Hello dear Madera community,I am going to keep this post brief because I am busy as an elf in Santa's workshop right now. We have some really neat things happening in December- a cooking class, a craft sale on the 20th (just in time for holiday gift giving), and we are getting ready to install the 6th grader's native habitat garden. Scope out the Upcoming Events page to get more details about garden happenings for this month.
In the spirit of this time of year, I would like to take up a little space to say, "thank you," to all of you for supporting this program. From the kindergarteners who remind me about wonder every time we are in the garden, to the 6th graders who have grown a lot since the beginning of our time together (and I don't just mean in height, although that is happening too.) I am also very lucky to have great co-chairs: Matt Reed and Sasha Swain. Thanks to both of you for your patience and even your enthusiasm for all of my garden related schemes. But it is also lots of other people who come and work in the garden whenever we have a work day, or who basically run the Farmigo deliveries (thanks, Carrie.) And last but not least, I would like to thank our principal, Ms. Makela. I thoroughly appreciate having a leader who is constantly envisioning a bright, exciting future, and who has her feet firmly planted in the soil. A rare combination, indeed.
Thank you all for making this another great year in the garden.
My goodness this month is going by quickly. I wanted to send out an update on a couple of things. First of all, we have a garden work day this Friday (the 22nd) from 3pm-5pm. Please come out and join us.
Also, we are hosting a cooking class (on 12/6 after school) using Farmigo produce that will be taught by Deb Dutton (Madera mom and chef-entrepreneur). A flier will be posted ASAP on the Madera PTA website, so check it out.
We are also going to try to have a Holiday craft table set up at some point during the last week of school before winter break. Garden aprons, garden calenders, salts, sugars, potpourri, etc- buy your holiday gifts here and help support our school. More information will be coming out soon.
And finally, our Kindergarteners have been having fun studying plants. Last week we finished up our study of roots by painting with roots. We cut our edible roots into different shapes and sizes and then we used different colored paints to create beautiful artwork. BTW- this lesson supported CCSS in geometry (shape id) and in life science (2c-plant parts)!
Our autumn garden
I always feel this time of year keenly. It is a bittersweet season with the advent of the holidays, the shorter days and the all of the changes we see in the garden. It is a time to take stock, give thanks, and prepare for the winter. There is a lot of death in the garden during this season. Summer annuals die (or are pulled out to make space for winter crops.) Tree leaves change colors and die. The sun makes its appearance for shorter and shorter spaces of time. This makes our outdoor classroom a great place to come to an intuitive understanding that life and death are intimately connected and that you can't really have one without the other. Sometimes for kids (and the rest of us) placing death in its natural context can help us to make sense of it and to cope with it. To that end, the our outdoor classroom hosted its first ever Dia de lost Muertos gathering this year. We decided that we wanted to take a day to honor those that have gone before. We constructed an ofrenda with tissue paper flowers, memorial stones, dried corn, and assorted other items. Upper grade students came at lunch time, shared horchata, salsa, guacamole, chips, and pan de muerte, told stories of their loved ones, and created little cards that we hung in the wind. It was an incredibly poignant experience to stand around with about 40 students and say the names of our loved ones aloud. Please take a look at some of the photos:
On a more practical note, we have some exciting news to report. The Outdoor Classroom Program is 3 for 3 on grants so far this year. We received the Donorschoose grant that helped us to build our Chef's Cart. We received a Recylemore grant for $1000 that will help us to fund our recycling/composing program that will be starting in January with the 4th graders. And just last week, we heard that we received an Edfund grant for $1000 to fund a STEM cart. This will be a mobile cart that has measuring equipment, research and identification resources, magnifying glasses, a microscope, etc. This is a really awesome development. Keep your fingers crossed that we get the Lowe's Grant for a greenhouse!
