What’s worthy of a 100th post? Compost!

The glories of compost….much ink has been spilled on this everyday miracle.  Scraps of food that transform into “black gold” with leaves, water, air, time, and microbial mechanics. It’s poetry pay dirt, and it happens under our noses.

Our compost system at school is a passive system.  In other words, we don’t get around to turning it very often and only harvest it about twice a year.  Nonetheless, the magic still happens.

Garden Ambassador turning the bin with a pitchfork at recess:


Fourth grade students sifted the bottom layer of the bin into the wheelbarrow using stacked plant trays.


Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: the fruit and vegetable leftovers from Julian Elementary, ready for our next planting!


Gardening: so complicated, so easy

Two weeks ago the topic in Master Gardeners was temperate fruit trees.  As we reviewed all of the things that can negatively affect fruit set, I had this overwhelming thought:

How does anything grow at all when there are so many things that can go wrong?

Really, a gardener could get freaked out looking into all of the variables that allow a healthy plant to grow.  Consider the odds against fruiting—abscission of bud and flowers, weather, competition, disease, insect pests, shade, improper pruning…..

But then this is also true:  you can buy a tomato plant, put it in soil, water it regularly and you will probably get a tomato.  And you will most likely be blind to all of the things that conspired together to make things go right.

I find that a lot of gardening—life itself?—is about holding these two things in tension.

1)  It’s complicated.  Lots of things can go wrong, and lots of things can go right.  As we meet hard stuff with courage and persistence and faith, we ought to meet the good stuff with some deep gratitude. I will truly never look at fruits and vegetables the same way again because everything I have learned has taught me that they are nothing short of miracles.

2) It’s simple.  I think it’s important to slow down and demystify things so that we don’t get overwhelmed and paralyzed by them—things like gardening and scratch cooking and raising children and car maintenance.  We ought not to overcomplicate things.  We try, learn, experiment, fail, succeed, and ultimately, make progress.  At the end of the day, we’ll probably have grown something good.

Exhibit A: a wisteria vine growing up our pergola:

And here’s the wisteria vine we planted six feet away, same soil, same orientation, same watering and care.

Yep, nothing there.  It died, and I have no idea why. See? Complicated.

But then there’s this: artichokes.

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries