Arts & Crafts, Coffee, Food, Gardens, High Desert Living, People, Places

Posts by Laura M. Sands

3 Ways That YOU Can Make a Difference In the High Desert Today

Glass HeartThe High Desert is an amazing landscape filled with natural beauty, plentiful resources and caring citizens. While outsiders may not immediately grasp the desert’s allure, those of us who live here are well-acquainted with its distinct and attractive personality. Yet, despite all of the wonder that the Mojave has to offer, it is not without its areas in need of attention and improvement. I don’t mean areas strictly in terms of neighborhoods and zip codes either as individual members of our communities are in need of support and enlightenment too, which is why I’m so pleased to show you how we can all make a difference through three very worthwhile organizations representing faith, hope and love, today.

Faith Rainbow by xandert morgueFile1. FAITH

A strong vision has taken root in the Town of Apple Valley and its organizers place diligent faith in bringing it to pass. Perhaps you’ve seen the dilapidated abandoned house sitting alone on the top of Bass Hill just off of Highway 18 and have wondered about its history. You may have even longed to take a closer look like Daniel Harley can be seen doing in the video below. Regardless of your initial thoughts after recognizing the behemoth peering down upon the highway, you’ve undoubtedly also wondered about what will become of it in the future.

Well, a grass roots group has plans to reclaim Bass Hill in order to restore it to the heartbeat of the town that it once was. The Apple Valley Legacy Trail (AVLT) Endowment Fund aims to cultivate a hiking trail leading up to the property, which will include picnic areas and educational tours. Visitors may navigate the trail by foot or by horseback while enjoying the natural plant and wildlife along the way. The house itself will act as an observation deck, as it offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the desert. It will also feature historic memorabilia recounting the rich story of the Town of Apple Valley.

You can help make a difference by assisting the AVLT Endowment Fund via donation or volunteering in a myriad of other ways detailed on the group’s website. Always remember that faith requires action and yours is both welcomed and needed in order to bring this worthwhile vision to life.

Daniel Harley’s Hilltop House Video Courtesy of YouTube (MojaveDan)

Message Stones2. HOPE

In situations of family strife, hope often appears to be lost. In its absence depression, suicide and a variety of other social ills tend to prevail. When people come together to restore hope, however, they deserve to be both recognized and supported in their efforts. This is why I found it such a pleasure for the High Desert Bloggers to be situated right next to the Family Assistance Program at the RelyLocal Expo during the San Bernardino County Fair last weekend.

The Family Assistance Program exists to help individuals and families address a host of pressing issues such as domestic violence, housing threats, homelessness and others which often tear families apart while leaving individual members feeling lost, hurt and angry. The following is a sampling of the services that they provide under the main organization:

Domestic Violence Assistance

  • 24 Hour Hotline
  • Shelter and Transitional Housing Assistance
  • Support Groups and Counseling
  • Restraining Order Clinics
  • Bilingual Court Support
  • Teen Dating Classes
  • Art Classes Promoting Healing and Empowerment

Family Assistance Services

  • Counseling (individual and conjoint are both available)
  • Anger Management Classes
  • Parenting Classes
  • Supervised Visitation

As funds permit, the agency also offers rent and utility assistance to members of the community in need.

Special Services For Homeless Youth

This particular community based organization is also the first to open a shelter for homeless and runaway teens in San Bernardino county. Known as Our House, the shelter is located in Redlands and offers a safe harbor to young people between the ages of 11 and 17 years old who have runaway from home or who are homeless due to other circumstances. The primary goal of the shelter is to see families be restored whenever possible through supportive services beyond shelter which include counseling, goal-oriented workshops and case management.

LGBTQ Outreach Services

Another very worthwhile effort under the Family Assistance Program umbrella is the Giving Resources, Outreach, and Wellness Education (GROWE) Program which exists to increase awareness about the needs and challenges of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) community here in the HD. As teens who live outside of society’s established sexual norms often experience higher than average rates of depression, violence, bullying, substance abuse, homelessness and isolation, the GROWE program works to prevent all of these by providing resources and education to teens, their families and the community-at-large.

With boots on the ground and in the midst of some of the most dire circumstances families and individuals can face, the Family Assistance Program is a champion of hope. By offering resources, education and support, the agency tackles tough issues with optimism and strength. Volunteers and donations (monetary and in-kind) are always needed there, so if you believe that hope really can lead to change, please visit the Family Assistance Program’s website to learn how you can join forces with them to help it happen.

Loves Saves Lives by Kokabella at morgueFile3. LOVE

It takes a special individual to be so selfless as to open one’s home to children who are underprivileged and at-risk. Yet, this is precisely what Julie Wilson does through her Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation. For several years now, Julie and her staff of volunteers have offered camping and a host of fun and educational events on her multi-acre ranch located in Hesperia.

The Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation allows children to connect with nature through activities which include hiking, caring for animals and horseback riding. Other events and activities include western-themed barbecues, various arts and crafts, talent shows, roping lessons and horse shoe competitions. The foundation is also very well known for its annual Easter programs, which offer Bible-based activities and education in a naturally beautiful setting.

As the Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation’s leader, Julie Wilson has managed to press through her own string of adversities in order to keep children in need as her first priority. In fact, during recent consecutive years Julie endured the loss of her mother, watching her husband suffer in the hospital following an horrific accident, her husband’s death, major structural damage at the ranch and a host of other trials that would have caused someone of a weaker spirit to give in. Yet, Julie persevered and, though she is still recovering financially and emotionally, her determination in seeing the ranch thrive in order that children in trouble may have a place of refuge fuels her on. This sort of sacrifice, dear readers, is true love in action.

To help keep the Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation as a beacon of light for children in the High Desert, visit their website for information on volunteering, making a donation or becoming a sponsor. Specifically, the ranch is in need of people who can swing a hammer and who aren’t afraid of a little hard labor, as well as those who love to work with animals. As a non-profit organization, all monetary contributions are also tax-deductible.

A Little Bit of Faith, Hope and Love Can Make a Big Difference In the High Desert

I met leaders and representatives from each one of these groups while at the RelyLocal Expo discussed in my last post. Truly, it was a pleasure getting to know what each one stood for. An equal pleasure was had in preparing this post in order to urge everyone to invest in the faith, hope and love each one of these groups is infusing into the High Desert. While we’re all spread out across different cities, I believe that we are all a part of one very powerful community and together we can accomplish much.

Your Turn

The comments section is now all yours. Tell us, how will you choose to make a difference in your community today?

Spent the Day on “RelyLocal Row” at the Fair and Look Who We Met!

Rainbow Colored Pinwheel by ausbar at morgueFileOkay, our row of tables just to the right of the Fair’s main entrance wasn’t officially dubbed RelyLocal Row, but it should have been. The organization spearheading the Shop Local Movement in Victorville was gracious enough to invite a very diverse group of local business owners and non-profit organizations to have a presence at the 66th Annual San Bernardino County Fair. I’m honored to be a part of the High Desert Bloggers Meetup, which was invited to share a space on RelyLocal Row at this weekend’s event. Not only did our presence allow us to tell the community about this blog and the High Desert Bloggers, but we also had the opportunity to make a few new friends in the community in the process.

Going With the Flow Was a Gift

While we’d advertised that we’d be live-blogging from the event, fate said otherwise. We didn’t have WiFi access and even though two of us have wireless hotspots, which multiple devices can connect to, neither one of our gadgets would cooperate. In retrospect, this was a good thing, though. Without being tethered to our laptops, we were able to learn about some of the most awesome indie businesses here in the High Desert. Such as:

Real-life private investigator, Rick Luginbill, from Luginbill Investigative Services, Inc. in Victorville.

Having just yesterday finished reading the latest mystery solved by the great but fictitious private eye, Easy Rawlins, I was thrilled to meet a real P.I. in the flesh. I’ve always admired the profession and after talking to Rick for a few minutes, I was impressed by his friendly, laid back demeanor and his open invitation to give him a call in relation to his services which we briefly discussed. While I’d originally imagined that a P.I.’s services would be expensive, not only did Rick quote me a very fair price (no pun intended), but he even offered a discount for being a RelyLocal member present at the Fair today. How cool is that?! Folks, if you’re trying to locate a missing person, need a background check on an individual or even need someone to go undercover to get intel on your behalf, know that we’ve got a professionally trained, licensed and experienced P.I. right here in our own backyard.

Personalized Gifts and a Local Opportunity

If you’ve got a baby shower, wedding, birthday or any other special event coming up in the near future, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to Meredith Lilly, Inc’s website. There, you’ll find all sorts of unique gifts, which can be personalized for your special occasion. During my afternoon visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Independent Founding Consultant, Inge Schon-Valdez, and learning that not only does Meredith Lilly, Inc. offer everything from beautifully embroidered tote bags to monogrammed iPhone cases to ruffled aprons and more– but the company also offers a really nice business opportunity which is free to join. New consultants don’t even have to buy a kit to get started!

A Photographer With an Unforgettable Style

Directly across from the High Desert Bloggers’ table were two ladies who I just knew were models of some sort and I was right…sort of. One of the elegant young women was none other than Nina Hart of Photography by Hart and the second was one of her stunning models. I have to tell you that I was very impressed with Nina’s work, which was very nicely displayed at her table. But I was even more impressed with the styles and themes that she specializes in, which is boudoir and pin-up photography. The latter being equal parts unique and nostalgic, I found it quite fitting that this style of photography was so nicely represented on Memorial Day Weekend, particularly since the niche was so wildly acclaimed during World War II (pin-up models were quite popular with American soldiers). Of course, Nina also does wedding photography and more, so be sure to check her site out and be on the lookout for her work around the High Desert and beyond!

