Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we know this means that the first winter of the Edible Schoolyard is coming! The coldest days of the year will arrive in the coming months. It may seem for those of us who love to grow food that we have to part with our favorite seasons for the dormancy of the cold months, but the activity of the garden is fascinating in the winter months. The garden, planted with annual winter greens and brassicas and abundant with trees and perennials, continues to host a complex web of life.
Many of our garden animals are dormant or hibernate in the garden. Ants, for example, all huddle in a pile underground and feast on the food they worked hard on gathering throughout the warm months. Many bugs reduce the amount of water their body holds and add fat. The groundhog that lives under the bridge in the pond area will go into a deep sleep, its heart rate and metabolic processes will slow.
We are celebrating the quietude and change of the garden throughout this season by creating nooks with special programming for our visitors! Jenny Kimmel, our newest garden teacher, and I worked throughout the day Tuesday on our Hibernation Station, a debris shelter. This is a place where kids can pretend to hibernate throughout the winter! In case you would like to build a fort for hibernating with your kids this winter, here is how we did it:
10 6ft> bamboo poles
25 shorter bamboo poles and sticks
5 bags raked leaves
2 bales of hay
2 burlap sacks
40 ft. Plastic poultry mesh
1. Tie three bamboo poles together with rope, weaving the rope around each pole. Stand the bamboo up and spread the poles to make a triangle. This is where you decide the height of the space. Add the rest of the bamboo poles in an under-over fashion. Secure these poles with more rope.
2. At this point we found some poultry fencing we had in the tool shed and used a staple gun to attach it to the poles. We left room for a door and a window (Traditional debris shelters are used only with sticks, piling them on top of each other).
3. We stuffed hay and leaves in the poultry fencing but found it would stay so we needed to lay more bamboo and willow branches to secure the material.
4. We covered the door and window with burlap and recycled upholstery samples found in the Museum attic.
5. Cover the floor with a thick layer of hay, add pillows, decorations, etc.
The idea behind a debris shelter is that you use what you have in your area. The Children’s Museum had many options for recycled and natural materials; our shelter is an example of being resourceful. This is a wonderful activity to do with children. Creating outdoor spaces, especially for the winter is something hard to forget.