NYSAPE Press Release: John King Resigns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2014

More information contact:

Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com

Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – http://www.nysape.org

John King Resigns: Parents & Educators Call for a New Direction from the Regents and

Demand NO Interference from Governor Cuomo

Late Wednesday, the New York State Education Department announced that Commissioner John King is resigning effective the end of this year to accept a new post in Washington as an advisor to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Last year NYSAPE, parents, and educators from around the state called for Commissioner King to step down. After many months of frustration and outrage from parents and educators across New York State, the chapter closes on an embattled commissioner who failed to address legitimate serious concerns.

Eyes from all corners of the Empire State now turn on Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents, and the legislature to ensure the next commissioner represents the substantial change in direction that public school parents demand from a responsive government that serves the people. NYSAPE calls for the Regents to adopt an open, inclusive selection process and stresses the importance of input from parents, educators, and other stakeholder groups in appointing a commissioner who will be more accountable to the public at large.

Governor Andrew Cuomo will also be watched very closely to ensure he does not overstep the constitutional authority of the Regents and interfere in any manner with the selection of a new commissioner of education. For innumerable reasons, New Yorkers are very glad to live within a NYS Constitution that does not grant Governor Andrew Cuomo authority when it comes to oversight of education in New York. They will be watching very closely both Governor Cuomo, who called public schools a “monopoly” to be broken, and his private backers with financial interests in the privatization of our public schools.

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Westchester County

“It is time for the Board of Regents to move in a very different direction. The Regents dismal track record of refusing to heed warnings and address significant parental concerns with excessive testing, student data privacy, and school privatization leaves no room for error with the selection of the next commissioner and must not allow for any interference from Governor Andrew Cuomo or his backers,”

said Lisa Rudley, founding member of NYSAPE and Westchester County public school parent.

New York City

“John King was the most unpopular commissioner in the history of NY State. He showed no respect for parents, teachers or student privacy. Ironically, he was intent on protecting his own privacy, and routinely withheld public documents; our Freedom of Information request of his communications with inBloom and the Gates foundation is more than 1 ½ years overdue. His resignation is good news for New York state; hopefully he will be unable to do as much damage at the US Department of Education,” Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Long Island

“This is bittersweet news for the parents and educators of New York. For the past few years we have endured an education commissioner that has repeatedly ignored our pleas for help. He has heard our stories of our children suffering as a result of the Board of Regent’s corporate reform agenda, and replied, “full steam ahead”. New York has seen the largest testing revolt and parent uprising in known history under his regime. This outrage and pushback from parents and educators will continue to grow until the Board of Regents and the State Education Department put their focus where it belongs: on our children. The future of education for the children of New York now rests with the selection process of his replacement, and parents demand to see educators on this search committee. Our hope is that his replacement will finally begin to listen to parents and educators, put our children first, and protect our NYS public education system,” stated Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt Out and Nassau County public school parent.

Dutchess County

“John King had many successes as commissioner of education. He was successful in creating a polarized, toxic situation and shutting down dialogue on important education policy matters such as common core, high stakes testing and student privacy. King earned a prestigious vote of “no confidence” from the state’s largest teachers union. King successfully hurled accusations and insults against parents, educators and concerned citizens and was able to deflect responsibility for his actions. King was successful in shortchanging the democratic process. King managed to avoid accountability to the Regents for demonstrated incompetence and lack of professionalism. In his short reign as commissioner of education, King was successful in mobilizing and forcing parents, educators, and concerned citizens to call and write state politicians demanding the he resign or be removed. King provided great advice and leadership that advanced charter, corporate education and other interests at the expense of public school children,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess county public school parent.

Otsego County

“The news of Commissioner King’s resignation is a victory for everyone in NYS who has repeatedly called for this moment. I am hopeful that a replacement commissioner will be appointed who has enough integrity to heed the concerns of stakeholders rather than blatantly ignore them. We must insist on an educational leader who will represent the best interests of students, parents, teachers, and schools,” Danielle Boudet, founding member of NYSAPE and Oneonta Area for Public Education.

Oneida County

“The students, parents, and teachers of New York State must insist that Mr. King be replaced with a commissioner that will actually put the needs of students’ first. Under John King’s watch, New York State embraced a reform agenda set forth by billionaires, a reform agenda designed to falsely label public schools as failing, widen the achievement gap, and portray hard working professional educators as the problem. This trend will only continue unless the citizens of New York demand better for our children. Mr. King’s departure provides the true stakeholders of public education-children-the hope that our next commissioner of education be courageous enough to defend our public schools by challenging the false narrative currently put forth by reformers,” said Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent and educator.