Nina Hart Photography

 

The Coolest Invention…Ever!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve never seen a 3D printer in action– that is, until meeting the fine folks at Windy Ridge Innovation today. For those of you who don’t know, a 3D printer is one which takes a digital rendition of an object and produces a three-dimensional copy of it. The possibilities here are seriously endless, but here are a few trinkets which were placed on display today:

Windy Ridge Innovation

 

The technology, itself, is proving to have promise above what most of us can think or imagine. Why, just last week a child’s life was saved by the creation of an airway splint which came from– you guessed it– a 3D printer! Seriously, what is cooler than that?

Many thanks to Steve and Debby Kurti of Windy Ridge Innovation for allowing us all a front row seat (Okay, I stood in front of their table, but you get the point) as we peered into the future at today’s Fair!

Lots of Local Sparkly Bling

Irene Gaulke is one of the first people that I met when I arrived in the High Desert nearly a year ago, so it was really nice to reconnect with her at today’s Fair. Irene is an independent distributor for Premier Designs Jewelry. Seriously, the pieces displayed at her table were simply elegant. Take a look:

Irene Gaulke Jewelry

 

Premier Designs Jewelry Irene Gaulke

 

Now, of course Irene sells jewelry, but she also offers two most outstanding opportunities, as well. One involves winning jewelry by hosting a party and the other involves starting your own business as a Premier Designs Jewelry independent rep. When I first met Irene a year ago, she was working part time on her new venture. Today, she is a full-time businesswoman in charge of her own enterprise while representing a brand that she truly believes in. Sweet, right?

More Local Goodness Coming Soon

Tune in later in the week to read about the rest of our adventure at the Fair while meeting some of RelyLocal’s finest indie business owners. A couple of our other bloggers will be logging in soon to bring you their unique impressions and interesting finds. And I’ve got a lot more to share with you about some of the community based organizations who were at the event and who are on the ground every day working to bring attention to some very important causes which exist right under our collective noses. Until then, please be sure to visit the websites of all of the businesses mentioned above. They’re all locally owned and operated by YOUR NEIGHBORS here in the HD, so remember to support them as much and as often as you can.

Once again, a huge thank you to RelyLocal for allowing High Desert Bloggers to be a part of this weekend’s event. RelyLocal, the High Desert Bloggers and every small business mentioned above will be at the Fair from its opening hours to closing tomorrow (Monday), too, so be sure to stop by and say hello!

The Turf Wars Between Bloggers and Journalists…Who’s Winning?

Computer and Keyboard by mantasmagorical at morgueFileYesterday, my mom tried to convince me to hop a plane to Oklahoma in order to blog on the recent tornado’s devastating aftermath there. According to her, traditional news outlets weren’t doing justice to the coverage and a real writer (her words, not mine) was needed to get the job done right. After assuring her that there were plenty of bloggers, vloggers and other citizen journalists already on the ground– not to mention a slew of local news organizations doing a great job in Oklahoma, she accepted that I had enough work to do here without flying out to find more. Still, her sentiments made me think twice about the bazillion conversations I’ve heard over the years about turf wars brewing between bloggers and journalists.

“We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Ideas About Media to Bring You a Fresh Idea Known as Blogging!”

Ever since blogging began to gain momentum toward the end of the 20th century, people have had opinions about whether or not bloggers should share the same level of respect as journalists. Both report news and events; both have their works electronically published and both can earn a living by properly applying their skills. While most journalists have studied hard and paid good money for college degrees that underscore their talents and discipline, there’s no age, experience or educational prerequisite for blogging. Though many bloggers do have college degrees (some even have journalism degrees), it’s understandable that trained journalists would not want to share media recognition with someone who hasn’t paid their proverbial dues to the media industries in terms of education and job experience.

Weekend Newspaper by gracey at morgueFileBlogging the News

Increasingly, bloggers are being recognized for their efforts, however. Often they are granted the same type of special media access typically reserved for trained journalists and blogs are often the go-to source for live breaking news, such as what was seen during the Arab Spring. In many minds, the attention paid to bloggers on the ground, especially in places where traditional journalists are stifled, serves in further blurring the lines between what is authentic journalism and what is not.

Blogging From the Bottom Of the Barrel

As a blogger and a fan of reality television, I was intrigued by the unfolding of a similar conversation about blogging vs. journalism in recent episodes of VH1’s Gossip Game series. While the show highlights the challenges of seven women working in various facets of urban media– namely magazine publishing, radio broadcasting, journalism and blogging– a lot of infighting took place between the women over who is and who isn’t a journalist. Debate also ensued regarding the perceptions of many that bloggers are not only NOT on the same level as journalists and other media professionals, but are at the bottom of the barrel in any conversation involving public media.

Two Journalists, Two Perspectives, One Medium

It was quite enlightening to watch the arguments between Jas Fly and Sharon Carpenter, two formally trained journalists on the show. Having been in the industry for a number of years and having worked for several mainstream news brands such as CBS and the BBC, Sharon Carpenter quite early made it a point to distinguish herself as a true journalist. Jas Fly, a freelance journalist with fewer years on the circuit than Sharon didn’t seem to have a problem with this until she felt Sharon made an attempt to downplay her status as a journalist since Jas’ work has largely appeared online. In one discussion, in particular, Jas commented that while Sharon may have more years and hardcore news credentials under her designer belt (all of the girls are fashionably fabulous on the show), the fact is that, today, both women currently work in online media. Sharon Carpenter is employed by the urban entertainment website Global Grind which Jas Fly was quick to point out as existing on a very leveled playing field with many of the websites that she freelances for.

Shade Tree Journalists?

The two bloggers on the show, Vivian and Ms. Drama, also received a bit of shade from a couple of the other cast members. An argument was even made (and dismantled) that the demarcation between the two careers is that journalists perform considerable fact-checking before reporting a story where it was falsely assumed that bloggers do not. Repeatedly, on the show and in real life, however, it has been proven that journalists are not always the most thorough fact-checkers and that some bloggers actually are.

Continued Debate

Following the on-air sparring matches between women intent on garnering respect for their career choices, others in the media industry chimed in with their opinions on Twitter and throughout the blogosphere. A number of interesting thoughts were shared with many pointing out that radio, television and print journalists often rely on bloggers to get information that mainstream professionals simply don’t have access to (such as what is often seen in civil uprisings around the world), as well as juicy tidbits from those who have behind-the-scene-off-the-record access to celebrity gossip and other inside information.

Certainly, every blogger cannot automatically be considered a journalist. I mean, blogging runs the gamut from sites that exist for work at home moms to those that help authors sell books to those that highlight special writing and editing services. I imagine that there are as many hardcore news blogs on the web as there are those dedicated to cute cats. Of those that are fact-based, hard-hitting information blogs, however, I am left to wonder…

Is Citizen Journalism Real Journalism, After All?

So what do you think, dear readers? Is there a clear line between journalism and blogging? Should there be? Should journalists and bloggers be afforded the same respect? Tell us your thoughts in the space provided below.

Current Events

 

Oh and One Last Thing!

Don’t forget to check the High Desert Bloggers out this weekend at the San Bernardino County Fair where we’ll be live-blogging and answering all of your questions about starting a blog for business promotion or personal joy. RelyLocal has invited us to be at their table right at the Fair’s main entrance so you can’t miss us. Come on out and say hello and also find out about the incredible shop local movement underway here in the High Desert.

5 Reasons Every Business Blog Needs a Professional Blogger

Hiring a Blogger MConnors at morgueFile

Now that you’ve read the 10 Reasons to Maintain a Business Blog, it’s time to discuss whether or not you need to hire a professional blogger. Certainly, you can write your own blogs or even assign the task to someone else in your organization. Before you decide to do either, however, consider these 5 very important benefits of hiring a pro blogger.

1. A Professional Blogger Has the Writing Talent You Desire

In general, if you can speak you can write. With that said, not everyone has a flair for blogging. In some cases, this goes beyond simply lacking the mechanics of good writing, but also encompasses writer’s block or a genuine fear of writing. A professional blogger has a way with words and knows how to effectively overcome common writing challenges in order to produce the top-quality content your business blog needs.

2. A Professional Blogger Can Dedicate Adequate Time to Your Business Blog

One of the greatest concerns a lot of business owners have about starting a business blog is having the time it takes to regularly maintain such a space. In cases like these, outsourcing makes perfect sense. You simply tell a professional blogger how many posts you’d like to publish per week and that person schedules the time to get it done while you are free to apply your time toward other important business matters.

3. A Professional Blogger Gives Your Content the Right Amount of Focus

Often, entrepreneurs will start a business blog with the intention of its maintenance being a top priority. What often happens, however, is that other tasks vie for an owners time and the blogging priority begins to lose steam. Before long, a blog is abandoned and the content that remains becomes outdated and stale. By hiring a professional blogger business owners can avoid a diminishing focus on their blog as a pro blogger keeps the task of posting fresh content at the top of her editorial schedule.

4. A Professional Blogger Has Experience That Can Benefit Your Business

Beyond stringing words together, there’s a method to professional business blogging. This involves staying abreast of the latest SEO strategies, understanding what attracts audiences and knowing how to market a business blog in the right venues. A professional blogger has experience in these realms, which can save considerable time and be of immense benefit to a business.

