Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Friday, September 30, 2011

100-Acre Pineapple Wood

This morning, Hank and Noah gifted us a box of pineapple scalps from Eckerd's cafeteria. Though their absence of sweet, tangy fruit may deem them useless to the common consumer, these green spiky parts will soon root themselves into the ground and begin producing new shoots. It takes a couple of years for the plant to produce another small pineapple, but I think the kids will enjoy the sight of what has now become quite the extensive pineapple forest. I spent a good part of the morning planting and watering our new members of the bromeliad family, and I'm sure there will be more to welcome in the following weeks.
 Since the elementary students are due for their first garden lessons next week, we decided to get some more plants into the ground. A few eggplants had sprouted, so we lined them up in a fresh bed. I was also very pleased to see so many vegetable babies making their way towards the sun! We have plenty of radish sprouts, pole beans, and corn on their way. The sweet potatoes and okra are progressing along fabulously, and one of the tomato plants has grown twice it's size since last Friday.

As we continued pulling out grass, weeding, and digging around, we had a couple surprise visitors. I encountered an especially attractive grub in my pineapple escapades, which found a new home in the compost pile with no hesitation. Katie offered a curious passerby a sprig of basil, which he happily accepted with a brief explanation of our project. To my delight, we also learned that there may be a bald eagle nesting nearby! Noah spotted this beautiful bird as she soared above in the morning sunlight.

Once again, the muddy shoes and sweaty brows are only evidence that our time has been put to excellent use. A beautiful weekend is upon us, during which I trust our garden will be preparing itself for the eager eyes of next week's classes! Happy Friday, everyone!

Carly Chaapel

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Helpers

"Food is our common ground, a universal experience."

— James Beard

Wednesday was another beautiful day in the garden. We began the day by checking on our radishes that we planted in rows on Monday. The radishes have a rapid harvest between one to two months after planting. We watered the radish plot as well as the other recently planted seeds in the garden.

Then my group decided to attack the grass that is between the garden and the fence. We used shovels to dig up as much grass as we could and then piled the grass into the wheel barrow. This took a lot of time to make a dent in the grass, but the final product looked spectacular!

Once a good portion of the grasses were taken out, we had some time to lay out cardboard to prevent the sedges from returning (although it is inevitable). The finishing touches will be to lay the mulch out on top of the cardboard.

The highlight of my shift and I’m sure for my fellow group members was when a class of about 12 students came out to the garden with their teacher. Some of these children made it clear that they were 5 years old. They came into the garden with wide eyes of amazement. Immediately after we introduced ourselves, they ask my peers and I if they could be our “helpers” and undoubtedly we responded “of course”. They walk through the garden with their teacher and we went along pointing out what was planted in certain areas. They asked the adorable, innocent questions such as,“can we plant popcorn?” and “can we plant mashed potatos?”. I can already tell that the kids are going to get so much out of the Edible Peace Patch. When they teacher acknowledged the students that it was time to get back to class the children didn’t seem to want to leave. A lot of them gave us hugs even though we had met only a few minutes.

Getting to meet the children that we will be teaching gave us some feedback for all the hard work we have been doing to prepare for them. It warmed our hearts how excited they were about coming out to the garden and how much they seemed to want to get to know us. The Edible Peace Patch is a very special place, in that it can be shared by many people of all ages.

Julia Melton

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot..." - Barbara Kingsolver

   Tuesday morning started off beautifully brisk after the refreshing rains. Upon arriving at the Edible Peace Patch we noticed that our once tall heap of mulch had now been spread across the growing garden landscape. Knowing that the mulch was essential to the expansion of our garden we decided to retrieve the "green monster" from Eckerd campus. After loading up the truck with several pitchforks we made our way to the recycling complex just down the road from Lakewood Elementary. Luckily the resources we were in need off were in excess! The persistent rains of the this past week had added a substantial weight to the mulch heap and it soon became obvious this job would not be a quick one. As the sun's rays began to grow stronger we tossed in the last loads of mulch into the bed.
    A short trip back to the school and we began to unload our steamy, warm mulch heap. Although unloading the mulch proved to be a much easier task it did not come without casualties...

