Rio Vista – We come from the soil, and we return to the soil


Hello Garden Friends,

Today at Rio Vista I brought some tomato seedlings and several other varieties of seeds to throw in the soil, also we found a grasshopper! After a quick lesson to remind the children the proper form of planting a seedling I mentally prepared the students for my next lesson: “We come from the soil, and we return to the soil.”




I had been planning this lesson since I discovered a dead opossum in the garden last October. I took the opossum and placed it in a hand-made wooden decomposition box filled with leaves, straw, and the maggots that we already starting to digest the remains. I buried the box in a corner of the garden where none of the students walk and would water it every once in a while to make sure that the maggots and bacteria which break down the animal proteins would have something to drink. 5 months later and the bones look pretty clean!

I prepped the kids to see the bones by telling the story of how we are made of nutrients from the soil. We eat plants that grow in soil. Some of us eat animals that eat plants that grow in soil. Some of us eat animal byproducts that come from animals that eat plants that grow in the soil. But, we all come from the soil. Then I told them that at the end of our lives, we turn back into soil with the help of decomposers. Small creatures that take the nutrients in our bodies and return us to the cycle of life. Next, I shared the story of the possum who died under our banana tree as well as the skull that was cleaned by the decomposers. Many students had never seen a dead animal before. Some were even curious enough to gently touch the teeth and face bones!

Until next time,

Farmer Jeff

Jeff Mailes

Jeff Mailes is a garden designer and environmental educator working out of Woodland Hills, CA. A Los Angeles County Master Gardener and UC Davis Alumni, Jeff earned his B.S. in Environmental Resource Science in 2012 and has been growing edibles and natives for the past 6 years. Jeff's passion for plants and garden education has led him to school gardens from Los Angeles to Sacramento and all the way up to Portland, Oregon. Now familiar with ecosystems across the West Coast, Jeff has settled back home and works to bring people together over food and inspire the next generation of earth stewards to leave it better than they found it. When not writing about himself in the third person, Jeff enjoys singing with his guitar, going on camping and hiking excursions, and tossing a frisbee around with his friends.

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