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New Sink in Permaculture Garden Provides Potable Water to Wash Produce

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.

Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Office of Sustainability, washes potatoes from the Permaculture site the old way – in a bucket.

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.

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