By the time we finished unloading all the mulch it was time for the next group to start the day's work. We packed up our things and headed back to Eckerd campus to return the green monster. Until our next adventure in the Edible Peace Patch, farewell to all!


Monday, September 26, 2011

More Mulch

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." --Greek proverb

We all hoped that this week we would be finally be able to start working with the students but it turns out that we have another week without them. At least the garden will be in very good shape for the kids. Today was another hot one but lucky for us there was a nice cool breeze that made the humid air more bearable.  It was a relief to see that the stubborn grass that I spent so much time digging up on Friday morning was finally all cleared out. We started off our shift by watering some of the beds and wildflowers and then we set up the sprinkler to do the rest. Forest got right to work weeding some of the plants along the sides and re mulching them.

We also mulched the entire trench where we will soon plant some sunflowers! It's amazing how fast the garden has grown in just the three days that I have been gone. So many of the plants we just planted last week have shot up.

The red current tomatoes that Erin and I made starters for last week have already sprouted! 

Our shift flies by and I feel like we never get as much done as we should be able to.

Until next time!


Friday, September 23, 2011

A Carousel of Progress

Though Walt Disney coined this fitting term to represent decades of American progress, it seems only appropriate for the transformation of our garden over the past week. This Friday, I sweated through my second shift in the Peace Patch, and I am already astounded at the beautiful work that our team has invested in our growing garden. With a hot cup of coffee to get me revved up and the morning sun just beginning to peak over Lakewood Elementary, the girls and I got straight to work with shovel and pail in hand.

The bulk of our energy was channeled through a couple big shovels as they sliced through the omnipresent thick grass roots in what will soon be our watermelon patch. This project will take a few days and many more hands, but we managed to fill a few wheel barrels with the pesky stuff. We also smoothed over some beds and planted seeds that will hopefully soon sprout into kale, pole beans, and a start to "the three sisters" - squash, corn, and beans. This garden plot will be of particular interest to me, as it represents a classic working permaculture system inspired by Native American subsistence technique.

Upon cupping the tiny seeds in my hand, I couldn't help but feel a bit skeptical. How can such a fragile little pebble of life transform into the leafy greens we envision blossoming from our beds? It requires so much care and diligence to protect, water, and weed the small seed's environment so that it has the chance to thrive as we hope. I can already tell that we have a team of very dedicated volunteers, though, and from what I've heard, the kids will pour their hearts into these plants as well. I can't wait to get to know them as we all progress through another season of gardening adventures!

 Carly Chaapel

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Watering Seeds and Pulling Weeds

Another wonderful morning in the garden! Julia and I got right to work watering all our newly planted seeds as well as the crops that are growing strong. Thankfully we were in the garden bright and early and were able to use the hose, as we were not the only ones looking to utilize the water. As the sun crept higher in the sky we moved from watering to getting our hands dirty and weeding. Once declaring war on the sedge that seems to pop up everywhere, Julia and I had our hands full.

The sedge not only crept into the beds, but was also thriving in the paths. It’s amazing how plants can make their way through cardboard and mulch so rapidly! We started pulling sedge out of some of the beds but soon realized how much was in the path and quickly shifted our focus. It was difficult to pull out all of the roots of the sedge but hopefully not many were left behind so our paths and beds will stay weed-free for a longer period of time. After a solid 40 minutes of pulling up sedge out of the pathways and beds we were covered in dirt and sweat. It felt great to work outside in the morning. By the end of our shift we cleaned up the paths around the beds and were acceptably dirty.
It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in just a week! Everything looks so much better now than it did just 7 days ago. The garden finally looks ready for some kids! I can’t wait until we get some more plants in the ground!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little Dirt Never Hurts

“All my life, I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower whenever the flower would grow in thought and mind.”- Abraham Lincoln

I started the early morning shift at Lakewood Elementary by adding some vegetables scrapes to the compost pile. Once doing this, one of my fellow group members, Lilian, began to turn the compost. This is important to break down the compost.

