Garden Tour, April 2013

Join me as we take our periodic stroll around the garden!

Junior High students often change the message on the blackboard hung in their garden.  Yes, welcome indeed!


I might have mentioned we are planting a lot of peas to get ready for our first Harvest of the Month program in May.  (Pinecones are to discourage critters from walking in the bed.)


As we were harvesting the broccoli, one child told me she didn’t know that the part of broccoli we eat is curled up flowers. I told her we’d leave one plant in the ground to flower so she could see for herself.


Broccoli is also coming up in one of our container gardens.  That’s one of the funny things about school gardens—mystery plants!  (Someone, at some time, had an idea, a vision, a spare plant…who knows?)


The strawberry plants look luscious.  Keep. meaning. to. enclose. them. in. nets.


The tulips are finally up in the breast cancer awareness ribbon.  Watching them bloom took on new meaning for me this year as two very brave and beautiful friends of mine have kicked cancer’s butt in the last year.


New child-created signage on the bulletin board on the CATCH nutrition concept:  go, slow and whoa foods.


We’ve been moving native strawberries out of this prime veggie growing location to the hillside around the fruit trees, as a move toward a permaculture fruit tree guild.  We hadn’t moved all of them by Science Day though so I split the bed to make some room for pea planting, pinning back the strawberries with some white picket fencing we keep moving around the garden.  Cute!


Someone donated this flag last year, and we fly it—announcing our allegiance to daffodils!


Mrs. Shull’s fourth grade class peas.  Each child did a letter on an index card, I laminated them and kids taped them to bamboo skewers.


We have a gazillion wildflower seeds in the garden, from seed ball making activities, former projects, etc.  Wildflowers have a special immunity in our garden.  Wherever they want to pop up, we gladly let them stay.


This little donated table broke.  No worrries. With a tree stump standing in, it makes another cozy little spot to hang out in the garden.


A local grape grower trimmed these for us!  Our first crop this fall?  (Stay tuned.)


Look who decided to bloom.  (Oh little wisteria, you have no idea how close you were to being uprooted.)


Our honeysuckle reading teepee.  Last week a child sitting inside yelled, “Mrs. Elisara!  Come here!  There’s a chrysallis at the top of the teepee!”  Sure enough, a butterfly-to-be was dangling from the ceiling.  (The president of the entomology club later ID’ed it.)


If you’re not familiar with Box Tops, they are the little pink coupons found on hundreds of products.  Schools collect them and mail them in, receiving 10 cents for each one.  It adds up, and at our school, the proceeds have been earmarked for the garden.  Twice a year we receive a check.  Here’s what we bought with our latest earnings: pea trellises, bean towers, seed starting mix, trays, compost, and our 3×3 raised bed frame.


Finally, it’s always good to step back and get the big picture!


To market, to market (to fund all our ideas!)

Today we held our annual Fall Garden Market on Main Street, Julian.  Chances are we’ll be there tomorrow, because we have a lot of big ideas we want to fund.  Here are a few snapshots from the day:

Tying up the native strawberry plants with burlap and raffia. Garden Ambassadors propagated the plants.



Photo cards from Kids with Cameras, apple print cards by the third graders and the seeds we saved from our snapdragons during a University of Wednesday class.


The kids helped set up and then made corn husk dolls.  (Avery wore the Pooh costume all day!)



Rosemary wreaths were popular!  I want to do this activity again with students—maybe a Mothers’ Day gift?


The sale always has the backbone of gourmet baked goods, thanks to Rita!


We sold daffodil bulbs in baskets, with directions for planting.


Marisa and Kathy worked all day!  Thank you friends!


Raised today:  $473!


Grant Writing: Don’t Be Scared

Occasionally I meet people that have both a great idea and a hazy notion that there might be a grant out there to fund it.  Yet they are intimidated because they have never written a grant proposal.  That was me!  It’s true that fundraising is an art and skill, and I’m sure there are good workshops to learn how to do it well (especially when going after the big ones). Nonetheless…’s how I got involved in grant writing:

I wrote one, and I got it.

Suddenly I had $20,000 to run with my little idea, and I became convinced that ordinary people with good ideas sometimes get them funded.  (If you don’t know the story of Green Party Kits, you can read it here.)

Once I had this confidence in hand, the whole process was demystified, and I kept trying for others.  Getting one is ridiculously empowering.

From my limited experience, I think the keys to “grant writing for the average person” are as follows:

-Know what you want.  Always ask for funding based out of a deep sense of vision.

-Be specific in what you want.  Do your homework.

-Read the application, and be clear about what the organization wants to fund.

-Assure the grantors that it is absolutely do-able.

-Write well.  There is no substitute for clear, decent writing.

-Remember that the first one is the hardest.  I’ve learned that once I’ve written up a few proposals, I’ve already done the hard work of cataloguing the important information I’ll need for others.  Every application is different, but you’d be surprised how much you can cut and paste!

-Don’t give up!  The $1,200 grant we received this week was rejected on the first cycle, but accepted on the second.

-Go for it!

Me, Principal Kevin Ogden and Mary Junqueiro, Director of Programs for the Western Plant Health Association from whom we received $1,200 and a gift basket with an additional $250 gift certificate from Home Depot

If there must be fundraising in schools…

…we can probably agree that some fundraising projects are better than others. From experience, I tend to classify them as follows:  ones I detest, ones I can live with, and ones I can get excited about.

The Garden Club has recently tried out one that we can get behind wholeheartedly.  Called “Seeds to Grow,” the fundraiser is a packaged program for selling heirloom seeds through Seed Savers Exchange (SSE).  SSE is dedicated to “preserving our diverse but endangered garden heritage for future generations.”  In other words, they collect, sell and propagate seed varieties that could be lost because they are not the (very limited) ones that are grown commercially on a large scale and thus found in supermarkets.

In so doing, they also tell stories, thereby preserving our cultural and historic roots as well.  I opened to a random page of the catalogue for an example:

Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Bean:  Given to SSE in 1977 by the late Dr. John Wyche, SSE member from Hugo, Oklahoma.  Dr. Wyche’s Cherokee ancestors carried this bean over the Trail of Tears, the infamous winter death march from the Smoky Mountains to Oklahoma (1838-1839), leaving a trail of 4,000 graves.  Green 6 inch pods with purple overlay, shiny jet-black seeds……

Reading through the catalogue is a history lesson itself.  And the pictures!  Who knew the vast diversity of fruits, herbs, vegetables and flowers available for planting?  Not many people, turns out, so we like the idea that our garden can be a vehicle for introducing this important idea/movement.  Year after year, I’d like to see our school not only promote this sale at our school but also in our larger community.

I also like it because it is user-friendly.  The brochure introduces six collections, each with four seed packets. (For example, there is a “Big Salad Bowl” collection with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and radishes.)  Each collection of four packets costs $10.  You remit $6 per packet; you retain $4.  Colorful and well-laid out brochures are available.  People pay for the seeds with a check to your school, you later send one check to SSE, and you receive the packets quickly. (I’m delivering orders this week.)  And they are adorable!  (Note: this fundraiser could be run by any group, although it fits in nicely with garden projects!)

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Fall Garden Market, Main Street

Twice a year, the Garden Club parents and kids create items made in or inspired by the garden (with gourmet baked goods and hot cider/coffee too!)  Despite temperatures in the 40’s and occasional sprinkles, my friends made me proud!  We set up a beautiful display in front of Town Hall, talked to tourists (and each other) all day long, and raised a remarkable $1300 for the garden.

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