Saturday, April 30, 2011

Walking through the woods

Walking through the woods, the calming silence sinks into my body. I take a deep breath in, fresh pure air flows into my lungs. It was the feeling of carelessness that came over me at that moment. Looking around seeing only earth’s creations in still silence. But yet- it wasn’t silence. Everything was screaming out loud. Dancing, as they grew taller, singing as the wind whistled through the trees; As if it was an entirely different world.
            The chilling breeze whipped around my face, playing with me as it continued its journey. The small growing plants hid under the dead leaves. It is the season of new birth- of new creations. As one creature died, another grew in its place. The heavy rainfall had washed away the loose dirt, revealing old rocks and ancient tree roots. How long has all of this been here? The question was posed in my mind. I walked- only thinking of what surrounded me.
            Hidden under the protection of the leaves, a bloodroot flower bloom popped its head out- observing the growing world around it. “Good morning” it seemed to say. I looked up at the muddy path ahead- my mind had opened. I was free.


Thursday Journal

Today it is the second day at the landschool.
Today I woke up at like 6:45 and signed up for the breakfast jobs,  I chose the condiment and juices job.
I had a blueberry jam sandwich and Andy came in and told us that we were supposed to be at the farmstead doing farm chores, but no one had told us so everyone just hurried up and I was still on my pajamas so I had to change very fast.
Then, Andy  showed us how to do the chores and we came back after he finished.
We finished our jobs and had math. Then we had "scenarios" and I had to act a major cut with Patty. Then everyone was so tired and Andy and Donna gave us nap time!
Then we had to choose our Occupations, and I am with Donna.
Then we had chili for lunch. After lunch we had CE/PE and we talked about what work our ancestors did, then we went for a hike and then worked in our journals.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Climbing Tree

by Aidan

While climbing the Climbing Tree and sitting at the top, I realized how lucky we are to be here and how beautiful the land is around us. Even though it was a bit cold and windy and being up so high made me a little bit frightened, I got the chance to soak in my gorgeous surroundings.

Once getting to the top I could see the fields and woods around me. First off, the woods were so crowded and full it almost felt like we were enclosed in a big giant room. And secondly, looking over to the fields made me realize how much open, lush, green and marvelous space there is up here.

Also, when looking around, it made me realize that the tweens with me and I are so lucky to be able to have such an experience, and how the whole school is fortunate to be able to have a farm like ours. I feel it helps the kids of LCS notice that the environment is so precious and that it should be taken care of as much as possible. The hike we went on today was one to remember and it helped me see the real beauty of the LCS Land School.

some sort of weird exotic mushroom Donna found

We found a large fallen tree and climbed it.... very exciting!!!

Claire+Brigid= besties

All of the Farm Stay kids scattered around the fields

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Welcome Farm Stay 4

Today we welcome Farm Stay 4. Thirteen young people who will live here for the next 15 days. Please check back here daily for updates and photos from the students.

Daffodils in front of the Homestead.

Also, currently snowing outside.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

rain rain go away

Today we awoke to over an inch of rain and then it rained all day. Right now, please don't go around saying things like "at least it is good for the farmers" because it isn't. The farmers, including us, need the ground to dry out so we can prepare the soil and plant. Then after the planting is done, the rain is wanted (but not too much and not all at once). Wait til we are in the middle of a drought and then when it rains say, "well, we sure needed that one." Not now. It sure did make the grass green up though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

E2 Small Group

 Today a small group from Class F came out to help with the greenhouse. We filled pots for raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb and grapes and then potted them up. Then we took a hike to the treehouse. 

The weather was just gorgeous. Where yesterday we only saw one spring beauty flower in all of the forest, today they are everywhere. Also we have seen our first bloodroot in flower and best of all, there are tree swallows swooping all over the prairie. They will compete with the bluebirds for those nest boxes.

Donna filled the suburban on her grocery shopping trip today. It is a sight to see when we have to shop for 17 people for 15 days. Piles and piles of food. Donna has her systems down! Can't wait for the Farmstay 4 students to come on Wednesday.

Spearmint for the plant sale

Hiking to the tree house

Pearl. Chillin.

Today's work. Raspberries, Grapes, Asparagus, and Rhubarb for the Plant Sale

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Recipe - Nettles

Braised Stinging Nettles with Mushrooms

Yesterday we took scissors and gloves and harvested the first nettles of the year. Nettles are seriously irritating to the skin if you handle them with bare skin, but cooking them removes the sting and makes an awesome spring superfood.

Take a big plastic grocery bag of nettle tops (top 3 inches or so) and rinse them under cold water in a colander. Then chop stems and leaves into small pieces (about an inch). Set Aside. Now peel and chop several cloves of garlic and begin to saute in a generous amount of olive oil in a large wok or frying pan. Don't burn the garlic. Add some chopped pieces of the edible mushroom of your choice (we used crimini). Once the mushrooms start to brown a little add all of the chopped nettles. Stir the nettles as they cook so everything changes color and absorbs the garlicky mushroomy olive oil. Cover and simmer on low for a few minutes. Grind salt and pepper to taste and grate some flavorful hard cheese over the top of everything. Serve as a side dish or toss with pasta.

Internet image of stinging nettle shoot.

April is Poetry Month

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Okay. This is a beautiful poem that captures the transitory nature of youth. But until I lived here and watched the woods turn from silhouettes of dormant branches to the hazy look of a forest in full flower, I didn't get why "Nature's first green is gold." In fact the sugar maples have golden flowers that bloom for about a week before being overtaken by the leaf buds, whereupon the golden haze of the forest gives way to the green haze of full spring. As I write, the golden light of the evening sun is permeating the area around the farmstead. There is a strange power in these momentary phenomena. When on vacation I notice the sunsets more. Here, I only notice when they are spectacular, otherwise it is just another sunset. Or just another massive maple tree in full splendorous transcendent glory. Just that.

Stock photo from the internet of a maple flower. Any day now we'll get the real thing. Can't wait.
 Thanks to Wikipedia for the poetry text.


 One of our favorite spring songs. Please seek it out.

The Lilac and the Apple

The Lilac and the Apple
(Kate Wolf)

A Lilac bush and an Apple tree
Were standing in the woods,
Out on the hill above the town,
Where once a farmhouse stood.

In the winter the leaves are bare
And no one sees the signs
Of a house that stood and a garden that grew
And life in another time.

One Spring when the buds can bursting forth
And grass grew on the land,
The Lilac spoke to the Apple tree
As only a good friend can.

Do you think, said the Lilac, this might be the year
When someone will build here once more?
Here by the cellar, still open and deep,
There's room for new walls and a floor.

Oh, no, said the Apple, there are so few
Who come here on the mountain this way,
And when they do, they don't often see
Why we're growing here, so far away.

A long time ago we were planted by hands
That worked in the mines and the mills,
When the country was young and the people who came
Built their homes in the hills.

But now there are cities, the roads have come,
And no one lives here today.
And the only signs of the farms in the hills
Are the things not carried away.

Broken dishes, piles of boards,
A tin plate, an old leather shoe.
And an Apple tree still bending down,
And a Lilac where a garden once grew.

Spring Hike Photos

Elderberry flower buds

Shelf fungus. Don't break it off!

This is where the ephemeral spring was in the trail. Now just a hole.

Galls festoon a hickory tree.

Goldenrod galls from last fall. Note the holes where birds have excavated the wasp larva inside.

Mysterious fur found on the trail.

First Spring Beauty

The grass has already greened up around the remains of the llama shelter.

E2 Plant Sale Prep

Last Friday a little section of the Land School greenhouse arrived at the urban campus.  We brought a bunch of tomato plants and seeds and soil and peat pots and plastic trays in to the E2 commons and set up a station for potting on tomatoes and seeding flats of veggies. We had a full crew in the morning and in the afternoon and over 30 flats of veggies were prepped for the plant sale. Thanks so much to the E2 level students and teachers for their enthusiastic participation.

Making Labels

There are 216 sweet basil plants to label for the Plant Sale

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Phenology Updates

Today is April 21st.

Plants. Since we saw our first hepatica on April 12, we have not seen any woodland wildflowers bloom. The trees continue to bloom, but really have not progressed since the 12th either. The elms, red maples and now the aspen are in flower. Out driving today we saw cattails emerging from the ponds along the roadside. Yesterday I saw sapsucker holes on a maple tree that were weeping sap.The daffodils have been up and ready to bloom for two weeks. They just need one warm day. This weekend?

Birds/animals. Yellow-rumped warblers have been sighted. Bluebirds and robins seem to be everywhere. Chickadees continue to tee-hee call. Turkey vultures have been around for maybe two weeks now. I have not seen or heard any sand hill cranes flying over lately, but that might be because we have not been making maple syrup and I have not been spending long periods of time outdoors. The new bees are here, but they have nothing to forage yet, so Doug has been feeding them sugar syrup, which they have been gobbling up.

