Spring Sampler

It’s been a long time since I blogged, and people have started to notice. “People” being certain members of my family, who last week spontaneously burst out chanting “BLOG BLOG BLOG BLOG” like a bunch of rowdy, blog-thirsty hooligans. (In my defense, I did write a post last month for FoodCorps MS.)  It was also great seeing these weird, wonderful folks in Boulder for Sam’s graduation.

Candid.

Candid. (photo courtesy of Sara Kohn)

 

And I got to see my BFF! She's a smartie in med school.

And I got to see my BFF! She’s a smartie in med school.

 

Spring has been busy, y’all, so I’ll spare you the details and just give some of the highlights. March, April, and May have been full of spring planting and garden celebrations. Recently, I’ve been working with the owners of Foot Print Farms, Dr. Cindy Ayers and her husband Ruben, to get their produce into Magnolia Speech School. Not only are they inspiring mentors for me, but they’ve also been incredibly generous. They helped me build raised garden beds at the school and even brought in a truckload of soil from their farm.

Building the raised beds.

Building the raised beds (April 24)

Fresh red leaf lettuce from Foot Print Farms.

Fresh red leaf lettuce from Foot Print Farms.

 

To celebrate Earth Day, Whole Foods sponsored a garden party at my school! We painted, planted, and ate snacks.

Planting okra, watermelon, and beans. My floppy hat helps me hide my identity.

Planting okra, watermelon, and beans. The floppy hat helps me hide my identity. (photo courtesy of Liz Broussard)

Ms. Jessie

more vegetable stamps

More vegetable stamps (photo courtesy of Liz Broussard)

Kiddo hands + herbs.

Kiddo hands + herbs. (photo courtesy of Liz Broussard)

And in just a month, the garden has grown a ton!

Raised bed gardens and close ups of the cukes. Bottom right is our "Southern 3 Sisters" bed: okra, beans, and watermelon.

Raised bed gardens and close ups of the cukes. Bottom right is our “Southern 3 Sisters” bed: okra, beans, and watermelon.

In other news, roller derby bout season kicked off on April 5 with a home game, and we traveled to Huntsville, AL a few weeks ago for another bout. So far, we’ve lost both our games, but played well and had fun. I love being part of this team of awesome women. I’ve been out for a couple weeks due to a knee injury, but I’ll be back this weekend for our next home game.

Booty blockin'. Photo courtesy of Rhett Amick.

Booty blockin’. Photo courtesy of Rhett Amick.

 

In mid April, I traveled to Austin for FoodCorps midyear gathering and the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.  This was the most casual conference I have ever attended, but with the coolest group of attendees–farmers, educators, gardeners, chefs, etc. Claire, Rebecca, Mariel, and I stayed a few extra days, which we basically turned into a food-cation.

Members of the Austin High School garden club proudly showing us their school garden. If only I had been so self aware at such a tender age!

Members of the Austin High School garden club proudly showing us their school garden. If only I had been so self aware at such a tender age!

Okay, maybe not the best food photo, but these authentic Mexican food truck tacos were the bomb dot com.

Okay, maybe not the best food photo, but these food truck tacos were the bomb dot com. Also, full disclosure: I was NOT a vegetarian during this week.

 

4 days after we got back, Claire and I drove 6 hours to Nashville, slept 5 hours and then ran the Nashville Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  That may have been a poor choice, but the $100 we paid back in January was non-refundable. Plus, it was kinda fun. Sorry, there is no proof that this actually happened. You’ll just have to believe me.

And since this blog is called Eat. Grow. FERMENT., here are some pictures of foods that are fermentin’ up in here.

On the left: golden beets and purple cabbage with arame (seaweed) and green cabbage with carrots, cumin and caraway seeds, and dried chilis. These were inspired by Hex Ferments in Baltimore and Fermentation on Wheels.

On the left: golden beets and purple cabbage with arame (seaweed) and green cabbage with carrots, cumin and caraway seeds, and dried chilis. These were inspired by Hex Ferments in Baltimore and Fermentation on Wheels.

