Farmer Andy was proud and happy. He had just finished unloading the holiday produce baskets and they were all lined up on the ground by the apple tree in front of Lake Country School. There were fifty large wooden baskets, each filled to the brim with delicious Land School produce. Andy looked at the baskets and was thinking about what to do next, when the first customers arrived.
"Can I just take any basket?"
"Yes, they are all the same."
"Wow! This is heavy. I'm going to need some help."
"Do you have any extras?"
"Nope. They are sold out."
The people came and paid and picked up their baskets. One by one, the baskets disappeared. Everyone was happy and some stayed and talked, since the late fall afternoon weather was still relatively warm.
By 4:30 pm it was slowing down and just then Kathy came back. At first Farmer Andy thought maybe she had forgotten something, but that wasn't why she came back.
"Andy, I am so pleased with the basket, I want to write a thank-you note to the Land School staff. I brought my stationary and I just need your help to make sure I thank everyone involved."
"Well Kathy, I hope you brought a lot of stationary, because there is a long list of people who helped make the holiday baskets this year."
"No problem. I brought extra."
"First, you should know that everyone at the Land School helped. Donna, Kate and Anne all worked hard to make the baskets happen this year. But there are also a lot more people who helped. In fact you might need to thank almost everyone in the whole school."
Farmer Andy had an idea. He was busy selling the baskets, but maybe Kathy might have time to go all around Lake Country School and ask people how they helped with the baskets. It will be like solving a puzzle. Then she could write all of her thank you notes. He told Kathy about his mission for her and she agreed to do it.
"I think your first stop should be Children's House." said Andy.
With that, Kathy set off on her adventure. She soon found Aaron cleaning in his classroom.
"Aaron, I am trying to solve the mystery of who helped to make the holiday baskets, so I know who to thank. Can you help me?"
"I don't know. What goodies are in the basket this year?"
"There are winter squash, potatoes, garlic, leeks, broccoli, kale, carrots, popcorn, turnips, beets, a pint of maple syrup, a recipe sheet, and two hunks of cheese."
"Wow. Well, I don't know about everything else, but do I remember last Spring when Andy and Donna came to our classroom and the children planted squash seeds in soil trays. The children also go out to the Land School with their families in the summer to help in the garden. So you could probably write a thank-you note to the Children's House children for their help planting. "
Kathy was pleased. She had success on her very first stop. Next she walked upstairs to Elementary 1. She ran right into April, who was just walking down the hallway with her own holiday basket. What luck!
"Please April, do you have a minute?"
"Of course Kathy, let me set this down. It is very heavy."
"I am trying to solve a mystery. Farmer Andy said that the whole school helped with the holiday baskets. And if I want to write a thank you note, I need to find out the names of everyone who helped. Do you know if any E1 students helped out?"
"Hmmm...." said April, as she looked at some papers on her desk. "Here it is," she said and she pulled out a report and handed it to Kathy to read. It was written by a girl who had gone to the Land School to observe birds last week. But most of the story was all about how fresh and delicious the carrots were that she helped harvest for the holiday baskets.
"I have lots more like that one," said April. "On Wednesdays Mr. Fitch takes small groups of E1 students out to do projects at the Land School. Lately, they have been busy harvesting carrots and other roots for the holiday baskets. Did you know that carrots get sweeter after the first frost?"
Then April handed her one of the carrots from her own basket. "Just try it and see for yourself."
"Why thank you so much April for the carrot and for solving part of the mystery, I guess I should write thank you notes to Mr. Fitch and all the E1 children too."
"They would like that very much."
Kathy felt good as she climbed the stairs to Elementary 2. And she already knew she was going to love the carrots in her basket because the one April gave her was sweet and delicious. She met Mindy on the steps. Mindy looked like she was on her way out for the day.
"Hello Mindy. Are you in a hurry? I just have a couple questions for you."
"No problem Kathy, lets go back up to my classroom."
When they arrived at her classroom, Mindy brought out a bowl of popcorn.
"Would you like some popcorn? We popped some at the end of the day and there was some left over."
Kathy grabbed a handful and said "Is this the same popcorn that is in the Land School holiday baskets?"
Mindy said, "It must be. Class H planted popcorn in the Spring and and then we went out and harvested the popcorn a few weeks ago. The harvest was really fun, and now we have popcorn in the classroom for occasional popcorn parties."
"Well, thank you Mindy, that solves that mystery. Do you know anything about the rest of the holiday basket? I still need to know about the broccoli, kale, leeks, potatoes, garlic, recipe sheets, maple syrup and cheese."
"I don't know about the rest, but Class H planted and weeded the garlic. Every fall we go out and plant over 3500 cloves of garlic and then in the spring Class H goes out and helps pull weeds in the garlic. There were also some of my E2 students who helped with the garlic harvest last summer at the annual Garlic Festival at the end of the week of their E2 Farm Camp."
"Well, Mindy, it sounds like your class deserves two thank you notes."
Mindy smiled as she packed up her books to head home for the day. It was good to see her friend Kathy. As she walked away she said, "don't forget to check in with the other E2 teachers."
Kathy now had a long list of thank you notes to write, but she knew the mystery wasn't all the way solved, so she stopped next at Class G.
"Hello?" said Kathy, to what appeared to be an empty classroom. She was about to walk away when up popped Juli from behind a bookshelf.
