Friday, 1 May 2015

CFE Week 1: Weed, Sow, Water, Repeat!

One of the most important jobs at the garden: watering!
                The Orchard Garden in UBC is a small plot of land located near Totem Park Residences. It is the home of numerous plant beds, a variety of herbs, a three-bin composting system, and numerous bee hives. For the next few weeks, this will also be the second home of Pailin and me, the two teacher candidates who are volunteering here for the CFE. We will be trained by a number of different experts from a number of different backgrounds for the next few weeks, learning a number of different skills.

On Monday, we convened with Susan, Toni, and Scott, who are a few of our teachers, and learned about possible safety hazards, the history of gardens and our schedule for the next few weeks. Then, we went to visit the Orchard Garden and learned about the multitude of herbs that flourish in the garden.

How many of these herbs can you identify?

Jagged-edged beet seeds
Tuesday was a beautiful sunny day, so we were excited to work in the garden in the afternoon. After learning about garden basics, food safety and intergenerational landed learning, we visited the Orchard Garden. We met Galen, one of the gardening experts at the Orchard Garden. She had a plan for how the garden should look which really helped to give us some direction and goals. Together, we uprooted the old kale (we gathered 3 wheelbarrows full!), weeded, prepared some beds and planted Chioggia beets. 

Delicious and tender harvested
kale from the children's
plant beds!
Instead of meeting in the Agora on Wednesday, we went to the UBC Farm and helped out with the intergenerational landed learning program. One of the goals for the landed learning program is for the older and more experienced farmers to close up the gap of knowledge by training up the upcoming generation with skills needed to take care of a garden.Elementary school students came to take care of the plant beds that were allotted to them. Together, I helped them with harvesting kale. Surprisingly, despite having grown the kale and being proud of it, the kids were very reluctant to bring the harvested kale home! So, I got to take half of the harvest home!

A healthy sorbet with
healthy toppings
The theme on Wednesday was water, and we learned how to make Compost Tea. Some of us were also involved in making the snack of the day: sorbet with dried ground cherries, toasted coconut flakes, dried concord grapes, freezer jam and mint leaves. It was amazing to learn that sorbet can be made so easily – all you need is a juicer and frozen fruit!

The afternoon found us back at the Orchard Garden weeding, preparing beds and planting swiss chard. I didn’t know this before, but swiss chard and beets are from the same family, so their seeds look very similar.

Myron showing us the three bin
composting system
On Thursday, we met at the Agora again to discuss research articles we had read about garden-based education. Our teacher today was Myron, who came from Belize and has a math background. One of the highlights includes learning about how there is apparently a strain of bacteria in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae that makes people happier because it triggers the release of serotonin which decreases anxiety and elevates mood. Another highlight was learning about how promoting gardening for youth also promotes healthier diets and exercise habits.

Our Aboriginal weaving
seed bag project
After our discussion in the morning, we headed down to the Orchard Garden for a day of plentiful weeding! Pailin and I are becoming experts at identifying common weeds. We also experienced the frustrations of having horsetail weeds growing in a plant bed – their roots seem to run for miles! We prepared three beds for planting broccoli, cauliflower and two types of kale.  We ended the day learning how to weave bags out of yarn. The connection between weaving bags and gardening is learning about how we can use the garden and harvest the materials not just for food, but for other things such as clothing and textiles.

Pailin raking the beds, readying
them for seed-sowing!

On Friday, Kwesi talked to us about his research on gardens in Ghana. It was interesting to learn that gardening is highly encouraged in Ghana; in fact, in order to encourage people to be indepedent, the government launched "operation feed yourself" where every family has its own garden and schools are encouraged to train students up to learn how to garden and harvest. What a smart idea! This philosophy reminds me of a certain proverb: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

I've really enjoyed this week so far. It is much slower-paced than the ten-week practicum that we just finished, but it has been very rewarding. At first it was daunting, thinking about how much work there was to do with weeding, planting and rearranging beds. But this week has shown me that gardening really is fun and rewarding, especially when done with great people. We set short term as well as long term goals which has helped to keep me motivated and interested. It is also satisfying to spend hours weeding and planting, then standing back to admire the fruit of our labour! I'm looking forward to the next few weeks at the Orchard Garden. 

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