The garden at the Sto:lo Nation Elders Lodge has been given a new lease on life.
Last week, the quiet and secluded garden got a facelift from the ground up. It started with moving around the soil and rebuilding beds, and it culminated in a planting blitz in the pouring rain.
Volunteers turned up to do the work, so that the elders living in the seniors home could eventually get back to nature. They did the heavy lifting, and planting, donating both their time and materials. To rebuild the beds, they used wood that was already on site, adding curves and welcoming touches throughout the plots.
Helen Paul, who helped organize the garden’s rebirth, said the hope was that one day soon the Sto:lo elders will be able to return to gathering fruits, herbs and vegetables. They can teach younger generations the importance of each plant, and share stories in the newly-renovated garden.
And everyone with access to the garden will have access to fresh, safe foods.
The project was a partnership between Sto:lo Nation and the Fraser Valley Permaculture Guild.
“This just marries really well with a lot of Sto:lo values,” Paul said. “Honouring the land, and honouring the plants.
Humans owe it to nature to take good care of it, she points out, as we are completely reliant on the land to survive yet no species needs us.
“Everything on the earth can survive without us,” she said, so we have to seek out a “reciprocal relationship” with nature.
“This teaches us, reminds us, that Mother Earth gives us every we need,” she said.
There is also no need for anyone to go hungry, Paul noted, when there are capable hands to work the land.
“We were never really hungry before,” she said, with early fishing and farming practices. “We’ve kind of lost touch with that.”
And in the process of growing your own food, she said, you’re helping address food insecurity concerns.
Now that the garden plots are rebuilt, and redesigned to be more welcoming and soothing, Paul can envision a day when elders hold sharing circles, visit with family, and offer teachings. This was already starting to happen throughout the week, as the volunteers worked tirelessly.
The garden is also a tribute to an elder who has since passed away, John McIntyre.
“This was his dream,” Paul said.
They will be leasing out some of the garden space, and will be eventually expanding to create a food forest and a greenhouse. All of the work, again, will be done by volunteers.
By next summer, residents will have fresh and free access to foods like blueberries and strawberries, medicinal and indigenous plants, along with herbs like lavender and thyme. The garden will also use good land management practices, including low impact rainwater management.
And in the end, it will act as a bridge between the elders and the rest of the community.
From the Sto:lo Elders Garden, visitors can look across a farm field and see the Coqueleetza site, and the adventurous can now walk a trail that circles the entire field.
“We want to convince people that gardening can be beautiful,” Paul said.
To learn more about the Fraser Valley Permaculture Guild, and the many projects they are involved with, visit them on Facebook.