Citizen Science

Potatoes and Peanuts: Reaching and Teaching Farmers

Portrait of George Perrot Macculloch.

Although remembered as the “father of the Morris Canal”, George Macculloch (1775-1858) should also be remembered for his interest in helping his fellow Morris County farmers. Macculloch was the first president of the Morris County Agricultural Society. Through this organization, improvements in farming, like better better equipment and techniques, were shared with the community. George’s garden journal, which he kept from 1829-1856, included notes on how to improve his own land for the next growing season and even clippings from newspapers. In 1849 he pinned a clipping in his journal that discussed a cure for potato disease, which was first discovered in Europe. For George, it was not enough that he improved farming on his own land, he wanted to help others who farmed their land too.

Photo of Dr. George Washington Carver, Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.

In a similar way, George Washington Carver (1864-1943) dedicated his life to helping farmers. He was the first Black student to attend Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) and taught agriculture at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama for 47 years. He was known to travel in the Jesup Wagon, a movable school that he used to educate people on how to improve their farms. He taught the importance of rotating crops and explained that planting soybeans, peanuts and sweet potatoes helped put nitrogen back in the soil, which was depleted from growing cotton. Through his research, he invented over 300 different products made from peanuts, which earned him the nickname, “the peanut man”. Dr. Carver was so much more than that.

George Macculloch and George Washington Carver represent two generations of innovators who were advocates for farmer education.

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books . . . ”

― George Washington Carver, George Washington Carver in His Own Words

Resources: 

Listen to Susan Grisby’ In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

Learn more about Dr. George Washington Carver  in Peggy Thomas’ George Washington Carver for Kids: His Life and Discoveries with 21 Activities. 

Learn about Dr. Carver’s legacy at Tuskegee University.

Delicious Tomatoes

Did you know tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in the world? According to a 2018 article published by worldatlas.com, tomatoes take first place, and not by a small margin! Although a tomato is technically a fruit because it forms from a flower and its seeds are on the inside, this did not disqualify it. Nearly 400,000 pounds of tomatoes are grown each year. Onions, the second place winner, were not even close to tomatoes in the running, with just over 200,000 pounds produced annually.

George Macculloch (1775-1858) recorded growing tomatoes in New Jersey in his garden journal as early as 1829. Even though many things have changed, it still holds true that if you start growing New Jersey tomatoes no later than mid-May, you can harvest and enjoy them from midsummer to early October. George Macculloch’s garden notes state that 10 to 12 plants were sufficient for his family, including his grandchildren. His notes don’t refer to specific varieties of tomatoes, but today there are many options. 

If you are interested in spending a little more time with George Macculloch’s garden journal, MHHM is still inviting citizen scholar volunteers to transcribe one year of his journal. Please email Cynthia Winslow at cwinslow@maccullochhall.org for more information.

Resources: 

Join Macculloch Hall Historical Museum on Facebook Live today at noon for a story about tomatoes live from the museum’s historic kitchen. 

Visit Rutgers’ New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station for tomato planting tips and for a selection of varieties that do well in New Jersey. 

See a complete list of the 10 most popular vegetables in the world from worldatlas.com

Peas Please!

There is nothing like eating freshly picked peas right from the pea pod when their sweetness is at its peak.

From 1829 to 1856, George Macculloch (1775-1858) recorded in his garden journal the dates he planted, the dates he gathered and how far apart he planted his crops each year. In 1840, Macculloch wrote, “late pease never answer”. This meant his second crop of peas didn’t do as well as the first crop. Despite this, according to his garden journal, Macculloch did try planting a second crop of peas again in 1846. He learned that if he planted the second crop 12 to 15 days after the first crop (March 20) the results were more successful.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was also fond of growing peas and he had 15 varieties of English peas grown in his garden. Jefferson and other farmers held an annual contest to see which farm could bring to the table the first peas of spring.

Resources:

Listen to the story First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby, geared for 2nd grade, and use this Teacher’s Guide for the story.

 

If you have picky eaters not interested in eating their peas or other veggies, try showing them these videos.

Plant a late crop of peas for a fall harvest according to your zone planting schedule.

Need more reasons to plant peas? Read 5 great reasons to grow peas from Garden Gate magazine.

Learn About Composting

Happy National Learn About Composting Day! Composting is a natural way of recycling organic material such as leaves and vegetable scraps. The organic material creates a nutrient-rich fertilizer that is beneficial for plants and gardens. Many things that are normally tossed in the trash, and later end up in a land-fill, can be composted. Vegetable or fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and egg shells can be composted but not meat, milk products, or animal waste.

Two young girls observing red wiggler earthworms with magnifying glasses in MHHM's education center. At MHHM, composting is even MORE FUN with red wiggler earthworms! Hundreds of school children and summer campers have learned about vermicomposting, composting using earthworms, during visits to our historic garden or when our earthworms visit students in their classrooms. 

Even though New Jersey gardens are filled with night crawler earthworms, red wigglers are recommended for composting since they stay on the top layers of the soil. Red wigglers will eat the organic materials and produce worm castings. These worm castings can then be used directly or as a liquid fertilizer for your plants. 

As a first step, keep track of what organic materials you or your family throw in the trash in a week to see how much you could be composting. Younger children can create a colorful poster of fruits and vegetables and other items that can be kept out of the trash. 

Composting means less methane gas produced from landfills, more plants growing stronger with chemical-free fertilizers, and happy red wiggler earthworms doing what they do best—eating and recycling!

Resources: 

Colorful pipe cleaner worms with googly eyes lying on a bed of brown rice

“Digging for worms” craft activity from laughingkidslearn.com.

Do you and your family want to become vermicomposters? Learn how here

Looking for an outdoor activity and books about earthworms? Visit lemonlimeadventures.com

Prefer to stay out of the dirt? Make your own earthworms with pipe cleaners and beads. 

Growing in the Garden:

Cynthia Winslow, Curator of Education and Community Engagement, reading a story to Growing in the Garden participants. Cynthia WInslow, Curator of Education and Community Engagement, holding a red wiggler earthworm in her palm so young learners and their parents can take a closer look.

Is your 3 to 5 year old excited about the garden? Join us for our first virtual Growing in the Garden session Tuesday, June 2 at 2 p.m. Growing in the Garden will take place every first and third Tuesday every month at 2 p.m. To register, and for more information about this program, email Cynthia Winslow, Curator of Education and Community Engagement, at cwinslow@maccullochhall.org

The Garden State

Did you know that New Jersey ranks in the top 10 nationally for its production of blueberries, cranberries, peaches, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, apples, spinach, squash, and asparagus? In 1876, a New Jersey resident coined the term the Garden State and the nickname stuck. Even though times have changed and there is less land designated as farm land, we still rely on the work of devoted, hard-working farmers for Jersey Fresh produce.

As a 19th-century farmer, George Macculloch (1775-1858) was among the first to recognize the importance of a famer’s role in feeding the community. He also recognized the challenges the weather presented to growing crops.

On June 2, 1843, George Macculloch wrote in his garden journal that the “corn, beans, tomatoes much injured by Frost” and that his potatoes, bush beans, broccoli and cauliflower “were cut off by drought.” The area in his garden journal which is usually filled with his calculations of profit and loss is left blank.

New Jersey is the perfect state to find the fresh produce we love. Contact a local farmers market, like Wightman’s Farms and Alstede Farms, about curbside pickup of your favorite Jersey Fresh produce.

Resources

Would you be a good farmer? Take the Beginning Farmers quiz to find out.

Can NJ Grow More with Less? Do the math to find out how land use has changed in New Jersey! (PDF Document)

If you would like to volunteer and be a part of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum’s Garden Journal Transcription Project, contact Cynthia Winslow at cwinslow@maccullochhall.org.

Weather Watchers

1789 thermometer belonging to Thomas Jefferson from William Jones. Photo by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. on Monticello website.

“Never plant out till end of April.” George Macculloch wrote this remark several times in 1838 in his garden journal. He continued, “It never answers to plant pease till March,” so wrote the farmer with 26 acres of land who always demonstrated a spirit of experimentation. Armed with a thermometer, an almanac, and notes from nine previous years of farming in Morristown, NJ George Macculloch recorded another year of handwritten garden notes.

“The Citizen and Farmers Almanac” from 1819 compiled by David Young, Philom and printed in Morristown by Jacob Mann. From the collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum.

In 1838, he recorded thermometer readings for April 14th through 16th at 25° F. There was a snowstorm on April 13th. By April 30th, onions, leeks, parsnips, celery, potatoes, corn, carrots, beets, early crops of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and two early crops of peas were planted. One crop of early peas had to be replanted on April 17th. Yet another snowstorm came on April 24th, with a thermometer reading of 26° F, which probably frustrated George Macculloch but was not unexpected.

Collecting and sharing weather information was one of the first major “citizen scientist” projects in our nation’s history. Even before there was a National Weather Service, telegraph companies would allow weather reports to be transmitted for free, so towns and cities would know what weather was on the way. By the 1860s, weather reports were printed in newspapers. By the 1920s, reports were available on the radio and by the 1950s, evening weather reports were on television.

Resources:

Keep a weather log for 7 days and record the weather in your neighborhood.

Farmers’ Almanac—check the weather back until 1945.

Farmers’ Almanac—what is an almanac?

Discover 10 simple weather activities for kids.

The Secrets of the Honey Bee

Records from 1810 show that there was honey and honeycomb at Macculloch Hall. Gentleman farmer and citizen scientist George Macculloch (1775-1858) wondered about the small honey bee when he wrote “Is the bee guided by reason or instinct and necessity? Neither legislators nor mathematicians nor architects. What sense brings them home from far?”

Since George Macculloch posed these questions, dedicated scientists and citizen scientists have studied honey bees and have uncovered many secrets of the honey bee’s life. There is still more to learn.

Watch honey bees inside and outside the hive: https://explore.org/livecams/honey-bees/honey-bee-landing-zone-cam

See Liberty Science Center’s virtual honey bee exhibit: https://lsc.org/news-and-social/news/bees-to-bots-experience-the-exhibition-online

Get tips for planting a pollinator-friendly garden: https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden-2/

Sweet autumn clematis in bloom in MHHM's pollinator garden.
Sweet autumn clematis in bloom in MHHM’s pollinator garden.

Do a honey bee word search: https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/support-files/beeswordsearch.pdf

Register for a citizen scientist project at: http://millionpollinatorgardens.org or https://www.bumblebeewatch.org

Everyday Arbor Day

From the Oaks to the Sassafras and the Beech to the Redbud, MHHM’s historic garden is a haven for tree lovers! During summer 2019, visitors of all ages explored the trees in MHHM’s garden and collected inspiring “poet-tree” for their garden journals.

“Poet-tree” For Arbor Day

Federico Garcia Lorca
(1898-1936)

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde veinto.
Verde ramas.

Green I love you green.
Green wind.
Green branches.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803-1882)

The wonder is
that we can see these trees
and not wonder more.                    

Lucy Larcom
(1824-1893)

He who plants a tree
plants a hope.

Resources:

Visit the Arbor Day Foundation to learn about the history of Arbor Day, find ways to celebrate or to explore educational resources.

Read or listen to Joanne Oppenheim’s Have You Seen Trees? to learn why trees are so important.

Visit www.gradeonederful.com to see some of the pages from the picture book and get inspiration for a tree art project.

Use the activity sheet below in the weeks ahead to identify trees in your neighborhood.

Happy Earth Day!

Today marks the 50th celebration of Earth Day. In observation, Macculloch Hall Historical Museum celebrates its historic two-acre garden, located in downtown Morristown. This garden has been a dedicated green space for more than 200 years. Through responsible pesticide-free and environmentally friendly care, a refuge for living creatures both large and small has been created. Its use as a vibrant outdoor teaching space is stronger than ever.

Happy Earth Day!

Resources: 

EarthDay.org:
Watch Earth Day Live or Take 24 Hours of Action at www.earthday.org.

The Newark Museum of Art:
On April 18th the Newark Museum of Art’s virtual Earth Day program engaged NJ-born artist Willie Cole in an Artist Conversation. The virtual chat featured a sculpture by Willie, and discussed his community water bottle projects. Watch it here.

In 1999 Willie Cole received the Recycling Award, now called the Environmental Excellence Award, from the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority (MCMUA). He recently worked with students in The Pingry School’s art program to create sculptures made of plastic water bottles. Take a look at the students’ work here.

Citizen Science Project: 
Want to celebrate Earth Day every day? Join Earth Challenge 2020! Download the app to gather important scientific data in your neighborhood.

Calling All Citizen Scientists

On this day 190 years ago, George Macculloch (1775-1858) planted corn and the early crops of potatoes and bush beans. These were just three of the 29 types of vegetables and 11 types of fruit that grew on his 26-acre farm in 1830. How do we know this?

George Macculloch was a “gentleman” farmer who kept a garden journal from 1829 to 1856. In this journal he recorded his observations, collected data about his farm and was able to share this information with others. Today, we would identify George Macculloch as a citizen scientist!

April is Global Citizen Scientist month and to celebrate the actions of citizen scientists MHHM is inviting students, families, and adults to take part in a service project which will make George Macculloch’s 19th-century garden journal more accessible to the public. 

Take a close look at George Macculloch’s journal and email Cynthia Winslow at cwinslow@maccullochhall.org with your name and any additional people you will be working with, a contact email address, your first choice of the year to transcribe. Wait for a confirmation with additional information about the next steps. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum thanks you for helping to make New Jersey history more accessible!