Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Missio Dei Community Visits the Sanderlin Garden

On Sunday, along with other volunteers from the Missio Dei Community, I visited the Edible Peace Patch (EPP).  Joe Esposito and I are the co-pastors of this new community of faith that supports the work of the EPP.  Joe serves on the EPP board.  My spouse, Robin Gipson, is also the volunteer coordinator at the garden.

A few weeks ago, the leaders of the Missio Dei Community learned that the Studio@620--where we meet every Sunday morning--would not be available on Sunday, December 2nd.  We decided to take the opportunity to worship outdoors by visiting the EPP garden and volunteering our labor.   We were asked to move a giant pile of mulch and another pile of soil.   We also did some weeding in the garden.   We worked for almost two hours, weeding and moving soil and mulch.   We, then, had a short time of reflecting on our service and a time of singing and prayer.

In our Christian tradition, Sunday began the season of Advent, a season of preparing for the true celebration of Christmas.  One of the lessons of Advent is a call to be awake!  We need to be alert to what is going on in the world.  It is a time to become fully alive as human beings.  In our reflections at the EPP this Sunday, we talked about being alert to the way we spoil the earth through consumerism and waste.  We talked about waking up to the reality of the environmental crisis.  We reflected on becoming fully alive by being more mindful of our connection to all of creation especially the ground below our feet.

Whenever people gather at the EPP garden, we are reminded of those things that are most important to us:  children, neighbors, food, community, peace, happiness, joy and the beauty of the earth.

Doug McMahon
Missio Dei Community

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Round Two Scientific Method

Hello everyone! 

In the garden, we reviewed with the students what the scientific method was, and went over some of the hypothesis that we had made two weeks ago before thanksgiving. We took our data sheets and scattered throughout the garden measuring and counting our hypothesis. Many students were surprised to how close their hypothesis was to the result. For example the banana tree. 

We had counted roughly 44 unripened bananas two weeks ago. The hypothesis was , if it grew for two more weeks then the total  number of unripened bananas would be 54. The total number of the bananas counted were 51! It was a very close and great hypothesis.

We also watered the garden and went on a small bug hunt with the left over time.

Next week is the last and final assessment week. The students have worked very hard this semester and have been great learners. I have confidence that they do wonderfully on their creative assessment.

Peace and carrots,


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Science in the Garden

These past two weeks at the garden have been focused on the scientific method.  In our lessons we have been working on how to form hypotheses, what are appropriate measurements to make and what our measurements will tell us.  For Sanderlin this week it was an introduction to the scientific method since last week was Thanksgiving break and the week before that they had a Teach-In day so neither class was able to join us in the garden.  Ms. Singletary's second grade class were well taught on the scientific method already so it was a quick instruction and then the kids were out into the garden to measure our favorite plants; the sunflowers and the banana tree (which is 30 inches tall from base to first frond in case you were curious).

 Ms. Mukherjee's first grade class had been working on the scientific starting this year and were excited to get out and measure everything we had in the garden. They worked on measuring anything from okra to a couple of the weeds in the garden.  This class always has a lot of energy and great enthusiasm for the garden and learning.  They love taste testing the lemon grass and basil as well as looking for bugs and usually stay out in the garden for over 30 minutes. 

Savannah and Emory measuring okra.
Haley as she measures some basil
Camile and I have a blast teaching these kids at Sanderlin, both Ms. Singletary's and Ms. Mukherjee's classes, and have bonded with them over the past few months, it'll be upsetting to have to leave them in a week.  It has been beyond rewarding to watch them learn and in such a hands on way. Its extremely fulfilling to receive a handful of hugs every time these two classes leave and always start my Thursday's out with a smile on my face thanks to these kids!

Mulch in transition!
Camile is so happy to be moving the mulch pile
Until Next Time,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Constructing Compost Bins

Hello everyone!  
CJ here again to report on the status of the 3-bin compost system at Sanderlin Peace Patch Garden. We finally gathered enough wooden pallets. It was critical to have 10 pallets all the same size and in fairly good condition.

 I started by laying 3 pallets on level ground near where the old bin was located. These pallets formed the floor of the bins.  I oriented them with slats running vertically so that a shovel could more easily slide along them without getting hung up.

Next, I erected the sides and backs of each bin and loosely zip-tied them together until I could get them all into the general shape of the bin.  The top side of the pallets should face the insides of the bin so that the compost doesn’t escape.  I filled in any large gaps between slats with slats that I salvaged from an extra pallet. 

I found heavy duty zip-ties in the electrical section at Home Depot.  The zip-ties were about 18 inches long and worked great to secure the bins.  I drilled holes in the top and bottom corners of each side pallet.  This allowed me to zip-tie each side pallet to an adjacent pallet.  I also zip-tied the front edge of each side pallet to the bottom pallet.


After that I cut the excess tails off. Originally, I was planning on using screws and metal plates to strengthen the bins but the zip-ties worked so well the screws were not needed. I may decide later to reinforce the front edge of the pallets with a metal rod if the bins start to bulge out when fully loaded but for now they seemed sturdy enough!

Eureka!  The final 3-bin compost system turned out great!  I am very happy with the finished product.

My next step is to design some educational signs that will explain how to best use the 3-bin system.

Happy composting!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Morning

At 9 am, Robin Gipson and I arrived at the chilly garden, reviewed the class lesson, collected our teaching materials, and prepared for our first students. The cool day was also overcast and reminiscent of the Seattle weather that I face daily back home. The kids today, however, were anything but gloomy. Today would be our class on the Scientific Method; we decided to get kids out in the garden almost at once and get them to study what was going on now so that they could predict what might have changed in a week. We headed over to a outstretched sheet of paper, the "Wonder Wall" which we had pinned to the ground under a rock at each end. After the kids eagerly came up with questions we could write on the Wonder Wall, we headed out to the garden. In the first, third grade class, one of our students, Becca, had a very clever query: what happens to a plant once the fruit is removed? With Derek's group audibly tracking pregnant spiders by the pineapple garden, a group of kids and I marched over to the center bed with Becca, and crouched down next to a bell pepper plant.

I helped them pop off the fickle fruit, and they recorded everything they could see and feel - the color, shade, and firmness of the leaves, the strength and color of the main stem and of the pepper's branch, and all other details that they beheld; with a child's curiosity matched with the venerable wisdom of the scientific method, I was very curious to see what subtle or overt  changes we would be able to detect. They wrote all the way until it was time to leave.

The next, pre-K class went bug hunting, as they adore bugs and wanted to track some down. I took them around the garden and had them choose soil they thought looked hospitable to bugs so that we could begin to churn it. After a few failures, we found some roly-polies, caterpillars, and more.

The final, third grade class was all about the sunflowers, which had transplanted themselves into our "three sisters" plot and are beautifully helping the beans as a trellis in our ill-fated corn-crop's stead. The flowers have grown tall, and we measured how high they have gotten so as to see how much they will have grown in the interim by next week.

Overall, the kids loved today; they were able to look, touch, dig, study, and develop a budding relationship with their plants.

- David Trujillo

Monday, November 12, 2012

Scientific Method Monday


Twenty minutes just isn't enough. (Well...more like, thirty minutes isn't enough, because let's face it - who actually ever ends the lessons on time?)

The best part of the whole shift is always those thirty or so too-short minutes when our students come out and bombard us with questions, random facts, off-topic observations, and general kindergarten/1st grade nonsense. I say "best part" rather easily in hindsight, but the truth is it can also be a pretty trying task to communicate concepts such as the scientific method to a group of rowdy and excited youngsters whose combined energy could probably propel at least a small aircraft. Typically, tending a garden is for me a therapeutic and often peaceful practice. But tending a garden with a class of kindergarteners is something else entirely. It's fun, it's fast-paced, it's loud, it's crazy, and it's oh so special.

Wes couldn't make our shift today because he was in Indianapolis with his son, but Robin filled in and together we introduced the scientific method and led the students in the preliminary steps of scientific inquiry: questioning, observing/measuring/collecting data, and hypothesizing. In two groups we measured okra plants, sunflowers, and tomatoes and made predictions about how the plants will change over the course of two weeks. (We will follow this lesson up after their return from Thanskgiving break)

I can't say they were all equally engaged in the process of data collecting, but the ones that were were more engaged than I've ever seen them. It was neat to walk away feeling certain that at least a handful of students learned something tangible today. Typically, I feel a bit unsure of whether or not what we are teaching is actually getting through as we have limited hands-on interaction and so much of our time is trying to organize the class so that they can all hear and see at the same time. But today, I just gave up on my notions of a perfect response from them and gave in to the fact that teaching kids that age is simply a messy enterprise. And I think that's what makes it so rewarding because no two days are the same, and they are always full of surprises.

Today was also special because the team of students who writes the lessons each week is looking into the cognition of all of our Peace Patch classes by way of examining the questions they're asking. So we set up our so called "wonder wall" and spent a good chunk of time posing questions and charting them. Ms. Dillon's class is wondering how plants grow, why flowers make fruit, how fast those plants grow, and so much more!

