Welcome to my website and blog. As a citizen scientist for over 20 years I have learned a good amount from my fellow volunteers and the professionals that support and guide us. My hope is to share what I have learned, will continue to learn, and INSPIRE all who visit my website and Ahimsa Garden to take action.
Namaste, my name is Reneé Kitt and I am the creator of this website and Ahimsa Garden. I can’t remember a time in my life that I did not have a deep love of nature and being outside. Over the years my knowledge of the natural world around me has grown along with my passion for environmental stewardship and education. I have a B.S. in Geography, Environmental Studies and am very proud to be a Virginia Master Naturalist.
Around the year 2001 I got my start in citizen science as a volunteer stream monitor with Audubon Naturalist Society and the Save Our Streams program. When it comes to natural history I am guilty of diving in, and soon I became a team leader and started teaching classes to other volunteers about stream ecology, benthic macro invertebrate identification and monitoring protocol.
A short 3 years later I purchased my home in Fauquier County, VA where I urgently began the backbreaking, finger aching task of removing English Ivy and Honeysuckle which had taken over the yard. My goal was to plant only native plants. Back in 2003 there were not as many resources or nurseries as today. But I found a way, and learned that “native” to North America is not the same as “native” to Fauquier Co. and I enjoyed every hole dug and plant watered. Fast forward to 2020 and my 0.66 acres of home has become Ahimsa Garden.
Remember I said “I dive in“? After several years of involvement in biological stream monitoring (and a few road blocks, hey life happens) I decided I must make the time to attend the Virginia Master Naturalist program and become certified. I received my certification in 2013, since then I have become fascinated with the science behind suburban “lawnscapes” and the untapped potential of these lands to be converted into ecologically important and viable spaces.
I am a Virginia Master Naturalist out of Banshee Reeks nature preserve located in Loudoun County, VA however I now complete the majority of may service hours at The Clifton Institute which is located close to my home and my heart. In the years between 2013 and 2020 I found myself focusing more and more on the concept of creating habitat at home, following the Audubon at Home (AAH) program hosted by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and having my own property certified as an AAH Wildlife Sanctuary.
Remember I said “I dive in“? Here we go again! Just receiving the AAH Sanctuary designation wasn’t enough for me. It was just the beginning, the grease that got the wheels spinning like a centrifuge. Year after year I wandered my yard observing all the different plants that I plopped in the ground. They were growing, spreading, disappearing, and moving to the other side of the yard. I dreamed of one day finally getting control of the invasive plants that thrived in the lower wooded section of my yard, dominated by Tulip-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) trees. In 2018 I decided to take a jump and seek some help from a professional native plant landscape designer. The journey was inspiring, and encouraging. I finally knew what I wanted to do, native plant landscape design .. well maybe when I retire.
In 2019 as I began planning how I would bring the design to life I looked into a unique program I had learned about a few years back called the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program; VCAP for short. I had been told that it wasn’t common to receive funding for habitat restoration projects. I had nothing to lose, so I applied through the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District. Holy cow!! I was approved! With a design in hand, my own savings and the grant support from VCAP I got started turning my dreams into reality. Dirty hands, shovels, pulling weeds and lots of coordination between the designer, growers, installation crew and myself.
Guess what? If you dream it, put one foot in front of the other, and you have loads of passion, patience and grit you can do just about anything.
WE HAVE ARRIVED! May 2020 Ahimsa Garden for education and landscape design is born!