In praise of volunteers

This morning I scrolled back through the blog in search of pictures for a project.  Remembering all of the things we have accomplished over the last ten years is overwhelming and encouraging. NONE of it would have happened without the generous help of volunteers.

This year I am working on building up our group of core volunteers, and we have had some amazing people step up.  Danielle is a mother of four children in our district and a recent addition to our school board.  She checked in with me at one of our new “Watering, Weeding, and Working Wednesdays.”  I was showing her some of the deferred maintenance projects, and she lit up at the mention of our cedar legacy table.  If you don’t know the background of our AMAZING table, please click here.  It’s one of our best stories.

The Legacy Table:  A Little Tale of Reinvesting, Rebuilding and Reinvesting

The table was in need of a little TLC.  It has been a long time since we have cleaned it and treated it with rosewood oil.  Danielle, along with all of her kids, brought out a sander and tools, and they restored it beautifully!  She said teachers were coming out to thank her for her work on it, and when I profusely thanked her, she said she was happy to do it because her family loves our school so much.  And we love them.  ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN SCHOOL GARDENS!

A Fresh Grant from the CA Department of Education

At the end of the school year in May, we learned that we had received a California-grown Fresh School Meals grant from the California Department of Education. (Susi and I had worked on this many months before.)  This grant allows us to start or grow many healthy eating initiatives on campus.  Here are a few that we’ve created in the first few weeks of school.

Every month we host a Walk to School event.  This year we are combining it with taste tests to promote breakfast and Harvest of the Month.  Here we are at the starting point in town to hand out whole wheat muffins made with apples picked from our school garden.  (A mom reached out to me the next day and asked for the recipe because her kids had raved about the sample!  Success!)

Mr. Copelands serves up muffins with flair!

Carmen, our bilingual resource coordinator, is working with her parenting group to teach classes incorporating Harvest of the Month as well as replicating cafeteria recipes provided by Jeremy’s on the Campus to help promote school lunch.  These parents have a blast cooking and learning together, and they are producing spectacular dishes!  See the apple recipes below!

Finally, at Back to School night Chef Donald provided taste tests of our school lunches as to help educate parents about the fresh and healthy food we offer in our cafeteria!  We will have many more projects and equipment acquisitions in the coming months with this grant—stay tuned for more delicious stories.

 

In which service volunteers are celebrities…

It was a good morning in November when I answered the Pathways phone and an AmeriCorps team member was on the line, asking if we would like a group of volunteers for a day of service at school.

Um, YES!

On December 18th, we welcomed eight young people from all around the county on a 10-month term of community service across the western states.  They had been in Julian for six weeks, staying at Camp Stevens and working on building and clearing trails, planting natives on Volcan and helping out around town, such as assisting locals in hanging all of the holiday decorations on our historic Main Street.  On our day, they worked with Pathways, helping to wrap presents for our toy drive, moving a sandbox for the special ed. department, planting bulbs, painting our table, and installing a hoop system over our raised beds.

I also asked them if they would be willing to do a 15-minute presentation to the 4th and 5th grade classes.  They were happy to do this and visited each class to discuss the concept of AmeriCorps, what projects they had already contributed to, where they were headed next, and what they had learned about committing a year of their young lives to service in various communities.  I also asked the team to share some of their reflections on living in Julian with our students, as it’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective on what is just “daily life” for you.  They talked about the natural beauty of Julian, the close-knit community who had welcomed them wholeheartedly and of course, the apple pie.

After taking a few last questions, I hustled them out the door so the students could get ready for lunch.  As I did, some fifth graders followed us with pen and paper and started asking the AmeriCorps members to sign their names.  Suddenly I realized the kids were asking for their autographs!  The AmeriCorps members realized this too as they signed paper after paper, laughing that this was definitely a “first” for them.

Oh to live in a world where the people who volunteer and serve in communities are the celebrities!  And thank you to the amazing Mrs. McFedries who has taught her class to respect and be grateful for people who serve others.  Bless you AmeriCorps team as you continue to make the world a better place!

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The Great Julian Apple Crunch

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Today Julian Elementary and Junior High celebrated National Food Day with 15 workshops on nutrition, cooking, backyard gardening and agriculture.  It was amazing—look for upcoming posts with photos and stories.

For now, let me share a video with you.  Every year people across the country celebrate good, fresh food with an Apple Crunch event.  We did one this year, thanks to Ken and Linda Limon who visited a neighboring orchard whose owners allowed them to harvest for free, picked 400 apples, hand sorted them, packed them in flats of 50 and delivered them to cold storage in the school kitchen.  We washed and bagged them by class size.  Students wore their red No Excuses shirts to school, Garden Ambassadors held up big leaves, and our principal got on the roof to film the event.  The weather was sketchy today but it held just long enough…..five minutes later, downpour!  Simply amazing.

Thank you Linda and Ken—you made this happen!

 

 

Winter Garden Tour

And by winter, I mean the months of November and December and not the weather, as it has been distressingly warm here in Southern California.  Shed your jacket and join me as we take a look around the garden in the past few months.

I’ve seen school gardens that add holiday decorations throughout the year, so I’ve been keeping my eyes out for ornaments and wreaths at garage sales.  At the end of my church’s rummage sale, everything was on sale for $1 a box. I walked away with big plastic ornaments and wreaths.  Students help me put it all up at the end of a garden class (building ownership!), and we added bunches of freshly cut incense cedar.

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A modest radish and broccoli harvest was enough for a treat on a whole grain cracker in Mrs. Younce’s class.

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Parent, friend and native plant guru Art Cole planned and purchased natives for the area to the side of the Kandu Gate.  Plants include creeping snowberry, “Joyce Coulter” Manzanita, monkey flower, sedge, yarrow and currants. Garden Ambassadors helped me dig holes and excavate rocks.

Later I added red mulch and plant markers to help keep students from walking over them.

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Our November Backcountry Collaborative marked the end of our 1 year USDA Farm to School grant.  Pictured below are a few of the seasonal crop banners we had made to decorate our lunch area.  Also pictured are two eight grade students (confession: the boy is mine) who are introducing the food film they made for their elective class, Food Justice.  The title of their film:  Pie-oneering, The story of the first commercial pie restaurant in Julian.

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“Garden Beneficial” Harvey and Mr. Copeland worked with students to build 3×3 beds to increase our edible space, a goal of our Farm to School planning grant.

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Our harvest of the month for November and December: beautiful broccoli!  Notice the hoops and the agrobon, which we’ve used a bit with a few cold/snowy nights.

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Mrs. Dawson’s class harvested the rest of the broccoli for their holiday party, and the irrigation box has been stored inside in anticipation of freezing nights.  (Cross your fingers!)

Wreath making with herbs (primarily rosemary) and cedar was a successful holiday activity.  And the classrooms have never smelled better!

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Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to more stories flowing from the school garden….

Garden Tour: May 2013

Time to wander around the school garden.  Join me.

Let’s start with the roses.

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

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

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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.

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

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Peas, glorious peas.

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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.

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Sidewalk art adjacent to the garden.

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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.

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

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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!”

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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.

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Garden as hangout space

In the intial brainstorming about the garden at the junior high (“the Living Room”), it was agreed that one of the major objectives for this space was to create a green, inviting garden space in which kids would want to hang out.  To this end, we wrote a grant for a BBQ, six tables, and 8 benches.  They arrived right before vacation, and last Sunday afternoon a team of kids, parents, staff (and staff spouses!) put them in place.

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Poles were sunk in the ground to keep the tables steady and in place.

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Benches were set throughout the garden for extra seating.

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Volunteers are the first to try out the benches!

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A few benches are also placed around campus.

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Volunteer students also try them out!

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Look at this brand new social space!  Let the hanging out begin!

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Thank to everyone who came out and worked to improve this space for the junior high students!