Every cell in a kid’s body needs energy to work. This energy comes from the food counted in calories that is eaten and digested by stomach fluids and is turned into glucose to power the cells in a kid’s body. This food energy is renewable when kids eat another meal. Much of the food today is processed with too much sugar, salt, and fat and grown with chemicals which have resulted in a huge spike in obesity, diabetes, and cancer in the population. Our planet of more than 7 billion people runs on energy from non-renewable fossil fuels from coal, oil, and natural gas, which have caused air and water pollution and contribute to global warming. There are five interconnected sources for clean renewable energy: solar panels, wind farms, hydroelectric dams and turbines, geothermal heat pumps, and biofuels from plants. Our planet needs all of these technologies to work as a team to replace fossil fuels. Studies show that as many as one in four kids today will have jobs in the renewable energy fields by 2030. By working in a renewable energy field, kids can fuel the planet with clean sources to energize our future. By growing an organic raised bed veggie garden in their backyard, school, or community garden and learning how to cook from scratch, kids can find peace and happiness while fueling their bodies with clean whole foods.
When kids are busy in the garden and in the kitchen, they experience the here and now in the living present. Kids are more aware of insects and birds, the sun and wind, aromas and flavors, when they are tending their own organic fruit and veggie garden. Kids find adventures and make discoveries everyday rooting about in the garden soil, learning that the soil is alive with earthworms and microorganisms. When they harvest their produce they want to eat what they grew and the kitchen becomes a magical place. Kids find that food cooked from scratch, especially from their organic veggie garden, is easily accessed, more flavorful, less expensive, and makes them feel better after eating. Kids often eat the sweet veggies at their most delicious and nutritious state while standing in the garden. When friends and family enjoy the food they have grown and prepared themselves, kids feel a sense of responsibility and pride of accomplishment.
School gardens are making a tremendous impact on the students that have participated, more grants are being offered, and more schools are establishing gardens and kitchen curriculums every year. The joy kids find in growing and cooking their own food brings positive eating habits, leadership skills, and better attitudes. Every academic subject can be taught with illustrations from nature. Working in the garden gives kids physical activity, an understanding and respect for food and where it comes from, and a healthy diet. If kids around the world grew their own organic food in home, school, or community gardens, there would be a radical change in world health and economics. Kids can change the world by becoming more self reliant and aware of their connection to the intricate web of life by growing and cooking their own food.
Kids can find happy eating when they anticipate a favorite home cooked meal with their grandma, taste the perfectly prepared dish made she made with love, and enjoy the satisfying feeling of fullness afterwards. Good food is one of life’s greatest enjoyments and studies have shown that eating fresh organic fruits and veggies can increase happiness, self esteem, and self confidence. When kids eat the foods they love, they enjoy not only the present flavors that tantalize our senses, but the memories of past times spent with friends and family. Types of food preferences are interwoven with a sense of identity and culture. Every culture has delicious healthy recipes for preparing fresh food from the garden that bring happiness and enjoyment. However, many processed foods in our society today are highly addictive, causing cravings of foods that bring an emotional and physical pleasure, but are really doing damage to young bodies and minds. When families shift to a whole food diet, using healthy organic versions of their favorite foods cooked from scratch, their taste buds will change over a period of weeks. Families can visit the Farmers Market together to choose local organic in season veggies, fruits, and herbs, where kids can taste the raw veggie to understand the flavors and ask questions of the farmers. Things that grow together in a season go together well in a dish. Kids find that food cooked from scratch, especially from their organic backyard garden and eaten with family, is more delicious and makes them feel better after eating. Families can discover happy eating in an endless variety of nutrient-rich, health promoting fruits and veggies from their own organic garden with amazing flavors to love.
Scarecrows, like Dorothy’s friend in the “Wizard of Oz”, have been around since people started to farm.To keep birds from eating their crops, ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks made statues of their harvest gods and set them in the fields to protect their food. Over time, different countries made different kinds of scarecrows. In Germany, farmers built wooden witches with potato sack clothes and metal wind chimes to frighten the birds and keep away the evil spirits from their new seedlings. In Japan, they tied smelly oil rags and fish bones to sticks with bamboo wind chimes and placed them in the rice paddies; they also made scarecrows dressed in peasant clothes and hung shiny metal objects that reflected the sunlight to frighten the birds. Native American tribes hung strips of cloth, animal skins, and bones from rawhide thongs or carved wooden hawks on top of pillars to guard their farmlands. Sun reflector wind chimes made from metal, mirrors, tin cans, and CDs, are a good way to protect individual fruit trees and small garden plots.
Kids can make a scarecrow from traditional materials, burlap sacks, buttons, old clothes, and straw. Start with a wooden T frame with two pieces of 2 x 4 wood beams. Attach the 2 foot shoulder board 8 to 10 inches from one end of the 5 to 6 foot long support beam. Kids can connect pieces of wood to create arms or make a fun pose, and dress the scarecrow in any creative way they may like. Lay the frame on the ground, slip one leg of the pants over the bottom of the support beam, with the other leg hanging free. Stuff the clothes with straw, newspaper, or rags. Slip the sleeves of the shirt over the cross piece, attach to the pants and pin on gloves for hands. Old burlap feed bags are an ideal material for a head with dried vines or a mop for hair. Tie twine around the open end of the head and attach it securely to the shirt. A hat can be glued or tied to the head. Kids can decorate their scarecrow with sun reflectors and noise makers to keep birds from gobbling up their new sown seeds and eating the tender green sprouts in their fall garden.