Erie County

Eric Mihelbergel, founding member of NYSAPE and Erie County public school parent stated, “On October 15 of 2013 we called for the resignation of NYS Education Commissioner John King after he proved his complete disregard for parents and the public by cancelling all scheduled Town Hall meetings across New York State. Now, over a year later, he is leaving New York State education in far worse shape than he found it. The New York State Board of Regents must step and do what they could not do before. They must appoint a new commissioner that puts the needs of our children ahead of the agenda of corporate education reformers.”

“Considering the many problems from Common Core, testing, and the failing APPR educator evaluation system, it is time that New York State has an experienced educator who has worked as a public school classroom teacher, principal, and superintendent as its next commissioner,” Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent and board of education member.

Statewide

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of the BATS stated, “John King has disregarded the voice of the practitioners in the classroom which soundly told him that the policies he promoted were hurting children and destroying their education.”

New York State Allies for Public Education consists of over 50 parent and educator advocacy groups across New York State. More details about our education positions and advocacy can be found athttp://www.nysape.org.

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Farewell Commissioner King

It’s already old news across New York State that John King is resigning from his post as NY’s education commissioner, effective at the end of the year, to take a position as a top advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  New Yorkers from all corners of the Empire State have been calling for Commissioner King’s resignation for over a year, so I consider the news of his departure from our state a victory.

Truth be told, I will miss Commissioner King. His innate ability to open his mouth and spew retorts that completely sideline the voices of stakeholders in education did wonders to galvanize our (activist) cause. John King simultaneously represents our anger and our resolve to fight back. He has often been photographed at forums across the state where articulate yet angry NY citizens spoke truth to power about the devastating effects they have witnessed in public schools because of the education policies King was hired to staunchly execute and defend. The face of King’s consistently smug, dispassionate, and disinterested responses has become a recognizable symbol of the infuriating and destructive reforms that have ruined public education.

NYS Commissioner of Education John King and Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch, the dynamic duo of ed. reform. We must continue to call for Tisch’s resignation as well.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the world of education reform just keep getting more and more bizarre over the past two years, with one unbelievable addition after another, that rarely am I surprised anymore. I have to laugh at some of the praise I’ve been reading, like Regent Bennett calling Commissioner King “the best educator I’ve ever met.” This remark by a regent makes it even more imperative that attention must be paid to the NYS Board of Regents, its members, the role they play in state ed. and the thus far lack of transparency in the process in which regents are appointed to the board.

The title of this Peter Cunningham article in Education Post is called “A Great Education Leader Joins a Great Team.” — two mind-boggling, fallacious statements in my opinion. In fact the entire article is a sugar-coated ooze of praise for the great commissioner, using phrases such as “enormous change and progress,” and this giant whopper: “John brings unparalleled credentials, experience in both traditional and nontraditional schools, and extraordinary courage and composure as a leader.” Cunningham must be referring to King’s limited classroom teaching experience in a charter school and the fact that he sends his own children to a private Montessori school. Perhaps the article should be titled “NY Education in Ruins, John King Goes National to Help Duncan Dismantle Public Ed.”

The people of New York, the real stakeholders in public education have a different story to tell, and not all news of King’s departure is filled with praise. This lohud editorial, “Commissioner King’s Tone-Deaf Legacy” is not forgiving of the commissioner’s total lack of response to concerns that have echoed through the state. In this recent statement put out by NYSUT (New York State United Teachers), citing the great disconnect between King’s vision for NY and the cries of concerns coming from public schools’ stakeholders, the teachers union joins the call of other groups such as the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) who demand that the Board of Regents select a new commissioner who will be a true advocate for public schools and who will actually listen to public school stakeholders..

King’s legacy of “full steam ahead” education reform policies and blatant ignoring of real concerns expressed by a majority of NY parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers will not be missed. But there is concern for many that such utter incompetence is being rewarded with a promotion to a top position at the federal level. For my part, I am not concerned. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has already menaced education at the national level with policy pushing that promotes competition between schools and teachers in a test-driven education environment filled with inappropriate standards, narrowed curriculum, ridiculous data-driven accountability measures, and drowning local involvement. While I am appalled that King is moving up, I envision his new position at Arne’s side more like one would see a loyal lapdog at the feet of his master. After all, King is aptly able to perform the role; we’ve seen time and again his inability to utter any original thought that isn’t a direct recitation of Race to the Top policy agendas and Common Core rhetoric. And isn’t that what a master really wants? An obedient servant, a loyal head nodder and yeasayer?

