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!

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Big soul, little city

Is it cliche to say that Jackson is full of surprises and contradictions? Well, I apologize a million times, but it’s true. This city buzzes with the energy, talent, and creative drive of any large urban center, but it’s tempered by small town charm and the feeling that everybody knows everybody.

And the surprises?  Hip hop here is darn good.  Friday night we went to a benefit concert in the back lot of a self-identified “modern day juke joint” where I was blown away by the talent of the local hip hop artists.  There was a distinctly Southern flavor in the way their raps mixed pride for their Mississippi roots, love for family and community, and biting criticisms of modern inequality in the South.  If you want to hear an example, check out Mr. Franklin aka Kamikaze. There was also a killer brass band called Southern Komfort, and a lot of talented DJs, one of whom also happens to be a city councilman. And true to Jackson form, when we left, the bartender gave us a hug.

Fresh ideas in JXN.

Fresh ideas in JXN.

In other news, despite some initial confusion and skepticism, I’ve found a few strong allies in the teachers and faculty at my school who care deeply about healthy eating and outdoor education. Five teachers so far have shown interest in having me teach in their classes; I’ll be starting with two classes next week as well as working with the music teacher. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a great start and I’m optimistic that more teachers will be open to working with me once word spreads and the garden starts growing.

You can't see it yet, but that's going to be a school garden.

You can’t see it yet, but that’s going to be a school garden.

Speaking of gardening, last week Prentiss and I staked out the garden plots to prepare for tilling tomorrow. Since the majority of children at the school are hearing or speech impaired, we are building a sensory garden, moving away from the traditional boxiness of raised beds toward a more free-flowing permaculture design.  We went to the salvage yard yesterday to get some up-cycling inspiration. I’m going to scavenge for used wine bottles in order to make a whimsical pathway, kind of like this. We also found some old car tires that we’ll use as herb containers.

P.S.  And guess what? I’m joining the Jackson roller derby team. Roller derby name suggestions are more than welcome!!