Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reforestation Weekend Retreat

25 people will travel in one of Common Vision's Veggie-oil powered Buses to the Mendocino National Forest to plant 1,500 trees.

The weekend includes:
~ Organic Meals
~ Campfire singing
~ Morning Yoga classes

Cost: sliding scale $75 - $108

For more information:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Framing the bus

It was a long arduous process but the ballots are cast, the votes are in, and the floor plan is laid out. Well, not just laid out, but built... the bus has been framed. There are lots of obvious puns to resist when writing about framing a bus, but none of them will be mentioned here.
I wish there was something more exciting to tell you about, I sincerely do, like solar arrays or skylights or disco balls, but there is not. There is only framing to speak of today, and not much to say about it. So, on second thought, here is a list of "framing" puns.

1) The bus has been framed, I hope the jury sees it.

2) We finally got the bus framed, now it just needs to be hung on the wall.

3) Our director of education is from "Framing"ham, Massachussetts.

Well, pun # 3 was a stretch but there really isn't much to say about framing a bus.


Friday, December 28, 2007

"Common Vision" .... The Single

Love Eternal is a Santa Cruz based band that has offered their support for Common Vision since its beginning. Recently they released this song "Common Vision" and have been distributing the single free-of-charge to help inspire their community to rise up to the challenge of caring for the earth and each other.

Love Eternal is a collective of musicians dedicated to music as ministry. We see the power of sound vibration and lyrical content, and choose to use it to uplift and heal. We Believe that What you focus on grows, therefor our music and message is positive and affirmative of what we want to see. We Honor all paths, teachings, and traditions that encourage Oneness with the Divine, Each other, and the Planet.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Floors (and such)

The bus has a brand new bamboo floor. The transformation from cold-hard-steel-tube to warm, soft, earth-educator, home-and-transport has begun. The trick with bamboo floor (unlike interpersonal communication and foreign policy) is to not be afraid to pound it into submission with a large rubber mallet. I should also mention that despite what it says on our homepage, I am not building this bus alone. AnnaPurna and the great Stephen England are in the shop everyday building, bracketing, bracing, and babbling. They deserve your and my appreciation. I will of course be happy to forward all letters of appreciation (or antagonism) to them.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Harvest Rhythm Benefit Concerts 2007

This November, there were 4 Common Vision benefit events in 7 days, culminating in the beautiful event shown in pictures here. Many Thanks to all of the musicians, volunteers and supporters who helped make these benefits the most successful yet!
Thank You.
Arjun and Guardians....Love Eternal
Shimshai...Jah Levi...Rocker T
Human and the Human Revolution
Youssoupha Sidibe...Hollow Reed
MC Smiles-A-Lot

Orchard Updates

When Fruit Tree Tour plants up a school, let's be honest, it looks like we stuck a bunch of leafless sticks in the ground. This October, I had an opportunity to see what happens just 2-1/2 years later, as I journeyed to eight Los Angeles school orchards. The growth and production was more than I thought possible in such a short time! Meeting with the principals and teachers, I offered pruning support and lessons and got to hear the stories of what the trees have been doing since we left. This video highlights "Orchard Updates" from two LA schools.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Calling Aritsts for Bus Murals!

Common Vision is preparing to give the world’s largest recycled-vegetable-oil-powered fleet a fresh paint job for what promises to be the most powerful Fruit Tree Tour yet. The Vision needs your help for concept sketches, murals, portraits, general touch-up. If you are an artist or know of any artists who may be interested in giving creative energies to help forward the murals that thousands of California’s students will see, contact Blair Phillips: ( Painting will happen in Santa Rosa.

Common Vision is looking to add different elements to all three of the buses’ murals.Concept for largest mural on “Bu” and "Yet-to-be-Named Kitchen Bus" include:

• A fully realized Green City covered in fruit trees, urban gardens, solar panels, alternative transportation, passive solar design, alternative construction, and energy alternatives.

• On the buildings and billboards within the Green City mural, Common Vision will be renting out advertisement space to green businesses looking to support Fruit Tree Tour.

Painting on the new kitchen bus include:
• Mural depicting indigenous people holding their staple crops in front of their village farms. The mural will cover at least four different cultures and an urban farm setting.
• The tone will be against the setting sun giving the over all tone of the bus a red color.

