What’s Up at Farm and Forest Discovery This Spring?


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The YAP Farm and Forest Discovery project has jumped into action this spring, using the fields, the garden, and the woods at the Smokey House Center as our natural classrooms.

Heavy duty mulch for heavy duty weeds

Heavy duty mulch for heavy duty weeds

Our first project was starting a garden from scratch, in what was once an overgrown field.  After the farmers plowed it for us, and friends of the program roto-tilled it, we picked rocks, pulled quack grass, dug up wild parsnip and burdock, and raked the soil into some semblance of order.  We now have a garden where there was nothing before but weeds, and although there are plenty of weeds still inhabiting our plot, we now have onions shoots four inches high, rows of radish and lettuce seedlings, and plenty of other vegetables already planted.  Th YAP Summer Work & Learn will manage the garden during the summer, and the school-year FFD will take over again in September.  We have high hopes for our pumpkin harvest!

The newly cleared bridge, moved to its new setting.

The newly cleared bridge, moved to its new setting.

The forest is another focus for us – both as a natural textbook for biology and environmental science, and as a place to develop woodcraft, trailwork, and forestry skills.  We’ve learned about invasive plants such as mustard garlic and Japanese knotweed, and we’ve spent time clearing the woods of them.  (This is a never-ending task.)  Most recently we put a lot of muscle, as well as use of levers and fulcrums, into digging out a small bridge that was covered with debris from old storms (perhaps as far back as Irene).  It’s amazing what group problem-solving and teamwork can do.  We moved the bridge four feet upstream, setting it on new feet and clearing the streambed below it.  Next step – clearing some of the well-used trail beyond the bridge and updating the trail markers.

We like to use our hands for building as well as digging and planting.  Our first woodcraft project this spring is carved walking sticks.  We have plans for the future that include larger projects, such as crafting Adirondack style furniture.

Technology is an important part of our program, but we’ve been so busy outside, and have had so much good weather, that we haven’t even opened our new iPads!  We’re waiting for a rainy day to work on blogs, videos, and electronic portfolios.  In the meantime, however, we always make time for reflective writing at the end of the day.

FFD - Dandelion HarvestLast but not least, we’ve taken advantage of the fields around us, which have been overflowing with dandelions.  As part of our study of edible and medicinal wild plants (including violets, ground ivy, plantain, and more) we have harvested dandelion flowers and turned them into a fragrant jelly.  Some say it tastes like apple, others say it tastes like honey.  If you’re lucky enough to try some (it’s delicious on buttered toast), tell us what you think!

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