Consider signing up for one of the workshops listed above! Fight those winter blues with self-care.
Scarves, hats, and mittens are not the only defenses against the winter blues. Voices for Earth Justice is hosting a series of winter wellness workshops on the topic of supporting mental, physical, and emotional health with plant-based practices.
“There are different plants that support mental well-being like chamomile for calming nerves, as well as plants that treat physical ailments like ginger for stomach aches,” states Hawkes-Williams, providing a few examples of herbs that boost health.
In this statement, Hawkes-Williams suggests resilient tea-brewing practices can be intensified by crafting concoctions from certain plants. Additionally, plants can be grown for the specific purpose of growing tea. If this is outside your comfort zone, there are amazing websites that provide ethically sourced, organically grown bulk herbs.
L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams, VEJ Garden Coordinator, states, “Not only does tea warm our bodies on chilly days, but drinking tea is also a great way to utilize the medicinal properties of certain plants.”
The three one-time workshops that Voices for Earth Justice will host include tincture-making & tea-brewing, winter stew-making, and aromatherapy. We are focusing on activities that can be infused into daily life to enrich and bolster health.
Each workshop will focus on one of these methods of brightening the winter months in a just and sustainable fashion. With background, instruction, and discussion, these workshops will provide not only educational resources, but also a space for community members to share their personal winter-resiliency methods.
“Learning about plants and how they naturally help us is fascinating and a great benefit to your body!” exclaims Hawkes-Williams.
It is possible to sign up for one, two, or three of the workshops by filling out the form via this link.
Young people enjoy carving pumpkins donated by Meijer! They took their spooky gourds to deck out their front porch for fall.
Over 40 old and new friends of Voices for Earth Justice gathered at Hope House and Gardens for the First Annual Harvest Celebration on October 13. Attendees of all ages enjoyed some of the best parts of fall: with food, cider, doughnuts, and pumpkins!
Keeping with this year’s focus on food, VEJ invited Chef Anthony “TK” King and Rosalyn Flint, founder and owner of Urban Country Teahouse, to showcase their talents.
Using squash grown in VEJ’s garden, Chef TK, made two dishes over the campfire: a savory and a sweet. TK pulled the spaghetti squash into a noodle-like dish. Additionally, he turned butternut and delicata squash into a cast-iron, cinnamon-flavored, sweetly-inspired dish. Chef TK added a dash of humor to entertain his audience, and sent them home with his recipes so they could enjoy them again and again.
Chef TK wasn’t the only one cooking. Five local friends brought their best homemade soups to compete in VEJ’s “Souper Bowl.” Guests sampled all five soups and voted for their favorite. Rukaya Abdallah’s spicy lentil soup came out on top while the other four cooks said “Wait ‘til next year!”
Rosalyn Flint engaged attendees in an informative and flavorful presentation about tea. After providing some background on tea, she dived into how people can grow their own herbs for tea-making. Additionally, she prepped and provided warm, satisfying tea samples, which bolstered spirits on a chilly October afternoon.
Taste, however, was not the only sense satisfied. Musical performances by Rachel Connors and Michael Feld enchanted with their talents: Connors rocked the keyboard.. Feld dazzled with technologically-produced jams.
The crowd of young people enjoyed the music and cooking, but the pumpkin carving station inspired the biggest smiles. Scooping goop from the pumpkins’ centers, drawing their creative designs, and using tools to actualize those ideas provided space for the kids to be both messy and innovative. Meijer’s contribution of the pumpkins made this activity possible. (Thank you, Meijer, for your donation!)
Even though the fall-themed decorations are tucked away until next year, the memories of Harvest Celebration’s joy and excitement are still fresh. The laughter and high spirits will carry VEJ’s staff forward as we plan a fabulous Winter Wellness Series. Look for more information about this series in the upcoming weeks on our website and Facebook Page.
Week one of VEJ Youth Club included pizza-making! Working together to cook made eating together even more fun.
Voices for Earth Justice Youth Club, a once a week after-school program for youth interested in exploring the topics of food and ecology in a garden space, began on October 2. VEJ Youth Club is open to young people ages 4 to 12 who want to learn about ecology, while getting help with schoolwork and practicing leadership skills.
To kick off the program, the first activity included goal setting and personal reflection with an “I am” project. The young people selected character adjectives to describe themselves, and arranged and glued the adjective slips onto a construction paper sun.
Other activities of the first week included making pizza, painting symmetrical butterflies & beetles, and playing a cooperative group game. Since then, VEJ Youth Club have completed nature art projects, a fall leaf chromatography experiment, a vermiculture science experiment, and cooking lessons.
At every VEJ Youth Club meeting, the youth cook a new recipe. They prep vegetables, season roasted squashes, and learn different cooking techniques. To complete every cooking lesson, we eat together in a group meal. Working on cooperative and collaborative behaviors, sharing meals encourages VEJ Youth Club members to listen, share, and create together.
In the future, VEJ Youth Club meetings will include several supported activities, including rewarded reading goal setting, seasonal vocabulary words, garden-centered educational activities, and upcycled crafting.
