My latest plant crush is Ethiopian Kale. The silvery-green foliage can easily be your plant crush too. I like it so much, I finally dug up the rest of our grass to plant a fairy forest of this ancient Brassica. I love it as an easy guest to germinate and grow in my garden. Handy in low elevation, urban, tropical setting; Ethiopian Kale is a drought-resistant, Mighty Green yielding small shrubs of nutritious leaves, seeds, and stems. I hear they do well in cooler regions also. Simple to nurture and non-demanding; Ethiopian Kale seems eager to share bounty with my family.
Ethiopian Kale has deep history. Also called Abyssinian Kale, Texsel greens, Ethiopian mustard, highland kale, and Gomen zer, I feel the presence of generations that came before me when I harvest this plant from my garden. Preparing the leaves to eat recalls exclamations of multitudes all over the world admiring the tenderness of the leaves, wondering about the succulence of their juiciness even through the roughest of droughts. I know I am one in a long tribe because it was domesticated in Ethiopia over 6000 years ago. Even my teenage son who used to projectile vomit kale as a 6 year old, grindz Ethiopian Kale when its the star of any of these raw kale salad recipes. I believe he tastes connection - to history, to our lost tribe, to our found tribe - through the satisfaction of high nutrition fresh from the soil.
High in nutrients from seed to leaf, da buggah is powerful! I seriously envision the delicious leaf bunches pumping up my biceps when I nibble them fresh from my garden, but who knew it was also part of an experiment with aviation fuel from plant sources? In 2012, the first flight of a jet aircraft powered 100% with biofuel was firing on fuel made from brassica carnata.
The roughest corner of my small garden gets neglected of the compost I regularly supply the rest of my soil. More red cinder than black gold, the space also seems to collect bits of plastic and random feathers. Yesterday I discovered a little Ethiopian Kale germinated there. Small but strong. Green and good. I want to share seeds from my plant crush with you. Let me know if you want to join the tribe - grow Ethiopian Kale!
Check out the Roots Contest
When you are surrounded by water, surfing is a right. Wherever you go on the Big Island, the ocean is your front yard. Yet not all keiki get the opportunity to explore surfing and Kona's fascinating and unique surf history gets lost as generations loose contact with nature.
14 years ago I linked up with the most hard core group of bodyboarders I had ever met. They were raw and rugged with open gashes from reef wounds and hearts of penniless gold; wanting nothing else but to perpetuate their culture of wave riding and preserve their beach that was about to be converted into a condo. With my penchant for creating zero waste educational opportunities and being the sole operator of an email account, we joined forces to create Kona's only FREE contest to honor the birthbeach of bodyboarding - Wai'aha. Lael hunted a pig, I foraged for fruit, and before we knew it, 30 guys had signed up for our contest. 14 years later, we are two generations into preserving and perpetuating the cultural practice that brought us together. Wai'aha Beach Park is now a free public park. And the surf is still firing.
Many students thought meeting a "marine" meant they would be interacting with an ocean biologist. But after greeting and hearing the introductions of the 20 or so marines that came to IPCS to help trim trees, remove weeds, hang tiles, and paint, our kids knew "marines" as an arm of our nation's military might - the soldiers that bark "U-Rah!" when they are feeling stoked. The whole school even learned how to say "U-rah" to the approval of our soldiers.
I got to direct 10 marines in duties to help our school. I took them to rough landscape I saved just for them - riddled with rocks, pokies, and a sharp decline, I can not take students to maintain this part of campus. I thought the marines would slaughter the weeds and battle the uneven ground no problem.
Then I found out that one of the cannon gunners was scared of spiders. He almost refused the work after his inquiry about spiders revealed that they do indeed exist on our campus. He stayed to work with me after I explained I could not protect him if he was with the other working group.
It was a hot and humid day. After glancing over to see our 3/4 graders taking a break, I asked if any of the marines would like to try some of our school grown fruit. Tools were immediately discarded. Students were invited to harvest items they thought our guests might enjoy. Children scurried across campus to gather guava, lilikoi (passion fruit), oranges, Buddah hand. Students even brought fennel and mint; their favorite leaves to grind fresh from the garden.
