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Spring is here and Rain at Last! March 12, 2016

Early, cool spring is my favorite time of year.

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Eulalie and Jumbo

Eulalie and Jumbo

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl

play structure chicken coop

play structure chicken coop

Weeds Find a Way!

Weeds Find a Way!

Indian Hawthorne

Indian Hawthorne

Baby Apricots

Baby Apricots

Green yard

Green yard

IMG_0683 IMG_0685Last year, we got only a couple of inches of rain all year. This year, while El Nino has definitely not lived up to its promise in southern California, at least we are getting a real spring. The air is clean and cool, our apricot tree has blossomed already and is producing tiny fruit, the Indian Hawthorne bush is ready to explode with blossoms, weeds are finding a way, and the chickens are delighted with the growing garden.

 

Spanish Shawl January 29, 2016

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Everything Under the Sun,Inspiration — explorergarden @ 5:32 pm

Is there anything more elegant than this nudibranch, a Spanish Shawl, fluttering in the tide pool at sunset? My photo is not great, but the being before me was magnificent last week in the low tide tide pools north of Scripps Pier.
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Life and Death in the Garden October 10, 2014

Filed under: Animals,Gardening,Inspiration — explorergarden @ 5:15 pm

Visiting Wichita, Kansas last week, I was impressed to see a front-page article on the return of the Monarch butterflies on their southern migration. http://www.kansas.com/living/home-garden/annie-calovich/article2497920.html

After 3 years of low butterfly numbers, the people of Wichita have planted lots of milkweed, and the butterflies were out in force.

wichita buttterflies 2 wichita butterflies 1

 

And the monarchs weren’t the only ones. At my friend Margie’s house, there were butterflies of all sorts on her butterfly bush, along with some more deadly critters, such as this giant Assassin bug eating a wasp.

assasin bug 1assasin bug 2 assasin bug 3

 

Swimming Through the Cave September 14, 2014

While I have been swimming the mile at the La Jolla Cove most of my life, I had never swum through the Caves until this year. Several caves open up under the cliffs, and one is wide enough to swim through. We were surrounded by sea lions who had pulled themselves up on the rocks, including this mother and pup. The current was strong — and a little scary — but it was an exciting adventure. With water so warm this year — over 70 degrees — we can stay in the water for a long time. What we see in the water changes every day — today I saw an odd jelly fish with a blue rudder on top and, of course, sea lions everywhere.

cove 10 cove 6 cove 9 cove 5 Cove 3 Cove 2

 

Bugs in the Garden

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Gardening — explorergarden @ 8:07 am

It is school garden season again, and this year I am teachinggardening to grades K – 5. We’ve been busy cleaning up, and have found lots of very wonderful bugs in the process. Fig Beetles dig in the dirt of lay their eggs — and so I find their babies, grubs, in the garden beds. Harlequin bugs, a little bug I haven’t identified yet, and cabbage butterflies,  are among our latest many-legged friends to visit the garden.

This was a record year for weeds in the Explorer Garden! A whole crop of amazing parent, staff and community volunteers helped get it ready to use again.

This year’s garden plan will include a garden remodel, courtesy of a team of 9th graders from High Tech High, and our Whole Foods Foundation grant. They will raze our garden to the ground, pull out rotting raised beds, and create a garden plan using Sketch Up. We can’t wait for the work to begin — sometime in mid to late October. Meanwhile, we can enjoy the garden as it is!

IMG_2620cabbage butterflyfig beetle 1fig beetle 2fig beetle larvaharlequin bug

 

Tiny Sierra September 2, 2014

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Everything Under the Sun,Inspiration — explorergarden @ 12:06 am

yosemite frogJust returned from another beautiful week at Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite researching my picture book biography of Ansel Adams, to be titled “Antsy Ansel”, which will be published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt publishers in 2016. Experimented with the various zoom lenses on my point-and-shoot camera and focused on the smallest, most amazing aspects of nature I could find:

vvvvv tiny sierra 5 tiny sierra 4 tiny sierra 6 tiny sierra 2 tiny sierra 8

 

Wasp nest May 11, 2014

Filed under: Animals,Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 6:56 am

Here’s a wasp hiding under a fence post in our school garden. We’ll have to ask her to leave. But before we do, I got this cool photo. Do you think she has eggs in each of those chambers?

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Spring Storm April 8, 2014

Filed under: Animals,Everything Under the Sun,Gratitude,Inspiration — explorergarden @ 6:10 am

When you live in a hot place, it’s wonderful to find yourself in situations in  nature that the rest of the nation deplores: a blizzard! These American Coots probably regretted coming to the Sierra early — but the 50 degree weather the week before fooled them! To us, it was an amazing experience to be blown around, freezing cold.

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Using Picture Books in Schoolyard Science — San Diego Science Educators Association Conference March 2, 2014

News Flash! SDSEA is a GREAT conference! Don’t miss it next time it rolls around!

A wonderful turnout for my session  on Using Picturebooks to Promote Common Core Writing in Schoolyard Science. The room was packed, and we brought the outside inside on a rainy day. Intrepid teachers tried their hand at using inquiry and hands-on learning to construct an understanding of one of my favorite subjects — worms! — before researching and writing to the informative and narrative text types. We used the  mentor text Diary of a Spider, to create narrative diary entries for our worms.

Every teacher received a curriculum guide for Weeds Find a Way, and three lucky teachers got a free copy of the book! Hopefully what that means is more kids heading out into their schoolyards for inquiry into weeds, worms, and everything else under the sun.

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Oh! Woe! Critters in my Garden! January 22, 2014

Filed under: Animals,Gardening — explorergarden @ 7:47 am
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This year, after learning so much at Wild Willow Farm, I really put a lot of effort into my own family garden. I brought in a truck load of good composted manure from Van Ommering’s Dairy, added great COF — Complete Organic Fertilizer — dug and loosened the soil really deeply to make it fluffy, raked it smooth, laid out my drip lines and staked them down, and then planted seeds at the proper depth and distances. Oh! What a wonderful gardener I was! What a wonderful garden I would have!!

The next morning, this is what I found! A  skunk LOVED what I had done to the garden as much as I did. He came in and dug for grubs — and dug up my seeds. I was so sad.I put things back together as best I could, and…he did it again. And again. FOUR times.

The next weekend, when I finally had a free minute, I tied  big bamboo pieces at the bottom of my garden fence with zip ties to try to keep him out. It may have worked. In my next post I’ll how pictures of my garden in January!

gophers in the garden November 2013

 

closing off the garden to skunks

 

 
Susan A. Olcott

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