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June 25, big day, three events, third event: Summer Solstice Pizza Party and Celebration

It was supposed to be centered around the cob oven. 

We had already held one cob oven pizza party event, and the oven proved a very magnetic attractor. We were excited to show it off, and to eat from it, be warmed communally by it, for a second time. Two days prior to the event, however, the cob oven part of the party was nixed. All I can say now is that there is a neighborhood issue with smoke.

The neighborhood issue has, in turn, propelled the GANG garden itself into the limelight of both Planning Department and City Council. This is either fortunate or not, depending on your point of view. At the end of August, I will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals in an effort to render the garden, and as many of its current and future activities as possible, fully on board “legal” with the city of Bloomington. (BTW: the cob oven is legal, as are neighborhood gardens. As usual, the devil is in the details.)

I will need help. Help writing the proposal, help with statements of support, help from neighbors and others who love the GANG garden showing up at the meeting and speaking for it.

The head of the Planning Department told me, “What you’re doing will be commonplace in ten or fifteen years. You’re the pioneer. So you get the flack.”

“Yes,” I responded, “that’s the role I’m playing, and I understand yours as well. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes!”

This drama is one small local scenario that typifies the kinds of “conflicts” that arise during this, the final act of our post-industrial civilization that has, without anyone really understanding the consequences, put us on a me-first collision course and led us to forget about our heart and soul connections as neighbors on this one small planet in this one small solar system in this one small Milky Way galaxy — and so on, and on out to infinity. (See my exopermaculture site for more on exploring the larger context of our efforts here below . . .)

“Okay,” I told the planner, “So this meeting is to be the next educational activity of the GANG garden!”

Meanwhile, back to the party.

As usual, we had no idea how many people would actually show up. We had sent a notice to the neighborhood email list, and to those who’ve been students or teachers in garden workshops. We made up flyers for all three events (Children’s Workshop, Earthen Workshop) and my son Colin dropped placed them carefully in the doorways to every house on nearby streets (about 50 altogether). Click Garden Party flyer. But there were no guarantees.

Two years ago, we made up a flyer for a GANG Harvest Party in November and six neighbors fanned out to cover the entire neighborhood (ca. 440 homes)  . . . and only one person came because he had seen the flyer.

My son Colin, who had just moved here from Massachusetts, was bitterly disappointed. Now he knows better. What’s important is the process, how we go about doing whatever we do. The results of our efforts vary over time. Let go of expectations, and you’ll not be disappointed!

I told him to view the flyers themselves as educational materials. Almost as if giving a flyer to someone is its own event. It puts the idea in the person’s mind of having a neighborhood gathering. Maybe they won’t come to our gathering, and they’ll most likely move away within a year or two from this highly transient university community. But someday, maybe years from now, something might joggle their minds — they won’t even remember what — and they will say, “Hey, how about having a neighborhood get-together”?

In fact, when we sent those flyers around, I had warned everybody, “This probably won’t get much of a response. Don’t worry about it. The flyer plants seeds.”

So, imagine my surprise when this time, at least 35 people showed up, with about 2/3 from the neighborhood itself. I was especially surprised to see two older people whom I’ve not met before, and a number of IU students new to me from streets in the hood that are not so nearby.

We spent less energy than two years ago, and we got more return. How’s that for evolution? Clearly, the seeds of community are sprouting.

I especially like this little photo series. First, neighbor Kathy walks up.

Then, her husband Al.

Then, their neighbor Abby from across the street joins them — Abby remembers Kathy and Al from when she was a little girl.

Now Abby’s back in the hood, and she and her partner Mary are making a beautiful little flower garden on the corner of their property that is also graced by a gorgeous, giant rock pulled up from underground and placed there by Vectren workers during street repairs.

Mary is one of the GANG garden regulars, and brings not only her labor, but her skill and certification  as an organic gardener. Here she is, with two of “the cutters” (no, not of the movie “Breaking Away,” but of the pizzas, which, in lieu of the cob oven, were coming out of the oven in my house next door), my niece Megan’s boyfriend Brian and my son Colin.

Brian, my son Colin, with Mary

BTW: the young man below, whose name escapes me, but he is a single dad neighbor and a Tom Cruise lookalike! —

had no idea that twenty minutes later he would be sent back home to fetch his pizza cutter (the thingamajig that rolls).

Two days before the party, a neighbor whom I have not seen or heard from for at least a year, walked up onto my porch, where I was eating dinner, and asked me how she could help. I was both surprised and thrilled.

Valerie is one of my favorite people, ever since I asked her, when I found out that she lives with a husband and seven children in a house not much bigger than mine, how she does it, and she answered, simply, “We like each other”!

I did have something for her to do. I had promised to provide all the pizza dough, and the tomato sauce and the cheese, suggesting others bring pizza toppings as their contribution to the meal. Of course, I could always buy the dough, but my instinct was to make the pizza dough from scratch! However I had never done it.

Wouldn’t you know! Valerie used to make all her pizza dough from scratch. She would help me. I would get the flour and oil and sugar and salt and yeast, and she would come over Friday at 2 p.m., and stay for two hours. We would make it together then.

So, what had been causing me stress, the anticipation of having to make the pizza dough, turned into its own kind of fun as the two of us, plus one of her daughters, Noura, sat and stood around the kitchen table kneading and punching dough for the next day’s party.

At the party, Valerie turned out to be the chief dough roller as well. I doubt she had planned on that.

Valerie, with Todd in the background, and the "cutters" beyond

We ended up making about twelve pizzas. This size:

Lots of toppings, e.g.

