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It’s a beautiful beginning to another lovely year at 24th Street! And we are just so exited to get this new season started!!

We are ready for a new season of planting, growing, playing and unlocking the magic that lives all around us in the garden.

Although a winter garden often leaves a visitor wanting, at 24th Street we are filled with hopes and wishes for the months to come!!

So drop by and visit one of our cooking or gardening classes or send us your wishes for the new season. Either way, have a happy, healthy and strong New Year!!

Our fourth workday in the garden this year was another screaming success.

We had the biggest turnout of kids yet, thanks largely to the 4th grade teachers who offered their students community service credit if they came.

Here, 4th grade teacher Ms. LaFleur arrives with her daughters:

And they did come, in droves. With their help, we weeded and mulched and mulched and weeded.

weeding

mulching

 

more weeding

We also had help from tree specialist and master gardener Herb Machleder, who helped prune our fruit orchard. We’re hoping that with his help, and our garden manager’s capable hands, we can double our already productive crop next year.

Herb explains some fruit tree intricacies

We played games…

Are they students or a train?

…we looked for bugs…

field guide and magnifying glass in hand, this student goes hunting

…we scraped paint off tables.

scraping paint

We got done everything we wanted and more. Workdays are an incredible chance for us to make a big push in the garden — there’s only so much one or two people can do alone; it’s great to have so many hands. But workdays are also an incredible chance for us to connect with the students and their families in a whole different way, a time for us to remember what we’re trying to do and why. Plus, they’re really fun — more than one kid asked if we could have them every week!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Here’s a delicious recipe for onion dill bread.


Dill Bread
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Makes one 9×5-inch loaf

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water
3 cups bread flour (I replaced 1/2 cup of this flour with whole wheat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 1 tablespoon dried dill or dill seeds
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon wheat germ, toasted
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup large-curd cottage cheese
1 large egg

Optional, for top of bread:
1 egg, lightly beaten, or 1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or a few dill seeds

Combine yeast and water in a small bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about five minutes.

Combine flour, onions, dill, sugar or honey, wheat germ and salt in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add the yeast along with the cottage cheese and egg. Mix by hand or on low speed until the dough comes together, addition additional flour or warm water if needed. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 to 80 degrees) until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Grease a 9×5-inch (8-cup) loaf pan. Punch Gently press the dough down, form into a loaf and place seam side down in the pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. If desired, brush the top of loaf with the egg or melted butter, and then sprinkle with the additional salt or dill seeds. (I highly recommend the butter/salt combination.)

Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 to 40 minutes. (My bread read just about 200°F on a thermometer when I took it out.) Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

November 19 was our third workday of the school year. Both the sky and the forecast threatened rain, but we were determined to soldier on no matter what, and invited people to the garden rain or shine.

But nature complied, as did our volunteer list. It never rained, but was cool enough that no one got too hot or miserable. We had at least 50 people there (including an honors society from Santa Monica College which brought 20 people on its own. Thanks, guys!)

It's like they're playing "Camouflage," our favorite game!

We got huge amounts of work done. In the photo above, people are clearing our former melon and pumpkin patch of the final crops and the weeds that threatened to overrun that fertile soil. Once the weeds were gone, we planted cover crops of borrage and clover to stave of the grasses that want to take over, and replenish some of the nutrients our plants took out. The cover crops will grow there until we’re ready to plant in the space again, at which time they’ll be mixed directly into the soil and turned into compost right there on the spot.

While the adults were using the big tools, the kids were working too. They brought their little brothers and they weeded…:

pulling grasses

…they dug holes, filled in holes, and looked for bugs…

…they picked strawberries…

strawberries!

…and they planted peas.

We got an amazing amount of work done and our best turn out yet. It is so gratifying to see the pride the community — students, parents, neighbors, everyone! — takes in this garden that we love so much. At the end of the day, we were able to send families home with bags bursting with collard greens, chard, kale, mint and other herbs. All of which was grown in beds that were tended to at previous workdays.

To everyone who came: thank you so much for your help.

To everyone else: see you next time, December 10th, 9 am!

The American Honda Foundation has just awarded us another $25,000 grant to continue our efforts throughout our (ever expanding!) community. To them, we say, “thank you!” and we can’t wait to put that money to work.

On a smaller but no less exciting note, we used our bike blender again in one of our cooking classes. The kids loved the resulting smoothie (the adults, not so much). The adults (this one, at least) did love seeing an entire class rally around each other. They stood in a circle around the bike chanting each others’ names and helping out when the pushing got tough. Literally: the kids would step on the pedals to help or kneel next to the bike and push the pedals with their hands if their classmates couldn’t turn them. The whole scene was heartwarming, and the apple smoothie at the end was well deserved.

In fact, it was so exciting that a class of kindergartners even filed in silently behind their teacher to check out the scene. They took the opportunity to walk around the garden too, and take a gander at our newly planted winter crops:

We’ve got several plantings of kale, chard, collards, and broccoli and more already in and going, and several more beds ready for plants that are on the way:

These beds were planted first. Just after they went in the ground, the water in the garden was turned off due to an irrigation issue at school. Thus, the plants bolted and look crazy (those tall plants in the middle bed are lettuce!). They still taste good, though. You can see the Mexican Marigolds blooming along the fence. They make the air so fragrant!

This was our second planting. We’re hoping to get some delicious brassicas and greens out of these beds. The flowers in the corners help attract beneficial insects, which eat the aphids and other pests that eat our crops.

Here, the amended soil waits patiently under a layer of alfalfa. The mulch layer will break down and replace some nutrients our earlier tomato crop leached from the soil. It will also protect the roots of whatever we plant next, staving off too much evaporation and some pests.

Workdays at the 24th St Garden are some of the best days. True, there are tons of extra hands, so we can get a lot of gardening work done. But more importantly, they’re a great chance for us to connect with the broader community — to meet parents and show them what we do, to bring friends and family and curious strangers in to the garden and, well, show them what we do, too. We build relationships during workdays that are invaluable to the success of our program.

We recently had such a workday.

Parents and volunteers came in to help and watch. Here, you can see students planting fava beans, one of our favorite cover crops, as the grown-ups look on.

Of course, we also pulled boatloads of weeds from the circle garden and pounds of grass from the kitchen garden. We yanked out dead sunflowers and summer crops, and whatever else was passed its prime. And then, things got exciting.

Paula White of Organic Control donated hordes of beneficial insects for the garden.

We released fleets of ladybugs onto our brassicas and strawberries (to control aphids):

                   

which we later investigate closely with magnifying glasses:

We also released worms into a bed we’re amending. They’ll help replenish and aerate the soil:

              

And we set free some snails which eat the snails that eat our plants.

Despite the addition of all these carnivorous insects into the garden (it’s for the protection of the plants! Honest!) we do strive to make our space one of community. We want people from all walks of life to feel acceptance and belonging in the garden. The workdays are a chance to demonstrate that desire, and for people to come in and feel it for themselves. And it seems to be working. This grasshopper, for example, has made herself right at home, as we hope other insects and people will continue to. That’s how we know we’re doing something right.

 

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