from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel
Exploring the Use of Meeting Property
by Lisa Bashert
Lisa Bashert, a Meeting attender, wrote this essay while serving on Quaker House Committee, considering use of property by both the Meeting and the Residential Community.
Query: Do we treat AAFM property as though it is an expression of our values as Friends? What are those values, and how does the property surrounding our Meetinghouse either speak those values … or not speak them?
Simplicity --- · A landscape that is easily cared for and beautiful can be an expression of simplicity.
· Permaculture is a landscape design system that is self-sustaining while allowing humans and animals to reap food and other benefits. Employing some permaculture techniques in the grounds around AAFM can result in simplified care of the property.
· Native plants require little care because they are adapted to our Michigan environment: they evolved to thrive here on their own, without “maintenance.”
· Rain cachement and water barrels could supply most or all water needs for annual gardens and care of the property. Some downspouts could be directed to sunken basins surrounding fruit trees, and thus reduce stress on surrounding streams and our Huron River.
· Much of the water now wasted from laundry, showers, and sinks (greywater) could be harvested and reused.
· Use of fossil fuels for the lawnmower supports resource wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we use each gallon of fossil fuel, we are depleting a non-renewable resource. Reel mowers are effective, as are rakes, shovels, etc.
· Use of pesticides and fertilizers (mostly also based on fossil fuels) support war and squander God’s gift of land. Rather than feeding the health of the soil and living in harmony with the other beings living on/in it, we treat it as a sponge or a dead floor, allowing it to become sterile and compacted, or lifeless and eroded through wind and rain.
· Loving, embracing, feeding, building the soil allows it to come to life. We see all products of the soil (leaves, sticks, garden waste, food scraps) as valuable soil builders. We view inhabitants of the soil (like worms) as partners and allies, rather than as enemies and “pests.” We achieve a balanced environment (not a dead lawn), which naturally discourages pest outbreaks. We manage water for the benefit of the site, which discourages standing water and water-borne pests like mosquitoes. We learn about the ways and roles of insects (like carpenter bees and bumblebees) and seek ways to live in harmony with them.
· Integrity means allowing ourselves to engage with the reality and truth of our life here on a limited planet. It also means a truly right relationship with our share of Nature’s resources. Right now we Friends (as citizens of a western society) are accustomed to using much more than our share of resources. Are we willing to discuss the difficult questions and take action? How shall we warm ourselves? What shall we eat? How much is our fair share? How much energy shall we use, knowing it comes from coal, oil, and gas? Are we willing to limit our use of nonrenewable resources in the face of the fact that emissions from them are warming the planet?
· Adding more bike racks in friendly places, perhaps with a cover over them to protect from the weather, might encourage more Friends to bike to the Meetinghouse. Could we extend a roof off the AFSC building to cover racks along the windows facing the house parking lot, or on the pad between Quaker House and the AFSC Office?
· Choosing plantings that have multiple uses has integrity. Some native plants are beautiful to people with spring flowers and fall leaf color, but also have a good nectar flow for honeybees, and small fruits to attract and feed wildlife. Planting with an eye to the uses animals make of our shared space has integrity and opens us up to community with other beings.
· Raking is a community activity, as could be snow removal. One “yooper scooper” allows a single person to remove a lot of snow, but five people using them could clear all the walks and parking lots at the Meetinghouse within half an hour. If we value shared work as well as shared worship, shouldn’t the clearing tasks be communal? How do we insure that the Meeting as a whole takes part?
· Could an expanded annual garden be used to grow fresh vegetables and fruits for donation to Food Gatherers? (Several area churches have begun such programs.) Disease resistant fruit-bearing trees could be a more perennial expression of this ethic. For example, pears and apricots are easily grown with few pests and no need to spray pesticides. Elderberries, beach plums, choke cherries, hazelnuts, and serviceberries are all native edibles that both people and animals eat.
· Is an outdoor gathering place important for the Meeting? Does it need to be a large lawn of non-native grasses that require mowing, and a fair amount of maintenance and care? Rather than a lawn, a large gazebo could be built with grapes growing over the top, providing food for either people or animals, and making a shady spot below.
· Placing signs around the property could serve to remind us and educate others as to why certain choices have been made about the property. For example, if we choose to plant some native edibles, we could create a small sign explaining how the area expresses our Testimonies of Peace and Integrity by returning to food-bearing plants that naturally grow in our area and provide forage for other beings.
· Quaker House residents and Friends should have equal use of, and access to, the AAFM grounds, as well as equal responsibility for their care.
· Human overpopulation, pollution, and sprawl are creating habitat loss and extinction worldwide for other animals. As they lose more and more of their living space, do we have an obligation to these other beings to make our outdoor spaces more hospitable to their use?