And we made homemade sourdough pizza crusts at school! We put some fresh herbs from the garden in the dough and on the pizza too. The kids loooved it.

And we made homemade sourdough pizza crusts at school! We put some fresh herbs from the garden in the dough and on the pizza too. The kids loooved it.

 

Thanks for reading, folks! The next time I post, I will have chickens living in my back yard. Stay tuned!

Future chicken home!

Future chicken home!

Juice. It’s what’s for snack.

Ok, first off I have to admit: I think that “y’all” is definitely superior to “you guys.” It’s gender neutral, and there are fewer syllables. The South is definitely on to something.

Also, there are so many things I’d like to write about! Like Mississippi roller derby, awesome organic vegetable and herb farms in the Delta, backyard jazz concerts, goat milk ice cream, guerrilla pothole fillers, and physical confrontations witnessed outside of the  Department of Human Services. If you have any questions about Jackson, FoodCorps, cockroaches, or anything else, feel free to ask me about it in the comments! But since this is mainly my FoodCorps-related blog, I want to share some successes, challenges, and goals from my first week of service (in FoodCorps we say “serve” not “work”).

Thinking outside the juice box

My site supervisor, Prentiss,  a spunky young mother of four with a wealth of knowledge about farming, apiary, and nutrition, got us started with a bang. She brought her juicer to the school, and we set up in teacher’s kitchen, juicing apples, carrots, celery, spinach, lemon, lime, and ginger. Originally, we were just going to go around to the teachers and administrators with some juice samples, but a couple of the teachers were intrigued and decided to bring their classes in to participate. The next couple hours turned into impromptu smell and taste tests where students tried to guess what the vegetable or fruit was using all their senses–touching and smelling the pulp and comparing the colors of juice.  For the older kids, the teachers and I tried to get them to use different adjectives to describe their sensory perceptions. They were a little squeamish at first…because “eeew vegetables!” but they quickly became intrigued. One little blonde girl coughed and wrinkled her nose at all the vegetables, but by the end of the activity, she had quietly swallowed all her apple-carrot-lemon juice down to the last drop!  The teachers loved it too.

Fitting in

It’s funny how quickly my thinking has moved from the abstract macrocosm of FoodCorp’s pillars of “Knowledge, Engagement, and Access” down to the minutiae of the cafeteria schedule, whether to use “Ms.” when talking to the principal, where to get a bucket to start composting kitchen scraps, etc., etc. For example, I’m still decoding the informal pecking order of the school while trying to grasp the norms and relationships that are unique to any organizational culture. The juicing activity apparently broke some of these rules because of its impromptu nature. And since this school is a new service site, most teachers and staff didn’t even know what I was doing at the school or that I would be there all year. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘splainin’ this first week and, to be honest, the reactions have been mixed. Some people are just resistant to change. I will woo those people over to my side with baked treats like these.

Impatiens is a flower, not a virtue

One of the other challenges I’m working around is my school’s lack of a garden budget. But today my amazing host site supervisor, Willie decided to help me out and took me on a shopping trip to the local nursery/hardware store to get transplants, seeds, and tools. On the way there, I confessed to him that I was getting impatient. I wanted everything to be instantly functional and great. He laughed and said that impatience is a common problem for a lot of service members who come to Mississippi.  I have to remind myself that the most sustainable kinds of change are the ones that progress slowly, growing deep roots before they branch out for the world to see.  [Insert more dorky plant metaphors here.]

So I guess I’ll leave you with my goals for this week: 1) create my class schedule with the teachers, 2) clean out the  school’s tool shed and taking inventory, 3) start the compost, and 4) break ground (literally) on the new gardens. Prentiss and I have some cool ideas for a pumpkin patch, an herb garden, and some vine vegetables along a bleak stretch of chain link fence. I’ll keep y’all posted.

Is FoodCorps a government program? And other questions…

I got back from my whirlwind Colorado adventure Wednesday night. Now I just have some laundry to do, paperwork to fill out, and people to see before jumping on a plane to Portland on Sunday morning for FoodCorps’ week-long orientation. … Continue reading