Tag Archives: Garden

SOLC Day 20: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I love plants. I’m drawn to their simplicity, their complexity, the subtle variations in color, the brilliant bursts of color, not to mention the smells and textures and the tenacity they exhibit.

At best, I’m a fair weather gardener. I always have the best of intentions and I love to pick out this plant and that one, sure that I’ll get it planted in the perfect place in my yard or in that beautiful ceramic pot I just have to have.

In reality, most of my plants arrive as gifts, frequently from students and their families. As they enter our home, they claim their position in the kitchen garden window (it’s one of those windows that pushes out, creating a sort of mini greenhouse). Lucky for them, my husband has a green thumb and works hard to keep all the house plants alive and well. He mists the ones that need mist, waters the ones that need water, and leaves those that need little mostly alone.

But every now and then, in a flurry of decorating and cleaning, I purge that window box exiling those that are overgrown or straggly or on their last breath to the back yard. (With the exception of the orchids–they get to stay in even if they are not looking their best!) The exiles take their place along the edge of the patio where they can take advantage of the sprinkling system, ensuring that they will be watered with regularity. (It doesn’t rain much here, so irrigation is essential!)

It’s been raining most of the month of March here (we seem to be trying to catch up on rainfall totals for the entire year), so we’ve turned the sprinkler system off for the time being. With a rain-free day today, I decided to take a break from endless Zoom meetings and worries about student remote learning (Google Classroom glitches) and wandered out into the back yard.

Who knew that dandelions can grow tall…like knee high? And that all phases of dandelion bloom can be represented at the top of a single plant? I love dandelions, so I left these to thrive…if only temporarily until my husband heads out.

Then I wandered over to the exile zone…and wow! Those exiles have banded together to become a beautiful wild garden! Lavender reaches high, waving its fragrant blossoms. Aloe, like a giant spiked serpent, peers out from beneath. Swirls of succulents show their perfect Fibonacci sequence–math and nature perfectly intertwined.

But the piece de resistance (imagine that said with the perfect French accent) is the fuschia plant that I was certain was dead. It is vibrant and healthy…and when I tried to turn the plastic pot it is growing in, it didn’t budge–the roots have reached out of the pot into the ground. Such a gorgeous harbinger of spring!

I can’t take credit for any of the beauty on display in the backyard. Luckily this wild garden mostly takes care of itself (with a little help from my husband). But I am delighting in it today as it lifts my spirits and brightens my day!

How is your garden growing?

SOLC Day 2: Garden Inspiration

I’m fortunate to teach at a school with a garden.  No, I really don’t have a green thumb–and I love the idea of gardening much more than the practice of gardening.  So, lucky for me, we have a garden teacher who directs a lunchtime club that gets things growing…and then I can take my students out to use the garden as inspiration for photography, art, and writing!

Today I started to teach my students about photography by reading them the book Antsy Ansel by Cindy Jenson-Elliott.  (I’m fortunate to know Cindy and have her as part of our local writing project too!)  My recent trip to Yosemite further inspired my teaching about Ansel Adams and appreciation for the natural beauty around us.  Below is photo of El Capitan with the sun setting and casting its glow on these impressive granite slopes.  If you look closely you can see a heron in the foreground who decided to hang out and watch the light change from its vantage in the Merced River.

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I like to show students that photography can be more than just taking pretty pictures.  Photography can be a form of activism–another way of expressing your views and spreading information to others.  Adams’ photography played a role in the establishment of our National Park system, something I am grateful for!

So today after a quick lesson on a variety of composition techniques (rule of thirds, leading lines, bug’s eye view…), we headed out to the garden to take some photos.  With iPads in hand, students explored through their camera lens.  They got low, looked closely, climbed slopes, scrambled under bushes…all in search of an interesting photo.  I haven’t yet gotten a look at their images…we barely made it back into the classroom in time to head out for lunch! Tomorrow will bring next steps…and some inspiration from Dorothea Lange.

And of course, I had to take a few shots along with my students.  Here’s one of some students in action.

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And another experimenting with black and white…something I will ask my students to do tomorrow to help them see the world through Ansel Adams’ lens.  This is a bright yellow flower I found blooming in the garden.

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We’ll be doing some writing tomorrow as well…hopefully we’ll get far enough that I can share a slice of student results soon!

Poetry Is: Day 23

Mondays are odd for me…I barely have time with my students as they rush off to their “specials,” leaving me with some precious planning time but also feeling like I have to cram all that I want and need to do into the remaining and minuscule time segments.

