Thursday, May 21, 2009

Juan Morel Campos had a Garden E-I-E-I-OOO!

Over the last few days we have been really excited to put new plants in the garden. We started seeds for a whole bunch of plants, like arugula, lemon basil, onions, and tomatillos. We even planted purple carrots, cucumbers that will look like lemons, and beets that are striped pink and white like a peppermint! We didn't know that plants came in so many varieties. The ones you buy in the store are always the same and boring.

We put in other plants, too. We planted string beans and tied them to long wooden stakes. Jesus thinks they will grow to the sky like in Jack and the Bean Stalk. We planted tomatoes on stakes, too. Did you know that the tomato is not a vegetable? It's really a berry, like a strawberry or blueberry. We think that kind of makes sense if you think about it. We also planted two raspberry bushes and two blackberry bushes. Ms. Milewski and Mrs. Simone say that they willbe delicious when they grow fruit, but that might not be this year. We also planted bok choy, which is the cabbage used in chinese food. We are looking forward to the fall, because we put all kinds of pumpkins and squash into the ground, and will hopefully have giant pumpkins in October. We will be in the 9th grade then, but we hope we can still help in the garden.

We were surprised by how much water the plants need. They are very, very thirsty! We can't wait to go the Farner's Market to learn about all the crazy fruits and vegetables they grow. We wish we could buy purple carrots and lemon apple cucumbers and chioggia beets in the regular store!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Double Chocolate Trip!

Did you ever see the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? We did, and so when we went to The Mast Brothers Chocolate Shop, we were disappointed that there were no oompa loompas. However, there was a lot of really cool chocolatey stuff. They showed us real cacao beans from the Dominican Republic and Madagascar. Some of us are from the DR and didn't even know they grew chocolate there. We got to grind our own roasted cacao beans. When they are ground they are called nibbs. The nibbs are placed into a machine with two granite stones that spin and spin until chocolate is made. They add sugar, too. The amount of sugar depends on the type of chocolate. We tried dark chocolate that was about 80% chocolate. Some of us thought it was gross, but others thought it was kind of good. We realized what real chocolate tastes. And now that we know what real chocolate tastes like, the chocolate that they sell in the store doesn't taste as good or give as much satisfaction as the real stuff.

The Mast Brothers, Mike and Rick, add other stuff to their chocolate. We tried chocolate with the nibbs right in it, and another kind with sea salt. We liked the chocolate with the salt better. It seemed to add more flavor and take some of the bitterness out. Mrs. Simone liked the chocolate with the nibbs the most, like Mike Mast. We brought some chocolate home to Mr. Fineman, the prinipal.

We learned that people who are not used to chocolate won't really like it because they are used to things like Hershey's chocolate. But Hershey's chocolate has a lot of chemicals and sugar in it. But if you're a chocolatier, you will love the dark chocolate. We wanted to taste their milk chocolate but they didn't have any. We also learned that milk chocolate doesn't really have milk in it, but instead it has milk powder. Also, white chocolate is only sort of chocolate. It is made by pressing really hard on the cacao bean until the cocoa butter comes out of it. The white chocolate is just cocoa butter and sugar. We keep arguing about whether it's really chocolate or not.

But that wasn't even the end of our trip! When we got back to school, we met Virginie, a French chocolatier. We were disappointed because she didn't wear a berret. However, she did bring with her a lot more chocolate, dried chocolate beans that looked like nuts, cocoa butter, and nibbs. The dried cocoa beans were really weird. We disagree about whether we like them. At first when you chew them, they taste like flowers, but after a while they start to taste like dirt. We think the chocolate probably tastes like what grows around the cacao plant.

Virginie made chocolate mousse with us. It was really good when we added whipped cream. It was very strong and chocolatey. We got to use our own little kitchen. It was really nice and everything was new and shiny.

Now we're off to see what's growing in the garden. Catch you later!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Juan Morel Campos Garden Volunteer Day

Yesterday, had our first volunteer day for the school year. We were very excited to have over 20 students--8th and 9th graders--show up. Mr. Fineman, the principal, came and took pictures of us. We got a lot done and the garden looks great. We remember how it looked last year this time of year when we were in the 7th grade: like a jungle! Now it looks like little farm ready for plants.

