Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Final Harvest, Final Day in the Garden, Memories that will Last Forever

I think Winnie the Pooh would agree with me that it was a blustery day. The storm that has affected the entire East Coast of the United States did not forget St. Petersburg or Lakewood Elementary. I got to the garden early to be certain I would be able to take pictures before the inevitable downpour. Rain gear ready, I tromped around and gasped at the garden's splendor for the umpteenth time. The gigantic sunflowers have started blooming. The yellow flowers seemed a bit out of place under the gloomy rain clouds. The nasturtiums have also started blooming. They too offered an orange and red brilliance to the grey lull of the afternoon. Anything and everything that was already in bloom has increased production tenfold. We cannot pick the okra fast enough. Yesterday, we gave one of the teachers about ten huge okra! Today there were still more to pick. We are pretty sure garden gnomes are putting more and more okra on the bush everytime we turn away only to discover the new additions the next time we admire the plants. We picked a few sugar snap peas and carrots to share with the children during the harvest festivities. The tomato bushes are exploding with fruit. They will be ready in the next two weeks for harvest. The green bell peppers have also decided now that it is the end of the semester, to go hog wild with pepper production. As I was exploring I came upon a huge surprise. Hiding behind the tallest of the sunflowers, back behind the three sisters patch, among the pineapples, was a single, veridian, softball sized PUMPKIN! A bit of a late comer but not at all unwelcome. There were so many other amazing discoveries around the garden that if I wrote about them all I might be sitting here all night. To sum everything up. The garden is flourishing.

After my romping and picture extravaganza, we started to plan and get ready for the harvest festival for the day. We hoped the rain would hold out at least for one shift. But, of course, it started as soon as we pulled the started plants out of the shed. We left them in the rain to get some water. Although the garden and the garden team love rain, the harvest festival could not continue outside during the shower. So we took the harvest festival to the children. We harvested a few vegetables each for all 60 or so children we'd be seeing over the next two hours and paraded over to our first class. The classes decorated the donated SweetBay bags with their favorite vegetables and we passed around the harvest for them to take home in the bags. The classes today got to try carrots, snap peas, and green peppers from the garden as well. We showed them one of the okras we picked and a turnip although we could not let them try these because they are vegetables which are better eaten cooked. To my astonishment most of the children loved the carrots and the green peppers. I don't think I would have been so bold at their ages. Finally, we gave the children each a started plant. They seemed pleased with the mementos of the garden we left them with.

It is the end of the semester for the Eckerd College students. Next week we will all take our finals and shortly after most of us will head back to our families for the winter break. Some of us will return to the garden and Lakewood next year for another exciting growing season. Others, like me, will not be able to return to the peace patch garden. It is regrettable, but I will always remember the time I spent in the Edible Peace Patch Garden at Lakewood Elementary. I will never forget the smiles, smirks, and exclamations that the students of Lakewood have given me. I know I speak for the rest of the garden team when I say that I am thankful for my time in the garden. It has been a pleasant, interesting, and curious experience. The students of Lakewood are an amazing group and they have filled my heart with warmth over these last few months. I want to thank the school for allowing the garden to persist. It is not only a valuable learning tool for their own students, but it is a splendid way for us at Eckerd College to give back to the community that we now belong to as well.
Happy Winter to everyone!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Harvest Week, Day One!

The first day of our fall harvest was wonderful! We had a ton of kids come out, and everyone had a lot of fun. We started in a great big community circle, where we explained to the kids what harvesting means, why it’s important, and that they were going to do get to harvest the vegetables from the garden themselves. We divided the kids up into groups by their classes and set up stations for them. We had them harvest, learn about growing their own plants, taste some watermelon and cucumber we had cut up for them (they were really excited about this part), and decorate the harvest bags that Sweetbay was nice enough to donate to the project.

It was especially fun taking the kids around the garden to harvest today because they all already knew what they did and didn’t like, and they were excited to have some vegetables to call their own. They all wrote their names on their little cups and on their bags with their vegetables, which I think really helped reinforce the idea that they have all taken part in growing the things in the garden as much as we have. All the kids also went home with a bean, tomato, or lettuce seedling with some instructions on how they can grow vegetables at home. We wanted them to be able to take part of the garden home with them, and these little seedlings were all plants they got to see growing in the garden. I think it will also encourage many of them to keep thinking about food as something that they can grow and be in control of themselves…not just something you buy at the grocery store.

