Sunday, October 27, 2013

Watermelon, Horses and Rabbit, Oh My!

The 3rd Grade met at the farm and gathered as a group for questions before splitting up to do tasks.


Watermelon that grew out of the compost pile from seed that came from last spring's Field Day was collected on the table. 

 After chores were done, the horses were paid a small visit and given a few apples!


One group planted oats.

Another group emptied classroom compost buckets and rinsed them out.

Some of the children were sent to get hay to cover the compost.  They seem to have gotten a little distracted!

A small blue tailed skink was found and given some water on this very bright and hot day!

Another group weeded the raspberry bushes and even got to taste a few!

A caterpillar was just barely dangling from the fence.  We watched it over the next few days and found that it was forming a chrysalis.

The beekeeper, Annallys Goodwin Landher, also came to the farm that day and visited with 3rd grade while the chickens roamed about.

Our bunny, Mr. Gustavo, received lots of attention!

Photos and narration by Anne Haas.

Gustavo the Rabbit

Here are a couple of shots of Gustavo the rabbit who was donated to the farm this summer by Samantha Johnson.  Photos taken by Susan Hayman.

When we visit Gustavo, we form a human fence.  Each person has a goody to share and he wanders around the circle playing "trick-or-treat".  His favorite treats are fresh alfalfa and apples.

Here is a close up of Gustavo.  He is a real sweetheart, very patient and cuddly.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Third Grade Update

Thank you very much to Rula Mouawad for taking the photos in this sampling of what third grade has been up to since school started this fall.  Enjoy!

First a view of some of the work we've done in the garden this fall:

Third grade dad, Dave Swanson, loaned us his broad fork so that the students would be better equipped to prepare beds for planting.  A broad fork is a wide, heavy "fork" that can be used to loosen up soil deep down.  This group is working the soil for a garlic bed. 

Once a bed is thoroughly weeded and the soil loosened deep down, we sift some of the compost we spend all year making.  Our compost is made from the food scraps 3rd grade brings down each week in compost buckets from all of the classrooms (including high school and kindergarten), from chicken, bunny and horse manure collected at the farm, from weeds we dig up in the garden and from donations of old, indedible hay given to us by area horse barns.

When a bed is completely ready, we plant either seeds or transplants.  Mahea, Michael and Shiva are transplanting lettuce here.  So far this year our garden grows sorrel, broccoli, nasturtium, evening primrose, mums, thyme, kale, spinach, chives, shiitake, lettuce, arugula, collards, chard, daikon, carrots, onions, beets, radishes, peas, oats and wheat.  We'll soon be planting rye and garlic as well.  In mid November planting season ends and we switch our activities to maintenance chores around the farm and doing what we can to protect our crops from cold weather while they overwinter.

The children learn that bug life in the garden is both welcome and necessary to the health of our garden.  Early on they learn that there are 5 main types of bug:  
  • flesh munchers (horseflies, mosquitoes, ticks, etc.)
  • plant munchers (squash bugs, japanese beetles, aphids, etc.)
  • scavengers (earthworms, pillbugs, crickets, daddy long legs, etc.)
  • pollinators (butterflies, bees, some wasps, etc.)
  • hunters (spiders, praying mantis, assassin bugs, ladybugs, etc.)
In Biodynamic gardening we try to maintain a balance amongst all these types of insects that is most favorable to our plants.  A few flesh and plant munchers are OK in the garden because we know that they are a vital part of the web of life.  When we get a lot of them, then we try to figure out why and change the environment to keep them from spreading or coming back so easily next year.  Another thing we do regularly is sprinkle or spray two kinds of preparation on the plants and around the garden to improve the health and vitality of the plants:  
  • stinging nettle tea, made by soaking stinging nettle for 24 hours in rain water
  • milk and honey prep, made by stirring milk, local honey and rain water for 20 minutes
The nettle tea provides deep nourishment to the plants, strengthening their vitality and helping them to be a little less tasty and tempting to plant munchers.  The milk and honey encourages hunters and pollinators to visit the garden and stick around.  Below are pictures of Enid, Michael and Shiva spreading the milk and honey prep by sprinkling it over everything with paint brushes.

At the end of every productive day at the garden, the children have time to just enjoy their surroundings.   
Below are some pictures of some of the things they get up to in their free time.

Picking the first persimmons of the season.

Khadija, Eva Grey and Anastasia give the persimmons a try.

Garret, Grey and Theon enjoy wheelbarrow rides.

 Everyone loves visiting Finnigan the horse.

We also find a lot of really neat things in nature:

Fuzzy white caterpillars

Spiders who carry their babies on their back

Interesting mushrooms

A watermelon that unexpectedly grew straight out of the compost pile

A beautiful sun dog appeared near the end of class one day.

New Community Garden Starting in Durham

Durham Community Land Trustees is starting a new community garden in southwest central Durham this Saturday, Oct. 26.  Come join them if you can.  See link below for more details.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Excellent Educational Article About Organic Vegetables

Organic doesn't necessarily mean what we think it means and just because a farmer at your local market doesn't call his or her produce organic doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't what you are looking for.  Check out this article at for a well written description of everything you should know about buying organic.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ninth Graders Learn About Pasture Restoration Through Rotational Grazing

About a month ago (yes, I am using the fall break to catch up with my blogging!), Nancy Milner met with our 9th grade class to share with them the pasture restoration through rotational grazing project she has started at the farm.  She spent some time sharing with us what rotational grazing is and how it must be done differently with horses (who need more personal space) than with cows (who prefer to stay bunched together in a herd) and other farm animals. 

At the end of class we walked the pastures to see how much variety there is in what looks like a field of grass from a distance.  Our pastures have improved considerably since Nancy started experimenting.  They look much more lush and green.  We still have a long way to go and a lot of weeds to overcome, but we have made an excellent start.

Pictured below is Ninth grade up in an enormous tree in one of the pastures.  It was a truly lovely day!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Emerson Farm Nominated as Possible Winner of Beehive, Bees and Bee Care Training!

Annallys Goodwin-Landher, our volunteer bee keeper has been keeping her bees on our property for several years, but there is a good chance that she and her bees will soon be moving.  She has nominated us to Toxic Free NC as an entry in their annual beehive giveaway. 

The community or school garden that gets the most votes will win the hive.  Help us out by checking out their contest site and clicking on the entry for Emerson Waldorf School Farm. 

Oh, and please share this link with everyone you know!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bees with the Second Grade

Last week, after hearing a story about bees in the classroom, the second grade got to experience them up close and personal! Beekeeper Annallys Goodwin-Landher started by firing up the smoker, first with pine, and then with basil branches and leaves.


Smoking the bees, causes them to retreat into the hive and start eating the honey.

While Annallys prepared the bees, the class gathered together to ask a few questions, and then split into three groups to visit the bees and do other tasks on the farm.

First group heads over to the apiary.

A few children tried to hold a drone.  Drones don't sting!

At the very end, a sample of the hive was taken out for the classroom.

Another group task on the farm was sprinkling fermented nettle over the plants to nourish them and make them less tasty to leaf munching bugs.  We use paint brushes and cups to do the job.  Moonflower the chicken helped supervise.

Another group worked on scooping the old pine shavings from the chicken tractor and replacing it with fresh hay.

The old pine shavings are now rich with nitrogen thanks to all the chicken poop.  Into the compost they go to break down and nourish our soil.

The second grade were not the only visitors to the farm. . . It was also visited by some resident deer! (Look carefully among the trees.)  Could they have smelled the honey?