our onions and shallots

I finally transplanted the sprouts from the plantings we did with the kids at school.  I believe these are the radishes the kids planted – the kids get a little excited and things get a little confusing as to what seeds were planted where- but I think by the appearance these are the radishes.

The nasturtiums are doing fantastic.

and look who came to visit the blooming rosemary – I was so excited to hear their buzzing while I was working in the garden over the weekend.  Our yard is always a buzz in the summer with these busy little workers – I miss them over the winter – but my friends have returned.  Welcome back dear little friends.

If you haven’t read this book yet – it’s a must!  I just read it and am so inspired!  What an absolutely amazing story and idea.  I am envisioning my new career or at least volunteer career at the kid’s school. As you know I currently volunteer at the kid’s school gardening and doing garden related projects – but there is only so much you can do with kids 5 years old and younger.  But the thought of working with older kids and incorporating cooking too – ohhhhh – that just sounds heavenly!

So the cliff notes go like this…… Alice Waters – owner of Chez Pannise in Berkeley and whom I believe to be the originator of eating locally and seasonally or at least the person who made it chic, would walk by this middle school everyday and see this run down schoolyard and a school where some kids came from humble (I’m being generous in th term humble) homes.  Alice approached the principal and proposed tearing up the one acre asphalt yard and turning it into a garden.  The principal tried to call her bluff – but this amazing lady made it happen. 

she had the asphalt torn out, the soil tilled, a cover crop planted and so began the Edible Schoolyard.  The kids were involved in the planting and creating of the garden.  Soon the dilapidated 1930’s kitchen was cleaned up, and turned back into a working kitchen. 

My brief summary of how it all began does not do the story nearly justice – you can get a history at this link or definitely pick up the book and give it a read (very easy read).

Now the teachers in all of the subjects use the garden and kitchen for teaching their specific subject matter (math, history, reading/writing, etc).   Most people wouldn’t think that you could teach/learn about math in a garden – but it works.  Not to mention, these kids are getting their hands dirty and learning about the earth and good, fresh food – something they may have never learned about.  In a time when childhood obesity is a huge problem, this edible schoolyard will help to reverse the effects of years of over consumption, processed and fast foods have done to us.

I am thrilled to be teaching my children about the earth and growing their own food and now I have the honor of passing this on to their fellow classmates.  I would be so joyful to actually be able to help introduce/incorporate the edible schoolyard philosophy, principles and curriculum to their future schools (I will be looking in to how to make this happen).

I encourage everyone to get out in the dirt with their kids (even if you don’t have kids – get out there).  You don’t need a lot of space, you can do a container garden, you can grow your own herbs or lettuce – whatever it is – there is nothing better than going out into your garden and picking food you have grown and eating it. 

I also encourage you to approach your kid’s school principal and take the initiative to start your own garden.  You’ll be amazed at how open administrators are to ideas – especially when there is volunteer work involved 😉  Get a group of parents together and make it happen – Alice did! 

Friday was one of my days to work at Ryder and Saige’s school to do gardening.  I started this back in September, I go two times a month (if possible more) and I work on little projects.  Sometimes we are out in the garden, other times we have done things in the classroom.  This week we planted seeds.  I have saved egg cartons for a couple months ( I think Doug is happy to have the stack gone – I always seem to have a stack of discarded items hanging around waiting for a project) and in these we planted our seeds.  I bought a whole bunch of seeds for the kids, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, broccoli, lettuce, edamame, sugar snap peas, tri-colored beans, nasturtiums, and spinach.  I tore the cartons in half so we could plant in the little egg slots and then also in the top.  The big seeds are easy to work with – the very tiny seeds – not so much.  Let me remind you these are kids ranging in age from 2 – 5.  It went fairly smooth – had to move some seeds around in a few, but for the most part they did great. 

My goal is to get these growing to starts and then use these for planting in the actual garden this year – and if it goes really good, possibly have a mini plant sale on earth day to help raise money for future garden projects ( I have big hopes- but you gotta dream big!).  I will be thrilled if we get even a couple plants to use in our garden.  So I brought them home with me so I can keep a closer eye on them and put them in a mini greenhouse (until I can build a bigger one).  I know it’s really early but I figure if we lose some – then we still have time to replant and get them growing again.

