Delicious Summer Garden Adventures

“We made pizza with yellow peppers, basil, 2 cherry tomatoes, and some fresh grated zucchini. Last week we started picking Japanese beetles off our edamames and learned a lot about this beetle. We also were busy last week getting after the weeds and figuring out what is a weed and where our walkways are. We harvested zucchini and made muffins and shared them with all the workers painting and fixing up our school this summer.” – Donna Ewald – State Street School – Windsor,

VT

Summer is in full swing at Thetford Elementary School

“The school’s pollinator beds are abuzz with zinnias, snapdragons, and cosmos in full bloom. In the lunch beds, mammoth sunflowers—towering over 8 feet high—have started to open their heads to the sun. To celebrate the start of all the bounty to come from the garden, a group of students from Lebanon’s Rec Camp joined Thetford Elementary Schools’ summer students to harvest and prepare a taste test with fresh veggies from the garden. On the menu: nasturtium pesto and fresh vegetable rolls with lemon tamari dipping sauce. All in all, the pesto and spring rolls were a big hit and many students brought home recipe cards to try the recipes again with their families.” – Cat Buxton – Cedar Circle Farm – Thetford, VT

Potato Pancakes

Edgewater-Potato-PancakesB-293x300
Potato Pancakes
courtesy of Food.com
 Ingredients
  • 3 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1⁄2cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
Preparation
  1. Keep potatoes covered with cold water until ready to grate in the food processor.
  2. Fit the medium shredding blade into food processor and shred potatoes and onion.
  3. Dry potatoes and onion between sheets of paper towel.
  4. In a large bowl combine potato mixture with eggs, flour, baking powder, parsley and salt. In a large skillet heat 1/8 inch vegetable oil until hot. Pour in 1/3 cup potato mixture, flattening with the back of a wooden spoon, and fry until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in a 100 degree oven.

School Compost Tour Recap

On May 1st, UVFTS led a school compost tour!

Nine FTS practitioners from all over the Upper Valley and beyond attended to hear about composting at Thetford, Bradford and Newbury Elementary Schools. Many commented during and after the tour that they were totally inspired to see these three schools successfully composting so much food waste, and surprised to see how different each system was. We wanted to share a brief summary of what attendees saw at each school to inspire and surprise those of you who couldn’t make the actual tour.

First, why compost at your school? Based on what we saw and heard in Thetford, Bradford and Newbury, here are three great reasons:

1. Environment:

  • Sending food waste to the landfill takes up space that could otherwise be used for agriculture, housing or recreation.
  • Food waste that decomposes in plastic bags at the landfill produces methane, which is the worst greenhouse gas, so sending your food scraps to the landfill exacerbates global warming. Also, trucking food waste to the landfill uses up fossil fuels and creates other greenhouse gasses.

2. Education:

  • Composting provides excellent educational opportunities across subject areas. The schools we visited are using composting to teach about:
    • Math (measuring volume and temperature, graphing)
    • Science (ecology and sustainability)
    • Civics/life skills (responsibility)
    • Technology (using an app on an ipad to record data about the compost heap, creating a presentation or movie)
    • Writing (compost poetry! Also informative writing)

3. Money:

  • On-site composting can save you money (for a school, potentially thousands of dollars each year) because you won’t have to pay to send food waste to the landfill.
  • Selling finished compost can be a school fundraiser.
  • You can use finished compost in school gardens instead of buying compost.

Now that you’re convinced of the value of school composting, the tour:


Tour led by: Joette Hayashigawa, TES’ nurse, and Cat Buxton, Education Coordinator at Cedar Circle Farm and a garden consultant for TES 

Thetford Elementary School (TES):

  • Type of composting: On-site, 5 large bins take all food waste.
  • History of composting at TES: Before building their current system 2 years ago, TES sent food waste to a community member who had chickens for one year. This helped the kids learn how to sort their waste. TES hired the Highfields Center for Composting to assess their composting needs, with funding from the Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District. They then got a grant from the Wellborn Ecology Fund to buy materials to build their bins, to pay for further technical assistance from Highfields, and to support professional development for their teachers to integrate composting into the curriculum.
  • How it works:
    • In the lunchroom: Students dump food waste, including milk, dairy and meat, into buckets on a wagon.
    • After lunch: 5th graders bring the wagon & food waste out to the compost bins twice a day. TES follows a recipe from Highfields, adding horse manure, fallen leaves and sawdust to their food waste to balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio. 5th grade students follow the recipe and add the ingredients each day, and also measure the temperature of the pile. The contents of the bins is turned every month. The finished compost is cured in compost cloth (which repels water but lets in oxygen), and is also aerated once a month, and sifted by students before it’s used in the gardens or bagged.
    • Where it goes: TES’ compost is used in their school gardens, and any extra is sold to community members.

Bradford Elementary School (BES):

  • Tour led by: Jim McCracken, Place-Based Educator
  • Type of composting: Off-site for lunch and kitchen food waste, on-site in 3 bins for snack food waste and garden waste
  • History of composting at BES: BES started sending food scraps to Bob Sandberg to be composted at his farm several years ago. Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District subsidized the initiative to start, but now the school pays Mr. Sandberg for this service out of the school budget.
  • How it works:
    • At snack: 2nd graders collect fruit and vegetable food waste from every classroom after snack, and bring it to on-site, open bins. This compost is rotated once or twice a year from one bin to the next, and when finished, it is used in the school gardens.
    • Where it goes: Mr. Sandberg collects from several schools as well as other institutions, and sells his finished product. The school buys finished compost from Mr. Sandberg for their school gardens.
    • In the lunchroom: Students dump food waste, including meat and dairy, into square buckets in a wagon.
    • After lunch: 5th graders bring the food waste to bins provided by Mr. Sandberg that are located outside the school kitchen, next to the dumpster. The 5thgraders check the food waste as they dump it in case of any accidental plastic contamination. Cafeteria staff brings kitchen food scraps to the compost bins as well. Mr. Sandberg picks them up once a week and replaces them with empty bins.