Human Phenology: We took the taps down on April 12th. But the recent weather has me wondering if we took them down too soon. Sap has flowed for sure during the last week, but probably it would be too starchy for good syrup. We would not have had time to boil sap anyway because we have super busy in the greenhouse. The plant sale stuff is essentially ready except for the tomatoes, berries, and labeling. The second greenhouse was started this week and is already half full. We need some warm days to make the basil grow big for the plant sale. Warm nights will save on the propane.Our neighbors have actually been out discing in last year's corn stalks. I think our fields are probably still too wet to work. We need some warm dry days so we can get out there and prep the garden soil. Today Donna drove the suburban down to the collapsed shed. It was the first time anyone has driven on the yard without getting stuck since last fall.

Weather: We had snow this week on Tuesday and last night there was dense fog, which settled into a thick frost on the windshields of the vehicles. Every night this week has been below freezing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

JH Overnight, E1 and E2 Visits, Friends School

Junior High Visit Last Monday and Tuesday
Last week our entire Junior High came out for two days on the land. The stewardship groups each made great strides in their chosen areas. The animal care group helped shear the sheep and cleaned up the yard; the garden group mulched garlic and got things ready for the plant sale; the facilities group worked on the tree house, the hoophouse and the landscaping; the birds and bees group set up the hives for the summer and closed up all the nest boxes; the maple syrup/supernature group collected sap and finished the last of the syrup and then took down all the taps; and the trails and orchard group pruned and weeded in the orchard and put up new signs on the trails. We explored the land, ate heartily, and played until we were all quite tired. The sauna and campfire and stories were a perfect evening activity after all that physical activity.

 E1 Students Out on Wednesday
For each of the last three weeks Mr. Fitch has brought a different group of E1 students out to experience the Spring at the Land School. Each time they have done big important work, from getting the garden ready for the season to collecting sap for making syrup. Thanks to the students and to Mr. Fitch.

 E2 Visit
We visited each of the E2 classrooms last week on Wednesday. Each classroom connects with the Land School in unique ways and so our visits renewed those connections. In Class F we talked about potato planting, in Class G we talked about the orchard (we need to replace some trees), the prairie (burn this year) and the three sisters garden (new varieties to try and why), and in Class H we brought in some of the popcorn they grew last year (it pops!) and gave an update on the garlic that they planted last fall (it is all up). In addition we brought seeds and broccoli family plants to seed and pot up for the plant sale and we set up work station in the commons. What a day! They did a lot work. Thank you so much, E2!

 Friends School visits
Last Friday we were happy to host the 4th and 5th graders of the Friends School. We divided into stewardship activities and had a lovely morning getting to know them while getting much needed projects done on the farm. They were in the midst of a week full of field trips related to the food system.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Junior High Students Reflect on Country Days, with Words and Photos

The snow has gone.  There was almost no trace of the dreadful season we call winter that sadly consumes 6 months of our year.  The hills were green, rolling like the waves in the ocean.  There wasn’t a trace of clouds lining the beautiful blue sky.

It is the season of life and death.  The ears of corn, dead corn husks and stalks lined the horizon.  Yet, small flowers were popping through the ground to say a much-needed hello.  The ground was covered in dead yellow grass, crisp as it crunched under your feet.  But more, younger, new grass was growing in – green and strong, just as the circle of life repeats.  New birth takes the place of death, bringing the world new light.

As I took my first step off of the bus, I inhaled the fresh spring air, the smell that I had been waiting for, for the longest time.  It is the smell of life.  This enchanting smell carried me through the day of work.

The work even represented what was happening with the season change.  We were putting away and cleaning from the winter and preparing to host new life, as the spring quickly comes upon us.



…Yesterday we worked on repairing and building a new hive.  I think Doug may be regretting the day he put me on a woodworking project.  My job was to build new frames for the bees to store honey.  When Doug did the demonstration it looked rather easy…the only problem was that the nails were super flimsy and almost always bent and they only gave us the exact amount of nails.  So we had to try to bend them back again.  So that did not really work…



Staying at the Land School was a blast.  Everything was a highlight.  However, my favorite part was when we split up into groups to explore nature.,,. I was in the Nature Art group led by Donna.  We did not get much done at all, but none of us minded.  Instead we climbed many trees, played in the ravine and made a bridge/fort thing (which we claimed was our art)….



