Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Tipping Point at the Novato Charter School

In environmental circles the phrase “Tipping Point” is usually referred to when speaking about the catastrophic effect of climate change and our inability to reverse our own exponential negative impact on the planet.  Pretty depressing.  And overwhelming.  But I’ve seen a different, hopeful version of the Tipping Point in action over the past years at my children's school. 
In 2001, when the Novato Charter School moved onto a stretch of former US Air force base - barren, hard pan, cement runway rubble -  things looked pretty grim.  Many parents who had helped form the school just a few years earlier threw in the towel, saying the land was “dead” and that we could never have a healthy school on that abused land. 
Nine years, thousands of loans, donations, workdays, classes, and staff, faculty and parent volunteer hours later, it is my opinion that the Novato Charter School grounds have reached a Tipping Point.  The property is now home to one of the largest school gardens you’ll find – over an acre of trees, pathways, natives, succulents, arbors, chickens, greenhouse, butterfly beds, scarecrows…and wildlife.  Our school has become a preserve.  Walk through the garden some morning and you will hear the call of bluebirds and hawks, the songs of crickets, and frogs.  Lift a log and you will find lizards and millipedes.  Stand near the bugleia bushes you might just have a butterfly or ladybug land on your hand.

About three weeks ago a couple moved into the area.  After looking around, they chose our little school for their young.  They seemed to have chosen  the school for the beauty of the natural environment,  and the sense that their children would be protected and safe to grow.  This couple just happened to be birds.   Mr. and Mrs. Killdeer moved right onto the middle of the school grounds to lay their eggs.  It was the Sunflower Kindergarten class who discovered them that first  morning, and they roped off a large area so the new parents would feel especially secure on their nest. 

Safe as they are, the Kildeers still perform all kinds of antics when someone approaches.  Dad hops around threatening with his remarkable size (at least he feels big) and serious peeps…and Mom wanders off the speckled eggs to flap around very dramatically, acting as if her wing were broken, just to pull our interest away from her offspring.
The twin eggs are due to hatch any day now.  The chicks will emerge, ready to go.  We’ll watch them run away to find their own food, and we’ll hope they come back and visit soon.  The school’s eco-system has reached a Tipping Point, and now this healthy land will compound itself, on its own. Maybe these Killdeer kids will be back when they’re grown up and ready to hatch their own chicks.  We’ll be waiting.

Here's a little video.  Not much happens, but it pans to Father Killdeer, taking a break over in the sand box, about halfway though.  The Killdeer Family

And here is more information about Killdeer and their unique behaviors - ground nests, fake broken wings etc  Killdeer

UPDATE! 4/22/10 The chicks have hatched.  Below are two videos.  Amazing how ready they are for the world when they are born.  These guys are only hours old.
Mother Killdeer with baby #1.
Father Killdeer with baby #2

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Happiness: Mini LaMancha Goats

The Indian Valley Farm class is a gift that just keeps giving.  Last semester I overheard Maria Kennedy and Leslie Adkins talking about their goats and the fact that they often have kids for sale in the spring.  We have been visiting with the goats down the way for the past thirteen years, just loving these wise, sweet, feisty, hungry and affectionate it seemed that being within earshot of this conversation between my classmates was a sign.  It was time for goats.

Last weekend Leslie called.  Her mama goat, Ceci, had twins, a boy and a girl, both sturdy and healthy. 

The little palomino girl is Delila.  The boy is Theodore.  They will stay with mama for a few months at Inverness Valley Inn, then come to their new home where they will share the donkey stable and back pasture with the chickens.  I have been reading up about their care on an excellent site recommended by Leslie and Alden - Fiasco Farms.  This is the place to start if you are thinking about raising goats.