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Robin Friedman: Thankful for the natural world and Master Gardeners who work in it
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As the holiday season begins, many reflect on the year and what lies ahead.

As we gathered with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we were reminded of many blessings and core values.

One of my core values is respect for all living things. This includes honoring the uniqueness we each possess and creating time to consider how small, everyday choices impact the world. This encompasses the animal kingdom, humans and the environment.

In the words of Dr. Jane Goodall, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”

I am grateful for the myriad of individuals I have come to know in this past year. They have shared stories, passions for gardens, teachable moments with youth and a willingness to give of themselves to create a better, more sustainable and beautiful community.

Each day as I visit the array of community and school gardens, nature preserves, parks, trails and outdoor spaces, I am struck by the beauty and unique attributes each outdoor space represents and the people who inhabit them.

I have the privilege of working with an active group of Master Gardeners. Each is not only an expert in soil, trees and plants, but comes with his or her own experiences, interests and talents he or she is willing to share as a volunteer to serve Hall County. More than 100 dedicated Master Gardeners share their knowledge in schools and youth programs and act as speakers, conservationists, native plant specialists, educators and promoters of pollinator gardens, wildlife photographers and beehouse makers. Plus, they are experts in our own backyard.

Overall, I am thankful and reminded all living things need to create a viable ecosystem, ranging from microbes, insects and worms to plants and especially trees. For me, gardening and being outdoors is solace and peace with the natural world.

As you gathered around the table this Thanksgiving, I hope you considered what part of the outdoor world you are thankful for.

Now is the time to consider what gardening successes you have had or an outdoor experience you recall from childhood, however large or small, along with the teachable moments and “aha” learning that can be shared with someone else. Now, share it.

Ask yourself what you would like to do different or improve for the following year. Whether you live in an apartment and are container gardening or live with vast open space, consider at least one new thing to grow or interact with outside. How will you connect with nature?

For me, it will be continuing to make time each day to connect with the natural world, appreciating more fully its diversity. My family prioritizes making time to explore state and national parks.

I plan to extend the use of our edible garden by building a tunnel and/or greenhouse to eat seasonally, year-round. Nothing is better than harvesting fresh produce and herbs each day after work for that night’s meal.

I am also excited to increase my knowledge and use of herbs in the kitchen and home. With guidance from fellow master gardeners and native plant experts I will learn how to create a wildlife friendly habitat in my home landscape and our community.

Robin Lynn Friedman is the Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Office. She can be reached at robinf@uga.edu or 770-535-8293.

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