5. A Professional Blogger Knows How to Share

Speaking of marketing, a great deal of it involves online sharing. Of course, most people think of major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but there are literally hundreds of other networking venues where bloggers regularly engage. Remember, bloggers are online an awful lot and we love to share our work with others. Your business benefits by being introduced to audiences that you don’t typically have contact with and which may be of even greater benefit to your bottom line.

We’re Here For You…Especially This Weekend!

If you’d like to learn more about hiring a professional blogger, be sure to stop by the RelyLocal table located right at the Fair’s main entrance this weekend. Several High Desert Bloggers will be in attendance as we help raise awareness about the shop local movement and about blogging in the High Desert. We’re happy to answer any questions that you may have about blogging when you stop by to say hello.

Your Comments Are Appreciated

Do you currently have a business blog? Do you maintain it yourself or have you already begun to outsource that task? Tell us all about your business and your blog in the comments section below.

 

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10 Reasons To Maintain a Business Blog

Rainbow ricreis morgueFileIn today’s business landscape, having a website is almost as important as having a telephone. People of all ages are online looking for information, ideas to share and businesses to patronize. So while every business clearly needs a website, is it really necessary for every business to have a  blog? Yes! And here’s why:

The Top 10 Reasons To Maintain a Business Blog

1. A Business Blog Provides Another Avenue to Connect With Customers

Beyond your website, radio and offline advertisements– or even your email address and direct phone contact, a blog is another medium through which your customers may explore your company. It is an indirect way for your customers to connect with you and you with them. Can any business ever have too many customer connections?

2. A Business Blog Helps Build an Audience

A blog offers a voice and the right voice attracts listeners. Done correctly, a blog can help a business attract new audience members and strengthen the bonds with an audience already in place.

3. A Business Blog Helps Draw Internet Traffic To a Website

Whether you sell your goods online or simply use your website to advertise, one of your primary goals is to draw as many eyes to a site as possible. A blog helps business owners accomplish this and then some. While websites can be somewhat static, a business blog offers visitors a far more dynamic experience. Regular updates and fresh, unique content give visitors a reason to return again and again and again!

4. A Business Blog Helps Provide Individual Businesses With a Stronger Web Presence

The Internet offers everyone a pretty leveled playing field and a blog helps increase your presence on that field. With that said, it also provides a deeply competitive landscape where only the strongest, most persistent and most reliable content rises to the top. A mere website just won’t do when competitors are regularly churning out new content, which leads us to #5…

5. A Business Blog Can Help a Business Compete With Others Within a Niche

A business blog helps to enhance a business’ web presence and, thus, provides a vehicle through which an organization may compete more effectively. New products can be spotlighted, industry accomplishments can be immediately publicized, special sales can be announced and the list goes on.

6. A Business Blog Can Help Owners and Employees Provide Better Customer Service

By providing a space for customers to share comments and suggestions in real time, information gathered from a business blog can help an organization provide a better quality of customer service. Many companies even appoint one or more staff members to respond to blog comments, which helps to create a closer bond with customers and provide them with optimal service.

7. A Business Blog Can Help Improve Search Engine Rankings

New, original and trustworthy content is crucial if a business is aiming for top-billing among search engines. Providing all of this on a regular basis is even better. Instead of merely providing information one time on a website, business blogging can help tremendously with SEO since search engine algorithms are more inclined to reward higher rankings to those that provide quality content on a regular basis.

8. A Business Blog Allows Owners To Immediately Disseminate Urgent Information

Experiencing a shipping snafu or an organizational upset? Need to squash a harmful rumor? A business blog provides immediate media coverage which YOU control. Information shared on a business blog is often cited by trade publications and traditional news outlets, so while press releases are still valuable, there’s no need to wait to publish whatever it is that you want the public to know about your business right away.

9. A Business Blog Helps In Adding a Personal Touch To a Website Or a Business

Your website is probably ultra-professional and very structured…as it should be. While a business blog should also maintain an air of professionalism, it is perfectly acceptable for a blog to be more conversational in tone. Further, it allows personal interaction with a readership and helps in humanizing an organization.

10. A Business Blog Helps a Business Establish Trust With Consumers

Above all else, customers value companies that they can trust. Business blogging helps supply consumers with expert information on a regular basis and helps a company engage with customers around important concerns or issues. Done well, a business blog can be used as part of a trust-building foundation leading to long-term consumer relationships.

Want to Learn More About Business Blogging?

If you’re operating a business and you don’t have a blog…or if you have a business blog, but you want to learn how to kick it into overdrive come meet the High Desert Bloggers this weekend at the San Bernardino County Fair. And if you don’t fancy yourself much of a writer, but realize the importance of maintaining a blog, don’t be shy about asking one of our bloggers to blog for your business. We’ll be at the RelyLocal table, so while you’re there you can also learn about the powerful shop local movement taking place here in the High Desert.