Thus far, Voices for Earth Justice Youth Club has eight registered children, ranging in ages 4 to 11-years-old. There is still room for three to five more children in our weekly after-school program.
We will continue cooking, eating, creating, and exploring at Hope House and Gardens with VEJ Youth Club through May. If interested in registering your child in the program, you can sign up by filling out this form.
Below is a reflection from community relations director, Julia Hall, on how the weekly summer youth ecology club rejuvenated her work and spirit. Above is a photo of the bird watching and identifying lesson.
TMany times this summer, a young person would run up to me, tug my sleeve, and ask with great excitement: “Is today Ecology Club?”
On Tuesdays, I got to answer: “Yes!”
And, so, Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week.
During the summer of 2018, L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams and I have been running a program, Ecology Club, for the neighborhood kids at Hope House. Our programming included cooking, ecological discovery, and instructive environmental lessons. Visiting experts, musician Michael Feld and Ron with Ferndale Fungi, brought additional wisdom to our Tuesdays at Hope House.
During these days of outdoor educational fun, children brought such color and vivacity to Hope House with their creative perspectives, mindful encounters, funny statements, and genuine desire to learn. They taught us much.
Together, we had loads of fun poster-creating, birdhouse-painting, mushroom-finding, nature-walking, music-making, seed-planting, aquifer-in-a-cup making, and tree-identifying. I was constantly reminded of the reinvigorating and nourishing way to approach the world: with the joy and wonder of a child.
Paint-stained clothes, thriving pumpkin plants, and colorful crayon artwork remind me what it means to just be with others, to explore with unwavering curiosity, and to open eyes to the world with childlike awe.
We will be continuing our work with the youth of the neighborhood with a new VEJ Youth Program that will include after school homework help, healthy snacks, gardening and cooking lessons, and leadership development. To register a young person in this program, please follow this link to our registration form.
Pictured above is Regina (left), our next door neighbor, and Lisa (right), a friend from the neighborhood grabbing a plate at the event.
On the evening of July 28, 2018, the sun spilt beams of light onto a gathering at Hope House & Gardens. Neighbors, friends, and Voices for Earth Justice staff and family gathered for music, art, laughter, and food in our garden space.
Forty individuals, including a few members of the Miller Grove Block Club, our neighbors down the street, as well as a few friends from other corners of Detroit attended the garden soiree.
For dinner, a table was spread with dishes that displayed the successes of the garden: bok choy salad, zucchini bread, and squash spread over flatbread. Our garden coordinator, L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams, has produced a diversity of vegetables that appeared in these dishes.
Marty DeNicolo from Christ the King Service Corps provided his musical talents on the banjo for a portion of the evening. For the rest, the rhythm of a jazz playlist entertained.
Other entertainment features included an interactive art piece, which depicted a natural scene on a large wooden board. The neighborhood children added their green handprints to fill out the foliage and grass.
Overall, Hope House Garden was full of earth-minded individuals celebrating the fruits of community. The garden, which is grown together, was celebrated by those who partook in its care.
Summer in the City Painting Crew are depicted at work making their design a reality on the VEJ front fence! Thanks for bringing all the color!
Summer in the City painted a mural on Voices for Earth Justice fence. With 26 volunteers, SITC completed the mural in three visits. SITC Paint Crew Leader, Jen Maiorana, led the group of volunteers and brought the materials to add color to our fence.
Summer in the City is an organization run by college students, supported by high school and college-aged volunteers, and works with youth. Their mission focuses on three p’s: play, plant, and paint. At VEJ, SITC featured their painting skills.
On site, Maiorana and Caleb Foerg, a member of the SITC crew, huddled around a table in the backyard of Hope House, designing the mural with immediate input from neighbors. These neighbors, including kids from the block, threw out ideas as artists drew.
The finished design depicts bumble bees, a house, a duck pond, a sun bursting with rays, an apple tree, and other elements.
Maiorana and Foerg transferred their design on the fence, opened up paint cans, and began the process of painting with volunteers.
As paint strokes were moving, volunteers swapped ideas about environmental justice while painting, noting their sustainability IQ and personal practices.
Volunteers engaged in environmentally-related conversations, neighbors gained a mural, and VEJ features the handiwork of these artists.
Please stop by, visit, or volunteer Hope House to check out the mural. We have open volunteer days on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and first and third Saturdays.
Voices for Earth Justice welcomes Erma Leaphart and Vito Rosolino! As of June, these two highly qualified persons have accepted positions on Voices for Earth Justice’s board of directors.
“Voices for Earth Justice is all about people: connecting people to one another, to the earth, to the Creator,“ Rosolino reflected.
Rosolino has been with Ferndale Electric Company for over twelve years, serving as Project Manager. Having completed his LEED AP BD+C certification, Rosolino specializes as a Sustainability and Service Manager at Ferndale. Additionally, Rosolino has been integrally involved with the U.S. Green Building Council for years, and currently serves as a Market Leadership Advisory Board Member. This dense resume of environmental endeavors reflects the developed savvy that Rosolino brings to VEJ.
