Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday morning at Sanderlin garden truly felt like fall in Florida, more than comfortable in the shade and not completely melting in the sun.  Olivia and I began the day by surveying the fantastic job the Friday volunteers had done getting the garden into shape.  Also the grassed was mowed by the Monday’s earlier volunteers, and the garden just looked great!  Furthermore we realized that some harvesting could be done by the classes that day.
We began doing some weeding and watering, when it was time for our first class.  Mrs. Dillions kinder garden class is always full of energy, and they did not disappoint.  The seemed to retain some of the information from last week as far as predators, prey, pollinators, and I think it was Zach who remembered decomposers.  We began our water cycle instruction and the class was knowledgeable of precipitation, evaporation, even a little of condensation.  The Olivia taught them about transpiration, and where they seemed to understand some, it was this point where we really started to lose our crowd.  We asked if they could do their best to remember transpiration, and we moved swiftly into our celery experiment.   
It was then time to go into the garden and do some exploring.  We asked them if they saw any changes, and of course they notice the two melons getting rather large.  Also someone mentioned, “It looked like there were more plants”.  Then it was time for our class to do their first water.  The whole class held the hose, while Olivia instructed them where to spray. When the first one was finished, they would move to the end of the line.  The camera man did get hit with water some, but our fancy equipment was just fine.
I then brought them over to the cucumbers, and showed them the two that were ready for harvest.  They choose the one to pick, and pulled it. The class all got back into single file and proceeded out of the garden waving goodbye.  One child was chosen to carry their celery experiment back, and they were going to share holding the cucumber on the way back.  Each child pretended to munch down on the cucc, and they decided they were going to try it when the made it back into the class room.
Just a side note:  Mrs. Dillion returned her survey and we got a real kick out of reading it.  We may have a future Michael Jackson in our misted.
Everyone have a great week off.  Olivia, have fun in Tallahassee.
Blessings to all,

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Big Work Day!

Hello again. This Friday, all of the Friday shifts worked at the Sanderlin garden because it needed some extra help. This was decided because there was no school at either of the schools on this Friday so no lessons would be taught to any students and there was some work that needed to be done at Sanderlin. There were a few beds that had not been amended yet and were in desperate need. On the last shift of the day Mary Kate, Noah, Robin and myself put the finishing touches on the newly amended beds. We began by planting black eyed pea seeds in one of the finished beds. Next, we finished off another bed that had been amended earlier by adding topsoil to it. We then moved to another bed where we planted carrots, radishes, peas, and sunflowers. While we were planting, Robin was hard at work watering all of the beds. The hoses at Sanderlin had a few holes in them so Robin kindly went to go get new hoses so we would not be wasting any water. Next week we will be teaching the students about the water cycle so we best not be wasting water while we teach about the water cycle and conserving water. The shift flew by as we finished our work in amazement of how one days work with everyones help can create a beautiful product. Good work and teamwork everyone!

Peace and carrots,

Mary Kate and Noah planting peas

Black eyed peas

Mary Kate and Noah adding topsoil 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Going Buggy for Bugs!

 This week in our garden we got to learn all about bugs, and why they are super important for our garden to remain healthy and thriving. Our students were not exactly thrilled with our week's topic, but they quickly warmed up to our creepy crawly friends after a few discoveries. Unfortunately it seems the bugs were in no mood for playing because we hardly found any.

 We did find that some of our cucumber is growing and that our watermelon looks better than ever. The children are exited for next week, and so are we! These kids are so caring and exited to learn that the rough Friday morning meetings and hot afternoon lessons don't even bother us. Can't wait to teach them more cool lessons about our garden!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weeds, But No Bugs

As always at our early morning Monday shift at Sanderlin we were without kids to teach. Seeing all the work that needed to be done however, we knew we would have a full day nonetheless. We took a quick walk around the garden and noticed how much things had changed in just the last week. The watermelons were bigger, the radishes starting to come up, peppers turing red, new squash starts had been planted, and as always after a weekend of no volunteers, the weeds were abundant. We all grabbed buckets and made it our mission to weed as many of the beds as we could while we were there. After bending over for the morning, our backs needed a break and we turned our weed buckets into watering cans, and set off to give the vegetables some needed hydration. Although it was a cooler morning than usual it was still nice to cool down, and wash our feet with some nice hose water. There was still much to do in the garden, but weeding and watering had taken up our whole shift. It would have been great to have been able to teach the kids about bugs, but the garden clearly needed the work we put in to set it up for the rest of the week.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Plant Parts Rap!

