Presenting the native plant demonstration garden

Under Garden Teacher Kat’s expert leadership (and unfailing love for native plants), we now have a native plant demonstration garden along a newly cut trail on the back slope of the garden.

The idea goes back years to the James Hubbell Gate.

When James created the gate, his vision was to better connect the gardens at the elementary and junior high.  At that time,the garden was separated by a high chain link fence and a long asphalt road.  With the installation of the gate, we took down the fence, put up an attractive, waist-high fence and cut an opening to the slope on the back side of the garden.  Then five years elapsed until Kat took up the cause.  To begin she recruited Garrett to install steps on the steepest part of the slope down from the gate.

This allowed us to cut a straight path across the hillside.  Mr. Boling, parent volunteer, came out to help with shoring it up.

It’s hard to see in this photo but the path continues through the trees.

Kat then purchased native plants and worked with kids to plant them all along the trail.  Not only will children learn about the plants by using the trail, but community members can also educate themselves about California natives simply by visiting our campus.  Another project completed at the Julian Elementary garden!  Thanks everyone!  Well done!

Thank you San Diego Master Gardeners!

Last semester Julian Elementary was thrilled to receive a $500 grant to build a pioneer history raised bed in conjunction with the 5th grade teacher, Mrs. McFedries, as part of her social studies curriculum.  We used the money to buy heirloom seeds, wood, soil and paints.  Our garden teachers Kat and Emily did an awesome job overseeing all of the steps with Mrs. McFedries.

We chose to take out a raised bed that we inherited ten years ago and was falling apart.

Students cut and painted the new boards.  We decided to make this bed not only wider, but also twice as deep.

Tom, the head of our school maintenance staff, generously helped the students build the bed.

Meanwhile, students propagated their seeds from “Seed Savers Exchange” on every available flat space in the classroom and later in the garden.  Emily had researched and purchased historic varieties of beans, corn, squash, okra, cucumber and herbs.

It took a lot of soil to fill this beauty!  Small transplants were then placed in the new bed and covered in agrobon to protect the baby plants.

Finished product!  (We only need to add some length to the current irrigation.) The fifth graders “paid it forward” by planting herbs and vegetables for next year’s class, but since the junior high is adjacent to the elementary, they can also come back early next school year to enjoy the harvest too!  The smaller letters on the bed read “Thank you SD Master Gardeners!”

 

Farmers are outstanding in their field, being photographed

Kids with Cameras, our afterschool photography class, is off and running again (I’ve written about it hereherehere and here if you’d like to know more.)  This semester we’re focusing on food, so we took kids to “Down the Road” Farm–one of the places sourcing Jeremy’s on the Campus with fruit and vegetables.  Farmer Josh, Farmer Bob and even Chef Jeremy were on hand to be photographed.  The idea is that we will enlarge some of the day’s best shots and use them in the cafeteria to help students make a connection between their food and the people/farms that grow it.

The farm is set at the base of Volcan Mountain–a stunning site.

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A student chats with Chef Jeremy.

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The greenhouse provided nice, diffuse light on an otherwise very bright afternoon.

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We found that the kids were a bit shy about approaching the farmer/chefs so one of the instructors set them up in stations, so kids went down the line, interacting with them while shooting–a bit more directed approach.  Here Eva talks with Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.

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Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.

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Farmer Josh had a surprise: extra 2 inch models.

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Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia

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A van full of happy children loaded down with flowering root vegetables!

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Coming soon: what the children photographed that day.  I’ll leave you with something that caught my eye!  Ah autumn!

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Here’s hoping the trend becomes the future

School and community gardens are exploding.  I hope that it’s not just a good trend, but a move toward the new normal.

There is so much to learn from others’ efforts, and I love to get out and see what’s happening other places.

Last week I took my kids to the Great Park in Irvine where they have an impressive demonstration garden called the Farm + Food Lab.  Wow!  Also, my sister is involved with her girls’ wonderful school garden in San Jose.  I posted pictures of cool ideas from both places under the Children’s Garden Ideas tab in the black menu above.  There are also pictures of “best practices” from school gardens across the state from last year’s road trip.  Please visit! And if you have a photograph of an outstanding idea, feel free to e-mail it to me and I’ll include it in the library.  Thanks!

Girl Scout composts her way to Silver Award

Local girl scout Sara Rott decided to do her Silver Award on the junior high garden.  One major component was starting a composting system.  In addition to educating her peers, she also helped with the mechanics of the system so that it will continue for years.

Here are two of the signs she made.  One set will hang at the elementary school; the other at the junior high.

Also, she built this screen to harvest finished compost.  Days after she delivered it, we used it at Family Fun Day.