Tour led by: Jeff Goodell, 5th grade teacher

Newbury Elementary School (NES):

  • Type of composting: On-site, 6 mounted bins that tumble
  • History of composting at NES: NES has been composting for over 15 years! Wow! Thanks to the involvement of a local farmer and a donation from Gardener’s Supply, they were able to start their system, and it’s still going strong under the leadership of Mr. Goodell!
  • How it works:
    • In the lunchroom: 5th graders put out newspaper under a bucket, and help students sort their waste. They try to avoid milk because it makes their compost too wet, and meat, although both occasionally make their way into the bucket.
    • After lunch: 5th graders bring the bucket outside and add to one of the bins. They also add sawdust. Then they turn each of the bins 5 times to aerate the compost – a fun challenge for 2 fifth graders, as the bins are bigger and heavier than they are!
    • Where it goes: The finished compost is sometimes sold as a fundraiser and is also used in the school gardens.

Inspired to start composting at your school? Contact UVFTS for more info & support! A big thank you to our presenters, Joette, Cat, Jim and Jeff, for giving their time and expertise.

Newspaper Seed Starting Pots

Oh, how the time flies!  If you are a home gardner (or aspiring to be), it is time to start your seeds indoors for many plants.  Starting seeds is a great gardening activity that is easy and fun for kids of all ages.  This activity involves using old newspaper to make sturdy little starting pots that can be transplanted directly into the ground when the time is right. Newspaper pots are very easy to make and a great way to recycle the old newspapers that might be sitting around.  All you need are two things: Old newspaper and a long glass drinking cup (or empty/clean bottle). Then of course you will need to add some high quality potting soil or seed starter mix and your seeds once your pot is made.

Steps:

1. Begin by laying a piece of black and white newspaper flat.  Make sure to not use shiny or colorful paper like magazines, as they can contain heavy metals.  Newspaper is usually made with safe, soy-based ink.

2. Fold the newspaper twice lengthwise to form a narrow strip.

3. Lay the glass on its side and begin to roll the newspaper tightly around the glass.  Make sure about half of the paper overlaps the glass.

4. Push the ends of the newspaper into the open end of the glass.

5. Then pull out the glass to reveal the shape of your pot.

6. Push the bottom of the cup into your pot, flattening out and creating the closed bottom portion.

7. Pull out the jar for the last time!  Fill the pot with soil, plant your seeds according to the seed packet directions, and water so your seeds will germinate.

It is a good idea to place all of the starter pots you make on a plastic tray, so that water won’t seep everywhere.

Have fun!  And go here for a video how-to 🙂

What Do You Know About Maple Syrup?

In 2010, Vermont produced 1,140,000 gallons of delicious maple syrup – more than any other state!  Although maple syrup is available locally anytime, the sugaring season has just begun and fresh, sugary sap is now being made into the mouth-watering and rich syrup most of us delight in.  But do you know how this great product is made? Maple syrup was discovered by the Eastern Woodland Indians when they realized that sap cooking over a hot fire turned into a sugary substance.   Since then, people could not get enough of this wonderful syrup.  European settlers who were offered to share in the Indians’ new discovery,  began to develop technologies to make the process faster and easier.

Nowadays, maple syrup is made from placing taps on trees and allowing sap to travel down into buckets.  The sap is then collected through tubing, trucking, or other means to get to the sugar house.  Sap is then boiled when it is fresh to make the highest quality syrup.  Water then evaporates from the sap, leaving a thick sugary syrup behind.  This point usually occurs at 219 degrees and has a density of over 60% sugar.  Next, a valve is opened by the sugarmaker and the syrup is drawn off.  The maple syrup is then checked for the proper density of sugar with a tool called a hydrometer.  It is then filtered to remove sugar sand and other minerals found naturally within the tree.  Finally, the syrup is taste tested and color-graded!

 

Interested in teaching your class about maple syrup?  Kidgardening.org  offers a simple activity to do with children.

1. Hold up a bottle of maple syrup and ask the students if they know how syrup is produced.

2. Tell the students that syrup comes from trees, but do not tell them how it is extracted.

3. Using existing knowledge and their own imagination, have the students predict the sequence of how they think syrup is made from trees. They should list their “steps of production” from beginning to end. Their assignment should include pictures to accompany the steps for greater clarification.

4. Ask the students to share their assignments with the class.

5. Have the students recall what they know about trees and list their responses on the board.

6. Read the story, Sugarbush Spring to the students. Share some photographs of sap collection with the students.

7. Were any of the students’ sequence predictions similar to how the sap was collected in the story? How does this new information relate to what they already know about trees?

8. Have the students discuss the importance of scientific prediction. What is a hypothesis? How can it assist in discovering new information and ideas?

EXTENSION

– Have students map the Top 10 Maple Producing States. Examine their climate and geography, what do all of these states have in common? What can be learned about the needs of the maple tree by this determination?

 

*If you cannot use the specified book, play a short movie or documentaryor simply read from another source to describe the maple sugaring process.

If possible, bring your kids to a local sugarhouse or tapped tree for a real, live experience! Sugarmakers are usually very welcoming to schools and will offer some yummy maple snacks before you leave.  If the resources are available, this may also be a great time to incorporate cooking and tasting of a local product into the classroom, as well.  Get creative!

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