Thursday, July 26, 2012

Service Projects on the farm -Yep .., Great Idea!

This group of Girl Scouts came from a neighboring school to release beneficial lady bugs. Thanks girls!
Since there is always a "Farm List" a mile long, we gladly open our gates to friends in need of service projects! It is a win - win situation! We get kids who want to be helpful, tackle some of our big projects and it helps the farm out tremendously. It also creates a community bond and connects people in ways that may not have happened otherwise.

I like to think that it is that old fashioned farm value system. The do unto others, what comes around goes around, the common good,  or just the feelings that you feel when you give back and help others. It makes our farm a better place and the people who give and receive better people. It's all farm good! Keep those service projects coming!

Eagle Scout Will Aman and Troop 473 Sport Court Project

Our PTA had $2500 in their budget to paint our school's sport court. These boy scouts did the job so that the money could be shifted to our farm projects. Thanks Troop 473!

Eagle Scout Alec Permenter Troop 890
These scouts from Troop 890 wanted to help our school. We were in need of some composting bins for our farm. They planned the project, came up with the supplies and carried out the project. They even left us a great pitch fork and shovel scoop. Thanks Troop 890!
Scouts from Troop 890 - Compost Bin Project

With the help from community service groups, there are so many projects that can be tackled. We have had great success working with these groups and have more big projects lined up. 

E I E I O..., watch us grow!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rainwater Harvesting.., We're Into That

We use a hand pump to bring water to the farm.
Our school is in a great school district. Even in these crazy days of difficult school financing decisions, we can still float the boat and are much better off than other school districts in Texas. That being said, when we started our farm project, or now if we want to add anything new to the farm, there is a lot of red tape, forms to be compiled and plans of work to write up. This hasn't been a problem for our farm team though. In fact, it has given us time to plan and really think through what we are doing and where we are headed on our farm.

Students at work on the farm.

When we started our planning and conversations with Phil Lozano,  Associate Director of Facility Services for our school district, we initially told him that we wouldn't be asking them to pay for the water. Since our PTA works magic at raising funds and figuring out ways to get things for our school and students, we told him that we would just pay for a water meter and that the bill would come straight to the PTA. He immediately shut us down on that thought with great reasoning.

He asked us to change our thinking. Rather than teaching the kids to just turn on a faucet and water plants, we need to teach them about sustainability as well as water conservation. In the past, settlers and farmers didn't have hoses to run when they watered their crops. They needed to be resourceful and collect water to save and use sparingly. He had a good point and so we changed our thoughts and set off to learn all that we could about rain water collection.

Our 1,000 gallon rain collection tank
Since we like to do things BIG, we went straight for the 1,000 gallon tank. Jeremy came out and set us up with everything we needed to get our rain harvest system up and running. His company is Rainwater Harvesting Systems and they are located in Denton, Texas. They are able to provide rainwater collectors in all shapes and sizes. Jeremy and Rainwater Harvesting Systems come highly recommended by our Farm Team! 

Jeremy is an expert in rain harvesting.

 Special gutters were installed on our barn to collect the rain.

We are proud to be green!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sharing Seeds From The Farm

Apparently, not everyone knows that you can collect seeds from the flowers and fruits of plants. This was a quick and easy lesson that promotes sharing of our harvest.

One of our classes' garden theme was "Peace, Love and Herbs". They chose to plant a big patch of marigolds in one of their beds. Marigolds are very easy to grow and also are beneficial on our farm because they keep some of those pesky pests away. We started our seed lessons with Marigolds since we have an abundance of them.

The flower of a marigold only lasts a day or two and then they start to look droopy and they begin to dry out. This is the time for "dead-heading". I teach the kids to pinch off the flower part of the plant (which is where the seeds are).

After we pick them, we put them in a bucket to dry out.

When they are dry, we separate the seeds from the flower head and that is where we get the seeds to share.

The seeds are now ready to be shared.

You can do this with many types of flowers and herbs. The term "goes to seed" is when the plant has produced flowers, which will then give you seeds. You can stop that process by snipping off the flowers and your plant will continue to grow. That is what we do with our basil so that it will grow all season long.

When a plant "goes to seed" you can collect those seeds and start over again with a new plant grown from your seed harvest.

A great lesson in sharing comes from seed collecting. It also is a good way to share our farm love and get kids and their families interested in digging in at home.  Give it a try and brighten up someone's day with a tiny bag of seeds to share.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Local Feed Store

Roach Feed & Seed Garland, Texas

We are lucky to have a feed store in our community that is fairly close to our farm. If you have never been to one, I highly recommend a visit.

Lucas, Ohio Feed & Seed circa 1945

Feed stores were established in farming communities to get the farmers what they needed. In the day, they were also a hub of activity and how the people got their news and local gossip.

