Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
We built our herb container large--eight-by-eight-feet square--to be the centerpiece of our school garden. We knew we wouldn't be able to reach into the middle of such a large space so we built a second box, half the size, and set that in the middle of the first box, turned 90 degrees to make a sort of compass effect, since the theme of the garden starts with the four compass points. We've been growing herbs and flowers in the space between the two boxes.
We put a lid on top of the inner box, thinking eventually we would use it as a platform for some kind of fountain. But then Elizabeth had the brilliant idea of removing the lid and lining the smaller box and filling it with water. So on any given day you could find Elizabeth sitting in the box, lining it first with sheets of rubber to make it leak-proof, then breaking up ceramic tiles and cementing the pieces to the box to make this very cool ceramic enclosure.
Elizabeth also purchased a small solar-powered fountain for the pond and we finally had our water feature. It wasn't until this week that I finally got around to focusing on some plant life for our pond. I stopped at Bittersweet Nurseries outside Annapolis for some ideas and walked away with several plants, including a water lily, cattails, a water hyacinth and several others that are very familiar but whose names I do not know.
These are all perennial plants that will come back year after year, even if the water freezes. The water lily will set out lovely yellow blossoms at some point. You can also buy annuals that float on the surface and make flowers. A few small fish from the pet store should help with any mosquito larvae that may try to make a home in our pond.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Take another look.
That's right! These girls in our After 4 gang are all sitting down. That's something new for our garden. Because up to now, we've never really had anything to sit on.
But thanks to the good people at the Wardman Court Condominium Association, we now have five new park benches.
The association, located just up the hill from us at 13th and Clifton Streets NW here in the District of Columbia, recently donated the benches to Children's Studio School so that visitors to the garden can have a place to sit and relax.
People like to eat lunch in the garden or contemplate the beautiful flowers and herbs. They should have a place to sit and enjoy our space.
Our good friend Darren, who also helped build the garden, lives at the Wardman Court. He heard that the condominium association was looking for a new home for these benches and thought of us. Darren also helped disassemble the benches and transport them to Children's Studio School.
The benches are a cool green color--just like most of our plants--attached to black-colored iron legs. The legs are actually very long because they are designed to be sunk into the ground or into concrete. The legs have to be shortened so that people can sit in the benches. Baba Jose and Mama Elizabeth are working with a metal grinder to cut the legs down to the correct height.
Four of the benches will be installed around our central herb planter, where Mama Elizabeth and the After 4 gang are now assembling a solar-powered water fountain (we can't wait to see that). The fifth bench will be placed in the playground area where it will make a huge difference for our artist/teachers, who up to now have had to find folding chairs in order to sit while they are supervising children on the playground.
These benches are making a huge difference in the garden and on the playground. Thank you, Wardman Court Condominium Association, for thinking of us and making such a great donation!
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Fish have cancer there.
When sun shines in the river
the water is blue.
River in D.C.
It is really polluted
And it has sewage.
Dashes to river
just like a big rocket ship
Flying high in sky.
"We went to the Anacostia River. We got there by vans, trucks, and cars, and we rode on a little boat. Mr. Josh's company name was Earth Conservation Center-- the ECC. Mr. Josh was a boat rider/captain. We learned about sewers and ducks and birds and flowers and fish. He told us that if you litter and it starts raining, it will come out at the Anacostia River. Then, we saw a bird flying with a fish; it was very odd."
"I've never been on an exciting boat ride. Josh said we shouldn't litter, because then the earth won't be healthy. I learned that a park is better for a river than buildings. The best thing for the edges of a river are wetlands and miles of trees, especially the Weeping Willow. Then, we have a healthy river.
The Indians discovered the river first. They called it the "Country Trading Center." The one thing I noticed was everywhere we went there was lots of sewage and Captain Josh said, if you litter on the ground, the trash will go to the river. "
"Captain Josh told us about littering, then Nia started chanting, "No more littering!" Captain Josh said maybe you should save your energy and say it to the buildings. We all said it loud to the people on the bridges and in cars."
--Aiyana, Princess, Quennie, Devinity
Thursday, April 26, 2007
People simply dump their trash into the Anacostia. Storm drains from the District of Columbia empty into the river. And when it rains heavily, much of the city's sewage system overflows and spills into the river as well.
That's right: When we get a heavy rain, your toilets dump right into the Anacostia. Hard to believe, but true.
Josh takes people on tours of the Anacostia almost every day. There is still wildlife on the river. He showed us osprey nests. We also saw cormerants and seagulls and a great blue heron.
We also saw some Canada geese. But Josh says the geese are a problem: They eat important wetland plants. Wetland plants along the river's shoreline act as a filter, remover harmful pollutants from the river. We need more wetland areas, but they have to be fenced to keep the Canada geese out.
Now, people give the river hardly a thought. They also dump their automobile tires into the Anacostia. Josh said the Conservation Corps at one point cleaned up a small portion of the river and collected more than 400 automobile tires. Also, everywhere you look trash is floating on the river, mostly soda bottles and plastic packaging.
This past weekend, the Conservation Corps filled 320 bags with trash from Kingman Island near RFK Stadium. But when we passed the island yesterday, the trash was back. Lots of trash.
