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Natural Awakenings SW PA, Greater Pittsburgh


It has been a challenging year for gardeners in the area due to the drought but thankfully some rain has started to fall. I am lucky to have a well on my property and some basic drip irrigation. I am a lifelong organic gardener and permaculture enthusiast. Permaculture is a holistic and natural way of tending the Earth that uses indigenous wisdom and methods inspired by natural and organic gardening and farming. By using these principles, we attempt to mimic nature to support healthy ecosystems that can sustain us.


We should all be learning more about permaculture and sharing that knowledge freely. It can be used on small lots of land, homesteads or farms. There are ethical principles that embrace caring for the planet and all of its living creatures and sharing the abundance that we reap. It encourages us to think about the relationships we foster between plants, pollinators, animals, and humans, and how we can support healthy and sustainable co-existence living in equality. There is a lot of information online to learn how to tend the land so it becomes self-sustaining.


Some permaculture principles include designing the land to grow plants and trees in a way that they support and nourish each other, like food forests that provide shade for understory trees and then shrubs and on down to the forest floor. Some of the plants may provide food for humans or animals or even pollinators, but they do so by design. The design from Mother Nature or those that try to replicate her wisdom. With permaculture, we use plants that nourish other plants, such as bringing nitrogen as food. One such plant is comfrey, commonly used as a nitrogen-fixing plant to nourish trees or other plants.


Comfrey can also be used in the “chop-and-drop” method of adding nutrients to soil as a liquid fertilizer or turned into comfrey tea. It grows abundantly in most climates and is easily propagated. Another technique commonly used in permaculture is the building of swales, or small hills, to hold and direct water instead of just letting it run off. This also prevents erosion. Geoff Lawton, one of the most famous advocates of permaculture, transformed a desert climate into a fertile garden using swales. You can learn a lot from his YouTube videos.


Hugelkultur is another popular method where you basically bury wood in mounds and grow a variety of plants on those mounds. The breakdown of the wood provides nutrients and holds moisture so the mounds become very productive. These ideas that I’m sharing are just a few of the ways that permaculture uses natural methods to tend the Earth and grow food using the wisdom of nature that indigenous cultures around the globe have used. There are no toxic chemicals, but there is a synergy that is cultivated to encourage abundance and sustainability.


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Global Brief: Natural Thinking Spending Time in Nature Increases Cognitive Performance
More of our time is spent indoors than ever before. One of the ways by which nature may improve cognitive function (i.e. the acquisition of and goal-oriented use of knowledge) is by improving memory formation and recall, specifically that of short-term or working memory, and goal-oriented or directed attention; the kind that requires focused effort. By comparing and contrasting 13 studies, a team of researchers has shed light on this complex interaction in research published in Frontiers in Psychology. The studies used the backwards digit span task, which requires participants to invert a series of numbers and repeat them back. All demonstrated significantly improved cognition in nature as compared to urban environments. The benefits of studies like this are two-fold: not only are we learning more about how the brain interacts with its environment, but also how to leverage this interaction to lead healthier, more productive and happier lives.
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