Tell Us All About It

Have a question or comment and can’t wait to visit us at the fair? Well, sound off below and get a feel for how fast and effective this business blogging concept really is!

 

Business Blog by MConnors at morgueFile

Looking for Live Red Worms For Your High Desert Garden?

I had the pleasure of meeting Greg Anderson of WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, California recently and I must say that I was extremely impressed with his breadth of knowledge with all things pertaining to high desert gardening. We’d only intended to pick up a pound of worms for composting, but we ended up getting an awesome tour of Greg’s farm in the process. To say that I was fascinated by Greg’s use of space, land and recycled materials is an understatement of the highest degree.

No Master Gardener Here…Yet!

Now, I’m just going to be honest with you– I’m no gardener. Having never been successful in cultivating anything green, I’ve always fancied the talents of others who can. And if you can literally grow your own food, you’re nothing short of a rockstar in my mind. I bow down to the master gardeners of the world, which is why meeting Greg was such a delight.

At this point, I’m sure you’re all wondering why on earth I’d be at a live red worm farm if I can’t grow so much as a dandelion, right? Well, since moving to the desert, my husband’s been learning quite a bit about green living from Neville Slade of the Sustainable Learning Center (in fact, it was Professor Slade who originally introduced my husband to Greg Anderson). Anywho, I’ve always been sorta interested in greener lifestyles, too, and as a freelancer I’ve learned a little here and there about things like composting, repurposing old things and the like. So, I may not be a high desert gardener yet, but I think I’m heading in that direction and am happy to learn from people like Greg Anderson as I go. Just don’t be too surprised when the day comes that I blog about my own square foot garden or cabbage patch or something really cool like that, ok?

WorldWideWorm Farms

But back to the WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley. When we arrived, Greg took us around back to show us his worms in action. While en route to his composting areas, however, we got to tour his property where we saw a bunch of cool things like the greenhouse he built with his bare hands and a few recycled materials.

Homemade greenhouse at worldwide worm farms in Apple Valley, Ca

The entrance to Greg Anderson's handmade greenhouse.

 

The following are a couple of shots from the rear as well as the interior of the greenhouse:

 

Plenty of shelving and room for Greg's plants

 

Greg also has a full on garden filled with fruits and veggies. He jokes that the only thing he ever needs to go to the grocery store for are his favorite candies, since he can’t grow them, lol.

Here are some of the grape vines, which we can see are edging towards producing delicious edible grapes very soon– check it out:

One of the things that I loved about Greg's garden is how organized everything is. High desert gardening takes a bit of planning, which this guy makes look oh so easy.

 

Tiny grapes are beginning to bud at the WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, Ca.

 

Just beyond the greenhouse area, Greg showcases a square-foot garden. Here, you can see what I mean about being organized. Each square features its own vegetable like kale, cauliflower,  onions, garlic, etc.

Square-foot garden filled with a variety of veggies and fresh herbs.

 

Notice the worm tube Greg uses to insert live red worms into his square-foot garden. The worms create vermicompost, which fertilize his vegetables.

 

Greg also sells worm tubes and vermicompost at his WorldWideWorm Farms. Above is a photo of one of the tubes he uses in his garden. Here’s a photo of what they look like brand new just to give you an idea of their size and how deeply they’re inserted while providing many of the nutrients a garden needs:

Brand new live red worm tubes for sale at WWWFarms in Apple Valley, Ca

 

Greg’s chickens love fresh vegetables from his garden. While we were there, they followed him around like crazy begging for a bit of kale, collards and other greens that they regularly feed on. His chickens all have names, they are never slaughtered for food and they’ve pretty much got the run of the yard (with the exception of the areas he’s had to fence away to keep them from eating the live red worms and fresh veggies. We were the ones fenced in on this photo, not the lady birds).

These girls love kale! The grey striped one is named Zebra (pronounced like Debra, lol). I don't recall the white one's name, but she's a Leghorn and the other one produces beautiful blue eggs.

 

No dye for these eggs. Featured in blue, tan, brown and white, each chicken produces a different colored egg.

 

She's happy to dine on her veggies all alone while the others are preoccupied with their kale feeding.

 

Once again proving that High Desert gardening doesn’t require a lot of space (even though he’s got plenty), Greg crafted ths “salad pyramid”. Even if you’ve got little more than a patio, there’s no excuse not to grow your own fresh vegetables if you’re so inclined to do so.

This salad pyramid is one of my favorites. Lettuce, radishes and anything you need for a delicious salad are right here for the picking.

 

Greg was kind enough to send us home with a few fresh-picked radishes. They were soooooo delicious, too!

 

No real ick factor like I would have expected at a live red worm farm. I mean, really, besides a little bit of an earthy scent (which I rather like), Greg’s worms and compost are very well maintained. Here are a few photos of his worms and vermicompost areas:

 

Just what we came for...live red worms!