The reason for so much trash is that people litter everywhere. And the litter gets washed down the storm drains and into the Anacostia. So the After 4 gang began to chant: No more litter! No more litter!
The chant grew louder and louder. It went on and on.
No more litter!
Monday, April 16, 2007
Recently in class we've been focused on learning about photosynthesis and vascular plant systems. These images show a papier mache tree the gang made. The leaves are made from their handprints, and if you look closely, you can see that built onto the side are papier mache layers that fold out, labeled: Outer Bark, Phloem, Cambium, and Xylum.
The class got so excited about their knowledge of how trees use light energy to make glucose, that they expressed a great interest in having a play on the subject. In this image, the kids are cutting out different lengths of light waves as costumes. There was much fuss over who would play the sun, so in addition to that role, we designated girls to play different lightwaves that penetrate our atmosphere, and thus a tree's leaves. Shown here are three little smiling rays!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Saturday, March 31, 2007
I didn't have my compost thermometer with me, so I couldn't check the temperature. But steam is a very good sign. It indicates that the bacteria are happy and are eating away, making heat in the process. I placed my hand over the compost and it was plenty warm. This means our work is paying off.
We are trying to pay greater attention to our compost this year, making sure we have enough carbonaceous or brown material along with our nitrogenous or green ingredients. Nitrogen gives our microscopic decomposers quick fuel, while the carbon supplies a real meal. These ingredients need to be kept in balance, along with the right amount of water and oxygen.
During our recent garden cleanup, we made sure to cut all the garden debris into small pieces before placing it in the composter. Also, Mama Jenny has started bringing bags of old produce from the food co-op where she works. That needs to be sorted through and cut into pieces as well. Ideally, the old leaves from last fall that we've stored also should be shredded before going into the composte. All this work to break things into smaller pieces helps the decomposers do their job. And Baba Oron has started collecting coffee grounds from our local Starbucks. Coffee grounds add nitrogen to our compost.
Now we just have to keep turning and checking and watering until we have compost we can use in our garden. I'm guessing it won't be more than a month or two.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Can you name this plant?
If you said daffodil, you are CORRECT!
This tree looks dead. Why?
Because it doesn't have any leaves.
Then what are these little things all over the branches.
They look like buds.
And what color are they?
Can you guess what kind of tree this is?
If you said Red Bud tree, you are CORRECT! (The Red Bud tree is one of the first to bloom in the spring. Did you know the flowers are edible? Put them in a salad...)
Now, look at this bush. Is it alive or dead.
Those are little leaves. It's alive because it's making leaves. But what are these round things?
Those round things are hips, left over from last year. Do you know what plant this is?
Do you know what this plant is? If you said tulip, you are CORRECT!
We also have mint and salad burnett that survived the winter and are green, green, green. Also thyme and chamomille. And the climbing hydrangea is starting to spread and form buds. In our garden, there are signs of life everywhere.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Today we visted the garden. It was sunny and warm and lots of plants are getting old and some are alive. We saw some witch hazel. Witch hazel is a tree. There are two witch hazel trees in our garden. They are blooming. The blooms are yellow and orange and they look like octopuses.
We also found some plants that tasted like grapes. Baba Ed said they are called sorrel and should taste like lemon.
Then we smelled some thyme plants. They smell like peppermint. Mama Jenny told us that thyme will make you have good dreams. You just smell it. Even if you smell it in the daytime you'll still have good dreams at night.
Note: Witch hazel is a native American tree. Native Americans used the oil from its seeds to treat cuts and abrasions. Witch hazel is traditionally sold in bottles as an after-shave lotion or treatment for skin irritation. Early colonists used the forked branches of the witch hazel for dowsing, or locating underground sources of water.
With hazel is neither a witch, nor a true hazel. The name comes from old English, in which a word for pliable branches was "wych."
Certain varieties of witch hazel bloom in very late winter, or very early spring. They broadcast their seed with a popping explosion that spreads the seeds far and wide.
Friday, March 9, 2007
As a side anecdote, there was much fun to be had with the leftover pieces of cloth that we used to make the covers. As the class is made up predominantly of girls, I anticipated the desire for 'dress up' with the material. I did not however anticipate the plots of their pretend games to center around the theme of 'zombie queen wars'...wish I'd gotten some images of these interactions. They were very entertaining.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Besides cabbage and broccoli, the brassica family includes a huge variety of familiar vegetables: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnips, rutabaga, arugula, radishes and Chinese greens such as tat soi and bok choy, to name a few. The fruit-bearing vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts often are slow to develop. In our garden, which gets a limited amount of sunlight because of its location next to our very tall school building, it took nine months from the time of initial planting before the broccoli was ready to havest. Even then, we did not gather the florets, but allowed them to grow their long flower stems and produce seed pods. We were hoping to harvest our cabbage eventually, but this long recent freeze may have dashed those plans. Oh, well. A gardener has to deal with the weather as it comes.
In the After Four session where we focused on brassicas, we cooked broccoli the simplest way possible. Just bring a large pot of salted water to boil, drop the florets in the water to cook for a few minutes until the are just tender. Season lightly with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Yum.