Painting projects on murals of “Lioness” and “Bassi” include:
• portraits of farmers and farmer's rights revolutionaries
• a rainbow that turns into a DNA strand
• tribal designs and villages
• a caravan of elephants
• leaves turning into butterflies
• constellations and shooting stars
• Shading and color grading.
• Terraced hillsides.

Please send in sketches to Blair Phillips, You will be contacted with in a week of your submission. Thank you for your time and creative energy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New bus arrives in new shop!

After 913 miles of open road, the yet to be named bus and I arrived today at our shop in Santa Rosa and I began removing the original Greyhound bathroom... Yuck! The bus ran great the entire way from Tucscon at 70 miles per hour. It's December 12, and we've got fifty-two days until Fruit Tree Tour begins. So, as we say in the business, "Let's do 'dis"

Bon Soir,

Trees For Fruit Tree Tour 08

With Common Vision’s new bus on the way, Pre-tour Prep has officially begun! This time of year is special for the CV crew because we start witnessing miracle after miracle roll in! The time, energy and resources needed for Fruit Tree Tour to be the educational extravoganza that it turns into each year come in many different forms. One of the most exciting is …..Fruit Trees! This week CV received the first two tree donations for FTT 08.

Rolling River Nursery is as family farm as they come in Northern California. You can even read about their farm adventures on their website ( as well as check out their amazing varieties of fruit trees, fruiting vines and bushes, natives, groundcovers…. the list goes on. Rolling River has generously offered at least 50 fig trees for this years tour! I look forward to visiting the homestead for the fruit tree pick up!

Our second tree donation comes from Solman Fruit Trees ( Marcus Bakula will hook Fruit Tree Tour up again in 08 with the ever popular cherimoya tree! He lovingly propagates delicious fruit trees in Encinitas, CA and in 05 CV planted his cherimoyas in the center of our first Fruit Orchard Mandala at Normandie Elementary. This year our friends from CSU reported 4 cherimoyas from that tree! Cherimoyas also happens to be a long-standing FTT crew favorite- we play drums and dance for baskets full of them at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market each year! Marcus and friends are at it again this year bringing more ‘moyas to the youth and throwing in some Brazillian dwarf bananas and Venus grapes.

Big thanks to the first tree donors of 08. The CV crew is honored to bring the generousity of our supporters into the hands of California’s youth. We are on our way to 1,000 more fruit trees for 2008!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

California Rare Fruit Growers

The California Rare Fruit Growers is an inspiring organization that over the past three years has played a pivotal role in the Fruit Tree Tour. The organization is an eclectic group of hobbyists, backyard growers, government and university researchers, nurserymen and commercial growers that focus on growing fruit varieties that are not commonly grown commercially. They have been instrumental in diversifying the fruit varieties that Common Vision plants at the schools and extending the number of months that students can pick fruit from trees in their schoolyard.

This year Common Vision will be working hand-in-hand with several members of the Rare Fruit Growers to make possible the Fruit Tree Tour Nursery Rroject. The goal of the project is to grow 1000 trees a year that will provide schools from San Diego to Sacramento with fruiting trees that have delicious fruit of numerous varieties to harvest in ALL months of the school season. Stay tuned for more as this project develops!

Here are some of the key Rare Fruit Growers who have made a substantial contribution to the project to date:

Steven Spangler of the San Diego CRFG chapter and owner of Exotica Nursery has provided Fruit Tree Tour with an incredible mix of banana, tropical cherry, guava, fig, and cherimoya varieties that have been planted at schools throughout LA.

Each year Jerry Price also of the San Diego chapter has provided a workshop each year for the crew on tree care and planting and has been Common Vision’s go-to guy on all of our tree care questions.

Joe Sabol of the Central Coast CRFG chapter has run a High School Grafting Program where every spring he teaches students at 30 schools across the central coast to graft there own apple trees. This program has helped over 10,000 students to graft trees since 1998. This year he will be running a workshop for the Fruit Tree Tour crew to increase the crew’s grafting and teaching capacity for the Roots-to-Fruits Program.

Mark Alpert
of the Mendocino CRFG chapter donated over fifty pineapple guava seedlings and hundreds of Jujube (Chinese dates) seeds last year which are growing in Santa Barbara area currently waiting patiently until they are old enough to go to school with the Fruit Tree Tour.

John Valenzuela currently of the Bay Area CRFG Chapter has been a key guide in the development of the Fruit Tree Tour Nursery Project plan. As an elder in the permaculture (sustainable design) movement, John is always suggesting innovative ways to do the least work for the most gain and to make the best use of local resources.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sample Sponsor Button

Choose your Mile-a-thon pledge
Which volunteer are you sponsoring?