Today I read my students Daniel Finds a Poem by  Micha Archer as a way to inspire their poetry as we approach our last 8 days of the 30 day challenge.  In the book, Daniel asks all the animals in the park what poetry is…and they each share an idea which he then combines to create his own poem.  This beautiful book is deceptively simple, yet the language is both approachable and inspiring.  I’ve invited my students to create their own “poetry is” poems–reminding them to use the poetic techniques we brainstormed in class.  Hopefully I’ll have a few to share with you later this week!

We also spent some time in the garden — looking for the letters of the alphabet to photograph. I randomly assigned each student a letter and then we headed off with our iPads to capture those letters in photos to create a “bank” of letters for some upcoming projects.  My students didn’t disappoint.  They not only found all 26 letters, they helped out when someone was having a hard time with their assigned letter.  “S” was hard, “V” was easy.  Now to figure out how to manipulate our letters digitally to spell some words and create some wordy images!  (Any ideas are welcome here!)

My students also inspired my “Poetry Is” poem for today.

Poetry Is…

 

Children’s laughter

bubbling up

and popping in the sun-warmed garden air

 

Skies as blue

as a lizard’s back

as  a jay’s feather

as the blueberries on my morning yogurt

 

a garden

tilled by the smallest hands

with the largest hearts

growing knowledge

and awareness of nature’s abundance

 

paying attention

and noticing

all the world has to offer

 

Douillard 2018

GArden V

And a poem about a favorite topic in the classroom–especially for this student!

People Play Baseball

For a long time people played baseball.
Making contact with the baseball. Single doubles triples and there’s even HOME RUNS!
They are the best!
The ball sails throughout the air over the fence.
Night day people play.

Stone

Are you ready to try a “Poetry Is” poem?  Be sure to share yours in the comments!

Garden Poetry

My students are lucky.  They spend a half an hour in our school garden every week, growing vegetables, learning about bugs, noticing what grows well and what struggles, and tasting!  I often don’t get to go out with them, but today because of a shift in my schedule due to conferences, I joined them…and turned it into an opportunity for poetry writing!

I was drawn to the artichokes, purple and green knots growing strong and tall.  When my students sat down to write, so did I.

artichoke

Artichokes

Globes

like dinosaur paws

clenched

holding a tender heart inside

tiny swords

protect that meaty center

purplish green

beckons…attracting me

and spotted ladybugs

When will they be ripe?

Douillard 2018

I know that photographs and visual images inspire my writing.  It’s true for many of my students as well.  During yesterday’s search for the ordinary, I noticed one of my students arranging jumpropes on the ground and photographing them.  And then this sometimes reluctant writer sat down to write.

Color Brain

Color strings sewing

my brain into thoughts,

ones about madness,

ones about fear,

ones about happiness,

ones about sickness,

ones about coldness,

and ones about love.

On the string of fear

the purple hides

with red,

next to blue and turquoise.

Leah

Leah's photo

How’s your poetry writing coming along?  What inspires your words and thoughts?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vitamin N

Today is Earth Day, a day to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and remember that it is our duty to take care of this place we inhabit.  This week, for me, has been an odd juxtaposition of long days of meetings interspersed with intense periods out in nature.  Earlier this week I came across a blog post about a new book by Richard Louv.  He’s a local author who is known for writing about the need for kids to have experiences in nature (he wrote Last Child in the Woods).  His new book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life includes 500 ways to connect with nature…and it appeared in our classroom, signed by the author shortly before our field trip to the lagoon on Wednesday.

It is affirming to know that others recognize the powerful learning experiences that occur when kids head outside…and it doesn’t take much in the way of materials to make it happen.  And I am reminded that heading outside wasn’t just good for my students, it was good for me and for the other adults too.

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We watched lizards, found a beehive (a hole in a rock wall), saw an extraordinary display by some great white egrets, spied a fish (at least a foot long), smelled sage, and were treated to a riot of colorful flowers in less than an hour at the lagoon.  Students used binoculars and took field notes…and couldn’t wait to research what they had seen when they got back to the classroom.

To practice, the day before we headed out the garden with the same tools (a notebook and binoculars).  In addition the dead crow (eeewwww!), we saw ladybugs and other insects.

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We uncovered brilliant red strawberries, observed birds perched on fences and wires, and noticed the delicate laces of plants we don’t know the names of.

