By Miranda Sullivan
At Pitney Meadows Community Gardens something magical is in the air. With the help of Saratoga Springs Girl Scout Troop 3444, fairy houses have sprung up, bringing to the garden a sense of wonder and fable.
Working under the direction of Jess Clauser, a Community Gardens gardener and Girl Scout badge coordinator, girls between 8 and 11 worked with local artists, gardeners, and community leaders to create fairy villages out of birdhouses, rocks, flowers, sticks, and other treasures.
The result was a six-by-30 foot-long art installation that visitors will find on the Community Gardens' far northern edge. Nestled between cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers, bird-turned-fairy houses adorned with acorns, shells, and glass stones are displayed brightly to the public, adding a quiet touch of magic to the gardens.
Garden Director Natalie Walsh knew from the outset that she wanted children to be involved with the farm. Diane White, a volunteer at the farm and Dorothy Nolan Elementary School in Saratoga Springs, put local Scout leaders in touch with Walsh.
"I know about 400 or 500 Girl Scouts and their leaders. It goes along with our program of helping other people at all times, doing community service, and also having fun, of course," said White.
Soon enough, a local Girl Scout group expressed interest in engaging with art and expanding an already existing fairy garden at Pitney Farm. Walsh knew she had her girls.
Throughout their badge-earning workshop, Brownies earned the Outdoor Art Adventure badge and Painting badge while Juniors earned theDrawing badge and Outdoor art badge. To earn the Outdoor Art Explorer, one must “design with nature,” so that’s where the fairy house came in. Martel Catalano, a local artist. worked with several girls toward earning their Drawing badge in sketching flowers in the gardens. Afterwards, Clauser helped them fulfill their badge requirements.
The fairy gardens were a big hit among the scouts. When a few were asked if they enjoyed their time on the farm, their answer was an enthusiastic and resounding, "Yes!"
White aims to continue this community interaction “We want to do more things to help the farm. Whatever it takes, we’re in.”
Jean Marie Gebhard, who teaches English at the high school, maintains a plot in the Community Gardens, and works with the Girl Scouts as a service Team Member, says she's been talking up the farm with older girls with the hope that some might develop Silver or Gold Award projects there, the two highest awards in the Girl Scout Program.
Gebhard has a vision. "Students could just walk over with their teachers. A Girl Scout could potentially develop that curriculum and put it into place. I'm interested in supporting a project like that. I also would like to see a high school class in sustainable farming."
Such connections are what the Community Gardens is all about, says Walsh, noting that participants in Saratoga Bridges and Saratoga Mentoring have enjoyed activities in the gardens and that other organizations plan to come.
Clauser and Walsh already are laying plans for the installation of a new fairy garden next spring. "I'm thinking mini-daffodils. daffodils, grape hyacinths, and violets," she says.
A senior at Saratoga Springs High School, Miranda Sullivan is Pitney Meadows writing intern. A violist and guitarist who also enjoys photography and writing, Miranda is exploring possible careers in writing, journalism, sustainability, community-building, and government. Here she interviews Diane White, a volunteer at the farm who facilitated the Community Gardens' program with the Girl Scouts.