“Whoa!  Here they come!” 
I exclaimed to Johnathan and Amy.   Running across the field toward the garden (like a heard of young buffalo) came our first batch of Sanderlin students.  Ms. Gonzalez’s Kindergarten class was eager to learn, eager to explore, and eager to ask questions.  Today’s lesson plan was Plant Parts!  Earlier Johnathan, Amy, and I agreed that I would start the learning experience by reinforcing the previous week’s lesson on soils and then Amy would introduce this week’s lesson on plant parts.  After that, Johnathan would split the kids into our groups for the “Plant Parts Reinforcement Tour” of the garden. 
Amy did a fantastic job using her body as a real-life prop to discuss the parts of a plant.  She pointed to her head as the flower or fruit, her hair as seeds, her body as the stem, arms as leaves, and legs as the plant’s roots!  Then she reinforced the point that all plants basically have these main parts and that each specific plant has one or more of its parts that is edible.  For instance, we eat the stems of the celery plant, the roots of the carrot plant, the seeds of a corn plant, the fruit of the watermelon, and the flower of the broccoli plant!  I must admit that I really never contemplated this amazing fact.  It made me think and observe plants and growing vegetables in a whole new light!   She made it all interesting and funny for the kids by wiggling, flapping, and jumping about.  The students were enthralled and all smiles.  Amy promised the Kindergartners that if they were very good learning the lesson and touring the garden she word rap the plant song for them.

Plant Parts Rap!!
 Plants are our friends, we give them special care.
They feed, they shelter, they give us fresh air!
Without plants in our world, we simply could not live,
Because of all of the awesome gifts that they give!
The tiny plant begins as a seed that germinates.
And from this moment on, here’s the journey that it takes!
The roots are in the dirt to help the plant grow
And hold it in place when the wind blows.
Just like a soda straw, they suck up H20 .
And when the plant gets water, stand back and watch it grow!
Stems hold the plant up, they carry water to
The leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds... that’s what the stems do!
Leaves grow from the stem. They soak up lots of sun.
When they change it into food, then their job is done!
The food is for the plant-it gives it strength and power.
It helps it to grow and make a nice flower!
Wind, birds, and bees... these are a flowers friend.
They help the life cycle to start once again!
The flower makes a fruit with a seed deep inside.
Some are eaten, some are blown, or some just hitch a ride!
Once a fruit is dried and a little seed comes out,
The seed will find the dirt and a new plant will sprout!

Fondly reporting, Ms. Diane

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What makes up a plant?

What makes up a plant? That was our first question for our excited second graders this week. Roots! Leaves! Seeds are in fruits, and sometimes in flowers, and pods! As always we were surprised by a waterfall of elaborate correct answers that we did not expect to receive. Enthusiastic and energetic, these children have just the stuff to brighten up any long school day.
After lecture and games we got to explore through the garden and identify how the different parts of the plants are represented around the garden. One of our favourite leaves from the garden are basil and mint leaves because they smell delicious and it is a surprising new sense integrated into the garden.

After a fun day at the garden we got to go back to class, excited for next weeks lesson!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Plant Parts

This morning was beautiful and cool, making for a comfortable atmosphere to be at the Peace Patch garden. At Sanderlin Elementary school for the 9:00 to 11:00 shift, it was just Derek and I. Although we are short a person, we made the most of our morning lessons. I was looking forward to going to the garden today because I hadn't worked with kids for about a week.

Our first class was Mrs. Dahl's third grade class from 9:00 to 9:30. They were very eager to be back in the garden because last week they were unable to come out due to the rain. Derek and I talked about the major parts of the plants and why they each play an important role. We then gave them a worksheet (fun sheet) to identify the parts of the plants on their own. After that, they were each given pieces of paper with either a fruit or vegetable on it. With these pieces of paper, we asked them to place them in the corresponding category on a poster board labeled fruit, seed, root, leaves, etc. They excelled in this and we moved forward to identifying plants in the garden. We broke them up into two separate groups and brought them around the garden, showing them which plants belonged in which category. At one point we also pulled some weeds and they got to see the bulb of a weed identifying the root.

