10 March 2010

February in the Gardens

by Amy Belkora, Gardening Program

The moles have returned near the soil surface at St. Anne’s. This is always an exciting time. The children love the story of the mole and the gnome in the carrot patch. There is nothing more exciting than sticking our fingers down into the mole holes to explore. I explain to the children that the moles are always in the garden, but spend most of the year deeper down, where the soil remains moist and the earthworms live. However, when it rains, the worms come up, and so do the moles. We can see the cracked earth above their tunnel lines. Did you know that moles can tunnel nearly 20 feet in an hour?

Moles don’t hurt our garden plants, other than occasionally destabilizing the roots of our vegetables and grain. They are after worms and grubs, in other words -meaty foodstuffs. They ignore the greens. I am thankful not to have to contend with gophers. They love to eat plants and are famous for pulling down carrots and beets before farmers’ sad eyes.

One child made a wonderful discovery this month. He noticed a swarm of honeybees have taken up residence in a eucalyptus tree in the Tower Garden. I’ve shown each class the bees coming and going. This is a wild colony, in the sense that they were completely in charge of finding their trunk home, building all of the comb to their preferred specifications, using all of the pollen and honey for their own livelihood. It makes us so happy to host this wild hive, and we like to believe it is thanks to the new bee garden that we put in this past fall. Now our garden is surrounded by bees-those Rinat cares for at the Kinney’s, and now our new Tower Garden hive. What a boon for the flowers and seed production!

Hunger Moon shone in late January. This is the time of year when food supplies are very thin. I show the children a few potatoes, a garlic, perhaps another squash, and the funny, cold-loving celery root (celeriac). For snack the second grade makes a mash of these vegetables, and some groups crack walnuts to enjoy. I stress that in traditional times, this is the leanest month of all. In fact, Hopi peoples refer to this moon as Purification Moon. As Jessica Prentice writes, the Hopi turn the lack of food into a time of prayer, of intentional, conscious hunger. She also points out in her book Full Moon Feast (Chelsea Green Publishing) that the month “February” takes its name from the Roman Februa, a festival of purification held on February 15th. In our day, many folks still celebrate Lent this month, again an example of self-induced, spiritually-driven deprivation.

The third grade just returned from their exciting trip to Live Power Community Farm in Covelo. Look for our trip report soon!

Here is our recipe for those last items in the Hunger Moon root cellar:

Hunger Moon Mash

  • Peel and chop potatoes, squash, celeriac, garlic
  • Sauté in coconut oil or butter until soft
  • Mash together with cream if available. Salt/pepper to taste.