Monday, December 3, 2007

There's a new bus coming...

On a rainy Monday in Ukiah your beloved alternative energy specialist is about to do something some of you may deem insane. Today, I committed to picking up a bus that I have never seen or driven. You may try to stop me with your phone calls and emails but the fat is in the fire. Stay tuned for updates from the conversion shop.

Vaya con Dios,

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Biodiesel Outreach Tour (2002)

In the first years of this great decade, “biodiesel” was by no means a well known fuel option. Common Vision’s beloved founder Blair Philips searched far and wide to find someone to teach the organization how to make this mythical vegetable oil fuel. In the far reaches of the Big Island of Hawaii he found he found just this mad scientist and brought this information back to the mainland. Common Vision built a reactor out of a 55 gallon drum, three cinder blocks, a propane cook stove, and an old trolling boat motor and got to work engaging the alchemy of biofuel.

In 2002, Common traveled across America, teaching community workshops on how to brew Bio-diesel from recycled vegetable oil and create local biodiesel Co-ops in 20 cities including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, and New York City. With a volunteer crew of 10 and a mobile Biodiesel refinery, Common Vision brewed over 1500 gallons of Biodiesel fueling the entire 7,000+ mile journey.

The 2002 Biodiesel Outreach tour taught thousands of people about making biodiesel, the necessity of reducing fossil fuel consumption, and successfully left several local biodiesel Co-ops in its wake. Among the successful inspiration-seeds planted on this tour include Blue Ridge Biofuels ( in Asheville, NC, one of the nation’s larger biofuel cooperatives today.

Pranav on Drum Group 2008

My name is Pranav, and I am one of the Common Vision Fruit Tree Tour Drum Circle facilitators. As a lover of drums and drumming, it is a honor for me to serve the youth as a teacher of drumming concepts and techniques this year on Fruit Tree Tour. I thank all of the West African drum masters who have touched my life as a drummer, and also Common Vision's legendary drumming crew of this year and of yesteryear.

The Drum Group involves up to 50 students learning to play music together with Common Vision's 50 donated djembe drums. The drum group focuses on community building, respect, interconnectedness, positivity, and, of course, rhythm. Common Vision's West African style djembe drums have been on-board for almost five years and live within an amazing “drum tetris” in the under-storage compartments of BamBoomBox bus. Every day that we have the Drum Circle rotations, these drums are brought out from under the bus and into the schoolyard or community center where we are working and used as teaching tools.

With games and rhythm lessons, students learn to play together while creating a unified song on the drums. In addition to the drumming patterns involved in West African traditional music there are also dances and singing parts. Dancing to the rhythms is also taught at many of the groups. When it's at its best, the drumming and dancing comes together at the end of the session to create a group celebration that is unifying, fun and exciting.

Our facilitators teach, but are also students of west African drum and dance. The drumming techniques that are taught and the process of playing the drums with one another help to demonstrate many of Common Vision's key concepts. Respect is the first key concept that students are introduced to, this is done before they can touch the drums. We emphasize the importance of caring for the drums and of actively listening and paying attention to the facilitators while we are speaking or drumming. Listening is a crucial aspect of playing music and is also a crucial form of respect that we ask of the students so that they will be able to get the most out of the drum circle.

Community, interconnectedness, and cooperation are all involved when djembe drums and rhythms are played in unison by a large group of people, often accompanied by dancing and singing. Positivity is emphasized by the joy of the students as they get to play these instruments, and the encouragement that we offer as facilitators to come together as one “band”. This form of unification creates sweet sounding music and an atmosphere of group celebration.

We usually start off with a drum & dance demonstration and introductions. We introduce ourselves and the drums that we are bringing to the group. These are djembe drums, which are a west African style of hand drums, made with goat skin and wood. There are also a set of 3 dunun drums, which are traditionally played to accompany the djembes. The dununs are played with sticks by our facilitators and are made from thicker cow skins.

Many games and exercises can be used during the session depending on time, space and the age of the students. Typically, we start by teaching the proper postures and positions of the body and hands. Then the “break” is explained and used as a way to communicate to the group with a particular drum phrase when to all stop drumming at the same moment. This break can then be used as a signal to stop together after students “let loose” on the drums.

The heartbeat rhythm is utilized as another drum exercise. It is a rhythm that all people share within our bodies showing that we all have something in common. We use the heartbeat in order to practice the techniques of bass, tone and slaps, which are how we describe the three basic djembe drum sounds.

After the more simple introductory sections, we move towards more advanced drumming and oftentimes dancing too. Call & response on the drum is the most fun drum game for me. I am always amazed at how good children can be at repeating the complex rhythms that I play for them. In the game, students copy drum patterns and gestures from the lead djembe drummer while the dundun drums are used to play an accompanying rhythm and keep the beat.

After this we will generally start teaching traditional west African style djembe rhythms and dances. The rhythms of the songs “Fanga”, “Yankadi”, and/or “Kuku” are usually taught, which have fun and simple traditional djembe parts originating in West Africa. The students sometimes have the option to learn the dance moves for the songs being played, and then can come back to the drum circle for an amazing dance party.

Overall, the Fruit Tree Tour drum circle offers a great opportunity for youth to get an introduction to West African style drumming and dancing, while also teaching the key concepts of health, respect, interconnectedness, community, cooperation, and positivity. Its a lot of fun to be a part of the drum circle at schools, partially because I love drumming, but mainly because of the joy and knowledge that it brings to the children who get to participate.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

T-shirt Design Contest

Fruit Tree Tour 2008 is coming soon! Common Vision would love your help in designing a new 2008 crew T-shirt for our volunteers and supporting friends. Details are below this brief look at the history of the Common Vision logo.

When Zak Human of Woven Media completed the direction and production of the Common Vision documentary “Planting the Vision,” he surprised the whole staff with his amazing graphic design talent. He designed the art work on the DVD sleeve including the “Every Leaf is Our Flag” emblem and the cartoon image of the beloved Lioness, Common Vision’s eldest bus.

Thanks Pranav and Zak and all those who support the Vision and the artwork that represents it.

So who’s next? 2008 will be the fifth annual Fruit Tree Tour bringing at least another 1000 fruit trees, rhythm after rhythm, and high vibes eco-hip-hop to California’s youth. Your ideas and (especially) your artwork would be greatly appreciated! CV will feature the selected design and artist on Benefit tour as well as in the first on tour issue of Harvest Rhythm. Fruit Tree Tour crew will plant a tree in honor of you or the friend of your choice. And of course, a 100% organic cotton/hemp shirt for the artist!

Illustrate the Vision! Submit all entries to by October 28th. For those artist friends that do not have computer access, please send drawings to P.O. Box 2012 Willits, CA 95490. For the computer artists in the house, please use high resolution! If you are interested and can feel the creativity flowing already, email for the tech specs. Any design submitted will be accepted by Common Vision for free use and alterations to suit printing and world wide distribution!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Blair's Africa Journey

Blair Phillips founded Common Vision to help solve today’s environmental problems by integrating old and new cultural practices that connect people and communities to the Earth. For the past 8 years Blair has been studying West African agricultural rhythms, drumming for youth in performances, and using the drum as a tool to teach about ecology, farming, and community.

This winter Blair journeyed through Africa from the dry land tropics of Mali to the humid coast of Conakry, Guinea to deepen his study and develop the group’s presentation of the relationship between music and farming.

Two agricultural rhythms Blair encountered in his study were Konkobas and Kassa. Dances from African traditional villages mimic everyday movements like pumping water and harvesting millet. Konkobas was the original farming rhythm: it came from the Malinka words kon kon bas translated to ‘big, big hungry.’ These words became ‘Konkobas’ the ancient ancestor spirit of the strongest and hardest-working farmer.

Later, when villagers needed to increase production to meet the needs of colonial powers and to feed an expanding population, the rhythm
Kassa was born. Kassa means, “You MUST farm.”

In Guinea, drums accompany farming work parties. Drummers and farmers work together in ceremony to accomplish large, important farming projects such as clearing fields and harvesting. Fruit Tree Tour offers youth a chance to engage in this ancient tradition of farming with rhythms. Both Konkoba and Kassa are featured in this year’s Fruit Tree Tour drum and dance performance. During community plantings students, parents, and community members have the opportunity to dig and plant to these rhythms.

