What's Happening


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 AslaksonJared 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 HenricksJoel 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, OPSister 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. 


August 7, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters on the Motherhouse campus for weeks waited with great anticipation the arrival of 20 guest workers to the campus. On the morning of July 31, 2021, the workers arrived, strolling out of the trailer of Munchers on Hooves: a herd of 20 goats.

No kidding – goats at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse?

From left, Sisters Joella Miller, OP, Anele Heiges, OP, and Rosemary Asaro, OP, wait for the goats to be let out of their trailer.

The goats are part of a long line of non-human Co-workers serving in the Congregation’s permaculture site. The area has also been the home of thousands of worms who, through the practice of vermiculture, have helped compost organic materials. More recently, two hives of bees have made their home at the Motherhouse, serving as pollinators. The goats, in turn, immediately went to work, grazing on the vegetation in a designated, fenced-in area of the permaculture site. 

While their arrival has brought about great anticipation and excitement since Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, announced it to the campus community in a July 15, 2021, email, the goats have come on campus for a serious purpose: to keep invasive species of plants in check and to help manage the landscape.

Goats are a natural for the permaculture site. Permaculture is a system of land use that cooperates with natural systems rather than dominating them, with a focus on sustainability and ecological health. 

In recent years, goats have become more popular for land restoration work, Jared explained. Garrett and Gina Fickle, owners of Munchers on Hooves, have rented their goats to people in residential areas, construction sites, and rural land for about six years. 

The goats were set to work at the Motherhouse, grazing in three designated areas, each fenced off in turn by Garrett, Gina, and other employees of Munchers on Hooves. They were remained at the Motherhouse for five days to complete their tasks. 

One goat is already hard at work, grazing on the Permaculture site.

“When I started working here and seeing what the permaculture site is doing, it seemed obvious that one of the things the field could benefit from was having large grazers,” Jared said. He sees the goats as part of an overall strategy to rid the site of invasive plant species, particularly the Bradford Pear tree; teasel, a flowering plant; and Canadian thistles. 

Invasive species – those that are natural to other areas but introduced into new areas – can exploit the ecosystem and hurt the native species. “An invasive species is placed outside of the ecological place in which it was evolved, so it doesn’t have anything that will naturally function to keep it in check,” Jared explained. By dominating the ecosystem and reducing the number of native plants, invasive plants also damage the pollinators and insects that depend on the native plants and reduce species diversity. 

Goats are a more natural solution to invasive plants than chemical herbicides. “The idea is that with repeated disturbance – things like mowing and grazing by large animals – you’re preventing the invasive species from sending out seeds and taking over the area,” Jared explained. The goats are coming late enough in the season that it would be hard for the invasive plants to come back in the summer. The goats will slow their spread, he added.

“Using these grazers in combination with mowing and burning when appropriate is a super important way to get a handle on what’s going on and form higher quality plant communities,” Jared said. “The move toward using biological means rather than chemical or mechanical means is a good thing. It’s partnering with what goats want to do anyway. If we could get closer to our goals on the land, that’s a real win-win.”

The situation is certainly a “win” for the goats, who spend their time grazing on land that provides a variety of plants – and for the Sisters and Co-workers, who have enjoyed watching the goats from a distance. The hope is that the Munchers on Hooves goats will make several return visits in years to come, helping to create a diverse and healthy permaculture site on the Motherhouse property.

Feature photo: Goats exit the Munchers on Hooves trailer to begin work at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Permaculture Gardens.



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