I love to hear all those little voices asking if they can help and to see how each one has their own technique.  Some pile the soil into big mounds, others are very meticulous and have it completely even.  Some make perfect little holes with their fingers, evenly spaced – others throw the seeds into one pile in the corner. 

My main goal was met, the kids got their hands dirty and we talked about the different vegetables, what their favorites were, how they liked to eat them and how the plants grow.   It was a great day.

After two hours of that, I went home and spent the next 3 hours cleaning up our garden – I was so jazzed from the energy of the children at school – they were so excited to get these planted and are so excited at the prospect of watching them grow –  I couldn’t waste that energy.  Let’s just say I was sore that day!

 Some of our past projects have included….. forcing bulbs, pine cone and peanut butter birdfeeders, building scarecrows, cleaning up the veggie beds, corn husk dolls, sunflower art made from plates and corn husks and sharing homemade corn chowder (not a big hit with the kids – but they all at least tried it!) 

scarecrow building with my friend Krissy

                                        making pizza with the kids for Ryder’s birthday

We forced hyacinth bulbs right before christmas

We didn’t use the dough they made (I brought some for eating that I made the night before) but the kids had fun making it a rolling it out and then kneading and kneading and kneading and kneading!!!!!

cleaning the garden beds

 

digging in the dirt

Do you have special projects you work on with your kids, either in the garden or not?  What are some of your favorite veggies to plant? 

We have been spending a lot of time in our yard and garden lately.  It’s that time of year to clean up from the winter, get the garden ready and just enjoying the beautiful weather and being outside in the warm sun. 

There are a couple downfalls – you can see the pollen hanging from our oak tree and there is a yellow haze in the air with all the pollen.  Needless to say we are all riddled with allergies, but that won’t keep us inside.  The other thing (which I don’t mind so much) are the hundreds of inch worms that are hanging on their little threads coming out of the trees. 

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Don’t you love those dirty little hands!img_0634

It’s kinda funny, you’ll be standing out there playing and the little buggers are just dropping down – kinda like they are repelling out of the trees- then they’ll be crawling all over you.  Sometimes after I’m inside for an hour I’ll feel one come out from my shirt or something. 

The kids just love these little guys – they go crazy for them.  So we have weeks of entertainment ahead!

What are you finding in your yard?

Happy Earth Day!  Today is the one day a year EVERYONE thinks about Mother Earth.  In our house “everyday is earth day”.  I know that sounds so cheesy but it’s the truth.  Everything we do, everything we eat, everything we buy, every decision we make we think about how that will affect our environment.  It’s not forced, it’s just who and how we are. 

So for this earth day I wanted to share our passion about the Grand Dame herself,  and we decided to spearhead Earth Day at Ryder’s school.  We had been wanting to put in a drip system for the garden and for their flower area – the teachers have so much on their minds with caring for our children that we figured if they didn’t have to worry about watering the plants everyday it would be helpful and it would help the plants survive.  I think it’s such a wonderful experience for children to have gardens in their environment.  It is so important for them to see where their food comes from.  Ryder learns about gardening at our house, but I really like the idea of him having this at his school as well and I wanted the other children to learn about the benefits of growing your own food and the sense of accomplishment.  This is a great way to teach healthy eating habits – without forcing it down their throats (literally).  

So we sent out an email asking for volunteers and we had such a wonderful response from the other families.  It was a lot of hard work but it was all worth it.  A couple of the parents said they were very grateful to be learning about running drip irrigation and about the different plants and techniques that we were using.  This made me so happy to know that they would be bringing this knowledge home to their families.  THIS is what it’s about. 

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Lots of weeding and working the soil before we could have fun with the plants.

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We planted a lot of California Native Plants – to teach about using native plants and drought tolerant plants.  We are trying upside down tomatoes.  This is my first time doing it – so we’ll see how it goes – I have read a lot of great things about growing tomatoes this way and I thought the kids would get a kick out of this as well. 

It was a scorching hot day, but we all pulled together and worked hard and had fun.  The kids were really into helping too. 

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Earth Day isn’t only about doing things for the earth – it’s about coming together as a community and building a better community.  If you care about the community and feel like a part of the community you will be more apt to keeping that community clean and really care about it. 

It was such a wonderful day – I can’t wait for next year – I have sooooo many ideas! 

What are you doing to honor Mother Earth?  What kind of community activities where you and your family involved in?  I would love to hear about other Earth Day festivities.

