Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grateful for Turkeys

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Winds of Slide Ranch: Turkeys in the Pasture (not eaten yet!)

Winds of Slide Ranch: Turkeys in the Pasture (not eaten yet!)

Slide Ranch Ducks and their Solar Fountain

Slide Ranch teachers Jake Snake and Taylor Tidepool used their independent project week to restore the duck pen and outdoor foraging area.  In the process, Jake designed and built a solar-powered fountain that flows into an old cast-iron bath tub.  When kids put their hands over the PV panel, they can see that the flow of water slows to a trickle (assuming the sun is shining!).  It has been a great new experiential learning area both for the animal and plant part and the solar energy part.  The solar project was funded by a grant from the SD Bechtel Jr. Foundation.  In the top photo, Jake, in the cap, presents his project to other teachers and staff on the last day of summer camp.  In the bottom photo, city kids experience the wonder of water.

New Mural for the Garden at Slide Ranch

We had the great fortune of having Dottie Arnold join our teachers in residence this summer.  She is a talented young painter.  As part of her internship, she (and the other teachers) takes a week to do an independent project.  Hers was the creation of a delightful mural that illustrates how can be developed for best growing food.  It features worms, a layered compost pile, water and children working.  Also featured are gophers (we hope the owls and bobcats find them), bees, various vegetables and the stages from seed to young plant.  Really charming.  It hangs on the back of the main composting area in the garden.

Turkeys in the Pasture (not eaten yet!)

Well, there has been a bobcat lurking in the bushes above the pasture eyeing our holiday birds, but so far the birds are fine.  Jake, one of our teachers in residence, has dutifully rotated their electric fence pen every few weeks so they get the most out of the grasses and bugs in the pasture and the soil gets the most out of the turkey droppings.  Symbiotic.  They are put back in their little quansit hut at night.  Now the teachers are on break, so we will have to be extra vigillant to keep the predators at bay.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

City Kids at the Ranch

Throughout the year, Slide Ranch opens its programs to young people who live in Bay Area cities and have less access to the outdoors.  More than 1500 of our school and community group participants attend schools where more than half of the students receive free and reduced cost lunches. 

During the summer, we partner with community groups to provide farm and nature experiences as well.  In July, we had groups visit from Alemeny Housing and Mo Magic in the Western Addition of San Francisco.  Eyes and minds were open!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bees on the Move at Slide Ranch

     It is swarming season for bees all across the northern hemisphere and we at Slide Ranch have lately been witness to the wonderfully magnificent exploratory nature of swarming honeybees.  It is notoriously difficult to keep bees from swarming on a yearly basis and with the recent departure of our resident beekeeper, Blair and I were left with thousands of little winged travelers, in search of a new home.  

     The first swarm flew on a sunny day during summer camp training and landed on a branch of coyote brush near the secret garden.  Blair and I pieced together the small bits of knowledge we collectively held, made a few phone calls to knowledgeable friends around the country, including the beekeper at neighboring Green Gulch and went to the branch with a bucket and a screen.  I shook the bees into the bucket and covered them with the screen.  The swarming bees clutched tightly to each other surrounding and protecting their queen.  A few hours later, we poured the bees out of the bucket just in front of a bee box, complete with frames, and they crawled right in and made it their home.

     The excitement ensued in the following weeks when a separate swarm took flight and began making a hive within the walls of our residential kitchen, just at the edge of the garden.  Again Blair and I donned beekeeping suits but this time went to the wall with crowbars and some smoke to calm the bees as we removed them from their new home.  We prepared a second box and put the bees there.  A few days later, more bees landed in the wall of the kitchen and again we scooped them up and put them into a third box, this one we sent to live with our Executive Director in Stinson Beach. 

     Honeybees that thrive in warmer climates tend to struggle somewhat in the coastal climate of Slide Ranch where summer days are oftentimes cold and foggy but we have seen our fair share of sun this summer and the bees seem to be happily drinking nectar, pollinating plants all around the area, and filling their combs with delicious honey.  There is an old English beekeeper's saying that goes "...a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon."  Though we may not be pining for a silver spoon, it would be a tremendous joy to harvest honey in the fall from our very own bees here at Slide Ranch.  We will watch over them and care for them, learning as we go, with great anticipation of the sweetness that fall will bring.

Here is a photo of one of the swarms that took flight at the corner of our 100-year-old Commons: