Thursday, June 30, 2011

I went to the Land School and it was okay - Photos

by Alice, Ruby, Shyamoli and Anna

Today is the last day of our apprenticeship. We're sad to be leaving the farm and all of the good times and memories we have had here. This apprenticeship has taught us many things (more than we expected). We planted, we weeded, we hoed, we cared for and tied tomato plants, we cared for the farm animals, we deep cleaned rooms, we painted walls, we learned about dog competitions, we cooked and we cleaned. It was wonderful to experience the Land School in the summertime in a smaller group. Not only have we learned a lot, but we've enjoyed our time here and wish we could stay longer.

Thanks to Shyamoli for sharing the photos!

Andy showing the root nodules of the field peas.

Cover crop of peas between the pumpkin rows.

Planting sweet corn.

watering sweet corn. 

Garlic in the garden. 

The Farmstead.

Using wheel hoes to weed the garden.

Anna and Alice


Ruby an Shyamoli

The hoophouse tomatoes. Orange twine for trellises. 

Snake skin found in the hoophouse.

Childrens House and E1 chicks

Miranda and Chick - R.I.P.

Miranda was one of our favorite chickens. She was hand raised by Adhina and Serena (at that time known as Pirate). She was genuinely nice to people and curious and liked to be picked up and petted and such.

A few months ago she got broody and started sitting on eggs in the barn. At first we discouraged her, but later we gave her a few to hatch out. She had another hen who was broody too and was trying to sit on the same eggs. So we let them share the eggs. Only one egg hatched, but both hens did their best to mother the chick. They were very cute.

We had a problem though. The red barn is not a very safe place for a hen to stay the night, but even less safe for a chick. So we put them in a cage and feed and watered them in the cage. After a couple weeks of that we moved them into the auxiliary coop with the 11 chicks that were hatched out by Childrens House and E1. They lived in the cage in the coop for a couple days and then we released them with the 11 chicks. The hens immediately terrorized the other chicks (presumably to protect their chick).

So then we put the two hens and chick in the regular coop in the cage. After a couple days to try to get them used to sleeping in the coop we released them in the coop. They did fine, but that night they were back in the red barn. They were sleeping in the hay feeder inside of the llama pen, so we thought they might be safe. And they were, for a week. Then one morning Miranda was gone. Vanished, without a trail of feathers or anything. Then two mornings later the chick was gone and the other hen was missing feathers. She was just walking around the red barn clucking for her chick. Very sad.

Tonight we'll forcibly move her to the chicken coop. They had survived for months in the red barn, but we should have known better.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recipe - Beet Green Egg Dish

You take a big pile of the beets that you thinned out of the row and wash them with the tiny beets still on. Chop them and set aside. Use more than you think you'll need because they cook down. Beat some eggs and set aside. Then chop some green garlic or garlic scapes and green onions and saute in a generous amount of olive oil. Medium heat. Once the garlic and onions have cooked a little (not burned), then add your beet greens. When the greens are sufficiently wilted, you can pour the eggs over them. Then you can scramble the eggs with the greens or let it set up with a lid on it like a frittata. Salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

Garnish with grated hard cheese or a red marinara sauce.  Or both.

Today we also had a variation on this combination for lunch with fried rice and stir fry spices. Also good.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bears Welcome Farm Apprentices

This week we are happy to have Anna, Alice, Ruby and Shyamoli here to work in the garden and take on big facilities projects.

Today we planted almost 2500 sweet corn plants and then they did some much needed deep-cleaning in the residential wings.

Tomorrow more planting and weeding and fertilizing. Also Tomato trellising.

Also. Jen and I saw two more bears yesterday! Definitely time to google what to do if you see a black bear.

Here's what I gathered:

