Sunday, 24 July 2011

Saltwater City Youth Camp

Following on the heels of the CEDAR camp on Friday, yesterday we were joined by a relatively smaller camp as part of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society.  The young teens weeded, harvested and planted vegetables (bok choi, mustards, gai lan) in the Chinese market garden as well as other parts of the garden.  The afternoon culminated with a garden salad using mustard greens and bok choi as well as other standards such as red romaine and radishes.

The historical objective of inviting this camp to the garden is to honour the past and present agricultural contributions of  Chinese farmers in Vancouver as well as throughout the Pacific Rim. As our team is all of European descent we have relied on the expertise of local Chinese farmers as well as board members from the Chinese Canadian Historical Society.  One such expert is UBC History Professor, Henry Yu, who raised an important point as we were about to eat our salad yesterday.  Historically, Chinese would never eat salad or other raw vegetables for the simple reason that human excrement was used as a regular and powerful fertilizer ("night soil"), requiring all vegetables to be cooked prior to consumption.  Not only is this valuable information regarding the multiple ways cultures engage with the land, it also reminds us of the diversity in ethnic cuisines and the farming methods that have informed these traditions.  This project continues to highlight the many ways in which different cultures grow and eat food- a neglected aspect in many learning gardens.

On the campers second visit in mid-August we will be preparing a more traditional Chinese evening meal with vegetables from the garden.

I handed over my camera again today- all photos are from the children in the camp...

Friday, 22 July 2011

CEDAR Aboriginal Youth Camp

Our largest group by far- nearly 70 people (kids and adults) joined us in the garden today for an afternoon of work, play, and eating.  Children planted native plants (including Labrador tea, huckleberries, and nodding onion), began construction on a raven scarecrow, harvested produce and made herb dip & lemon/cucumber/mint water to share, and painted signs for the garden.

I handed over my camera to the kids with the instructions "take pictures of your work".  The following photos and quotes are all from the kids.

"Can we grow pineapples in this garden?"
"My grandma cans peaches and apricots."
"Last year we made huckleberry jam."
"It's that pizza smell!" (oregano)
"My wish is that the garden had a huge strawberry as huge as our circle."

"I picked four peas."  
"I learned that you can eat lavender."
"My wish is that the garden could have a huge cedar tree in the middle."
"How do you spell rosemary?"
"Here, you can have a turn."
"Can I take some home for my mom?"

"I learned that when you're planting something you have to water it first."
"I learned that plants have to be planted first and then they can grow."
"My wish is that more kids could come back to the garden and do what we did."

Yes, I have a good camera- but these photos are amazing, aren't they?  I smiled to myself watching them carefully put the strap over their head, thoughtfully composing their shots ("get your hands in there so it looks like we're working...").  One child wrote out our entire herb dip recipe in careful script.  Of course there was also tree climbing and chasing and lots of "listen up!"- a learning experience for all involved, and looking forward to future partnerships of this kind.

Outdoor education in the garden

It's hard to keep up with all the groups in the garden these days!...
Last week we were glad to have an undergraduate outdoor education course spend the afternoon with us weeding, planting Fall carrots, parsnips and kohlrabi, making salad, and discussing ideas for outdoor education centered on sharing food.

Visioning charrette

On July 15 we held our first visioning charrette with all members of the current garden/education team.  Previous sessions have been held but this was a first for those of us directly working on the site this summer.

Challenging and important discussions were held on the potential for overlap between production and educational objectives.  A five-year plan was sketched out with The Orchard Garden acting as an important resource for both UBC and the city of Vancouver.  Professors and students gathered over beers and a salad from the garden, pouring over base maps and "guiding principles".  Many decisions are yet to be made- not all of them easy to make as we acknowledge multiple agendas within our group.

Four hours into the session, only the students remained- wrapped in blankets against the rainy cold, hashing out ideas and proposals.  The passion and commitment to this site and this project are electric.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Think & Eat Green Summer Institute

50 teachers from the Vancouver School District gathered for the Think & Eat Green inaugural Summer Institute held in The Orchard Garden.  Over the past 3 days this group participated in multiple workshops on basic gardening skills as well as curriculum integration of garden-based learning.  With a focus on sustainability and food security, this conference was inspired by the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California and is unique to the city of Vancouver.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.

On the third day Veronica Gaylie led a workshop on Ecopoetry- the following poems were created spontaneously in the garden.

The heart of Fava --- Julia
I have seen your roots
nodes swollen, bloody
But now I stand, eye-to-eye
trying to understand, know,
love, become you
You, tall like me,
One amongst many
Staring down the length of
your thick, 4-sided stem
From our dizzying height
I nibble your brie-y leaves
faint fuzzy untouched
by the aphids to come
How to describe your
improbable flowers?
beckoning dark delights
gentle strokes  on
shimmering wings?
Between you, me, the bee
traversing transparent air
I bite, chew, swallow green juices
She sucks les jus des fleurs.

O Fava! – Susan 
Consider the bean, the fava
Flower like a white fly
With obscene purple-black heart
Perched in the crotch of branches
On that unnaturally squared-off stem.
Congregations of matte green leaves
Crowded into existence;
Backwash of a wispy green tendril
Ducktailing behind.
This is the Chicago of beans,
Brash, raucous, masculine, shoving
Firmly erect
The second city of the beans.

The Heart of Fava - Stephanie
Leaves are fabric smooth; a very well-dressed plant
Patter of little ladybug feet and oozing aphids...
The greens coat my tongue with fabulous oils
And the smell is just as rich – like stew

A lovely garden dinner was served for 70 people on Wednesday evening, complete with bouquets and produce from the garden.

Surely the first of many Summer Institutes to come- this year's was blessed with sunshine and an incredible community of educators.

the power of sun

6 days in a row of sunshine:  a record for Vancouver. at least since i've been here.  

the warmth has coaxed 

poppies to bloom & swell...

and a sea of fragrant buckwheat to erupt in waves

yet still cool enough for a second round of baby salad greens.

our Chinese Market Garden is shaping up nicely- mustards, Pak choi, Gai lan, radishes, spinach, chives, and cabbage should be perfect for the kids camp in 2 weeks (see the bed design on the 'Design' tab of this blog)

hairy melon, bitter melon & long beans on the trellises

and our new Goji berries are in full bloom...