Kayam Farm- the scene of "Planting Seeds: The First Jewish Early Childhood Conference.
It was better than imagined. It was the participants willingness to "dig deeply" on all fronts that mattered. People came from as far as Seattle,North Carolina, Texas, Boston and Worcester, Florida and New York as well as from nearby Virgina, Pennsylvania,New Jersey and of course Baltimore. There were nature specialists, ece directors, teachers, a rabbi and a great mix of ages and persuasions. There were the gardeners and the wannabes and together we weeded, worked on the farm, engaged with the farm animals at a distance of our choice and got to see red wiggler worms up close and personal. There were sessions on nutrition and healthy eating, and great meals for our own sustenance.
There was an ongoing discussion of what makes the garden 'Jewish' and how to bring the very young into this endeavor.
As the 'green bubbie' I gave the opening keynote, trying my best to weave together Richard Louv's wonderful book, "The Last Child in the Woods" with Jewish Identity and Inspiration from the Garden- For those of you not there, I used my actual weaving expertise to invite those present to image the 'warp' of the loom as Torah and the weft as the experiences in the natural world. The warp of the loom is the backbone and strength of the fabric..Sometimes that warp is invisible, and sometimes given the design of the pattern it becomes obvious and beautifully woven together- that's what create the design of the fabric. So too, if the foundation of what we do in the garden comes from our growing and continual study of what the Torah teaches us, that is the foundation of what we teach, of who we are, and what we do we the children. The stronger the warp, the stronger the fabric we create.
And just in case anyone thinks young children are too young,not so. There is no better example that the song, "Yom Rishon Avodah, Yom Sheni Avodah....Yom Shabbat Menucha" (with the hand motions of course) that demonstrates that even the youngest of children can participate in our Torah based tradition- 6 days of work, and on Shabbat we rest"
just like it says in the Torah!
So, as we prepare for Shabbos, let's try to think of all the work we've done all week- in and out of the garden- how we finish it, and rest on the coming Shabbat.
My hope is that this was only the first Jewish Early Childhood Gardening Conference- There is no way I can convey the extraordinary interplay of the parallel sessions of the Ashville JCCs' Early Childhood Cur brilliantly conveyed and shared by LAEL and JILL along with the workshops given by the incredibly knowledgeable staff of Kayam Farm. They live the life they are aspiring to and it is inspiring to work and learn along side of them
I look forward to the next gathering and learning and bringing our field to new heights,
as together we dig deeply into our Jewish Tradition and into the earth from which G-d created us all.
Will you still need me when I'm 64? Today is actually the 64th birthday of 'the green zaydee.' I realized today how much the operative word in the Beatles'song was always the "I" as in "when I am 64"
It's one thing to imagine oneself growing older- it always seems so far away. It is quite another thing to think of family and friends growing older. As a boomer, I was always struck by how many people were my age, no matter how old I was. I remember when I thought everybody was a 'pre-teen' Of course the advertising business has reinforced my
ego=centrism at every stage. I have always told my children that I have never had a new idea or interest, or reached a new milestone in what I thought of as my own development, without having some version of my newest stage or interest appear as a cover story in the NYTimes magazine.
Life catches up to the lyrics of the songs we sang before we were 3o. Now that we are in cutting edge Boomer age range, it's good to reflect and re-group.
YES I thank G-d I still love the 'green zayda' in my life, and that our life is so much more than I could have imagined at 30. I do have to say that the stanza about weeding the garden and doing the chores- who could ask for more??? That still resonates.
It is not always so simple to have a life filled with the simple things. Knowing what the basics are, and being grateful for what we do have is a blessing everyday.
'64' doesn't seem bad,it's much better than I thought it could be (no, I am not 64)- it's slightly over half the way I see things. And the best is being with, and around people of all ages- not every one is 64!
It's not about letting yourself 'go' as we get older, it's more about letting yourself "become" not only what we imagined, but so much more.
Happy Birthday, to all the green bubbies and zaydees!
