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Basil Harvest Makes for Good Eats

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Early Friday morning, the farmers in Anne Siskin’s third/fourth-grade class headed to Sunflower Sentry Garden to harvest baskets of fragrant basil. When they returned to their room, Barbara Adams showed the class how to wash and dry the leaves and prepare ingredients for a French pistou sauce. Much like Italian pesto, this sauce uses freshly squeezed lemon juice rather than pine nuts. Within the hour, the kids had a huge bowl of the delicious sauce that they slathered on to slices of baguette. Later this week, students will pour the leftover sauce over hot pasta for a delicious, morning snack.


Farmers were amazed at the gorgeous scent of fresh basil. As they picked the sprigs, their hands were permeated with its scented oils.



The kids learned that pistou is really easy to make. Measure four cups of basil leaves and place them in the bowl of your food processor. Add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan-reggiano cheese, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper to the bowl. Pulse the ingredients until just chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour ½ cup of olive oil into the processor tube and mix until smooth. Stop. Taste. Adjust to your personal preferences. Enjoy.

The kids made five batches in one hour!



Kids practiced their measuring skills and helped each other create this fresh, fragrant green sauce.



Grating cheese is one of the most popular duties in all of the cooking sessions. These girls prepared lots of real parmesan-reggiano cheese for the sauce. And if you were watching, you would have seen them nibbling all of the little pieces that broke off the main block of cheese.



Tasting is very important so that cooks can adjust  seasonings for best results.



Four chefs.



Everyone took turns slathering the sauce on top of the baguette slices then topping them with a sprinkling of parmesan-reggiano cheese.



Beautiful! Delicious! The kids took trays of the pistou crostinies to Sunflower Sentry Garden and devoured them.

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Summer Farmers Create Joyful Signs

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Sunflower Sentry Garden is more than a place where kids grow their own food. It’s a place to study, read, write and create beautiful art projects.. This summer farmers painted signs for the planting beds and the new chicks. Their work made the garden even more special that it already is.



Three sisters who have loved Sunflower Sentry Garden since it began in the fall of 2013. The one on the right helped build the garden, the one on the left worked in it last year. Little sister wanted to make the Hen House sign so everyone would know where the chickens are.



Roo, the baby rooster will be very proud of his sign.



Oh, what fun! Rosie the hen will be so proud of her name plate.



Hey, how about spattering the signs? 



Proudly showing a  few of the planting bed signs. The center giant purple potato sign looks just like the humongous potato that this girl harvested earlier in the summer.



The best part of working in Sunflower Sentry Garden is that you get to play with the chickens.



Oh, the babies love their cuddles!




Life is good–happy chick, happy girl.




New friends share a chick between painting the signs.

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Digging in the Garden for Lunch

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Meet three sixth-grade farmers that helped clear and build Sunflower Sentry Garden three years ago. Over that time they have done lots of digging, planting and harvesting—and sharing of their knowledge with younger students. Sunday, they came to dig and pick their lunch. The menu was completely dependent on what was ripe and ready. So, what did they cook for lunch?


Fresh picked vegetables and herbs taste great but they smell awesome.


A quick check of the planting beds and the kids discovered that we had zucchini, purple Peruvian potatoes, mixed greens, onions, garlic, basil, oregano and thyme. Oh, the possibilities.


Have you ever had purple mashed potatoes? None of the kids had—so they harvested the purple potatoes, chopped, mashed, whipped and devoured a pot full. During lunch, everyone agreed that these potatoes had great taste and were nothing like those from the supermarket. Nothing like them!


Zucchini is zucchini is zucchini—unless you stuff them Italian style— zucchini pieni. The kids halved, scooped and chopped the meat, then sautéed it with the fresh picked garden onions and garlic, three eggs from Goldie the hen, herbs, salt, pepper and lots of real parmesan cheese. While they baked, the kids whipped up a delicious batch of garlic bread. It was a most sensational lunch!


Zucchini Pieni–Fresh, mild zucchini is the perfect vehicle for classic Italian seasonings like onion, garlic, parsley and parmesan. These look lovely, taste scrumptious and are easy to prepare ahead then bake at mealtime.


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Harvesting Potatoes and Caring for the Chicks–All in a Day’s Work

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

The summer farmers of Sunflower Sentry Garden helped harvest 10-pounds of purple potatoes and care for the 9-week-old chicks.


