Last Garden Stewardship Day!

Dear Garden Friends, 
This is IT! This is the last Garden Day for 2021. What a year. What a memorable, challenging, and wonderful year. Bucket loads of appreciation for the endless joyful help and energy you all contributed. Tomorrow will be a wrapping up. There will still be things to do later, but there is something very satisfying about putting away the things that make the garden, straightening out and ordering. I was thinking it would be amazing to have a Mid-Winter Garden day in the Annex, where we do maintenance on our wheelbarrows, and tools, fix or toss broken tools and sort through buckets to see what is hidden there. And after, a fire in the pit, surrounded by snow.
So we will meet from 10:00 until noon, then gather around a fire for food, music and friendship. I wanted to share with you a little story of the season that I wrote. I’ve already shared it with the ecology volunteer list, but wanted to also provide it to our gardeners and families, as an alternative to the often horrific bloody mayhem that is offered up in the broader culture during this mysterious, poignant time. 

Hey! We’re Okay! How are you?

See you tomorrow.

Gorgeous Autumn


by Robert Frost

Oh hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the Fall
Tomorrow's wind
If it be wild
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call
Tomorrow they may form and go.
Oh hushed October morning mild
begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief
Hearts not averse to being beguiled
Beguile us in the way you know
Release one leaf at the break of day
at noon another
One from our tree
one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist
Enchant the land with amethyst
For the grapes sake
if that were all
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit
must else be lost
For the grapes' sake along the wall.
O hushed October morning mild
Beguile us in the way you know
Begin the hours of this day

This beautiful poem by Robert Frost was put to music by former neighbor and dear friend Doug Lofstrom. It was performed and recorded by the Bullfrogs Community Choir and is shared below. This is what our students, parents and teachers have been enjoying these past few weeks in our wild places. This next week will mark the finish of our Autumn Field ecology schedule. Nineteen trips to experience  the wild.  Many thanks to the scores of parents and volunteers who have and will share these adventures with our students. 

Monday, October 25,  10:00, 1st Grade Room 210 are slotted to visit the garden to harvest potatoes and study trees. Unfortunately, at this moment,  there appears to be an 80-90% chance of rain. If so, we will reschedule. Happily our potato harvest is excellent and enough to supply all the students who will visit the garden during Harvest Day (Friday, Oct. 29).

On Tuesday , October 26, 2021, 7th Grade, Room 305, will travel to Montrose Point to be introduced to the Lake and Dune, their ecology and  origins, hosted by Friends of the Parks, and the Corinthian Yacht Club. Last week, my co-leader, Andrea Dennis, from FOTP, reminded our students, as they contemplated the swelling waves and sparkling waters of the Lake, that we are part of this ecosystem, our very bodies are connected to the Lake’s waters. Please join us for this adventure. The bus leaves at 9:30, and we return at 1:15. Bring a healthy, waste free lunch to be enjoyed harbor-side. 

On Wednesday October 27, 5th Grade Room 318, and Thursday, Oct 28, Room 319 will visit Sauganash Prairie Grove as Mighty Acorns. They will be studying Habitat Fragmentation and its effect on biodiversity. They will take part in a simulation activity that will help explain why larger natural  land masses located closer to each other will tend to sustain higher levels of biodiversity. They will also explore Sauganash, and collect rare seed. Join us at 9:15  for a briefing on the day’s activities. There will be a picnic lunch on site. Back by 1:15.

Friday, October 29, is Harvest Day at Waters. We will be hosting Pre-K to 2nd grade in the garden for our home grown, organic, baked potatoes, with hot cider, around the fire circle. I will share with the students a story that, I hope, helps  explain both the mystery of this season, and why it is celebrated around the world. I invite anyone who is able to help me prepare the oven, the campfire, the cider, the potatoes, to cook, and serve and settle our little ones for the story.  I will be visited by 10 classes, one at a time, starting at 9:15. It is a marathon of potatoes and stories and smoke and cider. Please let me know if you can help. 

Here is the link to the 3rd story of this Halloween,

Day of the Dead trilogy,

Hey! We’re Okay! How are you?

The foto below came to me as a surprise, a telephoto candid by former Waters parent, restoration ecologist, and well known bird expert Jeff Skrentney. This group of 4th graders are learning about the plant communities that live in the slough and flood plain wood. 

Mr. Leki

Cool and crisp October Day!

Wasp nest devoured by friendly skunk

Dear Waters Gardeners, 
Beautiful Fall day predicted for tomorrow, cool, breezy, no rain.
Join us from 10 until noon to weed, prune, clean potatoes, generally clean up, and…

…make a fire to burn brush and cook food for a shared midday meal and music. Bring food and song.
Join us!

Please read this message from Arunas:

Community Gardeners,

As another season winds down, now is a good time to clean out our plots and think about next year. Please let us know if you plan to garden at Waters next year. You can drop us an email @ Every spring there is high demand for plots, so anything you can do to help us get an accurate idea of how many plots we have available is greatly appreciated. Please also let us know if you do not plan on gardening next year.

