sustainable living

Whipping Up Some Potatoes

Okay, maybe not whipped per se, but definitely a whirlwind of yum in the kitchen.  Last week we harvested potatoes, this week we eat them! Gosh, I love gardening, don’t you?

And these were easy to make.  A little olive oil, fresh chopped rosemary, salt and pepper and this time, we added a bit of Parmesan to the mix in lieu of sweet onions.  Delicious.  From kindergarten to middle school these potatoes were a hit.  Next!  Recipe can be found here.

In the garden this week, the kids pulled out the remaining potato plants, squash, and corn in preparation for crop rotation.

Now you’re probably wondering, corn?  I don’t recall seeing any corn.  Well, they weren’t much to see unfortunately.  I mean, they were exciting for the kids, but not much when it comes to cobs.

Perhaps we didn’t feed them enough.  Corn are pigs in the garden and maybe our eyes were smaller than their appetites.  They’re cute, but should be twice the size. We’ll work on it.

Moving right along, peanuts will fill our beds over the summer.  As part of our crop rotation, these guys are awesome because they fix the soil with nitrogen–especially important after the hogs wiped it clean of any and all nutrients.  Yes, I’m talking about corn and squash, even potatoes.  Peanuts love the heat, too and will take near about the entire summer break to grow and mature, about 3-4 months.  Remember: plants like soft beds of dirt–especially peanuts.  The plants drop pegs or “stems” into the ground and that’s where the peanuts form.  If the soil is too hard, the peanuts will have a hard time of it. So make it easy and loosen that soil!

We won’t follow our row of black beans with peanuts, because they’re part of the same rotation family.  Instead, will “close” that row off and wait until fall, maybe plant some broccoli or cabbage, both of whom love nitrogen.  Why?  Because they’re “leaves” and leaves love nitrogen.  Sing it with me kids:  beans, leaves, roots and fruits! (It’s our preferred order for crop rotation.)  Beans, leaves, roots and fruits!

Seed Sale begins on Monday which means the kids have furiously cutting and gluing their seed packets together and filling them with seed.  We have a wagon-full of black beans and pole beans to sell, plus some squash, sunflower and even tomato (some of which will have to be handed out the week after as you can’t rush Mother Nature!).  Cucumber didn’t fare so well, but we won’t give up on them.  There’s always fall! 🙂

Not only will we raise money for the garden, but the students will reap the rewards of independence knowing they are FULLY sustainable.  From seed to harvest to dish, glove to tool to feed and mulch, they’ll take pride in the fact it all stemmed from their effort.  The way I see it, self-reliance breeds self-respect.  And that’s a good thing.

Talking “Crazy” Trends

When I saw the picture of this truck bed with a garden literally planted in its bed, I thought:  “Now that’s just plum crazy!”  Who the heck gardens out of a truck?

Who the heck eats their hedge?  Maybe I’m the crazy one.  Well, at least in suburbia I am.  But these two fellas, Nick & Justin, just may have found the magic to self-sustaining living—road trip style.  They call it Compass Greenand their mission is to “teach practical farming tools and raise awareness on sustainability through presentations, workshops, and greenhouse tours at schools, camps, organizations and communities with a curriculum focused on Bio-intensive methods of sustainable farming—producing the maximum yields with the minimum amount of resources.”

They hope to inspire people across the country to be creative and utilize any and all space they can to grow food.  So far, I think it’s working.  Take a look at these school kids from a charter school in Queens, NY.

Seems to me they’re a bit taken with the idea of garden greens in the bed of a truck.  As they should be.  I don’t care where you’re from, this is unique.  In a totally fun and very cool way.

Why, if I could, I’d put a garden in the back of a semi truck and travel around the country, too.  Just think of it!  I’d map out my course based on visiting cities and countryside at their seasonal best, like Vermont in October, Florida in December, the Deep South in the spring…  It would be glorious, free-spirit living at its best!  Why I’m getting tingles just thinking about it. 🙂

Until I saw this.  Seriously? Are you kidding me? Uh-uh, no way in heckamundo am I sleeping there.  Not for any length of time, I’m not.  Plan B!

But it is really great that these two fellas are doing so, isn’t it?  I mean I touch one school and one group of kids.  These guys touch hundreds!  Kudos.  Peace, brother.  More power to you.  And if it’s really a trend that’s catching like Ian Cheney seems to suggest…

 
Well then I’m all for it.  Video (and more like it!) created by Ian Cheney and his film series:  Truck Farm.

Spearhead YOUR School Garden!

Our school has started a garden (with a little help from willing parents and teachers).  How about starting one where you live?  If not school, maybe your local community center?  Gardens are easy when you have an assortment of hands involved.  Literally.  And it’s fun! 

The garden we decided on is a good size, about 20 feet by 30 feet.  We chose a nice sunny spot with a brief wave of shade in the afternoon — a good thing under the Central Florida sun.  People aren’t the only ones who benefit from a break in the heat!  First there was the big job of weed removal.  Our middle schoolers began the chore, breaking up a large part of the grassy area, followed by the little ones.

We decided on a variety of vegetables and herbs;  beans and peas, corn and broccoli, tomatoes and peppers to name a few, accompanied by some fragrant basil and rosemary and a solid staple of parsley!   Once the temperatures get a bit cooler, we’ll indulge in some broccoli and cabbage, potatoes come December.  

Actually, our upper elementary students will begin the broccoli and spinach indoors and watch them grow before making the transplant to the garden.  They’re studying leaves and roots and seedlings make for a fine project.

Of course when you have this many kids in nature at one time, you never know what exciting things you’ll discover.  “Look there!”

“What is it?”

Nobody knew, exactly.  I think there were a few bugs I saw for the first time, actually.  Leave it to the youth to teach you a thing or two about the wild!

Within days, our weeds were pulled and our rows outlined, using weed-preventer paper.  We do like to keep the maintenance manageable.   I learned THAT from my children! 

Awe, Mom.  Weeding again?  Why were weeds even invented?”

Can’t answer that one for you, except maybe oxygen?   They’re green, they must help the environment, right?  Either way, it’s amazing what a group of energetic kids can accomplish!

To keep things simple, we’ll use the current fence line for our pole beans and peas to climb at will.  We’ll also garden in “sections” and ease into a good crop rotation for the future.   We are organic, you know. 

As part of the process, we’ve designated an area nearby for a compost pile.  Now all those scraps from lunch and snack time won’t go to waste!  Well, technically they’ll still be waste, but now it will be “waste not want not” —  we’re making compost here,  not garbage!

And in the middle of it all, we have children learning the meaning of hard work (trust me, weeding and tilling is NOT for the weak), the camaraderie of working together, the basics of botany, the value of recycling, and the wonderous thing we call life as they watch plants sprout, grow, produce — amaze and delight!  Not to mention an excuse to get OUT of the classroom.  Does it get any better?

So  consider the same for you and your school and share the adventure of gardening!  Stay tuned as these kids explore and discover their own world of gardening.