Author Archives: akcrone

Our First Cob Oven Pizza Party, YES!

I had no idea how wonderful pizza would taste when coming from our very own SPEA-class built cob oven in the GANG garden! I mean, I don’t even like pizza!

On the one day that it wasn’t raining or threatening to rain, we gathered for our first ever cob pizza party. It was supposed to be a reward for that SPEA class, which, on a drizzly day in November, 2010 had stomped and shaped the oven into being from sand, clay and straw.

But only one student from the class showed up! I guess we were too close to the end of the semester, plus it was Easter Weekend. But there were still about a dozen of us.

However, that one student brought a student friend, and a couple students from across the street and next door showed up, plus the teacher Melissa and her husband and children. And Colin, who built the structure for the oven and finished the oven, and Nathan, who spearheaded the project. Here’s Nathan, taking a good look at what he hath wrought.

We will next fire up the oven on June 25, for our Solstice Party and Celebration after our Children’s Workshop: “Inviting the Little People In.”

Meanwhile, we’re realizing that we’ve just got to make some cob benches down there by that oven. And meanwhile, I’m dreaming of outdoor cob ovens on every block in town in the future. A mighty handy fallback when the electricity shuts off.

When we finished the pizzas,

several of us threw potatoes and and eggplant in the oven. We could have put in some bread to bake, and who knows what else. The oven stays hot for a long, long time.

I now recognize this cob oven as an incredibly powerful magnetic center for the neighborhood commons that we are cultivating via the GANG.

May Melissa and Chris’s beautiful boy Emmett live to grow up into a world transformed into into community by the intention and effort of his parents’ generation.

2011 GANG workshop #1: Growing Shitake Mushrooms (Revised!)

Nathan Harman led seven people through this three hour class.

Nathan tells me I misconstrued part of what he said, so I correct it here:

Unfortunately, I missed part of his introductory talk, but did get back to the class in time to hear about how shitakes were considered extremely valuable by the ancient Japanese.

If you want continous mushrooms, start two dozen logs or so and force fruit them every two weeks. They can be forced into fruiting by soaking the whole log in cold water for 24 hours. Bout a week later, mushrooms will appear.

Maybe it was morels he was talking about. Certainly, when the class found out that we actually have morels right here, growing wild in my back yard, they were astounded. “You mean you’d tell people?!” one woman said, as if she might come steal them in the night.

Here’s the first ones we found.

Nathan had spotted this cluster a few days prior to the workshop. Hard to see, unless you know what you’re looking for. He said he’d never seen a morel growing in rocks and gravel like that. Then he looked up, and said, “Aha! Growing near an oak tree. That’s what morels like to do, grow under dying oak trees” (which this one is, though “not too bad yet”, he pronounced). They also like elm trees, and there was also an elm tree in their vicinity.

The day of the workshop, his four-year old daughter Lulu, equally perceptive, spotted  more morels, growing under flowers, also near the oak and elm trees.

Nathan suggested that I fry them up for a treat after the workshop was over.

Meanwhile, he said, the main part of this workshop is to drill holes for plugs which have the spores of the mushrooms in them.

You want to get the hole exactly the same length as the plug, and fit tightly, then paint the top with wax. Do them a few inches apart all over the oak log. Make sure you pick a log that’s somewhat moist (i.e., not too long dead), and still has its bark. The mycellium grows throughout the log, spreading out from the plugs, and only then fruiting.

You can pretty much figure that one inch equals one year, i.e. if a log is five inches in diameter, then it will have five years of life growing mushrooms. You have to balance the length of time it will fruit with how much the log weighs, however, since you may have to move it around to keep it wet enough for the spores to continue to grow. Store the log in a shady spot.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the spore plugs. But here’s a finished log, with the spores plugs in and their tops waxed. Note also the venetian blind marker, telling when the log was impregnated with spores, which, by the way, take about nine months to fruit. If you want continuous mushrooms, then start logs about one month apart and label them according to date.

When the workshop was nearing completion, Lulu and I picked all the mushrooms. . .

