Thanks to To Market, To Market with San Diego Foodstuff, I recently found out about Olivewood Gardens, a fantastic non-profit down in National City, California. Their website’s still under construction — pardon the dust! You can also track them on Facebook. It sounded like a fabulous opportunity to work in the dirt (fun!), work in the kitchen (more fun!), hang out with kids (I love kids!), and generally have a hand in making a difference. Their mission is to reconnect students and families with nature, through gardening, cooking, education, and community involvement. Pretty cool stuff, which I’m behind 100%.

So I contacted them a few weeks ago and volunteered myself, and went down there for the first time this morning. Let me just say — I had a terrific time. And I forgot to take pictures. (Truthfully, I didn’t even think about taking pictures. Shame on me! Next time, I promise.)

I was supposed to just follow-and-learn today, but I’ll admit that I’m never very good at just watching. So I flung myself into actual work as soon as I had a handle on what we were doing. I spent a couple of hours helping teach 4th and 5th graders how to sift compost and work it into what’s going to become a strawberry bed. This was pretty cool. The kids had a great time shoveling and getting muddy, and asking questions about what they found in the compost — cypress cones, chestnut shells, earthworms, earwigs, and more. We took some of them up to the Three Sisters garden and taught them about how the Native Americans grew corn and beans and squash (in this case, pumpkins) together, and they got to pick corn and pumpkins. I’m not sure what they’re planning to do with the corn, since it’s dent corn, but they’re planning to use the pumpkins in the kitchen next week for other classes.

I got to meet a ton of terrific people, who were all really enthusiastic about being there and working with the kids. This was great. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and I’m looking forward to going back — in fact, I’ll be back there next week to help out on the kitchen side of things.

As a side note, the compost sifting was also helpful to me. It’s something I still need to do with my compost, and now I have a much better idea of how to size (just larger than your wheelbarrow) and build a sifter (sandwich 1/4″ hardware cloth between two wooden frames) and the best way to sift (don’t put in too much compost at once — it’s faster if it’s just a small amount at a time — then rub it through the frame like you’re grating cheese). I share this with you so that you learn from my learning. (:

Olivewood Gardens is launching a food garden at Olivewood Elementary next week, partnered with Cox Communications, Food Network, Share Our Strength, and Teich Garden Systems. This is super-cool. Kids need gardens and the chance to be out in the outdoors, and it really is so important that they learn about food and plants and growing things. The launch is on Wednesday, November 3, and is open to the public. If you’re free and in the San Diego/National City area, you should go! Details can be found on their Facebook event page, here.