Fermentation is a healthy way to preserve foods, converting the starches to be more digestible and introducing living probiotic cultures into our guts to help absorb more of the food’s nutrients. Microbes are everywhere in the environment, floating in the atmosphere, in the oceans, soil, and in our guts. When leaves fall in the forest, microbes decompose them into soil-building humus to feed the trees. Microbes also decompose the food being fermented, and as they consume the sugars in the food, they produce alcohol and acids. There are two types of organisms that play a key role in fermentation and often these two types are used together: bacteria (lactobacillus and acetobacter) used to produce yogurt, pickles, and vinegar; and fungi (wild yeasts and molds) used to produce bread, wine, beer, and cheese. In the gut, these beneficial microbes keep the small percentage of harmful bacteria in check and activate our immune systems.
Fermented foods are not only good for us, but have fizzy and tart, savory and satisfying complex flavors. High quality sea salt is the key factor in fermenting vegetables in brine, a saltwater solution that acts on food by drawing water out of its cells, killing any harmful bacteria, and changing the pH of the environment. Kids can ferment their harvest by filling jars with organic veggies from their raised bed garden. Pictured above are peppers, squash, tomatoes, carrots, and rice salt (koji) with sea salt, spices, and pure water. Wash and chop the veggies to be fermented. Crush a garlic clove and place it at the bottom of a glass jar, add herbs and spices, and fill the jar with veggies leaving 1 inch at the top. Dissolve 2 tsp sea salt into ½ cup of water and pour into the jar, submerging the veggies beneath the brine. Fasten the lid loosely and allow the jar to sit on the counter for 1 – 2 weeks, depending on the vegetable, to ferment. Open the jar daily to release the pressure of the CO2. Taste the veggie to test the salty, sour flavor. Slow the fermentation by placing the jar in the refrigerator and eat within 2 weeks.
Kids can use a pastry bag to cover a cake with icing, decorate a cake, and make candies and desserts. Find a pastry bag that is durable, reusable, easy to clean, and comes in a kit with different size round and star piping tips. Kids can use piping tips with the pastry bag to create artistic cake decorations. Use the large round tip to make domed icing dots around the edge of a cake and stick a blueberry on top of each dome for a stunning effect. To fill the pastry bag with icing, fold the top of the bag out to help keep the filling from getting on the outside of the bag. Put the piping tip inside the bag and adjust the bag to fit the tip size snugly. Fill the bag three fourths full with icing and push the icing towards the tip. Twist the top of the pastry bag together and hold it there to ensure the icing continues to flow out the piping tip as the cake is decorated. When piping a design on a cake, kids can place an iced cake in the refrigerator for a half hour before piping the icing dots to make a pattern. Make the design on the cake first with toothpick marks, using a pastry bag fitted with a very small round tip.
Kids can add fresh organic fruit, herbs, and edible flowers to the cake decoration for an elegant effect by wrapping the stems with floral tape and sticking them into the icing and cake. Kids can use fruits, veggies, and spices, as natural colorings for the icing. Fruit and veggies are not only a great source of flavor inside the cake, but their vibrant colors in juices and purees achieve elegant shades of colors and flavors in the decorative icing. Pastry bags can coat the cake top evenly by making a circle around the outer edge and a spiral in the center. Kids can use a pastry bag to create divine truffles and tarts filled with organic ganache, lemon curd, or pumpkin filling. Kids can pipe icing made with healthy organic ingredients inside cupcakes and on top of cakes, cupcakes, and mini cupcakes for an artistic elegant dessert.
Owls are garden friends at the Las Flores Community Garden, where two owl nest boxes were built on strong posts along the fence, as in the picture above. Owls are great hunters of rodents and help keep mice, rabbits, and squirrels from eating the growing veggies in the garden. Owls don’t make their own nests; they take over useful structures and abandoned nests. Barn owls, which are the size of cats, are the most likely garden partners. Kids can attract owls to their garden by building a sturdy wooden owl house that is the right size for a pair of barn owls and their young. Kids can build the wooden box 38 by 18 by 12 inches with the entrance 6 inches above the base of the box. The oval entrance hole can be 4 ½ wide by 3 ¾ inches tall and should be facing the north to keep the sun from heating up the box. The house need a drainage hole on the bottom and should be cleaned out once a year. Place the owl house high on a post or on top of a structure. In the midwest, there are almost no barn owls left because they are not at home in large fields planted with neat rows of chemically sprayed GMO corn or soybeans. Owls like meadows, grasslands, and open areas where mice and other small prey animals live. The Las Flores Community Garden sits in an open area with lots of rodents for food and two nesting boxes for the owl families.