The Joy of Making ‘This Wonderful World’ Together: Musical Media to Share the Love Our Community

By Alana Mirror, creator of This Wonderful World: a musical reality-show where love for ourselves, each other, and the Earth become one

We enjoyed having Alana attend the Pollinator Pathway garden installation on Mare Island, which was through our Solano Sustainable Backyards program supported by the Solano County Water Agency and in partnership with several organizational partners. When Alana shared the music videos she created out of her experience from those two days, we were moved by the way she captured the sense of community and connection with the earth and each other that we treasure at SuSol events. Here, she shares a bit about that experience and her This Wonderful World project.

Alana Mirror, left, plants alongside other workshop participants at the Pollinator Pathway garden on Mare Island

Hi Sustainable Solano community! My name is Alana and I’m here to support this community with my media and music project called This Wonderful World, a living musical to celebrate all the wonderful things folks do to love Earth. I’m currently working on the spring season of this project, which largely features the Sustainable Solano community. In this season, I’ve been writing songs, making videos, and telling stories based on what I’ve witnessed in Sustainable Solano volunteer days — and you may be featured! These songs and stories are shared on YouTube as well as in a live performance.

Since I began participating in this community, I’ve been deeply inspired by the love, dedication, and warm welcome that has been demonstrated in the events that I’ve attended. I began this project because I was overwhelmed and anxious on so many levels. I needed something to help me keep my head up as we’re all called to create a world that thrives as a whole. It’s big work, but I’ve been so supported by the positivity and encouragement that has been shown to me that I want to pass it on. I hope this series can be light for you as you have been a light for me.

Pollinator Pathway Playlist

Sustainable Solano will be sharing this series in the newsletter, so keep any eye out for the links! As a native of Solano County, I am so proud of all the ways we are meeting the challenges of our time with love, inclusion, and great dedication to our environment. 

I also invite you to participate in the creation of This Wonderful World by sharing your story of finding hope and inspiration in this community. Here’s what to do:

Share a link to your favorite video/mini-series from This Wonderful World on your media channel of choice (including private email and texts) with your own tale of seeing This Wonderful World come to life in this community. If you’re on social media, make sure you tag  #thiswonderfulworld @sustainablesolano and @alanamirror so that you can see and support each other’s stories of making This Wonderful World together. By the end of the season, I would love to see a collection of stories from this community that can continue to inspire us as we move forward, together!

In your description, tell your friends and family: How did the wisdom of the earth and/or the love in this community support you in your life? What about your experience do you want to pass on to others, and why?

This invitation is open to both folks who participated in the events shown in the videos, as well as those who weren’t there, but who recognize what’s happening from other experiences you’ve had with Sustainable Solano, or other community efforts that love Earth. 

Thank you so much for being part of bringing This Wonderful World to life! It is a true joy to celebrate and serve with you. Hope to see you out there!

This Wonderful World is the latest production from Alana’s greater work, called The Living Mirror Project, a creative practice that generates peace by seeing ourselves in everything.

Learn more about This Wonderful World here
Watch the whole series here
Follow Alana on Instagram @alanamirror
Sign up for Alana’s newsletter here
Contact Alana at thelivingmirrorproject@gmail.com if there are any service events that you think should be celebrated in this series, or for more info on booking a live musical show.

Pollinator Pathway Garden Puts Spotlight on Native Plants & Pollinators on Mare Island

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

Painted lines and flags show the sections of the Pollinator Pathway garden that will focus on different types of pollinators once this lawn is converted into a native plant garden

 

Sometimes the vision to create something different takes a variety of partners to move toward reality. A vision of transforming Mare Island to support local pollinators is taking a step forward with the creation of Pollinator Pathway, a new educational demonstration garden that will highlight waterwise native plants that feed and nurture pollinators.

Vilma Aquino from Vallejo People’s Garden contacted us last year with the vision to replace the lawn at the Global Center for Success with a pollinator habitat to educate the community on the use of California native and pollinator plants in the landscape. She explained that monarch butterflies overwinter in the eucalyptus and redwood trees by St. Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island and that their numbers have been declining over the years. I wasn’t aware that monarch butterflies overwinter in Solano County! During the Thanksgiving 2022 Monarch count, approximately 300,000 monarch butterflies were counted at over 400 overwintering sites up and down the California coast. At St. Peter’s Chapel, the Monarch Milkweed Project counted approximately 500 monarch butterflies, but they didn’t overwinter. The Monarch Milkweed Project believes they moved on because there were not enough nectar plants on Mare Island for them and that St. Peter’s grove might need some changes to support a large population of butterflies.