The best part of the volunteer day was afterwards, when Ms. Milewski ordered pizza and we all went to her classroom and ate dinner together. We had a lot of fun talking and clowning around. Alot of us eat dinner everynight by ourselves so it was alot of fun to hang out and eat with other people.

Tomorrow, we are going to plant a whole bunch of vegetables. There are tomato plants, squash plants, bok choy (that's a kind of cabbage), lettuce, and little baby pumpkin plants. Some of the stuff won't grow fruits until next fall, like the squash and pumpkins, but some of the stuff will have them soon. We are very excited to finally put plants into the ground and for the chocolate trip on Friday!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Big Green Adventure!

We have some very exciting things coming up. Next Monday, May 11, we are going to have a garden volunteer day. We hope that the garden will be completely finished and we can put in the plants and wait for them to grow.

Next Friday, May 15, we head for the Mast Bros. Chocolate Factory. There, we are going to take a tour, get to see how chocolate is made, and hopefully, make some of our own. We will return to the school and catch up with Virginie, a French chocolatier. She is going to teach us all about chocolate and let us try some samples. Them we are going to make our own chocolate dessert. Mrs. Simone and Ms. Milewski are going to make a special dinner of chicken mole for us. Chicken mole is a Mexican dish made using chocolate--but it's not sweet. Then we will eat dessert together.

June 13 our school will have a Health Fair and they asked us to help out. We are going to work in the garden and answer any questions the parents may have. They are welcome to come and see our work in the garden. The week after that, we are going to head for the Union Square Farmer's Market to see how real farmers sell their veggies.

We are really excited and ready to learn new things. Can't wait to tell you all about it!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Apple trees, Flying Scissors, Birds Nests and Weeds

The report below comes from Juan Morel Campos JHS in Williamsburg Brooklyn.  Their garden is in its second year and this year and will be center stage in the school health fair.

Recently, they planted a Newtown Pippin apple tree, a New York native!  They are also creating a rolling kitchen to take good food education cooking demos to different classes in their school.  (If you would like to get your own free Pippin sapling go here:

We planted two apple trees. One of them is called Pippin. He is a Newton Pippin apple tree. He is special because is originally from Queens, and for a long time, nobody thought there were any left. The other tree we planted is named Blossom. She is a Honey Crisp apple tree. We needed two apple trees because they need to pollinate with one another so they can have apple trees (they're boyfriend and girlfriend). Pippin looks like a tall stick and he has little buds coming off of him. Blossom has a lot of branches with buds coming off of her too. We are very excited because in a couple of years we can eat the apples!

We have done some other stufff in the garden, too. We weeded, ALOT! Also, there used to be a pond in the front of the garden, but we got rid of it. We are using the dirt from that section to fill in other sections of the garden. It's really hard work. We have to pulled out all the weeds and rocks, and now we are moving the dirt by putting it in the wheelbarrow and dumping it.

We cleaned out the shed, too. It was a MESS!!!! There were things in the shed from MANY years ago. Some of the things in the shed were from a teacher who hasn't been in the school for years. It smelled so bad like a cat was living in it.

In the back of the garden, there is a section where we have to dig out all the rotten wood and put in cinder blocks. This is really hard work! On top of it, people from the second floor threw things out of the window at us. They were really mean. We are worried that they will ruin the garden.

Guess what! We found a bird nest on top of one of the air conditioners with little birds in it! They are getting big. They are all brown with little hairs. The mom is all red and we named her Ruby. There was a bird named Max who died. We saw a butterfly, too.

The rainy weather is really bad, because we can't go in the garden. But we will tell you all about it when we finally do! Have fun and keep dry!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Soil For Rooftop Gardens/ Irrigation Systems

The Gaia Institute has formulated a lightweight food safe soil for rooftop gardens and green roofs. It is up to 60% lighter than traditional soil mixes and made from recycled materials.  I recently bought some for my garden. I have a 24' x 3.5' x 12" deep box and the soil cost me about $250. Once you lay it down, you have to cover it with burlap and put 1' of compost over the top. I put 2".

I am installing a drip irrigation system from Dripworks www. If you send them your garden plan, they will design the system for you, for free. Schools get a 10% discount. 

Seedsavers is having a sale on transplants. 25% off.