Green Acres Permaculture Village is a small, retrofit, intergenerational intentional community in Bloomington, Indiana that integrates self-knowledge and expression with a shared culture among humans and the living Earth to encourage abundance on every level.

About GAPV

Green Acres Permaculture Village is a small, retrofit intergenerational intentional community carved from within an existing suburban neighborhood in a college town that offers itself as a template for transformation of suburban life. We seek to express our values from the inside out: beginning with the individual (know thyself) to the human and animal commons (communication, sharing and compassion), to our sacred communion with the living Earth, we encourage the expression of Nature’s abundance on every level: food for thought, food for people, food for planet.

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Join Our Community

Are you looking for community and interested in living more sustainably? Do you want to eat produce, wild edibles, and chicken eggs from right outside your door? Do you want a home with close-knit, supportive friends? Do you long for an environment that fosters your creativity and individuality?

Green Acres is looking for a new resident with an interest in permaculture and helping us to build a more self-sustaining ecovillage. While Green Acres has been established for several years, we are rounding the corner into a more intentional community.

Email us at or talk to us at our community dinners!

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Community Dinners

Join us at Green Acres every Thursday evening at 7pm for dinner with friends and neighbors. The dinners are not potlucks, but giftings. However, you are welcome to bring food, drink or a donation, if that works for you. In any case, not necessary! Or maybe your guitar or banjo? In any case, come.

Plus, we have now introduced "offerings" after dinner on occasion. So far, these have included a Feldenkrais class, a talk about the astrology of Donald Trump and the U.S.A., a knife sharpening skills, and salsa dancing lessons.

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Here’s our report on last Sunday’s rainy Ceremony of Impermanence . . .

Local Action “True Grit”: How we and the GANG have begun to transform a seemingly destructive situation

Kim’s turn to whack the beloved cob oven, symbol of community.

Hold on to your horses. This is an epic post, divided into parts, each with lots of photos that you can scan through quickly just to give the flavor.


1. The cut in the wall

2. The Ceremony

3. The Blows

4. Potluck

5. Aftermath


First, here’s some “before” pictures of the SW corner of the garden, containing a cob oven and ferrocement wall, all of which was constructed by volunteers over hundreds of hours.

Cob oven from inside the garden, wall behind. Notice the “yield” sign to the left. In order to transform an inherently destructive situation I (my combative personality) had to learn how to yield . . .
The side view of the beautiful oven, designed and constructed by SPEA students in a Sustainability Course at IU. BTW: it worked great the one and only time we fired it up for pizza.
The “Berlin Wall” from the outside, admittedly kind of ugly and forbidding, though plants were beginning to grow up enough to soften the effect.

The situation had been brewing for five months. See this and this for details. For the first three months I had been locked in an internal battle, trying to not only make sense of what was going on, but to come to terms with it and find a way through. At some point, it occurred to me that this situation was the most challenging I had ever encountered, in the sense that I had to integrate more dimensions than ever before in order to discover a way to creatively respond. I had to integrate 1) the neighbor who opposed the educational — and, it appeared to me, the community — function of the GANG garden, 2) the city Planning Department who had responded to her call and was making certain demands, some of which I preceived as a threat to the multi-purpose of the garden, 3) the near and far Green Acres neighborhood, with whom I have been working to help seed an authentic village culture for the past seven years, 4) the new and still very tender and rawecovillage hub of which I am a cofounder, 5) the Council of Neighborhood Associations, to which I belong, Transition Bloomington, of which I am one of the original organizers — and on and on, in widening circles of influence.

But beyond and within all these concentric zones, was what I call zone zero zero, the center of the self, which dissolves into no-self, Presence. Zone zero zero as the infinity that opens and enfolds in the embrace of the the Love that fuels the universe. And, right next to this sacred center, right on the other side of it, or at its edge, was/is my persona, or personality, the evolving form I have been conditioned into for this lifetime. And this form or persona is fiery, combative, arrogant, righteous, determined, like a combination of bulldog and banty rooster — all qualities that I like to see in my “opponent,” the neighbor who has been “giving me so much trouble.” My perception of her persona was and is my perfect mirror, the projection of all that I dislike about myself. (So perfect, an “opponent” who actually shows up! How else am I going to learn about my own shadow  without an honorable opponent to illuminate it for me?) So, beyond any of these other zones of integration, I had to integrate this cocky persona into the higher self of detachment and compassion, that which sees the entire human drama as merely one more play of illusion within this three-dimension stage that we have all chosen to walk together.

