Guerilla Gardens and Food Forests

by Marisa Folse – Guardians Around The Earth

Ron Finley in his garden

South Central LA is growing food in a former food desert. Nearly ten years ago, Ron Finley inspired others into “guerilla gardening“, a pop-up style of bloom where your planted mentality. As a result of this and other guerilla gardeners, vast food deserts across the country shrank to patchworks of green with healthy food access. Alleys, back porches, vacant lots now hold vegetables in container gardens and grow boxes with hard-core volunteers to work the dirt. Taking care of the neighborhood has a more holistic meaning – growing community building from its roots.

Photo by Derek Harper of Dove Street Garden

Just in case you did not know, guerilla gardening is technically illegal. But this type of gardening has been around for awhile. Back in the day, gardeners cultivated at night and in secret. Currently, daytime trespassing activities of gardeners are rarely harassed. Articles and websites are dedicated to the greening and beautification efforts of hundreds of guerillas worldwide. That vacant lot or abandoned building in your ‘hood has been an eyesore forever. It would look amazing with a flowery, or better yet a vegetable, garden that your whole community can access. Go for it – cultivate culture and create a community food forest. But remember that land does belong to someone somewhere. That someone may one day decide to show up, claim it and all that is on it.

Photo by Uriel Mont on

Food forests are also options for those who have a legal rights to land. Residents in Venice, CA and other areas Around The Earth are creating amazing edible landscaping areas. Homeowners and renters alike take out grass lawns and plant fruit and vegetable gardens instead. A great blog post from Daily Harvest Designs lists 10 edible garden examples with photos. If your thinking about re-landscaping, or recreating a small space, or even just have upright wall garden space, check out this and similar posts.

I read in The Guardian News that over 70 food forests started across the US in 2021. (Granted this is not an actual statistic.) Even though the USDA food desert locator shows some improvement in the last decade, millions of Americans suffer from food shortages. Food insecurity and hunger around the globe has increased since the recent pandemic. I can name some folks in my neighborhood that are regularly hungry. Can you? This should not be a reality and yet it is.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

A food forest goal is minimal maintenance once established. As with wild forests there is no need to weed, till, fertilize or irrigate. It develops its own self sustaining ecosystem. Taller trees keep smaller plants shaded so they retain moisture. A food forest is not a good option for those calmest with order and linear crops. Vines grow up and about edible shrubs, chaos abounds in some forests. Yet, it offers ongoing sustenance. Get more info on Community Food Forests HERE the site offers ways to build your own.

Sustainability has become a buzz-word, thank goodness. Nearly everyone has heard about it and either understands its concept or is working toward making sustainable a part of their daily lives. Agroforestry is also a new norm and USDA offers resources toward its development and maintenance. At times agroforestry works with indigenous populations for damaged ecosystem improvement that sustains Ag production and forest habitat.

Photo by Maria Orlova on

What does all this mean and where is it going from here? As always, Guardians Around The Earth offers info and asks you to TAKE ACTION.

  • Be a part of the solution.
  • Create or add to existing food provision efforts.
  • Donate where funds or volunteers are needed.
  • Change your yard to edibles.
  • Invite neighbors to join you and share the bounty.
  • Tell a friend. Like our Facebook page. Be Better!

Plastic Poison

Plastic is everywhere. It’s been discovered in the air we breathe, in water we drink, inside animals, even in our own bodies. What is this poison doing to us and how can we stop this polymer madness?

A recent study shows only 20 companies produce OVER HALF of the world’s single-use plastic. Single-use accounts for a third of plastic produced annually and are those used once then thrown out, obviously. Yet those are what most likely ends up in our oceans wrecking havoc with environment and wildlife.

Sadly, nearly all single-use plastics are made without any recycled material. Even more sadly (and of course), the cause of our current global crisis is all about money. Large polymer producers are funded by global institution investors, big bank and corporate lenders. All large cogs moving a mighty machine and the individual investors are not aware of their contribution to all of this. Individuals like me! I discovered companies on the list that I financially supported (or benefitted from in retirement portfolio). Yep, I’m appalled at my lack of knowledge!

