Author Archives: Ann

2011 Workshop #2: Plant the Garden!

From this photo, it appears that I was the only one who attended this workshop. Had that been the case, I wouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I was prepared to work with just me and the two co-teachers, Rhonda and Stephanie, and maybe two more, who had called early to say they thought they were coming. It had been raining for what? Eight days straight? And rained again on Sunday, But Saturday, April 30, and the date of our scheduled workshop, was the one day when it did not rain!

The two women who pre-registered are friends, both named Betty, and both wanting to learn how to lasagna garden in order to create community gardens where they live, one in Stinesville, and the other in Indianapolis, on very little money. They are both strongly motivated to do these gardens, but need an influx of people who have both energy and know-how to see them through to completion. Hopefully, others will join their efforts.

Meanwhile, at the GANG garden, we too, face continuous uncertainty as to who and how many people will actually show up, both for workshops, and in general. Who actually has energy for this garden? Even those who live in the neighborhood, in fact, especially those who live in the neighborhood, either don’t make it a personal priority, or if they do, leave town! As the founder and organizer, I am continually coming to terms with the fundamental fact that this is a college town, where people are continuously coming and going. As we say in permaculture, there’s lots of “flow.” How to utilize the flow of people is a continuous question, inspiring different ad hoc strategies over time.

And yet, and yet! As if divinely choreographed, about ten minutes before the workshop was due to begin, a car pulled up in front of the house and a young woman got out of it, looking very uncertain. I went to the door and asked her if I could help her. She asked me if I knew who to get in touch with if she wanted to work in the garden! So, of course I told her about the workshop and ushered her in to the kitchen where Stephanie, Rhonda, the two Bettys and Stephanie’s boyfriend Ben were sitting, and offered her some lunch.

Then, lo and behold, Aaron also arrived. So we had a good group after all.

We decided to sit in the living room for the first part of the four-hour afternoon. There, Rhonda outlined the plan for the day and Stephanie explained the design she had created for the GANG garden, which utilizes companion planting.

 Tomatoes, peppers, basil, oregano, for example in one garden row, with brussel sprouts, eggplant, radishes, tomato in another, and corn, squash, beans (the famous “three sisters” of Navaho land) in yet another. Plants can be companions because of size differences (to best utilize vertical and horizontal space), or differences in time it takes to grow to maturity, or because what one gives off another one needs, and so on.

Then we went outside. Since the Bettys both wanted to learn how to do lasagna beds we did that first, going out into my back yard where we focused on rejuvenating a bed that had become overgrown with unwanted plants. Spying a pile of brush in a corner of the yard, Rhonda told us to first spread that evenly on top of the horseshoe-shaped bed. Then we layered entire sections of newspaper and flattened cardboard boaxes over the brush (this will kill what’s under it by depriving it of light). And over that, a third layer, of straw. I had leaves for that purpose also, but we used them to mulch a bed in the GANG garden itself.

Then, said Rhonda, to plant seeds, just dig a little hole in the straw down to the newspaper or cardboard layer, and put in a handful of soil on top of that, and the seed in it. Then cover the hole back up with straw. For seedlings, punch a hole in the newspaper or cardboard, put the soil down through that, the seedling nestled in it, and cover with straw. The point is,  seeds will open at about the rate the newspaper or cardbard rots. But for seedlings, you want them to get their roots down right away, so you punch a hole through that hard layer. We used this bed for broccoli and cauliflower. I used it for lettuce in former years, and lettuce did well. The bed doesn’t have full sun, so this is an experiment.

What's so damned funny? I have absolutely no memory of this moment . . .

Then we went into the GANG garden and got to work there.

seedlings, lined up by the pond

For beds that weren’t very thick, we decided to sheet mulch them again, first with cardboard/newspaper and, this time, leaf and leaf much, before planting seeds and seedlings. Mulch helps hold moisture, discourages pests, and turns into soil. Always, the key is to continue to build soil.

Aside: Aaron found more morels! Giant morels! Twice as many as we found during the mushroom workshop two weeks earlier! Once again, hiding in corners of my back yard near old oak and elm trees.

I told him he could have them, and he gave one to each person present.

One of the Bettys, with her morel

Here’s Stephanie, planting beet seedlings.

In honor of her work in the gardens of Bloomington (Stephanie is also an intern with Middle Way House), her mother made her a great apron out of old sweaters.

Of course, she’s afraid to get dirt on it!

All in all, a very good day, though there are still lots of seeds and seedlings left to plant, and some that did get planted look like they’ve drowned in the continuing rain. Over eleven inches in April. A record. Rain the first three days of May. More predicted tonight . . .

C’est la vie!

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 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!