Two more days until the weekend. I find it difficult on these crisp fall days to sit inside the office, catching up on phone calls, emails and webinars, while the last of the sunlight dips behind the hills to the west.
When autumn starts – for me, somewhere around the first of October – I always come to the conclusion that this, in fact, is my favorite season. Seeing your breath in the morning, the gambel oaks and poplars popping with color, and the never-ending box of apples in the garage are images that I look forward to throughout the year.
Perhaps, I may say the same thing about every season: the first snowfall, the first turns at the ski hill in winter; the spring bulbs and the first day wearing shorts come spring; and then there are the afternoons on the river with the kids and the dog, and that first night sleeping with the window open come summer.
But I do love fall. I love the finality of what is typically my busiest season, I love the harvest of fruits and vegetables, and, of course, I love knowing that Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
But as the daylight wanes, weekday nights quickly disappear, and all projects are put off until Saturday or Sunday. In our house, we relish these weekends, or maybe even just Sunday, as most Saturdays are consumed by soccer and house projects.
But this last Sunday, it was different, at least for a couple of hours, as my family and dozens more dedicated time to their school garden. See, about a year ago, a number of us came up with the idea that Needham Elementary School needed a bigger garden. While it already was sizable – 10 vegetable beds and a large perennial bed – we came to the consensus that it could be bigger. And better.
Why only 10 beds? The school has 24 classes, so why shouldn’t there be 24 beds? And while we are at it, why not incorporate spaces for outdoor learning, art, reading and drawing. And, of course, spaces for more trees, more perennials, more fruit-bearing shrubs and more vegetables.
There is a cafeteria that was willing to accept and use produce from the garden; there are teachers who see all sorts of learning opportunities that fit into their curriculum and standards; and there are almost 500 students who at some point during the day probably gaze out the window wishing that they were outside.
So on Sunday, the day of church or football or relaxation, more than 50 parents and kids showed up to the garden with wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes in tow to help with the transformation. Much of the heavy work already was completed by the crew at Scapegoat Landscaping, but there was still 40 cubic yards of mulch to move and spread, weeds to pull, soil to smooth and trash to pick up. And in two hours, which can only be described as speed-landscaping, it got done.
It is a testament to the dedication of the school’s administration, teachers, parents and kids to “own” this special space, and it’s a shining star for organizations such as The Garden Project and Colorado State University Extension, which have been part of the project since its conception.
It’s also proof that no matter what else is going on in your life, a smile can always be found in the garden.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.