And even one vegetarian, after student Katrina (on the right) shyly asked if that was possible . . .

At different points in the evening — it went on for four hours— people were lined up for another piece of pizza. So glad it was not one of our hot days . . .

People sat on my porch to eat.

Or, they wandered out to the garden, passing the day lilies . . .

and entering the gate to the wonderful mellow music by neighbor Jelene and her partner David (who, BTW, will be playing at the Farmers’ Market with their band tomorrow morning!).

Jessica and John, who until very recently, walked the neighborhood together every single day, sat in the garden with John and Susan, a workshop student, and Mary.

Some took an opportunity to wander the garden with their children (notice cob oven in background) . . .

And I, of course, took the opportunity, whenever possible, to recruit new student blood into the garden . .

Wish I could remember this beautiful young man’s name! And I forgot to get his email. But I did get Taylor’s email (the guy with the hat below). When I got it wrong, he corrected it at the party . . .

There’s Valerie, rolling yet another one . . .
Lots more pictures, lots more people, don’t have them all here; a few, including Stephanie from the Children’s Workshop, arrived too late for pizzas! The party finally wound down to about ten of us sitting around the table in the garden until the sun went down and I announced it was my bedtime.

Looking back, I think that what made this evening’s event so easy and comfortable, even among people of widely differing ages and interests, was the atmosphere set by the music; Jelene and David’s sweet, slow harmonies harmonized us, made it fun and simple just to be sharing food and talk on an absolutely gorgeous summer evening in and around the GANG garden.

We didn’t forget about the cob oven. My son Colin said that a number of people looked crestfallen when they walked up and he told them we were not going to be cooking the pizza there.

But we did fine without it. In the end it’s we, the people, who count, not our various props.

June 25th, big day, three events: second event, the Children’s Workshop

Unlike the Earthen Workshop, the Children’s Workshop was planned in advance as one of the six workshops for this year’s GANG growing season. A wonderful young Indiana University student, Stephanie Partridge, had dreamed it up, with this title and description:

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

Saturday, June 25, 2-4 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.”

Here’s the flyer: Children’s Workshop.

Unfortunately, fellow student and co-teacher Emily Ginzburg, had double-scheduled herself, and ended up out of town. However, Stephanie was fine on her own, and having heard part of her story afterwards, I can see why. She told me she grew up in the woods of Indiana with no children around, just she and her Mom. And that the animals and plants, and fairies were her companions.

Like the Earthen Workshop, this one didn’t go quite as expected either. Rather than making altars, the five children who participated spent all their time painting the pottery shards that Stephanie provided —

Cora, daughter of Melissa and Chris Clark. Melissa is the SPEA professor whose undergraduate class in sustainability partners with the GANG garden to design and build projects.

with great focus and concentration —





















and blowing bubbles.

This is Maya Baird, daughter of Rhonda and Corbin Baird. Rhonda is one of our permaculture teachers in the GANG garden.

Stephanie encouraged this shy one, sat him on her lap to get started . . .









There were also quite a few parents and other adults hovering nearby, and some little ones, including year-old Max, here with my dog, Emma, about to lick his toes.

Max, an unusally friendly child, even climbed on my lap (I’m not usually perceived as cuddly.)











Charlotte, from the other end of the hood, joined us for a little while, hung out with Cora’s dad Chris.

A few of the kids had to leave before all the chards were painted. So it was up to Cora and Maya to place them around the garden. The fish art, said Maya, belongs on the edge of the pond . . .

A few others here and there . . .

Cora's shard is on the little table; Maya's at bottom right, leaning into the pear tree. Anothe

























Thanks to Stephanie and the children, the GANG garden has begun to sparkle with fairy dust! Thanks to all!

Summer Solstice Events: Save June 25th for the GANG

June 25th, Mark that Date!

We’re going overboard at the GANG garden on June 25th — hosting three events, and all on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice. First, two workshops, one all day, the other for two hours in the afternoon.

Earth Building Workshop: 9-5, with architect Scott Routen. We will build an earthen bench and learn techniques of building with earthen materials. Click on this link for the flyer, and further details:


Children’s Workshop: Inviting the Little People into the Garden: 2-4 p.m., with IU students Stephanie Partridge and Emily Ginzberg. We will introduce the children to fairies and elves, and encourage the fairies to come into the garden by gathering little sticks, stones, and leaves, painting them, and make little altars. Again, click on this link for the flyer, and further details:

Children’s Workshop

Then, in the evening, we will gather folks from the neighborhood and their friends for our second Summer Solstice Celebration. The first one was a few years ago, held at the end of East 7th Street, formerly an empty lot, and now filled with bulldozers for the Bypass. . . This year, we will hold the event in the GANG garden.

Summer Solstice Celebration: Cob Oven Pizza Party — with Music: 6-9 p.m. Neighbor Jelene Campbell and David of the David Gohn Band will play for 45 minutes. We welcome other musicians — and children! Come join your neighbors and friends for a fun time.  Again, click on flyer for details.

Garden Party

Hope to see you in the GANG garden for at least one of these events!

For the workshops: it helps us plan in advance if you pre-register; also, donations for the teachers are appreciated. Bring lunch, if you are participating in the all-day Earthwork workshop.

For the Solstice Celebration and pizza party: bring your lawn chair, one ingredient for the pizza, and your beverage. And a musical instrument, if you wish to play. And children, if you have them! We will supply pizza dough, sauce and cheese. The GANG will supply the wonderful cob oven, thanks to Nathan, Colin, and Melissa’s SPEA class!

Questions, call Ann at 334-1987 or email

See you soon!

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.