When cleaning out your plot, please throw tomatoes, cucumbers, and any other plants that look blighted into the green Dumpster on the north end of the parking lot to the west of the annex (there’s a little Dumpster area over there behind the wall). Other plants can be chopped up and thrown in the compost bin.  Tomato cages and fencing can be placed on the south side of the ugly shed in the “tomato cage cage” by the green house.

If you plan on gardening next year, now is a great time to plant garlic. A few tips on planting garlic: Farmers markets, garden stores and Whole Foods all sell garlic you can plant. Supermarket garlic is zapped so it will not propagate, according to the dude at the farmers market, at least. Simply break up a bulb of garlic and plant each clove about 3-4 inches apart, about an inch or two down. I usually cover my cloves with some chicken wire or something to keep the squirrels from digging up my garlic while they try to bury their acorns. In June or July you’ll have garlic!


Spirits, part 2

Dear Friends, One time my mother went to Walgreens for some remedy and turned down an aisle full of “Halloween” merch. Endless, plastic, funky, junky stuff. But she stopped short at a huge display of “witch” masks. Rubbery, gross, straggle-haired monsters. My mom said: “They look just like me”. Grey face, grey skin, wrinkles, a wart, big nose. Literally, my mom thought these were masks of her…that beloved, much loved, face, that had been through so much trouble and turmoil in life to create it. She blew my mind with this insight. I really hadn’t thought about it until then. What can you say???? Why are older women merchandised as horrors? Why are they not honored, and revered as sages?? Attached is Spirit Story, the 2nd in this series. I wrote it years ago, inspired by the season, the moment, maybe by my mother. My hope is that you will share it with your children, with tea or cocoa, at night, before bedtime.

Mr. Leki

Spirit Story

Poly Halloween

My mother used to tell me about a time of year when she was growing up in Southeastern Poland called “Babya lato” or “woman’s summer”. It was a time like right now, when the days were shortening, getting cooler, the leaves were turning, the wind and mist and fog mysterious, dew points changing. At this time you might exit your home and encounter, full face, a finely made spider web, with bits of captured insects included, the mistress of the web quickly scurrying for cover. In my mom’s home and youth, people would brush these weird and beautiful constructions aside and remark: Babya lato! It was a demarcation of a turning of the seasons. Not awful or terrifying, but strange, other wordly, visitations. Maybe, it is that kind of memory that encourages people today to buy all sorts or paraphernalia to decorate their homes for Halloween: like the ubiquitous shreds of polystyrene “spider web” that is stretched across so many porches. And the plastic skulls and ruined witches, and endlessly bloody corpses littering our front yards. What are we trying to say?To represent?For me, that endlessly mysterious sound of wind in tree, of wing overhead, the quiet knowing eye of rabbit and owl, the discovery of a deer skeleton, perfect and clean, on the forest floor,the red tinged leaf,this is the mystery and power of the season.A season of ending, and remembering, of connecting with the memory of past and the promise of a tomorrow, of spring and renewal. With that, I share with you the first of three stories that I have created.This one is called “Luz”, about a little girl walking home from school.I hope you will share it with your children as one substitute to the diet of horror and fright that seems to saturate this blessed and mysterious season.

Mr. Leki


Potatoes, adventures and our friend the Skunk!

Hoo with a harvest of bur oak acorns,Remains of yellow jacket nest after skunk work

Monday Potatoes

Early results have revealed an extraordinary potato harvest. Potatoes like rich loose soils, kept moist but well drained. I think that our great crew of Waters waterers are responsible for keeping our beds consistently moist through a brutal drought.  Thanks! On Monday, October 18, 2021, ther first of our first grade classes will harvest garden potatoes. The potatoes will cure, be cleaned and prepped for Harvest Day baking on Oct 29.  The first grade classes will divide into two groups, for two activities: potato harvest, and leaf collection. First grade ecology involves the study of the trees of Waters School, starting with our beloved and ancient oaks. If you would like to assist, Room 211 at 1:30 until 2:10. Room 210 and 208 will be scheduled soon. Learn about spuds and trees! (More about Harvest day later)

Tuesday, October 19, 2nd Grade Room 202 will hike to the Riverbank Neighbors Natural Area (at Berteau and the River) to learn about the geography of our neighborhood (map reading), riverbank trees and plants, animals and  weather. We leave shortly after drop off, 8:30, and return by 10:30. All are welcome to join us.

Wednesday, October 20, 4th Grade Room 207 will visit Sauganash as Mighty Acorns to explore, learn about the communities of plants that live there, and gather precious, rare, seed. We leave at 9:30, enjoy a picnic lunch on site, and return by 1:15. Join us for a briefing at 9:15 by the fish tank.

Thursday, October 21, 4th Grade Room 315 repeats the above adventure, and I invite all to join us, same times same place. 