"Come on in!" said Juli.
"I was hoping you could help me, I need to know if any students from Class G helped with the holiday baskets. You see, I am trying to write a thank you note to everyone who helped."
"What a great idea." Said Juli. "The children write thank you notes all the time, but I know they would be very happy to receive one too. Hmmm. Let me see here. Class G helped twice with the Thursday market harvests, and also helped to get ready for the Harvest Festival this year. Part of getting ready for the Harvest Festival was to harvest and wash winter squash. That was a big job, but it is so great see all of the clean squash drying in the Land School greenhouse. I bet some of those squash ended up in the baskets."
"It sounds like Class G did a lot of harvesting," said Kathy.
Kathy thanked Juli and moved on to Class F. Erin was at a table looking over some papers.
"Knock, knock" said Kathy with a smile as she entered Class F. Erin was a new friend, and Kathy was glad she was still around today.
"Oh hello Kathy, what brings you here?"
"I am solving a mystery. And I am almost done. Farmer Andy said almost everyone in the whole school helped to make the holiday baskets, and I am writing a thank you note to every person who helped. Do you know if Class F helped?"
Erin laughed a little as she stood up and gave her own shoulder a little rub. She walked over to a corner of the room where a small bag of red potatoes sat on the counter. "My shoulders are still a little sore from the day Class F went out to harvest over a ton of potatoes from our potato patch. I am sure some of those same potatoes are in your holiday basket. There were Yukon Golds and Red Norlands, I know, but also other varieties. Class F also planted all of the potatoes last May - we planted over 400 pounds of seed potatoes."
"I will be sure to send a big thank you to all the planters and harvesters from Class F." said Kathy.
Kathy looked out the window. It was already well past 5 o'clock and she wasn't sure she would find anyone in the Junior High. She hoped she would see someone she knew. She walked down the hallway and there was her very own granddaughter.
"What a surprise!" said Kathy. "I was just thinking about you! I am almost done with my mission. Then maybe we can go for a walk and catch up."
"What is your mission? Can I help?"
"Maybe. I am trying to figure out how the Junior High students helped out with the holiday baskets."
"I don't know, but some of my friends are still down in Extended Day, and maybe they'll know. Let's go down."
So Kathy and her granddaughter walked down and found a group of Junior High students. As it happens, they were already talking about the Land School Farm Stay. Kathy knew all about the Farm Stay, from her granddaughters' stories. Every Junior High student has the opportunity to go out and live at the Land School for 17 days some time during the school year.
"Do you know if any Junior High students helped with the holiday baskets?" said Kathy.
One student said "I know on Farm Stay 1 this year we harvested a lot of carrots, potatoes, broccoli, kale, turnips, beets, and leeks. Some of those probably went into the holiday baskets."
Another student added "On Farm Stay 3 last year we helped tap trees and make the maple syrup. That was hard work, but the syrup is soooo good."
Yet another student jumped into the conversation, "Last year on Farm Stay 4 we had a big planting day, and many parents and families came out to help plant things. I remember planting the leeks with my dad that day. The baby leeks were just like little pieces of thread. You could hardly see them. It is hard to believe how big they are now. We had some in the stone soup the other day when Farm Stay 1 came home."
Finally the fourth student said "I probably helped more than any of you. I was out at the Land School last summer for a Summer Apprenticeship. I was there for a whole week and we did nothing but work in the garden. We planted kale and broccoli transplants, we weeded the whole farm and then we harvested on Thursday. I have never worked so hard in my whole life."
"Thank you all so much" said Kathy. Then she turned to her granddaughter and said "let's go see if Farmer Andy can help with the last two mysteries."
They walked up the stairs and went outside into the dark parking lot. The sun had gone down while Kathy was inside investigating. Farmer Andy was there and there were still a few baskets left. He smiled at the two of them and asked them to come on over.
"Did you solve the mystery of the unaddressed thank you notes?"
"Almost." said Kathy. "We just need to know who to thank for the recipe sheet and the cheese."
Just then a car pulled up and out stepped Beth, a former Lake Country parent. She was here to get her basket.
"Kathy! It is so good to see you! How are you?"
"I am well, thank you" said Kathy. "I just have a little to go in the mystery I am trying to solve."
"Maybe I can help."
"Maybe" said Kathy " I need to know who to thank for the recipe sheet in the holiday basket."
"That's me!" said Beth. "I contributed a few fall recipes from my new cookbook."
"Well, what a nice coincidence! I'm excited to see the rest of your cookbook because those recipes look very tasty. Now I only have to find out about the cheese."
Kathy's granddaughter was listening and she said "Oh grandma. I do know about the cheese! It came from the Bolen Vale Cheese Store. We get all of our dairy products for the Farm Stay from Bolen Vale. They have meat sticks, milk, cheese, butter, and they even rent movies. Donna loves to shop locally and support small businesses, plus they have the best milk ever. I remembered that as soon as I saw the brochure in the baskets."
"Thank you so much!" said Kathy. "Now I have all the information I need to write my thank you notes. I had no idea I was going to have so many people to thank."
Farmer Andy watched as Kathy and her granddaughter walked away. He was happy because the last car had just arrived to pick up the last basket. It was time to go out and celebrate the end of another bountiful season for the Lake Country Land School gardens.