I definitely have noticed the Mare Island streets lined with water-thirsty green lawns. It inspired me to dream and ask the question: What would it look like if everyone transitioned the water-loving lawn to drought-tolerant California native and pollinator plants that create habitat for pollinators including the monarch butterflies?

Toward that vision, SuSol is excited to partner with Vallejo People’s Garden to create a demonstration site that will show just how people could do that with their own landscape. On Feb. 11 and Feb. 18, we will be replacing the lawn at the Global Center for Success with a 3,000-square-foot California native and pollinator plant garden called Pollinator Pathway. The vision for this project is to be an educational site for people to learn about plants that provide habitat and food for our beloved pollinators and inspire others to replace their lawn with habitat.

What makes this project unique for Sustainable Solano:

  • This is our first project in Vallejo focused primarily on native and pollinator plants.
  • The plants will be hand-watered with the goal to stop watering once they are established (adding drip irrigation can be expensive, leave a carbon footprint and the expense and expertise needed can deter people from planting).
  • There are no gutters on this historical building. Instead of the swales people are familiar with from our other garden installations, we will be digging water-catching basins around the plants.

In 2009, Vilma put her dream into action through starting the Vallejo People’s Garden. She is passionate about education and has plans to expand the Pollinator Pathway into a self-guided educational garden where people can come to learn about native and pollinator plants.

Through planning this project we connected with a number of local organizations that will be collaborating with us! You can learn more about each below. Sustainable Solano holds so much gratitude for all involved in making Vilma’s Pollinator Pathway vision a reality.

Partner Organizations

John Davenport, from Cali Ground Troops worked closely with the Vallejo People’s Garden to design the Pollinator Pathway garden and he will be guiding the installation on Feb. 11 & 18.

The Monarch Milkweed Project is a nonprofit organization in Solano County that works to educate, propagate, and legislate on behalf of the Western Monarch Butterfly and other pollinators. They will be providing volunteers & education during the installation days, and will also assist with the expansion of pollinator-friendly plants throughout Mare Island.

Solano Resource Conservation District will be providing native plant and pollinator resources to educate the community during the installation. SRCD will be helping us source and pay for the plants! They will also be working with the Vallejo People’s Garden to provide education and expand the Pollinator Pathway throughout Mare Island.

The Vallejo People’s Garden sparked the vision for the Pollinator Pathway and will continue to care for this garden and the surrounding land around the Global Center for Success. This project will be an expansion of their edible garden with plans to continue to educate the community about growing food and supporting pollinators. They have weekly volunteer opportunities every Thursday and Sunday morning 9:30-11:30 am. Vilma, Suzanne and many other members have volunteered many hours to research, prep and plan for this installation!

The Vallejo Project engages youth in leadership empowered by service and community. Most of their programming is held at the Global Center for Success and many of their youth leaders are passionate about urban agriculture. The program runs its own garden (Unity Garden at 2160 Sacramento St.) as an opportunity for community members, youth and other stakeholders to restore an abandoned lot. Inspired in part by work with SuSol, The Vallejo Project is turning an area that was once filled with sand and garbage into a multi-level food forest that uses internationally influenced farming techniques. To support this garden, contact ann@vallejoproject.org. Vallejo Project youth will be taking photos, videos and documenting the story of Pollinator Pathway garden during the installation days!

Native Plants

Native and pollinator plants are included in all of SuSol’s demonstration food forest gardens. This is the first project in Vallejo where we are focused primarily on native plants and pollinators. Our local nurseries have native plant areas, but Solano County doesn’t have a nursery specializing in native plants. Oftentimes I will read about incredible native plants and then I can’t find them in our local nurseries.

The Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society here in Solano County provided us with native plant resources and provided educational flyers that we will hand out on the installation days. They operate a small native plant nursery in Vallejo (about 1500 square feet of plants) producing about 1,500-2,000 plants annually. This nursery isn’t open to the public, but they do have annual plant sales. They also recommended the Watershed Nursery in Richmond because they follow best management practices to grow pathogen-free plants.

