August/September garden tour

As we occasionally do here at “What’s not to like?” take a stroll with me through our garden program in August and September.

For the first time in our HOTM efforts, we chose the avocado for August.  Our taste test was avocado toast, and naturally it had a near 100% approval rating at recess.  This sign met students off the bus in the morning.

I caught this snapshot of Ms. T opening up her day the first week of school at the garden table.  What a peaceful, beautiful place to connect with students and set the tone for the week.

Introducing 8 out of 10 of our new 5th grade Garden Ambassadors.  This is a long-running program that is original to our school, and we’re very proud of it.  To learn more, see this or this or this or this.

On September 11th, we held a Day of Service and Remembrance in the school garden.  Emily, our beloved Food Corps volunteer from last year, brought over a crew of friends from Camp Stevens.  We got a lot done with their help and positive energy!

We have an amazing parent (Garrett Huffman) who is working with Mr. C to build a shed we have on order.  Garrett built this platform this week.  I cannot wait to better organize our garden materials in a big shed.

Mr. Cam is starting a new program called Tastebud Tickets. At snack recess, he walks around giving tickets for kids “caught” eating something healthy.

Then on Monday morning, he put all of those tickets in his garden hat and had a garden ambassador pull one name.  That student got to choose a friend with whom to share lunch in the garden that afternoon.

Now in September, we are focusing on apples for our Harvest of the Month.  Our Garden Ambassadors offered bread with locally made apple butter at recess.

Good food, happy kids!  Til next time…..

Start with the ending

In addition to being one of my favorite David Wilcox songs, this is also how I feel about any big project.  Mission statements are important because they serve as a roadmap to where you want to go.  Our school garden has had one for a long time, and I return to it all the time, but just yesterday we finished a project to have it printed on a sign and hung in the garden for all to see.





And just in time for this Saturday’s 2nd Annual Julian Garden Tour!  If you’re in Southern California, consider coming up for the day.  Seven gardens are on display, including the school garden, from 10-4.  Tickets, which are the maps to and the descriptions of the gardens, are $20 and can be bought at Town Hall on Main Street or Julian Elementary on the day of the event.  All proceeds benefit the district’s Farm to School efforts.

Thank you to Leslie and Brian at Wet Duck Design for creating and installing our sign!



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.


A student chats with Chef Jeremy.


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


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.


Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.


Farmer Josh had a surprise: extra 2 inch models.

Image 3

Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia


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


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


Big ideas, big events in our small town

If you are a Julian/San Diego local, consider yourself invited to the following events that relate to gardening, Farm to School and environmental activism/awareness.   If you’re not, consider this a window on some of the super cool stuff coming up in the next four weeks in our little town.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival

For the last eleven years the Wild and Scenic Film Festival has kicked off in its home, Nevada City.  After that, it travels.  Local committees organize to bring the films to their city, and Julian is lucky enough to have a group of visionary folks (read Nancy, Brian and Terry!) and a supporting organization (Volcan Mountain Foundation) who successfully brought it to Julian last year and are bringing it back again this year, bigger and better.  From Friday to Sunday (May 17-19), our little town will show 44 films about the planet—from gorgeous nature films to inspiring environmental activist stories to thrilling adventure documentaries.  Along with the films, there are hikes, naturalist-led children’s activites, food, receptions, chats with the filmmakers, and more.  I can’t wait!  This year, the committee has also arranged for films, all featuring children and the environment, to be shown at assemblies at the elementary schools and junior high the week before the festival. (See list of kid-related films below.)  And during the festival itself, Cafeteria Man will be shown and the director will be present to discuss the project.  (Remember, we got a chance to talk with Cafeteria Man—a charismatic chef who revolutionized Baltimore’s public school lunch program— at our recent USDA conference.) To top it off, the event benefits the Volcan Mountain Foundation which I’ve written about here.

Learn more about the festival, buy on-line tickets and/or drool at the general awesomeness of this event at:

Julian Garden Tour

As a fundraiser for Julian’s Farm to School program, the Julian Garden Tour will be presented on Saturday, June 1st from 10:00-4:00.  Presented by the Julian Triangle Club and supported by the Julian Educational Foundation, this self-guided tour will feature seven gardens with their resident gardeners on hand to chat with visitors.  The gardens will range from an ambitious permaculture project in Pine Hills to an integrated waterwise residential landscape in Kentwood to our own charming school garden.  A $20 ticket buys a map to all locations and can be purchased at the elementary school or Julian Town Hall.  Seedlings donated by Heather Rowell and Julian-specific gardening handbooks, compiled by Sally Snipes, will be available for sale. (Many, many thanks to Sunday Dutro—the dynamo behind this incredible effort.)  More info? Check out the Julian Garden Tour Facebook page.

Family Fun and Fit Day

This Farm to School fieldtrip is the first in a series which will help Julian families explore our local food economy.  We will be visiting Cook Pigs Ranch, a family-owned farm that specializes in sustainably raised heritage pigs. To learn more about their passion for happy animals and good food, please visit:  (This is just for Julian families—please r.s.v.p. to me directly if you’d like to come along.)

All together now:   Goooooooooo Julian!


Young Voices for the Planet, Citizen Scientist

13-year-old Anya, an indigenous Siberian girl, sees her world literally melting away. She joins Arctic scientist Max Holmes’ research team, learns about her ecosystem and shares what she learns with her schoolmates. (4min)

Young Voices for the Planet, Olivia’s Birds and the Oil Spill
Olivia loves her New York forest and the Louisiana gulf coast where her grandparents live. When the BP Oil Spill devastates the coast, Olivia creates 500 paintings of her feathered friends to raise funds for Audubon’s bird rescue. (7min)
Watermelon Magic
Richard Power Hoffmann

International audiences will delight in this nearly wordless burst of color and music that draws inspiration from film classic “The Red Balloon”.  Weaving together documentary and narrative elements, “Watermelon Magic” chronicles a season on the family farm, as young Sylvie grows a patch of watermelons to sell at market.  The film employs a dynamic visual style that uses high-resolution stills at varying shutter-burst frame rates with stunning time-lapse sequences to trace the journey from seed to flower to fruit. When harvest time arrives, Sylvie must decide if she will share her precious watermelon babies with the world. (USA, 2013, 38min)
How The Kids Saved The Parks
Andy Miller, Robin Moore
You know those movies where the kids get together and do something awesome? When they unite to overcome insurmountable odds? Maybe win the championship from the favored bad guys. Maybe embark on an epic quest to stop the grown ups from doing something stupid. This is one of those movies, except this one really happened. This is the story of a group of great kids that worked day and night to save the California State Parks that they love – this is ‘How The Kids Saved The Parks’.  (USA, 2012)

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!


Garden Tour, August 2012

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the garden this month:

The sixth graders helped put a fresh layer of straw mulch around the fruit trees.  (Note that the mulch is pulled away from the tree trunk–that’s so the trunk doesn’t get wet and disease prone.)

We’ve had luck with this blackish-purpleish heirloom tomato called “Indigo.”

Our school had a lot of remodeling and shuffling of classes this summer, and the garden ended up with an extra white board.  Hanging on the fence in front of the table, it’s ideal for teaching lessons in the garden.

The five kids that served as garden ambassadors for two years are now recognized in the habitat garden.

An idea from a long time ago that I’d like to get going is to have a sensory garden.  I’m thinking this might be a collection of plants in containers, so I added our first specimen this week:  the irresistible “lambs ear.”

Don’t you just love volunteers, of all kinds?

Here’s a cool thing about school gardens: they are not perfectly manicured showpieces but learning spaces.  So you forget about your oregano and it goes a little crazy, flowering and seeding?  Leave it!  It’s pretty, you can teach about the plant life cycle, and you encourage the pollinators.

Two baby milkweed plants I got from another school garden.  It’s fun to think a monarch butterfly might find them; it’s also fun to think they came from a kindred project.

Garden Tour, April 2012

Every once in a while, I’d like to give you a quick tour of what’s current in the school garden.  Welcome to the first installment.

Mrs. Dawson’s first grade class broadcast California wildflower seed in this demonstration bed:

Our grapes are growing along the fence:

We have a new cedar shed.  Isn’t it adorable?  We waited a long time for this shed, raising the money to buy a quality unit.  So glad we did!

Our native strawberry bed continues to be lush and prolific:

A cute sign my younger son made in a craft workshop with Marisa:

Here’s a bed we sowed with nitrogen-fixing legumes to organically improve our soil:

Our current garden bulletin board:

A craft project from a couple years ago:  Our garden rocks!  Yes, it does.