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!

Meet the “Garden Beneficials”

I’ve recently started this group, described as follows in our local newspaper:

You’re invited to join the “Garden Beneficials”

The “Garden Beneficials” * is a group of Julian residents who volunteer in the Julian Elementary and Junior High Gardens.  Monthly updates and a list of volunteer opportunities are sent to the group, and volunteers pick and choose what they’d like to be involved with based on time, interest and skill.  The group is low stress, low commitment—anything volunteers choose to do will be welcomed and very much appreciated! Garden Beneficials will also be invited as special guests to garden events throughout the year.

*As you may know, in the world of gardening “beneficials” are insects that do small but important work, like the ladybird beetle eating the aphid!

The first person to join was a retired woman who got in touch with me this summer, offering her gardening services.  An absolute dream of a volunteer, she has come out to weed, to straighten out the ribbon garden, and to help with garden lessons on Wednesdays.  Recently a neighbor donated a sweet and little but old and weathered bench to us, after having toured with garden the Julian’s Women Club. My (unnamed, as she prefers) volunteer took it home, refinished it and had her neighbor help with painting the little animals.  As you can see, it is adorable!  For now it is under the willow tree, inviting kids to come sit under the swaying leaves.

Adopt-the-garden for the summer

A big question in school gardens is:  what happens in the summer?  Who takes care of the garden?  What happens to the produce?

At our school, I begin recruiting families in May to adopt the garden for one week each over the summer.  The main job is watering.  If they have spare time, we wouldn’t complain if they pulled a few weeds.  I write up “summer watering notes” and mail them to each family, also posting a copy on our bulletin board.  Families are welcome to harvest anything they’d like during their week.  I think it builds owernship to come on campus during the summer and do the important work of keeping the garden thriving.  Through their work, families provide an important service and get a more intimate look at our program, hopefully building every broader support for coming years.

Here’s the Lay family, last week’s volunteer family.