Living in the Treehouse, I am reminded every day to make choices that will take care of the Earth, and therefore all its inhabitants. My values are reinforced by the Treehouse’s goal to pick paths that are low-impact (or have no impact at all). Yes, my personal experience is important because I can be an ambassador for these goals, but I’d like this post to focus on the Treehouse’s bigger radius of change on campus.
This may sound silly, but I think that the sheer presence of the Treehouse is important and impactful on the college community and possibly even Allentown itself. When I spoke to friends, professors, or peers about where I live, I often received positive curiosity about the house. These conversations spark questions about what the house has to offer and plants a seed in these people’s minds about there own attitudes toward sustainable living. All in a two minute conversation! The presence of the Treehouse and the Garden House on campus are becoming more familiar to the college. As this awareness increases, so does awareness about sustainable practices. Telling others that I live in the Treehouse gives me opportunities to speak to them about the projects we have in motion: the solar panels, permaculture, native plants, gardening opportunities, etc. Sustainable living has a concrete mascot, an object that people can point to as an example: our house!
Overall, I am proud to be an ambassador for the goals of our house. I look forward to seeing how the Treehouse’s presence will expand over the school year.
I’d like to make a shout out to all of you who came out to help plant the new rare natives donated by the Lehigh Gap. I loved all of the enthusiasm! I know some people who helped also expressed interest in the Community Garden club, so I will be sending out a doodle soon to see if the current workdays should move to other times, to accommodate more folks. The Community Garden is looking much improved, with many of the weeds out of the way, and the harvest at prime.
It’s amazing to think of all of those pots filled with new plants waiting above the ground to be planted: so many that it seemed impossible. Since many more people showed up than we expected, we were able to finish the weeding and planting in record time. Both of the fridays, people came just for the heck of it and brought their friends. I liked the initiative many of the volunteers took, traversing down steep hills to hack down mounds of pokeweed, or braving poison ivy groves at the bottom of the hill. There were people who swore they had never touched dirt in their lives that dug in with a zest those two days. I hope the joy of being in touch with the earth sticks with them. It’s easy to forget how close we are to it, because of the infrastructure of the institution we live in. That’s why I think the garden is such an asset which enhances life for students. Hopes are for the new and improved garden to lure students toward it to study at the picnic tables, or just take a nap in the shade.
I can’t express how much the rare natives have improved the landscape of the garden. They are all unique and valuable to the environment, and I enjoy watering them and slowly learning their names. I’ve also started to notice some of the mini trees and multitude of flora and fauna that were there before the planting, standing tall above the babies. More exciting news….we’ve been using the rain barrel capture system to water the plants.
Have a restful break. And come hang out with the new plants!
The Garden People
Gooood Evening, Everyone!
As we here at the Treehouse prepare for another busy and wonderful semester, We cannot help but reflect on the tremendous effort exhibited by those who have already cut the workload of our gardening tasks in half. From a dense jungle of weeds to a clean and defined space yet again, you all have ensured another semester of productivity, positivity, and educational usage from our humble yet beautiful Permaculture Garden. Thank you to all who have assisted us to such an extent, and we anxiously look forward to the next time we can work with you again!
In other news, both Ellison and myself recently returned from the People’s Climate March in NYC. Inspiring would be too tame a description. Intensely powerful to dull an experiential reflection. With over 400,000 people marching in the streets, stretching from uptown all the way to downtown, the sheer passion exhibited by each individual in attendance came together to forge a level of solidarity around the issues of environmental justice literally never achieved before. At a period in our history where the need environmental protection and preservation is now at a mandatory level, the march was a huge call to action. It was very easy to disappear within every chant, drum beat, and sea of signs which people were holding up…this was quite an emotional experience as we marched through the very heart of industrialized commercialism (Times Square) and challenged bystanders to step back, step up, and step forward in the fight for environmental survival! Awesome, awesome stuff.
Anyway, we have several projects coming up around the Tree House, where we will be finishing the weeding, watering, and mulching before the winter frost! So come on out, and we look forward to seeing you all there!
Fight on Environmental Activists!