So that’s the internal scene. In the external, the GANG garden is, and is viewed as, one  possible alternative private/public template for the future as we learn how to relocalize our lives and, in particular, grow our own food, in a downshifting culture that will more and more need to be fueled by cooperation and sharing rather than competition and greed.

For more of the details, see this and this, the two emails I sent out to announce the Ceremony of Impermanence that would precede the destruction of our lovingly constructed cob oven at the SW corner of the GANG garden.

 The Cut in the Wall

The city requires that we remove not only the cob oven, but the wall behind it, due to a law which outlaws “structures” 25 feet from any intersection (a law that is only enforced when brought to the city’s attention). So, we had to figure out how to remove that wall. Were we going to trash it? And if so, how? Or were we going to move it to another location, if so how and why, and where would a 20-foot long, right-angled, six foot high ferrocement wall fit? We thought about various places in the garden,  but nothing seemed appropriate. It was just too damn  big! Finally we decided to place it inside a copse of little trees in my back yard, clearing out a space to do so, turning the area in front of it into a hidden meditation spot.

Here we are, on the day of the Ceremony, traipsing to take a look at the newly cleared sanctuary for the wall.

Given the space available, we decided to cut about a five feet off one side of the wall to make it fit. My son Colin and Jim, the permaculture student that has been staying with me cleared the space. A few days before the Ceremony they made the cut, using a grinder purchased for the occasion. Here’s the process.

First, Colin measured the point in the wall where they would make the cut.

Next, Colin and Jim fastened and sretched string to indicate where the cut would go.

Next, Colin started the cut with the grinder (leaving a bit of the wall intact both at the top and the bottom, in case of wind. The final cuts to be made on the day the wall is actually removed).

Here’s what the cut looked like when done. Hardly visible. Very clean. I was amazed, thought it would be ragged and ugly.

The Ceremony of Impermanence

November 20, the long-awaited day for the Ceremony of Impermanence and destruction of wall and cob oven dawned warm, grey and rainy. Oops! Can’t use power tools in the rain. We’d have to postpone removing the wall, and concentrate on the Ceremony and cob oven. Okay. C’est la vie.

About 18 people straggled in throughout the morning and early afternoon, despite the rain. And we all agreed that the rain was perfect for the occasion. The sky was weeping, as these three drops on the pear tree attest.

We gathered beforehand in my house and I told them what would happen during the ceremony. First, I’d talk about the whole situation, and its history, why we had to remove the cob oven and wall, what they meant to us, and my own process of trying to come to terms with it, by utilizing ceremony to transform something terrible into the first step for renewal in the spring. Next, I would invite others to say whatever was in their hearts as well.

Then Anna Maria, another permaculture student who had been staying with me on weekends during the two month local permaculture weekend course, would read from the Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (Fall River Press, 2002), an appropriate verse for this ceremony. She chose verse #22, “Celebrating Paradox:”

No-thing remains itself.
Each prepares the path to its opposite.

To be ready for wholeness, first be fragmented.
To be ready for rightness, first be wronged.
To be ready for fullness, first be empty.
To be ready for renewal, first fail.
To be ready for doubt, first be certain . . .

Verily, fragmentation prepares the path to wholeness,
the mother of all origins and realizations.

At this point, we would each take the little slips of paper on which we had written something from our lives that they were willing to give up and put it in the cob oven for one last tiny firing, as a symbol of the impermanence of all forms. So hard to give up what feels safe, secure, comfortable, what we love!

And so on.

We went out in the garden and stood in the rain in a semi-circle around the cob oven. I started to talk, at first coming close to tears, our mood somber, sodden.

Anna Maria read verse 22 . . . Here are a few more lines from that beautiful translation:

Because the wise observe the world
through the Great Integrity,
they know they are not knowledgeable.
Because they do not perceive
only through their perceptions,
they do not judge this right and that wrong. . .

Then, we fired ‘er up one last time, letting go of our personal attachments.

Jim lights the match.

At this point something very funny happened. Anna Maria’s piece of paper had trouble burning. She started laughing. She was asking herself to finally let go of her mother, who  died sixteen years ago! Our mood began to lighten as we watched that damn little piece of paper finally catch fire.

By the time we came to the finale of the ceremony, echoing the wonders of Celebrating Paradox with the song “We Shall Overcome” we had changed the lyrics to —

We are right and wrong. We are right and wrong. Right and wrong make us strong!
Oh deep in our hearts, we do realize
That right and wrong make us strong. . .

— and were in a trance of hilarity, ready for anything, even destruction.

The blows

As the “leader,” I had the dubious honor of taking the first whack, which I did sort of gingerly . . .

We all expected the wall to break up into fragments. Instead it disintegrated into the “true grit” of sand, clay and straw of which it was composed.

Rhonda’s turn to whack.

So we each took a tiny piece of this for our own gardens as a symbol of neighborhood renewal. Here’s Sandy, going to get hers.

We decided to create a wheel barrel brigade, and shovel the gritty remains of the cob oven onto the garden beds. It felt good to return the oven to the earth of which it was made.

The firebricks were the bottom two layers. Danny made sure we saved them for the new smokeless rocket stove we will design and construct in the spring in the dining area by the pond.

Okay, done! Time to eat. The process took longer than expected. We were kind of glad the rain had stopped us from doing the wall on the same day. Colin plans to round up a bunch of strapping male undergraduate students who live nearby after Thanksgiving vacation to manhandle the wall into its new location. He figures it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.

The potluck

Vera, at the kitchen table, grabbing a cracker.

Here we are, in my house, hanging out with quiche, fruit, bread, and other sundries.

Bre, another out-of-town permie who stayed with me during the course, and who took most of the photos here (thanks, Bre!) with Adam, who hails from Missouri and had asked to attend our “heartbreaking” ceremony. It’s true. It was heartbreaking. It was also — cerlebrating paradox! — heart-healing.
Rhonda, one of our permaculture teachers, with son Caden.
Rhonda’s daughter Maya, fixing strawberries for the fruit plate.

In one of my emails sent to announce the day’s events, I mentioned that for anyone who is interested, we would have a “metaphysical discussion” of the deeper meaning of the Ceremony of Impermanence after lunch. This we did, utilizing Anna Maria’s 20 years as a traditional Feng Shui practitioner . . .

Anna Maria’s wheel of finely calibrated directions, as used in traditional feng shui.

A bunch of us pored over the map of Green Acres, and the GANG garden’s location within it, to understand, through the symbolic language of Feng Shui, on an impersonal level, why this destruction/renewal process had been necessary.

After this, I told the group a story of what I had discovered upon awakening that very morning. . .

I had wondered why this whole five months process had felt so important, and so difficult, and all of a sudden it had occurred to me that it was a “replay,” though with new characters and plot, understanding and outcome, of a drama that I had been involved in nearly 40 years earlier, during which I had been scapegoated and fired from my job as a teacher at the experimental New College of California for “being too experimental.” It was only years later that I recognized the entire process had originated in my arrogance (that persona again!). Now this time, many decades later, I had attracted another opportunity to deal with a multidimensional situation that required great discernment in order to thread my way through and shift it from destruction to transformation.

And, I concluded, I checked it with the symbolic language of astrology and discovered this: the chief fuel that I am burning in this lifetime is a 90° frictional square between Venus (personal love, desire) and Neptune (impersonal love, compassion). When the New College fiasco happened, in 1974, the slow-moving planet Pluto, agent of death and rebirth, had conjuncted my Neptune. Now, during this time when my soul had constellated parallel situation as part of the lesson plan for this lifetime, Pluto had moved 90 degrees, to conjunct Venus!

Voila! Out of destruction, resurrection. Out of confusion, clarity. Out of pain, joy.


That evening, I was lying on the couch when Zilia (Vera’s daughter) called. Said she was standing in front of the IU auditorium, and there was a guy there who was selling his $85 ticket for $65. Would I like to get it for the sold-out Paul Simon concert. Yes. I would!

The evening began with an old favorite, “Days and Miracle and Wonders,” truly a harbinger of these days when we are learning to Occupy our hearts and celebrate paradox. And near the end of the concert, his song “Love is Eternal Sacred Light,” its refrain:

Love is eternal sacred light
Free from the shackles of time
Evil is darkness, sight without sight
A demon that feeds all the mind
Love is eternal sacred light
Love is eternal sacred light
Love is eternal sacred light

Here’s my view, from the back of the orchestra.

