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Sensory garden project - November 2011

Create a sensory garden that gives meaning to a life lived together.

Partially published by "Orti di Pace" - July 1st, 2012. www.ortidipace.org



The pollution, the ignorance, and the indifference to the environment (which are everywhere in Lebanon) led us to think about a project with the objectives to educate youths about conservation of the environment around them and let them discover the importance of getting into communication with all parts of that surrounding environment.

After much study and thought, we decided our goal, would be to create a garden of ‘sensory education’. This would promote the strengthening of ties between people and their natural environment as well as develop a new, more conscious and respectful attitude towards it. The aim was to help students of all ages and backgrounds realize the importance of the inseparable bond between all life on earth and the need for respectful behavior towards nature.

The realization of this project would create an interest and desire that would be shared by different religions, ethnic groups, social conditions, and sexes. All of which, under the flag of environmental protection, would constitute the basis on which to establish good social relations among the residents of the territory.




November 18th, 2011, in Kfarnabrakh with Abuna Abdo Raad, I saw for the first time the piece of land, long owned by his family, where a dream was being realized: the creation of a ‘sensory garden’ that would give meaning to a life lived together.

When Abuna Abdo would play as a child. he would imagine the shapes of the stones as real and fantastic animals and would play with shadows created by the sun and moon in the sky. Watching them, he was curious about the life of the wild plants and all things - large and small - that moved among them, Heaven's Garden. The term ‘paradise’ comes from a Persian word. It means: best of all the gardens, so beautiful, it is almost hard to imagine! We believe that paradise can become a reality, and we will strive to share that same wonder that Abuna Abdo felt with the world.

Right now, a large part of the site is in its natural state. Partly covered by asphalt, vegetation mixes among stones and pebbles. And, there is also the foundation of a house that has not been completed.

The intention is NOT to clear the ground, NOT to terrace, and NOT to remove(or relocate) even the smallest stones and rocks. We will intervene as little as possible in order to preserve those elements that make this piece of our planet unique, while also striving not to overturn the garden imagined by little Abdo.

The actual morphology of the location will be our focus as this project progresses through implementation.

But it is our desire to make a garden. We will not entirely give way to natural evolution, which implies that there will be a gardener interpreting and identifying with the locations nature. By re-instating nature, will be able to draw on all its aspects. And, by reaching a harmony with nature, we will be able to specifically highlight its unique characteristics. The stated aim of all of this is to conceive and realize the dream of Abuna Abdo: A "Sensory Garden" that gives meaning to a life lived together.

The gardener alone does not decide what makes the garden, but rather the bending of the terrain, the depressions that hold rainwater more than others, the small and large open spaces between the stones, and the observation of plant species that already reside there will all give valuable and precise information on the composition of that soil. It will be a continuous and endless collaboration between man and nature: a way of life just as Abuna Abdo dreamed.

A small portion of the land will be left completely free to evolve at its wishes, without any intervention of the gardener, and it will be an important workshop on biodiversity and phytosociology of the place.

The boundaries of the property will be defined by a hedge that will be multifunctional.Serving an aesthetic function, as protection from possible external pollution, and as a windbreak - it will become a micro system for the life of insects, birds, and small wild animals with which the sensory garden will learn to live in harmony. The hedge will also produce fruit for delicious and refreshing jams and syrups.

Visitors will never forget the sculpted work of art that is the ancient cosmic tree, nor the plant-life growing around and over it. Nearby Almonds and Potatoes are a surprising wonder! Many things are unknown to this day concerning the natural behavior of domesticate plant in their original form. Plants, born of the seed (non-grafted and non-hybrid) will maintain their natural form.They will not be pruned.

When the Construction is completed, the location will host more than the family of the gardener (who will constantly take care of the garden), there will even be a covered area for ​​the implementation of activities on bad weather days. There will be a small kitchen used to teach and transform earth products using traditional recipes and to have fun discovering new ones. A small guest house will be staffed for short periods with scholars and volunteers.

The presence of bee hives at one end of the garden will encourage good pollination and will provide the stimulus for activities on the knowledge of bee-life, which is always of great interest to adults and children alike. Visitors can enjoy the fragrance of honey juice straight from the comb. A little house protects visitors, while a beekeeper can display life inside a hive, the mounts of the queen bee, the laying and hatching of eggs, and the dance of worker bees and drones.

To help the plants grow, we will use only natural products derived from mowing the grass allowed to grow in the garden or the droppings that the birds leave upon the ground. Some free poultry in the garden will delight children and also contribute to soil fertilization. It is possible that there are many things that we have forgotten about our friends; the chickens. Here we will follow their wild habits.

Our guests will be invited to assist the operators of the organic garden with "waste snacks" or by collecting seeds of any fruit or vegetables. These seeds will be material for a wonderful game. The children will make a ball of clay, mixing the seeds within, then the children themselves will throw the balls into the space reserved for hedges. Nature (is a contraction of the Latin word "nascitura" - to be born) will do the rest. When weather conditions are favorable, the rain water will soften the clay and the seed will germinate. Any remaining organic waste will be deposited in holes and become a natural fertilizer.

We believe, rather than weeding, it is best to adopt a system of coexistence with herbs. The so-called "weeds", we are convinced, might be a good intercropping method thus promoting the health of our plants. And, we do not tear the "rogue" herbs in the garden that are born elsewhere, but we see if, by chance, the land in that part of the plot would be more suitable for those species. And, we will also try to change the past point of view of "misplaced", or "untidy" to that of joining "the order in which nature evolves in that place". It is the work of "poetry in motion" that creates and recreates nature in every moment that is both surprising and intriguing. It will be more wonderful than we can imagine!

Where the weeds and grasses become seriously liable to compromise the survival of the species that we are cultivating, natural materials such as pine needles, wool from sheep, or woods are used in order to counter their growth dramatically. Adopting violent methods of eradication would declare the complete failure of our project and we would not have made any progress in the knowledge of our territory. We must learn to live without destroying our environment and to live together in mutual respect-with the belief that all living things are useful to everyone's life.

Through the use of local science, natural remedies will be used to combat disease from the moment it appears. Consideration will also be given to all the solutions that modern science may offer, though emphasis will always be placed on the side of nature. This area will be the subject of much study and experimentation.

Disease as well as death itself, are both a part of human nature, parts to which we must all submit. We may fight the first and delay the second, but we can prevent neither.

We would like to express our conviction to NOT use synthetic products for fertilizing, weed control, or disease control. We believe in the daily effort to find a living, working relationship with nature using only natural ingredients and methods. In addition to the obvious advantage of not aggravating the pollution of the planet, our main goal, is to study and understand the biology of man living within his environment, a complete synergy composed within our Kfarnabrakh Garden.

The creation of many Kfarnabrakh Gardens could unify into one Planetary Garden ! This could be a pathway towards Planetary Peace!

Any irrigation used will be set up with tubes made of jute, iron, or other natural materials - not plastic.

Part of the land will be reserved for the recreation of visitors: there will be a lawn shaded by some local plants. Baskets will be available with everything you need for a fun outdoor picnic (including a blanket) and made from natural materials.

We will work with other local gardens using plants and seeds that may only grow in the domestic gardens of the area. This will encourage the direct involvement of the local population in the project and be a valuable contribution to the preservation of biodiversity in the region.

Inside the garden there will be a place where the locals (who will cultivate the parcels of property, along with friendly methods of Nature) will have the opportunity to sell their products.

It will also be recognizable that those who enter the Friendship Garden are free to pray to their own beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be!

The gardener will keep a diary with detailed descriptions of every encounter within the location and its changes. There will accompanying photos in order to have a written and illustrated evolution of this understanding between man and nature that is on-going in this garden.

Our specific purpose

To restore a good relationship with the surrounding world, to interact in a synergistic way, and be able to involve the various local communities. Collaboration on this project of common interest will hopefully help recover good practices of living together.

The design cannot be computer generated but must be made on site, day by day, through hearing the opinion of those who live within those places and then inserting that opinion gently, without aggression or violence into changing the nature of the land. It will take at least 1 year to observe and understand the language of that place in all its seasons. Serious commitment must be undertaken by those working with this location to fully assess all aspects of the environment. Time is needed to acquaint ourselves with that environment and to understand ourselves within it. This is accomplished through waiting and listening for the changes that are occurring around - and within - us. We cannot take the next step without having fully comprehended the previous step, let alone comprehend any indications of what the future may bring. I believe that the only way this place will continue to have the "soul", that Abuna Abdo knows and was attached as a child, is to speak from our hearts to the hearts of all who approached with the message that land must be treated with modesty and respect.

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