Another member of my group, Hank, brought a couple of pineapple tops to plant in the pineapple garden. We have a few premade rock circles for the tops. After Hank dug the hole and planted the pineapple, I watered them so they would be comfortable in their new home.

I decided to water a few other plants in the garden that seemed a little dry. The tomatoes I transplanted a few days ago seem to be doing fine. I learned when transplanting tomatoes, it is extremely important to use plenty of water.

We concluded the day by weeding throughout the mulch and in a few beds in the garden. Its amazing how weeds continue to grow back. It takes continual work to maintain a garden; it would not exist at Lakewood Elementary without people looking after it.

Julia Melton

Children: Gardeners of the Future

  As the rising rays of the sun began to greet the day our work in the garden was just beginning. Tristram was the first to rouse our sleepy garden as he provided a much needed morning shower for our new generation of little vegetables. The sweet potato bed is well on its way to a bountiful future, and the lone basil plant is not far behind. Small blades of grass have started to poke their heads through a few of the beds, but our unceasing battle against them continues to hold them back. Although it seems that a few of our tomato plants have gone missing, the ones that remain seem to be picking up the slack and it wont be long before more join their numbers.
  Once the entire group arrived we quickly got to the task of expanding our pineapple forest. Equipped with shovels and gloves we began the long, hard task of pushing back the matt of grass. The swift sound of our shovels tearing through the earth provided us with a rhythmic groove to help pass the time, and before we knew it we had pushed the grass all the way to our fence line. Drenched with sweat and covered head to toe with sandy soil, we began to lay down the recycled cardboard on the now naked earth. About halfway through our work we were greeted by the smiling faces of a first grade class. Accompanied by three teachers, the little future gardeners surveyed their land and expressed their excitement for this coming growing season; most of their eyes growing wide with the thought of a pineapple forest. The class bid us farewell and we continued our work. After using up all the cardboard at our disposal we placed a top layer of mulch to secure our hard days work. Ten o'clock rolled around just as we were dumping the last of the mulch, and with the return of our tools to the shed we packed up our gritty hands and said our goodbyes... Until next time, peas out!    

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another day in the Peace Patch

Today was another sweltering Monday afternoon in the garden. Even with the Florida sun beating on our backs we set off to work with high spirits. It felt good to be out of the classroom/ dorm-rooms and be working outside. Chelsea stayed around with the truck to help us get another load of mulch. Due to a shortage of pitchforks Erin and I stayed back at the garden while Forest and Chelsea went to fill up the truck. I started to pull some more of those stubborn weeds out from around the pineapples while Erin began to water some of the beds. I have never done much gardening before but have quickly found that I really enjoy it. There is something soothing about working in the garden. I love getting covered in dirt and digging my bare hands into the soil.  

When Forest and Chelsea got back with the truck full of mulch we spread it around the pineapple beds and we started to spread it around the main beds. We then planted some wildflowers and marigolds. Erin showed me how to make starters for the red current tomatoes. She explained how they grew better if we planted them separately first and then transplanted them into the main beds later. I have always wanted to learn how to grow my own food so this whole experience is very interesting for me. 

Near the end of our shift a beautiful yellow butterfly fluttered around the garden but wouldn’t sit still long enough for us to capture a picture. I can't wait until the garden is brimming with plants and animal life! There is something very rewarding about being able to look back after our shift is done and seeing how much we have accomplished.

-Alina Dallmeier

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lets talk compost

My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God's presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that let's you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap.
-Bette Midler

        Friday was one hot and dirty day when it came to compost. The morning meeting went well during the cooler hours but as the day heated the jobs seemed to heat up with them. First we had to discuss the issue of the missing water melon, an issue that still haunts many of us. Next came mulch. We finally got a chance to get some mulch in but some has to be re-spread to allow for a dream of a forest of pineapples. 

