Posted in US Specific Blogs

Herb Gardens

One of my first substantial gardens was an herb garden. I love the smell and ease of herbs and am fascinated at the many medicinal properties. That garden soon evolved to add a few flowers, that were also medicinal, then useful, and finally edible.

Being a practical person, today I like to grow things that are useful. Sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s medicianl; I’ve even grown a small patch of flax for an unsuccessful attempt at making linen. In the end, I find herbs to be the workhorse of the garden. They are functional, useful and cheerful to my soul. Three snips from a blooming thyme plant, mixed with butter and spread on even store bought bread, makes me feel like the Julia Childs of my generation.

At Herban Renewal, we are in the very beginning of our first season of developing the gardens. The small urban lot is mostly taken up by the house in the center and giant varieties of hollies which take up most of the space. And while there is currently no dedicated herb garden yet, I find myself tucking herbs here and there, for their ability to repel bugs, thrive in a dry sunny spot, and mostly for their ability to make me smile when I brush by one.

Below are a couple of links for people’s ideas about herb gardens. Personally, I wonder how long some of these ideas can last after a photo shoot with tiny unglazed pots that would crack and dry up with a half of a August afternoon in these parts, but they are pretty and inspiring and maybe you’ll find an idea or two to build upon.

What is your favorite herb? How do you use it? I would love to know.

Posted in General Blogs, US Specific Blogs

Herban Renewal – the overall plan

Herban Renewal is a micro intensive urban homestead.  Although it is a stand alone facility, it is part of the larger structure of Mahala Love. Herban Renewal will be used as a teaching base and demonstration garden for Mahala Love, as well as serving to provide food and income for the family living onsite and a small community of people who visit.

Herban Renewal is three blocks outside the Central Business District in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It is within walking distance of the local downtown shops, restaurants, and the seasonal farmers market.  The south entrance is located on a broad main thoroughfare with on-street parking, and slow consistent traffic from locals.

The location is a typical urban corner lot with a house occupying the bulk of the center.  Unique to the property are an enclosed large pool area with retractable roof panels, a west facing glassed in porch, a flat roof top porch, small concrete patio, and yard that has been divided into 7 separate areas based on environmental conditions or hardscape features.

A mobile “chicken tractor”  houses the small flock of chickens with chicken tunnels to be implemented later in the season, The tunnels will allow chickens to have adequate leg room and more access to insects throughout the gardens. A test vermicompost  structure is active housing 2000 red wigglers. A prototype aquaponics systems is housed in the enclosed pool area, consisting of 11 comet goldfish and a combination fill and drain and deep water culture bed. As the effectiveness of these is determined, more systems will be added.

Although we have no plans to obtain an organic certification, all methods will be organic.  Permaculture and regenerative methodologies will be implemented with the goal to reduce inputs required each year.  Inputs will be tracked and compared annually.

Products will consist of tangible and intangible products.  Tangibles will include micro greens, salad foods, and eventually eggs, fruits, berries and hazelnuts.  Value added products will include herbal vinegars, dried herbs, plants and more.

Intangible products will be online video classes, and on-site workshops. Formal consulting for MicroIntensive gardening startups will be available starting year 2 and informal knowledge sharing available always. A Community Supported Agriculture, (CSA) style package consisting of both tangible and intangible products will be offered starting Year 2.

Homestead skill classes will be offered at Herban Renewal. Courses such as herbal vinegars, hot sauces, medicinal tinctures, vermicompost, small scale aquaponics and more will be offered. Initially we will offer 1 course per month starting in July.  If the Coronavirus continues to be an issue, courses will be offered online only. Some courses will be outsourced to bring in a deeper skill set, and others will be taught by Herban Renewal staff. 

Beginning in Year 2, consulting will be offered for other start ups. Internships through Mahala Love will also begin in year 2. Travel-based project trips through Mahala Love, will use Herban Renewal as a training base.  The income structure from this has yet to be determined.

Production  and quality manuals will be created and used to provide reliable turn key systems as well as track product quality.

Implemetation Schedule:

Year 1, 2020, April – June:  Installment of permaculture plantings.  Rose hedge, fruit trees, berries and bushes to be planted.  Initial aquaponics system built, vermicompost box expanded, compost started.  Overall design to be drafted.  Business plan completed. Research possible Co-ops or other value added business models.  Implement as many space intensive plantings as possible to tend. Make and sell sprouted bread, sourdough products and possibly micro greens and mushrooms. 

June – August: Begin harvest.  Schedule first two classes online. Begin to preserve food. Continue filming and creating manuals with all processes. 

Fall: Continue monthly online classes. Harvest, preserve, expand, Put together CSA packages to start in February. Film, continue manuals, Rinse and Repeat.

Marketing will be determined as the business plan progresses. Initial year’s marketing will be word of mouth and social media advertising.

Posted in General Blogs

Happy Mother’s Day

I wanted to wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day, whether you are a Mother, in the formal sense of the word or not. Regardless of your status, we all have, or had, a mother at some point. It is a great day to be reflective of the gifts we have in this life – gifts of birth mothers, step mothers, friend’s mothers, mother-in-laws or you can always reflect on Mother Earth if you’re struggling in the other categories.

I thank all the strong women in my life. I have been blessed with several and am equally blessed to be raising a couple more. I have always felt that whatever age my kids are, it is my favorite. My children, (I have four by birth and a couple more by heart), most are adults or young adults at this point. I find each one complex and fascinating. Although the Lockdown of 2020 has been stressful for many, I have truly cherished the slowing down of my life and having my kids around more. I am so grateful for a 15 minute conversation when they blurt out something or they process an idea or they just explain something for the 5th time because they are sure I can’t possibly understand. I see with great pride the kind hearts and sharp minds they each possess and I anticipate their futures.

So Happy Mother’s Day to us all. May you have peaceful days and take the time to focus on the good amidst all else that may be going on.

Posted in General Blogs

Mahala Love is…

The word “mahala” is found in many languages throughout the world in various forms. It translates to love, freedom, community, neighborhood or free. It comes from Arabic, Cherokee, Polynesian, Zulu and likely more.

The project comes from a desire to share knowledge (love others), to remember cultural roots (community), to provide for ourselves (freedom) and to give to others (free). Mahala is a perfect name for an imperfect project.