On Friday, October 22, 7th Grade Room 302, will be introduced to the ecology of Lake Michigan and the Dune ecosystem at Montrose Point. Hosted by Friends of the Parks and the Corinthian Yacht Club, these trips are a breathtaking introduction to the re-birth of a dune ecosystem living on the edge of one of the world’s biggest and most beautiful Lakes. We leave at 9:30 and return by 1:15. Join us 15 minutes early for a briefing. Bring lunch.
On Saturday, October 23, we will gather in the garden for our series of Saturday stewardship days, 10:00 until 12:00. Last week we finished installing a section of split rail fencing to try to protect the badly damaged new plantings on the slope of the north swale (more about this later), we continued the restoration of the Journeys and Refuge Garden, we started the process of winding down the agricultural garden beds, AND we ended with a beautiful campfire, on a beautiful Fall day, sharing food, music and stories. One of our garden volunteers, Norbert, was stung a week or so earlier by yellow jackets while weeding a section of the path leading to the fire circle. I inspected the area searching for a ground nest, but failed to find one. Oh, but there are better investigators than I! Saturday we saw the aftermath of a skunk discovery of the wasp nest. A deep hole was dug under a timber, and the remnants of the honeycomb-type nest littered the ground. This is the second time a skunk has come to our aid in this way. All hail the Skunk, our friend. Join us next Saturday.

You must be a CPS Approved Volunteer to attend field trips. 

CPS volunteer application. to Beth and all the other volunteers who helped me prep hundreds of ecology journals for our students ALL DONE! WELL DONE!

Mr. Leki

Dear Friends

Meredith and Friend hauling the last of four wheelbarrows of weeds from the NW playground!, Ford, Wyatt

Dear Friends, 
Beautiful Fall day forecast for a garden stewardship day this Saturday. 
We will try to finish the north swale split rail fence.
We will do some finishing touches on the Journey’s and Refuge Garden.
We will do weeding, and chipping and pruning and burning brush…
and we will finish with sharing of food, AND ice cream cones,
AND music and hanging out. 
Join us!

Quick Note!!

We had a wonderful “charrette” last Wednesday, people brainstorming about creative ideas for the garden. Thanks to Stephen for facilitating this on-going process. 
We will have our first October Work Day this Saturday from 10-12.
We are hoping to finish the line of split rail fencing on the north side of the north swale. 
We can build an artisanal twig fence in the Journeys and refuge Garden. 
We can coil hoses and do a general clean up.
We can pull up nut sedge from the NW playground. 
And we can end with food and a good fire around the log circle. 
I will be late, (11:15?) because I am giving a tour of Sauganash for Friends of the River. 
But, I will be there and will help with food, and cooking and music and all, 
Thanks to our many leaders for stepping up and self managing. 

Waters Ecology. Design! Build!

Dear Gardeners!
Just a reminder that we have switched to Saturdays for the month of October, to have better lighting on our gatherings. 
So, this Saturday we will meet for labor, from 10:00 until 12:00 and then take time to share food and stories and music??
I will be late,  but other leaders will help direct the work (north side, north swale split rail fence!, weeding, pruning and burning,  etc)

Remember that tomorrow at 5:00 Stephen Yoshida will facilitate a gathering to re-think and re-imagine ways to make the garden space more powerful and more useful to our school and community. This from Stephen:
To better share and grow our community garden, Waters Ecology is looking for input and volunteers to support a community-driven placemaking project. Tomorrow at 5pm we will be conducting a participatory visioning process on the Patio just north of the new Nature Play SpaceWe want to know what the Waters Elementary community values about the garden and how we grow and/or share those qualities with our community and neighbors. 
Some examples of project ideas that could come out of the process:

  • We love to cook meals and hang out in the garden so maybe we could install picnic tables. 
  • We want to share the science behind the health benefits of community gardens so we could make attractive signage about them
  • Even something as simple as a brochure that tells the story of this place and the plants and animals that live here

It’s a big project and we can’t do it alone! We’ll be out on the Patiofrom 5 til dark and would love it if you’d stop by, learn more, or chip in an idea or two!

This is the beginning of a planning process that will hopefully get made into reality in the spring of 2022. So join us in imaging and refining our inquiry. 


Dear Gardeners!

Except for tomorrow, we will be gathering each Saturday in October for Garden Stewardship, from 10:00 until 12:00. Tomorrow I would like to invite you to join me at the Riverbank Neighbor Natural Area at Berteau and the River. This was a workday that I had already posted. It will be an enjoyable day in a beautiful place. We will be pruning and weeding.  Bring pruners and gloves if you have them. I have extras. Next week we will be back  at Waters.
Again, thank you for the extraordinary work you have done this past week. Beautiful.

Above is the flyer that describes the planning session that we will do on the patio next Wednesday. I hope you can join us for this visioning process.
Below are previous emails.
The best to you,