Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer work is hard (and satisfying) work

We wanted to share some pictures of some of the hard work that many of our volunteers are engaged in this summer. So first, before we invite you to join in on the fun any given Saturday in August, please enjoy the following slideshow + thanks:
Pepi Acebo, Steve Wyda, Mikah Pinegar and Damen Aitken already hard at work early in the morning
Timbersong Academy weeding our grounds...
...and, those same, outstanding young ladies, working our boards... fact, these girls have been volunteering all school year, every Saturday. Proud of how we have grown together!
Pepi, Matt and Shannon putting their heads together
Ms. Paige and her lovely son Charlie working in our Culinary Herb Garden... see the baby basil?
Exhibit A: One of our most ardent staff volunteers, working a sander (with precision, mind you!)
Exhibit B: Beautiful boards, glazed to perfection. Maestro Acebo, I think this first run was a success!
Not pictured, unfortunately (mostly due to the fact that they were toiling away in other corners of the campus) is Xandria Birk and her crew of tree waterers. These trees need water badly, and this team of people might easily be called the most unsung of all Dickson garden heroes!

Now, for the work-help invitiation... Joan says:

#1 On Saturdays in August (9:30-noon) we're making tables at school. Timbersong's team of young ladies will be helping, so please come join us! Pepi (dedicated parent, woodcraftsperson) is leading this project...

#2 Related to this, Pepi needs folks to come to his shop and help cut (rip) boards, on any given weekday you might be available. Contact Joan (find her email on the sidebar) and she can help you coordinate!

If you have a few hours this week -- or next, or any of these Saturdays coming up -- then join us!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Last weeks of gardening @ Dickson (for the 2016-2017 school year)

4x4 for Wild beds, built by kids =)

Danged if you don't, Mr. Mikulski!

A water garden that we grew on our campus!

Salad, for sure, for everyone =)

Climbing on fallen trees... nature stuff, ya know!

Students in the pollinator garden 

Monarch caterpillar in the "J" position

Milkweed Day, and the awesome Tailgate Market that 3rd grade made happen!

Alan Barry, selling milkweed starts. This is a particularly beloved plant for Monarch butterflies! 
Kate Lis, AmeriCorps Project Conserve worker, representing Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

Moni Hill gathering the troops
It has been a great year. Looking into the year ahead, I wanted to encourage anyone and everyone that is happy about the green 'activism' that exists at Dickson -- to please help us find novel ways (or even better, directly contribute) to fund our school's Garden Coordinator position. I don't know... Kickstarter, GoFundMe, there has to be a way that we can pay a fair working wage to someone who spends 20+ hours every week ensuring that teachers and students have as much access to garden-related experiences as they possibly can.

This past year, we had a generous grant that funded MOST of Joan's work at the school. This coming year, it is not clear that the same funds will be made available -- nor is it certain that Dickson's Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) can continue funding any gaps. It is not an uncommon problem, paying experienced adults a living wage to enable schools to have vibrant, local food-based gardening programs. However I am confident that we can tackle the issue. Let's regroup, when school is back in session in August!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Recent gardening goings-on at Dickson

School may be winding down for Dickson students, teachers, and parents, but the work of keeping the small little garden spaces we've managed to eke out on our campus healthy and green is ramping up...
4x4forWild's Moni Hill completing patches and signs along the field fence

Beloved milkweed donated by Alan Barry

Volunteers from Timbersong Girls School made 40 signs for marking off 4x4forWild's patches!

ACS students helping out with snacks and tea

Mr. Davis sifting and feeding our growing worm compost operation!

Tea and lemonade were made, to donate to Haywood Street Congregation's 'Garden Kickoff' party

Ms. Root mixing up tasty salads with 4th graders!

Strong and capable students help Ms. Joan tidy up the campus a bit

The shucking of corn (much like the opening of sweet, little presents!)

Let's hope that the rain, the sun, and a few kind volunteers can help keep what we've got going alive and well throughout the summer, until the kids get back in the fall. Just one more week...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Pics from 'Experience Dickson Night'... and, a gardenyear's-end reflection

Even though its been a few weeks since, I wanted to share some pictures from the 'outdoors' part of Experience Dickson Night (where I got to help out running the potato splitting station, and meet a lot of nice parents and their children in the process):

Thank you to all the Dickson teachers and parents that helped out with our 'outdoor' portion of the night's festivities, as well as to the community partners who attended and sponsored us (Asheville Greenworks, Sow True Seed, Asheville Mulch Yard -- to name three that I can think of right now). And of course, thank you to Joan for helping to organize the demonstrations and activities!


