Vermont School Garden

A visit to a Vermont public school garden through the seasons.

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A Shaded Spot in Our Garden

Yesterday a couple of Westminster Moms and their children helped to build a new addition to our garden. We now have an arched structure made of saplings, baling twine and garden love. Emily Lisai, parent and former teacher at our school brought saplings cut from home that she managed to cram into her car along with kids and car seats. Declan was back for more sawing. Andrea Carlson and her two children, Bayley and Maya Sbardellati joined to measure and cut the saplings to the right size.

Bayley and Maya more saplings

horizontal pieces

We couldn’t have put our shade frame together without a generous donation of baling twine from Jason Goodell at the Goodell Dairy Farm. What a great community of helpful parents! Jason also gave us a tarp that lets air through while blocking the sun’s rays.

Declan, Maya, Bayley and me done!

Bayley found a clever way to measure the length of our structure and he thinks the picnic table and benches will fit underneath! Now I have to sew two lengths of the material the Sherrods gave us for the final touch. It’s easy to imagine students using this shade space for writing, reading or painting their impressions of the garden this fall. There is nothing so wonderful as an outdoor classroom.


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Toddlers in the Garden and a Yummy Veggie Dip Recipe


Now that the summer campers have all left, what to do about harvesting the abundant zukes, cukes, beans and tomatoes?? Hire a few two, three and four year olds! Their enthusiasm is a terrific antidote for the midsummer blues…and they can spot tomatoes  hiding lower than most adults can bend down to see. Declan and Cole Lisai and their friends, Livie and Kate Clough, future Westminster students all, had fun filling their basket together. Afterwards, they grazed on the new crop of raspberries just coming in.


If you have a reluctant veggie eater at home, you might want to try this dip that my grandmother used to make:

Skordalia (Garlic/Potato Sauce)

You’ll need:

a blender

juice of one lemon

2 medium potatoes

1/4- 1/2 c. olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes (cut in half) in water (to cover) until fork tender. Reserve 1/2 c. of the water. Then run cold water over the potatoes and peel off and discard the skins. Place potatoes into blender with peeled garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil and reserved water. Blend on high until mixture is creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. If necessary add more water to achieve the consistency of sour cream.

This dip is wonderful for carrots, tomatoes, peppers, beans even pasta. It keeps well refrigerated but it may need to be reconstituted with water at room temperature before being used a second day.


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Looking Back With Gratitude and Looking Ahead With Hope: It takes Farmers to Raise A School Garden

Westminster Schools owe a HUGE thank you to area farmers and in particular, Paul and Elizabeth Harlow of Harlow Farm. For decades, Harlow Farm has donated endless hours of expertise   to every facet of the our growing school garden.  Pictured below are Westminster students and the Harlows before school let out last spring, getting a lesson on how to plant popcorn seedlings.

Paul and Elizabeth Harlow.

corn seedlings

Last spring third graders started flats of marigolds from seed. They recycled milk cartons and transplanted the tender seedlings a few weeks later. The students sold most of their marigolds for a fund raising project. They voted to donate the money they made to a local food shelf. Last June our preschool garden friend, Declan Lisai, and his mom, Emily, helped to plant the leftover marigolds on the edge of our garden. They’ve almost grown into a hedge in two months as you can see below. Declan also helped trim the saplings we’re using as a framework for our garden  shade tent. As you can see he’s already got the knack for using tools properly! We’re hoping that this frame can be used to support climbing beans next year.

transplanting marigold seedlings

Declan and marigold starts

Declan trimming a branch

beginnings of a shade tent

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Oh Yes, Kale Chip Recipe and More News

Below  is the recipe for kale chips:

Kale Chips Recipe (click here)

We were given a great donation of cloth to make a tent for visitors to the garden who might want to get out of the sun. Thanks to the Sherrods, and Mark Steinhardt for their support of our school garden. Here are Saige and Hunter Sherrod  in the garden today.

twin garden alums, Saige and Hunter Sherrod

Today we said “Good-Bye” to the Youth Services Crew. We cleared a spot for fall seedlings and the crew left us with a practically weed-free garden as well as some great words of advice:  Many vegetable generate ethylene gas as they ripen. If you put unripe tomatoes near riper ones, the gases given off by the tomatoes will help ripen your unripe ones! Here are some (but not all) of the veggies that generate ethylene gas: Apples, avocados, bananas, blue berries, citrus, cranberries, grapes, green onions, melons,mushrooms, peaches, pears, peppers, plums and …….tomatoes. Thanks again, Youth Services!