 

Live red worm beds at WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, Ca

 

And lest you think that it’s all worms, chickens and veggies at Greg’s place, he’s pretty handy with recycled items, too. You’ve already seen the greenhouse featured in his High Desert garden, but take a look at what else he’s built with using items that most others would consider trash:

Bat shelter

 

BTW, did you know that bat poop is an excellent fertilizer, too? Greg’s been studying this stuff– first as a hobby, then as a business– for years. His passion for High Desert gardening has led him to build a bat shelter, which is positioned just above his square-foot garden. The plan here is to regularly attract bats, which will eat gnats and other insects that hang around the garden, and, in return, Greg hopes the bats will leave him a little “something” for his garden.

Greg keeps track of the climate in his High Desert garden with this handmade weather vane.

 

Zebra, Dog (these are actual chicken names, folks) and about 7 other feathery residents of the WorldWideWorm Farms rest here when the sun sets.

 

Greg says he makes the best homemade bread in the world inside of his handmade outdoor brick oven.

 

Greg admitted to being most proud of his latest creation, a windmill that he made using discarded pipe, metal, a treadmill engine and other materials that were going to end up in a landfill.

 

Handmade windmill

 

Pretty nifty, huh? And this windmill doesn’t just get points for its cool factor or for being a good conversation piece…it actually works! Greg’s hard work will more than pay for itself in the form of electricity powered by this incredible device.

A close-up of the windmill's handcrafted blades.

 

Last, but not least, a few snapshots of the gourds that Greg grew. Note all of the interesting shapes and sizes:

 

Gourds Galore!

 

 

 

 

To purchase live red worms or to learn more about high desert gardening, give Greg of WorldWideWorm Farms a call at 760-792-9660. And for more photos and information on vermicomposting, visit Greg’s blog at WorldWideWormFarms.WordPress.com. And be sure to tell my friend that Laura from the High Desert Blogging network says hello!

Let’s Hear It

Have you interested in High Desert gardening? Are you already well on your way to being a master gardener? What are your thoughts on live red worms, vermicomposting and all that jazz? Your comments are more than welcome in the space provided below.

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My Day At the Sustainable Learning Center by Guest Blogger Laura M. Sands


Neville and Tammy Slade's Environmentally Friendly Home

A Hand-Built Sustainable Home


Many thanks to Neville and Tammy Slade for allowing me to tour the environmentally-friendly home they are building just east of Apple Valley. Having only read about, seen photos of or viewed YouTube footage of sustainable housing projects, I was thrilled to be able to experience one in person…and in my own backyard, no less! A special shout out to all of Mr. Slade’s Sustainable Practice students from Victor Valley College– who the tour was actually arranged for and I was merely a grateful tag-along.


What I witnessed during my time on the sprawling 7.5 acre property was nothing short of inspiring. From the natural beauty which surrounds the home to its mostly hand-built construction, it is an astonishing display of what we can all accomplish with barely any disturbance of the environment at all.


I’d Call First, If I Were You


The Slade’s home is nestled only slightly beneath one of many hills which embrace the land surrounding Highway 18 en route to Lucerne Valley. Anyone hoping to find this masterpiece on their own, however, is advised to wait for an invitation and a detailed set of directions first. Save a few handwritten posts, there are zero street signs or even paved roads to guide a would-be visitor. Folks, when I tell you that this home blends into the landscape, I’m being nearly literal as there is very little else that surrounds it.


Simple, Smart, Stewardship


As longtime environmentalists, the Slade’s live by a three-fold creed that is summed up as ‘simple, smart, stewardship’. The home absolutely reflects this, as well. Simple in structure, smart in materials used and architecture, and good stewardship in making use of what is naturally at hand. In fact, Mr. Slade defined the latter as one who is a ‘good manager’ and who, “uses the resources given and expanding their use as opposed to tearing it all down”. This is evident in the vintage Airstream RV that has been repurposed to support an outdoor kitchen (where we enjoyed the plentiful sunshine during our lunchtime visit), the old cast iron sink that was installed in the home’s interior kitchen and the recycled indoor cabinetry no longer used by Habitat For Humanity.


Other highlights of this well-planned, environmentally conscious two-bedroom home include:

 

 

  • Metal roofing, which is 60% recycled

  • Windows made of recycled glass

  • Flooring made from natural materials


Large straw bales used to make the home’s walls are stacked in brick-like formation and are temporarily held together by nails and rebar. While straw walls are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and easy to build with, Mr. Slade shared that bare straw walls don’t stand up too well against water. Completed walls, however, are covered with sand and polyurethane, which effectively guard the home against water.


For those of you who are as in the dark as I was about straw bale construction, here are a few facts that may interest you:


Walls made of straw bale…

  • Are proven to stand up well against earthquakes and fire

  • Provide excellent insulation

  • Are celebrated as green building materials


More information on using straw bale to construct walls can be found on Neville and Tammy Slade’s Sustainable Learning Center Blog and in California’s Health and Safety Code, Section 18944.40-18944.41.