This is an excerpt of what she wrote about her project in her final report:

My experience with this project has brought new light to how a community can come together to help.  With my voice and my research in composting and building a school garden, kids and adults started to listen.  When people started to see the results of the garden and started enjoying the flowers and vegetables that were being grown, my efforts were worth trying.  My composting helped the garden to make soil instead of buying it.  What was being grown and eaten was being recyled back into soil.  This great achievement has brought awareness not only to me but to my school mates, teachers, our district supervisor, principals, and school board members.

Wanted: new crop of Garden Ambassadors

At the beginning of the school year, I visit the fifth grade class, give a pitch for Garden Ambassadors and pass out applications.  This week I conduct interviews.  The returning (sixth grade) senior garden ambassadors have already been chosen, and today two of them spent part of their lunch to help me water and harvest for tomorrow’s lesson.

The application asks three questions.  Naturally all of the students wrote about having good character, demonstrating leadership qualities and being interested in all aspects of gardening.  Here’s a few of my favorite lines from this year’s application.

What do you think are good qualities for a Garden Ambassador to have?

Good qualities for a Garden Ambassador are respect, motivation, and an open heart.

I think some good qualities for a Garden Ambassador to have are being willing to get their hands dirty.

Knowing how to decipher weeds from produce!

I think good qualities to have are a good memory and a helpful soul.

Good listening and you can’t mess around! When you’re talking to a guest, don’t mumble and talk clearly.  Last year I created the Green Team and really enjoyed being a leader!

Why would you like to serve as a Garden Ambassador?

Because I think our garden is beautiful and I want to be a part of it!

This would teach me how to plant my own garden.  It would make me so happy if I were chosen!

I am interested in different plant species and how wonderful they look and what they do for our ecosystem.

I remember seeing the Senior Garden Ambassadors and saying I want to do that, and now look, I might!

I’d like to serve as a garden ambassador because I believe we don’t grow the garden, it grows us.   (I’d also love to play my violin in the garden to welcome special guests.)

I see it as an art form.  A blank canvas waiting to be painted.

I want to do it to inspire the younger kids to become Garden Ambassadors. 

What do you think you could learn from serving as a Garden Ambassador?

I could learn how to talk to the public or give a speech without being shy or nervous.

And finally, an addendum to one of the applications (I could clean out the gazebo if you were having guests):

“And Volcan is my mountain”

Kids with Cameras was a wildly successful afterschool photography class that was offered by the Garden Club and partner organizations last fall.  This past week we launched Kids with Cameras 2.0 Spring Semester.  One of the program founders, Jeff Holt gave the first lecture on frame, focus, format, and then the kids headed out to the garden to practice.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

This program has been successful on many levels, and in ways we couldn’t have expected.  Here is but one example.  One of the program partners is the Volcan Mountain Foundation whose mission is to preserve Volcan Mountain for future generations through the conservation and acquisition of land, practice of respectful stewardship, environmental education, public outreach, and resource management.  Every year they hold a dinner/dance fundraiser, and this past winter they decided to make Kids with Cameras the theme for the event, to emphasize the child/nature connection that falls within their mission.

Cue my friends: Allison, Kathy, Rita, Dana and Jeff.  Look at the decorations they came up with–as I said in my remarks that night “all locally sourced and lovingly assembled.”

From the imagination of Allison---film looped around natural elements with children's photographs

(Photo courtesy of Chris Elisara)

My friends made this from thin air---grand arrangements to match the centerpieces, with local foliage accented with turkey feathers and vintage cameras (Photo courtesy of Chris Elisara)

The mantel is decorated with an enlarged photo of kids on the mountain, local greenery and flowers, and antique cameras. Enlarged photos from the photography fieldtrip were hung in the dining room and auction venue.

Children's photography was for sale during the silent auction--all proceeds benefitting the work of Volcan Mountain Foundation

Additionally, my son was one of two kids asked to make a short speech.  It is reprinted below.  Watching him deliver this speech, and hearing/watching the room respond, was a highlight of highlights living here in Julian.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Ethan Elisara.  My father is Chris Elisara who was born and raised in New Zealand.  In New Zealand, the native people who are called the Maori, introduce themselves by saying their name as well as a geographic feature they identify with, such as a river, an ocean or a mountain.  So as a half-Kiwi I would introduce myself to you saying:  Ko Ethan ahau. Ko Volcan te maunga OR  I am Ethan and Volcan is my mountain.

Growing up in Julian I have lived in two houses.  Both of them have faced Volcan Mountain.  The view of Volcan has been a backdrop for my childhood.  I see it when I wake up in the morning, from the playground at school and even from the mountain bike track that I bike twice a week.

Kids with cameras gave me the opportunity to explore the mountain more closely.  With my camera in hand, I studied the landscape.  I noticed shadows and examined trees.  I waited for the perfect moment when cottontail fluff blew across the viewfinder.  With our instructors we conversed about the light, we talked about the rule of thirds, we scrambled over rocks and tore across meadows.  At the end, we had hot chocolate and reflected on the day. 

Thanks for being here tonight and preserving my mountain.  Kia Ora and good evening.