The Challenge of Change

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Fall light shines on our school garden.
Photo by student Lauren.

Here it is almost mid-October, and I’m just reconciling the fact that fall has arrived and soon consistently colder temperatures, shorter days, and the buzz of the coming holidays will be ushered in. I’ve been in denial about this transition, though I’m not sure why. I like change, I like heading into the greenhouse for the winter as much as I like returning to the garden come spring. It’s like my houseplants at home that squeeze for space on every windowsill and plant stand throughout the house. In late spring they all go outside for their summer vacation, and I love the uncluttered look that the house takes on. But just as much, when I return them to the indoors in early fall, I love the cozy atmosphere they create.

Somehow this changing of seasons has been a hard one for me to wrap my head around. Was it the late start of Spring? Remember all that rain? Was it that insane heat wave in July that (thankfully) never returned? Was it the cold snap we got way too early in September?

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Lianna, Andrea and Mrs. Nacerino
collect flowers for a fall bouquet.

Maybe it’s the warm, sunny days that are still blessing us. Maybe it’s the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants still ripening on the vine. Or the pink and purple Cosmos that dot the garden beds. Maybe it’s the aromatic herbs that still delight the senses as I brush past them. Or the Luffa gourds hanging on the trellis, still flowering. Whatever it is, I’ve decided it’s time to embrace fall in all it’s glory.

Despite the late summer look I still see and feel in the garden, I have slowly managed to replace short sleeves with sweaters. Tender perennials and potted plants are finding their way back to the greenhouse. 

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Isaiah and Mr. Sunflower

Sunflower heads are being harvested for seed-saving; the lion’s share of mature seeds will be used for bird feeders in the colder months, and we’ll also set aside some seeds for the next growing season. Scented oils are maturing on the windowsill (parsley, mint, rosemary, lemongrass and others), next to brightly colored marigold petals and orange slices for our winter potpourri and soap-making. Tennessee Dancing gourds are drying in preparation to be transformed into fancifully painted spinning tops. And yes, we’ve also begun to remove some of the tomato plants, even though many of them still offer green fruits to enjoy in the coming weeks. We’ll wrap them in newspaper to slowly ripen them in our shed for our life skills class. (After all, I can’t wait to teach students about green manure, but first we need some cleared beds to plant our winter crops!) 

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Materials from the garden for upcoming projects

Best of all, we’re falling into a real rhythm with our classes, understanding our students personalities better along with the group dynamics that they bring to class. I’m reminded that transitions can be difficult, especially for children (and even more so for those with special needs). We’ve evolved from the start of the school year, when students are on their best behavior (aka the honeymoon phase) and are now migrating toward feeling comfortable enough to show their imperfections and let down their guard, at least a little. I try to be mindful of this with our population, engaging them in our planned learning and tasks upon arrival, organizing our time together so that we have routines, structure, and clear expectations. 

This seasonal switch also reminds me that transitions can be challenging for adults too.  On the surface, maybe I’m hesitant to say goodbye to the 2013 growing season because it has been such a successful one. And upon deeper reflection, I wonder if part of my challenge with this particular change has something to do with letting go of such a sweet, personally rewarding year – my first full cycle of seasons here at Green Chimneys.

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About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting www.greenchimneys.org
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