Sustainable Living


The home has its own well, which is pumped to an uphill storage facility and provides a downhill run of generated water only when needed. Very little is wasted here as grey water is used to for plant irrigation and will eventually also be used to irrigate future vegetable gardens and fruit trees. The Slades are also planning a living roof (garden) atop the repurposed container featured below, which provides an additional structure detached from the home and currently overlooks the community garden being regularly tended to by students of nearby Apple Valley Christian School.


Recycled Container Put to Good Use

Everything Becomes New Again


And speaking of no waste, the Slade’s not only use waterless composting toilets, but the couple also have an area for composting non-meat organics. In fact, instead of filling trash barrels after our lunch, leftovers were dumped and buried in the composting center, which is made from the manure of the sheep that the couple tends to at their temporary residence.


Garden Composting

Simple Composting


A Cool Place


When the Slade’s finally do move into their home, there is no doubt as to the comfort they will enjoy. Having put much thought into the house’s construction, it has been built in ways that optimize the natural resources around it while enhancing the home’s comfort and appeal. Eventually, it will rely only on solar energy for heat and for much of its electricity, and it is built in such a way as to deflect the hot desert sun, which would normally overheat a home in the desert via its southern and western walls. Since it is a desert residence and hot sun is a hallmark of this area, additional cooling may be needed, which is why the Slade’s plan on installing an energy-efficient system that will be programmed to only run during periods of sunlight and will automatically disable as soon as the sun sets.


A Place to Retreat


As much as I enjoyed learning about all that the Slade’s home had to offer in terms of energy-efficiency and resourceful planning– and I mean no disrespect to the hard work invested in bringing this hand-built home to life– I do want to go on record with saying that its most striking feature is the surrounding acreage. The fragrant creosote and sage bushes that ramble throughout the property alongside noble, statuesque Joshua trees, and a vast array of colorful cacti and wild desert flowers are, without a doubt, a large part of why the Slade’s chose this particularly remote area of the high desert to call home. With natural fauna that includes owls, roadrunners, bobcats, jack rabbits and (ever-adorable) kangaroo rats, one begins to feel an overpowering sense of serenity and awe after just a few minutes outdoors.


Lots of flora, fauna and unique insects at the Sustainable Living Center

A Yucca Moth busy pollinating the area


High Desert Pioneers


Having grown up on a farm in South Africa, Neville Slade appears solidly connected to the beauty surrounding his Mojave kingdom; and with a deep respect for the environment, he is a dedicated advocate of disturbing as little of it as possible. During the tour, I overheard one of Slade’s students quietly expressing her admiration for Tammy Slade, a remarkable woman eager to embrace her husband’s minimalist ideals. As she so effortlessly served our lunch in the outdoor kitchen equipped with fresh well water and makeshift countertops, her joy, peace and contentment were clearly evident. As high desert residents with the same resources within our collective reach, we could all stand to learn quite a bit from these modern pioneers in our midst.

Community sustainable living leaders

Owners, Neville and Tammy Slade, Built the Sustainable Learning Center by Hand


See For Yourself!


For more information about Neville and Tammy Slade’s Sustainable Learning Center or to donate time, items or materials to the site, please visit their blog at www.SustainableLearningCenter.com. Be sure to also check out Neville Slade’s YouTube videos to watch the home’s progress on the Neville Slade channel.


Professor Neville Slade, the man behind the high desert's Sustainable Living Center

Neville Slade enjoying the cool shade of his porch overlooking Lucerne Valley

 

More Photos:


A well at the Sustainable Living Center in the high desert

That little structure in the distance is the property’s 400-foot well

 

Water storage location for sustainable living needs

Well water is pumped uphill and stored in a special shed. When needed, its downhill flow provides adequate water pressure for the property's needs.


Recycled and reused kitchen cabinets
Discarded kitchen cabinets donated to the Sustainable Learning Center courtesy of Habitat For Humanity
A recycled cast iron sink lives again at the Sustainable Learning Center
Recycled glass windows
Recycled glass windows are present throughout this environmentally-friendly home
Straw bale walls at various stages of the building process:
Walls made of straw
Densely stacked, these straw bale walls are surprisingly hard and sturdy!
Side view of a wall in-progress at the Sustainable Learning Center
A completed outdoor wall covered in polyurethane
Recycled Metal Roofing at the Sustainable Learning Center in the High Desert
The outdoor kitchen is where Professor Neville Slade and his wife, Tammy, prepare meals until the home’s interior kitchen is completed.
Community garden and composting area for students of Apple Valley Christian School

A view from the patio extending across the front of the home (and Neville Slade’s fortunate view from the porch swing in the photo above)

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