Leaphart, too, has a resume full of achievements in the environmental field. For the past four years, Leaphart has worked for the Michigan branch of The Sierra Club as the Conservation Associate Organizer of the Great Lakes Program. Holding a Master’s Degree in Public Administration-Health Care Administration, she possesses expertise and experience that will enrich our board of directors.
While sitting on a panel in 2017 for the Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit at Marygrove College, Leaphart declared, “Today, I am unabashedly an environmentalist. I am a proud mother of two. I am still a proud resident of The City of Detroit. Someone who embraces the notion that love reigns supreme.”
In a similar spirit to Leaphart’s thoughts on love, Rosolino responded to a question about what excites him about VEJ, “Humans are the stewards of this planet, and to have the opportunity to reach people with a positive message about life, love and light is an exciting thing.”
Rosolino and Leaphart bring years of experience, Earth enthusiasm, and passion for relationally connecting with people. During a time of growth and transition, Rosolino and Leaphart mark the continuation of VEJ’s efforts towards building an environment for flourishing.
Rosolino stated, “I have seen that Voices for Earth Justice’s mission, boiled down to the least words necessary, is to Love people. And I am excited to be part of that mission.”
Community Relations Director Julia Hall reflects on how food systems can be revolutionized with intentional community meals.
Pull up a chair to the table that holds food grown by the hands of those who are eating. Come to the table. Eat. Partake in the splendorous ritual of sharing a meal.
Eating does not start at our refrigerators, but instead consumption reaches into the depths of our food system and ecosystems.
The farm to table movement is a transformational concept, but I would like to push further. Can you imagine a revolutionized food system that flourishes from backyards to tables with individuals planting their own food, sharing with neighbors, and growing together as community to reconnect with Earth, food, and neighbors?
The power of communal meals lies in the physical, social, and spiritual nourishment of gathering around food. By engaging our communities in sustainable practices and collective learning, we can strengthen the resiliency of our neighborhoods, our families, our friends, and our spirits.
Garden Coordinator L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams has brought much to the table. Her demonstration garden design, featuring permaculture tactics and a diverse vegetable and herb collection, is revolutionary. Her work reminds us to not only to munch on delicious meals, but to mindfully consider and celebrate the story of how those vegetables landed on our plates.
Let us plant. Let us eat. Let us grow. Together.
Voices for Earth Justice’s Garden Coordinator, L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams, has been designing and installing a new permaculture feature in the VEJ gardens. With the help of volunteers, her vision and design are now finished with plants growing in the new garden bed.
Hawkes-Williams explains, "The term "permaculture" is a combination of the two words: permanent and agriculture. The the merging of the two words describes exactly what the main concept is!--utilizing more permanent forms of agriculture like planting regionally and designing closed-loop systems that can sustain our needs and future generations without depleting the Earth's resources."
Permaculture tactics provide a solution to unwanted biomass and yard waste. Utilizing these methods has the power to transform undesired materials into purposeful, nutrient-rich garden beds. Not only do these tactics provide an alternative to disposing of yard waste, but these practices also can be used to develop richer soil, extend the growing season, and reduce watering care.
The type of feature that has recently been implemented at VEJ is called a hugel bed. The construction of this feature began with the creation of a divet, a canal-like area, as a foundation for the vertical layering of biomass. After creating the foundation, Hawkes-Williams and volunteers layered logs, sticks, leaves, and compost. To finish the project, the the group added gardening fabric to keep the compost from eroding.
Last week Hawkes-Williams, neighborhood kids, and family members planted out the bed with vegetables, including lettuce, watermelons, onions, and garlic. Together, the many hands that participated in the creation of the hugel bed demonstrated the ability of humans to collectively care for Earth.
While permaculture embodies this practical wisdom of sustainable living, the practice also possesses a sacredness. It is the intentional, holistic observance of the world and Earth that draws forth a spiritual care for creation.
"When I think about permaculture, I think about sustainability and conscious ecosystems. By "conscious," I'm referring to intention and mindfulness," Hawkes-Williams states.
Hawkes-Williams' thoughts on intentionality align with the writings of a Dominican Sister: Carol Coston. In her book, Permaculture: Finding Our Own Vines and Fig Trees, Coston writes, "Permaculture's Earth-care ethic has special resonance with me because it embodies much of what I hold as spiritual truth--particularly its inherent call for us to live in consideration of the common good of all creation."
The permaculture component of the demonstration garden at Hope House provides an incredible example of how earth care practices--both physical and spiritual--can be implemented. Further, the hugel bed shows how gardening and creating good, rich soil is an accessible self-sufficiency practice.
Hawkes-Williams provides some suggestions for permaculture practices, "So what does that look like? Well, you could plant native fruit bushes and trees--things that will produce year after year. There is agro-forestry as well as earthworks. You also could recycle all organic materials by composting or building hugel beds. If you look up the term permaculture, you'll get many different answers, but they all revolve around the same concept."
Developing soil, composing garden beds, and growing fresh vegetables takes time, but is a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy healthy food, connect to the earth, and reflect on our presence in the world. Give permaculture a try!
Keep an eye out for a post about the implementation of compost-bin construction. The designs are drawn. The space is cleared. Soon we'll be making our own soil supplements.