Meet Maggie! TFI’s Summer ’17 Landscape Intern

Friday, June 23

“It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”     – William Whyte

The vegetable garden is clearly one of the most successful public and social spaces at Tryon Farm: just from casual conversations so far, I can tell that the social function of this space is what people value the most about it, even more so than its produce!

However, I know that this space has the potential to be more beautiful, productive, and supportive of community – in fact, this is my aim for the next five weeks – and that all hinges on good design.

There’s a few “design thinkers” (as we call them in design school) whose ideas always come to mind when I’m in new places, and whom I always keep in mind when starting projects…

William Whyte :: Social elements of space ::     Whyte was an urbanist and journalist, and loved to meticulously observe people’s habits to understand what made social spaces successful. He produced a fascinating documentary called “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.” I highly recommend, if only for his entertaining narration and footage of past fashion trends.


Kevin Lynch :: Perception of space ::     Lynch was an urban planner made famous for his work on how people mentally perceive and categorize space. He broke down these categorizations into the elements of paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. I especially use his ideas when making maps, like the one I just finished for TFI!


Francis Ching :: Ordering of space ::     Ching draws and writes on all things architecture, and his ordering principles are the keys to survival for every Ball State first-year design student. They include axis, symmetry, hierarchy, rhythm, datum, and transformation, and I once spent three weeks straight slicing up pieces of black and white paper in patterns that followed these principles.


Now, imagine how all of these principles and elements could be used to improve the garden. Lynch might say to make clearer boundaries and easier patterns of movement; Whyte might say more comfortable and adjustable seating is needed, or he might just tell us to have more parties there; and Ching would almost certainly say the beds should be arranged in a more logical order…

What are your thoughts? What other places on the Farm might benefit from some “design thinking” such as this?



Friday, June 16

I put Tryon Farm work on hold this week to help delineate a wetland in a very unexpected place.

Driving up to Orak Shrine on Franklin, I never would have guessed I was approaching the site. At first sight, all I noticed was a wooded area mainly filled with dead Ash trees.

But I followed Sarah into those woods anyways, and discovered a thriving and diverse wetland.

Here were a community of beautiful sedges and other wetland plants, frogs, crayfish, fawns, and birds. This unassuming, undeveloped piece of land along the city’s main commercial strip was full of life just living for its own sake.

Nature like this is everywhere: it’s not officially preserved or recreationally used, we’re not aware of and not drawn to it, but it exists nonetheless.

Because humans had ignored this place for some time, it was a confusing tangle of plants, but I soon got to know the place –

How to make a path from one end to the other while dodging the raspberry thorns and poison ivy – even though there’s no way to escape it all.

How to tell which way is North or West or East based on where the Sun is making leaves glow the brightest.

I also learned how hard it is to be certain in this work of defining a landscape meter by meter when everything is so interconnected and fluid – upland and wetland plants live within the same square foot, and can I really tell if the rust color in the soil makes up 2% or 5% of the sample?

Regardless of where the line is drawn in the end, this landscape and natural community is what it is. To me, that’s comforting in the realm of physical reality (even if it’s frustrating in legal reality).

And, regardless of where the line is drawn in the end, it is a line that ensures the right of this place to keep existing. That right is something I am certain of.


in the thick of the wetland


looking up at the dead ash trees

munsell soil chart

the color chart we use to identify wetland soils



Friday, June 9

Nearly every day this week, I’ve walked around the beautiful landscapes of Tryon Farm for an hour or two and it’s counted as part of my “workday” (don’t worry, that’s not all I’ve done).

I’m doing this not only to familiarize myself with the Farm and enjoy the early days of summer, but as a part of the process for my first assignment: I am to add to the litany of Tryon Farm maps one that focuses on the diverse landscapes managed by the Institute.

In the process of experiencing this place in order to map it, I have to say I feel a little overwhelmed. Not because of the Farm’s size, but because of its intricacies. How can I capture the details of this place in a map? Or should a map even try to do this?

A map can use lines to indicate parcels, paths, and pond edges. However, I don’t believe it can fully express the complexity of plant communities or the morning light on a meadow.

But hopefully, it can make you want to go and experience a place for yourself, and maybe even suggest how best to do that. That is what I’ve chosen to aim for with this design.


Getting to know the place… maps, doodles, and plant samples


Now for the practical part of this blog: I’ve been using an app called LiveTrekker while on my walks. It traces my steps onto a satellite image, and as I’m walking I can pause to add a photo, video, sound recording, or note that will attach itself to the point on the path at which I took it. It’s been incredibly helpful not only for getting accurate locations of trails, but for marking things I found memorable, important, or simply beautiful.

All of your “Treks” are accessible on computer and, most importantly, shareable. I encourage everyone to get this app, and we can use it at Tryon Farm to share our personal observations of things that are fleeting and not normally expressed on a map: the location of a bird’s nest, flooded points on the trail, or where new wildflowers are in bloom.


Wandering around…my messy merging of all my walks

I think it would be a wonderful way to build community around the natural communities here at Tryon! Let me know what you think.



Friday, June 2

Tryon Farm Bio _week1

Maggie WeighnerWEEK 1
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Today we welcome Maggie Weighner to Tryon Farm to begin her summer internship with the Institute!

Maggie is in Year 5 (of 5) of her Professional degree program in Landscape Architecture at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She will be spending the 2017 summer residing at a rotating set of Tryon Farm homes donated by our Members, experiencing the variety of landscapes and living environments at the Farm.

Beginning on Friday, she’ll be posting blog updates about her experiences with the internship and at the Farm.

We’re so excited!



Many thanks are owed to many folks for making this possible:

  • to Maggie for contributing her talents and interest to our humble Farm project!
  • to Ball State University – Dept. of Landscape Architecture for their continued support of Tryon Farm Institute
  • to the numerous TFI Members who have donated their homes to make her summer lodging possible
  • to TFI Governing Member / Landscape Architect designer / Ball State grad Nicole Rebeck for assisting in developing the curriculum
  • to TFI Governing Member / Tryon Farm Guesthouse Innkeeper Claudia Geise for assisting in arranging summer lodging

About TryonFarmInstitute

Tryon Farm Institute, Inc. (TFI) is an Indiana chartered non-profit land trust and education organization with a mission to connect human and natural communities by promoting habitat diversity and sustainable land husbandry.

One comment

  1. Claudia Geise

    Special Thanks to TFI Governing members for the donation of their Tryon Farm homes: Sean and Beth Tomlins, Brad Reeg and Betsy Elsaesser, Tim Kominiarek & Brittany Reeves, Joanne Day, Steve Perkins & Robin Eisen Perkins. We still have July 4th week open and Father’s Day weekend is also needed. Please contact me if you’d like to volunteer. 219-210-6558

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