Another metaphoric lesson in gardening: preventing abusive environments

So I was driving home from one of the school gardens I work in, deep in thought about “Figaro,” a certain Fig tree we transplanted last week (The kids gave him that name). I’m often deep in thought after leaving this particular garden because it needs so much work. Since I only visit it once a week, I hate to leave because it’s like my child that I can’t see every day. I can only hope the children and teachers are treating it right in my absence.

When I came to this garden a little over a month ago, I was super overwhelmed by the overgrown grass, weeds, and dead plants. When we started removing the plants and checking out the soil to plant new things, we discovered root maggots! It has definitely been a challenge working with these bugs, to say the least.

I started thinking about soil, how it’s the most important element for all life forms to grow in. Everything starts in the soil and if it’s infected with harmful pests, it can really stunt growth.

I thought of Figaro and wondered if he was experiencing root shock because he came from a very nice garden and the Garden Ranger there only pulled him out to make room for new stuff to grow since they already had two large fig trees growing. Instead of throwing him away, I decided to re-plant him in this particular garden of mine that’s in much need of anything to grow in it.

I imagined Figaro’s tiny roots in new soil and hoped that he wasn’t too scared in this environment. I hoped that I removed enough of the root maggots in previous weeks so that they wouldn’t hurt him. I imagined him like an orphan or foster kid who might get placed in a new home with possibly strange, maggot-like parents/forces that might eat away at his roots/essence.

I began to wonder how many children are born or placed into infested soil and what effect this has on their development.

It’s not their fault. A root maggot didn’t ask to be born, same way as an abuser didn’t ask to be born into a poor home environment.  Everything starts in the soil/home, and if the home is jacked up, can you really expect something healthy to grow?

I began to think of the ways in which we can prevent abusive homes a.k.a. infested/damaging soil so that damaging pests and creatures do not grow and harm our future growing youth. This is what I really stand for, what I really aim to accomplish in my life here on this planet. I want to created places for all living things to grow in healthy, nourishing soil.

It was clear to me today that the solution is in prevention when possible. If the soil is not healthy, we must fix it. It’s never too late. The best way is to prevent conditions in which pests can be born. After doing some research on how to deal with root maggots, it is recommended /suggested that we remove dead plants and rotate them in and out with every changing season. I think this idea of constantly creating/constantly recycling every season, planting certain things like Marigolds and onions that discourage the growth of these pests, is the best way to go.

Pesticide and harmful chemicals is the easy way to deal with problems, much like what this country has done to many of its perpetrators by throwing people in jail or sending them to the electric chair. It doesn’t solve the underlying problem, doesn’t begin to get to the root cause. That’s what our society really needs.

Nobody had been in my garden for many many months and so many things were dead and not growing. When things don’t grow and are not removed, that’s when the flies come and lay their eggs and create the ugly pests that make sure no life can ever grow.

Neglect, lack of knowledge, create these problems. Same things in abusive homes.

Gardening has always shown me so much. Lessons that I need to learn exactly when I need to learn them.

I was a basic gardener early this year, but now that I’m a Garden Ranger, I am the one in charge, the one who decides what we do with our gardens, what we teach our children. I’m the one who has to fix the problems and bring the solutions, rallying the children, teachers, and the community to make this group effort sustainable, flourishing, beautiful. It’s a learning/teaching experience for us all.

The key is to never stop creating, never stop growing. To always keep the cycle of life flowing, we must spend every day caring because who else will?  It’s not a simple solution that can be fixed with one operation, one pill, one treatment of pesticide, with a jail sentence.

Our society needs to care. It’s just as simple as that. This is what we need to be teaching children. This is what children respond to.


Let it Rain


Today is my garden Wednesday with the kids. We normally water the entire garden but didn’t today because it looks like it’s going to rain. We are hoping it’s going to rain, especially after giving a lesson to the kids about water conservation on Earth Day!

So we just cleaned the garden of weeds and grass and I planted a new cilantro plant. One of the teachers also gave some interesting information about a natural remedy to cure earaches utilizing the “rue” or “ruda” (in Spanish) plant.

wpid-imag0018.jpgThat plant is STRONG. I like to go around the garden and touch certain plants to get their scent on my fingers. I also encourage the kids to do the same as well and they seem to enjoy it, but we don’t touch the “rue” plant. That thing has a nice smell at first but if you really inhale it, it makes my head get kinda tingly. I’m sure there are some people out there who would probably enjoy that but not me.

