Category: school gardens

Cricket Flour Cookies

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

Many of us Westerners find the very idea of eating insects distasteful but we’re in the minority. Insects are eaten in 80% of the worlds countries and for good reason. Insects are numerous, can be easily raised humanely with a small carbon footprint, and are high in protein & low in fat. One can even make flour out of ground up crickets and use it to create all sorts of baked goods that have an extra health benefit. Here is a recipe for some tasty cricket cookies, made with flour you can buy (or perhaps make yourself if you have access to truckloads of crickets or grasshoppers).

Cricket Cookies Recipe

Ingredients:

3 cups cricket flour/normal flour mix (or 2½ cups normal flour and ½ cup pure cricket flour)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 sticks softened butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tsp almond extract

2 eggs

Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips or topping

Process:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a bowl, mix the flour(s), baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, add the sugar, butter, and almond extract. Start beating this, then slowly add eggs. Add flour mix and beat until fully combined. You can add chocolate chips/other now or when you set the mix on a pan.

Spoon out the mix onto a standard baking pan. You can size cookies how you like, but one spoon should be sufficient. Also note the bigger you make your cookies the longer they will take to cook. Cook cookies in oven for about 9-10 minutes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.

Growing & Processing Garlic

Written by: Diego Moore

Garlic is amazing! Along with being delicious to eat and great to cook with, it also has many benefits other than its tasty insides. For example, eating garlic can reduce your cholesterol. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are also contained in garlic. Potassium, iron, vitamin C, and calcium are just a few of the nutrients that you benefit from when consuming garlic. Additionally, If you cut the cloves of garlic in half and directly apply to your skin, it can help get rid of acne and cold sores.  In fact, garlic has been used as a health aid since ancient times.

In the garden this summer, I helped harvest and clean garlic. The type of garlic that we harvested in mid-June is called Spanish Roja. To harvest, we loosened the ground around the garlic so it could be pulled out of the ground. We were very cautious to not dig into the vegetable with our shovels. We then carefully placed the garlic in a pile. If we tossed the garlic too vigorously on the ground, it could bruise. Once all the garlic was harvested, it was placed on racks to be dried.

In addition to the process of harvesting the garlic, we also had to clean it. After a few weeks of drying on a rack we began cleaning another type of garlic called Tashkent Violet Streak. To clean the garlic we cut off the stems about an inch from the garlic itself. Then we peeled off the outer wrapper of the garlic which was covered in dirt. Finally, we trimmed the roots as far up as we could without hurting the garlic. When all of the cleaning was done the garlic was set on the drying rack once more. These vegetables were now ready to go to be sorted into seed stock and food for the CSA.

 

I had no idea that harvesting garlic was such an intricate process. I have learned that farmers take time to provide quality food to our families. I definitely have more appreciation for the farmers that deliver the food to our tables.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Diego Moore is a rising sophomore at Albuquerque Academy. Self-proclaimed lover of puppies, kittens, rainbows, and Lucky Charms, Diego also has a passion for music and plays guitar in a band through School of Rock here in Albuquerque.

 

Bug of the Day: Mullein Thrips

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

While having a fun time weeding one day, I was very excited (and perhaps would be alone in my excitement) to see a species of a unique and obscure insect group in the garden. The bane of some farmers, though not a problem for us –Thrips, specifically Mullein Thrips (Haplothrips verbasci).

Mullein Thrips, Source: https://lacrossetribune.com/couleenews/lifestyles/ridgerunner-reports-some-insects-are-breeding-in-middle-of-winter/article_cb66eb46-5e46-11e1-af23-0019bb2963f4.html

Never heard of a Thrips? (yes, Thrips is singular!) That’s ok, neither has Microsoft Word, as I just found out. Thrips are an order of insect, Thysanopterans. They feed on plants and sometimes other insects. Their bodies are often tiny dots less than a millimeter in length. If you ever get the chance to see one closely, they are usually darkly colored, thin elongated beings that, frankly, don’t look too remarkable. However, Thrips are very unique, primarily due to their wings.

Thrips wings
Source:https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:Pampelmusen-Thrips-Fl%C3%BCgel1.jpg

Thrips have fringed wings that are thin with jutting hairs, that make the resemble feathers. While their wings may appear incapable of flight, the design of Thrips’ wings allow them to use a type of flight called Clap and Fling, a feature unique to them and certain wasp groups. Rather than normal flapping, these little guys clap their wings together, then fling them apart, hence the name. This motion creates a vortex that pushes the tiny insect aloft, as they fly into the sunset.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.