Though we had about 45 kids out at the garden today – more than we’ve ever had at once before – the teachers and Peggy were really helpful in getting them to listen and making sure everyone was having a good time. Though they were a rambunctious bunch, they were all really excited to be there, and were eager to participate in everything we had set up for them. It was a great experience.

The garden itself is looking great, with the exception of the vines – they’ve been taken over by a pesky fungus. The watermelon is very dead, so for next semester we’ll have to plant it outside of the sunflowers, and maybe we could use the fantastic trellis set up for the beans. The sunflowers are taller than many of us now, and the butterfly garden is still attracting lots of pollinators. We picked some enormous okra and zucchini today, as well as a turnip – we gave these to Peggy so she could use them in the science lab, because they aren’t good to eat raw, which is what we do with the kids when they come out to the garden. We’ve also got some beautiful green peppers and tomatoes growing! They should be about ready to pick next week, which we’ll share with all the brilliant classes that have come out to the garden over the semester.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Torrential Tuesday!

Today's thunderstorm brought about some much needed natural watering, Mother Nature always knows best. The heavy rains took their toll on Tampa Bay but we anticipated their arrival and avoided watering this morning.

The Edible Peace Patch possess an atmosphere of bustling tranquility. There are still flowers to be pollinated and vegetables to be harvested but at the same time certain things are progressing past their seasonal abilities. The squash, gourd, and pumpkin are not thriving as much as we could have hoped. A stout pumpkin would have been an amazing addition to our family, maybe next year.
This weekend we planted a lot of starters to hand out to the kids as mementos of the garden and everything we taught them during our time together. There are string beans, lettuce, and tomatoes. We initially thought about giving the children seeds to plant themselves but then we recollected our own childhood and how we would have treated the seeds; placing them in random drawers and forgetting about them. However, we plan on providing the kids with seeds if they desire them.

The next few weeks should produce more zucchini, okra, and a lot of various greens (kale, lettuce, and spinach). The tomatoes are also developing into sturdy vivacious plants. I can't wait too see all the different varieties we planted and have the kids taste them!

Let's give thanks this holiday for the productivity of our garden, the livelihood of the kids, and the commitment and enthusiasm from everyone involved!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The kids at Lakewood have the week off for Thanksgiving break, so we won't be having any classes come out this week. Some of us will be checking in on the garden and watering when needed. Today when we stopped by, we noticed the watermelon plant was completely dead, except for one large, very heavy watermelon that we rescued before it kicked the bucket as well. We can't wait to share it with the kids next week!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fog fog everywhere

The garden had a nice layer of fog over it this morning. The end of the garden was actually difficult to see and most of the leaves still had a layer of dew over them. Through the fog the watermelon has gone from the biggest attraction in the garden to the biggest spot of brown as the plant has produced. There are two watermelons finishing up, the smaller of the two is sitting nicely on second layer of the trellis.
During the afternoon shift the school had a fire drill and there were students everywhere on the picnic tables. We had a lot of fun watching the teachers wrangle them. When the groups came out they had the opportunity to try turnips and cucumbers. The turnips were a hard sell raw, which was to be expected. The cucumbers were also hard to talk the students in to trying but after a bit of finagling all the students tried them. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday thursday

Hello world!  Thursday in the garden was just as it is always, only enjoyable.  We began our day with a pre-school class.  They explored the garden and all the changes the plants have gone through in the past week.  We were able to harvest a group of cucumbers, which is always exciting.  The watermelon is really starting to decline.  It is obvious the plant is now down to his last push.  I am very curious as to what the mystery bugs are and to how to prevent them from eating our watermelon vine!  Beyond cases such as the mystery bugs and the gourd fungus, the garden is doing absolutly beautifuly.   Today was amazing.  The sun was fully out, which counter acted with the fall/winter cold that is slowly creeping upon us.  Still, Florida weather has proven to be amazing.  I have never observed the sun to be such an amazing November source until this season, when I have been able to watch to plants welcoming embrace. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished - Lao Tzu

Every leaf in the garden was glistening with dew this morning. The breeze cut through the stillness, and the sun burned brightly, encouraging our plants to keep thriving. At this point, the garden seems to be taking care of itself. Weeding is no longer a strenuous activity as the grass seems to have given up pushing through the mulch. Watering is still our primary task, we must feed the roots so that they may have enough energy to produce their fruits. Morning shifts have become very quiet without the children. The garden seems a little lonely without them, and us Eckerd students are missing their presence. Fortunately, the afternoon shifts still have classes, so at least some kids are able to enjoy what we've built for them. There are so many plants producing right now: cucumbers, zucchini, okra, spinach, swiss chard, kale, watermelon, arugula, green beans, peas, and soon the peppers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes will be too. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing the tiny, seemingly lifeless seed you placed in the soil become something so big, edible and tasty! I can't wait for the nasturtiums to bud, there's nothing like a spicy flower in the morning. The semester is coming to a close, and so spending as much time as possible in the garden seems like the best thing to do. I sure will miss all the colors and the delicious smells over winter break.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turnip Tuesday