We hope sharing these ancient cultural traditions helps map out how we are all interconnected with each other and with the earth, inspiring us all to work hard for a better future as one human family.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tree People Tribute

Fruit Tree Tour was born when Los Angeles based nonprofit TreePeople gifted 100 fruit trees to Common Vision as part of their Fruit Trees to Combat Hunger program. Tree People have now been a vital part of 4 years of Fruit Tree Tour. TreePeople donates up to 80 percent of the fruit trees planted in Los Angeles during Fruit Tree Tour each year. This year, Common Vision will contribute 200 tree plantings towards Tree Peoples 300,000 tree pledge for the Million Tree LA initiative.

Common Vision partners with TreePeople to plant fruit trees and increase food security in low-income neighborhoods. TreePeople has offered enormous support to Common Vision not only through the donation of fruit trees, but also in helping to develop our systems to support teachers and students in caring for their trees.

TreePeople has been planting trees in Los Angeles for over 25 years. Their mission is clear--to inspire the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the urban forest. Through education, training, and support Tree People catalyzes community tree planting and care to improve LA neighborhoods in the communities live, learn, work and play.

This is truly working together to make a difference. Thank you Tree People for your inspiration and support. Visit them online at

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Stewarding trees on the road

How does Common Vision’s veggie-oil powered caravan carry 1,000 fruit trees for 3 months? Bare-rooted, dormant, cold, and moist in a 20’ long vegetable-oil powered refrigerator on wheels, of course… Taking proper care of all these trees while on the road is no small task. Fruit Tree Tour volunteer Brenda Whitney has taken on the responsibility with ceaseless dedication for the past two years. Our beloved Tree Steward now reveals to the world what caring for all these trees entails.

Each tree planted on Fruit Tree Tour passes through the hands of the crew's Tree Stewards numerous times before being planted at a school in a workshop with students. This year the Tree Steward role is being filled by a dynamic trio of women: April, Koral, and myself, Brenda. As the sole Steward last tour, I am grateful for the shared responsibilities this year, as well as the opportunity to return again and learn even more about the trees we plant.

The job is a quiet, behind the scenes, daily commitment that requires watering the trees morning and night, as well as pulling out a school's "order" for trees to be planted during the next day's program. Thankfully it can be done alone, or together, any time of day or night, and can be a peaceful meditation. Sometimes it requires driving with Maggie, one of the crew's original Tree Stewards, in the refrigerator truck to pick up trees being donated by a nursery. It is always exciting to see where our trees come from, and meet the people who are giving them to Common Vision for the Fruit Tree Tour schools. It's a joy to see the inside of the truck filled with another 50-300 trees waiting to be planted at schools.
We store all our bare-root fruit trees in a large refrigerator truck in order to keep them at a temperature below 45 F, which keeps them in dormancy (or asleep) as they are in winter time. The inside of the truck has been built up with wood to create a trough for the trees to live in, and lined with waterproof material for watering. We pull the trees out 24 hours in advance of planting them at school, to allow them time to acclimate to the climate outside. Its fun to tell the students during planting that they are not only giving the trees a permanent home, but also helping to ‘wake up' the trees, making them think its spring, and time to start growing.

Sometimes the caravan will carry up to an additional 50 potted trees of varieties that don’t go dormant or that don’t store well bare rooted. Citrus, Loquats, Cherimoya, Tropical Cherries, Pineapple Guavas, Sapote, and the Ice Cream Bean all need to be carried in pots. On days when the caravan rolls to a new location, we load all of the potted tree into one of our truck beds, and unload them at the next campsite.

I've been learning a lot more this year about the trees. As a Midwest and East-coast transplant to California, I've been learning a lot of new interesting varieties, such as the Cherimoya and Loquat. I’ve been reveling in the abundance of fruit that grows well in this region, but only comes as rare treats back home, such as citrus, figs, and avocados. I've also been learning a lot more about tree care, including pruning, grafting, irrigating, and planting regionally-specific varieties. We also keep an inventory of all the trees planted at each school, to keep a record of the orchards we leave behind each year, and to be better able to check up on their progress throughout the year as the schools continue to care for them.

Each time I plant a tree with the kids, or in the program's closing circle, I think of all the love and care that went into bringing that tree to that school, and the number of times I visited and held that tree before leaving it in its new home with the kids. We usually circle around the tree at the end of each planting, and make a parting wish; I often think of how grateful I am for such an abundance of fruit, of my role in helping to spread that abundance, and of my desire for these students to find as much joy in bringing the abundance of nature to their communities as I do.

