Person of the Week
Stone Invites All to St. John’s Pollinator Meadow Earth Blessing Ceremony June 25
As an advocate of organic gardens and pollinator pathways, Judy Stone was happy to assist with the formation of a new pollinator meadow garden behind St. John’s Episcopal Church in North Guilford. The project is a collaborative effort of St. John’s and neighboring North Guilford Congregational Church. The public is invited to attend a special Earth Blessing Ceremony at the pollinator garden at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, hosted St. John’s as part of its 275th anniversary year. (Photo courtesy of Judy Stone)
On behalf of St. John’s Episcopal Church in North Guilford, pollinator garden proponent Judy Stone invites the public to a special event at the church’s new pollinator meadow on Saturday, June 25 at 5 p.m.
As part of its 275th anniversary year, the iconic church at 129 Ledge Hill Road will be holding an Earth Blessing Ceremony at the meadow at 5 p.m. on June 25, to honor the indigenous people who first occupied the land in North Guilford. The ceremony will be led by historian and indigenous culture expert Jim Powers. Powers will speak briefly on the area’s indigenous people and their connection to the earth and nature, and also help participants reconnect with nature and the environment. Bob Lyons will give a brief talk about the history of the church.
The new pollinator meadow fills an open space owned by neighboring North Guilford Congregational Church (NGCC) and is a collaborative effort between the two churches. Judy thanks Lyons for his work in helping St. John’s to bring the garden about, and NGCC’s Bill Sorensen for his work in leading NGCC’s part in the project.
Well before the project got underway in 2021, Judy says she had often thought the overgrown meadow could become a useful and attractive pollinator garden.
“I’m at the age where I have great ideas, but I need strong backs,” says Judy, a Guilford resident and active member in several Episcopal communities, including St. John’s.
Once the concept was embraced by NGCC and St. John’s, Lizzie Robbins, a Yale Divinity School seminarian at St. John’s, helped to put things in gear, says Judy. First, Robbins gathered a work crew.
“She organized a group of about 25 people to clean up the meadow, which they managed to do in one day, which was fabulous,” says Judy, noting the group included Sorensen and NGCC members pitching in to provide equipment and sweat equity.
Also in 2021, Robbins secured some funding for the project from the Episcopal Church of Connecticut’s Jack Spaeth Care for God’s Creation Grant.
“That provided seed money for plants and some necessary equipment,” says Judy.
Pads were installed in areas of the meadow, covered with cardboard and woodchips donated from local groups. Sorensen and his crew returned several times to do more weed trimming. But there was still much more work to be done before the group could start to gain the meadow over the various invasive plants that had first called it home.
“It was looking great last year around mid-March. And then, of course, the weeds came back—and I do mean weeds—from our perspective and from nature’s perspective,” says Judy. “So it’s been a struggle. And this year, we replenished it with huge help from the boy scouts who meet at St. John’s. They’ve come in and they’ve refreshed the pads. They’ve been immensely helpful in keeping our property up to speed, and also working on this meadow.”
Pollinator meadows are actually quite high maintenance, she notes.
“They actually require more care than some of the standard ornamental gardens,” says Judy.
Right now, the meadow is a place where pollinator-friendly plantings are making their presence known. St. John’s also recently added two bee hives adjacent to the pollinator meadow. The hives are maintained by a volunteer group of church members.
Having different groups with different interests intersect is part of the type of community building that will make this project a success, says Judy.
“My intention is to build community, so that the people that are involved also build this sort of ecosystem,” she says. “If you get it going, and you get it going properly, it’s self-maintaining. You don’t have to keep doing it all over again every year.”
The meadow also includes some woodchip-covered pads that will lend themselves to a meditation garden that’s being incorporated into the site.
“We have a bench and we’re bringing in the kind of stone that’s used to build cairns,” says Judy of the man-made stacked stone piles found around the world. “They’re the right kind of rocks to do some really interesting meditative sculptures.”