Today was a low key day at the garden, we said good morning to all of the plants and checked their progress from last week. The turnips were looking especially excited, ready to jump from the ground at any moment. We were also surprised to see two inch leaves sprouting from the ground where we planted zucchini seeds just one week ago.
The greens, tomatoes, herbs and
sunflowers seem to be doing well and we
hope that perhaps their determination will encourage the rest of the garden to survive until the end of the season. We are all keeping our fingers crossed for the remaining three watermelons in the watermelon patch, seeing as it's well past watermelon season. However, we are very thankful that the kids had the opportunity to try at least one watermelon.
Unfortunately, there were no kids today, so we spent time taking care of watering, weeding and thinning the zucchini. We did have an opportunity to see the pumpkins Ms. Norbasch's class had been growing for over a month. We brought them some small containers so that the kids can bring home the pumpkins. It was very impressive to see the potential of their little green thumbs and their excitement over the process of watching their plants grow from seeds.

Overall, our time in the garden today was very relaxing. I continued to be surprised by the growth of everything each week. I hope that as the semester comes to an end we have the opportunity to see the children a few more times and share the rest of the harvest with them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What a wonderful Monday...

Everything in the garden is producing wonderfully tasty things!

Well, everything but the tomatoes, but they are working on it. They smell fantastic. Today we harvested some beans for the students (and tasted a few ourselves). They are producing beans super fast. Every time we go out to the garden there are more ready to be harvested.

The kids today were awesome! We took them into the garden to collect some samples to taste. They were really excited. Each kid had a chance to select a leaf for their small group. We picked swiss chard, basil, spinach, lettuce, cress, and a radish to try. Most of it ended up being spat back out, but they all really liked the salty swiss chard and two of the girls really liked the radish, even though it was spicy. They all tried them at least and we discussed the importance of eating vegetables.

One of the watermelon had fallen off the vine the other day, so we cut it open and tried it with the kids even though it wasn't ripe. I didn't think they would like it since it was not quite ready, but they loved it! We looked at the seeds and talked about how the seeds grow into the watermelon they were eating. We all had a lot of fun!

Until next time, I leave you with a joke from Shel Silverstein:
What did the carrot say to the wheat?
Lettuce rest, I'm feeling beet.

A great day!

Last Monday was the first time that our group of students, for the independent study, were able to see their growing plants! We did a quick activity about Photosynthesis to begin, and then the rest of the time was theirs to enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just Another Sunny Day

Today was another sunny day in the Sunshine State! We started the morning off by taking a little stroll through the garden. Everything is growing at staggering rates. Did these vegetables grow over night? Anyways, the gardening crew has been sampling some of vegetation of the Edible Peace Patch. Overall, all the vegetables are delicious and have received two thumbs up by all of us. Even though I did not personally get to taste the watermelon, I’m sure that the children who did this afternoon enjoyed it. When we cut it open, it looked quite tasty.

In our morning shift we did a little more weeding, harvesting of greenbeans, and watering. In short, it was business as usual. Unfortunately, no children came to see us this morning. Perhaps this is because of the new trailers that are being installed as classrooms, which are located next to garden. All of the noise created by the workers, trucks, and whatnot does not create the best learning environment. Not to worry though. The installations look soon to be over, which means the noise and raucous will also soon be over.

Good Eatin' in the Garden

Thursday afternoon in the garden was accompanied by a lovely cold front (thank you, Ida!) that was great for our thirsty plants. With the brutal heat we’ve had the last three months, we’ve had to water excessively every shift. Luckily, it seems that we will have a break from our watering regimen for a little while, since the hurricane’s rogue clouds are bringing us some much-needed rain.

Unfortunately, it seems that some of our vegetables are plagued by a pesky fungus. It is all over the gourd, the zucchini, and the watermelon. Hopefully it won’t spread any more, especially since just about everything is putting out fruit now. We might have to do some research and see if we can do anything to stop it. We’ve also got some bad bugs in our poor watermelon, which with some luck the ladybugs will discover and take care of. The garden is looking great otherwise, though – every day we’re there we find more and more vegetables ready to be harvested and eaten by the hungry and curious children.

