Hard work & Soft Laughter: A Morning Borderlands Earth Care Youth

Posted on August 9, 2015 by Borderlands Restoration in BECY, PUHS Living Laboratory
The terrace gardens at PUHS' living lab.

The terrace gardens at the PUHS living lab.

By: Grace McGuire, 2015 BECY Intern

6:00 a.m. on the streets of Patagonia is refreshingly cool and still. Many sharp bird calls are heard from trees bordering the roads, and engine noises from the occasional car add a sense of awakening. As the sun rises, the colors of Red Mountain slowly change from dark purple and blue to their daytime usual of hazel and green. Ten students arrive to the Patagonia Union High School campus, large water bottles and sun hats in their hands.

Today is another early start to the Borderlands Earth Care Youth Institute. Sleepy smiles and “good mornings” are exchanged with adult facilitators, Caleb Weaver and Allegra Mount, as we gather into a stretching circle on dewy softball field grass. We appreciatively comment on each other’s clean work outfits only because we know how quickly they will be soiled. The dirt and sweat that easily accumulate after each morning of internship are like badges of hard work, renewed each time we learn a new stewardship skill.

The author working on terrace earthworks.

The author working on terrace earthworks.

On days past, we have weeded local organic vegetable gardens, built water retaining gabbions, placed bee boxes, and cared for native plants in a greenhouse. We’ve seen much to build a memory of how to care for the land on which we live. I remember having the thought that Patagonia and the surrounding land, even though it is very familiar to me, has never seemed as rich. After being taught by those who study the way the land of southern Arizona works, I acknowledge and have new respect for the watershed that exists and dictates life through the town of Patagonia.

Back in the circle, conversation quiets as Caleb and Allegra guide us through the most recent application of Permaculture that we will create. “More terraces!” Caleb announces with a laugh. We groan jokingly. The technique of picking, hoeing and shoveling dirt coupled with rock support stacking is one of our most practiced water harvesting tactics. It is funny how the problems of runoff, erosion and non-effective water use are now issues that we know how to deal with to the point where we grumble and laugh about their installation.

Hard hats and gloves are donned while picks and shovels are handed out. As the usual level of camaraderie and playfulness rises, so does the sun. We sink into a familiar rhythm of action; a string of tools hitting dirt, breathing and soft laughter.

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    The mission of Borderlands Restoration is to reconnect wildlife, land, and people in the Arizona/Sonora Borderland region by involving people in restoring the ecosystem on which we depend.

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