Friday, February 7, 2014

Our Garden Blog has a new home!

Welcome! Our blog has a new "home" and a new address. You can now find Soil to Snack recipes, pictures, garden activities and more at the Blog section of the IslandWood Home page. Please let us re-direct you. Click Here to go to the new Blog.

And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment here (I still monitor this page), or on our new blog page under the "comments" section. We love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gardeners with Grateful Hearts...

An amazing thing has happened in our IslandWood greenhouse! Where we once had rotting garden boxes that were leaking soil and water, we now have lovely and strong NEW garden boxes. We also have a new irrigation system, and a freshly cleaned and organized space. With the help of our overnight students, we even have newly planted indoor winter crops. The greenhouse has been transformed! And it will host many children this season as we move into Winter garden lessons.

As we look around at our renovated greenhouse, Jen and I have full, grateful hearts. It took many people volunteering their time, talents and financial support, to turn our dreams into a reality. We are so thankful for our community!

To get started on this project, we needed financial support.  This came to us in the form of a generous grant from The Lieter Family Foundation. Their grant enabled us to repair our greenhouse beds, design and install a reliable irrigation system, purchase grow lights, and improve our educational signage. Without this grant money, we wouldn't have been able to even start our project.

We spent many hours considering what type of material to use for our garden boxes. We needed a material which would be both long-lasting and safe for growing food.  We settled on cedar, knowing that we could be 100% certain of its safety, and that it would last a reasonably long time.  David Kotz of Coyote Woodshop on Bainbridge Island generously discounted some beautiful cedar to use for our greenhouse box material.  The cedar is a full two inches thick, and we have some beds which are twelve inches deep and some which are eight.  These will be really healthy spaces to grow vegetables in all year 'round, and should last for many, many years.

And finally, in order to make repairs we needed volunteers!
Rebecca and Patricio-- two IslandWood Graduates who work in the garden

Jessica and I--another one of our "grads" who happens to also be a 'builder extraordinaire'

Brian--Lead builder and volunteer (also my husband!)
Without the dedication of both time and talent by our volunteers, we would not have these beautiful new garden boxes. And Jen, who was both building and cleaning, also helped keep our volunteers going by providing delicious homemade snacks and plenty of water. It was a fun day! Seeing a project come together--especially a community project--is always inspiring.

We now have lush, new crops growing in our greenhouse which will help us continue to offer tastes of fresh food to our students throughout the winter.  Just in time too, as our outside garden beds are going dormant in the cold weather.  And with the addition of our new light box, we'll be able to do some fun science experiments with our students about the affects of light on plants.

Beautiful young lettuces
Kale growing with vigor

We are so excited about the teaching possibilities we have with our improved greenhouse, and the ability to truly grow food year 'round.  We have many lessons to teach and as every gardener knows, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference.  We enter into these dark, winter days with a lightness of spirit. So it is with full hearts that Jen and I say THANK YOU!!  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roasted Fall Veggies

digging for potatoes

Fall is a wonderful time to roast vegetables! And the garden is a perfect place to find delicious vegetables to roast and eat. Kids from Lincoln and Northgate Elementary Schools were able to harvest some pumpkins and squash, leeks, carrots, beets, and potatoes and make a tasty snack.  Here is the recipe!

Fall Roasted Vegetables

-  Peel the potatoes, carrots, and beets and cut them into pieces that are about as wide as a finger and about 1 ½ inches long. 
-  Scoop the seeds out of the squash and small pumpkins, and cut them into pieces about ½ by two inches long.  You can take the peel off or leave it on if the skin is thin. 
-  Cut the root and dark green leaves from the leek and cut it the long way.  Use scissors to cut the leek into 1-inch pieces.
-  Toss all of the vegetables with olive oil and place them single layer on a baking tray.  Bake them at 375 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes.  You should watch them closely and have an adult help you check if they are done by poking a fork in them.  They’re ready to eat when they’re soft and lightly brown.  Delicious!

What else could you roast in the oven?  What about zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, or yams?  The answer is yes!  Very hard vegetables (like yams) may take longer to cook, so you can chop the pieces smaller, or put them on their own baking sheet so they can stay in the oven a little longer.  This is a wonderful time to experiment in the kitchen and find out which veggies you love the most.  Enjoy!

Celebrating fresh food and fun cooking!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Greenhouse Stewardship Project--Part 1

A beautiful tomato harvest from the greenhouse
In the IslandWood garden, we have many cycles.  We have our soil-to-snack food cycle, our compost cycle, and even the cycle of our seasons.  But one of our most important cycles, is the Stewardship cycle.

Pulling out the old tomato vines
When an IslandWood SOP Team does a stewardship project, they are actively engaged in the stewardship cycle.  Whether they are planting, weeding, composting or slug hunting, they are helping to care for our garden and ensure that we have a healthy garden-- full of yummy food-- for the next groups of students.

A wheelbarrow full of old tomato vines and proud smiles of a job well done!