OCCUPY the GANG garden, next Sunday, November 20, 9:45 am – 1:45 pm, for ceremony and celebration

Dear neighbors and friends of the GANG,

We are nearing the Ceremony of Impermanence on November 20th (rain date December 3rd), when we will once again transform the GANG. We, the community supporting GANG, will remove the structure in the SW corner of the garden in order to come into compliance with a city ordinance that requires structures to be more than 25 feet from an intersection. This structure includes a ferrocement wall, a cob oven, the table on which the oven sits and the roof over it.

I have received a number of emails and phone calls and visits from neighbors and others about this action that we are required to take. They all voice dismay and sadness, even incredulity; and they also support our decision to absorb and integrate this difficult situation in order to creatively transform it. Borne of conflict, the action is an opportunity for the individuals, the neighborhood, and the city to become more aware, more conscious about projects such as GANG that can bring us into greater health. Rhonda Baird explored the tension and the potential between individual and community in this blog post:

During the week a number of us have been talking about various ways to repurpose the ferrocement wall, and the final decision is to move it to the northeast corner of my back yard, where it will serve as the background for a community meditation area to be created in the spring. (How about that for fostering health!). My son Colin and my permaculture house guest Jim have already prepared the ground for the wall, leveling it and removing a number of small trees and bushes.

We have also talked about what we might do to replace the cob oven, so that we can still have the capacity to cook food, truly a foundational aspect of a magnetic neighborhood commons. We are looking into the idea of a rocket stove (see, for, a nearly-smokeless structure which we would build during a workshop near the picnic table and pond.

Plans for the formal gate to replace the wall and cob oven are also starting to jell. A beautiful and more functional gate is planned which will welcome people and serve as a landmark within the neighborhood. We are currently envisioning an archway made of the stone for the gate. This would provide a feeling of weight and stability and serve as a dramatic and clear invitation to spend time in the garden.

Friend and permaculture teacher Rhonda Baird and I met Friday over lunch to finalize the plans for the Ceremony. We talked about the juxtaposition of creating places of “permanent culture” and the need to do the Ceremony of Impermanance. Here’s the plan we came up with:



Meet in the garden at 9:45 AM.

Please bring with you something for the potluck, goggles, gloves if you have them, and a piece of paper on which you have written something about your own life that you thought was necessary, but turned out not to be a source of difficulty, and which you are now willing to sacrifice to the altar of impermanence.
We will begin with opening remarks, the story of the garden, fence and cob oven, why it must be removed, and welcome comments from each person present. Then we will do a few other brief ceremonial things, not yet decided, prior to the actual process of “destruction.”
We shall destroy the cob oven first, and dismantle the structures that support it. Each person shall be invited to take a piece of the cob oven to bury in their own garden, as a symbol of rekindling the living fire of community in all Bloomington neighborhoods.



And finally, we shall string up a temporary fence in the gap that we make, and anchor it with some kind of small item that symbolizes the rebirth of the transformed entrance to the garden in the spring of 2012.

Then, we’ll retire to my house for our potluck.

One final consideration: for those who are interested, after the potluck we will hold a discussion of the possible metaphysical, esoteric, “exopermacultural” meaning of both this garden and the process of transforming its SW corner.

So, if possible, plan on being here with us from 9:45 a.m. through about 1:45 p.m. — or any part thereof! The more people who participate in this wrenching process, the more we can transform loss into the living ground of creativity in spring 2012.

Thanks so much!

And blessings,



News about current conundrum at the GANG Garden, and a way through —

Note: I have just posted onto my exopermaculture site and article about the GANG Garden. I repost it here.

My season of discontent: the “political” — is personal, is conflicted, is connected, is community

I think it was Bill Moyers who recently said that “the news is what they keep from us, and all the rest is publicity.” Well, that way of talking about news strikes home. I too, have had “news” that I’ve kept from you, all the while writing this blog! And it’s not the first time this has happened.

Sometimes it strikes me, and always with the same kind of wonderment — how I may be consciously looking and dealing with one set of challenges and meanwhile, another set of challenges lies just under the surface, germinating, even fermenting in secret, since it can’t yet be addressed in the open. This fact that I sometimes lead two lives, one for the public, and the other very very private, troubles me, since I am a “double Sagittarian” (Sun and Ascendant), a sign known for its commitment to transparency and truth-telling above all else.

