Month: October 2019

Flying High (or Low if You’re a Drone Pilot)!

There is so much that I want to catch up on, things that I’ve been “saving” to do them justice, but time just flies! I will get to them all soon, but . . .

Speaking of flying, we were incredibly lucky to be referred to Bryan and Leah at AerialScope – Down to Earth Solutions (such a great name!) who have a professional drone company. We were hoping to get some aerial shots of the labyrinth so Waterford High School could enter their group project into the international Oceans Awareness art contest.

Bryan and Leah were referred to us from another professional drone pilot who explained that getting permission to fly in this area is tough as it is so close to the Groton airport. We were told that their company would have the best chance of getting permission from the FAA. They came out for a tour of the garden and generously offered to donate their services to help us.

AerialScope was indeed able to get FAA approval to fly over the gardens. This, they explained, was a big achievement because all drones are prohibited from flying that close to the airport, at any altitude, and they were approved to fly to 150 feet! Amazing! UConn also gave their approval (thanks UConn!) and up went the drone. The photos are stunning and they even created a 3-D model that you can view by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

Every time we ask for help in the garden, it seems the universe provides. People in our community are so generous and I continue to be humbled by this. I think it is extraordinary that so many people have entered my life to help with this vision (thank you, everyone!). I really feel like this garden is meant-to-be and that it is the start of something hopeful for our community and for our children.

It may be a tiny garden but even the aerial photos make it look “bigger” and it is, on so many levels. It was a “Big” idea to move beyond just having a pretty garden, to having a garden that begs for immersion and physical connection. Getting our children off of their electronics (they start so young these days — even at restaurants so many are strapped into their highchairs staring at screens to keep them quiet) and into nature. Here is an interactive, non-electronic way to keep our children entertained and one that also benefits them (and our society) far more than just a momentary distraction.

So, thank you, Bryan and Leah, for taking to the airspace and giving us your beautiful aerial view of the garden.

P.S. The aerial photos are also helping us get noticed. What an incredible tool. I’ve sent them to a few editors of major magazines and these photos are really “selling” the story.

Click “The Garden” below to view 3D model:

  • Aerial view of the garden, looking toward Field House
    Aerial view of the garden, looking toward Field House

The Amphitheater Colors the Garden

After taking the month of August off (and the last half of September as well for some travel), we are back in the garden. During the first two weeks of September, we installed the amphitheater and created a pathway into the meadow. In short order, we will be installing the moss and fairy garden around and above the sand quarry so stay tuned for that. Steve Colgan, Master Gardener and moss expert, will be working with us and teaching us a thing or two! Very exciting!

Once again, Mary and I called upon our experts: Charlie (our brilliant Pfizer retiree and UConn alum) for help laying out the color wheel mosaic design around the already installed seating, and Coast Guard Vinny for masonry advice to make sure we could level it properly. I forgot how much work that was especially with all the angles and uneven, sloped surface. We got string lines in place then called in the big guns, Mary’s son Jacob (recent UConn graduate) and husband Jeff (another UConn alum!) to help dig out extra road-base from the labyrinth area, build up and tamp the road-base, and get the edging cut and laid out. Thank goodness for Jeff and his power tools. Honestly, I am ever so grateful for the help of friends and family.

Speaking of friends and family, a shout out here to Seabass who did a whole lot of tamping with the crazy commercial compactor. Not only that but he also used his substantial brawn to remove a ton of stone that had been inadvertently spread out on the main pathway (thus making it too deep and non-ADA compliant). Then he tamped the whole pathway a couple of times to make it as solid as possible. You ROCK Seabass!

Because the amphitheater uses many small concrete pavers, Mary and I were able to do the next steps ourselves: getting the bedding sand in and screed, and laying down the pavers. With the pavers in place, Mary, Shannon, and I set about arranging and adhering the mosaics onto the pavers. The mosaics on six of the panels were created by the fourth and fifth grade art students at Nathan Hale Art Magnet School last spring. The mosaics by themselves are beautiful but when we put them together to form the panels, they became something extraordinary! They are so beautiful and vibrant! We had initially placed them using the same tones as the six color wheel panels Mary created, but then we realized the kids’ mosaics might “pop” more if there was more contrast. It was fun working the puzzle pieces to make the artwork shine!

Once we had the amphitheater panels completed, Mary and I went to pick up shells to put in the spaces between the mosaic panels. In order to save money, we shoveled, bagged, and hauled a literal ton of shells ourselves. We may be small but we are mighty!

Grasso Tech students once again answered the call and arrived in their Big Blue Bus for an on-site workday. They helped unload and place the shells, dig out the meadow pathway, and set up the benches that were built and donated by Fitch High School, Waterford High School, and the Plant Lot. Everything went seamlessly and the students did such a good job and, hopefully, they learned a lot in the process. We also had a photographer from The Day capturing some photos for an article that was published on 9/21/19.

Interestingly enough, that article was picked up by the Chicago Tribune and U.S. News & World Report and published on 9/24/19. That means the garden went national. Woohoo! UConn Today also published an article on 9/19/19. Charlie Nardozzi, Connecticut Garden Journal, broadcast a piece about the garden on WNPR and it posted it on the WNPR website on 9/27/19. Another article was published in the Waterford Times newspaper on 10/3/19. The garden will also be featured in the November issue of Norwich Magazine. This is super exciting! The press links are below.

  • Jeff helps with the paver edging
    Jeff helps with the paver edging

Cognitive Garden Takes Root at UConn Avery Point