Harvesting peppers
We gave Team Lightning, from Madrona Elementary, a big stewardship project.  We've been working to replace our rotting garden boxes inside our greenhouse, and we still had some plants to harvest and soil to move before we could begin work on our new garden boxes.  Team Lightning had tremendous teamwork and their hard work helped us to make huge progress toward our goal.

Plus, they got to harvest some delicious tomatoes, planted by some previous groups of students, while they worked.  They tasted green zebra and stupice tomatoes and sweet peppers--yum!!
Super strong, and happy, students moving out old soil.

Great Teamwork!
Team Lightning had so much fun digging and moving soil that they stayed long past their scheduled time!  Digging in the dirt can be really fun--especially when you are working with friends.  And when they were done, we were much closer to being able to build new garden boxes.  Thank you Team Lightning--great job and a great stewardship project for IslandWood.

Next blog post:  New Garden Boxes!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Spooky Fall Garden

It's not hard to find Halloween decorations in a Fall garden.  The spiders have been getting plumper, longer and more "spidery" all Fall from a diet rich in garden insects.  Their webs are enormous and hang from the apple trees and across the paths--usually at just the right height to walk into!  They perfectly place themselves around the garden for Halloween delight.

When the fog rolls in, a hushed silence fills the garden and the spider webs are outlined with dew.  They are really quite beautiful.  But it's also easy to see how many spiders we have and how outnumbered we are...

All of our Fall produce fits nicely into the theme of Halloween as well.  We have colorful orange pumpkins and overgrown zucchini.  Golden, red and brown leaves float down through the air and litter the ground with their Fall colors.

Spooky sounds are everywhere this time of year.  The fallen leaves make a delightful "crunchy" sound as you walk through them.  And they smell deliciously of brown sugar--especially as you walk through a big pile!  The wind blows through branches, bringing creaks and groans from the tall trees, and rustles the decaying sunflowers and corn stalks in a way that makes you feel as though you aren't alone in the garden after all...

And really, we aren't alone in the garden.  We are surrounded by insect life, Decomposers, Producers and of course our SOP Students--who are wonderful garden Consumers. So, for whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, enjoy the spooky sounds, beautiful sights and delicious gifts of the Fall garden.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Yummy Potato Leek Latkes

Every week the IslandWood garden is filled with students from visiting schools. And one of our favorite programs to teach is an experience called Soil to Snack. What is Soil to Snack you may wonder? The answer lies in the name... The students harvest fresh food grown right here in the garden soil, and then work with IslandWood chefs to learn how to cook a yummy snack!  Our students learn first-hand how delicious fresh food tastes, AND they learn how to cook healthy food when they return home. 

tasting yummy garden treats like broccoli flowers
The students start in the garden tasting different foods and harvesting ingredients for their cooking project.

harvesting potatoes...
...and leeks (or is it a garden octopus hat??)
Once they have harvested the ingredients, they head over to the kitchen to work with our IslandWood chefs and create a delicious (and nutritious!) garden snack.  Potato Leek Latkes have been a Fall favorite.  Here is the recipe so you can create this delicious snack at home!

Potato Leek Latkes

9 Potatoes (medium-sized)
3 Leeks
4 Eggs
½ c. Flour
2 ½ tsp. Salt
1 ½ tsp. Black pepper
½ c. Canola oil (or any frying oil)

1.   Peel the potatoes and grate them into a bowl lined with cheese cloth. Bring the ends of the cheese cloth together and twist to squeeze out as much liquid from the potatoes as possible. Then transfer the grated potatoes into a large mixing bowl.  (You can also press the liquid out through a colander if you don’t have cheese cloth). 
2.  Trim the root and leafs from the leeks and discard. Cut leeks once length-wise, then use scissors to snip leeks into fine shreds. Add to potatoes. 
3.   Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the whisked eggs to the potatoes and leeks and stir gently. 
4.  Add the flour, salt, and black pepper. 
5.  Stir all ingredients until well mixed and presto, delicious Latke Mix! 

With the help of an adult, heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet at a medium-high temperature until hot. Place large spoonfuls of Latke mix into the hot oil and press down on the top to form ¼ - ½ inch patties. Fry until the edges are golden brown, then flip and repeat (usually about 2 ½ - 3 minutes per side). Carefully remove the Latkes and place on a wire rack or paper towel to drain any excess oil. 

Serve warm and Enjoy!

Potato leek latke with herb sour cream, baked cinnamon apple sauce and kale chips.  With fresh garden tea to drink.  All ingredients found in the garden and prepared in the kitchen!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Garden Tea Party!

Team Cloud from Forest Ridge Elementary
What is one of the best ways to enjoy a rainy day in the garden?  By drinking warm garden tea of course!  Team Cloud enjoyed a fun afternoon in the garden tasting herbs and veggies and then deciding which plants would make the most delicious warm tea.

They gathered some rosemary...
And some thyme...

They even picked an apple and pulled a beet!  All of these ingredients were found in the garden and added to hot water to steep.  The beets were a fun surprise--they turned the tea pink!!

Cheers to yummy plants, hot tea and friends!

Team Cloud also took home one of our walking onions and a sprig of lemon verbena to plant in their school garden.  We hope they remember their fun day with us and enjoy their new plants.