The meadow is open to the public, using an entrance off a small road behind St. John’s that’s next to the church.
Judy also notes June 25 is the day of the Pollinator Garden Tour of Guilford (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visit www.pollinatorpathwaysofguilford.com for details) and thanks Guilford Community Garden manager and Sustainable Guilford Task Force member Terri Cain and others from Sustainable Guilford who were part of the 2021 work crew to help establish the church pollinator meadow. The meadow was also a stop on the first tour last year, Judy adds.
Speaking of others giving their support, Judy stresses the pollinator meadow is the result of the combined work of many volunteers. For that reason, “...I do feel a bit awkward being the Person of the Week, when it should People of the Week!” she says of her interview with the Courier. As Judy further notes, she’s “one of many people involved, not to mention the many trees, plants, animals, insects, birds, and microbes and the human ancestors who helped shape our environment for thousands of years.”
As to her personal effort to help create and share a section of North Guilford as part of the area’s pollinator pathway, “my intention is not just providing something for pollinators, it’s also educational,” says Judy. “It’s to help people understand the reasons for planting native plants, for planting things that pollinate, for having a lawn that is not just a Sahara Desert. These gardens can help to show people how they can do something small on their own properties.”
In addition to helping St. John’s establish the pollinator meadow, Judy is the garden coordinator at non-profit Dudley Farm Museum in North Guilford. She first became involved as a volunteer 26 years ago, thanks to her friend, Doug Williamson, a current member of the Dudley Farm Museum board of directors.
Judy’s held the role of coordinating the farm’s gardens since about 2005, including organizing its community garden, established in 1994.
“When first I took it over, the person that had been running it was working full-time, as was I,” says Judy. “But, especially at the point that I retired, I set about to form a community of people—growing the community, not just growing the garden. We also always love to have volunteers!”
Interested members of the public can contact Judy at gardens@ dudleyfarm.com.
This year at Dudley Farm, at the request of a board member, “we’re doing a special blue and yellow pollinator garden,” says Judy.
The garden includes a yellow heritage variety sunflower garden that will grow both for pollinators and to show support for the people of Ukraine (the sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower). Judy says the garden is being installed with the help of quite a few Guilford High School student volunteers, who’ve helped repair the space and plant flowers that will reflect the colors of Ukraine’s flag.
Judy also thanks the Guilford Garden Club for donating to the Dudley Farm Heritage Garden for a number of years. The heritage garden grows varieties that would have been prevalent during the farm’s heyday (built in 1845) as a farmstead.
Judy has also given back to the garden club on behalf of the farm by providing a talk to members last year on organic farming. A life-long gardener, Judy is a Northeast Organic Farming Association member and one who is committed to organic gardening and promoting it.
“I’m really a big fan of organic gardening, and hopefully a strong advocate for it,” says Judy, whose talk to the garden club covered the “what, why, and how” of organic gardening.
Judy says she wants to find more ways to get people involved in organic gardening at their own homes as well as gardening to help support pollinators.
“I want to help people try to reimagine their own gardens, whatever shape they take, with things that provide [nutritious] pollen for these creatures,” she says. “Even if you only have a small space, it’s really important to know what are the things that you can put in that will keep them flying from one place to another and have this food chain along the way.”
She recommends checking out some how-to books, such as The Pollinator Victory Garden by Kim Eirman. Judy also ticks off some other books she feels are particularly informative for those who want to learn more, including Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, which she says is “a fascinating book about the soil food web, written for laypersons”; The Earth Knows My Name by local author Patricia Klindienst, which Judy describes as “lovely stories of human relationship to the land”; and The Lives of Weeds by John Cardina, which she terms “a very interesting book about the complex relationship and interaction of ‘weeds’ to human agricultural practices.”
Ultimately, Judy she says her goal is one of “creating community, protecting and honoring the complex and beautiful created world, and building supportive human communities.”