We never really got too crazy with Valentine’s Day around here, until we had kids.  I think once Doug and I went out for dinner and it was such a hoax that we never did it again- it was overpriced, not so good and way too crowded.  Everyone who never goes out, goes out on that night (kinda like New Year’s Eve).  I know I sound like a bah humbug but I don’t need a specific day to tell Doug how much I love him – that happens everyday (well most days !). 

But then we had Ryder and Ryder started school and I remembered how much fun it was to hand out valentine cards and have a little party and eat candy, etc.  So last year was our first year for this at his preschool.  We are discourage in bringing candy/cookies/sweets and I didn’t want to buy junk made in China – it was a big delimma.  So I had this recipe for homemade playdough I had been looking at for months so I thought this would be a perfect present for the kids, it  was homemade and it wasn’t toxic.  Perfect.  So Ryder and I went to work on the playdough.  Then we had to figure out a pretty package for it- so we stamped red hearts on little brown lunch bags.  I was very happy with the end result and we had tons of fun working on it.

I do remember, though, we did it the night before and it was a bit stressful towards the end (I don’t like feeling rushed with something like that).  So I had been thinking about this years Valentine’s gifts for his classmates and I am borrowing from a party favor my friend received at a birthday party.  I couldn’t resist – I thought it was brilliant.  We gave compostible plant containers with a bag of organic potting soil and a seed (Ryder has decided on sunflower seeds) .  It helps that I work at a home improvement center, but I thought that was so cute and clever.  Ryder has made some paintings and went heart crazy- we cut out hearts from the paintings and glued them on to hearts we cut out of construction paper.

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I love the idea of getting children involved in gardening and not everyone has a garden-but this is something that will get their hands in the dirt

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and give them something of their own to be proud of as they watch it grow.  Plus – how cool will it be when these sunflowers grow to be bigger than the kids!  I remember my best friends Dad growing sunflowers and they were HUGE and I always thought they were so rad!  And how can you not smile when you see a sunflower- it’s like looking at a big smiling face.

We had so much fun putting them together and passing them out to all of Ryder’s friends and teachers at his party.  I hope they enjoy watching their sunflowers grow.

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Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day and I would love to hear what type of crafts you and your little ones did for Valentines.

We headed back to Sebastopol for Ryder’s BFF’s 4th birthday.  The boys had a blast!  Jack loves cars/tractors, etc.  So I don’t think we had even stepped foot out of the car and he spotted the red tractor out in the field.  I’m going to digress a bit, we all loaded up in my van and headed to Sebastopol (which is about an hour drive).  I was laughing shortly into the drive, there were 4 kids in the back and Kendra and I in the front.  The decipal level coming from the back was so high, and I looked at her and said “and I want more!?”  It’s funny when it’s a one time thing for a short amount of time but is this what I would want to do everyday?  Loading up 4 kids and listening to their craziness?  Actually, yes!  I may sound crazy but I do believe I would love it!  Maybe not all the time, but I can handle the chaos.

So back to our day, we picked fruit and had a picnic and ate yummy cupcakes.  It was such a lovely day.  Of course I hauled fruit home, but I was much more conservative b/c I knew I didn’t want any to go bad and, to be honest, I was getting a bit burned out on canning.  So I picked enough pears to can 2 more big jars and some peaches (but we devoured those before they ever made it into a jar- which is what you should do).  I still had 2 giant baskets full of apples that needed to be cored and peeled so I went easy on the apples. 

On Saturday morning Ryder and I started preparing the apples for applesauce. 

 I’m amazed at how good of a helper Ryder is.  He peeled and cored about 1/3 of the apples, I would put the apple on the prongs and he would turn the handle until it was peeled and cored and then drop the apple into the lemon water bath. 

 We had fun and he’s so stoked about eating applesauce that he actually made!  That’s what is so great about having kids help with cooking (or anything for that matter).  There is a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I find he is much more open to trying different foods when he’s helped in making or growing or picking it.

We have a small bag of apples left that I would like to turn into apple butter- but we are heading out of town this week so if they haven’t been eaten’ and are still there when we return that’s what they will become.

As for canning, I think I’m done, well I do think about canning tomatoes, but I might wait till next year.  My tomatoes aren’t producing like I had hoped (I need to change their location next year).  So I might just eat them all- we’ll see.