My co-workers encouraged me to re-start my compost. I guess I’m a little cautious because last time it got rotten, but maybe now is the time. It’s been over a month now. Time for new beginnings. Just because something didn’t work before doesn’t mean it won’t work if you try again.

Life is always guiding me to where I need to go. Every day more and more I am trusting the process of life and I’m exactly where I am meant to be, learning what I’m meant to learn, loving what and whom I’m meant to love, doing the work I’m meant to be doing, giving back to mother Earth.

Today I am proud to be in service of the universe. Today is a great day to be alive. When the wind blows this way before rain, it feels magical doesn’t it? That’s what is going on here in Los Angeles today.

I hope you are all feeling great love and power today, being connected to the earth on Earth Day.

I pray for rain. Let it rain!


Yesterday was my day to work with the kids in the garden. It was a sad day when we discovered that the insides of our compost bin are no Bueno, and we have to start over. Almost three months of work down the toilet. Life can get super symbolic sometimes. When I got home, I dug deep in my own compost and found that it smelled like SHIT, literally. SHIT underneath all the newer leaves and produce. So, yea. Sometimes even if we are working on a project, if we don’t take care of it, it gets rotten, and we have no choice but to start over. It can seem daunting or painful to start over, but you can’t keep rotten stuff around. Starting over is what is necessary.

I swear, gardening has been the great metaphor for my life and probably most people’s lives in general. There are things we have to take care of properly. Sometimes I think just caring for life in general is like a science. We can care for anything in the same way we care for a garden. We have to water it everyday, give it sunlight, good soil, talk to it, pull weeds, prune, trim, and pull out dead things. If we do, then we get beautiful, healthy results. If we don’t care for things properly, they get bad, and bacteria forms. The smell of rot becomes undeniable. Eh, I’ll be removing my compost next week on trash day and starting over.

And we will be clearing out the compost bin at the school next week as well. Hey, it wasn’t time wasted. I learned greatly from just jumping in and starting something I knew hardly anything about. Nothing in life is a failure. Everything can be perceived as both success and failure, all at the same. It just depends on how you look at it. I look at most things as successes even if you have to lose something you worked hard to create. Maybe you didn’t know how to care for it, so it went bad. Better luck next time, eh?

So I think what I need to remember for the next compost is to add more dry ingredients and make sure I’m turning everything from the bottom up. I need to find a cover for my trashcan and make sure the rain doesn’t get in it because too much moisture is what seems to have killed my compost.

I’m not afraid of change, of starting over, of failure, of success. I’m in love with life’s lessons and challenges. I continue to keep an open mind and learn every day.

Hands in the Garden: DIY Composting

I am typing with dirt all over my fingers and hands in this very moment because I started my very first compost!Yesterday was my first day interning in a school garden. I will be working there every Wednesday until April. I decided to get involved with a program called Enrich LA to learn more about gardening and get involved in my community. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and it feels really amazing to learn about gardening and teach it to children. Honestly, I didn’t feel like getting up yesterday morning. It sort of feels like when I go to yoga. Sometimes I don’t want to go, but once I get there I have no regrets and am always refreshed afterward.

When I got to the garden, the kids were in awe over some green caterpillars that were just chillin on a plant. I assisted the Garden Ranger with a bunch of things like passing out squiggly worms to all the kids, guiding them in the garden, and answering questions. The kids sang Happy Birthday to seeds they planted and got to taste a Sorrel plant. Being in the garden feels like magic. There is always something to learn, plant, pull, water, understand. It’s a beautiful mystery and I love every moment, especially with children because you get to teach them these mysteries and wonders and they are just so excited about everything. I didn’t grow up understanding much about gardening, but once I became the one in charge of the garden in my house, I feel grateful to have this time to understand and appreciate all gardening has to offer about life, love, and patience.

So next week, the kids are going to be learning about composting and since I hadn’t known much about it before, I decided to jump in and make my own. I wish my camera was working so I could show you. I basically raked up a bunch of leaves, pulled out some unruly grass and weeds, added soil and water, and I think that’s it for now. I’ll be learning more as I go. There’s nothing like just jumping in and doing it and getting my hands dirty. The garden relaxes me and reminds me that life goes on, the world keeps spinning, no matter what you have going on in your own mind/world. There is just so much to do, see, learn, and grow from. No time for worry or sorrow. Just love, work, and growth.