Over the course of my nearly 69 years, I’ve had to learn other values, including those of discretion, compassion, and empathy. And in order to learn them, I’ve had to open my heart — and that, it turns out, is an ongoing process. Each time I think I’m “open,” something zings in from outside to make me flinch. It’s what occurs after that, that counts. Will I close up again, or will I learn how to open even wider. The first is so easy, and reflexive, reactive. The second, much harder, feels ultimately mysterious, even miraculous.

So, during these past six months, I’ve once again led a double life, which only now am I able to make public. I say that with some relief, since the hidden set of challenges has required that a great alchemy coalesce within me. Never have I attracted a conundrum of such complexity in terms of harmonizing different levels of both myself and the various circles of influence within my community. What I have been going through reminds me very much of what Occupy is going through now, in its efforts to integrate and harmonize with the homeless, the police, and those who seek to, or who cannot help but, create chaos in the midst of an already historic movement dedicated to non-violence. I too, am dedicated to non-violence, and during this period of time, have had to become acutely aware, once again, of the difference between my fiery, combative personality and my harmony-seeking higher self. 

Yesterday and today I emailed the following letter to members of my community. It speaks of the current challenge that faces the GANG garden, a neighborhood garden commons that I started on my private land three years ago.

Dear Neighbors and friends of the GANG Garden

Perhaps you have heard the scuttlebutt: that the educational activities associated with the garden are “on hold” while we work out problems with the city. It’s true. Back in June a complaint was filed with the city due, at first, to the fact that smoke from the first (and only) firing of our new, lovingly-designed-and-constructed-by-SPEA-students cob oven wafted into a neighbor’s house. One thing led to another. The city got involved. The garden, which had been flying pretty much under the radar, went under the microscope. It was determined that one law was being broken and another law placed the garden “in a grey area.” These are:

• A City zoning regulation that any “structure” must be at least 25 feet from an intersection. Both the wall that surrounds the cob ovensome vegetation, the woodpile, and the cob oven lie inside this 25 feet jurisdiction

• While community gardens are okay in areas zoned residential, the educational activities of the GANG garden place it in another category that requires a “conditional use” be granted.

As you can imagine, I did not welcome this new attention placed upon the GANG garden. In fact, as a result, we scratched the final two workshops of this season. (Unfortunately, the final workshop, “Putting the Garden to Bed” went into the Co-op Newsletter before I could stop it. If anyone wants to help us Put the Garden to bed on that day, we’ll do it then, not as a workshop, but just as neighbors. If you don’t know how, I’ll help show you.)

Over these past five months I have been in regular communication with Tom Micuda of the Planning Department to see what we could do to resolve these difficult issues. Tom and I each appreciate the role the other plays — Tom to make sure the laws are enforced while working cooperatively with all involved for the fairest solution to any problem; me, A.K., as agent provocateur, here to challenge the city to look at its old laws in the light of new realities. Our relations have been cordial. Tom has graciously allowed me enough time to absorb the impact of this complex challenge on the GANG, its neighbors, the neighborhood as a whole, and its relations with the city. I have agreed to the following:

Remove the wall, the roof, the tables,the woodpile, cut back some vegetation, and destroy the cob oven (since it cannot be moved without structural damage, which would endanger any firing.)

Beginning in 2012, cut back the workshops to three per growing season rather than six to eight.

Limit the number of attendees from outside the neighborhood (as well as the number of cars).

Additionallythe SPEA class partnership project, or some educational partnership project per semester, will remain, with extremely limited parking privileges. In those semesters where there is not an education partnership project, one more workshop would be allowed.

The construction of the wall and the cob oven represent literally hundreds of volunteer hours. Quite a few more volunteer hours will be needed to remove what is happening at that corner. Removing the wall will require eight men to make the job easy and safe; if fewer, the job will be more difficult and less safe. . . The oven itself will be destroyed with hammers and picks.

These activities will take place during what we are going to call a “Ceremony of Impermanence” on November 20th. Please save that day and be there with us as we perform the first phase of this wrenching transformation. Details to follow soon.