Perhaps King isn’t being “promoted” at all. Maybe the rumors are true that King was forced out by Governor Cuomo. After all, he failed as his primary responsibility to squash the rebellion. New Yorkers are mad as hell over education reforms inflicted on our schools. And we are not backing down. I say let John King move into the ranks of Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, two of the most hated individuals associated with education reform. After all, individuals like Michelle Rhee will long be held as symbols of school deform, and will help to galvanize our resolve to reclaim public education long after the so-called legacies associated with their job titles are repaired. Let the anger and uprising that John King helped to foster in New York spread further into the hearts of all Americans across the nation so that our collective purpose to save our schools becomes even more empowered.

To Stampylonghead

Dear Stampy,

My son begged me to post this note to you. I agreed on the condition that he finish his math. The math is completed, so here it is:

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IMG_0245

He’s 6, so let me translate. The first page says:

Stampy (the symbol in the upper left corner is a heart)
come
to
my
birthday.
January.
OSCAR (my son’s name)
there’s
cake!
For
you!
in
America.

Page 2 is obviously a drawing of your minecraft persona standing over and gesturing toward a cake (“kake”). Oscar says you really like cake!

Cheers,

Oscar’s mom

My “rabble-rousing rhetoric” for the day.

I was recently directed to a Newsday article by Anne Michaud titled Don’t waste your vote on Stop Common Core. While her article simplisticly reduces the conversation about education reform to a  he said, she said… or rather a  we say, they say  debate, I was struck once again by the missed opportunity of many of the commenters to debunk Michaud’s talking points with intelligent reasoning. Instead, commenters spent more time arguing various points with each other that had nothing to do with the article. I see this more and more, especially in my state of New York where a debate has been heating with the nearing gubernatorial election, and the Stop Common Core ballot line.

Much of Michaud’s article is a replay of pro-reform rhetoric, straight from the mouths of state education officials and a rehashing of the state’s so-proclaimed call for the reduction of testing in our schools. (Stakeholders know that in actuality testing still dominates education and drives instruction by focusing too much on quantifiable data). Michaud celebrates the “higher standards” of the Common Core and ends her article with this proclamation: “I’ve seen my high school-age daughters more engaged by their assignments than ever before. That’s not a course I want to reverse.”

I’m sure that’s true, but the article overlooks the big picture–socio-economic status. Ann Michaud is undoubtedly an educated, respectably employed, involved parent. She’s white, and let’s not forget that by virtue of her race, she is given a big advantage in the world of success and achievement and opportunity. In other words, Michaud belongs to the world of privilege and that means that her daughters would most likely succeed academically no matter what standards, what tests, or what curriculum were thrown their way. It is now widely known that poverty and other situations outside of the school play a larger role in the academic success or failure of children. So-called higher standards will not solve this problem.

Common Core isn’t about high standards, states like mine had high standards long before Common Core was adopted. Common Core is about control. It’s about telling teachers what to teach and in many ways how to teach it. The expectations laid forth by the backwards mapping of education have been shown by experts in childhood development to be inappropriate, especially in the early grades. We’re pushing children to learn concepts earlier and earlier and at rates that are not natural for many. One doesn’t need a report to understand this; just talk to members of your school community. There is little joy in learning anymore. Stress and anxiety among students and teachers abound. Michaud downplays and oversimplifies opposition to the Common Core and believes it exists magically, completely unrelated to other issues of testing and teacher evaluations. Schools have become test preparation centers because of the accountability structure associated with school reform. In a rush to align curriculum to Common Core State Standards, many districts in my state have adopted poorly written and uninspiring curriculum lesson plans called modulesSo, while Michaud’s daughters, and perhaps other children of privileged backgrounds might be thriving, there are indeed many who are not–who are in fact suffering daily.

