Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Memory Until Next Summer

This is the first time we've built a mud pie kitchen in our new outdoor classroom. In the old place, due to our cramped space, I'd been mostly concerned about where to site it. Now, having learned from my previous attempt, I knew to consider it a temporary installation, something to replace the cast iron water pump for a time as the kid's primary water supply.

I'm glad I blogged about that first mud pie kitchen effort two summers ago. Looking back at that piece, reading about my struggles and concerns, I knew, up front, many of the challenges I would face plumbing a sink with real running water. I'd kept the pipe-spigot set up from last time, moving the whole thing intact. I knew that despite my fretting from before about milk crate ovens, the kids hadn't really used them at all anyway, so I wasn't going to bother this time with anything fancier. And I'd, of course, kept the special outdoor kitchen supplies I'd purchased from Goodwill.

It still required a trip to the hardware store to purchase new fittings to secure the pipe to the hose and purchase a new can of plumbing cement seeing as our old can had permanently sealed itself in the intervening 24 months, but that seemed like nothing compared to the scrambling I'd had to do to accomplish our prior efforts.

And then there was our new outdoor sensory table, which the kids had assembled last month -- a perfect sink, this one with a drain in the bottom. I love how light weight it is, easy to move to wherever we need it.

One of the things we'd lacked in our previous iteration was a proper table for actually serving our mud pie meals, something I corrected by laying a round of plywood from our scrap lumber pile on an old car tire. This is where adults sat for the better part of the week, waiting to be served.

Something I didn't include in my previous mud pie post, but that I'd been reminded of by re-reading it, was that I'd hated the daily aftermath of the thing. As naturally happens in a preschool where adults don't spend their time bossing the kids around, the official kitchen supplies wound up scattered to the winds by the end of the day, spoons and spatulas and bundt pans in every corner of the place. This, I don't begrudge the kids, of course, given that it's their space and their learning, but if it was going to start the next day as an attractive mud pie kitchen, no matter how I instructed our parent-teachers, I found myself each morning with a dwindling set of kitchen supplies. This is why I determined last time, and why I reaffirmed this time, that the mud pie kitchen works best for us as a temporary installation, one I don't resent "fluffing" each day because it's "special."

I'd removed the cast-iron water pump, cistern and all, to make way for this set up. On the kitchen's final day, a day I determined by noting that the mud pie kitchen sat for nearly an hour with no action, something that never happens with the pump, I took the pump apart with the help of a couple of curious kids. I narrated as I went, naming the parts and demonstrating how they worked. We discovered that someone had dropped a bunch of marbles into the top which explained why it had become increasingly difficult to move the handle, cleaned the cylinder with paper towels, and smeared the insides with a little plumbing grease, but not before everyone who wanted to got to put a finger in it. We put the pump back together and tested it. Success.

The kids helped me dig a new hole for the cistern and now it's up and running again, the mud pie kitchen a memory until next summer.

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