(THIS IS BASICALLY AN END-OF-THE-YEAR PERSONAL REFLECTION... as such, nothing said here should be construed as the opinion of anyone else -- Brad, Joan, Jude Law, etc. -- but me, Matt, a first-year Dickson parent)

This past year was my first as a Dickson parent... and let me say that above all else, I have felt extremely welcomed into a wonderfully diverse and marvelously active community! This, of course, includes the dedicated group of people I've come to know in volunteering in and around the school's gardening activities.

As the school year comes to a close, and with it said activities, the first thing I am reminded of is how lamentable it is... that the BUSIEST, MOST REWARDING time for gardening is in the summer -- when most youth are far from the walls and grounds of their beloved school! Its too bad that parents and teachers have busted their butts on all the very important (but less visually stunning) 'small beginnings' of the green world, and then in large part have to leave it to Joan (and her generous community partners) to make sure its all still there (and hopefully more grown up?) when the kids and teachers come back in August. Do you 'veteran' parents feel the same way? The guilt? The total misfortune of not getting to enjoy Dickson gardening again until the fall?!?! =(

At the same time, I also wanted to let it be known that I personally found this past year of volunteering at the garden EXHAUSTING. Not physically (and during the workdays) but mentally, and in between them. I know that at least SOME of you feel the same way... I've seen the numbers of parent volunteers for our monthly workdays dwindle. I feel that a large part of it has been the disappointment in us not being able to grow all that we wanted to grow, do what we wanted to do. Many of us have been giving, and giving, and giving, and... its not that we EXPECTED to be given back something... maybe it was rather that we wanted gardening at Dickson to be MORE than it ended up seeming to be -- or at least to have been more physically present (in permanent, 'garden' form) than we've managed to achieve so far.

I know that our fancy new building still running on a temporary Certificate of Occupancy -- even now, at the end of the school year -- can be reasoned to be to blame for a lot of the hiccups. For example, the district's facilities manager, at basically the very last minute possible, told us that it was because of this that we wouldn't be able to follow our long-stated plan to remove sod and create a demonstration garden for teachers and students next to the pre-K play area. But beyond the whole C.O. thing, and the technicalities it may or may not create, there also were Asheville City Schools higher-ups resistant to the idea of allowing us to truly GARDEN-IFY Dickson. I don't want to put this out there and instantly be understood as trying to antagonize authority -- or 'bite the hand that feeds us' -- but we all need to be prepared to advocate (even fight, if it comes to that) for our right to fully utilize the learning spaces of our children.

All of this could change if we can get ACS brass who are not locked into years of inertia on board with an intensely GREEN vision for our school. For example, our new superintendent, Mrs. Bobby White, recently met with me in person... and I was encouraged by what seemed like a willingness to understand and work on solutions to important issues that school parents identify. This sort of thing is a breath of fresh air, at least in my brief experience over the past few years trying to expand gardening activities at ACS schools. Please take a moment, if you think you can express yourself well enough, to write Bobby an email encouraging her support as we look to take sustainable, campus-wide gardening to the next level at Dickson next year. Also, please take a minute to write an email to Joan thanking her for persisting in her work this past year, despite the logistical nightmare things have been. In this extremely trying first year, we should focus on the many small successes that have happened in and outside of the classrooms, instead of the few big disappointments.

I believe that we are going to do better next year, that we're going to BREAK THROUGH, in terms of our visibility on the grounds. We'll help teachers better utilize every last planter we have, as far into (and out of) the frost as we can. We'll have kids experimenting in every inch of earth that we are allowed to free from the grip of sod, and we will let parents and teachers play the biggest roles in deciding exactly what they want to sprout out of the earthly canvases we set up. I believe that we will get our city school district fully on board with letting us create a school teeming with authentic learning experiences that are centered around closely inspecting and honoring the natural world; growing, preparing and enjoying whole foods; and empowering our local community.