Michaud’s article assumes that opposition to the Common Core comes from uninformed, complaining parents who just don’t get it, or perhaps by teachers who are afraid of being evaluated. She calls it “wonderfully rabble-rousing rhetoric.” While that is certainly one effect by a very small percentage of those who possess a myopic focus on single issues, or last night’s homework, the vast majority of those opposed to Common Core are acting from a place of good intentions and a vast amount of research into these issues. What surprises me most about reformers who downplay the public’s concerns is that they fail to acknowledge that opposition is coming from across the nation, from people everywhere, from all walks of life, from all professions. Our specific concerns might vary, or might be ranked differently, but when such a vast oppositional movement occurs with such force, as that against education reform, it’s time to start listening. It’s time to start admitting that there might actually be a problem.

How one defines that problem is an individual thing, and there is a wealth of resources available to help one accomplish this. Real experts in education like Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhao, Carol Burris, Susan OhanianMarion Brady, FairTest.org and many others have written extensive commentary on the subjects of Common Core, standardization, testing, scripted curriculum, data collection, Charter schools, and more. But it is abundantly clear that Common Core and the other ill-effects of the reform agenda are not serving the public the way they are touted by reform supporters, such as Ann Michaud.

Whether one chooses to vote against the Common Core in New York State either using the Stop Common Core ballot line or by supporting one of the other gubernatorial candidates who are also opposed to Common Core, or whether you choose to fight back by opting your child out of testing, you have a voice in this debate. The worst thing you can do is remain silent and comply with a system that you see hurting your child daily.

Misguided Pride

As parents, we are drawn to celebrate our children’s firsts: their first step, their first word, their first tooth, their first day of school. It’s normal to be unapologetically proud of one’s child and to celebrate their growth and achievements. But sometimes we go overboard and our pride is misguided.

When parents of kindergartners are sharing pride posts in social media of their children’s first homework assignments, I can’t help but shake my head and roll my eyes.

Little Jimmy’s first homework! :) [picture of worksheet usually attached]

Kindergarten? Homework? Really? Maybe there should be less pride about such firsts and more outrage and questioning as to what’s happening in education to necessitate the giving of homework assignments to kindergartners. Just sayin’.

Imagine the collective power there could be if more parents started saying “no” to trends like these. Before long, little Jimmy’s first kindergarten homework assignment will turn into his first high-stakes test and his first episode of Common Core-related anxiety and his first crushing feeling of utter defeat in a system where the odds are stacked to intentionally produce failure in our children, their teachers, and their schools.

Get used to it. It won’t be the first time.

Here’s to You, Little Red Hen

I’m so busy right now with a wide selection of seemingly random affairs–things related to gardening, harvesting, homeschooling, book editing, education advocacy, as well as other small tasks. The last thing I should be doing is writing a blog post. But here I go, putting it all aside to tell you that I just ate the most delicious slice of bread, freshly baked and still warm from the oven. This isn’t just any slice of bread. This is bread from the flour of hard red spring wheat that my family grew, harvested, threshed, and ground ourselves! The feeling I have is satisfying. No, it’s exhilarating!

from plant to wheat berries to ground flour

from plant to wheat berries to ground flour

Growing small grains has been on our to-do list for some time. We bake all our own bread, and have for the past four or five years. For about a year, we’ve been buying whole wheat berries and grinding our own flour. My gift for Christmas was a Nutrimill. I gave my husband five pounds each of hard red spring wheat seed and hard red winter wheat seed, to start our first plots of each.

Spring wheat means you plant it in the spring and it is ready for harvest by the end of the summer, and that’s what we started with. This was a trial plot (we didn’t even know if it would grow here!), and it was filled with some success (I’m eating bread, aren’t I?) and a lot of failures. Not knowing if growing wheat would suit us long term and our plot too small to necessitate special equipment, we decided to broadcast the seed and rake it in, one method recommended for small scale grain growers. Keep in mind, we’d never done this before and were really experimenting, learning through the entire process. I calculated the viability rate of the seed and took into account average loss, and we prepared a plot just the right size for five pounds of seed. We made two mistakes: First, I don’t think we seeded the plot densely enough; and second, I don’t think we raked it in deep enough. As a result, when the wheat finally germinated and began to grow, we noticed right away that our wheat field was a bit on the sparse side. Because of this, weeds had plenty of space to grow up around the wheat. I tried to weed in the beginning, but it quickly became apparent that come harvest time, we would be searching for our wheat amongst the towering undesirables–so much for our dreams of casually scything down large swaths of golden wheat swaying gently in the breeze.