Here are some other photos from the garden today:
Our lovely Okra

Bananas on the way!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Friday Afternoon

Good morning world! Yesterday afternoon Mary Kate, Camilo and myself worked in the Sanderlin garden planting native plants. A few weeks ago, we taught the students about the native and non-native species in Florida. We also talked were all the different vegetables come from to show that different plants come from different places. Such as, watermelon comes from Africa. The Sanderlin garden lacked native plants to Florida, so there was an executive decision to add more native plants to make it a more well rounded. Mary Kate, Camilo and myself planted some native plants along the fence and a few other places around the garden as well. We then watered all of the garden. It was a pretty fun and relaxing afternoon working in a different garden.

Peace and carrots,


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Maintenance on Monday

Monday morning was spent doing garden maintenance in the beds at Sanderlin that are slowly but surely growing more full every week. Though we had no classes to teach in the garden, it was relaxing and enjoyable to wander among the beds and perform various maintenance tasks. Along with weeding and watering, Gabe and I lined some of the beds with bamboo and planted radishes in the beds where the watermelons had been harvested.  As I moved from bed to bed I was excited to see all of the growth that has happened in the last few weeks: corn coming up in the three sisters plot, cucumbers ripened to the fullest, and beans and peas sprouting across the garden. I am anxious to see what progress will be made in the next few weeks as we move into harvest season! 

Laura Lea Rubino

Friday, November 2, 2012


Hello again, today was yet again another beautiful Friday afternoon to be in the garden! From spending Fall Break in Boston and experiencing a little bit of Hurricane Sandy's wrath, it was great to see that the gardens were not harmed by the storm. After all of the students hard work it would have been devastating to see the garden in a tarnished state. This afternoon we had the Plant Ecology lesson where we taught the students about Florida's native, introduced and non-native plants. Diane led the students on a tour of the garden and pointed out all the native plants for the students to study and observe. For the interactive activity students went out into the garden and collected dead dried leaves and did rubbings of the leaves. We then tried to identify which leaf type the did a rubbing of and discussed the venation.  The students were very proud of their rubbings and took them home to share with their parents.

Peace and Carrots,


Diane leading the native plants tour 

A students leaf rubbing 

                                                    A watermelon we harvested last week

Seeing is Believing

Last week, we did a cool demonstration to describe the water cycle

Seen here we have precipitation, then evaporation, then transpiration,
and finally condensation. (Aquifers and watersheds are there as well.)

We used celery, food coloring, & water to describe the way water moves up 
through the plant and the kids really enjoyed this. 

This week, they brought us the cup and showed us the progress 
that had been made and it was so cool to see the red in the leaves after just a short time!

In case you are interested, the Sanderlin garden is looking amazing. 

Everything is growing rapidly
and looks just lovely.

Have a fantastic weekend!! Go play in the dirt.
xo, Anna-Grace Owens

Native Plants Week!

This week- Edna and I introduced the lesson on native, introduced, and invasive plants. The kids were really interested in how this worked so many examples were used. My personal favorite was Edna describing accidentally bringing back a banana seed from Puerto Rico (her native land) and it falling into the Sanderlin garden and then a banana tree grew. Of course this did not happen, but the kids easily understood the concept at that point.

 Here are a few pictures of the progress.

Green Pepper

Some of the almost ready to be harvested watermelons!

A HUGE cucumber

Seeing out little second graders is the highlight of the week. It is so inspiring to see how excited they get to learn about the garden- even about weeding!! We did some of that this week and they learned how to pull the entire root out. Every time, they wanted to show us how they had picked correctly and I couldn't have been prouder. Also- the teachers have been so helpful providing examples that explain the concepts in a simpler way, so thank you teachers!
xo, Anna-Grace Owens