The marines were champs - they nibbled fennel leaves, munched mint, loved fresh oranges, and devoured lilikoi. I relished in watching our students select meaningful foods to share with our new marine friends. The children got glee from watching these massive men suck on fennel branches with smiles and words of amazement.
The marines ended up bailing work and joining in school play. Some went to the music room, some marines joined extreme sports to play campus-wide Capture the Flag. These big men were running around like gazelle bounding off bleachers, scaling rock walls in one leap, and running around with huge grins like oversized fourth-graders. Smiles everywhere. High fives all round. Sweaty fatigue from hardy play.
A deeper understanding that big boys masquerading as young men fight our wars. Adult baby boys fire our cannons. Man-children wage our nation's battles.
I am full of joy that our students shared love and lilikoi with our marines.
It is mid-June and I am in Waimea with a group of garden teachers mostly from the BI but also from Oahu. We are gathered to formulate HI garden education standards and align them with HI education standards. Brainstorming a format. Creating a protocol. Naming and narrowing themes -each of which could save the world.
Knowing school garden curriculum will be read by a large swath of population and will be used from everything as a document to secure funding to a quick reference to making a classroom lesson was key. We are not writing out standards for us. We are writing them for the good of the system and the universality of the programs.
Way to go Hawaii. I hope our curriculum map can help direct our educational system towards a path of sustainability.
Did you know that kids have been growing food in school gardens in Hawaii for over a hundred years? Or that the first school garden broke ground on Hawaii Island (probably in Kona!)?
Check out the article from 1910 below. One story you will find:
"The first school garden was undoubtedly started by the early missionaries on the Island of Hawaii [original missionaries arrived in Kona in 1820]. They spent much of their time in teaching the natives methods of producing garden vegetables and field crops...the demand for instruction became so great that in 1830 an urgent petition was sent to the American Board of Missions asking for a number of instructors to train the Hawaiian people in agricultural pursuits..." The petition was signed by 15 high chiefs. As schools gradually developed, school gardens were born.
Read more by linking below.
Spring is in the air. Butterflies are everywhere and children are squirley.
Perfect time to wrap the school year up with healthy garden recipes grown, made, shared, by students.
Eat from a rainbow! Fresh fancy your foods!: My mantra for the last two weeks and next two weeks. To eat from a rainbow means eating all kinds different color foods from nature. Not skittle rainbow colors. At the end of the day, we should think back and note we ate a variety of different colors.
Fancy fresh your foods mean to find ways to sneak in some fresh foods into prepared foods like spaghetti sauce, saimin, smoothies, and quesadillas. A handful of spinach in a smoothie is a great way to camp something you don't really want to eat.
Last week, we fancied up rice with a stir fry from the garden. Colors like green, red, orange, yellow appeared. Kids started cutting and tearing. Chatting with each other in an ancient dance of humans - preparing food together. Smells started temping even the biggest doubter. Shoyu sealed the deal.
We ate everything on banana leaf plates with our fingers. Mostly. Students declared delight and horfed down seconds like it was bbq or something.
Kids will eat plain sautéed fennel and go off about how awesome it was on if they grew it. Even better if they cooked it.
Breaking the news about GMO to a group of JR Highers is heavy. They look at you with a weird stare and listen quietly. They remember technical words like genes and virus. They sit still.
Today we talked GMO. I taught this subject several times now, to different 7/8 graders. All reacted the same; almost like they'd been waiting for the information.
I tell them straight that Genetically Modified Organisms break my heart. I get choked up at the thought of GMO's wild in their world, left for them to deal with someday. I don't want to be the one to burst the bubble, but then, I do want to make sure all middle schoolers are introduced to the concept of gene modification before they vanish to high school.
Youth are waiting for the information. They don't get down about the psyco-knarly potential of GMO like I do; they are still kids. But I see their brains working, and every student takes the time to take the information in.