Since our harvest has been so abundant this year, we are modeling the idea of sharing the wealth by giving away veggie seedlings to other school garden program in our district. We had extra plants because of of Ms. Molly's internship at Merritt, and because of our incredible CAL volunteers, and we decided that it would be nice to help grow other school garden programs. Take a look at what we gave away:
At least eight other schools in our district received veggie starts from us.
And finally, thanks to all of you who are helping to support the Farmigo program at out site. I don't know about you, but I have been loving the convenience and quality. I actually just canceled my family's eight year long CSA membership in favor of this program. Another lesson on the bittersweet changes that this time of year can manifest. As the garden teaches us, you must make space for the new growth by cutting off the old. Take care everyone and let's keep our fingers crossed for some rain!
Our 6th graders have begun work on their landscaping project. The first stage of this project involves a lot of dreaming, thinking, questioning and discussing. In small groups, the landscape apprentices are having to survey our project area to determine how it is currently used, its relative health as an ecosystem, and how different energies flow through it (people, animals, wind, sun, etc.) As individuals they have also been asked to reflect on beautiful/inspiring landscapes they have encountered. The central question around which all of this work revolves is: How do we create a landscaped area that is beautiful, sustainable, and ecologically sound? Recently, they completed some art work that spoke to what inspires them in nature. Take a look:
Green and Growing!
Our Outdoor Classroom program has gotten off to a busy start this month. All of our classes are up and rolling with Kindergarten starting their study of plants, 5th graders studying photosynthesis and food webs, and 6th graders designing a native landscape for one of our more barren hillsides. I have actually developed a separate page of resources for the 6th graders, check it out here
Upper graders have been busy at lunch time harvesting everything from cucumbers and tomatoes to beans, melons and lettuce. We have made salsa and salad, and used all manner of flowers, fruits, and veggies from the garden to make colorful art prints. We have also been doing a lot of work. Students spread all of the mulch from our pile on the hillside, only to have the emptied mulch pile replaced with soil and compost mounds. Now we are working on pulling out the summer crops, adding compost to the soil, and then planting in some fall/winter veggies like leeks, onions, chard, and kale. Yum!
A couple of our 6th graders have built a “play pen” for our chickens so that they can scratch, peck, poop, and dust bathe to their little heart’s content while classes are being held. This play pen also allows kids to see them more easily, while ensuring that the chickens don’t get handled too much or inadvertently stepped on. We realized that something like this was going to be needed a couple of weeks ago when one of the chickens went missing for about 20 minutes. We found her eventually (back in the coop) and then hours later found the egg she had laid in the wheelbarrow!! Silly chicken!
Our mobile cooking cart was funded through Donorschoose- thanks to everyone who contributed! A couple more kinks need to be worked out, but it should be up and running during the month of October. It will be great to cook and eat in the garden at lunch time. We have also applied for a Recyclemore grant to fund some composting materials, and an EDfund grant to build a science cart that will house measurement and observation equipment (microscopes, hand lenses, different types of thermometers, etc.) We are also looking at applying for grants for a new greenhouse. Wouldn’t that be awesome? If anyone has any suggestions, either about where to look for grants or what we might want to look for in a greenhouse, let me shoot me an email.
Also, we had our first Farmigo delivery. Folks seemed really pleased with the quality of their orders. I know that I wolfed down my kale that same night because I have been SOO hungry for greens (enough tomatoes already!) If you are interested in receiving fresh veggies, fruit, eggs, and dairy products delivered to the school, please click here
.Whew! That's a lot, huh? Before you go, please check out our newly updated Farm Report page.
The Chicken Stare
Welcome to a new school year everyone! I hope you had a relaxing and fun summer. Before I explain the title of this post, I'd like to send out a huge thanks to everyone who kept the garden going this summer. We had families watering, weeding, chicken-sitting, and just keeping an eye on things. Which brings me to my story...
