Wow, February has been a momentous month for the garden. So many wonderful things have happened that I need to share with all of you. Where should I begin?
First of all, the PTA fully funded all of our garden projects for this year. Please make sure you let those folks know that we appreciate their support. This means that we are going to be able to build a retaining wall, install a new drip irrigation system, and build our outdoor classroom. Overall, they awarded us $4000!!!
Next up, we received our Donorschoose.org grant. This means that the school garden is going to be the proud owner of a bunch of new hand's-on tools to help kids learn about insects. This great learning opportunity only happened because the Madera community gave from their own pockets. I'd like to thank the following people for making this happen: Emily Moya, Jessica McGuire, Patricia Osorio O’Dea, Krista Easton, Georgina Edwards, William Mitchell, Michelle Fadelli, Tammy Garretson, Renate Hallock, Lucy Kirsch, Deborah Gray, Linda Geiser, Patrice Chamberlain, and one anonymous donor. The garden thanks you! And to those who wanted to give, but couldn’t because the project had already been funded- Terri Lynn Sullivan, John R. Hanson, Mary Crabb- thanks!
Many others have found ways to support the garden this month. And I'd like to mention a few of them here-
*The steps are done thanks to our great garden chairperson, Matt Reed and Mark Rubenaker, who has a daughter in kindergarten at Madera. Thanks guys!
*Joe, our wonderful custodian, has donated two great benches to the garden, and the kids already are using one all of the time. Thanks, Joe!
* A fellow master gardener, Arti Kirch, donated a bunch of lovely lavender seedlings that the kids will soon be planting out into the garden. And so my master plan to cover the earth with sweet smelling lavender continues....
*Robin Hanson, an active Madera parent and gardener extraordinaire has gotten our worm bin up and running (or should we say squirming?) Thank you!
And boy, have the student farmers been working overtime! They have moved all 5 cubic yards of mulch into the garden and they have started moving the 2 cubic yards of compost and soil we just had delivered. They have started tearing down the old retaining wall we have, and they have been harvesting up a storm. I imagine there has been much laughter in some Madera homes as students turn up with tiny carrots, grubby turnips, an odd lemon or two, and bunches of mustard, kale, and tat-soi.
Last but not least, Mother Nature has been pretty spectacular this month. We have gone from highs around 80 to lows of 32 and beyond. We have had days when not a single thing is moving in the garden, and there is not even a gasp of wind to gusts of over 30 mph. And then to top it off, when I arrived at the garden early last Saturday morning (on the 26th) there was still ice in some of the buckets of water. Talk about a mercurial weather month. I am not sure what the Farmer's Almanac says, but I think all of this rain and intermittent sunshine is going to make for a good growing season.
Unfortunately, I don't have as much to report as I'd like. I had to undergo some surgery early in the month, and much to my chagrin that meant that I couldn't play in the soil for a couple of weeks. I am doing much better now and last week (January 24th-January 28th) I was able to come back and work at lunch time with our young gardeners. With the start of February, I am getting back to my old schedule and I am SO very grateful to be able to do so. Thanks to all of the teachers, students, and family members who have expressed well wishes and support. All of the collective warmth and compassion helped me to heal that much faster. In addition to which I just really wanted to be back in our garden! :)
There are a few things to report though. The steps are coming along nicely. Our wonderful garden chairperson, Matt Reed, and I are both really hoping (and planning) on having this done by the end of February. I would estimate that it is about 3/4 of the way done! Way to go team.
Also, I want to give a shout-out to Ms. McCormick and her awesome kindergarten students. Her classroom donated whiteboard markers, hummingbird food, and biodegradable hand soap to the garden. These kinds of donations are really what keep the garden going. Thank you.
In terms of what is happening in the garden, let's see....we have all kinds of neat vegetables starting to do their thing. Carrots, turnips, and radishes are really starting to form their secret underground treasures. We have some lovely kohlrabi growing for the first time this year. And, my goodness, do we have greens: mustard greens, different kinds of kale, tat-soi, bok-choi, chard, lettuces, etc. It is impressive. We also have some cauliflower and broccoli that are determined to survive. In addition, we have been harvesting a bumper crop of lemons. In terms of what is being planted, most recently we have put in garlic, fava beans and diakon radishes.
On another note, we have done a really good job of building a bird habitat over the last couple of years. We have water for them to drink and bathe in, we have shrubs and trees for safe roosting places, and we have a lovely buffet of assorted bird food. Unfortunately for us, they don't always stick to the bird feeder and the bugs. Most recently they have taken it upon themselves to feast on tender, young veggie seedlings. This has been an interesting lesson for all the gardeners (both young and adult) about cohabitation. As a result, the kids are currently brainstorming some possible ways we could better protect our crops- since the scarecrows seem to be napping on the job.
One other rather poignant event that is directly related to our burgeoning bird sanctuary is that we had a beautiful sparrow fly into a window. We found him during lunch time and it was immediately determined (by the students) that we needed to conduct a proper bird burial. This involved digging a hole in which we placed his shrouded body. The site for hole was carefully selected- the students decided to locate it near the bird feeder so that his bird friends could keep him company in the afterlife. The students ( a group of 5th graders) then decided that we needed to place some flowers in the hole and thank him for feeding our garden. They then filled in the hole and made a couple of small headstones using recycled garden materials. All-in-all it was a very touching, kid-created moment that really made me thankful for just how careful young people can be.
Last but not least, please come out and support our garden at the next PTA meeting (February 7th at 7:15 in the library). We are making a final appeal to the PTA for some additional funding. This is money that we will spend on drip irrigation, retaining wall work, and a NEW and IMPROVED OUTDOOR CLASSROOM. These projects will not happen if we don't receive these funds. Thanks!