Now What!?!

Photo by Markus Spiske on

Find Out More – Research where your money goes and change it. (I’m looking into how I can, today.) If you’re not invested – talk to your parents, your friend’s parents, your boss. Let them know about companies listed.

Speak Up – write to decision makers and call for action. Talk to little decision makers like the supply purchaser at your favorite take out place! Ask for cardboard, waxed-paper or a discount if you bring your own container.

Decrease Use – Look at your trash, is it filled with plastic? You can decrease that footprint with smart purchasing choices. Look before you buy – is another option in sustainable packaging? Does it even need packaging? You’ll unwrap it at home, so why buy it wrapped at all!

Buy BulkHERE is a site that lists bulk groceries in the US. Okay, realistically COVID-19, forced bulk items into plastic storage. Soooo… not sure how long until that changes. Now you can choose to buy items that are NOT individually wrapped. Teach your kids about sustainability – let ’em pack lunch/snack using paper or a reusable bento box.

Use Alternatives – Before plastic took over our lives use of pottery, ceramics, stainless steel, wood, bamboo and even glass did everything. If you use store provided bags, ask for paper and add it to compost after use.

You Are Part of the Solution!

Act Now to Restore Earth.

Pining Away 4U!

The pine stays green in Winter… wisdom in hardship.

Norman Douglas
Thanks Trace Hudson for this photo

TREE FOUR: With all the different Pines in our global environment, here is featured the amazing Ponderosa. FEATURED NATIVE TREE: Ponderosa Pine / Pinus Ponderosa

Tree Four Dates: Post Selfie with Tree March 13-14 or April 23rd to 29th.

Ponderosa Pine Cone


  • A tree by many names – now called Pine or Conifer, this tree was called Fir. Term Conifer also refers to Spruce, Yew and a few others.
  • Pines are conifers, meaning seed are in cones. Pine Trees are unisex, producing both male and female cones on same tree.
  • Seeds have wings and spread by wind or animal droppings. Evergreen leaves are needles bundled in groups called fascicles. Groups are individual or as many as seven.
Thanks Marlon Martinez for this photo
  • Just about every part of most TRUE Pine Trees are edible. Some new needles taste lemony. Edible parts are nuts (obviously), pollen, needles, inner bark
  • Some Pines are NOT edible – Ponderosa Pines, all Yew Trees and a few uncommon ones like Norfolk Island Pine and Chinese White Pine are toxic. This is why it’s good to know which to avoid if you’re in a pinch for food.
Pine Needles for Tea?
  • Pines generally live long – 100-1000 years. World’s oldest pines (4-5 thousand years) live in Central California. They are Bristlecone Pines.
  • Researchers found traces of Conifer Trees 300 million years ago.
  • Native Peoples attribute Pine as symbol of wisdom and longevity.
  • Some pines, like the local Ponderosa, need fire for seed germination. These plant types are pyriscent. This is good since pine resin is highly flammable.
  • Pines are sturdy, growing naturally across the continent, perhaps around the entire northern hemisphere. They grow on snowy mountains up to 13k feet and in some deserts too because they need little water to survive.
  • Pine plantations are grown and harvested for timber, Christmas trees, and resin. Pine resin is used for sealant, glue and varnish.

Ponderosa Pine Specifics

  • Native to mountains of Western North America.
  • Also called Bull and Blackjack among other names.
  • Most widely dispersed Pine on continent. Maybe because seed can travel 1,000 feet.
  • Ponderosas are tall, straight Pine Trees with reddish, platelike bark and long needles. NPS says the bark smells like vanilla or butterscotch. Needles are 4-8 inches long and grow in threes.
  • Heartwood is reddish brown, sapwood is yellowish white.
  • It takes 2 years for cones to mature and shed seeds.
  • Seeds eaten by birds, squirrels and other small mammals.

