Monday, June 27, 2016

Berry Fix

This summer adventure of ours is amazing, however, we are keenly aware of all we are missing out of back home. Jess and my dad are both sending us photos of the trees we all used to pick from together. Strawberry, blueberry, mulberry and cherry seasons are passing us by. We got lucky!! We are in North Carolina for the blackberries! It was hard for us to not pick pounds and pounds like we are use to for freezing and canning, but we enjoyed every minute!

Collecting nature and avoiding gators

Many years ago, my older brother Doc started taking me on "brother/sister dates" for my birthday. This was always a highlight for me. It made me feel special, loved, and I got to soak up wisdom from him. He would pack dinner and drive me to Mentor Headlands (a beach on Lake Erie) where we would watch the sun set and chat. Dinner was always Chinese food or home made stir fry. After the sun went down, we would go home to make a peanut butter milkshake. I looked forward to these dates every year. 

While in Florida last week, I babysat the boys so Kyle and Kenna could go on a brother/sister date. The boys and I immediately drove to the boardwalk on Lake Dora where we went on a nature walk to explore. Apollo kept saying over and over, "We're collecting nature." As he would fine a rock, piece of sand, green balls that came from the pine trees, and sticks, we would put them in out nature bag. We determined that live things should not go home with us like the mini frogs or lizards we found. 

Apollo found a 6 foot long palm branch that was clearly going with us on the walk. We chose to start our exploration on a short path though the woods that leads to the water. 

I felt ok about this situation: lots of people around, still day light, we were a good 10 feet from the water. Then the splash happened. Judah screamed and ran, Apollo screamed, I screamed. I grabbed Apollo's hand and yelled, "Drop the branch!!" Did we see a gator? No. Did we hear a big rustle and splash? Yes. A splash so big and loud that it sounded like something the size of Judah fell in. Judah's big. Like too big to be a salamander, or turtle, or fish. We'll never know, but I do know that those boys can follow directions and run fast!!! 

We continued on the board walk for the remainder of the evening looking at birds, fish, turtles, and of course looking for the "gator." They kept asking if we could go back to the forest. I kept saying, "No because I don't know gator protocol."


They are stronger than they look. Lots of boy power in this room! 

Looking back at the spring gardens

Spring 2016 started the 3rd season of the Project Grow Gardens at Mary Bethune Elementary and The Music Settlement. Year 3 brought us new people, beds, plants, and critters!!

-Over 15 volunteers from Gateway Heights Church to help with the after school program and tutor during the school day
-Co teaching with my big brother Lee
-About 50 Mary Bethune students on the garden team
-About 40 Music Settlement preschool students on the garden team
-A new seed starting apprentice (Debbie Volker)
-Newly designed garden beds thanks to Dave, Kyle, and Scott
-A new irrigation system thanks to Kyle
-4 rain barrels with rain catchment from the hoop house painted by the garden club students
-400 seedlings planted and cared for by my 3 year old preschool class at The Music Settlement
-And 2 summer gardening crews totally 18 folks!!
-TONS of worms have made the gardens their home due to the amazing soil we have been building for 3 years!

This season has truly been a collaboration to remember!!!
Cameron transplanting seedings with the freshly painted rain barrels behind him.

Mary Bethune students learning how to plant seeds according to square foot gardening and companion planting techniques. We discussed how it would feel to share a bed with your brother/sister. How would it feel to add another sibling, and another, and mom, and dad, and grandma/grandpa. You would be too crowded! You need a certain amount of space to be comfortable and grow. Plants need a certain amount of space so they get their own water, nutrients, and sunlight. 

Mary Bethune students learning how to handle the seedlings with care. We compare it to holding a baby. You can not hold a baby by the head, neck or leg. You have to hold its bum and support the head. With seedlings, you have to hold the root ball (the part with soil on it) and support the stem. (photo taken in April)

From left to right: pac choi, mustard greens, lettuce, spring onions, spinach, kale planted in the fall by Mrs. Hatcher's class. All of this was harvested multiple times in January and February to make salads in the classroom. The students were amazed to see their plant grow through the winter in the hoop house. They love eating the fresh greens too! Some came back for second and third helpings! (photo taken in April)
Lee and I hosting booths at a community program event in May. He and I got to team teach this semester and had a blast together! All the food on the table was grown through the winter in the hoop house. Community members were floored when they found out the students grew it all! 
Hoop House at Mary Bethune
Kyle's new irrigation system that involved drilling lots of holes in our hose to hook up drip tape. Drip tape is an easy to use system when beds are in rows. This bed features collards, kale, swiss chard, sorel, and sunflowers. (photo taken in April)
The Music Settlement garden uses soaker hoses instead of drip tape. Soaker hoses can be bent and curved and turned to fit whatever shaped bed/garden you have. Drip tape can not be bent or curved. (photo taken in April) 
I have heard from the summer crew that the gardens are flourishing and booming with food. I'll post recent photos soon! 

Hittin' the Road

You know life has been rich when you're cleaning out the trunk and you exclaim, "look, a porcupine quill". A little reminder of the time we found a dead porcupine in the woods and captured it's skull to gift to Matheo for his 7th birthday. Good times.
And we've had many of these good times living in Cleveland for the past 3 years. But we've felt the desire to get some space from the Northeast and explore possibilities for living further south. So we're hitting the road this summer to visit friends and family in different places, practice our country accents, eat some good 'ole southern food, and hopefully get some perspective on life.
Lynea pulling out the porcupine quill.
Not the first time we've had all of our stuff laying out on the floor.
8 years ago leaving for India
My father-in-law prepared us an epic breakfast on our last morning in Cleveland!
Many ingredients coming from his backyard mini-farm.
I've been thinking lately about the concept of liminal space. Liminal comes from a latin word that means "threshold". It's an in between state, where you're on the threshold of something new, yet still have a foot in the other room. As one writer put it, "it's often a period of discomfort, of waiting, and of transformation". So here we are, having moved out of one place with nowhere certain to land - grateful for our friends and family who are supporting us along the way, and praying that the period of uncertainty will contain moments of clarity. And yes, there will be fun!

A huge part of our leaving involved finishing up the 2 school garden projects that Lynea began.

After school garden club at Mary Bethune Elementary
Lynea showing off produce the students grew in the garden
The garden at the Music Settlement
We installed drip irrigation so it can be watered through the summer. Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Spring is like fireworks all the time

"...every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food"

Spring is like fireworks all the time. Everywhere you look, things are exploding. Colors are bursting into reality. Perennial plants and flowers are pushing through the soil on a mission to reach the sun. It is intense. It is beautiful.
I've tried to capture it on camera. I don't know how many times I've told people, "Can you believe all this?!" For the first time, I took in spring. Or at least i took it in more than ever.
I remarked to a co-worker that I'd always thought ornamental trees were pointless and that this was the first year I really sat in awe of them. I told him I thought they were pointless if they didn't provide us food. Very self-centered, I know. I told him that I didn't think they were very functional. He replied, that's a problem when people don't think art and beauty are functional. And I think he pretty much nailed it. 
Of course we need food to feed our body, but we also need art and beauty to feed our soul. We need the fireworks of spring.

Our arugula plants providing us with food and beauty.