Farmer 1: We planted a Rosemary bush and looked at the sunflowers. It rained yesterday, so we checked the sunflowers for mold.We also checked some big ones planted last year by the 4th graders.
Farmer 2: It was pretty fascinating to see that the 4th graders planted teeny-weenie seeds that turned into giant stalks and flowers.
Farmer 3: It was fun planting the Rosemary.
Barbara: We all wondered if this strongly scented Rosemary bush would deter rats from eating it. I dug a hole in the front bed and the kids saw that the planting bed was lined with chicken wire to prevent rodents from eating the tulip and daffodil bulbs.
The farmers turned the Rosemary plant upside down, shook it loose from the container and enjoyed examining its root system. All knew that the plant got its nutrients and water through this system.
They set the Rosemary gently into the hole, filled it with soil and patted all around. One farmer got the hose and sprayed the ground with water.
I told them that this was their Rosemary bush and they should check and nurture it to maturity. There were lots of smiles all around.
Farmers and their classmates feasted on big bowls of freshly made Italian pesto pasta today. Earlier this morning, they harvested two baskets full of the fragrant herb, washed and dried the leaves and delivered them to their classroom. Barbara Adams and Ana Garcia were ready with all the ingredients and a cooking lesson on how to make pesto.
Students worked at a table set with a Cuisinart, the basil leaves, Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil. Within the hour, the kids whipped up eight batches of this gorgeous Italian sauce.
Each student had a job measuring ingredients, crushing garlic and pouring the oil down the Cuisinart shoot. Another stood-by and worked the Pulse button until the sauce was the perfect consistency.
When finished, Ana took a huge batch of pre-cooked pasta and mixed it with some of the pesto. The room smelled amazing. Apparently the scent traveled to other classrooms because several teachers came to see if they could have a bowl of whatever smelled so good.
Ms. Siskin told the kids that we harvested today because the rats had discovered the basil bed two nights ago. The hungry little critters devoured 12 lush plants all the way to the ground.
Do you think the rats would like pesto as much as all of the students and teacher do?
The heat continues and we’ve put the hens off-limits until things cool down. Many of the kids that come to the garden before school help feed Goldie, Sunshine, Blackie, Peanut and Brownie. They respect that we can’t stress the girls in the heat. The hens gather at the coop gate and cluck happily when they see the kids. They miss their little friends as much as the kids miss them.
We make sure the hens have plenty of water inside and out of the coop and are not feeding them their favorite corn tortillas as the grain can raise their temperature.
The hens are happy when we hose down the front portion of the play area so that they can move about without over-heating.
There were two farmers today that explored the planting beds and saw first-hand the damage that the rats have done have done in the last month. Sunflower Sentry Garden has become a variable buffet for rats searching for food and water during the drought.
Farmer 1: Look at all of the tiny tomatoes on this bush! Can I pick them?
Barbara: Yes. Be sure that you pick the red ones only as they are ripe.
Farmer 2: Why are all the empty water bottles in the tomato plants?
Barbara: They are placed throughout the plants so they will move and make noise when the rats come to feast at night.
Farmer 1: Look, there are big tomatoes over here. Can we pick them?
Barbara: No, they need another couple of days to fully ripen. Here, feel one.
Farmer 2: This one is hard. This one is softer. Yes, they need more time.
Farmer 1: How do the rats eat the tomatoes?
Barbara: They climb into the plants and devour the long, juicy stalks. All they leave are the outer portions. Then the rats go for the tomatoes themselves. Chomp, chomp and they move on to the next tomato.
I took both farmers to the wheelbarrow filled with seven tomato plants destroyed by the rats last week. We sorted through them and they saw the destruction first hand.
Farmer 1: It’s so sad but they are hungry.
Barbara’s note: Since August, the ever increasing rat population has destroyed over $300 worth of seedlings and seven full-grown tomato plants. Additionally, the remaining eight plants are struggling to survive. All of our beds are being devoured daily. In addition to the tomatoes, we’ve lost kale, greens, beets, summer squash and zucchinis.
While we’ve filled the plants with empty, crushed water bottles and items that will fall and scare off the rats, it becomes more and more obvious that the only solution is an exterminator with humane traps. Then again what must be done to curtail a huge population?
It’s been very hot in Sunflower Sentry Garden and the hens are hanging-out where it’s cooler–under the coop. Today, the farmers learned that this is a critical situation for Goldie, Sunshine, Blackie, Peanut and Brownie as they can get sick and die.
Farmer 1: We couldn’t go into the coop today because Barbara didn’t want the hens stressed in the heat. We have to keep them safe.
Farmer 2: All the hens were in the coop except Sunshine. She was in the play yard checking things out. Sunshine is like a soldier. Barbara calls her the Warrior Queen because she protects and fights for the other chickens.
Farmer 3: We picked lots of different things today. Some of the little tomatoes turned red as well as one of the bigger ones. We also pulled baby carrots, three zucchinis, a few chili peppers and some sage, basil and mint. Just before we left the garden we found a sunflower that was ready to cut. All the seeds were ready to harvest.
Barbara: The farmers were concerned about the chickens and could understand their problems because they too were very hot and uncomfortable. Yesterday, the entire campus was without filtered water because of the fire last Monday. That meant there was no drinking water. Most kids finished off their water bottles in the morning and then wilted all afternoon.
The farmers took their bounty to Ms. Siskin who suggested they arrange it on a plate to show their parents at Open House tonight.
Barbara: Last night’s 2-alarm fire at the Sausalito-Marin City School District on the Willow Creek Academy did not cause any issues for the school chickens. Their coop sits in our Sunflower Sentry Garden at the back of the campus.
This morning all five hens were happy and clucking merrily as they ran to their playpen and ate their greens and corn tortillas. One has to believe that they slept through all of the excitement.
Six morning farmers have gotten to know the chickens up close and personal in the last two days. As the kids get comfortable, they want to come into the playpen—and some have held Goldie (the best first-hold).
Each is at once awed and a little scared. Goldie takes it all in stride and settles in to their arms. I always take a photo of each kid that holds a chicken—any chicken. Some have photos with Goldie, Sunshine, Blackie and Peanut. Brownie does not like to be picked-up and runs screaming to the coop if pursued.
Some kids want their photo taken every time they cuddle a chicken throughout the year. Some visit the chickens daily and never pick-up a hen until the end of the year—then it’s a celebration of courage and a photo.
I publish the chicken photos in slideshows at Beyond Wonderful Kids Cook: Garden to Table. Come and take a look at all of the kids in action.