Look for the lumpy-bumpy soil under the potato plants then start digging.

“I found a bump! It’s really big!”


…but little sister dug up the biggest potato of the day.


Who knew there were so many huge purple potatoes growing under the ground? “My hands are so dirty!”


It’s hard to believe that beautiful Rocket the hen was one of the fertilized eggs that this student carried from the Wolley Egg Ranch to the class incubator. He’s played with and loved her from the day she hatched.


Starlight absolutely loves her human friend. She snuggles in her arms and takes rides on her head.


It’s hard to tell who is having more fun, the kids or the chicks.


Love is a wonderful thing and a powerful teacher.









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Four Weeks and Growing, Growing Growing!

Thursday, June 9th, 2016


Their latest trick–standing on the heads of their human friends.


…and none of the chicks pooped on anyone’s head.


The chicks first selfie!




A perfect hand-stand!




Now walk around with Roo on your head.


…and Roo likes sitting on his friends’ back.



chickens_chicks_week4_amani_tessa_ firstborn_starlight_edited

Rosey and Starlight with their two good friends.

How much will the four chicks grow during the summer? Will they still be able to sit on their human friends heads and shoulders? Stay-tuned.

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An Old Friend Returns to Meet the New Chicks

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Five years ago, this student was one of the third-graders that helped raise three little fluff balls that grew to the hens we love today. He often visits the chicken coop in Sunflower Sentry Garden before school and shares fun stories with the younger kids. Today, I asked him to help me socialize the new fluffs as they are becoming a real handful jumping, flapping and attempting to fly with their spectacular growing wings. The chicks loved their time out of the cage and made a new friend.

Think how much school gardens and their chickens help students grow socially and emotionally and then share their strengths with others.


Can anyone believe that Goldie the hen was once this small. She is now Big Mama and head of the coop.


“Hello there.So, you want to fly. Be careful, you don’t want to hurt yourself.” The chicks flapped their wings and tried to soar but their new friend had seen it all before and knew what to do.

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First Cuddles

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

It’s amazing how such tiny creatures thrill people of all ages.


The tiny chicks of Sunflower Sentry Garden are strong, alert and ready for action. Chicken Daddy, one of the two students that I took to the Woolley Egg Ranch for fertilized eggs for the class incubator, brought his family to see the babies. They were the first to hold the chicks and give them sweet cuddles and love. Everyone made a safe circle and put the babies down to run and play before returning them to their cage for a long Sunday afternoon nap.

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Three Days Old and Doing Well: Eating, Drinking, Peeing, Pooping and Sleeping

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Everyone is in love with these tiny fluff balls. The kids are testing and be treated to the sweet peeps of these tiny beings while they work. When they take a break or finish for the day, they take turns visiting the babies.


First Born is the leader of the group. It dried off and was placed in its new home. Barbara played Mother Hen and tapped her finger on the food plate to show her baby how to eat. It got the idea straight away. When #2 was placed with her, she took the new chick to the plate and showed it how to eat and drink. # 3 and #4 followed right behind.



#2 is the biggest chick. It eats a lot and sleeps under the Brooder with the others.



All are healthy and growing quickly. They love cuddling under the Brooder and keeping warm.

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Meet the New Kids in the Coop

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016


Meet the new kids in the coop! In order of arrival left to right. Two late bloomers still waiting to bust out of their shells. Kids and adults are ecstatic!

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The Chicks are Hatching!

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Early Sunday afternoon–Mother’s Day–the chicks began their pipping process and soon broke loose of their eggs. Kids and adults stood watch and thrilled as each baby emerged. Two eggs remained inactive so we will watch until they reach 25 days in the incubator.


First Born–pale gold with distinctive markings. Active and alert.



#2–Brown and looking much like Brownie. Large and active.



#3 arrived  at lunch time. 


#3 sported a lovely white Mohawk that eventually dried into a white star. Many of the kids call the chick Starlight.



#4 took a while longer. This baby is the smallest and a beautiful red-copper color.



This student brought the fertilized eggs to class. He was amazed at the life-cycle–egg to a real, live chicks–four of them!


They are so small! We can’t move them to their cage with Brooder until they are completely dry.



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