Read More About It

Cottony Clouds

TREE THREE: FEATURED NATIVE TREE: Cottonwood /Populus Fremontii
TREE THREE DATES: Post Selfie Pics March 11-12 or April 15th to April 22nd

WIN $200: Take a selfie with featured tree during above-noted 2 days of Arbor Week or in week of April Tree Hunt. Post using @guardiansaroundtheearth on Instagram or #OpenYourGATE on Facebook. Post all 4 featured trees (and follow our FB page) to enter raffle on April 30th – Arbor Day.

Cottony Cool Quotes

Perhaps you have noticed that even in the very lightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray continually in differing ways.

Black Elk

♫ Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above –
Don’t fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide, open country that I love –
Don’t fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze,
Listenin’ to the murmur of the cottonwood trees.
Send me off forever but I ask you please –
Don’t fence me in. ♫

Cole Porter
Heart-Shaped Cottonwood Leaves


  • Fremont Cottonwood’s glossy leaves are triangular, slightly toothed and ♥ shaped. Cottonwood leaves known for rustling song they sing even with gentle breezes.
  • Cottonwood/ Aspen / Poplar all in genus “POPULUS” have short lives for trees. They live about 100 years and grow quickly to about 100 feet.
  • Poplars often form groves in barren, burned, or cleared areas. Groves are communities of trees that support and communicate with each other.
  • Fremont Cottonwood is related to Willow. They love waterways.
  • Cottonwoods grow fast in moist areas by creeks, streams and irrigation ditches but tolerate dry soil too.
  • Thick bark of cottonwood helps this tree survive wildfires.
  • Lewis and Clark attribute their success mostly to this tree.
  • Beautiful seasonal tree – flowering in Spring, cottony in Summer, colorful in Fall.
  • Pollinated seeds spread as snow for just two weeks in Summer. So, if allergic to cottonwood, their snow marks an end to suffering.
  • Cottony seeds blow up to FIVE MILES, on a windy day maybe more!
  • AZ Hopi Peoples hold Cottonwood Sacred – Listen to Wind Messages
  • Squirrels and birds eat tree buds, plus woodpeckers and raccoons shelter within.
  • BARK, like people, is smooth when young, wrinkled when older. Also like people, branches break when very old.
Raptor home-tree on Golden Hills Nature Trails


  • When you see cottonwoods in the environment you know water is nearby.
  • Paper and cardboard are made from this softwood pulp.
  • Edible – Sap is Sweet, Bark is Bitter.
  • Inner Bark fibers used for cord making.
  • Central Cali Yokut Peoples use cottonwood twigs in their basketry.
  • Black Cottonwood’s reddish resin reduces pain and fever.

Read More About It

Fall Cottonwood Leaves on Water

Oakie – Doakie!

FEATURED NATIVE TREE: Central California OAK/Quercus

photos and text by Marisa Folse

TREE TWO: This week features not just any Oak tree but Interior Live or Valley Oaks. TREE TWO DATES: Post Selfie Pics March 9-10 or April 8th to 15th.

WIN $200: Take a selfie with featured tree during above-noted 2 days of Arbor Week or week of April Tree Hunt. Then post it using @guardiansaroundtheearth on Instagram or #OpenYourGATE on Facebook. Post all 4 featured trees (and follow our FB page) to enter raffle on April 30th – Arbor Day.


  • Eight different Oak Tree species natively grow in Kern County environment of the 20 native to California. Most Oak Trees look similar, some are shrubby like Interior Live Oak and some are majestic like Valley Oak. Leaves, bark, and acorns are different by species. 80% of native Oak woodland in California is privately owned.
  • Oak Trees filter water. A large oak may give off 100 gallons of water a day. A tree takes in twice as much as it evaporates through its leaves. Evaporated tree water eventually forms clean water clouds, then rain, and this cycle renews.
  • All Oak Trees require personal space or physical distancing. Recent Covid-19 experiences gave everyone more awareness of personal space needs for health. Naturally growing trees require more personal space than ones planted from pots. That means, in a natural setting, changes anywhere around a tree as far away as twice its height affect that tree’s health. For this reason, Oak’s biggest threat is residential and commercial development.
  • Some people can innately sense the vibe or aura of certain Oak trees. A few individuals can physically sense the outer boundary of a tree’s personal space. Intuitive children approaching wild trees may stop just outside a trees dripline, sensing some indescribable barrier. Can you sense anything?
  • Most wildfires start by human actions. Luckily, two of California’s Oak Tree types are fire tolerant. Since wildfires occur annually, this makes sense. Blue Oak (Q. douglasii) tolerates grass fires and Englemann Oak tolerates hot forest fires.
Chicken-of-the-woods Mushroom on Black Oak Tree

