Growing a School Garden

Happy Saturday, friends! I’ve been keeping myself busy these last few days with school garden business! It’s been such a great time for me out in the community talking to our city leaders and school principals making plans for outdoor classrooms and food gardens. What I’ve found most exciting is that people are very receptive to these types of initiatives if someone is eager, ready, and willing to take the lead and do the heavy lifting. All of which I’m like, BRING IT.

That’s all to say that we have a long road ahead of us. I’m currently creating a website for the organization that I’m in the process of forming called The Norfolk School Garden Collective. This organization will work to build and maintain gardens and outdoor classrooms at the public schools in our city. Right now, however, I’m just focusing on helping one school, Granby Elementary, to build a school wide food garden, habitat gardens, an outdoor classroom, and picnic area. But it takes money, materials, resources, volunteers, and a community of people dedicated to its success. And I’m just a meager gardner with a big vision. Building this idea from scratch and some timber feels pretty out of my league, but that’s half of the fun. Watching something grow from something small.

Do you all mind if I leave you with the school garden’s GoFundMe page? This weekend I am getting 10 bags of top soil and nectar plants to help the school become recognized by the Monarch WayStation Project. The teachers and the students are committed to helping grow a butterfly and bee habitat on their property and I’d like to help them make that a reality. Please consider donating to their garden to buy the materials that they need to make that a reality! Here is the link to the Granby Elementary School GoFundMe Page! I’ll be sharing pictures of the butterfly garden’s progress with you all! Thank you for putting up with my shameless fundraising attempt and for considering to donate. I appreciate this little community that reads my blog. You all are awesome.

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An Ending // A Beginning

Come on a walk with me.

The trees on campus have all been heavily mulched around their bases giving the air a sweet woody smell as we walk through the quad to the halls. Students dressed in their graduation gowns are posing by trees, fountains, and brick walls, sometimes alone, sometimes arms wrapped around another, to take pictures of their long awaited and proud moment. After we walk up the stairs to my last class of the semester, we see a crowd of students huddled around a door eagerly waiting to get their exam over with. I unlock and let them in the door. They go to their usual seats and stare at their phones with ear buds tucked in their ears, some turned up so loud that I can hear the song’s lyrics. Telling them how much I enjoyed the semester and believe that all of them have learned very important things that will not only change themselves but the world around them, some roll their eyes while others smile. But none of them realize quite how nostalgic and nervous I’m feeling. I don’t really want to let them all leave, those adorable students and their phones. This just might be my last semester teaching at a university, if not ever.  And none of them know how much I’m going to miss it. After a couple of hours, they began to pass in their exams one at a time and walk out. Once the last student was still writing and making sure that she had told me everything that she wanted, perfecting her sentences, proof reading for errors, she handed me her paper, wished me a happy summer and left. I sat there for a little bit thinking about this semester, how difficult it was for personal and professional reasons. How much I won’t be missed but how much I will miss it. Working in an environment where all of my efforts to plan meager professional development workshops intended to help me and my fellow adjuncts learn Google Drive were vehemently trampled and tossed out, leaving me feeling pretty undervalued and stuck. I’m a dreamer. A planner. I want to take action. I want to lead and be led. And as an adjunct, at least at my university, that isn’t possible. So, I left. I walked down the stairs and through the quad, smelling the woody air.  And I went home.

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This is an ending but there is also a beginning. I walked through another courtyard of grass at a school this week. It is long and wide and open. Old tall trees shade the entrance of the school and when I walk in, bright construction paper lines the walls and kids talking loudly and excitedly are in the cafeteria.  My meeting with the school principal didn’t take very long before she eagerly agreed to let me plan and build an outdoor classroom and garden for the school. I have ideas. So many ideas. So many plans. Ideas and plans that I will be working on all summer. I will be attempting to grow a coalition of volunteers, civic leagues, small businesses, teachers, students and parents that will all be invested in and take ownership of this outdoor space where students can actively learn with their hands and experience. Where they get to grow food, watch insects, feed chickens, explore, do projects, eat real food, and be proud of it. I want our neighborhood to get involved and be proud to send their children to their zoned school. And I want to do it at every school in Norfolk. It just takes one person who knows other people, who knows even more people. That’s what I’ve decided to do. I thought about reopening our produce stand this fall, but I’m a bit tired of navel gazing. I’m not interesting in growing my CV, my publications, my research, my own garden, my own profits. It feels good to look outward at others and want to build them up instead of myself.

This is an ending, but it’s also a beginning. One that I will surely be writing more about and one that I hope to get you involved in. Probably force you in if you’re a close friend. And I’m ready. I’m always ready.

 

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a broody hen

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tonight

i saw
me

for the first time

standing
in the grass
bare foot, as
cool air
sank
low
to the
earth

a shining
girl

feeding chicks
peeping
for water
for scratch
for a
mother

tender hands
cradling birds
laying
hens
pulling hay

a small
bird girl a
broody hen
feathers puffed
dust bathing
and singing

i saw
me
for the first time
tonight

 

 

 

Scenes from a weekend

The boys were home on spring break last week, which means a lot of things around here. Mostly that I had to balance work, family and children all in 24 measly hours a day. And balance is a terrible word. I did not balance. It’s more like I tried to balance and things fell off the scale, as physics would have it. So, I did what I could and tried not to end up a heap of tears, guilt and anxiety by the week’s end. That also did not work out so well. But again, we mustered on and once I gave up on balancing and instead prioritized and let the not-so-important things go, we all fared much better. On one bright day, I packed up the children and went to Colonial Williamsburg to spend the entire day with friends who I don’t get to see near enough and who are some of the best people I know. At home we did library stuff, garden stuff, ordinary boring stuff, some arguing stuff, and more pleasant stuff.  Not much work stuff. That was the stuff that fell off the scale. And so it goes. I hope you all enjoyed the nice weather, even if you are in the part of the country that got snow over the weekend. Spring and fresh air is working its way in. And with it change. Good change. The kind I’m deathly afraid of and will write to you about later this week.

Here are some scenes from our weekend:

Agri-hood

Homesteading in the hood,
An Argi-hood,
Where it never rains,
In the desert.


My husband and I grow a lot of food and have 3 chickens where we live in the city. Sometimes it just sounds so absurd to me. Less than three miles around us in either direction there is a food desert; people who do not have access to grocery stores with fresh vegetables and good food. And here we are with chickens.