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October 4, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The Permaculture site on the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse Campus includes numerous wonders – sunflowers, an edible food forest, rain gardens to prevent storm run-off and erosion, and even bins of worms involved in composting. But a new addition – an outdoor sink – could lead onlookers to wonder, “What is this doing here?”
Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Office of Sustainability, and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, explained the practical use of the sink: to provide water to clean produce from the Permaculture site before it’s used in the Motherhouse kitchens.
“It was a way to streamline the process,” Jared explained. “We would deliver huge amounts of potatoes to the kitchen,” leaving it up to the kitchen staff to wash them. But that was too much for the kitchen staff to handle on top of their other duties, he said. Permaculture harvests typically include more than 200 pounds of potatoes, 250 pounds of apples, and a variety of other crops.
Jared, Sister Corinne, and other Permaculture Co-workers began to wash the produce in a bucket of water. “It worked but it was cold and got dirty – and you had to crouch at a weird angle,” Jared explained. Afterward, they washed the produce in the Madden Hall kitchen.
Providentially, Joel Henricks, Director of Facilities and Grounds, was replacing the water main of the Motherhouse and had considered adding a spigot to the Permaculture site. “They were doing this once-in-a-lifetime work,” Jared said. “It was now or never to put the spigot in Permaculture.”
The sink – designed and built by Jeff Mackey, of the Facilities and Grounds Department – incorporates the water spigot and includes protection from the elements, storage space for rags, and shelves for the produce. The water comes from the City of Adrian and is potable – safe to drink and to wash produce.
By contrast, the plants in the Permaculture site are irrigated by rainwater catchment – allowing the Motherhouse to re-use water that comes to Earth naturally, Sister Corinne said.
Jared said it took Jeff about a month to complete the sink – in between the many other projects in which Facilities and Grounds Co-workers are involved. But his work drew attention from many other Co-workers who saw the project and even tried to place orders for their own outdoor sinks.
The sink will come in handy this semester as honor students from neighboring Siena Heights University come on Friday mornings to learn about Permaculture and the environment and to provide hands-on service. At the end of September, the students were involved in a potato harvest – requiring extensive use of the new sink.
Sister Corinne said another positive aspect of the sink is that it could involve some creative gatherings – perhaps tea-tasting or soup making. “How it ends up getting used will unfold as it does,” Jared added.
If you have any creative ideas of how the kitchen sink could be used for gatherings, please include them in the comment section below.
Feature photo: Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, washes potatoes in a new sink created by Jeff Mackey, of the Facilities and Grounds team, to provide a convenient place to wash produce from the Permaculture site with potable water.
September 9, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – As the season begins to change from summer to autumn, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates heard an update on the summer’s successes and challenges in the Permaculture Garden and in Motherhouse campus sustainability efforts – as well as a look ahead to the September 1-October 4, 2022, liturgical Season of Creation.
Permaculture (permanent + agriculture) is a design system that cooperates with and learns from natural systems rather than dominating them.
Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, began the August 31, 2022, in-person and live streamed presentation on a personal note, reflecting on how much he had learned in his past 3½ years of working with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“In my own mind and experience, I’ve learned a lot since being here, and I can say that I have become closer to the person that I wish to become,” Jared said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without being here.”
Jared spoke of the successes of the past summer, including greater yields from fruit trees; flourishing vegetable gardens; the continued development of Hügelkultur mounds, in which gardens are built on mounds made up of decaying wood and plants; the successful experiment of using controlled burns to lessen the problem of insect pests; and tours of the Permaculture Garden by Siena Heights University students, as well as the planned return of honors Siena Heights students to learn about and work on the Permaculture site.
But Jared also noted some challenges this summer, including difficulty finding and retaining a seasonal assistant; dry weather that affected the crops; a “noticeable increase in pest pressure” on the crops from wildlife such as raccoons, possums, and deer; and delays in erecting a 10-foot fence to keep the deer out.
“This was probably one of the more challenging growing seasons … but hopefully it will end on a note that says that even though it was challenging, it was worth going through and I felt like I learned a lot,” Jared said, adding that “in the long run, [challenging times] can be the times when you learn the most.”
Joel Henricks, Director of Facilities and Grounds, gave an update on campus sustainability projects. He reported that some of the material needed to begin production of the solar array in the field behind Weber Center and the solar panels on the carport of the parking lot of the Regina building has finally arrived after a year-long wait, but more is still needed. Some work is also still needed on the six electric vehicle charging stations set up in the parking lot for future use, he said.
Joel also reported on another sustainability project, restoration of a pond, which has attracted a great deal of wildlife: frogs, deer, geese, ducks, dragonflies, and native plantings. Hopes are ultimately to stock the pond with fish, he said.
Another sustainability effort is to continue planting trees to replace those that were removed for the solar array field and others that had died. “The good news is that I’m never in a shortage of people wanting trees planted,” Joel said. “There are constantly donors who would like to buy a tree in memory of someone, so we’re working with [the Development Office] to replace trees as we’re having to have them removed.”
Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Office of Sustainability, focused on the campus celebration of the Season of Creation, a global, ecumenical celebration of creation and a reminder of the need to take care of Earth and its inhabitants.
Sister Corinne noted the beauty of creation, but also its struggles. “We are in a time of great urgency as we can see where destruction has happened,” she said. “We hear the cry of the Earth and we’re asked to hear the cry of those who are poor. … I think we can see that every action we’re taking on this campus … is really one way to address that cry of the Earth.”
But she also noted that the Congregation and the world still have a long way to go in addressing global climate change and other threats to our environment. “The Season of Creation was intended to help us look at that which is beautiful and to look at that which needs our response – our immediate response at this point,” she said.
Sister Corinne will formally take office on October 8, 2022, as a member of the Congregation’s General Council. She and the other members of the General Council will lead the Congregation in living out the five 2022 General Chapter Enactments, including the Sustainability Enactment that calls on the Congregation to participate in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The Adrian Dominican Congregation will be among Catholic organizations worldwide who work together to meet specified sustainability goals to bring healing to Earth.
Watch the entire video below.