…This was the last visit to the Land School for the year, and a great end to the visits as well.  It seemed to ring in the changes – it stood in likeness to the cycle of seasons during our visits; fall, winter, and now spring.  The weather, farm, and nature was beautiful this visit.  As the winter drew its clutches from the tired earth, the gray began to give way to the color we had almost forgotten.  The sun shone; the sky was clear and blue; white and purple crocuses sprung up from the musty ground; the dirt, dusty wool coats of the sheep were sheared, revealing beautiful hues of browns, blacks, and tans; the creek ran over the dark leaves that had covered it…



…When we got there it started out as a normal Land School trip with stewardship.  In my group, Garden and Greenhouse, Anna, Josefina and I prepared for he plant sale by putting eggplant and pepper plants into peat pots, ready to sell for, I think Andy said $2.50 a plant (wow).  We were working in the greenhouse and it was VERY hot.  Long story short, I was VERY dirty and regretted wearing long jeans by the end.  After eating lunch at the campfire circle by the Long Barn, we made Ukranian Eggs (I love mine!).  Then we played thicket (ouch - - so thorny) and had free time.  In the evening we had a campfire and sang songs and told stories.  We also went to the sauna (loved the sauna)>  After a night of AWFUL sleep we went to stewardship.  I had a great day today!  I loved seeing the small barn burn down!  Overall, AMAZING trip and I can’t wait to go on farmstay!   Claire W.


During our two days we were at the Land School, the Birds and Bees group did a lot.  We discovered that our one hive did not survive the few weeks since we last checked in on it.  We then had to start two new hives.  We painted the boxes white and scraped off the dirt.  Then, after a while, a long while, we had two hives ready for the bees to bizz in the next day. 

We also checked in on the nest boses and found out that there was a red squirrel living in the twelve foot high nest box…

At the Land School we also cooked delicious meals and played extremely fun games.  And towards the end of the day we sat in a circle with the smell of smoke near our noses and told ghost stories, laughed, went to the sauna and enjoyed the outdoors.  Ora


I also really enjoyed our afternoon activity.  I was with Dave in a group where we were doing a cool thing that was called “sound drawing” or something.  We did some cool stuff like sitting in the woods and drawing where sounds were and what they were, which was really fun.  The woods we were in were also beautiful….

Today in stewardship we finished mulching the garlic bed (which accidentally took a really long time and we put herbs and things in peat pots.  We had tons of fun.

My almost favorite part was watching the shed burn.  It was amazing…
Anna S-C

Our stewardship was Trails and Orchards and we carried tipi poles and tools to the orchard.  We cut branches off the trees.  Anna and I cut weeds…. Today we put up signs on the trails and cleared the path…

For All Play, Doug took half the Junior High to play thicket.  First we played thicket in real thickets.  It was very painful.  Then we played thicket in the woods.

Bumpity bumpity bump,
The bus flew over a hump.
We went flying through the air and then
Landed on our rump.

We’re digging and digging, so dig.
So glad I got this gig
Potting plants and mixing manure
And finally mulching weeds.

Munching munchity munch,
We we just finished lunch.
We ate our last food from home
For a while; I have a hunch.

Walkity walkity walk,
The woods are full of thorns and stalks.
Our “Nature Art” hike without art
Just trees and dirt and talk.

Munching munchity munch,
The tacos are better than lunch.
We ate our first food from Donna
Which is worth a bunch.

Talkity, talkity talk
I sang right on a rock.
We met around the fire
At exactly 8 o’clock.

Sweating, sweating, sweat,
But then there’s that freezing jet
Of ice cold water from a hose
And after the sauna we’re wet.

Sleepy, sleepy, sleep.
We’re piled in a heap
Of sleeping bags and teenagers
And we can’t make a peep.

Risity, risity, rise.
The sun just hit the sky.
‘Kay fine! We’re up!  We yell out loud
As we open our eyes.

Munchity, munchity, munch. 
We had a feast for burnch. 
With pancakes, eggs and sausages
Were stuffed and lay on the bench.

We’re digging and digging, so dig.
So glad I got this gig
Potting plants and mixing manure
And finally mulching weeds.

Munchity, munchity, munch. 
We ate a Donna-cooked lunch
With spicy chili and sandwiches
And some chips for some crunch.

Crackly, crackly, crack,
The sky is turning black.
The powerful flames absorbing the wood
And all of the tin on the shack.