I recently returned from the West Coast. Of course it is not uncommon for people to go to the LA area to see the homes of stars, or to hope to catch a glimpse of a star trying to hide behind those big sunglasses. I really don't think I could recognize a Hollywood star if I bumped into one who was wearing a large print name tag.
But for me, I had an incredible thrill- seeing timeless stars. I looked UP. and what did I see? I SAW MARS no kidding. There it was in the dark night sky- just where it is supposed to be! As well as the smaller flashing star right next to it. And when I turned around and looked up again- there is was- THE BIG DIPPER! Unlike many things in life that appear smaller as we grow older or taller- the stars in the sky retain their enormity, while we shrink in humility at their enormity.
Truth be told, there was a telescope. But, it was so complicated, I couldn't figure out how to use it. My host had used it the night before so I was told where in the sky to look. We turned out all the lights in this home in the Valley, and against this beautiful night sky, the stars and planets appeared just as clearly albeit a bit smaller than when viewed through the fancy scope.
But it just proves, that if you really want to "see stars " turn out the lights- don't fear the dark, just look up and be amazed.
You can only imagine the stories I told my grandchildren when I returned...we've been looking up ever since.
We built a "raised bed" a 3x3 foot wooden ' box' used lanscape fabric on the bottom and filled it with gardening soil. We planted the peas and zuchinni which we had grown from seeds and some additional lettuce and flower seedings. The children loved learning how to hoe, to shovel, to dig an adequate hole and of course, watering the garden.
For over 2 hours over 30 children were transformed into urban gardeners!
and now, a vegetable garden grows on a city play ground!
The miracle of growth can happen anywhere you are willing to take root.
Today I received a letter in the mail addressed to "Green Bubbie(TM)" You know, even a great idea is only an idea. Even if you write about it, you need to see if it resonates with others outside of your own head. Do other people ever know what you are imagining? As a 'visionary' thinker, I can tell you that there is nothing more exciting then to see/know that your idea is understood by others, and used by them.
So, imagine my delight when during my recent visit to my grand daughter's kindergarten, I was asked by the teacher what I would like the children to call me. Finally, my chance to try this 'green bubbie' idea out on a group of five year olds. So, I said, they can call me "Green Bubbie" - I paused and whispered to the teacher that for the moment, I would skip my usual monologue about energy-efficient grand parenting. (see initial green bubbie blog posts)
About a moment later the teacher returned and told me that a number of children commented that I didn't look green, and that I didn't appear to be wearing anything green either. There is nothing like the reality focus of young children. So, I proceeded to explain to them that, in addition to being a color, 'green' is also the color of vegetable greens, and gardens, and that a
"green bubbie" is 'someone who helps children plant gardens.'
We did several activities involving different seeds, gardening catalogs, and each child had an opportunity to plant their own chosen seed in an organic, biodegradable planter with their own scoop of organic planting soil. I don't know who had the most fun. We even discussed the life cycle of beans- and while they were admittedly more familiar with beans that go into making 'cholent' for Shabbos, they were wide eyed at the stages where beans can be eaten off the 'pole' or bush. But, it was the idea of the 'zipper' that opens the pea pod that captured the most interest. I taught them 'Five little peas in a pea-pod pressed" and they sang and popped up at just the right moment.
The next day I spoke with the teacher to follow up. She said they took my suggestion and bought fresh peas and shelled them for a snack. While they loved them, my grand daughter assured the children that fresh picked peas from your own garden will be even better. The teacher told me that the class wrote me a thank you note- and that there was a big discussion as to whether to write, "Dear Green Bubbie" or to 'The Green Bubbie" whatever.... When the letter arrived in today's mail, I got all of the validation I could ever want from the seed of a germinating idea-I have no doubt that "the Green Bubbie(TM)" will be a welcome addition gardens and young children wherever they grow.
So, become a Follower or contact me so I can add your name to the 'green bubbies' and join me in planting for the future, with our current crop of kids!
When I think of life and death I sometimes imagine opposites, or different poles on a spectrum. How different are life and death. Of life, we are experts and of death we know nothing. But that isn't true at all. In fact, for me the more I encounter death in its many forms, the more I appreciate life, all life.