       When Erin and I arrived in the afternoon we were faced with a sweltering afternoon but moved on undeterred and started turning over beds to replace what had become sand heaps with fresh and nutrient rich soil we could be proud to plant it. 

Erin took up this task quickly despite the immense heat and i moved to the compost pile. 

The compost was i need of much love with only one pile producing the heat required to break down our weeds into serious soil. Without this soil some of the gardens plants will have very sandy homes. The piles were all turned over fully and moved around and we are hoping that when we arrive monday morning we will be confronted by simmering compost and rich smells of soil. 

Last but not least we started getting some beds ready for planting. The sun was beating fiercly  but with a steady supply of water and moist ground we hopefully were able to resurrect a disturbed and sandy bed. We will see on monday if our efforts payed off and even if they didn't everyone will be well rested with beds ready for planting. We are also all getting very excited for the following week when we will get to start working with the smiling faces of the Lakewood elementary children!

I hope everyone has a great and restful weekend!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Progress in the Garden

“All is connected... no one thing can change by itself. “ –Paul Hawken

The morning shift arrived at Lakewood Elementary at 8:00. It was still cool until the sun continued turning it into a hot sweaty morning. We began our work where others had left off just past the pineapple garden it hopes of creating room for the watermelon.

We noticed how using our hands to pull out tall grasses would sometimes cut them, so we decided to use garden clippers to trim them down and then take them out by their root. This was followed by raking all the grass that we pulled and added it to the compost. We noticed how the compost has really piled up in the last week, which we hope to put to good use eventually.

There are still preparations needed before we introduce the children to the garden, but it is nice to see some strong sprouts beginning to make their debut. For instance, the basil plant is beautiful and seems to be strong.

The garden still has more to come!

Julia Melton

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Result of Teamwork

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success". ~Henry Ford

After a two and a half mile bike ride, I met my fellow peers at the garden early in the morning. It was a pleasant surprise to see the improvements made since Monday. It shows how far working together as a team can go. Besides the nicely cleared out plots free from sedges and other weeds, there were many more sprouts that had grown since we had been there last.

Specifically, the sweet potato plot has been thriving. Another crop that was doing well was the cucumber which seemed noticeable in several different beds.

Since the plots have been maintained and nicely groomed, we decided to focus our time working on the pineapple garden. We continued to clear out the grasses that had been removed remarkably since the last time we had been there. Then we laid out cardboard around the pineapple garden. Each pineapple has rocks surrounding its perimeter and some rock circles we made today for pineapples to be planted in the future.

Once we finished laying out the cardboard we began mulching on top. This is done to keep the grasses from growing around the pineapples so as to maximize their ability to grow. While we were doing this, Noah found beautiful red and black colored bugs in the butterfly bush which he classified as “True Bugs”.

It seems like every day in the Garden we find new things and get to learn to identify new species. It is very rewarding to be working on a project that is continuing to come together!

Julia Melton

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moving Forward

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
-       Sir Winston Churchill

The beginning of EPPG is over and we move steadily into the body of our work. What a great beginning it was but today we all got our hands dirty. The beds are all weeded and the garden looks great. But there is still much work to be done as we begin expanding the garden in two directions. The first will be mulching the ditch were the sunflowers are grown. The cardboard is down and as we wait for the much we weed our way back into the undergrowth to develop a pineapple garden.  This turned out to be no simple task. The grass is tall and well-established and other weeds seem to be stubborn in giving up their ground. The ground is firm and slightly rocky.

As we moved slowly backwards our compost piles grow higher and higher. However great progress was made. Our already resident pineapples are now happily sitting in their new private plots. The progress was slow and slightly daunting at first but besides a few run-ins with man eating spiders and incredibly stubborn plants we moved ahead undaunted. Much of the undergrowth is removed and soon we will be able to lay down some serious layers of cardboard and mulch. We have also been ordered to quest out into the world and return with as many pineapple tops each student can find.