Still a busy business.., Roach Feed & Seed Garland, Texas
Today feed stores supply customers with hay, alfalfa, medicines for pets and livestock, tools, tack supplies for horses, fertilizers, pest control, water tanks, seeds, grain, and animals for sale to name a few of their many products. They also offer a wealth of information to customers and help solve problems with animals, plants and outdoor needs. There aren't many new feed stores popping up these days, so most of them that you will stumble upon are at least 75 years old or older. The people who work there know their business. They are experts.

Hay was on our shopping list this time.

Feed stores offer a great variety of seeds that work well in your planting zone.

Some vintage signage on display at Roach's.

With farming on the decline in America, the feed store is sadly going in that direction as well. Look one up and stop in for a visit to grab a real glimpse into rural Americana. You'll be glad you did.

If you're not close to Roach's, find one in your community.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Master Gardeners - Our Latest Farm Friends

Master Gardeners are really amazing resources. To become one, they have to go through an extensive training program and in order to keep their certification, they volunteer many hours each year to an approved program to promote and educate gardening in the community. They also provide education programs with a wide variety of topics. They will come to your site and teach a group of people topics like composting, raising worms, beneficial insects, and water harvesting to name a few.

Master Gardeners can help support your school garden program.
Since our farm was just established this year, it will take some time to blend our farm into our curriculum. Some teachers at our school are avid gardeners, some try to learn all that they can, and some can't keep potted plants alive. So to help our teachers along, we solicited the Master Gardeners in our area to support us and help get our farming program up and growing.

We met the Master Gardeners at the farm.
 Some members of our Garden Team met with the Master Gardener Incubation Team to share what our mission is, what we would like the Master Gardeners to help with and where we are now. They decided that we would be a good volunteer project and will work at getting us through the approval process. We are thrilled!
Dallas Master Gardener Incubation Team

The more people and organizations that you can involve in a school's garden program, the better. With support from the community, there is a stronger commitment and the chance for great success is really quite high.

We look forward to yet another partner on our farm. E I E I O!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Success and Failure.., Both Help Us Learn

The most important thing growing on our farm.., the kids!
 We have had a bountiful Spring Harvest! The beds are filled with tasty veggies, beautiful flowers and good things keep coming from our farm.  Our school community is embracing the fact that we are all farmers and in this together. In fact, we have eager families signed up to help run the farm all summer long.

Our zucchini harvest was amazing!
On the other hand, we have had failure. Many of our beds were getting too much water because in addition to our watering efforts, the school's sprinklers were also hitting the beds. This caused an anerobic situation in the beds and things turned yellow and wouldn't grow. A lesson was in the works. We had to first figure out the problem and then work out a way to address it. Other problems came up along the way, and we either solved them or ripped plants right out of the beds. All of this creates new learning and will certainly help us grow better crops on the next go around.

Growing squash is a constant battle.
More water and mulch fixed our cantaloupe concerns.

When you work in a garden, pests show up on a regular basis.

We are always on bug alert.
We also watch for pesky pests' eggs.
Yes, learning and problem solving are taking place everyday on our farm.  There is so much room for all of us to grow. We love it! It is all FARM-GOOD!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Our Farm Salutes The 4th Of July

Our school and farmers participated in the local 4th of July Parade. We wanted to share our farm love with our community.  It was a great turnout! 

American pride and our farm were celebrated!

Scooters and a float were decked out in farm spirit!

Kids dressed like farmers in red, white and blue.

This patriotic farmer had a big fun time.

We got the word out to our community about our farm.

Moss Haven Mustangs had a great day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Garden Levels The Playing Field

One thing that I've found throughout my teaching career and especially in the last few months, with the installation of our school garden, is that outdoor learning is an important part of children's development. When kids are outside and away from the fluorescent lighting and four walls that make up their classroom, it frees them. Working outdoors is more relaxing and engaging. Teachers can teach a wide range of curriculum and incorporate many concepts in an outdoor setting. Students can investigate, explore and take part in hands on learning that can't be provided by a book, a video or a lecture. Working in an outdoor environment creates that "being there" experience that locks in learning for our kids.
Students explore their raised bed.

With hands on learning, you can meet the needs of many kinds of students to reinforce and apply their learning. Students who lack confidence in a classroom can be leaders when they are in the garden. The garden gives kids success, builds their self esteem and gives them a place that they can be proud of. Kids who learn differently, have reading challenges or who need to move quite a bit greatly benefit from an outdoor garden  curriculum as well. They can see science in the making, witness the beautiful colors of a wildflower bed, dig in the dirt, watch preying mantis, butterflies and aphids in their habitats and contribute to the garden in many ways. All students can work cooperatively while taking on different roles and responsibilities that aren't available in a classroom setting. It offers variety and endless opportunities for learning and growth.
These girls found out what is inside of a baby ear of corn.

Our school garden connects parents, teachers and students in ways that I have never seen before. Everyone is a part of our garden. From planting seeds, moving mulch, trimming out dead leaves, watering or just reaping the harvest, there are no prerequisites or standards set in place to limit anyone. It is a fair game and a place for all to shine.  
Everyone has success on the farm. E I E I O