This week’s lesson is all about eating healthy food, and giving the kids a chance to make observations using their sense of taste. Our class today was really excited about being able to taste what they’ve been growing, and after breaking them into groups we were able to show them how to harvest the vegetables, what parts to eat, and why greens are healthy. We had some beans ready-picked for them, since we were running into trouble with some of the kids who wanted to pick things that weren’t ripe yet. They did get to pick their own spinach leaves, swiss chard, cress, and basil. The group leaders picked a radish and divided it within the group, so that we had enough radishes ready for all the classes that visit the garden this week. Most of the kids liked at least one of the vegetables we picked, and many times they would trade with their classmates if they didn’t like something and wanted another. We talked a little about how eating vegetables keeps you healthy, and about what parts of the plant you can eat. The radish was a great example of a root that we eat, and all the kids were fascinated by the fact that we were eating what grows under the ground.

What’s great about this lesson is that we can show the kids that eating healthy is fun and delicious. We’ve already had many kids express their desire to eat more of these kinds of foods. The fact that they are getting excited about food like swiss chard or spinach is wonderful, and I believe that it is because they are excited about the garden itself. Hopefully they’ll love the garden even more now that they’ve experienced it in the most essential way.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Living in a Ginormous World

Yesterday Ida blew in some very rainy weather that the garden is loving. On first walk through everything looked so much bigger and healthier. The sunflowers are towering over most of the plants in the garden. They have grown so tall so fast its hard to believe they were seeds a few months ago.
The not so tall are doing great too! The beans don't tower over the garden but they will surprise you. One week no beans the next week hundreds hanging out just begging to have the Lakewood students pick them. The watermelon is another plant that will catch you by surprise. Every time I go through to find a watermelon another one jumps out at me that I had not have seen before. Not to mention, our pride and joy monster watermelon everyone is talking about.
The weather this week is very indecisive. When we arrived it was cloudy and within an hour it was sunny and before we left a raincloud passed over and it sprinkled for about 15 minutes. For us it's a little confusing but I'm sure the plants were loving it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Calm and Cloudy Day

Today's sky was blanketed by thick grey clouds slowly rolling over the garden, building anticipation for afternoon showers. It seems that the rain dance performed by many of the lakewood students has been a tremendous success. With the plants drinking up as much water as we can give them, it is always a pleasure when Mother Nature steps in to aide us in our watering duties.

The water melon vine is still going strong, even with several large water melons growing larger every day. The children always enthusiastically remark on the growth of these fruits each week, anxiously awaiting their first taste. As the watermelon enters the end of its growing season, it is beginning to show signs of strain, but has certainly brought forth a plentiful harvest.

The other plants in the garden are doing remarkably as well. The amaranth is beautiful and now towers over the heads of many of our pre-schoolers. The second generation of radishes is coming up. We can only hope that they are as spicy and delicious as the previous batch. The bush beans have exploded, producing countless large beans hanging from every plant.

With so much going on in the garden, it is nice to take a moment to appreciate the subtle workings of nature that take place in every moment. Today the group observed a small bee as it buzzed from plant to plant, pollenating constantly. The countless bees in the garden are performing an incredibly valuable service to the garden, quietly and calmly. Thank you bees for all that you do!!

As usual, there were no kids for the Tuesday morning shift, but the garden will certainly be ready for young minds to explore the garden in the very near future. There is currently so much to observe, learn and experience within the small garden plot. Te garden is a lonely place without students, but the grounds will be filled with sounds of laughter and excitement before too long.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Goind Mad-ish for a Radish

Ah, but today, so many leaves were sampled,
But with care-placed feet, no new plants were trampled.
With cloud cover in place, our sweat took the day off, and
We stroked new sunflower leaves, supple and soft.
The children were excited to eat what we've grown,
And experience new tastes they may never have known.
Cress and basil were often expectorated,
But green beans and lettuce were much less ill-fated.
In my group, at least, a pleasant surprise,
As our neon pink radishes won first prize!
Some are too spicy, but this one was mild,
Voted favorite of all by all but one child.
The watermelons grow swiftly, one ready this week,
The kids love spreading the leaves to sneak in a peek.
From a friend's kind gesture, we acquired a hose,
A sleek new beauty that inspired this prose.
The pictures tell stories where my words fall thin,
With pineapple plants and the froggies within.
Here I will finish, but come check a-gain,
Maybe next time we'll tell of Ida's great rain.