August 12, 2014
Once a week, about 22 kids march down NE 60th to help out at the orchard. They are second and third-graders from Kids Co. at McDonald Elementary.
Vanessa is one of five adults accompanying them and these counselors control the swarm with impressive skills.
The kids are helping with watering, spreading wood chips, and making paths. They look for beneficial bugs and pollinators, measure how fast the sunflowers grow, and eat whatever berries are ripe.
The first time they watered, I could not keep up. One was watering the rocks under the water barrel and another gave a big drink to a dandelion out in the grass. To them it must have seemed that everything needed a drink, and rightly so! I change the watering method each week. I am learning. However, there are a few who can’t resist watering the trunk.
“We don’t need to water the trunk. The tree drinks water from the feeder roots, well away from the trunk.” I repeat this each week.
I tried marking the drip line with surveying tape but the water still ended up next to the trunk. Then I asked them to water the bamboo stakes that circle the trees near the drip line. That worked better. Then I dug a little trench in the chips around the drip line and near the bamboo. Bingo! Nine-year-olds learn fast … as long as their instructor can figure out how to explain things.
The next week, I showed them how to lay newspaper under cardboard for sheet mulching. I came back later to see several sitting down reading the funnies! That was unexpected. Vanessa was close by and I asked her if she always had to be prepared for the unexpected. She smiled. “Yes, of course.”
I leaned over, put my hands on my knees and confessed to one of the older girls, “I usually don’t get the comics.” Her response was compassionate. “Sometimes I don’t understand them either.”
Later, one boy showed me a plant covered with insects. “Aphids,” he announced. I was impressed and thought I might add to his education. I asked, “Do you know what eats aphids?”
“Sure”, he replied, “ladybugs! We were just watching a bunch of ants carrying a ladybug!”. Well, that shut me up.
We have a good generation of gardeners coming our way. Be optimistic!
P.S. We will need apples for the October 18 Cider Fest. If you, or your neighbor, have a tree that still has apples on it the first of October, we would be happy to harvest them!