1. Don't surprise a bear. Make noise in dense brushy areas with low visibility. Use "bear bells" or sing or clap occasionally. You can often smell that a bear is in the area. If you smell a deep musky smell, that is your cue to make more noise.
2. Never get between a bear sow and her cub. Likewise, always allow the bear a clear path of escape.
3. If the bear has not seen you, walk away in the other direction, or walk in a wide circle around the bear, upwind so the bear is less likely to smell you. If the bear has seen you, talk to it in a low calm voice. Bears have poor eyesight and talking will help them recognize you as human. Don't run away. Make yourself as big as possible and back away while talking to the bear and keeping your eyes on the bear, without making direct eye contact. If necessary, walk around the bear downwind so the bear can smell you and know where you are.
4. If a black bear engages aggressively with you, do not "play dead." First stand your ground and wave your arms or wave a stick to look "big" (courage!). The charge is most likely a "bluff charge." Then, if necessary, fight back (only for black bears). Climb a tree only as a last resort. Black bears can climb trees quite easily, but might lose interest if you are up a tree.
5. Don't feed the bears. Never, ever. This includes not making food or garbage available to a bear. It also includes not bringing food into your tent. This rule extends to some toothpastes. A bear that is habituated to eating people food and garbage will lose natural fear of people.
6. Don't panic. Black bears are very rarely aggressive to humans. If they know you are human, they will usually try to walk away.
7. Don't follow a bear or try to get close for a good photo.
8. In the event that a bear is at your campsite and about to eat all your food, try scaring it away by yelling at it.

The inclusion of the following links is not an endorsement, but just good for further reading.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Baby Birds

-by Laci
(help from Serena and Leighton)

For this entire trip we have been looking for baby animals that need a home, we tried cats and dogs but we couldn't find any. After 10 minutes of looking we gave up, our hopes and dreams were ruined.

I don't know if we were secretly looking or it happened on coincidence but as we were collecting straw for the garden, we found a baby bird, well, a teenage bird just about to leave the nest. But it was too early for it to leave, it fell, after continuous chasing and falls down a couple flights of stairs we finally got it in the box. Our new friend Anne happens to have a lot of experience with baby birds so she told us that birds go through a stage where they leave the nest but their parents are still there to feed them and help them get ready to go, so again, our hopes and dreams, poof. 

A day after that, today, we were again walking through the barn but this time for farm chores in the morning. We were walking away from the llama pen and we almost tripped on two extremely young baby birds, sadly their brother or sister was stepped on and long gone, but we picked up the two others. First we warmed them up and built a nest out of a tape roll and some tissues. Now there are two little happy, not so pretty babies living with us in our dorm room, eating every 15 minutes, although it is tiring making them oats in a blender, dog food salad or searching the garden for worms to chop up, it is extremely satisfying to know that on this trip we have not only worked hard for the Land School but also saved the lives of 2 babies which was more than our plan at the beginning.

Green Schoolyard interview

I found this by checking out Richard Louv's organization Children & Nature Network's website.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Nature Principle, Radio Interview

Richard Louv on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning. 

Click the link:

select program  110621E from Tuesday, 6/21/2011, 10:00 AM

Kathleen Dunn's guest argues that the future will belong to 'nature-smart' individuals, stating "The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need."

Guest: Richard Louv journalist, author, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder," and most recently, "The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder." Founding Chairman, "Children & Nature Network."

A to Z Produce - AKA the Pizza Farm, Photos

By Andy

Yesterday we brought our summer garden apprentices down to A to Z Produce, a farm near Stockholm, Wisconsin. We had been working hard for two days in the garden. The weeds had been on the verge of taking over the garden, and as a team we took on the worst spots. The leeks and carrots were just about beyond relief, but after Monday night's rain the weeds came out, thanks to an on-your-knees hand-pulling effort. Then we mulched the leeks with straw to avoid future problems. We also fertilized and weeded the beets, broccoli, basil, beans, onions and flowers. After two solid days of weeding we were ready to escape. The Pizza Farm beckoned.

Our friends Ted and Robbie have a unique farming model. Their farm, A to Z Produce, has grown into a weekly mecca for pizza lovers. Ted has worked as a chef for many years as well as being half of a farming team with wife Robbie and family. Several years ago they decided they decided to build a pizza oven and host weekly pizza sales, highlighting their fresh organic produce. This brilliant idea has taken on a life of its own. They now host pizza sales from 4:30 to 8:00 pm every Tuesday, and people come from all over to have mind-blowing pizza. Sometimes the wait for a pizza is well over an hour. And people are happy to wait! The pizza tastes great, and the additional bonus is that Ted and Robbie grow the wheat for the crust and all of the produce for the toppings. They also raise the pigs for the "happy pigs" sausage. A friend makes fresh mozzarella for them. 

We lucked out last night, because of the storms (we did not get wet), people stayed away and we only had a 10 minute wait. Yum.

Slicing the pizzas

a little bit of everything left over for tomorrow's lunch.

The new ordering area. Tre chic.

The lawn where people set up their tables to enjoy the pizzas.

The eaters standing next to the greenhouse


A to Z Produce is located on the rolling hills outside of Stockholm Wisconsin.