 

Worldwide Travelers: Transferring Crops from Similar Climates

By: Andrew Pick-Roth

When planting in the desert, getting your crop to thrive isn’t always a guarantee, let alone getting it to survive. Plants that make their home here have adapted to the dry seasons and hot summer days and as such require less effort to keep growing when compared to un-acclimated crops. However, other arid deserts exist around the world with a variety of plants that will also grow well in New Mexico.

(https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newmexico/new-mexico-prairie-and-desert-grasslands.xml)

One of these similar environments is found in Kazakhstan, a country whose southern border is lined with arid shrublands. The landscape of areas like the Kazakh Desert would look very familiar to those living in New Mexico.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazakh_semi-desert)

We planted several crops from this area in the DOT Garden, in the hopes that their traits that helped them survive elsewhere, like the ability to conserve water, will help them thrive in New Mexico as well. One of these plants is the Kazakhstan eggplant, which is already growing happily in our meadow beds.

When adopting crops from other areas, it is also worth looking into what sorts of techniques the farmers from these similar areas may have employed that you can adopt as well. New ways of growing our own crops may prove fruitful as well!

Bottled Sunlight: Making Calendula Salve

By: Tanya Hebert

In the middle of winter it can be difficult to remember the vibrant colors of the calendula plant.  The deep oranges, yellows and even whites of this beautiful medicinal plant bring back feelings of sunshine and buzzing bees.  When the calendula was in full bloom, we harvested the heads and put them aside to dry.  We were as careful as possible not to mix them with the spent heads that were producing seeds but, alas, our 6th grade Environmental Club had to come to our rescue and separate dried petals from seeds.

The dried petals were put in quart mason jars and filled with olive oil.  The jars lined the greenhouse shelves with their warmth and our kids had fun gently shaking them everyday.  After six weeks in the greenhouse, the kids helped strain the calendula-infused oil (quite a mess!) in preparation for salve making.

The salve is prepared by mixing beeswax (locally sourced) with the oil at a gentle heat to liquefy the beeswax.  Some of the salve got an extra special dose of lavender essential oil (also locally sourced).  The salve is poured into tins while it is still a liquid – this is an adult job as it cools quite rapidly.  The end product is a tin of beautifully scented hand salve infused with the healing quality of the calendula plant.

Tie-Dye With Native Plants

By: Tanya Hebert

On a beautiful fall day back in October, the 6th grade Environmental Club took a walk to explore the arroyo on campus.  We spent some time gathering bright gold flowers and stems from the native chamisa (rabbit brush) plants that grow abundantly here in the desert southwest.  Chamisa is a plant that has been used for hundreds of years by the native peoples of the desert to dye yarn for weaving.

To make the dye, we boiled the chamisa stems and flowers for 3 hours and then strained the beautiful golden liquid.  We then added alum as a mordant to help the color attach permanently to the fabric.  We cut squares of white cloth, used rubber bands in a way that would create designs on our creations and then put them into the dye for 3 more hours at a boil and then soaked overnight.  In the morning we hung the fabric to dry and a couple days later we had beautiful all-natural dyed cloth.   This process was repeated with both 7th and 8th grade Environmental Club members – all the kids loved this project!

 

International Visitors to the DOT Garden

On Thursday, we had international visitors in the DOT Garden. Sarah Montgomery, Director of The Garden’s Edge, a local non-profit, brought two farmers that she works with in Rabinal, Guatemala. These farmers, Maria Elena and Julian, showed us how they process amaranth, a grain that is critical to their community – in addition to being yummy and super healthy!

Two 7th graders harvesting amaranth at last year's harvest Festival.
Two 7th graders harvesting amaranth at last year’s harvest Festival.

In the DOT Garden, we have grown amaranth because it is a drought-hardy, healthy, and beautiful plant. However, the tiny seeds can be very hard to separate from the rest of the plant after harvesting.

Maria Elena and Julian have a lot of practice winnowing the tiny seeds from the chaffe for both seed saving and food production, and they shared their skills with 8-9 and 6th grade Environmental Club students, as well as a few of our volunteers and friends.