 

Native Plant Resources

Download this brochure with recommended native plants for the entire county

Visit the Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanic Garden at the Benicia State Recreation Area

Solano RCD spring plant sale will be Saturday, March 25, at Mangels Vineyards in Suisun Valley

Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour 2023 (Virtual: April 15 & 16; In-person: May 6 & 7)

Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society’s Spring Plant Sale is always the first Saturday in May (May 6, 2023) and the Fall Plant Sale is the first Saturday in October (Oct. 7, 2023)

Native Plant Nurseries in the Bay Area

Calscape.org is an excellent resource that will help you select native plants that will work best for your yard

Learn more about pollinators in this resource from Solano Resource Conservation District

2022 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour Slideshow

By Sustainable Solano

We were so excited to visit with those of you who attended this year’s Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour on April 23. It was uplifting seeing so many people able to return to the gardens, have meaningful conversations with the Food Forest Keepers and each other, reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. We appreciate all of you who attended and hope that you will join us for upcoming events (including the Fairfield & Vacaville Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour on June 4), workshops, talks and more if you are inspired to bring some of these waterwise approaches to your gardens.

Learn about this year’s gardens here. And view the slideshow below to see each garden and some highlights from the day. Thank you to everyone who shared their photos!

Benicia & Vallejo Tour Slideshow

2022 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Tour

This program is made possible by the generous support from the Solano County Water Agency.

2022 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Tour is April 23!

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

We will be opening up our demonstration food forest gardens in Benicia and Vallejo for the annual tour on April 23, and are thrilled to be back with our regular tour! Learn about this year’s gardens here.

Each garden is a unique expression of the homeowner and the land and was designed using permaculture principles. These gardens offer ideas and inspiration on how to use water efficiently while creating a lush thriving garden that supports life and provides food and habitat. During this pandemic, the food forest keepers have been doing really cool things to serve the Solano County community. This year some of the garden sites will have information on what they have been up to for the past two years: bees, honey, Monarch butterflies, Food is Free stands, native plants, local food and so much more. All of the gardens will showcase plants that thrive in Solano County!

When you pick up your full-day itinerary at Avant Garden in Benicia, you’ll have an opportunity to hear a talk on soil biology and soil health at 9 am. Want to join us for just the afternoon touring Vallejo sites? You can pick up your itinerary from noon-1 pm at St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School in Vallejo and have an opportunity to learn about what’s going on in local food. Find more details below!

For the past two years we were challenged to get creative with garden tours. We created a few video tours the first year of the pandemic that expanded our educational video library but couldn’t convey the full vision of what it’s like to stand inside these gardens. Last year the gardens were open to private tours.

Over the past two years I have missed seeing people smile and the magic that unfolds when people gather. We thrive when we are connected. Our deepest hope for this year’s tour is that people get energized and inspired to take action and become caretakers of the land and each other.

We look forward to seeing you this year as we return to a full tour, but with some changes that should add to your experience. Read below to find out more about the day’s events and what to expect in each garden so you can plan out your day!

Register here

This program is made possible by the generous support from the Solano County Water Agency.

Plan Your Day

Learn about each garden you can visit here

How It Will Work

You can choose to tour for the whole day or for half a day.
Learn about the gardens here
Benicia Demonstration Food Forest Gardens will be open 10 am-1 pm
Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Gardens will be open 1-4 pm

Register here

Itinerary pickup and special events:

9-11 am: Itineraries will be available at Avant Garden in Benicia (400 First St.). This itinerary will include all of the demonstration food forest gardens in Benicia (open in the morning) and Vallejo (open in the afternoon).

9 am: Sustainable Solano Program Manager Michael Wedgley will give a talk at Avant Garden on how to have garden abundance with healthy soil biology, including the creation of compost extracts and teas to add soil biology where it’s needed. He will then apply compost extract to the community shared plot at the garden, which grows food for donation. ***Bring a mason jar and get some compost extract while supplies last.

12-1 pm: Itineraries for the Vallejo garden sites (open in the afternoon) will be available at St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School (1500 Benicia Rd., Vallejo)

12 pm: Learn about Sustainable Solano’s local food programs at St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School. The Local Food team will have details about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in Vallejo and Benicia where you buy directly from local farms, favorite family recipes from our Youth Cooking Program students, information about local farms, agritourism, and how to engage in food rescue and recovery. Stick around for student demonstrations and check out beehives and honey there on campus.

