Children’s Sunflower Hour Program Had a Successful First Season

onion harvestEvery Saturday since June, children have been attending a reading and garden/craft program in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens we called the Sunflower Hour. Today was the last session of the season.

It has been wonderful with dozens of children coming over the summer to hear stories told by Faye Mihuta, a retired teacher, and experience life in the garden. Children sat in the sunflower house, which is just now beginning bloom and listened to books being read.

Over the last eight weeks the crafts they made with artist Jess Clauser included a fluttering butterfly, bee bracelets, and cards made with vegetable stamps. Other weeks, the children learned about sowing flower seeds, how vegetables grow, the importance of honeybees and the butterfly habitat we have to support Monarch butterflies. Jay Epstein came one Saturday to talk about worms and the children made worm farms from recycled bottles to take home.cly2

Today,  the project was to make a clay medallion by pressing the leaf of the herb sage into wet clay. The clay was trimmed with a round cookie cutter and set out to dry.  Once dry, they can be painted. Each one was very pretty and the children were please to take home several each.

onionfayeNext, we harvested onions. Each child had a chance to pull the onions from the ground and take one home.

Afterwards, we all tasted zucchini bread and basil lemonade. Both were delicious.

It was a great morning in the garden.

Special thank you to Faye and Jess for all the effort put into making Sunflower Hour a memorable experience for young community members.  You are deeply appreciated.

Natalie

 

Girl Scouts Create Pitney Meadows Patch

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 9.48.37 AMThe Girls Scouts have been working in the gardens the last two seasons and we are delighted to have them!

They have grown food for the pantries, created a fairy garden, earned art and outdoor experience and so much more.

Now, the scouts will be able to earn a badge for their work in the community gardens.

This is the patch that troop leader Jess Clauser designed. Note the Pitney Farm barn and silo.

Green thumbs up to all the troops!

Waldorf Students Illustrate Monarch Butterfly Signs for Pitney Meadows

waldorfsigninstallStudents from the Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs illustrated signs for the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens Monarch Waystation.

The five signs each depict an interesting fact about the butterflies that migrate thousands of miles and who have been in decline due to destruction of their habitat and the use of pesticides.

Pictured here are Michael Whitney, the practical arts teacher who built the cedar sign posts, and Elizabeth Straton, Community Relations.

The sign next to them shows the difference between a male and female butterfly. You didn’t know there was a way to tell a boy from a girl?

Come to the gardens, read the signs and maybe see some butterflies.  The butterfly bed surrounding them contains plants that support the butterfly from egg to caterpillar to adult with an abundant supply of nectar rich flowers that bloom through the season. The garden also contains milkweed, the only plant the monarch caterpillar eats.

Thank you to the students who drew the illustrations. They are beautiful.

Natalie Walsh, Garden Director

 

 

 

Reading and Art Program in the Community Gardens Well Received

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 12.23.35 PMIt was a lovely morning in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens with about a dozen children attending the Sunflower Hour reading program.  At 9:30 children listened to stories about vegetables read by Faye Mihuta, a retired teacher and a community gardener.

After the stories, the children searched the garden for different vegetables and earned stickers as they found them and matched them to a game sheet that had simple drawings of tomatoes, corn, beans, cabbage and other vegetables.

Garden ArtScreen Shot 2018-08-04 at 12.24.00 PM

At 10 a.m., those that were interested created cards, books and bags using stamps made from potatoes, the stalks of celery, apples, melons, mushrooms and more.  The roses above were made by cutting the stems off a celery and using the base as a stamp. The leaves were carved from the raw potato.

Next Saturday, August 11, is the last day for the Sunflower Hour program. The reading program is free. The activity costs $5. per child to cover the cost of supplies.

Hope to see you there, Natalie Walsh, Garden Director. Natalie.Walsh@pitneymeadows.org

Our Toy Farm’s Landscape was Tweaked

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 4.33.49 PMLook what is blooming in our toy farm garden!

I love the creativity. Thank you to the “garden pixies” that made this adorable scene. It put smiles on faces all day long.

We Were in the Daily Gazette on Sunday!

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Thank you to Photographer Erica Miller for the great job she did capturing the Sunflower Hour reading and garden craft program at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.

Jammin at the Farm

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Blueberry Jam, that is, at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens in Saratoga Springs

Diane Whitten, Cornell Cooperative extension nutritionist, came to the farm and taught everyone how to make blueberry freezer jam.

Children arrived at 9:30 for the Sunflower Hour reading program and heard Faye Mihuta, a community gardener and teacher, read “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey complete with sound effects such as the berries going “plink” into a bucket.

After story time, children and adults had the opportunity to make a freezer jam which was delicious.

 

Diane teaches many different classes on food preservation and nutrition including classes on fermentation, making jerky, canning salsa and tomatoes. Go to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website  to register.

She has offered to teach a class on pickling vegetables in the community gardens. If you might be interested, let me know and we will see what can be arranged.

Natalie Walsh, Garden Director – Natalie.Walsh@pitneymeadows.org

We are in the News Today

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Children in the Saturday morning Sunflower Hour program made worm farms with master gardener Jay Ephraim last weekend.

Check out this article about the growth of Pitney Meadows Community Gardens in Saratoga Today by Marissa Gonzalez.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the last year, the community’s beloved Pitney Meadows Community Farm has made a lot of changes.

