Monday, April 12, 2010

Preaching What We Practice

(Independent Studier Camille Perrett poses with a few of the Arboretum's field trippers.)

Today at the Arboretum, Camille Perrett, and myself were able to share our work at the vegetable garden with a group of about 60 second-graders. Though the main purpose of the field trip was a herpetology demonstration by University of Alabama graduate students, we were nonetheless able to spend about 40 minutes with the groups talking, teaching and sharing what we ourselves have learned. Beginning with a tour of each greenhouse, we took time to examine the process of raising plants from seed. Students were able to take in the aroma of basil seedlings while contemplating their growth from seed in potting soil on a heating pad all the way to a ready to plant, delicious herb. From there, it was on to the vermiculture bin where many girls and boys gasped at the sight of so may wriggling blood worms. A few could hardly believe that these oligochaetes could have such an appetite for an old, brown banana peel. Of course what trip through the greenhouses could be completed without exploring the tropical greenhouse, alive with the aromatic scent of so many heat loving flowers and plants, and the examination of Venus fly traps that, were they big enough, could be "man-eaters." Hiking down to the garden, counting varieties of wildflowers as we passed, some astute followers pointed out that the honeybees (whose hive we were later able to examine from a distance) were out in force, and that they must be getting ready for honey production. Once at the vegetable garden, we were able to discuss at length the necessity of careful preparation and maintenance of vegetable beds and the pivotal support of tomatoes provided by our bamboo trellises. Nicole Ortega was able to bring many inquisitive minds to bear on the emerging strawberries, flowering blueberry bushes and hearty oregano. A few were even able to pluck ripe radishes right out of the ground, hopefully cementing that integral relationship between the producer and the consumer. Ultimately, all this hiking and talk of delicious fruits and veggies instigated what would become the most frequently asked, and possibly most pertinent question of the day: "What's for lunch?"

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