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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 . . .
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.