A new kind of SLEWS Field Day

Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 3, 2020

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Sherri Wood – Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Bryn Levitan
Jen Metes
Joel Jorgensen
Anna Tolle
Joshua McCabe
Corey Shake
Gina M Radieve
Randy Wittorp
Beth DelReal

Summary of the Day
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, it seemed SLEWS had lucked out – with only 3 field days left, we had completed the majority of the 2019-2020 season. We had no idea, however, for just how long COVID-19 would impact our lives. Schools began the 2020-21 school year distance learning with no end in sight, so we had to figure out a new way to implement the SLEWS Program.

We’ve had a few former SLEWS mentors create videos to share with SLEWS classrooms (check them out here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLipS9UPaDvdYj5GapCpy0XM1a55b5Dndk), but it seemed highly unlikely that students would be able to attend field days in-person anytime soon. Even though our field days are entirely outdoors, transportation from their school/home to the project site was impossible to pull off while adhering to state guidelines.

A new plan emerged: we will host community volunteer field days to keep our planned restoration projects moving forward until students are able to participate in person. We hosted our first field day on December 3, 2020, at Patchwork Farms, an organic lavender farm, in Capay.

A volunteer crew with Putah Creek Council had planted the first half of the native plant hedgerow, so our SLEWS volunteers’ goal was to finish the planting portion and install irrigation. Nine volunteers worked hard to first lay out an irrigation line and install emitters, and then put in 170 plants, affixing a protective tube around each with a bamboo stake. This was easier said than done – the ground was rock-hard and had to be loosed up with a pickaxe in order to dig an adequate hole! These plants are part of a pollinator kit from the Xerces Society, and aim to support the declining Western Monarch population, along with other native pollinators. Throughout the morning, teacher Jerry Delsol from Woodland High School walked around, giving his students at home in their “virtual classroom” a feel for the Field Day, interviewing mentors and explaining the project details. It was fun to finally interact with high school students after so many months! After a long morning of hard work, volunteers enjoyed a burrito lunch (classic SLEWS!) before heading home for the day. Next at this site will be mulching around the hedgerow!

Davis Senior High School at Gilmer Farm

Participating School
Davis Senior High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Nick Gallegar, NCRS Rangeland Management Specialist
Beth Hellman, UC Davis graduate student
Amanda Lindell, UCD graduate student
Laura McGowan, UCD graduate student
Ha Truong, NRCS Agricultural Engineer

Our third and final field day at Gilmer farm was a huge success both for our students and our hedgerow. After arrival, our day started off with a fun game of group juggle to get everyone moving a bit and thinking about each other’s names. Once we were all familiar, we jumped right into our plant pressing activity! Students walked along Dave Gilmer’s already established hedgerow, collecting a number of different native species as well as some invasive. Upon returning to the barn, students wrote descriptions of there plants on the back of cards and get them and the plants into our plant presses. Once those are dry and mounted, students will have their own plant pressings to take home and remember SLEWS with.

After plant pressing, everyone headed out to our hedgerow to see how many of our plants survived, as well as weed around our native plants. Students were diligent to make sure they removed as many weeds as possible without damaging their plants.

Following lunch, students had a full afternoon filled with learning activities. We began the afternoon with mentor interviews, a amazing chance for students to get to know their mentors a bit more and ask them in depth questions about their chosen field and how they got to where they are today. With interviews wrapped up, students got to encounter some wildlife in the form of our current native mammal and birds nest collection. After an initial inspection, each mentor group was assigned two animals that they got to present on to the rest of the group. To wrap up the day, students did a blind taste test with different kinds of citrus, some from the store and the rest local. After comparing the different fruit, everyone did made their best guess at which fruit was which.

We would like to thank our SLEWS mentors for enhancing the students field experience, and our gracious hosts at Gilmer Farm for engaging youth from Davis High School in their habitat restoration work.

Accomplishments
Weeding entirety of the hedgerow

“It was great to interview the mentors because it taught me it is okay to not know what I want to do for a career now, I can figure it out as my interests change.”