My co-worker Ms. Jenny told me today that she agrees with a youtube video she saw that says universal forces are working together with us Earthlings, to help and guide humanity in the right direction. I agree with them both. GMO-attentive middle schoolers are key to positive cultural evolution.
We had a casualty in class today; a sweet, espresso-brown speckled Hawaiian gecko. She got pinched between two bricks as some enthusiastic 3/4th graders worked together making a new bed. I walked up as the children were checking out the lovely reptile with the tenderness of respectful discoverers.
The gecko was laying so still in their hands because a pinky sized divot was gouged out of her abdomen. The sweet reptile was gasping for air with a wide mouth but laying perfect and still. The children were being gentle and kind in their handling but as I approached I knew Little Gecko was not going to make it. I asked them what the humane thing to do was. Should I put her down in an instant or bury her to suffocate for a while?
In a split second, the children went from frolicking in planting delight to staring death and suffering directly in the face. Before I knew it, these kids were deciding a critter's fate.
"Kill it fast." "It's not fair to make it suffer." "It was an accident." "We should make it quick so it doesn't hurt." "So sad." "Poor little guy."
With a handful of boys and girls in a circle around the gecko, I said a quick blessing. I said we were thankful for the life of the gecko, that we meant no harm to her, that we were sorry to see her go. Out of respect for her life, we would never choose her suffering. With no gecko hospital and no hope of recovery with a gash like that, we had no choice but to send her back to the soil.
It seems a little hardcore now but I used my large shovel to sever her and send it's body back to the garden. We touched the soil to send positive energy to the FBI who would be fed.
The children all picked flowers and special stones and made a mini shrine for the gecko in the middle of the new garden bed we had been making. Nick even grabbled a blue pen and a stick to make a headstone. "Geko. We love you."
We finally broke ground in our garden today! 7/8 graders planted a new papaya forest in expanded "community garden" space. 3/4 graders planted a whole patch of kalo. 1/2 graders planted a raised bed full of cilantro and 5/6 graders built a trellis and then planted green beans along its base. Using drenched shredded office paper to define beds and make a "paper trail" for our feet was a big hit and will hopefully remind students to walk with careful feet instead of tromping through the garden.
We harvested and made the world's biggest batch of salsa with 24 third and forth graders with the cherry tomatoes from their lanai garden. Classroom lead teacher Ashley Hedeman brought onions and chips. I borrowed some cilantro from the jr. high garden. All children worked together to pick tomatoes. All chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onions; squeezed fresh lime, sprinkled salt, or dashed pepper. The hungry hungry gardner mostly grinded it all. They topped it all with a classroom writing project about process papers on "how to make salsa." Ms. Hedeman was already impressed with student's choices of vivid words.
Busy day in the garden today and a wonderful way to make good use of the new moon. Students were hardworking and diligent and excited to plant food.
A third grade boy with big brown eyes and freckles raised his hand in reflection circle to share an observation from the day's work. We had spent the class moving rocks and clipping back invasive grass. In the process, we uncovered plenty worms; worms half the length of a spaghetti noodle and the circumference of an electric wire flopping around in their always fascinating Exposed Dance.
He said, "I noticed lots of FBI (Fungus, Bacteria, Invertibrates). And I noticed that worms help us dig. I was finding worm tunnels to get my hand in and help get out the rocks."
"What effect do you think worm holes have on the roots of plants?" I asked?
His eye brows shot up and he said, "I know! The roots can use the holes to grow!"
And poof, just like that these brilliant young gardeners put together something I had to study to know. I read that worms help aerate the soil and provide paths for stretching roots in a book somewhere when I was learning about worms so I could teach about them in garden class just seven years ago. And this boy just taught himself, from his own hands in the soil, at nine.
Ms Krista says:
Everyday encounters with real garden sprites; tortuous panorama of the surf; old-growth collards; machete lessons; mantis rehab; pesto pasta. Days as a public school garden teacher on the Big Island are filled with unexpected gems of wisdom and infinite inspirations. Introducing my life as a school garden teacher...