For this winter, we will construct a temporary fence for that SW corner where the wall and cob oven had been. In early spring, we will construct a beautiful, formal, arched gate that spans that space diagonally, 25 feet from the corner as measured by Tom Micuda and myself one hot September afternoon.

We welcome your ideas for the design of this gate.

While it may seem amazing that one neighbor’s complaint could cause all this commotion, be aware that this is the currency of community, this sometimes conflictual intersection between the perceived needs of individuals and the perceived needs of the group as a whole. How we work with these kinds of archetypal situations determines the tenor and atmosphere within which we live our lives together in shared space and intention. It is in the spirit of cooperation — with this neighbor, with the city, with each other, with the continuing evolution of the GANG garden and the neighborhood as a whole — that we move forward. Hopefully, in this manner, we continue to evolve in our understanding and compassion for each other in these exciting, and difficult, times.

Blessings to all!



GANG garden workshop: “Summer Assessment, Seed Saving and Planting the Fall Garden. . .”

Notice all the lotuses in the pond. I keep clearing them out so the fish get some sun, and they really appreciate it, flashing up to my hand as I pull out vines along the edges. This fall we will have to go in and "muck out" the pond for the first time, after three years.

. . . except that we forgot about seed saving. And we only got part-way through the garden in our assessment. We did plant a few beds for fall, with greens, tatsoi, beets, radishes, and peas.

What happened?

Well, it’s been so damned hot and humid for so many weeks, night and day, and frankly, I think we’re all enervated. The last thing any of us needed was to spend an entire day in the blazing, wet heat. So we didn’t. Note to self: never schedule an all-day workshop in the heat of summer. Three hours in the morning is plenty.

Oh, and there’s more! Nathan had a late evening paid music gig an hour and a half away on Saturday evening, so asked if he could come at 10 rather than 9 am. A couple of people who were signed up, didn’t show up. A couple of people who didn’t sign up did show up. On and on. Rhonda was supposed to co-teach with Nathan, but her daughter Maya won best of class with one of her rabbits (congrats, Maya!), so they had to go to the state fair. Luckily, Stephanie (who taught the Children’s Workshop) was able to come and assist Nathan.

(And, wouldn’t you know, the class was held during a Mercury Rx period (happens three times a year, for three weeks at a time, and tends to foul up areas involving communication and transportation. Best for going inwards and communing with one’s muse; not so good for connecting clearly with others.) That wouldn’t stop me from doing what I plan to do, unless it would be signing contracts. And, BTW: that “debt deal” was signed on the very day Mercury turned to go retrograde. . . .)

To top it off, the class was held on Sunday, the day before everybody knew the stock market would crash, triggered by the S&P downrating of U.S. debt in a year when the Arab Spring seems to be hissing up from a thousand cracks in the rigid hierarchial global control system.. The economic/political atmosphere, I think it’s safe to say, is downright uneasy, even eerie, worldwide, and of course, we’re all breathing that air, whether in fear or love, depending on our level of awareness.

We spent the first hour sitting in my living room, talking. Talking about what it’s going to take to feed the world during the coming difficult years of climate change and most likely, at least partial collapse of the systems that have maintained us unsustainably since the industrial revolution. Susan, Doug and I had read an article that I put up on my site the day before — do read it — and it alarmed us all. The difficulties we face, especially in growing enough staple crops (cereals, grains which require either huge labor or at least small machines) are formidable. Then there’s the lack of awareness, the entitlement attitude, the fact that old-time farming and “putting up” skills have just about gone extinct within one generation, and any romantic view of the future dissolves into fairy dust.

So, that was the context of the class that did take place! And we had fun. Nathan is a wonderful teacher, and Stephanie his bright, smiling, knowledgeable assistant.

Notice the giant sunflower plants behind Nathan. The entire garden is sprinkled with them this year, all volunteer (three plants were planted last year). We decided to just let them do what they will, and boy did they!

He did get a bit carried away by some subject, which I can no longer remember, but it was in response to someone’s question about why their garden isn’t doing so well this summer. I do remember him saying that whatever the problem is with your plants, the solution is usually to keep feeding the soil. That plants do better, and fend off pests, when they are living in a rich enough environment. When asked what kinds of amendments to put on the soil, he recommends human urine, diluted five or ten times, about once a week up until two weeks prior to harvest. Best to use what’s at hand, rather than buy more stuff. . .

