Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The (incr)edible schoolyard

Welcome to Day 1 of my week-long California adventure. This morning found me back at Alice Waters' original Edible Schoolyard project. It was amazing to revisit this most beautiful and extensive school garden, tucked away in Berkeley. Having worked in the field for nearly six years since Ollie and I passed through here on our cross-country bike tour, I was even more impressed than I was the first time around. Imagine that!

I picked up my visitor's badge in the school's main office a bit after 11am, then wandered out to the garden to poke around. When I asked them a couple of questions about their interaction with the green space, two middle school girls hanging out at the garden's long picnic table proceeded to give me one of the best garden tours I've ever had. After tasting some delicate yellow raspberries growing near the entrance, the girls walked me past the espaliered apple orchard and excitedly told me about pressing the fruit into cider the previous autumn. We strolled past the in-ground beds of swiss chard and brassicas, with a stop to admire the gorgeous dahlias (my new favorites) as we made our way to see the chickens cavorting around the straw fort students had helped to construct in the far corner of the outdoor space. We continued on to the chicken coop to check for eggs, admired the orderly tools around the shed, and then explored the greenhouse, where I examined the remnants of last week's seedling sale on tables that students had built.

My impromptu guides led me next to the bee hive, apologizing that the usual veil and gloves were not around for me to borrow so I could take a closer peek. (Yes, kids are invited to check out the honeybees on their own. Pretty awesome!) After that, we meandered to the school-built outdoor prep tables and stone pizza oven, where eighth graders annually prepare and bake their own pizzas. The young people have become much more involved in garden work and construction than seemed to be the case during my last time through, and they sure are proud of this... as they should be!

As if I wasn't enamored enough, my teenage guides led me next through a tunnel of grape, kiwi berry, and passion fruit vines. "Certainly more prolific than my own school garden's vining fruit," I muttered, mostly to myself. California weather and four garden teachers certainly help things thrive around here. Still: impressive. We ended our loop back near the entrance, where I admired the outdoor worm bins and rustic kitchen setup.

With a friendly wave, my guides were off to class, and I was left wondering if one of my own gardens might be as impressive one day. Something to ponder during lunch tomorrow at Chez Panisse with my friend (and kind local host) Colin....

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