Speaking of summer, I hope you are looking forward to harvesting fruits and vegetables from our garden over the summer break. I will be sending out emails to the garden email group, and I will be posting notices to the Yahoo Madera Group letting folks know the particulars. Basically, it is a great opportunity for Madera families to stay in touch with the school over the summer and to help harvest the fruits of our labors. Last year we picked many, many pounds of beans, squash, tomatoes, artichokes, herbs, strawberries, and more. This year we have added even more gardening space and so I am hoping for an even more abundant harvest. I look forward to seeing you there...
But this school year is not quite over yet and I want to let you know about some of the highlights of the last month. The classes that have visited the garden during May collected and drew pictures of leaves, captured (and released) insects, completed weather reports, dried herbs, made yummy salads, and just generally had a good time. In fact, having a good time has become one of our honorary garden rules. One of our classes even harvested some radishes that were part of a scientific experiment about what plants need to grow. Well, we must have figured it out because we grew some of the largest radishes I have ever seen!
Lunchtimes have been quite busy and fun as usual. We planted a new loquat tree, and have removed two trees that died. A group of third grade girls spent a couple of recesses holding amazingly democratic meetings about what we should do with the dead trees. I THINK (although I am not sure) that we have decided to "replant" them and decorate them with ribbons and bells as kind of a remembrance of the seasons of the year (and of life.) I look forward to seeing how that develops. :)
The lunch time gardeners have also done a lot of hard labor. They moved soil up the hill to stabilize the steps. They have pulled so many buckets of weeds that we are pretty sure we would take gold if weeding ever became an Olympic sport. We have mulched all of the planted beds with straw and a couple 4th and 5th grade girls tied up all the tomatoes and made new tomato cages. We have also planted lots of seeds- pumpkins, lettuce, herbs, etc. and now we will just keep our fingers crossed. The third graders are on fire about drying herbs and as a result our shed is fragrantly full of hanging herb bundles.
We also have been taking care of the other creatures that call our garden home. We helped a young sparrow take flight, we buried a garter snake that didn't make it all the way across the driveway down to the playground. Our bird feeders and bird bath are always being refilled, and many students have become fascinated with the life cycle of lady bugs- "Ms. Molly, that thing can't be a baby lady bug it looks like an alligator!" I can't even begin to tell you how many worms have been air-lifted into our garden beds from near death experiences on the blacktop. I consider all of this to be comforting proof that our children can be ready and able caretakers of other animals when given the opportunity.
I hope you get a sense of just how lovely and exciting a place our garden is. As we move forward into next year, I invite you to join me in thinking about the value of our garden. It seems like we all just keep getting busier- we perennially have more to do and less time to do it in. I have seen volunteer support for the garden diminish this year and I think that members of our community are having to make tough decisions about how to spend one of their most precious resources- time. I also notice that teachers seem like they have to keep squeezing more and more into their schedules in an effort to keep up with district and state requirements. I recently did a little activity with some of our student gardeners about why they love our garden and many of the responses talked about it being a quiet, peaceful place where they could just watch the insects, birds, and plants. Over the past year and a half of doing this work, I have realized that our garden is a sanctuary for many different types of creatures- butterflies, mourning doves, and students who seek a kinder, quieter, slower place. This seems to be of an inestimable value to me and I will continue to work toward the growth and preservation of this sanctuary space. Have a wonderful summer and I look forward to seeing all of you in the garden next year.