A Koreatown nectarine reunion

On February 28th, Common Vision brought Fruit Tree Tour to an LA Koreatown school, Charles H Kim Elementary, under very special circumstances. Charles H Kim, after whom the school was named, was a nectarine farmer and fruit packer in Los Angeles in the early 1900’s. Common Vision sourced some of the nectarine varieties that Charles Kim grew and planted them with the students on the campus.

Common Vision takes great honor in sharing the Fruit Tree Tour experience with students and communities of all backgrounds. On February 28th, Common Vision brought Fruit Tree Tour to an LA Koreatown school, Charles H Kim Elementary, under very special circumstances. Charles H Kim, after whom the school was named, was a nectarine farmer and fruit packer in Los Angeles in the early 1900’s. He is credited with being a major force behind the creation of L.A.'s Koreatown. (Today, Koreatown is home to the largest number of Koreans in the world outside of Korea).

The principal of the school excitedly connected Common Vision with Daisy Kim, Charles H Kim’s granddaughter. Maggie White, Common Vision’s donation coordinator, worked with Daisy to source not just nectarines for the school, but some of the varieties that her grandfather grew and sold. Daisy said, “I was so impressed when you asked me exactly which varieties of nectarines my grandfather farmed and packed… Your presentation was a huge hit with the children! Thanks so much to all of you for everything you gave us that day.” Common Vision planted 8 Late LeGrand Nectarines at Charles H Kim Elementary.

Principal Sandra Kim announced that the school was launching a Green Students organization that would continue carrying the environmental charge by caring for the trees and helping to find ways to make the school more environmentally friendly. She thanked Common Vision for inspiring this new direction for her school.

DVD: Planting the Vision

Planting the Vision is a 45 minute documentary about Fruit Tree Tour. Zak Human and Kyla Sheffield of WovenMedia devoted half of a year to professionally produce this amazing video that truly brings to life the experience that Common Vision shares with schools and community centers. The Common Vision is humbled in gratitude by their dedication and honored to share this 9-minute preview with each of you. We hope you enjoy “Planting the Vision” and are inspired to care for Mother Earth in your community. Preview DVD

Monday, March 5, 2007

Urban Farming Collaboration (2007)

Interview with Joyce Lapinsky, LA project manager for Urban Farming during the 2007 Fruit Tree Tour planting at Washington Elementary in Compton.

One of the most potent effects of Common Vision’s work on Fruit Tree Tour is the collaborations with local and national organizations with varied foci from urban nutrition to global warming to sustainable farming to arts and ceremony. This collaboration highlight is Urban Farming’s mission is to eradicate hunger while increasing diversity, motivating youth and seniors, and optimizing the production of food on unused urban land.

Urban Farming founder and Executive Director, Taja Sevelle and Common Vision Education Director Michael Flynn have been in contact for the past 2 years, developing a strategy for working together to make real change towards their shared vision. In 2007, Urban Farming provided a scholarship for a Compton school, Washington Elementary, to participate in the Fruit Tree Tour Program free of charge. As part of the Coalition to Eradicate Hunger, Washington Elementary has agreed to give 10% of their harvest to a local food bank.

While 99% of the students at Washington are on free or reduced lunch, Principal Ontrece Ellerbe agreed that the opportunity for the students to experience giving to their larger community would be indispensable. Urban Farming and Common Vision both view this as the humble beginnings to a long relationship of planting orchards together in Los Angeles.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Six tree care ideas

Here are six projects to improve the health of your trees and continue your students’ relationships with earth stewardship and environmental education!

1. Mulch

Spread Mulch at the base of your new tree- up to 3 feet circumference around the trunk- to keep moisture in and weeds out. Remember to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to avoid rot.

2. Water (of course)

There’s much to learn watching living things grow and even more to learn by helping them along their way. A great lesson on teamwork, responsibility, science and more, keep the students involved in watering the trees. Be careful not to over or underwater 5 gallons a week per tree is a good general recommendation. As the trees grow in their third year and beyond, remember that the “feeder” roots are mostly under the drip line (the outermost tips of the branches) not just under the trunk.

3. Trunk covers

Help keep squirrels, rodents, lawnmowers and weed-wackers away from the young trunk by making cardboard cases around the trunks. Quart-sized milk cartons work well.

4. Cover the graft with paint

Your freshly planted tree may take a while to adapt to its new home and position to the sun. You can help it by taking some stress off of its most sensitive area, around its graft point. To avoid damaging sunburn on the lower trunk and graft, paint a mixture of ½ water, ½ white latex paint on the trunk and graft of your sapling.