Hello again fellow Treehuggers, It has been an eventful while since we have last spoken. Classes are finally in full swing for the Fall ’14 Semester at Berg and we have new Treehouse members that will be sharing their thoughts with you over the upcoming weeks. My beloved roommate Christian and I have returned to the double room that overlooks the garden, Rebecca Herz, a sophomore and the President of the Community Garden Club has picked up the middle single and our very own virtuoso Lily Freiburg has returned from two years prior to the front room of the house.
This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to live in the Garden House and watch over the Permaculture Garden and the new construction that was completed. Dr. Neisenbaum’s Sustainability course, which I am currently in, had proposed a rain water capture system to be installed over summer. After an eventful couple months of construction the corner of the Permaculture Garden now has an entirely new back deck and a fully functioning rainwater capture system (Pictures to come). My major summer project was the restructuring of the herb spiral and the outlining of the four entry points of what will hopefully develop into a mandala garden.
On the Community Garden side of things, Over the summer our house hosted a visit of over 40+ inner city children from the Boys&Girls Club who were fearless in trying every type of plant in the Garden. I snapped a couple photos of and with them that I will leave you with today. (Shout out to Joyous and Nicole for all the help!)
The end of the semester (and the end of a long career at Muhlenberg, for some of us) is upon us! Last night, Simmi, Ellison and I attended the 3rd Allentown Sustain-a-Ball, hosted by the Allentown Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC). Aside from being a great end-of-the-year celebration with our colleagues from around the Lehigh Valley (many of whom have either tabled at Muhlenberg’s Earth Day Celebration, or we have collaborated with them for a Tree House event), we were particularly thrilled to attend the event on behalf of the Tree House, as it was honored as an up-and-coming sustainability effort in the Lehigh Valley. For more information about the event, check out http://www.sustain-a-ball.com/!
From left to right: Ellison Heil, Jake Schwartz, Nicole Karsch, Bess Glickman, Simmi Patel, Richard Niesenbaum, Nickie Cammisa, Kalyna Procyk
Also— don’t forget to check out our solar hot water usage and savings at the following link: http://amatisdash.com/live/dash/?Site=14a. For future reference, it is also located in the “About Us” section of this blog. Note: the house will be unoccupied from May 18 until Mid August 2014, so that is why the hot water usage is low or non-existent. Similarly, this blog will be on Summer vacation :)
Thank you for checking out our blog and keeping updated with the happenings of Muhlenberg College’s Tree House.
May the 4th be with you,
Well everybody, the semester is rapidly coming to a close, but the mission and progress of the Tree House will live on through the summer! With brand new paths taking shape, fresh mulch being spread, and a cleaner herb spiral being rebuilt, the garden is finally coming into its own and taking shape as a proper permaculture forest. While we at the treehouse have decided to postpone the rebuilding of the steps until the summer, new priorities of pathway construction and herb spiral redesign have been coupled with existing goals of mulching before the year is out. Bricks have been relayed, the trellis has been painted a fresh, shiny, Muhlenberg red, and the garden has actually begun to shape into a unique piece of usable, self-sufficient landscape. We have made great re-use of the bricks from the former garden boundary construction, and have made excellent progress on weeding and cleaning out pathways for easy navigation of the garden. Next weekend, we hope to mulch the grounds entirely, and eventually make headway on clearing out the second tier of the forest. Finally, please all come out to the showing of DAMNATION, an incredible documentary that we have received exclusive rights to show at the Tree House, thanks to Muhlenberg EnAct!!! It will be this Friday around 7:00. Hope to see you there!
Be well, friends, and until next time,
I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather! Hopefully we are done with cold weather for the rest of the spring season. We have started to work in the garden mostly cleaning up around the plants and trying organize things in the garden. Our project for the rest of the year is to mulch the garden! We will be using “organic” mulch which essentially means using leaves, twigs etc. that have be collected in the last year. I think this is a great way to promote the tree motto of sustainability. While the organic mulch does not look as pretty as the darker one, it still will do the job and still promote sustainable methods. Earth Day was this past weekend! Unfortunately the rain forced all events indoors however still a great event! So far, I have pretty much been using all local and organic produce! I try to buy local and organic primarily because I believe it is important to know where your food comes from. Buying local also supports our communities which benefits all! I hope everyone continues to enjoy this weather!
