Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Soaking the paper

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Laying paper in the press

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Finishing the paper

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Oh, if only our garden still looked like this. These photos were taken a few weeks ago when Washington was still experiencing a winter heat wave. Lately we've been hit by a blast of frozen air, with temperatures about 10 degrees below normal, and today the city is covered with snow and frozen rain. But this recent class just proves that kids can have fun with broccoli and cabbage. They even enjoy eating these hearty winter vegetables when they are freshly cooked and seasoned simply.

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.
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Monday, February 12, 2007

Making Paper

We make our own paper. We use old paper and tear it up. It's a way of recycling so we don't have to chop down more trees. We make paper with Mama Jenny and Mama Elizabeth.

The paper we use comes from the classroom. We also find paper in the trash cans. To tear it up, we just take it in our hands and rip it into little pieces. After we tear up maybe 156 pieces of paper, we soak the pieces in a big tub of water. It only soaks for a few seconds. Then we put the paper in a blender, the same kind of blender you make smoothies in. When we turn on the blender, it looks like throw-up because the green and yellow paper are getting mixed up together. We run the blender for about one minute. Then it looks like grits.

Only the white paper looks like grits. It's thick and soft and a little mushy like oatmeal. It's also a little bit ticklish like spit if you put some in your hand. Now we empty the mixed-up paper from the blender back into the tub of water. Then we use a piece of screen to strain all of the water out of the paper. Now we have to turn all this wet paper into dry paper.

The main tool we use for making the new paper is a press that Mama Jenny made out of two big pieces of wood. First you put a cloth on one piece of wood. On top of the cloth you pour the wet paper mix. Then you cover the wet paper mix with another piece of cloth. On top of that you lay the second piece of wood. Now you have to press it all together. We press it with our hands. Sometimes we stand on it. We stand on it until most of the water comes out. That only takes about half a minute.

The paper has to dry overnight. First we take it out of the press. It's kind of dry. We put it on a shelf or on a table with the cloth still under it. When we come back to After Four the next day, the paper is finished. Now we can make books out of it.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Peeling carrots

Making Carrot Salad

One of the things we grow in our garden is carrots. The carrots grow in a big wooden box filled with soil. Carrots grow under the ground. What you see when you walk past the carrots is the stems with leaves. They are long, skinny branches with green lacy clothes.

Last month we pulled the carrots out of the soil. They looked like dirty orange ice cream cones. Some of them were yellow. Some were bigger than others. Some were really tiny. They looked like sunflower seeds. We put the carrots in a metal container and carried them into the cafeteria.

In the cafeteria there is a big metal sink. That's where we washed the dirt off the carrots and separated the big carrots from the little carrots. We had fun washing the carrots. In fact, so many kids wanted to wash the carrots we had to take turns. We had so many carrots our containers were full.

The next thing we did was cut the bushy stems off the carrots. We used the green part to pull the carrots out of the garden. But you don't eat the green part. We put the green part in the composting bin so we can make soil out of it. The next thing we had to do was peel the carrots. The reason you peel carrots is because not many people like to eat the carrot skin. The skin can have dirt or germs on it. Or you may not like the flavor or texture. We didn't have enough peelers for all the kids, so we had to share. We all took turns. First one person used the peeler, then in five minutes we switched. We saved the peels and put them in the bompost bin, too.

What we wanted to do with the carrots was make carrot salad and before we could make it we had to do two importnat things. The first thing we had to do was grate the carrots. The second thing was making dressing for the salad. After we grated the carrots we made a dressing out of mayonaise, mustard and curry powerder. We added some sunflower seeds and raisins and we put it all in a bowl and stirred it up. Then we ate it, and some of the other classes did, too. It was delicious. And with the carrots we had left over we made carrot juice with a juicer that Mama Jenny brought to school.

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Why We Like Carrots