May your summer be calm yet productive... full of playful thoughts and rest, but also sporting the making of plans, the taking of actions, and the satisfaction of success =)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

REMINDER: Our monthly Garden Work Day is this Saturday, April 22nd!

I know Joan has her own email list of collaborators, affiliates, supporters and loyal minions =) but I wanted to repeat this info for anyone that happens to be regularly tuning in to the IDES Learning Garden blog: We are having a volunteer day this Saturday, April 22nd, from 10:00-1:00. We have been doing a potluck style feast at the end of the various projects and chores, so please bring some kind of food dish to share... I think Dorothea, Josie, Yanusz and I will be contributing at the very least an appropriately mustardy egg salad!

Here are some of the things Joan will be orchestrating us into accomplishing:
-- Establish grade-level SALAD garden beds (with signage)
-- Plant potatoes in vertical beds
-- Fabricate and initiate Greenworks composting bins
-- Plant potatoes (Donated by Barefoot Farm)
-- Paint Signs for 'Experience Dickson' Night, others
-- Spread fresh mulch about our grounds (conserves water) --> Please bring a wheelbarrow/pitchform if you have one!
-- Start more seeds + transplant more stuff from the greenhouse (kale, cabbage, etc.)
-- Plant in our pollinator gardens
-- transplant healthy-sized seedlings into pots for sale
-- whack some weeds down --> If you have a weedwhacker, we NEED YOU + IT to attend, desperately :)

Thank you so much to Joan, Raymond, the Garden Leadership team, the Teacher Garden Vision Team, and Brad Johnson for all the planning, support and execution that we've been able to manage so far. Many of us fail to realize how active these people are making each and every Dickson green space, day in and day out. Every time I see Joan during the school day, I can't believe how many kids she and her wonderful supporting cast of highly-engaged teachers have got being pulled on by the gravity of sustainable, green living and thinking =)

As always, I look forward to seeing familiar faces out there this weekend (and to dining from those now-classic, fabulously unique + uber-functional stainless steel mess trays)!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thank you for your work, we're getting there!

Hey there, I must apologize that its been ten fourteen days, and I am only now sharing some pictures (and a fitting summary) with you. March's garden workday at Dickson was a busy little hunk of success, thanks to all who came out... and if you like chickens, you might have even taken a moment to meet a fave pet of mine, 'Knucklebird' aka 'Lazy Eye' :)
Making clay seedbombs (who is guerrilla gardening?)
Timbersong helps us paint more of Joan's cherished chalk-able signs!
Who doesn't love painting?
Beds getting new soil (the foundation of food, after all)
Now that's a manager that I'd work for... on the production floor, gruntin' n grimin' with the team!
Un-signing signs
The kids we had out knew how to PLAY and HELP OUT... awesome!
Relocating some growing baskets
Its a dirty and certainly not flamboyant -- but undoubtedly essential -- job!
I'm excited to think about these inches becoming feet of green matter!
Helping with food prep in the Community Kitchen
Moving dirt -- an underappreciated and not-very-visible job
Happy campers make the work less of a chore, that's for sure!
Sitting down for some refreshments
They're always in motion... and we (of the Garden Leadership Team), together with your help, are striving to be, too!
I know I'm going to risk not naming a few of our generous workday attendees, but here goes: Mrs. Christal, Rucki, Timbersong Academy, Steve, Rick, Guy, Amy, Ruby, Mairead, Dorothea, Mike, Brad, Cynthia and Stephanie. That's not mentioning kids, which were many and which contributed to very meaningful work too. Things like moving hay, making bird nests, putting words up on signs... thanks, ya'll!

For me, after each of our monthly gatherings... I can see and feel that we got a lot done, and additionally I'm blessed to have had a good time -- among good people -- doing so. But I often lament, to myself (until now) that progress couldn't happen more quickly. We're getting there, I promise you! One day, we'll have a big, beautiful outdoor gardening and activity space at the welcoming end of our school, and wonder how it ever was once just sod and dreams :)

And on the note of dreams: Joan recently showed me a wonderful illustration of the current plan for the overall look. I snapped a pic for you:
Click on the image to view a bigger version / zoom in!
Special thanks to Steven Wyda, for all of the landscape architecture work that goes into planning out and realizing such a vision. Dickson parents, staff and community know how to work hard AND, how make things look GOOOOOOD... right? =)