Snowy landscapes and comforting spaces

Hello friends!

Even though it has been snowy and freezing cold in our garden with not much happening…..img_3739 img_3740

….I’d like to share these warming thoughts from our school garden partners/sponsors. The Sage Garden Project works with gardens all across the county and state. The stated purpose of my blog is to make a case for school gardens from every conceivable angle and here’s yet another:

Your School’s Garden As A Healing Place
Thoughts, Experiences, and Ideas from the Sage Garden Project Staff

It would be disingenuous to publish a newsletter full of recipes and growing tips without speaking to the anguish and upset that many of our students are experiencing currently. The schools we support range from those filled with families serving in the military to those filled with immigrants from Mexico and others with large populations specifically from the Middle East. More than ever, we hope that the Sage Garden Project provides a common ground – where students do not compete, but rather work together, learn together, and ultimately, break bread together. More than ever, it is our hope that school gardens can be a respite, a place of solace, of peace, rest, and beauty. We have often found our sensitive students wishing to sit in a quiet spot in the garden in order to escape the chaos of the recess playground. Perhaps now would be the perfect time to create a calm corner of your garden that is a special spot, welcome to all quiet comers. Some schools have special “I could use a friend” benches, some have “time-out” spots. Whatever you choose to anoint your spot, consider stocking it with books, art supplies, and suggestions of garden projects that interested students could take up, and get their minds off their problems in the process. Let’s work toward making our gardens places to nurture our children’s whole selves, in addition to feeding their bellies.

“California Thursdays” lunch launch

On March 17th, our district participated in a statewide launch of California Thursdays, a program promoted by the Center for Ecoliteracy.  The idea is simple: districts sign on to serve a lunch every Thursday sourced only with California food.

To get ready for the big celebration, I worked with after school students for two months to create educational signage and decorations.

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Strawberries were planned for the menu, so I made them the “harvest of the month” and created strawberry lessons.  We examined strawberry plants, talked about “runners” or stolons, searched for plants in the garden with “strawberry facts,” whipped up strawberry smoothies and made little posters that later decorated the lunch area wall.

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One day before the event, I taught two flower arranging classes after school to make the lunch table centerpieces.  I found the plastic pots at a dollar store, and we made the entire arrangements with only plants and flowers found in the school garden.  They turned out beautifully!

Picking flowers…..

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…and arranging them!

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On the morning of our launch, the Garden Ambassadors came to school early to help me hang signs and posters.

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At 11:00 our special guests arrived—the farmers and ranchers who provided the food for lunch, representatives from our caterer Jeremy’s on the Campus, Jan Stone from the Center for Ecoliteracy and partners from North County San Diego Health and Human Services.  Our Garden Ambassadors greeted each guest, sat with him/her during the assembly and lunch, and provided garden tours.

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Our lunch consisted of sliders made with bison meat from a local ranch, salad from Farmer Phil at Sage Mountain Farm, and bread from California Mountain Bakery.  At the assembly right before lunch, junior high students showed a slideshow they created about California agriculture.  Ken Childs from Star B Ranch, the local bison ranch, spoke to the kids about raising bison and set up a table of bison-related items to see and touch.  Chef Jeremy, Farmer Phil, Jan Stone and Health and Human Services Deputy Director Jennifer Bransford-Koons also spoke about good, local food and healthy lunch!

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Then we all ate lunch!  A wonderful day, and an awesome concept—our district is proud to be a part of the state’s California Thursday effort!  (And thank you to Susi Jones for making this whole event happen—her vision always inspires!)

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March Garden Tour

It’s March in the garden, and it couldn’t be prettier.  Stroll with me.

Carmen from Julian Pathways led the effort to start a monthly “have lunch with your parent in the garden” event.  The first attempt was an unqualified success with over 50 students and parents sharing a meal on Friday afternoon.

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Photo courtesy of Scot Copeland

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Photo courtesy of Scot Copeland

Our Harvest of the Month is citrus.  Citrus doesn’t grow in Julian so we tasted delicious grapefruit from the “neighboring” town of Borrego.

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The breast cancer awareness ribbon is in full bloom!  Photo courtesy of 6th grade student Avery McFedries.

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Miss Lynn recently spruced up the gazebo with a new “coffee table,” pillows and a thorough cleaning.

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She also tucks these little things around the garden.  I love discovering them.

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Pediatric residents from UCSD do part of their community health rotation at our district, through Pathways.  Garden Ambassadors, decked out in St. Patrick’s attire, give the doc a tour.

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We added a geranium to the new mailbox to match the flag.

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Second grade students seeded this new circular bed and wagon with California wildflowers.

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After the rains, one of the garden volunteers found this on the back slope of the garden.  We’re thinking bobcat?

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It was the garden’s turn to make a display for the front office.

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Julian kids get to plant a lot of daffodils but they rarely get to go back and pick them.  I had students make “surprise” bouquets for their teachers from flowers in the garden.

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I’ll close with a link that captures our teacher “flash mob” last October on National Food Day.  “We can change the world”—not just a pop song!  The truth!  (Right, Susi?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2ZZmOzmFqQ

New cameras, same ole magic

Kid with Cameras 4.0 just came to a lovely close.  Through Julian United Methodist Church’s Gallo Fund, we were able to purchase ten “teaching cameras” for the project.  Formerly, we worked with whatever cameras the kids had access to, and we spent a lot of time fiddling with each one.  It worked, but everything is now so much easier–the cameras are always available, batteries are charged, instruction is given once to everyone, and we don’t need to download images at the end of every class.

