Harvest of the Month: Citrus

Our December Harvest of the month (broccoli) was still going strong in January…

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…and then we switched to “citrus” for our January-Feburary Harvest of the Month.  I put out a call to friends and colleagues “down the hill” where citrus grows, and my desk was soon buried in bags of lemons, oranges, and grapefruit.  We began to use them up by:

….making orange pomanders with whole cloves….

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..making our own “non-toxic” cleaners in the afterschool garden class to clean the tables in Club Jaguar (we steeped lemon and orange rinds in vinegar for two weeks)…

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…..creating a seasonal wreath with oven-dried citrus rings to decorate the Club Jaguar door….

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…squeezing lots of homemade lemonade…

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..playing a “memory” game with grapefruit facts…

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…enjoying “taste test” stations with blood oranges and three types of grapefruit…

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….reading  An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston and The Red Lemon by Bob Staake…

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….and sending kids home with lemons and recipes to make lemonade, cleaners and invisible ink!

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Mary Poppins and gardening

In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

From Spoonful of Sugar in Mary Poppins

Yet again, Mary is spot on, and I’ve applied her insights this week in the garden with children.

Thanks to Julian Pathway’s tireless persistence in applying for an after-school program grant, our elementary school now has a full-fledged set of programs before and after school for children.  I work with the program on Wednesday, teaching two garden electives and one other (this cycle it’s Greek and Latin roots, which being the word nerd, I love.)

When students arrive at after-school program, they have already had a day of school, so we’ve designed these garden classes to be different from the formal lessons I teach during the school day.  After-school gardening is longer (45 minutes) and with less children (10-12), so we can really get work done.  But how to do that and make it engaging?

Last week I realized we needed to clear out a lot of rotting apples around the trees.  A good cultural practice, removing rotting fruit keeps the area free from possible infestation of other critters.  As such, I had the kids gather ten apples, and then we had a carnival-style “rotten apple compost olympics” with the kids standing behind a line and trying to toss the fruit into compost bins marked with different points.  We kept scores, played a second round, and had to go to a championship tiebreaker.  (Shamelessly, I won by one point.)  Voila!—hundreds of apples composted.  (And they left with big smiles on their faces.)

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This week I wanted to re-mulch our baby apple and pear trees with some donated wood chips, which were a little distance from the trees.  First we had a short chat about social insects and how small creatures working in cooperation can do huge things, like build massive termite mounds… or mulch 8 trees in 20 minutes.  Then we then set up a “mulch brigade” and got the assembly line going.  The kids worked incredibly hard, and we were all amazed at what we accomplished in a short time.  Then we went and tossed a few more apples, and they asked if we could go both “games” again next week.

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Thanks Mary!  Practically perfect advice.