Early this Sunday morning I awoke to a bluebird day. I threw on my Bean Boots, snagged one of my many jackets, and scrambled into our garage for four metal shovels. I threw them into the back of the Muhlenberg Shuttle and hopped into the shotgun seat, four of my fellow early risers seated comfortable in the rows behind. We were destined for Riegelsville PA, to meet up with Dan Lieber a self sufficient, artisan, free-flowing farmer. I threw in my ear buds and dozed off to Radiohead’s Kid A album until waking up to a spotted dog, Cowbell, come running to great his new visitors. We wandered about from the prairie grass maze to the garden beds of freshly sprouting garlic, in awe of a simpler life-style. From here we divided into teams, Nickie and Simmi headed the chicken coop operation, giving them a fresh, clean home, and even witnessed the laying of a farm fresh egg. I entered into the sheep pen with Nicole and Alli, making animal noises while we waited for Dan to come back. It was our mission to manicure the sheep. We herded them into their barn with awkward hand motions and released them one by one with the help of a flimsy piece of plywood. It was my job to sit atop the sheep while Nicole and Alli wooed the stressed beast, allowing Dan to clip all four hooves of each ewe. As the process progressed the mothers would call out in conversation to their baby lambs in a series of “baas” and grunts. Realizing the stress on the mother-child relationship we carried one by one the babies outside to their waiting mothers, leaving behind Big Daddy, the ram. Here is where the fun began. Positioning a 400lb ram atop a metal stand for an extended period of time, to trim its hooves can be easier said than done. But after a successfully being squished by a dread-lock Rastafarian ram, a couple of laughs and “oh shits” from the group, we finally released the big ole from his harness and watched as he ran to his herd. We finished the day with a tour of Dan’s witchcraft corner, some ritual cleansing, and rock placement before sitting down to rest. As noon approached, the van returned, and we mossied our way over slowly, fighting the urge to never leave that place. Somewhat reluctantly we all piled back into the shuttle, I conversed and reminisced with the driver about the land in Virginia before throwing my buds back in. The Shins clouded my thoughts as be entered back into the Muhlenberg Bubble, life “returning to normal”.
The good news is: the snow has finally melted and we can see the entire garden! The bad news is: it has been raining so much that we have not been able to start our Spring workdays just yet. Unfortunately, we had to reschedule our March event due to the weather as well; we had a volunteering field trip planned for today to a farm in Riegelsville, PA. We are glad our plants are getting watered but anxious to get outside! It’s been a long winter.. luckily we still have mint tea leaves (dried from our backyard) to keep us warm.
In other news, Muhlenberg College’s Earth Day celebration is coming up soon! It is on April 11th and the Tree House will be represented at the event. Drop by our table to meet current and future members of the Tree House and to learn more about us! It is free and open to the public :) We have also planned a very exciting event for May, just before the finals period here at the school. Teaser alert! It will be delicious. Stay tuned the next few weeks to find out what we’re planning…
Good Eve, my good friends,
I am excited to finally report to you that the snow is receding more and more each day, which means springtime progress will (hopefully) be getting under way soon. As the winter focus on education and cultivation of a sustainable attitude awaits its transition into physical manifestation around our Permaculture garden, we at the treehouse are preparing ourselves to exit hibernation and get our hands dirty once more. With a focus on mulching the garden, maintaining the healthy nature of the plants, and preparing to enter into summer projects and eventual harvesting, we are all tremendously excited to begin another phase of Tree House growth. With an incredibly successful Mediterranean dinner under our belts, we are also looking forward to many more themed organic dinners with delicious local food. One of the mantras of the treehouse is education through action, whatever the venue or task may be. We are incredibly excited to adapt this philosophy to this Spring’s upcoming series of events!
We hope you all who are reading are doing so with a happy and sustainable heart and mind!
‘Till next time,