“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.

IMG_8742 (2) IMG_8743 (3)

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.

IMG_0964-1 IMG_8746 (2) IMG_8744 (1) IMG_8891 (1)

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…..

IMG_8882

…and arranging them!

IMG_8885 IMG_8888

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

IMG_8893 IMG_8897 IMG_8894 IMG_8898

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.

IMG_8920

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!

IMG_8904 (1) IMG_8900 IMG_8906

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!)

IMG_8915

Getting smarter every year: the daffodil show

We have hundreds of daffodils planted all around our garden, and we keep adding more every year. Every March our town of Julian hosts a daffodil show which is truly wonderful! (You can read my rapturous past reports here and here.)

Though students have planted most of the daffodils, I usually picked our prizewinning blooms the first couple years the school garden was represented in the youth division of the show.  Then I got a little smarter and had the kids go out and pick the flowers.  This year I was even smarter and put the whole process in the students’ hands: I not only had the students choose the flowers, after a short tutorial on how to do so properly, but I also had them key out the flowers using a laminated guide with flower part diagrams and division breakdowns.  They also arranged the blooms in show vases and filled out the submission cards.  Our wonderful Garden Beneficial for the day,  Jenny graciously offered to drop them off at Town Hall, ready to enter. And like every year, we brought home a handful of ribbons—but this year, the ownership of the flowers and the garden and our participation in the show was better than ever—no surprise.  School garden cardinal rule:  get kids’ hands on everything!

IMG_8774IMG_8779IMG_8876

April-February Garden Tour, 2015

We’re overdue for a seasonal look around the garden.  Join me.

Golden Yarrow doing its thing, on the sides of the Kandu Gate.  This native installation was put in last year, with Art Cole, and so this is the first year we’re seeing the plants bloom.  Gorgeous.IMG_5913

Fourth grade students gathered daffodils to enter in the annual show at Town Hall.  (See here for more information.)  Another year, another fistful of blue and red ribbons.

IMG_5472

Prepping beds for spring plantings on a blustery day…

IMG_5474 IMG_5473

Afterschool Club Jaguar students create a spring-inspired bulletin board of veggie facts, garden jokes and announcements.

IMG_5782

Finally, fourth grade students had a blast “decorating” the garden with annuals in all of our containers, window boxes and this cute Radio Flyer wagon.

IMG_5951 IMG_5950 IMG_5949 IMG_5948 IMG_5947 IMG_5953

Garden journals

Every year I volunteer to be a parent reading helper in my kids’ classes.  This year I asked the teacher if I could be the garden teacher instead!  She said “yes,” and so every week I have the class for a 1/2 hour of garden class.  During our first class, each table of children received a pile of patterned and handmade papers, old seed packets and pages from gardening catalogues as well as a 50 cent composition notebook.  They then proceeded to decorate the books they will use all year long to record garden vocabulary, keep their drawings and make journal entries.  Last week we listed the words “snapdragon” and “transplant” and then made a chart of warm season and cool season vegetables.  We went to the garden to plant a cool season veggie (broccoli) and tasted a warm season veggie (tomato.)  I like that they will have these keepsake journals to take home at the end of the year, full of all of their new gardening knowledge.

IMG_1318IMG_1321

IMG_1360

What I did on my summer vacation

I’m back, with stories to tell.

In fact, one of my first stories is one I’ve been keeping close since May, and now I can finally let it out to all of you good readers.  IT IS SO EXCITING I WILL HAVE TO REFRAIN FROM WRITING THE ENTIRE POST IN ALL CAPS, but I will try.

But first….what I did on my summer vacation, garden-wise.

In July the school garden committee of Master Gardeners was treated to a tour of the garden at Paul Ecke Elementary in Encinitas, with Mr. Hank as tour guide.

“School as garden”—an idea that the whole campus is a garden with different sites where all subjects can be taught.  IMG_0087

Their outdoor “cooking lab” has an underground drain which waters the baby citrus tree to the left.