Over seven weeks, we had a classes taught by various local photographers.  Jeff Holt and Bill Bevill taught camera fundamentals:

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Then Anne Garcia took us through principles of composition, using her own work as examples as well as a few photos of Graham Wilder’s.

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We headed out to shoot in the school garden, with the objective of using some of the best images for a Garden Club photo card fundraiser.

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Photo courtesy of Bill Bevill

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Another class was held at Down the Road farm for farmer/chef portraits.  Enlargements of some of the day’s best photos will be hung in the school cafeteria to help children make connections between their lunch and the people that had a hand in growing/preparing it.

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Dave Pierce taught a class on still life, described here.

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Graham Wilder, a new instructor with Kids with Cameras, showed the students some of his images, encouraging them to find the “extraordinary in the ordinary.”

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Then we walked to downtown Julian to do just that.

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Another new addition to the class was the process for choosing the “best photo” to exhibit.  In the past, the instructors got together to look at film to pick the image.  This year, each instructor took home the memory cards for two students after our last day of shooting.  From those photos, the teacher narrowed them down to the best 10-12 images.  Then during our last class, they sat with the students for 1.5 hours and talked through each photo, discussing them at length and asking the kids for feedback.  Ultimately, the student picked their favorite.  I think this approach worked great:  the student had ownership of the photo to be exhibited, but they chose from a small pool already screened by the instructors, drawing upon their expertise.  As educational experiences go, I think this class was simply incredible.

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As is now our tradition, we ended with an evening reception at the public library. Instructors spoke about the class, students talked about their photos, and everyone enjoyed refreshments while milling around with the artists.

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Photo courtesy of Bill Bevill

All photos remain on display for two weeks, and then the students get to take them home, along with a CD of all of their photos. Thanks to everyone involved for making this program an unqualified success!

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Photo courtesy of Bill Bevill

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

Could the library get any cooler?

And I’m not referring to air conditioning, though I must confess that is a undeniable perk to the public library right about now.

I’m talking about “even better” as in look what our head librarian Colleen allowed Sunday and me to set up!  Now along with checking out books, participating in excellent programs, paying overdue fines, and otherwise taking advantage of all the many services a library provides in a small town (and elsewhere), a patron can now bring in his/her unused seeds and take home something new in exchange.  As a garden coordinator, I receive all kinds of seed donations—far more than I could ever use.  Now I can share my leftovers with the community and feel free to experiment with different varieties from my neighbors.

Thanks Colleen!

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Daffodil show: win-win-win-win…

This past weekend was the annual Daffodil Show in Julian.  (Last year I gushingly detailed all of the reasons I love this community event here.)

After a brief chat on Friday about how to choose a prizewinning bloom, the students spread out to harvest.

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What to choose?

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Then after school I took my boys home to pick their personal entries.

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Ethan almost backed out this year but decided to enter again after listening to his mother go on and on about the importance of tradition. (A fistful of ribbons, including a “court of honor” distinction later, he was glad he followed through, and I made him promise to do it every year until he graduates high school.  We’ll see.  Elliot’s in, for sure.)

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A friend visiting from out-of-town jumped right in on the excitement, watching the boys key out and arrange their flowers.  (The paper flowers hanging from the ceiling and the watercolor paintings on the wall were all done by kids at school.)

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The youth division took up one full wall with a record amount of entries.

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Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia

Marisa’s beautiful display with children’s essays.  The photos are of kids planting at school and around town—a yearly tradition led by Sally Snipes.

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Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia

The ribbons and some of the flowers are now proudly on display in the front office of the school.

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My friend Anne summed it up well in a post-show e-mail:

I think the Youth Division MAKES the show! It adds so much pizazz and meaning to why we grow the flowers. Pure joy!

Summoning the foodie advisors

As part of our year-long Farm to School planning grant, I have pulled together a group of excellent people in Julian to serve as my advisory board.  They are a gorgeous slice of our community: parents, gardeners, health practitioners, alumni, farmers, grant writers, chefs, camp directors, business owners, school staff, board members, etc.  We met this month for the first time.

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After briefly reviewing progress with the grant, I broke them in to groups to circulate around the room and jot down ideas on posters with headings like: “Ideas for getting discounted or free produce,”  “Lesson and fieldtrip ideas,” and “Ways to celebrate National Food Day.” We met again as a large group to read through these ideas and further stimulate the brainstorming.  As “chief researcher” in this process, I then compiled all of the ideas and am now following the leads.  I am thrilled to have such a knowledgeable and passionate group of folks to learn from throughout the grant process.

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I’m reminded of the necessity and beauty of collaboration, as this has been a good week for it.  The owner of a local winery swung by school on the weekend to prune our grapevines.   Garden Beneficials (and husbands) visited over the weekend and after school to transplant strawberries, water and pull some mystery rebar out of the ground.  I’m heading out the door right now to collect a donation of seeds from our feed store.

It is no cliché when we say our garden grows community!

P.S. If you live in Julian and want to join the fun, you are welcome!  Just give me a call or write me a note—our next meeting will be in May!