Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thanking my lucky stars

Sometimes in these busy, busy times it's important to pause and give thanks. I am grateful for the chance -- and the freedom -- to be able to take a month to explore what I may in Ireland and Scotland. I am thankful for the enthusiasm of friends and friends-of-friends who have helped me get ready (and get really excited) about my upcoming trip, from the loan of an international cell phone to recommendations of towns, hikes, pubs, and more.

Thank you, Zach, for linking me up with some awesome local farmers in southern Ireland. Thank you, Vanessa and Kathryn, for helping me connect with friendly folk across the pond. Thank you to Bernie for giving me the gorgeous Irish cookbook that has my mouth watering for much more than potatoes and Guinness (though I am excited for those, too). Thank you, Ronn, for recommending an awesome bike touring company with whom I'll be exploring western Ireland. (Shhh, don't tell Ollie! Though she might have suspected something when I packed my bike lights.) Thank you to my awesome intern, Jordan, for tending the school garden while I'm away.

Thank you, Katie and Joey, for cooking up a delicious, traditional American farewell dinner for me tonight -- I have a funny feeling I might not be eating stewed greens or hamsteak or corn on the cob for the next month, so it was good to have a giant plateful, with good red wine and homemade ice cream to round things out. Thank you to Mike, the friendly stranger who surprised me by treating me to a really nice whiskey when I stopped into Southern Efficiency for a little pre-packing farewell drink and last-minute single malt education  on my way home from dinner. And thank you to mom and dad for taking me to the airport tomorrow...even though it's totally metro-accessible and I just have a little rolling suitcase. Gotta love parents.

Dad, I know you're petrified that I'll fall in love with the Emerald Isle (land of vibrant greens, good storytellers, and deep history) -- and/or an Irishman -- but there are worse fates. If my travels around Ireland are nearly as wonderful as the excitement and joy leading up to them, well....

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Minding our peas and queues

So I've been a teacher in some official capacity on and off since the early 2000s, initially working with high schoolers, then middle schoolers, and finally a handful of years ago I began to focus on elementary school aged kiddos. The past year has been my first foray into working with preK students and let me tell you that while I was initially a little nervous about my ability to create and teach meaningful lessons to kiddos who still can't tie their shoelaces, I've found that 3 and 4-year-olds are a LOT of fun. I find that there is a lot more singing and dancing and hand holding (literally) when I work with my youngest garden stewards and cooks at Tyler Elementary. They are definitely the best students in the school at making a straight line to go outside to the garden, but that's not all....

We've had lessons where we imagined we were seeds sprouting in the soil, soaking up the sun through our leafy hands and water through our rooted feet. We've pretended we were tender lettuce and hardy kale growing out in the garden beds -- which one do you think enjoyed our long, cold winter? We've shaken up our own homemade ranch dressing and devoured it drizzled over salads the size of our respective heads. We've made seed balls with native flower seeds. We've dug up a bed of potatoes....

I must say, more than any other group I've worked with, they are the best at patiently looking for camouflaged snap peas, helping to schlep plant bits to the compost bin, and being willing to taste just about anything in the garden. I can't wait to see how they (and our garden) continue to thrive in coming years!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How does our garden grow?

Well, it's looking like another one of those bipolar DC summers: 93 and sunny one day, 62 and rainy the next. (I am not such a huge fan of the torrential downpours like the one Ollie and I biked home in yesterday afternoon, but I suppose it's good training for Ireland and Scotland, where I'll be kicking around in about a month.)

The plants are LOVING it. The snap peas and broccoli are exploding in the garden beds, potatoes are blooming, the herbs are going bonkers, and the spinach is experiencing some kind of miracle extended season now that I've won the battle with the leaf miners (and maybe the coverage from the volunteer sunflowers is helping the shade-loving greens), and even the kale is thriving.

How does our garden grow? Like a weed. (Not many of those, thankfully, since I've also managed to train an avid bunch of recess-time weeders. Nice.)

Every time I am in the school garden, there are about a dozen kids who stop to pick and eat mint, and I've been showing every kid who walks by how to harvest and eat lettuce and peas. Even with kids "accidentally" pulling up radishes and eating underripe strawberries, there is almost too much produce for us to utilize in FoodPrints classes. I'm going to have to start sending home kids with bags of vegetables again....