Working in stages with separate groups makes watching the development of the garden very interesting. Every time I go it is slightly improved and looks slightly better. Also it leads to some very interesting conversations such as how different children treat nature. Some love to stare some love to touch things and some like to cop attitudes and stomp frogs apparently. We did get a quick visit from a kindergarten class today. The looks of excitement reminded us all of why we are working so hard in the morning sun. In the end it was worth it and I believe were all excited to keep moving forward.

Tristram Norman

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weeding, Discoveries, and Things To Come

     Today was one of firsts. As a new member of the team working on the garden it was my first true day working at Lakewood Elementary along side two other firsties, Forest and Alina. For the group in its entirety today represented our the first day of our new schedule, and for many of us, our first day ever having interacted with gardening in general.
     Walking onto the school campus, seeing the children we'd be educating for the first time walking along the corridors and up the portable ramps staring with interest and waving to us with giant smiles across there faces created a sense of kindredness between we three students who had barley met before our afternoon shift. I think we all felt at ease in each others presences, talking of our environmental interests, goals and opinions and sharing what our own personal value of working in the garden.
     Having worked in gardens before it felt amazing to be able to break free from my daily courses and lectures and dig my hands in the soil for the first time in months. Although it was a very warm and sunny Florida afternoon, Forest, Alina and I managed to weed the entire trench area where we plan to plant Sunflowers. managing to fill 2 wheelbarrows full of compostable overgrowth from the small area! After, we laid the base of cardboard over the trench to maintain the weed growth until the area can be mulched.
     With an hour left in our shift we decided to continue weeding many of the raised beds and a bit of the pineapple area as best we could. As we picked our way through the Sweet Potato bed, Forest and I noticed a patch of Purslane sprouting. Purslane is an edible "weed" that can be used as a leafy green in salads. It has the highest amount of Omeg-3 fatty acids found in any other leafy vegetable. It is also amazing ground cover, maintaining soil moisture.
     After weeding a few of the beds in the heat we deiced to move toward the Pineapples, an area in much need of some TLC. Finishing our shift we cleared as much of the thick rooted grasses as we could. Forest and I talked at length about how interesting it must be for a child to see a pineapple grow for the first time.

Erin Mattick

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall Semester Begins

"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result."  Mahatma Ghandhi

And so we are underway.  After Ethan Mauger spent the Autumn Term cleaning out weeds and planting seeds and putting things in order, we begin the new semester with an anticipation of great things to come.  

This morning a dozen and a half Eckerd College undergraduates showed up at 7:30 in the morning, while the air was still cool and the dew was still on the grass, to visit the garden for the first time and come together as the Fall garden teaching community.  Everyone was in a remarkably great mood despite the early hour and we got lots of little things accomplished.

We have squash or cucumber (too early to tell) volunteering all over the garden this fall.  It is popping up in every bed.  Elsewhere, okra sprouts are taking roots and growing well in the past week of rains.  In less than a week, the sedge and grasses have started to try to recolonize the beds and push up through the mulch, but with this new community of gardeners, we will soon get ahead of it once again.

The lovely pointed leaves of the sweet potato vine are sprouting from the place where tubers were buried last week and we anticipate a nice crop of the delicious underground fruit by December.  As you can see, the weeds are doing well, too.  Many hands are needed to help along our food in this Florida climate.

Our tour began in the storage shed and ended with the watermelon that has somehow survived a summer of drought and overgrowth of grasses at the far end of the beds.  We witnessed many pineapple plants that have made similar remarkable survivals and that will be a part of the garden growth in the season ahead.

In past years, with little expience to guide me on what will come next I have often begun the year with a bit too much anxious anticipation, worry even that things will not go as thing ought to go.  Now this fourth year of work, my worries are erased.  I look at the sprouting plants, the beautiful space, the happy faces of Eckerd College students, and I am filled with joy at the opportunity to be a participant in this community, to be a cultivator of relationships and a tender of spirit.

On Monday, the final preparations of the site get underway, and before we know it, the Lakewoods kids will join us and the whole cycle will begin again.

Kip Curtis
Project Director