We learned a few important tricks about amaranth:

  • It is much better to harvest amaranth when it is fresh – not dried, as it gets prickly when it dries. When it is fresh you can use your hands to get most of the seeds out of the flowers. If you do dry, you have to do the “amaranth dance” to loosen the seeds (our students ended up having fun with the amaranth dance, although Maria Elena cautioned us that they never do this in Guatemala because then you shouldn’t use it for food).
Students doing the Amaranth Dance to separate seeds from dried amaranth.
Students doing the Amaranth Dance to separate seeds from dried amaranth.
  • You can easily winnow the seeds from the lighter bits of plant using wind or a fan, which Julian was an expert at! Hopefully our 7th graders can do it as gracefully for Harvest Festival on October 2nd.
Julian showing us how to winnow amaranth.
Julian showing us how to winnow amaranth.
  • Amaranth can be used in many ways! You can put the seeds in just about anything, but it is best when popped, which Maria Elena showed us how to do – over high heat and with no oil. All of our students were excited to try the popped amaranth, which was “like miniscule popcorn!” The popped amaranth can be used in cereal bars, on ice cream, or, it seemed, in just about anything. The seeds can be cooked for morning cereal or ground into flour!
6th grade students tasting popped amaranth while Maria Elena demonstrated the popping process.
6th grade students tasting the popped amaranth while Maria Elena demonstrated the popping process.
  • Amaranth is incredibly healthy. It is high in protein and contains complete amino acids. Maria Elena tells us that amaranth aids memory and cognitive function (a nice brain boost for our students in the middle of the day!). In Guatemala, they use amaranth for healthy snacks, especially for pregnant women and young children, in order to prevent childhood malnutrition.

Sarah’s story of working in Guatemala is a wonderful one, and we encourage you to check it out on their website. Working with farmers like Julian and Maria Elena, Sarah helped start a farmer’s collective in Rabinal called Qachuu Aloom “Mother Earth” Association. They work especially with women, many of whom were widowed over the course of Guatemala’s long civil war. Over the years, they have gone from collecting a few heirloom seeds to hundreds of gardens, a scholarship program for young girls, a micro-lending program, and the most recent addition, a maternal health and nutrition program that also trains young people to conduct health assessments on the young children in their community! It is a very impressive organization and we were so lucky to have them share their time with us!

Olla Irrigation Saves Time, Water, and Soil Health

By Elisabeth Lawton, Bio E Student

Brand New Ollas Ready for the Garden
Brand New Ollas Ready for the Garden (source: http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2010/09/buried-ollas-for-irrigation.html)

Olla (OY-yah) irrigation provides an elegantly simple, efficient, out-of-site irrigation method best suited for smaller growing areas.

The olla is a round clay chamber with a long neck at the top. The olla is fired but unglazed, ensuring that it remains porous. Typical ollas can hold between one quart and two gallons of water, but can be made to any size. The olla is then buried in the ground so that the opening at the top of the neck is a few inches above the surface. Once the olla is filled with water, the water will slowly seep through the clay body of the olla and into the soil around it. Occasionally cleaning out clogged pores with vinegar will keep the olla functional for many years. The initial cost of an olla ranges from $15 to $30, which can be pricey on a large scale, but their long term benefits and efficiency account for the cost.

olla irrigation Diagram (source: http://durablegreenbed.com/olla-pots/ )
olla irrigation Diagram (source: http://durablegreenbed.com/olla-pots/ )

Ollas have been used for thousands of years by both the Roman and ancient Chinese empires. Today, olla irrigation is still in use in the Middle East, as well as Central and South America. It is an ideal watering method for dry climates. Watering using ollas is a 70% efficient system, and ten times as efficient as surface watering. Daily watering becomes unnecessary, as most ollas need to be refilled only a few times a week.

olla-pot-lid
(source: http://sustainablescientist.net/category/olla-irrigation/)

olla-pot-lid-growth

After being buried in the earth, ollas can be covered with creative lids to prevent debris or animals from getting inside. Plants will soon grow.

Olla irrigation ensures that the ground will not be soaked with water, but instead only sufficiently moistened. The dryness of the soil and the surrounding plant roots will pull water through the olla walls, but as soon as the surrounding soil is damp enough, water will stop seeping out; this is known as soil moisture tension. Plants can be up to one foot away from the olla and receive water. Because the olla moistens the soil from beneath the surface, soil compaction is reduced. Surface watering causes a lot of soil compaction. Using ollas also greatly diminishes weeds in the garden, which grow on the surface of the soil.

Ollas don’t require frequent care or confusing technology. They are efficient and healthy for the soil and plants. Ollas are an ideal irrigation method for anything from potted plants to raised beds to personal vegetable gardens.

