a journal of our edible education

Archive for September, 2012

Cucumbers and Cathedrals

If you want to build a cathedral and your materials are limited to wood, stone and mortar you might want to consider the triangle and its cousin, the arch.  Triangles and arches make cathedrals, at least as we know them, possible.  Triangles and arches make lots of things possible.  Obviously, craftsmen have been using triangles made of wood to build simple peaked roofs for ages, but in cathedrals, triangles and arches really show-off.

People have always loved high ceilings and cathedrals have some of the highest.  Unfortunately, if you’re limited to using stone, you can build a wall only so high before things start to get shaky.  Sure, you could make the walls thicker so you could build them taller, but thick walls really limit the possibility for natural lighting.  What’s a cathedral without big stained glass windows?  Enter, the Triangle!  Early cathedral builders discovered that if you place solid triangular buttresses perpendicular to the outside of walls, you can keep the walls thin and make them taller.  It wasn’t long before they realized the buttresses  didn’t need to be solid, so they just kept the outline of the triangle to make the building seem a little less bulky. These new triangular outlines became known as flying buttresses and  they look like this:

Pretty soon builders began adding  larger and more complex flying buttresses until cathedrals started to look like this:

When cathedrals look like that on the outside, with the inherent strength of supportive triangles and arches, they can look like this on the inside: (cue majestic organ music)

Yes, when it comes to architectural strength, triangles and arches put squares and rectangles in their place.

Which brings us to cucumbers.  Cucumbers grow on sprawling vines that do better when provided a vertical structure on which to climb.  Bamboo is an excellent building material that can be tied together with inexpensive twine.  If you’re building a trellis for cucumbers, consider incorporating triangles and arches; if you’re building them with fourth-graders, maybe you could talk about cathedrals.  They think the term “flying buttress” is hilarious.

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Planting Broccoli, Growing Buddies

Today the kindergarten classes planted broccoli seedlings right outside their classrooms.  The amaranth seeds they scattered last week have sprouted;  next week we hope to have them plant cabbage seedlings and maybe some carrot seeds.  They have done all of this with upper-grade garden buddies at their sides.  Encouraging these different age groups to work together helps to build trust, confidence and a little bit of patience.  This partnership is very interesting to watch.  As students work with someone who is much older or someone who is much younger, they each seem to become more aware of their own behavior and its impact.  Becoming aware of how our choices and behavior can influence our surroundings is one of the primary goals of the Edible Schoolyard, and this partnership does just that.  The students themselves reap the benefit of each other’s consideration. It can be very satisfying to have someone younger look up to you, and of course it is also very satisfying to have someone older show you care and affirmation.  It’s wonderful to watch both of these happen at the same time in our garden.


Sweet Potato Teepee

Call them forts, clubhouses or hideouts; children have been drawn to small secretive spaces as long as there have been bed sheets and living room furniture. You can spare your coffee table by growing your own teepee with just a few bamboo poles, some string and several vigorous sweet potato vines. We planted slips (the growths that sprout from sweet potatoes left on the counter too long) back in May, and our vines are just now reaching about seven feet. We’ll enjoy the tee-pee for a few more weeks then we’ll start digging underneath to see if we’ve gotten any potatoes.

Just Our Size

Hiding Out

The View From Inside


Planting Flowers

Pre-K students have transplanted their seedlings.These children will pass by several times a day,watching their flowers grow to become an integral part of our pollinator garden.  Special thanks to their garden buddies, the sixth grade girls class, who showed them how it’s done.


Introducing Little Ones to the Garden

Showing the Pre-K Class the Watermelon Patch

What is it like to be in Pre-K?  What is it like for everything to be new?  Just a few years ago they knew nothing, literally nothing, but their world is expanding at a rate that would make our adult heads swim.  The new information that they have processed in the last six months is probably more than the new information we have absorbed in the last six years.  For them everything is new.  It’s no wonder that “why?” pops up so often.

Last week the Pre-K classes were introduced to the garden.  Where do you start?  Try explaining to a four-year-old that their t-shirt is made from cloth, that is knitted from threads, that are spun from fiber, which comes from a pod, which is the fruit of a flower, that grows on a plant, that comes out of the ground, because someone planted a seed, that was pulled out of the fiber, from a plant that was grown last year.  You can say all this while showing them a cotton plant that has white fluffy balls of cotton bursting from pods and all you will get is a quiet blank stare….. and then someone will see a butterfly, or a ladybug or a centipede and suddenly everyone’s excited.  Sometimes its just best to say “Here’s the garden! What do you think?”  Sometimes it’s best just to give them something to do.  We planted seeds…. in little pots.  It’s a rite of passage.  Everyone should at some point in their formative years watch a seedling rise amazingly out of a clump of soil.  Unfortunately too many children have watched tiny seedlings sprout up but then wither and bake miserably in the afternoon sun or drown in a flooded cup on the windowsill.  Our plan is that in a week or two these students will take these zinnias and sunflowers and plant them in our garden. They will watch them grow strong and eventually bloom and when the butterflies show up, everyone will be excited.  Hey… it’s a start.

Tending the Seedlings