I think Winnie the Pooh would agree with me that it was a blustery day. The storm that has affected the entire East Coast of the United States did not forget St. Petersburg or Lakewood Elementary. I got to the garden early to be certain I would be able to take pictures before the inevitable downpour. Rain gear ready, I tromped around and gasped at the garden's splendor for the umpteenth time. The gigantic sunflowers have started blooming. The yellow flowers seemed a bit out of place under the gloomy rain clouds. The nasturtiums have also started blooming. They too offered an orange and red brilliance to the grey lull of the afternoon. Anything and everything that was already in bloom has increased production tenfold. We cannot pick the okra fast enough. Yesterday, we gave one of the teachers about ten huge okra! Today there were still more to pick. We are pretty sure garden gnomes are putting more and more okra on the bush everytime we turn away only to discover the new additions the next time we admire the plants. We picked a few sugar snap peas and carrots to share with the children during the harvest festivities. The tomato bushes are exploding with fruit. They will be ready in the next two weeks for harvest. The green bell peppers have also decided now that it is the end of the semester, to go hog wild with pepper production. As I was exploring I came upon a huge surprise. Hiding behind the tallest of the sunflowers, back behind the three sisters patch, among the pineapples, was a single, veridian, softball sized PUMPKIN! A bit of a late comer but not at all unwelcome. There were so many other amazing discoveries around the garden that if I wrote about them all I might be sitting here all night. To sum everything up. The garden is flourishing.
After my romping and picture extravaganza, we started to plan and get ready for the harvest festival for the day. We hoped the rain would hold out at least for one shift. But, of course, it started as soon as we pulled the started plants out of the shed. We left them in the rain to get some water. Although the garden and the garden team love rain, the harvest festival could not continue outside during the shower. So we took the harvest festival to the children. We harvested a few vegetables each for all 60 or so children we'd be seeing over the next two hours and paraded over to our first class. The classes decorated the donated SweetBay bags with their favorite vegetables and we passed around the harvest for them to take home in the bags. The classes today got to try carrots, snap peas, and green peppers from the garden as well. We showed them one of the okras we picked and a turnip although we could not let them try these because they are vegetables which are better eaten cooked. To my astonishment most of the children loved the carrots and the green peppers. I don't think I would have been so bold at their ages. Finally, we gave the children each a started plant. They seemed pleased with the mementos of the garden we left them with.
It is the end of the semester for the Eckerd College students. Next week we will all take our finals and shortly after most of us will head back to our families for the winter break. Some of us will return to the garden and Lakewood next year for another exciting growing season. Others, like me, will not be able to return to the peace patch garden. It is regrettable, but I will always remember the time I spent in the Edible Peace Patch Garden at Lakewood Elementary. I will never forget the smiles, smirks, and exclamations that the students of Lakewood have given me. I know I speak for the rest of the garden team when I say that I am thankful for my time in the garden. It has been a pleasant, interesting, and curious experience. The students of Lakewood are an amazing group and they have filled my heart with warmth over these last few months. I want to thank the school for allowing the garden to persist. It is not only a valuable learning tool for their own students, but it is a splendid way for us at Eckerd College to give back to the community that we now belong to as well.
Happy Winter to everyone!