Sources:

http://drippingspringsollas.com/

http://www.permaculture.co.uk/videos/how-guide-olla-pots-%E2%80%93-effective-traditional-irrigation-system

http://www.arcadia-farms.net/olla-irrigation-for-a-market-garden/

http://www.globalbuckets.org/p/olla-irrigation-clay-pot-system.html

http://www.oas.org/DSD/publications/Unit/oea59e/ch28.htm

Singing Frogs Farm – Student Reflection

Greta Long, Class of 2015 attended the Quivera Conference this past November.  This is what she learned;

“I attended the Quivira Conference in downtown Albuquerque. The theme of the conference was “Back to the Future,” featuring speeches pertaining to the regenerative agricultural movement. Within this realm, the presentations encompassed a wide variety of topics, including the design of resilient agriculture, the integration of carbon and nitrogen cycles, and the significance of agroforestry, among others. Each speech that I listened to was incredibly informative.  The presentation that I found to be the most successful was Paul Kaiser’s speech, titled: “Soil is Life, Tillage is Death: A Future with No-Till Vegetable Agriculture.”

Before viewing this particular presentation, I was unaware of the detrimental impacts of soil tillage. Through its intense process of mechanically digging, stirring, and overturning soil, tillage reduces:

  • The amount of organic matter in soil
  • The presence of soil cohesion (and soil compaction)
  • The water infiltration rate of the soil

Above: Mechanical Soil Tilling Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Fendt_Tractor_Ripping_up_Kulin.jpg

Clearly, the practice of intensive tillage does not promote the health and longevity of agricultural farmland. At Paul Kaiser’s farm (Singing Frogs Farm), four key components ensure the health of soil:

  1. Disturb the soil as little as possible – This one’s easy; just don’t till!
  2. Grow different species of plants – Incorporate a diverse selection of crops into the garden. In order to do so, Kaiser recommends the use of perennial hedgerows. This technique proves to be advantageous, as it increases food for soil microbes, decreases wind and rain erosion, decreases evapotranspiration, moderates temperature fluctuations, produces animal fodder, attracts native pollinators, attracts beneficial insects (not pests!) and even provides nitrogen fixation.
  3. Cover the soil – At Kaiser’s farm, crop transplanting proves to be an effective method. Transplants guarantee 100% crop coverage, have little to no trouble outcompeting weed species, and spend less time in the field, optimizing maximum annual crop yield.
  4. Keep living plants in the soil as long as possible – Kaiser suggests the use of cover crops to guarantee that the soil remains a living organism and does not stagnate.

 

Above: Perennial Hedgerows at Singing Frogs Farm Source: http://www.singingfrogsfarm.com/Farm_Photo_Gallery.html

Resources:

http://quiviracoalition.org/index.html

http://www.singingfrogsfarm.com/Home.html

Building Our Soil

Our soil analysis proved that our garden had little organic matter, was virtually impermeable to rain and we suspected sparsely populated with living organisms. To breathe life back into the soil, we needed to take some pretty drastic measures.  After consulting with Gordon Tooley (a wholistic orchardist) and Minor Morgan (an organic Farmer) , we decided to doctor our earth with mechanical treatments, massive amounts of compost, (https://www.thedotgarden.org/our-black-gold/) and planting with annual cover crops, (see https://www.thedotgarden.org/improve-the-soil-plant-a-meadow/).

First, we needed to break up the hard pan with a process called sub-soiling. We hooked up a large, knife-like device to a tractor and slowly pulled the “knife” back and forth along the land, digging about 6 to 8 inches down.

DSC_0301
Sub-Soiler
Minor sub-soiling
Minor Morgan sub-soiling
Checking to see correct depth of 6-8 inches
Checking to see correct depth of 6-8 inches

Next, 67 yd3 yards of home-made compost were dumped by truck onto the site.

compostpile3

Two weeks of student labor spread and raked this almost overwhelming amount of compost across the land. Students from the 8th grade earth systems classes, the 10-12 Bio E class, the 10-12 community service students and the 6-12 environmental clubs contributed their muscle and smiles to the operation.

Spreading the Compost
Spreading the Compost

 

raking
Raking the compost

While students labored, the students even thought up math curriculum to share with their peers. How many student work-hours are needed to move 67 yd3 of compost across a ¼ acre of land?

For a while, I wondered if the mammoth pile of compost would ever be leveled. I needed to finish soon, as the students’ enthusiasm for the task began to wane and the school year end was coming on fast.

But like all things good and bad, the end comes and on to the next thing. Karen Bentrup attached the tiller to the tractor, and tilled the compost into the native soil. The ground was irrigated each morning for three days to prepare for the seeds to create the cover crop. Seeding began and the meadow began to grow.

karentractor
Karen Bentrup tilling in the compost.