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29th

Monday morning at Sanderlin was very pretty but quite windy.  I saw that there were some changes in the garden.  I noticed the melon patch was gone, and I dying to know how those melons tasted.  Also, I saw there were some new plants over by the fence as well.  The one looked like thyme, but I could not identify the other two.   Since we had no classes coming out, I would try to get some boarders up.  I cut up some bamboo for stakes, and several others roughly four foot long.  It was necessary to shorten some to make them fit, fit as well as they could.  I worked on the bed with the mustard greens, peas, beans, and tomatoes.  I used the existing wood to fasten some of the bamboo.  Once the boarders were in, I filled in spaces with mulch to help keep out weeds.
It was at this point; I looked up and saw Mrs. Johnson’s class coming out.  Opps!  The kids were very happy to out at the garden, so we decided to discuss to the class why I was putting up boarders.  I moved all the tools out of the way, and began to explain how the grass creeps into the beds.  I told them how the boarder works as a barrier to protect from the weeds, but also it works to protect little plants to grow stronger.  We then went into the garden to look around, and to harvest a cucumber.  Mrs. Johnson’s class asked about Ms. Olivia, and they were happy to hear she would be back when they came out again.  The class picked out a big fat cucumber, and we had them twist and pull it out.  The class asked if that hurt the cucumber.  Mrs. Johnson explained to the class that the cucumber would begin to die the minute it was pulled, and that’s why we must eat it soon.  We then wandered around the garden and stopped at the three sisters or this case the five sisters.  We talked more about companion gardening, and I explained that farmers will grow sun flowers right next to corn.  Sun flowers need similar conditions to grow, including soil temp so they should be planted at the same time.  Both corn and sun flowers grow tall, so they do not compete for sun.  Native Americans would plant sun flowers at the edge of three sisters, to act as a natural fence for the sisters.  I will explain this to Mrs. Johnson’s class when they come back next Monday, about these companions.  The class noticed a lot of bees in the garden today, so I gave details to them on bee keeping.  I described how keepers would drive north on interstate 95 during the growing season releasing their bees, so they would pollinate plants.  Then drive back south when the season wraps up to collect them.
Lastly, Mrs. Johnson’s class gave me a piece of Indian corn that they had been studying.  It was becoming a little moldy, so they gave it to me to plant in the garden.  I took off some of the kernels and planted them at the edge of the nucleus of the south garden.  Unfortunately, I left the cusp at the edge of that garden when I was leaving.  Again, opps!  I will show them were I planted the corn next week.   
I really wish this was my back yard! 

P.S. Weeded and watered!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Today was a slow and quiet day at Sanderlin. It was cloudy above and the air gentle and warm as I walked up to our sitting-stumps, where Derek was reviewing the last class's progress and considering where to most effectively direct our energy. We decided to prepare the peripheral beds for planting, and thus headed out to water, weed, and fertilize.

At this point, I consider myself a bit on an expert on weeding, because I initially found it so frustrating that I decided to study my technique until I could remove all inefficiencies. And quite honestly, as bizarre as this sounds, there are few things in my life right now that I find as satisfying as successfully extracting an battalion of interlinked grass seeds. (Grass seeds are these impossibly hard little nuts [resembling hazelnuts, in my eye] that link up with each other through roots that spread throughout the beds.)

The technique I was using is as such: I grab two hand shovels, thrust them down on either side of a weed, and gently cup the earth like I'm starting to toss salad. This has, I presume, a two out of three success rate of keeping the seed and root intact .... which still isn't good enough. I am experimenting with holding the convex metal back of a narrow hand shovel in my palm and guiding it with jabs of my hand, which has been somewhat successful; it's also important to moderately wet the beds. Maybe I should invent little gardening claws that you can attach to your fingers like classical guitarists do ... but I'll plan that elsewhere.

(Image: an battalion of the aformentioned variety; or, VICTORY.)

When I was done weeding, Noah came by and scattered fertilizer on the bed while Derek continued weeding and watering, and I moved on to other beds.

Finally a class of third graders came out, and we gathered at the stumps to review the previous week's lesson on bugs. The kids definitely impressed us with their memory, reciting and describing the various categories of bugs - the pollinators, predators, and decomposers. We then proceeded to teach on the water cycle, and the kids, at the end of the lesson, sang us a little hip hop song, and a few of them danced, really, really well. The kids all rounded up to see the celery game, in which we fill a cup with water, stick some celery in it, drop in some food coloring drops of their choice, and explain to them that the plant's transpiration will turn it (in this case) blue.

These kids inspire me. They are curious, articulate, energetic, and full of love for the world. When they were about to leave, one boy ran up and embraced me to say goodbye.

With love,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Preparing to Compost!

Hello Peace Patchers!

I am a student at Thurgood Marshall and for my Independent Research Project (IRP) I have chosen to design and build a three-bin compost system at the Sanderlin Edible Peace Patch Garden.  I am interested in learning about organic gardening and composting. The existing compost bin at Sanderlin was looking like it needed a fresh face-lift and, for such a large garden, the one bin system they had in place seemed undersized. I spent many hours researching different designs and settled on using a 3-bin system constructed from salvaged wooden pallets.  

My first task was to clear away all the debris, rocks, and trash from the existing compost pile and unload the old compost from the bin.  Every time I lifted a log or rock, a million little bugs went scattering around and we even saw a few spiders carrying egg sacks!  Yikes!

The old compost still looks good.  We placed it in a temporary pile nearby so that it can stay safe until the bins are constructed.

I accomplished the clearing in two trips. Now all the debris is removed, my next task will be to collect more wooden pallets and prepare the surface area to build the  new three-bin system.  I’ll keep you all posted on the progress.  Happy composting!

Best regards,  CJ