Monday, May 25, 2009

The amazing Killdeer

Since I started getting involved in the garden I have noticed the distinctive sounds and sights of the Killdeer. The high, piercing kill-deer call frequently echoes off the walls of the school and periodically I see the brown and white bird scurrying across the parking lot or grass. Now the Killdeer has become much more prominent in the world of the Memory Garden. The Killdeer has made a nest in the center of the garden under one of the Service Berry Trees. True to form it's not much of a nest, just a shallow depression in the mulch, but it had two eggs in it.

When we first spotted the bird on the nest I was with a rambunctious group of 5th grades and a few quiet 3rd graders. As I pointed out the bird they all became instantly quiet and even awestruck by the sight of the Momma bird slightly puffed up to make herself look bigger - but who did not budge as 5 or 6 large animals gazed at her.
On Saturday we had a work day and she was much more agitated. Even though there were few workers she stayed away from the nest and called angrily from the top of the classrooms. We tried to be careful but for most of the time (4 hours) the eggs laid uncovered on the ground. I had noticed three eggs now and was worried about them being exposed for such a long period of time. I returned later in the afternoon to collect my tools - to find only two eggs and no sign of the other - I am perplexed.

To find out more about Killdeer check out Cornell University's Bird Lab

Some things I found out -
1. Killdeer lay their eggs over time- but the embryo doesn't start developing until the parent sits on the eggs and begins to incubate them. This made me more hopeful about the eggs being unattended.
2. Killdeer babies come of the egg fully developed and ready to roll - they have to the nest is on the ground!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Work Days

May 23, 9-12
May 30, 9-12

Bring tools and laughter

Some photos from the Garden - early May

The 2nd Grade Butterfly Garden - newly laid path.

15 Bean Soup Mix- Ms. Wicker's Kindergarten Class.

Strawberries = 4K

Friday, May 15, 2009

Oh, I wish I had my camera.

Today, as I was waiting on the 5th and 6th grade students, I started working on the Color Garden. At once I was swamped with offers of help. As we worked, a golden brown butterfly came up to visit the Lantana. It was wonderful to see the kids marveling over the length of the proboscis and how the butterfly rolled it up. They discussed the nectar and talked about the proboscis being hollow like a straw -- what a great time! I so wished I had my camera to capture this magical moment.

We purchased two garden wagons this week and boy did they get a work out today. They made hauling dirt, mulch and trash much easier and they are perfectly sized for kids. They tip which makes dumping things a breeze.

Once the 5th and 6th graders arrived things got crazy. They have been testing all week (the PASS test) and were so relieved to be done for the week. I set the 5th grade to weeding a very solid clay spot and they went at it like gangbusters. This will be the shadier side bed flanking the center circle. Powell Hickman planted Lantana in the sunny side bed. Powell and Lynne Merchant were both great at channeling the rambunctious energy into positive progress!! The 6th grade planted a pizza garden. We were able to entrance some of the students with the scent of basil - they planted 3 different kinds. They also planted some oregano and marigolds. I left Lynne planting some other herbs and tomatoes to complete the pizza ingredients.

Now we just need some nice steady rain over the weekend to water everything in!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rain, rain - thank you!!

This has been the rainiest April/May I can remember. Slowly but surely the beds are taking shape in the garden. The first grade grew a plethora and multitude (!) of flowers from seed - from red carnations, gomphrena and red marigolds (really) through green zinnia to teeny tiny violets. They have the color wheel garden - which is now a rainbow garden - kind of (more later on this). The rain has relieved me from having to go up every day to water, for which I am thankful. Plus, everything looks healthy!!

Although the children have wonderful green thumbs, starting from seed was not perhaps the best way to go since the seedlings are so tiny and fragile and need lots of TLC. Planting out with the first grade was a trip - since a whole class came out at once and I wasn't quite ready. Then we found out we had used the wrong soil and were planting in very thin solid clay, not top soil. On top of that eighteen kids working at once and me not being quite together made for a frantic (but enjoyable) half hour! I think some of the seedlings may have been mixed up so our plan of red, orange, yellow, red, green, blue, indigo and violet may not be intact. Added to this the fact I had a very hard time deciding on blue, indigo and violet. All in all gardener's serendipity will reign and it will be beautiful.

It was wonderful to go out to plant with the first grade and then again with the fourth grade and each time be mobbed by children from other grades. "What are you doing?" "Can we help?" "Can I do that? " From planting seedlings to ferrying soil to top up a bed, I have had numerous willing accomplices. I was extremely impressed when the wheelbarrow broke and some second and third graders (I think) calmly up-ended it and tried to fix it, then when that didn't work they clubbed together to carry it full of soil to our destination!

Two fourth grade classes have begun work on the Columbian Exchange beds. Being a historian by training this garden is close to my heart. Ms. Few's class planted peppers and tomatoes, plants from the New World that revolutionized the cuisine of the Old. Can you imagine life without pizza or spaghetti? Neither was possible without the spread of new world plants to the old world. I would like to start potatoes with them too - before European explorers came to the America's Irish people had never seen a potato! The potatoes in my garden are up so I may have missed the boat on that one!

The second bed in this group is the Native American garden. Since this area in upstate South Carolina was home to the Cherokee they have become the focus of this bed. Karen Hall, a lecturer at Clemson University who specializes in plants and Cherokee culture, has been advising and supporting us. Thank you Karen!! She introduced us to ramps and gave us some flint corn from the Cherokee to plant. We planted corn in hills in the four cardinal directions (NSEW) and less than a week later the corn is up!! Next we'll get beans and pumpkins into the mounds. The third bed will have okra, sesame and indigo - plants that were/are important to African-Americans in South Carolina.

What else to tell you. Since it is spring everything is coming to life. The kindergarten bed has beautiful purple alliums in flower and a purple flowering sage. This week Ms. Wicker's class planted purple allysum and snapdragons in one of the beds. The beans Ms. Wicker's class planted for a science experiment are now flowering!! The 4K strawberries are getting a blush on them - I went by their classroom to tell them and they were very excited!