At first I didn’t want to come here. My mom told me it was here, or nothing. So I came here, and at first I didn’t like it. Then I liked it because it was different from regular school. How? Everything! Instead of sitting in a classroom, getting frustrated and bored and sleepy and fidgety, I am being active in the garden and around the pond and in the woods, learning about stuff as we do it, not just listening.
Some of the things I like here are being in the woods, noticing stuff happen, hands-on learning, a lot of being physical instead of sitting and watching. Some of the things I’ve studied are about the plants and bugs in the garden, tree identification, about macro-invertebrates, tapping maple trees, baking bread, and woodcrafts. You’re learning as you’re doing it. You stop and talk about why certain things do this and other things do that, for example, how beavers build their dams and how they affect roadways and fields.
There’s nothing I dislike about this place. I plan to stay here for future years.
This year’s garden at Smokey House is dope. At first I wasn’t excited about it, but eventually I started to enjoy gardening. It’s like tacos – you don’t know why you like ’em, you just like ’em! Or, it’s kind of more like a cake. You have eggs, flour, sugar and other stuff. Each is one thing that doesn’t taste good at all. Then you put them together and it’s enjoyable. Some of the ingredients for a garden are tilling, weeding, digging, compost, fertilizer, starting seeds inside, transplanting them outside. It’s very satisfying when the seeds sprout up from the ground. It’s gonna be my new hobby!
Something’s been eating the pea shoots in our garden, and it won’t let them grow. At first I didn’t even know there was anything wrong with them until my teacher showed me. So I went out and looked at them, and it turns out there were little bites being taken out of them. I didn’t know what it could’ve been. So, I did my research and found out that it could be a finch in this area. I went on Google and googled what could be eating my pea shoots. I found an article about this one guy who was struggling with his pea shoots for
eight years. He didn’t know what was eating his pea shoots either, so he tried a few different things over eight years. On one day, he was sitting on his porch, drinking a beer, and saw the pea shoots moving in the garden. So, he went and got his binoculars and looked down at his garden and saw a little finch eating away at the top of his pea plants. So, he made a hoop house with bird netting on the top high enough so the plants could grow, which also made it hard for him to get into his plants. So, hopefully that will work for our garden as well as yours if you try it.
In another part of our garden, we noticed that something has been eating at the leaves of our radishes and kale. So, we went straight to flea beetles because we’ve suspected that we’ve had a problem with them in past years. We googled them, and it turns out that their favorite foods are kale and radish leaves and that they are really small and jump like fleas. So, we went out to the garden and looked to see if we could determine what exactly they were. We determined that they were flea beetles.
How do you get rid of flea beetles? There are many different ways. We don’t know how well they work. But a few are:
Trap crop – a crop that you don’t really need, but they’re attracted to.
Coffee grounds – sprinkle around the seedlings
Crushed egg shells – just sprinkle them over the flea beetles
Soapy water – spray it on the plant
Ladybugs – let them live in your garden. They eat or kill ’em.
We aren’t really trying any of these, but we have some ladybugs and some trap crops in our garden, and we’re hoping we don’t have to do anything!
At Smokey House we made sourdough bread from yeast that Juanita grew, which I had no clue was even possible. It turns out that yeast is a living thing, a microscopic fungus. The “starter” is just flour, water and yeast. It looks like regular dough, with bubbles and little craters in it, kind of like the moon. It smells sour.
We made two different batches to see what the difference was between leaving the yeast in the fridge and out on the counter overnight. The dough that was on the counter overnight was a lot more sour-smelling than the dough in the fridge. It grew a lot more than the other one did. The dough that was in the fridge overnight didn’t smell as sour and was nowhere near as high as the other one.
We scooped the dough out of the “bucket” and stretched it gently. Then we cut it in half and folded the cut in, and let them sit for two hours, lightly covered with plastic wrap. After letting the dough rise, we baked it for 12 minutes on the bottom rack and 12 minutes on the top.
The baked bread was delightful. I liked the one that was left out overnight better because it had a stronger taste and more flavor. The other one was kind of bland. They were both very good with my home made dandelion jelly in the end.
You can find them at the beginning of spring, when the ground is still moist, in early May. First, look for a patch in the woods in a damp area around trees. There might be maple, black cherry, hop-hornbeam or birch in the vicinity.
What are they and what do they look like?
Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are part of the onion family. They grow in the ground and every part of them is edible. The leaves are thick, green and flat. They grow right from the ground with a very short, red stem. To make sure they are ramps, you break a leaf off and smell it. If it has an oniony smell, it’s a ramp.
How do you harvest them?
You dig them up at the base of the plant, like six inches deep, making sure you get the bulb. Make sure you put the dirt back, and leave some ramps for someone else and for them to grow back.
How do you pickle them?
First, clean them, shake the roots in water to get off all the dirt. Cut the roots off at the end of the bulb. Cut the leaves off at the top of the bulb. (You can use the leaves for stir fries, and other things.) Then, boil vinegar, salt, sugar, and water, according to the recipe you are using. Pour it into a jar with however many ramps you have ready, plus a full dried jalapeño for a little spice (optional). Put in refrigerator for a minimum of 3 days or longer to enjoy your wonderful pickled ramps.
We have so much pumpkin puree in the freezer. It was from the Smokey House garden last year. Kids grew it, then baked it until it was soft, and then scraped the insides out.
We had to thaw the puree before we could do anything with it. Juanita mixed the dry ingredients and I mixed the wet ingredients. Then we added the dry ingredients to the wet and mixed them until it was like batter. We added the chocolate chips in the end, then baked for an hour.
We made two loaves and ate them! I usually don’t like the taste of pumpkin, like in coffee and pumpkin spice-flavored things. This was really good because it wasn’t fake.
For the past few weeks at Smokey House we’ve been doing a bean experiment to determine if different music can change the growth of a plant. I used two very different genres of music, country and rap, and one bean with no music. I chose music because it was the easiest topic and plants do not hear things. People say that music can effect plants, but plants cannot hear. My hypothesis was that the music would not affect the growth of the plants.
I planted five beans, labeled two country, two rap, and one control. Two listened to rap music, two listened to country, and one listened to nothing. They each listened to music an hour every Friday in different closets, with the lights off, and the music playing at the same volume on each device. I measured the height of the stalk length every other school day. I gave them each a third a cup of water every time we watered them.
Country #1 grew better than the rest of them. It grew 16cm by the end of the experiment, rap #2 and country #2 didn’t grow at all, rap #1 grew 1cm, and the control grew 2cm.
I believe plant country #1 grew a lot more than the other plants because it was listening to country music. Because the country music is softer and not as verbally abusive towards plants. I was completely off on my hypothesis because the country music did change the growth of the plant, and the rap music changed the growth in a bad way and made it so it did not grow as much.
Next time, I would switch the rap to rock and see if it is the genre of music that affects the plants rather than. Water is another thing that may have affected the plant growth, and the density of the soil. We should have made the amount of water and how it gets water a controlled variable. The end.