. . . then, per Nathan’s instructions, split them lengthwise in two, soaked them in salt water for 30 minutes, then fried them in butter and garlic (lemon juice would have been another welcome addition).

Yum! By 4 p.m. we were done. Everyone went home with a full stomach of that wonderful wild, earthy mushroom taste and a newly pregnant log.

2011 GANG Workshop Series

Shitake Mushroom Workshop, April 17, 2011

A Project of the Green Acres Neighborhood Association and an educational project of the Association for the Regenerative Culture, a 501c3.

2601 E. DeKist Street

Bloomington, Indiana. 

Workshop space is limited. To pre-register, please contact Ann Kreilkamp, 812-334-1987 or arkcrone@gmail.com. Suggested donation per class: $5 – $15.

Shitake Mushroom Workshop

Sunday afternoon, April 17, 104 p.m.

This workshop, led by Nathan Harman, will entail a small feel to cover the cost of spores which we will learn to grow on oak logs.

Get Growing, GANG: Start the Garden

Saturday, April 30, 105 p.m.

Led by Rhonda Baird and Stephanie Bartridge, this workshop will provide an overview of spring garden tasks. The first half of the workshop will be indoors and the second half, hands-on in the garden. Let’s see how those raised, heavily mulched, lasagna beds built two years ago are coming along.  We will cover starting seeds in flats and direct seeding, transplanting starts, using the cold frame, checking for weed damage and problems, as well as soil analysis and amendment. Snacks and beverages provided.

Children’s Workshop: Inviting the Little People into the Garden

Saturday, June 25, 204 p.m.

Led by Stephanie Partridge and Emily Ginzberg. Tribes all over the world have stories of little people (elves, leprechauns, fairies, spirits, sprites, gnomes, borrowers) and many times they are associated with gardens. Some believe they are peaceful keepers of the plants and help them grow and flourish. Others believe they are tricksters and you must pay homage to them or else they will play with your plants. I believe the little garden spirits, in whatever manifestation, are good in nature and are here to help and have fun. Who better to help invite them to play than children? (We will talk about the fairies, and hand out supplies to paint rocks, bowls, shards. After done we will encourage them to make altars with twigs, leaves, etc.

(Summer Solstice Cob Oven Pizza, Potluck and Open House for the Green Acres Neighborhood and anyone else immediately following this workshop.)

Summer Assessment, Seed Saving, and Planting the Fall Garden

Sunday, August 7, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Led by Nathan Harman and Rhonda Baird. Just as summer crops are planted in spring, fall crops are planted in summer. This workshop will focus on caring for the garden in the high heat of summer, planting the foods that will be harvested through the coming cool, and seed-saving techniques.

This is the hay-day of the garden and we will hopefully have yields galore. But, the weeds and insects and drying sun are also trying to make their way, so mulch, shade cloth, row cover and other techniques will be employed as we keep the summer crops vibrant and give our fall crops a running start. BYO lunch. Snacks and beverages provided.

Harvest and Preservation: Drying, Canning, Freezing, Fermenting

Saturday, August 27, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Led by Jami Scholl and Leea Gauthier. In the midst of summer, it’s easy to think the zucchini and tomato flow will never quit. But cease they shall, and that’s when we turn to the cupboard full of the year’s stored sunlight in the form of canned, dried, frozen and fermented garden foods. This workshop will teach a variety of preservation methods useful to the home gardener. We will spend an hour with slides and handouts and then harvest, process and sample. Learn how to reduce food costs while increasing nutrition and flavor through the winter. BYO lunch.

Putting the Garden to Bed and Celebration

Sunday, November 6, 205 p.m., then celebrate

Led by Rhonda Baird and Stephanie Partridge. Though there are still winter-hardy plants in the ground, this is the time to clean up and compost any garden wastes, mulch well, tidy up, and put season-extending hoop houses and cold frames over more tender greens. Learn what plants require what degree of care in this risky weather and just how far into winter they can go. We will also spend time putting our tools to bed, cleaning, sharpening, oiling and storing to be sure they last as long and work as well as possible. It’s difficult to get excited about spending less time in the garden and that’s why we’ll enjoy our second annual harvest potluck dinner and celebration afterwards!