By the beginning of August, I was starting to feel cocky about how well summer had gone in the garden. No deer or turkeys had used our lettuce as an all-you-can-eat buffet, the drip irrigation system was doing a great job of keeping things watered, and in general the garden looked better than ever. So, one Friday afternoon, after spending five hours seeding plants for the Merritt Fall Plant Sale, I got an email from one of our summer care-takers: 2 chickens were missing!!! I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was head over to the school and try to piece together the mystery of what had happened to our birds. But, sometimes duty calls, so I loaded my trusty pooch, Rufus, into the car, and drove over.
As I navigated Arlington's curves, I reflected on what the care-taker had said: the other two chickens were still there, but the door to the coop had been left open, and their food dispenser was MIA as well. This was perplexing- what racoon in its right mind would make off with two birds and a feed container? Not a gluten-free one, that is for sure. When I arrived at the garden, the plot immediately began to thicken. As I walked through the garden, I noticed that someone had done a fair amount of damage- melons were smashed, potato plants were uprooted, and lettuce was torn out. I made my way to the coop, and as I did I saw movement in the bushes right outside of the driveway and gate. Two little boys, arms full of pumpkins, tomatoes, and lemons tried to stealthily climb up the hillside and get back onto Madera Drive.
Suffice it to say they were not successful in their attempt, and after I got over my initial impulse to throttle them, I worked out that they had taken the two chickens home (along with their feeder) because they didn't think anyone was caring for the birds. After a quick conversation with their mother, I had Madera Garden's two newest garden assistants. They helped me clean out the coop and reinstall the chickens, they cleaned up all of their mess, and they watered plants. They also helped me as I mourned the loss of so many pumpkins- cut down before their prime. I actually had tears in my eyes as we set aside the pumpkins and melons that had been picked too soon! We talked about all of the kids and families who had put so much time and love into our special space, and as I helped them to choose special memorial rocks to take from the garden, I think they really started to see that they had tread on sacred ground.
As it turns out, they were in town for the funeral of their aunt, and I'd like to think that (even if they didn't recognize it as such) the garden called out to them and offered them some sort of healing. From my quick assessment, these were two young men who were lonely, bored, and sad. They had no pets of their own and had no experience with gardens, "Ohhhhh, that's a lettuce?!? We thought that it was a radish, that's why we pulled it up." And yet the garden called to them. I hope they gained something from their experience, I know I did. This incident has strengthened my belief that all of our children need to have access to a wide variety of natural settings- veggie gardens, orchards, mountains, meadows and more. How can they love and cherish what they don't know?
And so on that note, I'd like to call on you to take action this year. Maybe you could just read our school-wide book selection, Last Child in the Woods. Maybe you could take more trips with your child to some of our regional parks. Maybe you could help us to turn more of our school open spaces into outdoor classrooms. Whatever you choose to do, please know that you have become part of a vital movement to bring health to our planet and ourselves.
Yours in community,
It is that time of year again- time to put the garden to rest, so that she can be woken up in the fall after her long beauty rest. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for our best year yet. We accomplished so much this year, and when I say we, I mean WE. Our students, families, staff, and community volunteers made the garden such a vibrant place that all kinds of folks have taken notice.
Our students led a tour of the garden last Friday that was attended by school board members, as well as representatives from local governments and other organizations. Suffice it to say, I think they were blown away by both our garden and our garden program. We have grown something beautiful and important here.
But this tour was just the culmination of many other successes we have experienced this year- $1900 raised through our markets, completed landscaping plans for our market garden expansion, a 2nd grade botanical illustrations exhibit at a local gallery, 6th graders in the garden for the first time in four years, more fun yoga in the garden, a comprehensive five year plan for our outdoor classroom program, great auction contributions, a functioning drip irrigation system, chickens-- dare I go on?
So, come on out for one last time at noon on June 7th to say thanks and good-bye to the garden for another year.
See you in the fall!