Talkity, talkity, talk,
I sat right on a rock.
We met around a fire
At exactly two o’clock.

Bumpity bumpity bump,
The bus flew over a hump.
We went flying through the air and then
Landed on our rump.

Amy G
(Sara’s editorial comment:  We sure did a lot of eating!  I tried to be true to the poem – goofy but some good moments for sure!)

Wow.  That was not just my last full group Land School visit, was it?  I’m in denial of the fact that this is my last year, that I am no longer coming to this school as a student.  12 years.  Yup.  That’s how long I’ve been here and the Land School has been a part of it, whether it was coming out with my mom when I was in Children’s House, or going on the Farm Stay now.  The Land School has always sort of been there… How many urban schools actually have that choice?



… I’ve been visiting this farm since I was 3 years old, and at 14 I’m still not sure I’m ready to let it go.  Ranging from 2 hours to 2 weeks, I could say the amount of time I have spent here has added up to a small/decent portion of my life.  I know this place and I love it…

Yesterday the Animal are group moved poop and pee all day.  So fun.  It was a tiring and stinky job, but I guess we had fun with it…Today we did a quick clean of the llama pen and then we had to shear/vaccinate the animals…

Cascades of land pouring out over the view,
Blue sky stretching beyond the tipping point,
Trees protrude from the earth, standing proud.
Houses are rare, and frankly unwelcome.

I see corn and deer and birds flying free.
My heart is unraveling like a seamstress’s thread.
One can’t help but wonder why some places
Are so beautiful and others are so not.

As buildings become more common,
I yearn for the place I have just sadly left.
It is curious, the saying, “Absence makes
The heart grow fonder” because it is true.

Dearest Land School of mine
How horribly I already miss you.

-- Raven

(Sara’s editorial comment:  Way cool how much these kids love the Land School – exactly what we wanted!)

…No bloodsucking ticks attached to me, no mosquito bites, a fairly good sleep on the concrete, no bad food.  The only low point was getting pink with sunburn…  My favorite activities were hanging out on the back porch Monday night, ghost stories around the campfire, and watching the back  building burn…..

Emma M

…I am in the Maple Sugaring stewardship group.  This time of year is a great time for our group because there is a lot to do, such as gathering maple sap and turning it into syrup.  That is basically what our group did.  We started out on the 11th making a fire at the boiling station and dividing up buckets.  We collected one barrel of sap, which is one gallon of maple syrup….In the morning…I boiled and filtered maple syrup.  After lunch we had chores.  I went to the campfire circle to clean up…Donna started the pig barn on fire.  It was very hot and cool.  I got soaked by Andy [with the hose, there for a safety precaution]…

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friends School, April Snow and Greenhouse Photos

Yesterday we hosted the 4th and 5th graders of the Friends School. They have a week of field trips related to the food system and we were happy to provide them a place to do some stewardship work. There were groups pulling up tomato stakes, clearing out the hoophouse, potting up plants in the the greenhouse, and improving the animals' environments. It was their first time coming to the Land School, and it was fun to connect with their wonderful staff and students. It was especially fun to compare notes with the greenhouse group about our respective plant sales. It was chilly yesterday and nice to work in the greenhouse, but today was even colder, with a fresh inch of snow.

Our first nettles, waiting to be harvested. Found on the south side of the chicken coop.

Confused daffodils.

Hanging baskets - combo for sun and shade, strawberries and petunias

Rosemary and in the background a blanket of tomatoes

Onions and leeks

Broccoli, potted up by  the E2ers on Wednesday

Lettuce ready to plant in the hoophouse. (or eat right now!)

Basil Sprouts

Daylily sprouts

Red Maple in full flower

Red Maple Flowers

Box elder buds, bursting.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

E2 Day of Land School Fun with Photos

Yesterday we had a great day visiting the E2 classrooms. We had a short presentation in each classroom where we talked about the happenings of Spring at the Land School and then we invited the students to come in small groups to help with seeding and potting up for the Plant Sale. We seeded or potted over 25 flats in a short period of time and there were also students who helped make labels for the plant sale.

In addition we brought in the Class H popcorn, which had not popped very well last fall. We had stored it hanging up in the greenhouse and that finished the drying process and it popped perfectly. Class H spent the rest of the day shucking the corn off the cobs and preparing to make popcorn. Yum!

potting up Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kale and Cabbage

Making labels for the Plant Sale

Class H popcorn to be served at the LCS Staff meeting.