steve will conduct this powerful workshop, as participants will have the opportunity to examine their personal relationship with the natural world.

Cost: $110, includes two nights lodging, lunch and dinner on Tuesday, breakfast, lunch and dinner on Wednesday and breakfast and lunch on Thursday, instruction, books and materials.


Contemplative Experience. . .in the service of the Earth.

June 20-21, 2012

In these busy times it is easy to get so involved in our daily activities that we lost sight of where we are going in our lives. This workshop is designed to help us consider our personal relationship with the natural world and our role in the movement to sustain it. This is a time to ponder why we do what we do, and refine our own personal quest to be of service to both the planet’s natural systems and communities and its human passengers.

The environmental movement is the largest movement in human history, cutting across all geographic, political and spiritual boundaries. So where do we fit into that movement personally? What is the abstraction we champion, and how can we share it with others?

Cost: $145/person – includes workshop, Wednesday night lodging, dinner on Wednesday and breakfast and lunch on Thursday. The workshop is from 6:30 – 9:30 PM on Wednesday and 9 AM – 5 PM on Thursday. Once we receive your registration and payment, confirmation will be sent to you with detailed information about the workshop.


Interpretive Design & the dance of experience Workshop

June 22-23, 2012

Join us for a special workshop with Steve Van Matre.

Interpretation is the craft of enriching the experience of leisure visitors in places established for the public good. The world’s parks and preserves, gardens and galleries, museums and monuments are the jewels of our societies, set aside because they represent the natural and cultural treasures we want to celebrate today and share with others tomorrow. As a result, they are mission-driven places which also need to justify and garner support for what they are protecting. An interpreter translates the natural and cultural language of such places for its visitors, while immersing them in the essence of its purpose.

Interpretive designers create the leisure journeys that interpreters implement. Just as we have designers today for the buildings, signs, grounds, exhibits, and other components of our mission-driven public places, we need “interpretive designers” who focus on the most important component, the actual experience of the visitors who come. This is a new profession which works with the whole experience that other designers only facilitate in part. Interpretive designers help sites mold their interpretive facilities around the outcomes they intend rather than the structures they inherit. These designers create the interrelated experiential vehicles of interpretive service.

Interpretive Design is for all those who assist visitors in getting to know their public jewels – leisure sites from Aquaria to Zoos – and who aim to enrich those visitors’ experiences in meaningful and memorable ways.

Cost: $225/person – includes workshop, Friday night lodging, lunch and supper on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Workshop is from 9 AM – 5 PM on both Friday and Saturday. Once we receive your registration and payment, confirmation will be sent to you with detailed information about the workshop.


Hardwood Lumber Grading Short Course

July 23-26, 2012

The value of ‘rules conscious’ employees is a more carefully manufactured product, a more profitable yield from the log, and a better sense of the value of the lumber being handled. This four-day course will include a thorough study and explanation of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) Rules Book, emphasizing the basics of hardwood lumber inspection.

This popular course gives yardmen, sawyers, edgermen, sales and office staff, and management level personnel an introduction to lumber inspection. Our instructor is Barry Kibbey, inspector and instructor from the NHLA.

The cost of the course is $349 and includes ten meals, lunch on Monday through lunch on Thursday, three nights lodging, instruction and materials. You can register by downloading a registration flyer from McKeever’s website. From the home page, click the calendar tab, and then click on Hardwood Lumber Grading Short Course. You can also contact the center for more information.

Subscribe to the McKeever Newsletter