We did the exact same thing with Mrs. Kuba's 10:30 to 11:00 third grade class, who were even more interactive and enthusiastic about our activities. It makes me happy to know that what we do with the kids every time we have a lesson is not only enjoyable but educational for these kids.

Our 9:00 to 9:30 class consisted of Mrs. Bennet's pre-K kids. As adorable and fun as they are, they have a surprisingly low attention span and cannot sit still for ten seconds! It is really hard for us to follow our exact lesson plan with them because they are so young, so for this class Derek and I modify it. We stayed in one big group the whole time and brought them around the garden to keep them busy and involved. We showed them the parts of the plants, but they never remembered when we asked them again. It was still fun and I know they loved it!

Overall it was a successful and enjoyable morning for the kids, Derek and I.


Mrs. Dahl's 3rd grade class

Identifying the parts of the plants

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Garden Aptly Named

 I began the day with painfully low energy, the overcast sky and humidity only adding to my general Monday weariness. Like we all sometimes feel, today was just about making it through to the point where I could happily lay my head down back on the pillow I hated to leave this morning and just relax. To be honest, prior to my shift, I doubted my ability to even teach the lesson I had a hand in designing (a little melodramatic, I know..but hey..it was that kind of day).

But here's the point of my sharing all of this: despite how incredibly weary I felt before coming out to the garden, the beauty of the work we do there is such that I always leave feeling reinvigorated. The weather hadn't improved, my schedule hadn't magically lightened up, but because of the two hours I spent with some amazing elementary school students, my day became easier.

Wes and I had a great time teaching the parts of the plant to Ms. Dillon's kindergarten and Ms. Johnson's first grade classes. We taught the basic parts and their functions, and then we went over the parts of the plant that we eat and had the students categorize pictures of broccoli, lettuce, peppers, etc. Before the activity, one of the girls in Ms. Dillon's class swore she didn't eat any plants because that was gross...only to later admit that she does indeed like potatoes (which are roots!).

I especially loved getting acquainted with Ms. Johnson's class. It was their first trip out to the garden, and their excitement and eagerness to learn and explore was contagious. I couldn't keep up with all of their questions, discoveries, and unbelievable stories that only first graders know how to tell. It was beautifully apparent how the garden played a profound role in providing a common space for shared learning and growth as the students collaborated and offered each other help, advice, and companionship.

All in all, it was a shift well spent. My internal restlessness proved to be no match for the hope and serenity of the Edible Peace Patch Garden.

Until next time,
Some of the materials we used to classify different edibles

We counted 5 watermelons today!


Red bell pepper


Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday in the Sanderlin Peace Patch

Olivia and I weeded the Northern bed around the nucleus today, before our first class came.   There was recently transplanted items in there (do not remember the plant).  We also looked for and turned any melons we found.

We had Mrs. Dillon’s kinder garden class, and they were quite excited.  We had a couple return children from last year, and they remembered some of last year’s rules.  Olivia explained soil composition in terms of geological (brake down of rocks into clay and sand, through weathering and erosion), biological (decay of wood and leaves from trees from decomposers), and we touched on the hydrological.  We got our hands in the soil, and discussed what we saw.  The kids noticed the irregular sizes of soil, along with the rocks and stones that were in there.  We then took soil sample from varying spots to see the soil make up of the garden, the soil starter, and a sandy area around a nearby oak.

 During our wrap up we revisited everything we talked about, and we tried to get them to understand who the decomposers are.  At the end Olivia and I received several hugs, and of course the good feelings that come with hugs.

After our class, we finished weeding the northern bed and we then weeded the sisters (Three Sisters).  Then we watered where necessary, pretty much everywhere.  We then observe that the pepper plants on the south side of our nucleus, seemed to be having troubles.   They were noticeably dry looking, with some discoloring and perhaps had some pest visitation.  I believe that it does not look like nutrient depletion, after some of the research that I’ve read.  I am leaning towards pests, because of the small holes in some of the leaves.  Pests can also remove moister in the soil, and this may also cause the wilting appearance.  It was very hot today which would explain dry soil.  We should keep close watch on this area, and put out positive energy that maybe the peppers were just hot today.  All in all, a fun day!