So I couldn't resist adding a special note to this month's post because something really exciting has happened. A couple of months ago, a colleague suggested that we have someone make a short video about our garden. This was a revelation to me, as usually technology and I are like oil and water. So, I put the idea on the back burner so to speak, and there it continued to simmer. Then, I met a talented young filmmaker, who also happened to be one of our wonderful 6th graders- Adam Geiser. I mentioned to him in an off-hand way that I would love to see the story of our garden come to life. And he took my rough suggestions and created a beautiful short film about our garden. Thank you, Adam! I tip my big sun hat to you and a job well done. Your film is a tribute to how our garden inspires us all in different ways. Enjoy!
Poppies by Charlotte
Our garden is literally humming with life right now! We have flowers of every different hue, shape, and size blooming everywhere, and as a natural corollary our insect population has exploded as well. As anyone who has ever done any gardening can attest, spring is an exciting time to be a gardener. Hope is reborn, and the possibility of extraordinary things lies in every seed. If you haven't been by the garden recently and seen her in all of her spring finery, I invite you to come by and sit awhile.
Our garden is also humming with the activity of people. We held a wildly successful Farmers Market this month. Thanks to all of the farmers, teachers, and families who made that happen so smoothly. Now we have turned our sights to the next market (May 18th), as well as a possible school board tour at the end of the month, and a 2nd grade art installation at a local gallery. Finally we will close out the year by saying good-bye to the garden (for the school year) on the last day of school (June 7th.) From noon dismissal till 2pm, the garden will be open for our community to relax and enjoy the sights one last time. Then we take a collective sigh and collapse!
I'd like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite farmers/ecologists/humanitarians, Wendell Berry. Sometimes I think we get overwhelmed by how difficult it seems to make positive change in the world. We forget that things as seemingly small as holding farmers markets at our school, or sharing a meal with family can have a huge impact.
Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.
~ Wendell Berry
Produce from last year's garden CSA box (Another one is up for auction this year!)
Alice in Wonderland
Now some of you might be thinking that this is an odd photo- a white board with legs??? But for those of you who have ever been in our garden, you might have noticed that there is a lovely nook behind the white board where kids can hang out and feel somewhat hidden from the rest of the world. I took this photo during a 2nd grade drawing class a couple of weeks ago and it still makes me smile. This student had claimed the favored spot for herself, and probably thought that no one could see her. I love that our garden provides kids with these kinds of spaces- quiet, reflective places where for a few stolen moments, they can just be...kids. I get to see a lot of that in our garden- silly, poignant interactions that remind me that kids still want to play make-believe and tell corny jokes, and wonder about the profound significance of a ladybug's spots. I feel like we feed many different hungers in the garden- some kids come in and draw, others sit on benches and chat with friends, others try to get everything done on our lunch "to do" list and others just want to break apart things with a pick axe. Some students want to play house and sweep out the shed regularly as they pretend to live in different "rooms" in the garden, and others rig up complex solutions for overgrown plants. No matter what their inclination, we have room for everyone in the garden.
On a more pragmatic note, we had room for about 50 people to do huge amounts of labor at our last double day work party. Thanks so much to all of the families (mom's, dad's, grandma's and grandpa's), teachers, and students who showed up to prepare our garden for the spring. This was the best, most productive work party ever! Our last work party for the year will be on Sunday, June 2nd and for the most part it is just going to be an opportunity to come together and EAT in the garden. Check back in later in April and May for more information about that.
The Dad's Club hard at work at our last garden work party.
And finally, please make sure you find a way to support our garden in April- we have a lot going on:
For more information about our upcoming Farmers Market, click here. Madera Market Aprons and other awesome items are here. Hats, shirts, aprons, bags- buy something cute with our logo and design and some of the proceeds go back to our very own PTA.In conjunction with this Farmers Market, we are also doing a fundraiser with Barefoot Books. The PTA gets 15% of all books that you buy from them at our Market or from their online market place between April 15th and April 26th
. Check out their website here
. (Scroll down the page to find the Madera Market fundraiser link.)Finally, if you can help volunteer at our market or donate crops or goods (veggies, herbs, fruit, flowers, etc.) please contact me!