Our Peonies are blooming!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Best of Our Knowledge, Finding Home": Radio show

by Andy

Today I was driving into the Twin Cities and I flipped on the radio. Wisconsin Public Radio had just started the second hour of a program called "To the Best of Our knowledge." The second hour of this week's program focused on the importance for humans of forming a deep connection to a specific place and was titled: "Finding Home".

The program echoed much of what many of the Montessori adolescent programs around the country have been saying about the importance of rooting education in a specific place. Ohio Montessorian Pat Luddick is promoting something she calls "the Pedagogy of Place." In the Pedagogy of Place, history, science, math, social studies, everything is all taught through the lens of the specific place where the school is located. In thinking about adolescent education as an introduction to social life, we come to the idea that direct engagement in the community is the best way to prepare for a life of direct engagement in the community. It is a paradigm shift from a classroom-centered, state-standards-centered sort of education and it requires a leap of faith. In fact once you shift, you discover a depth of opportunities for learning within the context-rich place-centered learning. For a person to care for a place, it helps if that person knows and loves the place first. Adolescent practitioners have seen time and again that the students become engaged as young activists as a result of place-based curriculum.

It might be enough if we just give the children a specific place to know and love.

I offer the link to the radio program so you can listen for yourself.

Click on the link for 6/19/2011 at 1 pm

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blissful Rain plus photos

by Andy

The rain over the last two days was just the thing for the garden and the gardeners. A little over an inch in 24 hours.

After the extreme planting push of Monday and Tuesday, when the rain started to fall on Tuesday evening it felt like a blessing. The soil has been dry and the dirt clods have been hard like rocks, so kneeling would make little dents in my knees. Working with a trowel or a hoe would kick up dust and it would settle on me like another filmy layer of skin. But a rain like this softens the earth to the eye and to the touch. The rain settles the dust and gives the air a new clarity. All of the plants had been watered in at planting time, but the rain does an infinitely better job, not to mention all the potatoes, onions, and garlic that had been patiently waiting for a dose of agua.

The rain reduces my stress level and forces me to slow down a little, so while it was good for the garden, it was equally good for the gardener. My list of high priority things I could do during the rain was short, so Wednesday I planted in the hoophouses and then took a well-deserved nap. 

Today I snapped some photos of the garden to glory in the rain.

Our two moms; soon they'll be out and about with their shared chick.

Cross fingers, but it looks like it could be a good apple year.

There should be some plums too.

Summer carrots are up. That wet shiny soil will crust up when it dries out.

Ailsa Craig onions in the garden.

Chesnook Garlic. Big already!

The currants are coming along.

Roses by our driveway. The scent can be overpowering.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


by Andy

Yesterday we were working out in the big field, hoeing the pumpkins, when the call went up:


Okay, I did not take this photo (thank you, Google image). I was much farther away than this.

I looked up and sure enough about halfway to the Old Homestead area there was a big black bear walking along in the hay field. It was hard to tell at first if it was walking toward us or away from us, but just to be on the safe side we grabbed Pippa's leash and directed her attention away from the bear. Then we watched as it walked through the deep alfalfa hay, half disappearing in the lush greenery. When they say black bear, they really mean it, this bear was shiny jet black.

After watching it for a while, we saw a wild turkey fly away from the hay field right where the bear was. Was the bear hunting turkeys? Or maybe it had smelled out a nest or a clutch of turkey chicks. Or maybe just coincidence. After that the bear ambled quickly up and over the great divide and into the tree plantation area and out of sight.

It was the first bear that I had seen on the Land School property, although others have seen bears and we have definitely seen bear damage on the beehives and bird feeders. It is a thrill, but also it felt like a very safe bear encounter. The bear was over a 1/4 mile away and we were close to the Homestead and our dog was a the leash.

The other day when Donna was mowing the trails, she noticed a "not nice" musky smell and at first wondered if there was some stinky plant that had been clipped by the mower. After reflection, she speculated that there was probably a bear around, because they are known to have a stink not so unlike a skunk. And the last few hikes that Jen and I have been on have had that speculation wafting in the air. We have tried to smell for the bear, but nothing yet. Monday evening's hike was especially  magical. In addition to the possibility of a bear, we were greeted by a profusion of blackberry blossoms all along the trail. In the twilight, the blossoms stood out dramatically as the white in a black-and-white world. Then the fireflies starting going. There was also an unmistakeable floral scent, which we later identified as Virginia Waterleaf flowers. The timing of our hike made all the difference.