Notes from Land Manager Patrick Leatherman

Notes from Land Manager Patrick Leatherman - Pacific Quest: Wilderness

Patrick Leatherman (on right side) is our organic gardening specialist at PQ.  He works to help the students develop connections between gardening and their individual therapeutic processes.  I have cut and pasted some of Patrick’s notes from the weekend.  I have deleted the students names to preserve confidentiality.

Nalu Camp:

Friday morning we met in the flower circle to discuss  organic gardening and introduce the students to the idea that we are using our experiences at PQ caring and supporting plants to learn how we can care and support ourselves.  In the garden tour I introduced students to raised beds, the importance of building soil and imitating natures method of building soil, companion planting, harvesting techniques, compost systems. Then we moved into the nursery before lunch to plant beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers.  Today I played more on introducing the metaphors of canoe plants than in the past.  We talked about what they symbolize to us:  These are the tools the Polynesians brought to sustain and build the success of their lives.  While at PQ you should think of what you want to take with you from here and build those tools up to take with you for your success from here.  I suggested that if students are interested in more information they should read the Hawaiian History section in their curriculms.


Kuleana Camp:

Friday afternoon I met with Kuleana to run them through a Canoe Plant lesson.  We met in the pineapple circle with jounals and pens to discuss and gather info on what canoe plants are,  why we grow, them,  what they symbolize for us at PQ.  We listed the 4 things canoe plants provide for us:  food, medicine, fiber, and wood.  Then we listed out the 21 canoe plants and talked about what each one provided. I ended the circle by assigning 3 questions:

1)Where are you coming from?

2)What did you leave behind?

3)What resources did you bring with you?

I had brought with me 10 new Ti plant cuttings and sweet potato cuttings to plant in camp.  We spent the rest of the afternoon working to build up a mound of soil beside the perch to plant the potatoes and then we followed this up withplanting the Ti plants around hales.   Overall I think the canoe plant lesson is taing shape well and it gives a great platform to branch the therapuetics and the nature of what we are doing on the land.  The field instructors did a great job using the land as a teaching and reflective tool.


Saturday afternoon I met with Kuleana group in the consistent light drizzle of the day.  This made perfect conditions to transplant many of the healthy plants that we had in the nursery.  Before we started to talk about transplanting we moved into the garden to talk thinning plants and the importance of doing that after direct seeding.  Thus thinning gives each plant optimum room to grow to maturity and enough room to ot compete with each other for nuturients.  We talked about the differences between thiinning vaired plants and worked with recently planted beets, lettuce, and Pak Choy to bring in the experiential factor.  We transitioned from that into the transplanting demo.  I talked about the fact that we transplant when plants get to point where they need a bigger home with more nutrients, etc.. to continue growing.  I drew the corrolation between this transition stressing the plants out and how we hopfully have provided a strong enough foundation to help the plants thrive and make it through the struggle.  We then got hands on by transplanting black beans that we plants 2 weeks ago from the kitchen.  So now we are growing the black beans that the students eat every week.  We also transplanted Celery and Cilantro.  The students were very attentive and did as well as any group I have worked with lately at following steps that I layed out.  This made for a very successful day of transplanting.

Ohana Camp:

Saturday morning I met with the Ohana.  We started the morning by heading up to the greenhouse with two projects in mind.  The first was to work with the group to hang trellises (string) for the yard long beans that have taken off in the greenhouse beds.  The green house feels much more alive with plants in the beds.

Next, I worked with students to revamp the nursery including:  organizing and throwing out old seeds,  reorganizing pots of varied sizes, recycling old potting soil, and planting tomatoes, flowers, garlic chives, and papayas.  After the first group finished trellising beans they moved out into the gardens to plant several new beds with beets, arugula, lettuce, and radishes.

Sunday morning I met with the Ohana again.  We started the day by gathering in the Kukui Grove where two students led a Soil Lesson.  They had organized the lesson the day before and did a very good job of addressing the group and posing questions to keep students involved and present.  The lesson was focused with neccassary information that i could build off of and then hand the lesson back over to them.  The students asked very good questions and we sat under the trees discussing varied things relating to soil for approx 40 minutes.  The lesson provided a great foundation to move into the landwork where we focused on  fertilizing the soil around all the papaya trees in camp.  The students moved efficiently through fertilizing and weeding the papayas and by lunch we were finished with that project.  I was impressed at how many questions the students posed about soil and at the quality of the questions as well.




  • Suzanne McKinney says:

    What I think is amazing is how rich these lessons are. There is so much to the land…it seems the learning and understanding could go on and on. I love how it relates so closely to real life; real emotions and experiences.

  • Thanks Patrick for your enthusiasm in working with the students. The garden is rich with metaphors for “sustainable growth.” The canoe plant lesson seems to be one of the favorites of the students!

    Keep up the good work:)

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