Get Back in the Garden: 2021 Garden Tour Reimagined!

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

Time in any garden is well spent, and we invite you to spend time in a local garden on April 24 for our Annual Demonstration Food Forest Garden tour in Benicia and Vallejo.

We have reimagined the tour this year to safely open for private in-person, self-guided tours. In the past, our demonstration food forest tours have been a festive community event where many gather to tour. Last year, COVID precautions moved the event entirely online, but it was important for us to find a way this year to get people into the gardens. To do that, we invite you to choose an individual garden to tour for a 30-minute interval per household/family bubble. All participants will be asked to follow COVID safety rules, including wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet apart. You can select a garden and register here.

These diverse demonstration food forest gardens are on private and public sites and were installed by the community through educational workshops. They demonstrate how capturing secondary water, such as rainwater and laundry-to-landscape greywater, combined with healthy soil and waterwise drip irrigation can yield lush, food-producing gardens!

These gardens are so much more than examples of ecological features; they are a place to heal after a difficult day, a spot to watch seeds emerge, a place to grow food and pass on the excess, a place to gather to celebrate and to grieve, and a place where strangers become new friends. Each of these gardens has a name and a story and beautiful Food Forest Keepers.

A Food Forest Keeper is a caretaker of a demonstration food forest. Each year they agree to tour their food forest and to be an example on how to use space to create habitat, grow food and to educate and inspire others to do the same.

This is a rare opportunity to privately explore one garden within the safety of your family/friend bubble and to ask our Food Forest Keepers questions. Each garden is a unique experience: some are compact front yards, others are on a slope, some share space with animals and small children, some are allowed to grow without restriction, while others are more manicured. We hope you select a garden that interests you most and that you are inspired with ideas on how to work permaculture design principles into your own garden!

In 2022, we hope to go back to the tour being a community event where many can gather and we are looking for input from you. What would you like to see in the Demonstration Food Forest Tour in 2022? Please take this short survey.

The tour and Solano Sustainable Backyards program is made possible through the generous support of the Solano County Water Agency. The Resilient Neighborhoods program has been generously funded by the Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation Foundation.

4th Annual Demonstration Food Forest Tour a Reimagined Success

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

Permaculture expert John Valenzuela shows the roof water outlet at Living & Learning garden in Benicia during the video tour

Our 4th Annual Demonstration Food Forest garden tour was very different this year, but still brought people together in new ways around the concepts of permaculture and creating waterwise, edible gardens. Permaculture expert John Valenzuela gave a talk over Zoom to nearly 100 people that included a Q&A session and a pre-recorded video tour with John in one of our 27 demonstration food forest gardens.

What also made this year unique was it opened up the opportunity for people from all over the country to be able to attend, even people from the UK and Canada! It was comforting to see all of the familiar faces and exciting to see new people as we are all adjusting to this new way of interacting through video conferencing.

We had to rethink the annual tour this year due to the pandemic and social distancing. The big vision is a community day of local people gathering to tour the gardens, get to know each other and learn about permaculture concepts that can be applied to their landscapes. The original plan was to begin the tour at Avant Garden in Benicia with John’s talk and then 14 demonstration food forest gardens would be open in Benicia and Vallejo for a self-guided tour. These gardens are open annually to educate the community on how to create beautiful and productive gardens that build healthy soil and use water wisely.

Knowing we needed to bring the tour to life in a new way this year, our Sustainable Solano team got into solution mindset. We found David Avery, a videographer that made the video of John touring Living & Learning food forest in Benicia. Then on April 25, John gave his live talk over Zoom and answered many questions on plants and fruit trees. For those who couldn’t make the live event, you can view the talk and Q&A in the video below.

 

View the Living & Learning tour video below.

 

Stay tuned for more! In May, we will record Lydia Neilsen touring The Ripple Effect and The Enchanted Cottage garden in Vallejo. At a later date, Lydia will present her Rehydrate the Earth talk in a live Zoom call. We are also creating a series of short videos on the elements that go into creating your own food forest garden. To stay on top of the latest, subscribe to our newsletter here.