California’s Oak Woodland Species

  • Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii)
  • California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii)
  • Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis)
  • Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)
  • Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii)
  • Interior Live Oak (Quecus wislizeni) – This evergreen prefers hills, mountains and streams.
  • Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana)
  • Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) – This largest Oak in California can grow over 100 feet and live about 300 years.
Woodpecker damaged Oak


  • Edible acorns, BUT major prep getting bitter, somewhat toxic, tannins out of them.
  • Bark and water solution can tan leather.
  • Oak bark has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Young branches or branch strips weave into baskets, mats, blinds and other items.

Learn More About It:

Check out these great links –

Joshing Joshua – Yucca Yucca

Week One Featured Tree: Joshua Tree / Yucca brevifolia by Marisa Folse

TREE ONE DATES: Post Selfie with Tree March 7-8 or April 1st to 7th.

WIN $200: Take a selfie with featured tree during above-noted 2 days of Arbor Week or week of April Tree Hunt. Then post it using @guardiansaroundtheearth on Instagram or #OpenYourGATE on Facebook. Post all 4 featured trees (and follow our FB page) to enter raffle on April 30th – Arbor Day.

Thanks Nathan Moore for Photo


  • Slow Growers: Joshua’s grow only three (3) inches a year for first ten years! That means a yardstick high tree is over 30 YEARS old.
  • Growth slows with age. After first ten years, Joshua trees grow less than 2 inches a year on average. A ten foot tall Yucca Tree is about 80 years old.
  • Joshua tree is home to Wood Rats, Scott’s Orioles, Yucca Moths and other desert dwellers.
  • Ancestral Natives of region used leaves for sandals and basketry.
  • Root system can be shallow and radial like other ancient Cali trees (Giant Sequoia or Redwood).
  • Edible tree parts are Flowers, Seeds, Fruit and Roots. Flower buds are bitter and open flower centers are too. Yet open flowers said to be sweet when roasted. Root, young fruit, and seeds are eaten raw or cooked. Note: Joshua roots are pencil thin and very fibrous, unlike the bulbous Yucca roots found in stores. But in a pinch, one can gnaw on a root for sustenance.

Not So Fun Facts – Joshua’s Climate Challenge

  • ATVs and desert explorers upset these slow growers. Developers simply cut them down.
  • As many forests interconnect underground, surface traffic has negative effect on tree health.
  • Over a million Joshua Trees killed in August 2020 Cima Dome Fire. Altered climate events increased fire vulnerability for Joshua Trees. These burnt and their seedlings will not return.
  • Fewer young yucca trees now exist due to climate change impacts. Drought and higher ambient temperatures are reducing quantity of young Joshua trees.
  • In late 2020, Joshua Tree named and protected as a California Endangered Species. First plant ever listed due to climate impacts.

Take Action

  • Young Joshua trees are now being planting near Cima Dome. Find out more from National Park Service.
  • We at Guardians Around The Earth seek to join the Joshua Tree Genome Project work mapping regional trees. Current sites are along 58 freeway between Sand Canyon and Mojave Exits. Volunteers welcome to join our TreeForce.
Dying Joshua Tree Forest along Oak Creek Road – photo by Marisa Folse

Read More About It:

Check out these great links

Week 1: Joshua Tree

Photo by Marisa Folse


Joshua trees are native to the Mojave desert in parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. They can’t be found anywhere else in the world! They are very slow growing, and can live to be very old. They are a succulent- a kind of plant that stores water- which helps them survive in very hot, dry environments. They are a rare and special tree, so they are protected from being removed or cut down. Especially as temperatures increase due to climate change, it is becoming harder for Jashua Trees to survive and reproduce. 

How many Joshua trees can you find this week? Tag @GuardiansAroundTheEarth in your selfies!


Celebrating Trees

By Grace Colbert

Why should we celebrate trees?

Take a look outside. Chances are, you can see a tree or two from your window! Trees are essential to life on Earth and are important for both humans and animals. 

Perhaps most importantly, trees give off oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. We need oxygen to live! Trees in our environment also give nutrients- or food- to the soil so other plants and trees can continue to grow. Many animals make their homes in trees, like woodpeckers, sloths, and beetles. Humans use the wood from trees to make many everyday products such as wood for building, paper, and even chewing gum! Trees sure give us a lot, so here are some ideas for how we can celebrate and give back to them!

How can we celebrate trees?

How can we give back to trees?

  • Donate/Plant: Planting a tree is a great way to give back and help replace some of the trees humans use to make products.
  • Preserve: You can help trees in your daily life by being kind and letting them grow. Have you ever seen a tree with words or markings carved into it? Or maybe you’ve seen someone break off a tree branch to use as a walking stick? While it may seem like fun, these actions are harmful to trees. You can do your part and leave them be. Help remind your friends and family to do the same, and together we can protect our trees for years to come. 
  • Volunteer: Join GATE as a volunteer with the Tree Force! GATE identifies trees in need of help and  assigns volunteers to special projects in the Tehachapi area. Projects may include clearing brush, removing dead sections, or cutting constraints from around trees to promote improved growth. 

Wildlife Friendly Gardens

National Wildlife Foundation offers the below five steps to Create Wildlife-Friendly Gardens. This post links to their website: to certify your new wildlife habitat. Whether an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife helps restore habitat in commercial and residential areas.

Photo by Anna on

Provide Food Planting native forbs, shrubs and trees provides the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive and thrive. Incorporating supplemental feeders and food sources also helps. 

 Supply Water Wildlife need clean water sources for many purposes, including drinking, bathing and reproduction. These may include natural features such as ponds, streams and wetlands; or human-made features such as bird baths, puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds or rain gardens.

Photo by Kittichai Chumanee on

 Create Cover Wildlife require places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather. Using things in a garden setting like native vegetation, shrubs, thickets and brush piles or even dead trees provides necessary cover.

 Give Wildlife a Place for Young Wildlife need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise young, from wildflower meadows and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs, or caves where bats roost and form colonies. 

Photo by Jean van der Meulen on

Let Your Garden Go Green Garden or landscape maintenance can have an important effect on the health of soil, air, water and habitat for native wildlife–as well as the human community nearby. Composting, mulching as well as reducing both turf grass and chemical use are key steps to gardening greener.

Ready…Set…Certify! <<-Click this link once these five essential elements are provided. Join others across the country as part of NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.  


Caregiver Quotes

  • Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~Lao-Tzu
  • When a parent becomes a grandparent, they are the Guardians of two generations in their family ~Foundation for Grandparenting
  • The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born. ~Pearl S. Buck
  • Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. ~Oprah Winfrey
  • Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light. ~Norman B. Rice
  • Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. ~Mohammed Ali
  • Take action It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw
  • Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~Robert F. Kennedy
  • ***If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you’ll be going, ‘you know, we’re alright. We are dang near royalty.’ ~Jeff Foxworthy
  • ***Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~Theodore Roosevelt
  • ***When you get in a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. ~Harriott Beecher Stowe
  • ***Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo Buscaglia
  • ***We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark. ~Whoopi Goldberg
  • If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. ~John F. Kennedy
  • Don’t find fault. Find a remedy. ~Henry Ford
  • ***When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think. ~Bertrand Russell
  • You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. ~Barbara de Angelis
  • ***“Some days are diamonds, some days are stone. Some time the hard times won’t leave me alone. Some times the cold winds blow a chill in my bones. Some days are diamonds, some days are stone.” ~recorded by John Denver. Words and music by Dick Feller