Wow, the new school year is off to a rolicking start. First week back, garden students harvested over 30 lbs of produce in one class! Tangerines, papaya, and startfruit were falling into the baskets of eager children. Dozens of public school students got to pick a tangerine or starfruit and eat it, juice dripping everywhere, straight off the branch. The trees were planted by student gardeners three short years ago to help offset our school's carbon footprint. Sixth graders remember digging holes in the lava for the tangerine trees as third graders, amending soil with compost and bone meal, and rolling the pottless trees into their final growing place. How lucky to pick and eat the fruits of their labor.
Last week Ms. Melissa busted out her milking goats. One full grown milker, Nui Goat, and her recently weened baby, Ili Goat, joined us in garden class. I should say "starred" in class because the goats couldn't help but be the rightful center of attention. We talked random goat facts - prey animals so they are jumpy, domesticated for 8000 years, offering humans fuel, food, manure, milk, lawn-mowing, and hides - to demonstrate the animal's awesomeness. Students watched Ms. Melissa prep Nui Goat for milking and then milk her with the gentle hands of an old friend. Ms. Melissa even shared some of her all homemade goat cheese mixed with guava jelly and served on ricotta bread. Delicious!
Talk about udders and teets lasted all day. I didn't know goats have two teets where cows have four or that goat milk is naturally homogenized (creme and milk mixed rather than separated like cow milk). At least one child per class did not know that male goats don't make milk. Goats have striking horizontal pupils that allow greater depth perception than round pupils like ours. Goats are more fascinating that I game them credit for.
At first squeemish about watching someone milk an animal let alone trying goat cheese, children reconsidered when we started picturing hot cheese pizza or luscious ice cream. Many a favorite food comes from the udder of an animal. Why not consider this one that lives in our ahupua'a, is fed prime Kona vegitation, and Ms. Melissa's good friend?
Animals and the services they provide humans is notable. Is it better for our Island, for survival, to employ animals that are close to where we live? Is raw goat milk different than pasturized cow milks? If you want to survive off your own farm, is a goat a good animal to have around? How does knowing or personally farming the animals that provide food affect survival?
Important questions with great conversations for sure but far less convincing than the delicious creme of homemade goat cheese. Everyone except a few 1/2 graders thought Ms. Melissa's pupu creation was exceptional. Nui Goat was shy with most, but decided to lick on and gently nudge one fifth grader who has trouble in classroom settings but is a superstar in the garden. After class he came to me and said, "Ms. Krista, that was my favorite lesson ever."
Thanks Ms Melissa for providing such a unique and impactful opportunity for our gardeners!
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...