5. Remove any weeds from around the base of the tree.

The three-foot basin of mulch around your tree should keep most grass or weeds from coming up and competing with the growing roots of the new tree. Keep the weed wacker in the tool shed and have your students get their hands close to the ground pulling weeds and taking care of their trees.

6. Staking

To reduce effects of wind and stress stake your tree to support straight and balanced growth. For best results stake from both sides and use only ties that gently cradle the tree, not cutting or rubbing against the bark. See illustration on our tree care web page.

Keep LA Beautiful

The city of Los Angeles invited Common Vision as the opening act of city's Keep Los Angeles Beautiful Campaign, thanks to Common Vision's work with the mayor's Million Trees LA project. The performance included drumming, dancing, and eco- hip hop. Senator Hillary Clinton, who was among the speakers at the event, expressed her enthusiasm for Common Vision’s tree planting projects.

Grafting 101

While each seed in an apple core will grow into a fruiting apple tree given the right conditions, only very rarely will the tree produce large and sweet (or even palatable) fruit like the apple from which the seed came. The only way to ensure the quality and character of the fruit is to cut a branch off a tree with the quality of fruit that you desire. This little branch (or scion) has several nodes out of which future branches and buds may grow.

All the little branch needs to grow an entire tree out of one of these little nodes is a steady flow of sap. Grafting is the art of attaching the sap flowing (or cambium) layer of the little branch to the sap flowing (or cambium) layer of a tree with roots. With a few careful cuts and some tape the little branch of the desired fruit variety becomes one tree with its new roots and grows into a full sized tree. Grafting is the method used for the propagation of most common fruit trees.

Roots to Fruits

Common Vision is piloting “Roots to Fruits - School Nurseries to Feed Communities” at 3-4 schools on this year’s Fruit Tree Tour. Common Vision works with the students and teachers to propagate a nursery of 50 – 200 saplings of varieties of fruits that are especially requested and adapted for school plantings in their area. Common Vision educators demonstrate the process of grafting fruit trees (see Grafting 101 below). Students witness and participate in one of the most amazing miracles in nature, the combining of two trees to give both strong roots and delicious fruits. Common Vision gives students the charge to care for the young trees for two years. These trees can then be planted at community centers, neighborhoods in their area and shared with more schools during Fruit Tree Tours to come.

Common Vision’s first “Roots to Fruits” nurseries:

Vista Del Valle Elementary
3 years and 33 fruit trees deep in Fruit Tree Tour participation Vista was honored to be the first Roots to Fruits Nursery. They are caring for 50 grafted apples and 20 rooting fig cuttings.

North Hollywood High School
Under the guidance of soil science teacher Randy Vail, the students in the Naturalist Academy – an environmental track at North Hollywood High, will be hosting the largest Roots to Fruits Nursery. There nursery is holding 50 apples, 100 grape, and 100 fig trees for Fruit Tree Tour. Additionally they gifted Common Vision with 20 4 year old Cherimoya trees. Big thanks for this budding collaboration.

Carrying the seed

From the indigenous communities of Mexico, Fruit Tree Tour has been honored to travel with a seed carrier, bringing ancient Mayan corn seed to schools to plant with children. The schools agree to take care of the corn and provide a sanctuary for the preservation of the native seed, a refuge, in an act of solidarity with the traditional farming communities that are struggling to maintain their ancient ways. The seeds carry a message of the importance of preserving native seeds and the traditional culture contained within. Students learn from the seed carrier about the genetic modification of corn seeds and the effects of a variety of different modifications, including the threats that these modifications have upon the ancient way of growing our own food from seeds.

The three crops of corn, beans and squash are grown together in Mexico to feed large numbers of people. Students learn about how many products and foods in their daily lives are related to corn. In the desert climate of California where the wind blows strong, three corn seeds are planted together so that their roots will interweave, embracing each other and forming a stable base for the magnificent corn which can grow up to 17 feet tall. Each trio of seeds is spaced one large step away from the next trio of seeds. The corn is planted a depth of 3 inches deep, about the length of an adult's finger pressed into the soil, and then gently covered with soil. The corn likes to be watered once a week, with a good soak, and to dry out again before the next watering 8 days later. The youth are encouraged to care for their corn and thanked for their participation in the global effort to save seed and conserve culture.