Path

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I remember being concerned about “homelessness” from a very young age when my family moved to the New York City area and I was confronted by the existence of “extreme” states of poverty.  I was troubled by the notion that, in a “land of plenty”,  people could still remain homeless, hungry, and without family, or jobs, or mental health care.  I spent many years of my life trying to learn what I would need to know in order to do something about this.

I began studying anthropology at Baylor University in 1994 and this started me on a path of education that would equip me with the knowledge and skills needed to try and build an organization that could tackle the problems of homelessness and poverty in general.  I began focusing on human patterns of subsistence, where people obtain their food, and more importantly, the knowledge they have in how to obtain food.  This led to a profoundly deep interest in the ways that plants and people integrate with each other in society.

Over the course of my studies I began to understand that food can be just about anywhere one can find plants.  It troubled me to see homeless folks standing on street corners holding signs that said, “homeless and hungry” while there might be dozens of native food sources growing all over the area around them.  As a gardener myself that has grown numerous types of edible plants, nuts, and fruits, I began to see the importance of teaching people how to grow and harvest their own garden or wild foods.  More to the point, the question became, how do I put this knowledge into the hands and minds of the people that really need it?

I would eventually start a business, Plant Fix: Botanical Solutions, that would act as a design and consultation “think tank” for all things botanically related.  This provided a raw infrastructure for building a landscape service that also functioned as a work/training program for some of the formerly homeless residents of the Mobile Loaves and Fished “Community First” RV program.  This service has been running for eight months now and we have had many bugs to work out but we have managed to adapt where needed and grow where necessary to expand the project.

In May, 2012,  Path Landscapes was established with co-founder Andrew Walsh to take this “grand machine” to the next level.  Path is a special kind of landscaping company, equipped to tackle the present and future landscaping demands of the greater Austin area in an environmentally sustainable way.  Along the way, Path will continue the program of training those that have “gotten lost” or remain impoverished in Central Texas. This is my commitment to excellence, to compassion, and to finding a better way.

-Gabe

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Botanical Solutions

Imagine that you are a Roman foot soldier battling barbarians on the northern frontier. Your army just won the day’s battle, but your arm has been pierced by an enemy’s blade, and the wound continues to bleed. As you regroup with your legion, you stumble across a patch of blooming , fern-like wildflowers. You recognize them from the wisedom of your mother who told you the name of these wildflowers: “Achillea” – the flower of Achilles.

You grab a bundle of the flowers, and pick a bundle of leaves. You chew the flowers into a poultice, while you stuff the leafy stems into the bleeding wound in your arms. You spit the poultice out of your mouth, and apply it to the top of the wound. Then, you wrap your wounded arm in leather, and know that you will live to fight another day.

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So, let’s fast forward our imaginations to the modern day.

You are a lawyer. On your way to the office, you wade through commuter traffic and fight to find a parking spot within walking distance of your office. On the way to the office, you must walk under construction scaffolding, and unbeknownst to you, six stories up, a construction worker spills hot coffee on himself, and knocks a piece of rebar down. You are admiring the landscaping across the street when the rebar hits your arm, causing a bleeding wound. Of course, being that you are a lawyer, this starts to get way more complicated. Suffice to say, the ambulance crew cleans your wound with all manner of chemical compounds, and before you know it, you are stitched up and back on your feet, ready to go to war with the construction contractor.

And since we’re using our imaginations, wouldn’t it be ironic if the flowering plants that the lawyer was looking at in the landscaping were Achillea (Yarrow) in full bloom?

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Why “Botanical Solutions?”

Yarrow (Achillea) is a good example. The first story illustrates how a Roman soldier might have used yarrow for medical purposes in the battlefield. Today, science has provided the tools to better understand the meaning behind the historical references and mythological symbols of plants like Achillea/ Yarrow. (link)

Modern science has been able to show that the chemical metabolites of Yarrow contain specific astringent, anti-inflammatory, and pain-reducing qualities (for more on this, review the link above). An important difference between the two introductory stories is the expression of knowledge related to the chemical properties of Yarrow. In the first story, the Roman soldier possessed knowledge of the “medical” properties of yarrow. In the second story, we had to extend our imagination further to suggest that yarrow was even present in the scenario, but not recognized, and not utilized for its “medical” properties.

This is all conjecture. The point is, often, a solution to a problem is right at our feet. The question becomes, do we possess the knowledge required to see it?

Why do so many people go hungry when the earth sustains so much food?

Why do medicines get more expensive while the medicinal plants go unrecognized? Why are family farms struggling?

How does one grow their own food? How can you tell if a wild plant is edible? How can you tell if a plant is poisonous? How do you kill weeds? What weeds are edible? What are metabolites? How can I screen the view from my neighbor’s window, attract butterflies and humming birds, have flowers all year long, and still have a garden with foraging deer? How about in the shade?

A Marine that I worked with once told me that there are a thousand ways to solve any problem. Good advice from a good man. I live under the presumption (admittedly, one of many) that plants are the biological foundation of all higher life forms . So I follow this to arguably the best pragmatic conclusion that any given problem has a botanical solution.

And there you have it. Plant Fix- Botanical Solutions.