So it is with great humility that I look closely at my own garden, not only for what I can learn about sustainable agriculture, but also for the lessons in life, and the sustainability of Family.
All winter I saw the brown, worn leaves of the Helebors in my garden. I would walk past and think, "Should I cut them off?" "How far down should I cut?" "Perhaps I should just wait until Spring and leave them in place." Days and months pass and snow covers the dead leaves. Yet, knowing as I do that the Helebors will be among the first flowers to bloom,I decide to wait.
I've been through the cycle, I know how and when to anticipate the new growth, yet I chose not to cut back the leaves over the winter.
I recently looked at the place along pathway from our front door that I walk each day and saw the Helebor in bloom, right in with the dry, brown leaves. It was a moment, cherished. Seeing literally within the old leaves the new beautiful blooms. Camera. Pencils. Paints. Pause to appreciate.
Tomorrow I will visit my grand daughter's kindergarten to introduce them to "healthy gardens."
I will be bringing seedlings of lettuces and herbs and seeds to grow squash and cucumbers for planting after we build a raised bed. I will ask them what they know about how vegetables and flowers grow.
I will ask my grand daughter to tell them how we planted the peas in the garden last week. I will ask them if they know where, and how we get the seeds. Then I will review with them what they learned about the third day of Creation- the Biblical phrase, "Let the earth sprout forth sprouting plants yielding seeds." The Ramban says that the phrase 'let the earth' is used because it means that God created the earth with the potential to grow and nourish the seeds. That is a good lesson for why we need to pay attention to the soil we use. We will discuss composting on another day. It is not to hard to stay focused on all the actual gardening tasks.
Yet, for me, it is my heart that learns of life and death. It is knowing that my grand daughter is named for my own mother, z"l that brings the tears that water that garden within me that I can only call my life force, my neshama. Not a day has gone by in over twenty years that I have not felt my mother's love, presence and guidance. While my tears are personal, my passion is for nurturing all of G-d's children, and working daily to seed His garden with love, Emunah (belief), and Betachon (trust).
Strong forces are bombarding the mind and the material, natural world. As I write this, I am astounded by the force of the Earth Quake in Japan and the resultant tsunami washing up on the West Coast. Energy which shifts the earth and challenges us to get our minds around the magnitude of this event just as we watch the waters and waves hit and spread to encircle the islands from all sides.
I am living happily in the month of Adar, but I am viscerally and spiritually connected to the natural world and all of humanity. Never privy to G-d's ultimate plan, I continue to strengthen my faith and join forces with the best of human responses to this devastation.
Ah, the challenge to stay positive and focus on what is in front of me! And so I say, Thank G-d for March 17 and the Irish and the secular calendars which mark this day. While I will may not be wearing green, I will be at my 'green-est' as I get out into the garden and down on my knees to start planting!
March 17 in my area of North America, is the time to plant peas, mustards and some lettuces.
Therefore, today serves as a reminder that if you have not already purchased your seeds- do it ASAP. Of course, you could buy them locally as well.
Planting peas and lettuces with children is a very engaging. Even planting the peas for them or virtually should be considered. We like to start our grandchildren out at about 18 months. If a child can stand, I consider them to be my partners in the planting process. Do not confuse 'planting with children' with 'supervising' children. I consider the "planting of the peas" a great example of the social construction of knowledge and experience. We do it together. We discuss it while it is happening. the peas, unlike lettuce seeds are large (they are the size of a pea!) We take turns, either I poke my finger in the ground, and the child drops in the pea, or the child pokes and I drop in the pea. Older children in the neighborhood are able to do both processes. Planting with children is a shared experience. I always use a personal pronoun when I refer to our gardens. If a child lives far from us, I might say, "I planted peas today in your garden" After the children plant, I continually give them updates on 'their' peas even on the phone. Of course the most fun is picking the pods when they are ready. And what to do with grandchildren far away? Well, when the pods are ready to be picked, they don't wait for the next holiday visit. So, last year, I pulled the entire root system up, untied the trellised peas and stuff the whole thing in a bag and
I took Amtrak up hte east coast so the children could 'experience' pulling the pods off of the stalks and take the peas out of the pods themselves. Perfect for little hands and great hearts of all ages.
