California Native Garden Foundation and Live Oak School, Santa Cruz: Workdays in March

Alrie Middlebrook is a force of nature. Her organizations, the California Native Garden Foundation (CNGF) and the Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education (ELSEE), are headquartered in San Jose, but her influence extends much farther.

Alrie Middlebrook at an "Eating California" outdoor haute cuisine event I attended at the Middlebrook Center, December of 2013.

Last October, Leigh Klein, the garden teacher at Live Oak elementary school, reached out for help with weeding and sheet-mulching in preparation for planting natives in the school garden. I showed up with a friend - and was bowled over to find out that it was one of Alrie's projects!

A while back, I wrote a review of Alrie and Glenn Keator's book, Designing California Native Gardens, one of my favorites. Alrie's vision has expanded since then, to include food—California edible plants to be more precise, sustainability, and visionary forms of urban agriculture. She is promoting haute-cuisine cooking with native plants at one end of the spectrum, and school gardens at another, all in service of a vision you get pretty quickly if you have a chance to talk to her.

Now in her 70s, Alrie has the all the push and hutzpah of a 20-something high-tech CEO. She moves mountains, grant awarding bodies, and a whole heap of interns. She prods and encourages and energizes. Why, she even got me to write this post! The woman is invincible!

So - this blog post is to say: More work days are planned for Live Oak Elementary School. Alrie wrote to me:
Thank you for you support of Live Oak School. There has been amazing progress on the garden in the school. We currently have $5000 from Lowes that we can use on the garden. With that money we plan to add in a outdoor kitchen connected to a grey water system for the school.

We are having work days on March 7th and 14th from 10-3 at Live Oak School to clean up the garden in preparation for the addition of the kitchen and we would love your support and help.
If you are a Santa Cruz area reader, why not show up and lend a hand? But beware - Alrie may energize you beyond your wildest expectations!

Below are a few photos from the workday I attended back in October 2014. Parents and children turned out as well as community volunteers.

Tough weeds - lots of ivy growing on the fence

Leigh Klein, Live Oak school's garden teacher. .

I'm standing next to the supervisor… The garden will have a complete make-over.

My CNPS friend Ann Garside talks to Alrie Middlebrook.

Layers of cardboard. Volunteers went to supermarkets for cardboard and got lots of it.

The man with the chainsaw is a professional in the parks department whose child happens to go to the school. He is slicing an enormous ivy trunk.

Huge pile o' mulch - to go on the cardboard.

Oy - water goes on the mulch, matey! The weeds gone and cardboard and mulch laid - and watered - volunteers take a welcome rest. Pizza and prizes were provided!

Alrie fed our minds as well - and showed us the plan for the garden.

A sketch of the plan!  The area cleared and prepared was at the bottom edge. I'm looking forward to checking out the progress on March 7 or March 14.