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And of course tall, stately sunflowers always catch my eye…and in this case directed my attention to the gorgeous clouds in the distance.

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I haven’t spent much time at the beach lately, but today, after school I rushed home so we could head back out for a low-tide beach walk.  Blue skies, gentle breezes, and mid 60’s temperatures created the perfect backdrop for walking and talking and exploring.

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Somehow I managed to forget to bring my camera with me–luckily my phone was in my pocket!  I noticed the wet cliff walls (even though the tide was low) and wanted to capture the abstract art quality of them, with the natural sandstone textures above them..

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In spite of my crazy schedule this week, I managed a substantial dose of Vitamin N!  (And I definitely benefited from the time outdoors and from observing the wonders of the natural world!)  So this week’s challenge is to give yourself a shot of vitamin N, head outside and explore a bit of nature around you.  What captures your attention?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #vitaminN for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

 

Sometimes we need an excuse to treat ourselves to something wonderful–even when our schedules are feeling compressed and hectic.  A dose of Vitamin N might be just what you need!  Grab your camera and head outdoors…what wonders will you find? Share your discoveries with us and expand nature’s reach through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Red

Some weeks it’s just all about the color…and this week for me, it was red.

We’re fortunate to have a beautiful and productive garden at our school.  Even in the first weeks of school it is full of life.  My students are expert insect hunters…and not afraid to look closely to uncover what ofter remains hidden.

This brilliant green grasshopper was quite patient…and posed beautifully with the chard as a vivid red backdrop.

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And who can resist our friends the ladybugs perched on garden-green leaves?  (They were feasting on the plentiful aphids–something our students pointed out as they turned leaves over to look closely.)

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Last night was Back to School Night…that evening spent with parents talking about what students will be learning this year.  And no matter how many times I have done it, it is always a bit stressful.  It was such a treat receiving a bouquet of gerbera daisies from a parent…just because!

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And this morning brought another parent with giant pomegranates from their tree…and I couldn’t resist creating a spare “still life” on my kitchen counter!

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Red seems like a dominant color in my life this week (and I realize that as I am writing this I am wearing a bright red shirt!).  Take a look around, where do you find red?  The cover of the book you are reading? The colors of the sun setting at the end of a long day?  The fire truck that screams by you with sirens blasting?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #red for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So take a look around and find some red!  I can’t wait to see red through your lens!

A Macro View: Texture

I love using the macro lens.  It magnifies subjects so that what is ordinarily unnoticed suddenly takes shape and comes to the forefront.  So when I saw the Daily Post weekly photo challenge topic of texture…I knew exactly what I wanted to post.

The macro lens on my iPhone is not particularly convenient, I have to take the cover off my phone and then attach the magnetic lens, so I don’t use it as frequently as I would like.  Earlier this week I was in a beautiful garden…meant to be a replica of a homestead garden…in Bozeman, MT at the Museum of the Rockies.  A bounty of flowers and vegetables flourished…calling my attention.  There were poppies, sunflowers, and myriad flowers whose names I don’t know.  And the onions were magnificent!

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And while we needed to head out to the airport for our flight home, I just had to steal away a few minutes for some macro shots.  Here is one of the onion above.

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And here is one of the blossoms of a different variety of onion.

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The brilliant red poppies also caught my eye.  They are gorgeous without looking closely, but magnification brings out the delicate tendrils and the distinctive centers.

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And I also saw these same centers standing alone without the crimson petals.

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As I wandered through the garden I continued to move close and zoom in on blossoms.  This one with the spiky center looks almost like a bouquet of colored pencils

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This fluffy tan ball revealed small individual flowers through my macro lens.

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I’m not sure what this tiny purple ball wrapped in green spines will look like when the bloom opens.

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When looking closely through the macro lens, centers pop, revealing intricacies of design.

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Looking closely creates opportunities to pay attention.  Seeing the contrast between hard and soft edges and elaborate design with repeated patterns also seems to draw attention to the vibrance of color…like in this purple blossom.

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Textures often go unnoticed when we look at flowers and vegetables.  Instead we tend to notice the overall shape and general color, and sometimes the fragrance as well.  I love the ways the centers of flowers uncover distinctive details about how the flower reproduces and unfolds.  What originally appears smooth and soft is more complex and nuanced with a closer look.

And that is true of life too.  Looking closely and paying attention can change our observations and our perspective.  Sometimes you just have to lean in and take the time to smell…and photograph the flowers!