replanting lettuce, and cole crops for the fall

fare well to the Youth services Crew

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Early August Garden News

Our Westminster kitchen chef, Kim Kinney, works hard through the summer to provide several local organizations with appealing breakfasts and lunches. She has been very welcoming of our forays into new recipes to add to her repertoire. She has found gloves just the right size for children’s hands and has graciously allowed us to use the kitchen utensils and ingredients. I caught her on a trip back from a garden harvest the other morning. Kim has observed the eating habits of the students for years now and she has a lot to offer about how important the appeal of visual presentation can be to kids who are first time samplers.

Our terrific chef, Kim Kinney















Summer campers ran out to the garden to harvest kale for our preparation of kale chips. They LOVE to harvest! After washing the kale, we learned from a seasoned Kale chip loving camper that you can just tear the kale leaves from the tough stem. You don’t have to use a knife to cut it out. I left the choice to the kids. Some just love to have the status of being able to use a knife when prepping. We preheated the oven and got to work, cutting and mixing our ingredients. Kale takes no time to become crisp. If you aren’t careful, it can easily burn……just 10 minutes and no more! Needless to say, the chips were a big hit on the playground at recess. Even a few young  bikers in the school parking lot tried a chip or two.

Veggie nay sayer likes kale!

harvesting kale

Can I try this raw?

no need for a knife

mix in the salt and olive oil

try some kale chips

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New Discoveries in the Garden

weed harvest

As you can see the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Vermont has brought on the weeds. Our terrific Youth Services crew was here to help tackle them on Thursday morning. Their last day is this Wednesday. What will we do without their help? They’ve worked hard at keeping everything weeded when they’re here, one morning a week for  six weeks. While working they’ve shared their hopes and dreams as they look ahead to post high school years. I’m glad they’re still young enough to love running through the sprinkler to cool off!

Westminster summer campers will also be leaving soon. They were out all afternoon helping to harvest, weed and mulch the new beans. Jay found a beautiful spider on the raspberries. We’ll have to identify it. Do you have any ideas?
We got our row of September beans mulched with newspaper and hay before the thunderstorms moved in. Whew!

That shy kitty from last week, came back to visit with his family. Below are Jean and her children, Jedda and Christopher with Baby Duke.

Mareena and Dominic cool off in the sprinkler

a peek at the first beans

mulch straw on new beans

mulching before the rain

Jay’s spider

garden neighbors and friends

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What Doesn’t “Kale” You, Makes You Stronger

harvesting kale

weighing kale



stamp sized pieces


eating kale salad

yummy kale

Westminster School summer campers were given the full experience of making massaged kale salad (see recipe, previous post). We had a harvest crew out in the garden early enough to beat the blistering heat. They knew that we were making four times the recipe so they needed 4 pounds of kale. I chose the smooth rather than the curly leaf kale. Children had to figure out how to subtract the weight of the basket from the weight of the scale as they piled on their leaves. Afterward, we brought the kale inside, where it was washed and de-ribbed before being cut into postage stamp pieces. (We donated the tough ribs to Snorty, our principal’s pig.) By the way, with correct instruction and supervision, children are easily able to use knives for this project.
The next fun part was reading the rest of the recipe. One of our campers multiplied fractions like 1/3, by 4 and then the measurers were off, adding olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce to the bowl of chopped kale. I roasted the seeds at home to save time. We took our kale salad outside for the massaging, and we timed campers as they worked their gloved hands through it, breaking down the kale fibers. 10 minutes and we were done~~although there were plenty of campers who could have kept going. The final touch was the addition of three peeled, sectioned and chunked oranges. The sweet orangey flavor provides just the right contrast to the salty, sesame sourness of the rest of the ingredients. Campers lined up to taste their creation. When introducing new foods there can’t be anything more important than direct participation in their assemblage. Participation = appreciation. There is one more helpful addition to new food introduction: a willing adult or child skilled in drama to make a huge big deal of how goood that first bite was. Some children asked for 5th helpings! I consider this first foray into kale eating a great success. Next on the menu: kale chips!