So, thank you to the Irish who keep me focuses on just the right time to turn green and get into my garden.
The Green Bubbie: Be Happy It's Adar: "The Talmud states, 'When Adar enters, simcha (joy) increases.' This year is a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, and therefore an additional..."
The Talmud states, "When Adar enters, simcha (joy) increases." This year is a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, and therefore an additional month is added to the calendar. That additional month is always the month of Adar.
This year I spent the first month of Adar contemplating what it might mean for a month "To enter"
This is just the kind of question that revs up my imagination. How can time enter? What is it entering? How is this increased simcha experienced or perceived? Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, is the increased 'simcha' in the universe really increasing, or does it only increase if more people are aware of the 'time' change?
Just like living with the reality of 'Shabbos' as a time frame with behavior parameters, I have been consciously thinking of how I can experience increased 'simcha' in Adar .
It's a choice. Spiritual development is not a treadmill with an ever increasing incline. More effort, more gain, more sweat, more pain.What a delight to learn that there is a spiritual path that trains us for increased simcha- it takes just as much effort but the rewards are tangible.
I think it is Reb Nachman who says, "Mitzvah gedolia l'hiot b'simcha" (It is a great mitzvah to be
'b'simcha' to be happy)
Life teaches us that being happy can be one of the hardest of the mitzvot. As I think about 'simcha' I am grateful for all that I have, that I am, that I share. In essence, I think true 'simcha' is about life, and our gratitude for every moment. Our challenge is to live this way and teach our children that true simcha is not about what we 'have' it is about the joy of life, and how we live, and what we can become when we strive to live life as the best person we can be andwhen we live in peace with each other.
Be Happy, It's Adar! (tell everyone you know)
We all say we don't have enough time. But, what do we do with the time we have? And how often do we get to appreciate a window in time.
I have come to appreciate that 27 minutes can make all the difference in the world- not every day, but certainly may be all it takes to deepen relationships, to appreciate and to show 'care' and love.
Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal takes 30 minutes to make. I always try to make it when my kids and grandchildren are in town for a Sunday or vacation. They refer to it as my "special oatmeal' They know it takes times to make it.
Recently, I saw the same oatmeal in a box which said "Ready in 5 Minutes" I called my son and suggested that he buy it so I cook make it for his kids during my visit. By the time I arrived in Boston, he had found that the same brand was now offering "Ready in 3 Minutes" for the oatmeal.
So, I made it for his kids for the few days of my visit- they loved it, and it was great before they left for school.
Then I spent a weekend in the Poconos with my daughter and her extended family. 17 of us in all.
I was in charge of breakfast. In addition to the requisitee bagels, I announced I was making oatmeal and that it would take 30 minutes to make- but it would be worth it. I had one person request it. I made over 2 cups enough for at least 8 adults and the little kids. During the 30 minutes it took to stir, we talked. We set out bowls of nuts, of raisins, craisins, and brown sugar. I told them about the 'magic' of hot oatmeal- how it can make brown sugar 'disappear.' We gathered closer around the table- informed that there weren't enough spoons, I assured them they could eat oatmeal with a fork. By then we realized that there were not enough bowls for the growing number of people who wanted to try the oatmeal. We 're-purposed' the bowls that were holding the nuts and raisins, and by then the sliced fruit.
By the time the oatmeal was first ready, word was spreading that it didn't taste like regular "instant" oatmeal. We ha shared the time of preparation, of anticipation, and of place. As everyone gathered closer to the table, almost everyone was now 'partaking' of the shared breakfast experience. Loving, and building relationships, like old fashioned oatmeal, take time. They are not "instant"
Later, I asked a 5 year old what she liked best about the oatmeal, she answered, "We didn't rush"
27 minutes is more than the difference between "ready in 3 Minutes" and the moments that last a life time.