Meet Michael Kelley
During the 1990’s, I became a committed do-it-your-selfer and started learning about carpentry, electrical, plumbing and landscape work while fixing up the family home. I think of myself as a builder. Since 2010, I have been building irrigation, retaining walls, signage and other infrastructure in the Throop Learning Garden, along with other volunteers. It’s not done yet! The infrastructure work that remains will be enough to keep my friends and me busy for years, even if I don’t plant a single lettuce. However, I put on my gardener hat nearly every week, and enjoy watering, trimming and weeding; I encourage others to plant and harvest.
When I first arrived at Throop Church, the leadership was envisioning the revitalization of the landscape and the building of a new garden as synonymous with the revitalization and growth of the congregation itself. I was searching for an opportunity to commit to a community, and the garden project gave me a way to use skills that I had acquired.
I spend much of my time working and dreaming in the Throop Learning Garden. As a life-long city-dweller who is also a wilderness hiker, I value time that I spend in the Learning Garden because, aside from the fact that I need the exercise, it provides me with many serene moments in a place that has an extraordinary living energy."
Soon, we met our friends from Transition Pasadena and they proposed that we use permaculture concepts. So, learning about permaculture and about Unitarian Universalism was all of one piece for me. I already knew quite a lot about building, but whatever I know about gardening, I mostly learned here at Throop. I am a seven-year Throop member and current Board Treasurer.
My spouse, Felicia, earned a certification in Landscape Architecture from UCLA Extension, and about ten years ago I took courses in the field at Cal Poly Pomona, with a particular interest in drought-tolerant and native plants.
What drew me to Cal Poly was the work of the department head, John Lyle, an early advocate of regenerative design ideas that are very similar to permaculture concepts. However, permaculture had not yet found much acceptance, so I learned little about it, or gardening in general, until I began working with Pasadena Transition volunteers at the Throop garden and started reading works by permaculture thinkers like Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and Toby Hemenway.
I spend much of my time working and dreaming in the Throop Learning Garden. As a life-long city-dweller who is also a wilderness hiker, I value time that I spend in the Learning Garden because, aside from the fact that I need the exercise, it provides me with many serene moments in a place that has an extraordinary living energy--I feel that soil is the most miraculous substance that exists; I love putting my hands in it! This kind of feeling shouldn't be an occasional wilderness experience; we want to feel this right here in the city, where we live!
I plan to start facilitating regular Thursday morning gardening sessions for volunteers. Watch for the announcement and please join us!