Nathan noted, as part of an overall summer assessment that, while sunflowers are gorgeous, they are “heavy feeders,” taking a lot of nutrients from the soil. So. That’s the last time we’ll let them get so unruly, and we’ll make sure to put lots more compost in the soil near where they’ve been. We did remove a number of them during the workshop.

The big lesson of the day was how to deal with squash borers. A number of the squash plants have already died, from what looked to me like a kind of yucky squishiness at the very base of the plant. Last year, we also had squash borers, but they had entered a few inches up the stem in each case, so I didn’t recognize the same problem when I saw it. So much to learn in a garden. A zillion details, and all depending on close observation.

Here’s a plant with a squash borer problem, notice the yucky part, right at the base.

He cut this one open a few inches up, because the borers travel up (you can tell how far by whether or not the leaves are dead at that point), and he wanted to find them. The trick is to slit the hollow stem vertically without going through the other side. That way, the plant may still live after the borers have been removed. Someone told me last year that you needed to make sure you found two of the little buggers, because there were usually two, and if one remained, the problem would, too. Nathan said that there may actually be more than two . . . At any rate, here’s what one looks like, on the tip of his knife, a whitish slug, with a tiny, very black dot at the tip.

I had heard that if you then make a tin foil sleeve for the place where you slit it, the plant might be able to live on (and a couple of plants that I got borers out of last year did live with this technique). Nathan said it’s best to put the tin foil around each plant before the squash borers come, because they usually do, eventually.

Lesson: besides the number of critters that can munch on plants, there are also lots of different ways to deal with them. How to garden is not written in stone. But it is overwhelming for anyone who has no experience. For example, Doug, in the middle here,

who confessed to me as I was about to pick off dead leaves from a bed of chard plants for composting and live leaves for our lunch, that he felt completely overwhelmed, didn’t know what to do . . . As he stood there, looking stricken and lost, I invited him to kneel and join me; I showed him how to discern which leaves could be eaten, which were too far gone. Hint: lots of tiny insect-made holes are okay, rotting blackened areas are not.

I know exactly how he feels. I felt the same way not so long ago. In contrast, here’s two young ones, Ash and Jessica, who seem to come by gardening naturally.

Jessica has just returned from part of her summer in Puerto Rico, where she was on a wwoof program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), staying with a young couple and their child, on an organic farm by the sea. So glad young people are becoming farmers. We’re going to need millions more as we relocalize industrial agriculture everywhere.

BTW: I am really glad to see these two Indiana University students in the garden, because they live (or, I should say, they lived, both having now moved to other digs) right across the street, and after all, this is supposed to be primarily a neighborhood garden, not just a teaching venue. They had joined our weekly workparties in the spring, and Jessica wants to continue through the remainder of the growing season.

After thoroughly working that old chard bed (which has fed a number of us for at least three months now), we planted greens in and around the plants that were still viable, punched bamboo stakes in the ground and hung string for a little pea garden, planted the peas and other beds we prepared into a rich compost/top soil concoction that my son Colin had mixed and laid out on the picnic table for us like a feast in the early morning.

By that time it was high noon, hot and humid. We gathered our bag of chard leaves and basil, came into my house, and stir fried chopped chard and onions with freshly made pesto (garlic and pine nuts and olive oil blended with basil), and served it with slices of the first gorgeous ripe tomatoes.

After an hour or so, everybody but Nathan and me went home. He and I spent another hour in the garden, planting, removing more sunflowers, and talking. A good day. Here’s the lordly okra plant, with blossom.

And here’s the pond, with fish, looking cool and refreshing, but, in reality, the water is quite warm.

GANG Garden Workshop next Sunday (and weather says not so hot that day. . .)

The garden is now in full array . .

We can even play hide ‘n seek . . .

This is to announce the upcoming workshop, an all-day affair, when you will learn A LOT! If you want to join us for all or part of this day, please let me know. 334-1987 or If you decide that very day, it’s okay, but would prefer to know in advance. Also, please car pool or bike or walk or bus, if possible. Donations for teachers gratefully accepted. If you want to harvest some of the veggies, bring a sack!

Summer Assessment, Seed Saving, and Planting the Fall Garden

Sunday, August 7, 9 am – 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.