Since this time last July, the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens have become an official Monarch way station, created a large “Grandparent’s Garden,” started a reading and gardening Saturday program for children, increased the number of plots and now has more than 70 gardeners growing fresh healthy food in their gardens.

“It’s truly amazing. People who visit the gardens can’t believe it is only one year old,” said garden director Natalie Walsh, crediting the community of gardeners that has made the difference.

“They aren’t just tending their plots, but also are interested in learning organic gardening techniques, engaging children in the gardens, and extending a hand to each other and to the Saratoga community at large. It truly is a community in the gardens,” she added.

Last year the Community Gardens had 50 spaces available. This year, there are 72 beds.

“We are working to respond to what the community wants. When gardeners asked for bigger spaces, we offered them,” Walsh said.

Gardeners pay to lease the space for the season and the costs vary according to plot size.

In addition, Walsh added flowerbeds to draw pollinators such as butterflies, bees and beneficial insects. Of particular interest was offering habitat to Monarch butterflies whose populations have been in decline across the United States.

In the community gardens, a large garden was installed and planted with butterfly plants that have different bloom periods and provide nectar throughout the summer and into the fall. The milkweed provides the Monarch caterpillar with its only food source.

Engaging the community is a goal for Walsh, who traveled over 13,000 miles last winter talking to community gardeners across the country.

 

This year, the gardens offer programs for adults as well as children. “We were fortunate to have two community gardeners interested in working with children. One is Faye Mihuta, a reading teacher, and the other is Jess Clauser, an artist. Together they designed a reading program that meets once a week and is followed by an art or garden project,” Walsh said.

The reading program is free. The art or garden project costs $5 per child and includes activities including learning how to make jam, making art and learning how to plant and care for seeds. The program, which is held every Saturday morning starting at 9:30 a.m., has been very well-received as have the adult programs on topics such as growing tomatoes.

Also on Saturday mornings, Walsh will lead a gardening class for participants to walk around the gardens and discuss any issues, problems and receive tips from Walsh, who is a master gardener and holds a horticulture degree from SUNY Cobleskill.

The garden also saw the construction of a beautiful cedar pergola that was donated in memory of the late Charlotte Justin by her family and built by local craftsman Rich Torkelson and his son Arik.

The grandmother’s gardens were funded with a grant from the Soroptimists and multiple private donors who also purchased furniture for the space. In addition, the popular sunflower house has also been expanded. A sunflower house is an enclosed space that has “walls” of sunflowers.

Other organizations include the Waldorf school that illustrated signs for the butterfly garden, Saratoga Bridges who care for their own plot and help water others, Franklin Community Center, the Saratoga Senior Center, Saratoga Transitional Services, Saratoga Catholic Central, the Girl Scouts and the high school.

(Note: Sunflower measuring day and the Fall Fairy Gathering will be September 22 at 1 p.m. – this was left out of the article. Rain date September 23.)

That will also be the day the sunflowers in the annual sunflower contest will be measured for height and size of bloom. The biggest in each category will receive a prize. Last year, 26 people entered, this year there are 60 participants.

“There no doubt the garden is growing,” she added. “If you haven’t visited, come by on a Thursday or Saturday morning and I’ll show you around and tell you what we have planned for next year,” Walsh said.

 

https://www.saratogatodaynewspaper.com/home/item/8744-pitney-meadows-community-farm-continues-to-flourish

We have done so much in one year!

 

Girl Scouts Grow Food for Franklin Community Center Pantry

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.55.38 AM.pngBrownie troop 3031 has a plot in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens and recently donated green beans to the Franklin Community Center’s food pantry.

Troop leader Jen Kirchhnerr has found that recycled plastic containers are a great way to deliver the beans and other vegetables to the pantry.

These are the sort of container that strawberries, blueberries and the like are typically sold in at the supermarket.

Kirchhnerr cleans and washes the containers and reuses them when harvesting for the food pantry.

“They are a convenient size for handing out to a family,” she said.

It’s a good tip. If any gardeners have containers like these and would like to share them, you can leave the cleaned containers in the garden shed. We will use them when harvesting and sharing.

Thanks Jen for your tip!Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.55.19 AM

Children Make Worm Farms at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 2.35.57 PMSunflower Hour at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens this morning began with story time and ended with children making worm farms to take home.

After the stories children held wriggler worms and set some free in the gardens. Those children who wanted made farms from empty soda bottles and layers of sand and soil.

Watermelon was added as worm food and dark construction paper wrapped the bottles to simulate underground conditions. Later this week, children can remove the paper and study the underground tunnels made by the worms.

Sunflower Team

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 2.41.30 PM.pngFaye Mihuta read the books. Retired teacher, master gardener and worm composter Jay Ephraim lead the hands-on worm program for about 10 children. And the team, both of whom are community gardeners,  worked together with Jess Clauser, also a community gardener, to create the worm farms.

It was terrific. The children were delighted and eager to participate.

Blueberry jam

Next week, the reading program will focus on blueberries and  the activity will be making blueberry freezer jam with Diane Whitten from Cornell Cooperative Extension. The jam class, at 10 a.m., is $5 which covers all supplies. The story time is free and begins at 9:30 a.m.

Please let us know if you are coming to make jam. The class is open to both children and adults. We will be purchasing supplies, and need a head count by Tuesday.

Thank you, Natalie Walsh

Garden Director, Pitney Meadows Community Gardens

natalie.walsh@pitneymeadows.org