Harvesting the weed infested field was a nightmare and a challenge, but one my husband luckily took on whole-heartedly. Pushing aside the weeds, we (mostly he) located the wheat and harvested it. We found the easiest way in our situation was to cut off the wheat just under the heads. Painstakingly, we did this while imagining that our neighboring farmers were watching from their barn, laughing all the while.

Our next challenge was to remove the wheat berries from the seed head and separate them from the surrounding chaff. We anticipated that this task would be yet another obstacle that would put another check mark on the side of harvesting your own wheat is not worth it. But it turned out to be quite easy! The chaff came right off with just a little friction or beating. Then my husband devised a DIY wheat threshing system based on something he found online: a bucket with a bearing attached to a rod that ran down through the center of the lid.  Attached to the rod were several lengths of chain. Using a drill attached to the visible end of the rod, the rod turned threshing the wheat inside the bucket with the chains. It was brilliant. The wheat berries were free. Farmers of old used to separate their just threshed wheat berries from its chaff by tossing it in the air on a windy day.  The heavy wheat berries would fall back down while the light chaff would blow away. We replicated this with a box fan and shortened the job drastically.

little-red-hen-flt

Today, I ground several pounds of our spring wheat and baked my first bread with it. The Little Red Hen would be very proud of me, but unlike her, I had help. I couldn’t have done this without my husband’s support (especially the back breaking kind) and his own excitement to see this project through. Furthermore, even the kids are proud to have produced. My 6 1/2 year old son and my almost 3 year old daughter helped harvest the wheat and took it upon themselves to thresh their own small supply of wheat berries (These have become very sacred and I am not yet allowed to grind them–maybe we’ll save those for seed next year!). My reward from the hard work and dedication it takes to produce what society normally takes for granted as something packaged at the end of a processing line is knowing that my food is safe, natural, nutritious, and sustainable. More importantly, my entire family has a connection to their food, a characteristic that I feel will one day benefit my children greatly as the world continues to change. When I asked my children, “who wants a slice of freshly baked bread made from our wheat that we grew?” They responded with a immediate and exuberant “Me, me, me!”

risen loaves, just before being popped into the oven

risen loaves, just before being popped into the oven

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Just out of the oven

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loaves cooling

I’d say the success outweighs the failure. Learning from one’s mistakes is an important part of improvement. Our real goal is to grow hard red winter wheat, which is sown in the early fall to begin growing. It requires a cold period as part of its growing cycle, and in the spring will continue to grow to be harvested at the end of summer. Because of its longer growing period, winter wheat tends to produce higher yields than spring wheat; and the gluten content of hard red winter wheat is the highest of all wheats (spring v. winter, soft v. hard), which is ideal for bread baking. We have already seeded a small plot of winter wheat, this time sowing the seeds more densely. We did a better job raking them in as well. We intend to seed a second small plot in a few weeks to compare the different sowing times. Growing winter wheat will again be an experiment (will it overwinter alright?), but we have learned much and are confident that the process the second time around will be much easier. That will be a post in another year’s time.

Peach Madness

It’s Friday. If you were to drop by, I’d be embarrassed, and I’d ask you to keep your shoes on! My kitchen is a disgusting mess of sticky peach residue. Every bowl, every surface, every button on the microwave is affected (I use it as a timer). Thirty half pints of peach jam stand sealed in my island. What will amount to seven pints of peach chutney currently simmers on the stovetop. I spent my morning peeling, pitting, and chopping half of the bushel of peaches I bought from a farmers market the other day. Although I haven’t the energy to deal with the remaining half bushel today, it will be destined for jarring in light syrup in the coming day or so.

just made peach jam

just made peach jam

If you’re not accustomed to making your own food on this scale, you undoubtedly think I’m nuts. But in my defense, once you endeavor to make food from scratch and avoid the over-processed, chemical laden products that have been mass produced for our convenience, you can never go back! You’re probably thinking, Ok, I get that. But who needs thirty jars of jam? You’re right, I don’t– I actually need much more than that. Several weeks ago, I made about thirty half pints of jam from freshly picked blueberries. And several small batches of strawberry and raspberry jam line the shelves in my basement. I make jam with whatever fruit is fresh and in season.

