Spring is just around the corner, and like the plants that are being reborn all around Pathfinder, the garden is getting revitalized, too! Spring cleaning has begun and the garden is getting a fresh make-over.
All hands are on deck as Pathfinder gets ready for the warm weather and 50th year celebration in April. Maintenance began a project in the front lobby to try and get some plants growing even earlier than the cold would allow; and it worked! Live in a cold place, or have soil with little to no nutrients? Check out our experimental hydroponics system. Hydroponics doesn’t require soil. Instead, the plants are placed in plastic containers (drill holes through the sides and bottom) that are filled with shredded coconut medium, which absorbs water and nutrients from the water basin that it’s submerged in. We used an old plastic bin, recycled yogurt containers, an aquarium pump, and 6 gallons of purified water. Instead of daily watering, with hydroponics you can simply add 1 gallon of water every two weeks!
Not only can plants grow year round when protected from the elements outside, but you can also save both space and water! In our experiment, the basil is flourishing but our spinach is not. Try it at home and post the results of your own hydroponics system on our Facebook page. We’d sure love to know!
Another project a few Naturalists have been working on is our compost. As the weather gets warmer, and we want to grow many more things than will fit in our hydroponics system, we need soil for our plants to thrive in. As old plant matter breaks down, it creates fertile soil which you can use for planting. This decomposition harnesses the power of the circle of life. Why buy something you normally just throw away each day? Use those food scraps and start your own compost. Your garden will love you for it!
Have you ever composted before? If not, here are a few tips from our resident garden expert, Rain:
1. Dig your compost pile down at least a few inches. This makes the pile easier to turn and keeps heat in. Keeping the pile warmer will produce soil sooner.
2. Cover your compost. Again, this keeps it nice and warm which breaks down material faster. This also helps to keep unwanted critters away.
3. Turn your compost. There are plenty of fun ways to do this, including rolling it around in an old trash can! The reason is simple..all those microbes and other organisms like earthworms that help the food turn to soil need the help of oxygen.
4. Add nearly everything! Add any food waste that comes from plants: bread, veggies, fruit cores and peels, pasta, french fries, coffee grinds, tomato sauce, leaves and twigs, and even old paper, napkins, and tea bags! (Did you know it takes less energy for the paper to break down in the compost than to be recycled into new paper? Plus this added carbon helps the compost to be more nutritious and less smelly!)
New projects are springing forward to make this year’s garden the most beautiful and bountiful yet! We’ve had some amazing 4th-6th grade gardeners already come and help plant many new crops. How about you? This spring you too could revitalize that little plot of green space or an empty windowsill into a lean, mean food producing machine!
Thanks for reading,
Your Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists and Staff
Oh, the stories we hear working at the Ranch. Stewart, our Facilities Director (a.k.a. Do-Everything-Extraordinaire), told me about the story of Betsy’s Farm.
One of our wonderful donors, Deana Brix has a mother-in-law, Betsy, who is very prim and proper and doesn’t like to get dirty. Betsy’s Farm at Pathfinder Ranch is actually named after her. Their family joke was to name a place where kids can get their hands dirty after a family member who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. And boy, do the kids like to get their hands dirty at the farm.
The last two weeks we have had students explore and learn about the farm and our animals. I think their favorite thing was to chase the chickens around. Usually our farm classes get to help feed and interact with the animals, particularly the pigs and goats. What a better way to learn more about where our food comes from than to give it a little scratch behind the ears!
New Farm Faces
A gracious member of our local Garner Valley community recently donated some new goats to Pathfinder Ranch. We’re always excited to add new faces to our farm, but these goats are a pretty unique addition. Both of our new goats are smaller in stature than what you’d imagine for a goat. We have a new pygmy goat and a Nigerian Dwarf goat, Miss Daisy Mae and Blue Jasmine.
Miss Daisy Mae is a Pygmy goat. Pygmy goats originated in the Cameroon Valley of West Africa. They were imported into the United States from European zoos in the 1950s for use in zoos as well as research animals. They were eventually acquired by private breeders and quickly gained popularity as pets and exhibition animals due to their good-natured personalities, friendliness and hardy constitution. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_goat)
Blue Jasmine is a Nigerian Dwarf goat. The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat breed of West African ancestry. Originally brought to the United States on ships as food for large cats such as lions, the survivors originally lived in zoos. Nigerian Dwarf goats are popular as hobby goats due to their easy maintenance and small stature. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigerian_Dwarf_(goat))
Both of our new goats are female adults about 5 years old, and at full size. They are dairy goats, but we don’t plan on milking them, plus they no longer produce milk anyway. They have already taken a liking to the students that have had the chance to visit with them.
Tune in for our next blog update where we’ll tell you about some of the exciting things going on at our garden and new hydroponics plant bed!
For our schools that have already attended, we know that you love and miss garbology (the study of food waste). For our schools yet to come, we hope you’re getting excited, but why should we keep this important program all to ourselves?! Why not bring Garbology and conservation back to your schools, homes, and local communities?! To help get you started, you should check out this fun website that talks about garbology: http://www.naturebridge.org/garbology.php.
Talk to your family about studying what you throw away each week. Then, you can see if you can reduce the amount of waste going to a landfill by looking at what can be REUSED, COMPOSTED, or RECYCLED. You can find a list of things that can be recycled by looking at your city’s waste and recycling website.
You can bring garbology to your school by encouraging your classmates to look at what they are throwing away at lunch and in the classrooms. Just like at Pathfinder, the waste from your lunches can be sorted into recycling, compost, and trash. If you do not have recycling or composting at your school, you can ask your teachers and your principal to help you start these programs. You can also talk to your school about signing up for a cool program called TerraCycle. TerraCycle is a company that accepts a variety of used school and office items like empty juice pouches, empty Lunchable containers, and even pens so that they can be made into new products. You can sign up for this at http://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades.html.
Good luck and see you down the trail!
-Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists