Winter Community Member Spotlight: Michele Chalice
When we think of the American home, visions of white picket fences and green manicured lawns may come to mind. What we forget is that these lawns are anything but ideal for our wallets, communities, wildlife, and planet.
One local business is set to re-imagine what these outdoor spaces could look like and transform them into spaces which benefit all. Founded in 2019, Healthy Home Habitats offers eco-friendly, residential landscape designs, workshops, and programs for more color, health, and wildlife habitat throughout the Monadnock Region and beyond!
Chalice Smiles During a Presentation, Image Credit: Michele Chalice
Healthy Home Habitats is a business that has sprung from the passion of Michele Chalice. Chalice did not always call the Monadnock Region home. She grew up in a suburb of Chicago. The neighborhood was made up of subdivisions from former farmland. As a child, Chalice sought connection in natural spaces and spent a lot of time exploring forest and streams outside of her neighborhood.
On witnessing such vast development of habitat Chalice jokes, “I think it scarred me for life to want to restore and recreate ecological spaces. It really was a complete wipeout of everything that was living there to build these houses… it was formative.”
These experiences of witnessing development and fond childhood memories of exploring nature sparked a lifelong passion for Chalice, who pursued a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois in Landscape Architecture. Following her degree, she managed a small business creating tiny gardens in Downtown Chicago. As a Licensed Landscape Architect, she designed, installed, and maintained these gardens in the early 1990’s. Chalice enjoyed this work, but longed for work that more closely aligned with her personal, environmental values.
Chalice came to Keene for a master’s degree in Resource Management at Antioch University New England and then spent ten years working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Madison, Wisconsin.
Following her daughter’s birth, she moved to the Monadnock Region. “I wanted to raise my child within walking distance to nature”. She then spent six years as a City Planner with Keene and a year as a Horticulture Teacher at Keene High School. As her time at Keene High School came to a close, Chalice took the opportunity to begin an exciting new journey. She decided that it was the perfect time to truly pursue her passion and founded Healthy Home Habitats that fall.
Independently running a business is difficult, and it could be easy to lose motivation, but this is not the case for Chalice. She notes that her job is a constant source of motivation, “It’s great fun to offer creative choices for joyfully healing our yards into yardens with native plants, less grass, no chemicals, more color, and more health, for ourselves, our soil, and our ecological communities!”.
At its heart, Healthy Home Habitats is about connecting community members back to their home's nature with co-gardening, ecological landscape maintenance mentoring and landscape designs.
An Example of Chalice's Work in a Back Gate Area, Image Credit: Michele Chalice
These services improve their home’s yards and gardens, by reducing lawns and adding native plants, creating seasonal displays and diversifying their environments.
Apart from the many services Healthy Home Habitats offers, Chalice is also a leader at community events. In the Spring of 2022, Cheshire County Conservation (CCCD) organized the first ever Pollinator Palooza. Pollinator Palooza is a festival of education and awareness during National Pollinator Week, where community members of all ages and local organizations are invited for a day of learning and fun!
Chalice is a talented educator and engaged both children and adults during the event through an interactive soil and planting table. Chalice is excited to return to the event, representing Healthy Home Habitats as a Xerces Ambassador this year, on Thursday, June 22nd from 1-3PM at the Ashuelot River Park. She will offer hands-on pollinator activities to our community.
Healthy Home Habitats is also excited to be partnering with Monadnock Grows Together, an initiative to connect community members in the greater Keene area to gardening resources and workshops. This initiative was made possible through funding of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Urban Agriculture Grant.
Chalice will be leading an in-depth composting workshop this February, which will be free to participants. During the workshop, Chalice looks forward to helping community members evaluate the best ways to conveniently compost food waste at home, while demonstrating exciting tools and methods that vary in cost and convenience. The workshop will be held on Saturday, February 18th from 1:30-2:30PM at the Healthy Home Habitats house in Keene. Registration information will be made available soon! Contact email@example.com for more information!
Chalice’s approach is unique as her workshops. Her methods are framed around creativity and choice. Chalice’s workshops and services help community members determine the best ecologically healthy improvements for their properties from a variety of options. Healthy Home Habitats also offers free online resources for gardeners of all skills levels, learn more here!
Transitioning to an ecologically healthy habitat can be a daunting task for a gardener of any level. Chalice stresses that these habitats are crucial and can also be much easier to maintain and more cost-effective than the traditional lawn.
Chalice explains the importance of these habitats, “An ecologically healthy habitat supports our beneficial insects and healthy soil. Beneficial insects and healthy soil are the basis for our food chain which supports the many creatures we love such as butterflies and birds, but also the entire ecosystem of plants we eat, plants that shade us from blazing sunshine, plants that create our oxygen and cycle both nutrients and contaminants”.
An Example of Chalice's Work, Image Credit: Michele Chalice
On these habitats she adds, “They surround our daily life… these are the places where our children play, where our pets live, where we spend our leisure time…We get to choose what happens on our property. We get to choose how our land is managed. It is a really exciting opportunity to have more health, diversity, more color, and more delight right at home, instead of going so far away to find all those things. We actually have the ability to create more nature right at home”.
For someone wanting to start making their landscape ecologically healthier, Chalice stresses, “A diversity of native plants leads to ecological health”.
Chalice also notes the importance of stopping the use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and poisons. She encourages community members to dispose of them in a safe and responsible way, such as their community’s local Household Hazardous waste day.
Chalice explains the impact of these chemicals, “Mouse poisons kill the owls that feed on the mice. Herbicides and pesticides poison the caterpillars that would be butterflies or moths, or in turn poison the baby birds [which are fed caterpillars] by their mothers. Pesticides poison the moths, butterflies, and insects that birds rely on for food”. Chalice continues to explain that all landscape chemicals impact the greater ecological food chain, causing damage at every link.
Looking ahead, Healthy Home Habitats is excited to offer a 2023 series of free, monthly open houses at HHH’s demonstration gardens in Keene: “What’s Blooming at the Healthy Home Habitats House?” as well as a “Eco-Landscape Management at the Healthy Home Habitats ‘Yardens’. These demonstrations will provide an opportunity for community members to learn and see examples of what their landscapes could look like.
Habitats Designed by Chalice, Image Credit: Michele Chalice
Chalice is also excited to be publishing an e-book, which focuses on the 5 choices that every homeowner can choose to do differently with their landscape to help our environment from their property
The book was written for community members who do not have traditional gardening backgrounds and may not have the time and money to recreate their landscape but want to do something to help the environment from their home!
The e-book titled Save the World with Our Yards & Gardens; Environmental Activism at Home, 5 Choices to Create 25 Million Acres of Nature, will be available for purchase this summer.
Chalice's E-Book Cover, Image Credit: Michele Chalice
Chalice hopes that this book may serve as a resource, “to ignite, inspire, and empower the many people that have been feeling frustrated, angry, and anxious, about our environmental challenges”.
Chalice notes, “There is no reason to wait for our government to heal our ecosystems and communities. We can start right now with the 25 million acres we own and manage”.
Learn more about Healthy Home Habitats on social media and here: https://healthyhomehabitats.com/