We eat it on toast and on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but most of our jam usage goes into flavoring and sweetening fresh homemade yogurt, made from raw milk from local farmers. With homemade jam containing little sugar and made from fresh fruit, and fresh yogurt, I know that my food is natural and that it contains nothing unnecessary.

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homemade yogurt with homemade peach jam

Making jam is easy, and it’s a wonderful first project for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the world of food preservation. Some fruit, jars, some basic kitchen equipment that you probably already have, some pectin (and the recipe on the box/ jar!), and some common sense hygiene is all you need. You could add sugar to that list, but it isn’t necessary if you’re using a low/no sugar pectin. These types of pectins will set without sugar, and also allow the user to sweeten with honey, or another type of sugar alternative.

If you’re like me, you’ll start with a few batches of jam, perhaps move on to tomatoes (which are also very easy), and then experiment with other recipes such as salsas and chutneys, which like jam, do not require the use of a pressure canner to seal food safely. All of these foods can be processed in a boiling water bath!

Go ahead, make your own jam! You won’t be disappointed! The results yielded will be immeasurably tasty, and the satisfying feeling of achievement priceless. Whether you cook from scratch, grow a garden, purchase locally from neighborhood farms or farmers markets, preserve food on a small scale as a hobby, or are the verge of a complete do-it-yourselfer like me, we are participating in a culture of real food. We share an understanding of the true value of knowing where our food comes from and that it doesn’t have to contain an infinite list of unpronounceable ingredients or come in fancy, individually wrapped packages.

I invite you to get involved in the food revolution. Know your farmers, keep your money local. At the same time, you’ll be playing a role in sustainable agriculture, and avoiding participation in an industrialized food system driven by corporate interests and a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

In his 2013 article, “Beyond the Barcode: The Local Food Revolution,” well-known food author Michael Pollan (author of bestselling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) describes the benefits of a local food economy citing reasons both political and sentimental for the values of a local farmers market. Not only is a local food economy safer and less prone to contamination, but we start to eliminate the vast amounts of fossil fuels that are used to grow large monocultures of cash crops and the fuel it takes to transport these food products thousands of miles. Beyond that, Pollan says, farmers markets are vibrant spaces where people come together to connect to their food.

We like what happens socially at the farmer’s market, which is quickly emerging as the new public square in this country. If you compare what happens in the aisles at the grocery store with the farmer’s market, think about what a world of difference that is. At the farmer’s market country meets city. Children are introduced to where their food comes from. They learn often for the first time that a carrot is not a glossy orange bullet that comes in a plastic bag, but is actually a root. How amazing!

I’ve grown my own garden for the past fifteen years, there was always a garden when I was growing up. I remember my first garden when my husband and I first moved to Buffalo, NY from the Netherlands.  It was a narrow patch of ground between the driveway and our side of the duplex we were renting. I grew only peppers and tomatoes. Across the driveway, in another duplex a mother lived with her three young children. I remember the oldest loved peppers, and he loved them raw! I remember even more his mothers reaction to this characteristic: She thought it was beyond strange, and commented that she didn’t know where he got that from. Anyway, this boy was fascinated with my pepper plants once the green fruits started growing. He was mesmerized. This was the first time he had seen a pepper growing, and had no concept of their origin beyond the grocery store produce shelf.

More recently, only a couple of months ago, friends of mine were visiting and I was showing them my (now much larger) garden at my home in Morris, NY. I saw the same fascination, the awe as one of them saw, for the first time, vegetables still growing on their plants. It reminded me of my neighbor boy in Buffalo. At the time, I had long let my asparagus grow for the summer, and she was amazed to see the plants in their non-spear state. She was so intrigued by the idea of where asparagus comes from that I was forced to search on my hands and knees through the tall plants to find an asparagus spear to show her.

We now grow all kinds of vegetables besides peppers and tomatoes, including a variety of summer squash, green beans and shell beans, greens that include different lettuces and mesclun, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn and dent corn, fennel, leeks, carrots, beets, eggplants, potatoes, and various other things depending on the year and/or the season. Recently, we experimented with growing hull-less oats and spring wheat (a post for another day!). In a few weeks we will plant winter wheat for the first time. Our gardens are thriving diversities of vegetables, flowers, blueberries, strawberries, fruit trees, and hops. I love to grow things and there isn’t anything I won’t try once! I hope to instill this love of growing in my children, as well as the wisdom of knowing where their food comes from.

Eating fresh yogurt

Eating fresh yogurt