IMG_0090

Water plants, not friends—apparently a school garden universal.

IMG_0095

A neat application of the painted rock concept.

IMG_0092

I like seeing other garden educator’s tricks of the trade.  Here Mr. Hank has made a device in which he can arrange the tools needed that day and kids can quickly choose from that limited supply instead of sorting through the shed.

IMG_0094

A rain chain adds a grace note to this rainwater cistern.

IMG_0097

Pallets set on their sides create the stage for a lesson on vertical gardens.

IMG_0096

IMG_0107

In the boxes below, veggies are planted by color to emphasize the principle above.

IMG_0108

School as garden—here citrus plants, herbs and ornamentals enhance another building’s facade across campus.

IMG_0103

Even little flower gardens enliven a school campus as they create habitat.

IMG_0106

The same day I visited the ambitious 1-acre farm project on the campus of Ocean Knoll in Encinitas, a vision steered by two women/parents who lead the non-profit organization Healthy Day Partners.  They are building raised beds, compost bins, and tool sheds with a view to supplying the salad bars in the district’s nine elementary schools.  As a food justice project, fruit trees are being planted along the street side of the property, purposely planted to hang over the fence so that fruit is available to any neighbor passing by.

IMG_0125

As part of their school’s international focus, the upper elementary students built this greenhouse with “eco-bricks”—discarded plastic bottles filled with inorganic trash.  Schools in Latin America have been built with this simple technology, and the Encinitas kids worked through the organization Hug it Forward to help fundraise for one such project in Guatemela, later skyping with the Central American students about their shared experiences.

IMG_0118

IMG_0119

A beautiful multi-purpose stage for activities from yoga to outdoor meals stretches along one side of the garden.  Stumps arranged around the platform create a perfect performance area as well.

IMG_0116

Good reminder that rural, suburban, urban—we all got our critters to exclude.

IMG_0121

This is a team, and a district, with a lot of vision, and I look forward to following–and celebrating–their progress!

IMG_0124

Garden Tour: May 2013

Time to wander around the school garden.  Join me.

Let’s start with the roses.

IMG_6796

IMG_6806

When the breeze is blowing, and you get a waft of honeysuckle flowers, it’s a little bit of heaven.

IMG_6802

Another 3×3 square foot gardening model, with the pvc criss-cross hoop.  Planted with kale, swiss chard, peppers and marigolds.

IMG_6801

Gazebo windowboxes planted with flowers purchased at the Warners Springs Mother’s Day plant sale as well as plants I scored for free at the end of Master Gardener Spring Seminar.

IMG_6798

Also new to the gazebo, an inhabited bird nest in the rafters!

Garden Addition 03

Peas, glorious peas.

IMG_6901

GARDEN FAIL.  We planted this out with three varieties of spinach, which barely sprouted then turned yellow, despite babying.  Keepin’ it humble, in the garden.

IMG_6903

Sidewalk art adjacent to the garden.

IMG_6897

We took our artist-made solar fountain inside for the winter so that it wouldn’t crack in the low temperatures.  It’s now back home, though in a different location—closer to the habitat bed.

IMG_6906

Looks like we may have our first crop of grapes when school resumes.

IMG_6905

Kat Beck introducing the preview films in order to introduce the Wild and Scenic Film Festival at an all-school assembly.  After watching “Watermelon Magic,” we’ve witnessed students standing over plants and whispering, “grow, grow, grow!”

Image 7

Lastly, giving Backcountry Collaborative partner awards, I got to gush about my Garden Beneficials and University of Wednesday parent helpers.  I made the point: not only do they do A LOT of work in the garden, but they also love the garden with me.  I am grateful for both.

IMG_6793

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.

IMG_6058

IMG_6050

IMG_6068

What to choose?

IMG_6070

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

IMG_6079

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.)

IMG_6081

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.)

IMG_6083

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

IMG_6096

IMG_6087

IMG_6189

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.

IMG_6186

Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia

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

IMG_6117

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!