Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Growing Hops Started!

This spring, I was the glad recipient of hop rhizomes from two different locals. These are the basis for growing hop vines, which leads to the fragrant flowers that are medicinal and used in brewing beer. Thanks to local generosity, I now have 10 hop plants that span 7 different types!

This weekend, I got six of the plants into the ground, with support strings for the vines to climb on. Already half of them are reaching up the string and growing a couple inches a day.

Though most people say that I shouldn’t expect much from a first year harvest, I’m glad they’re getting established and growing quickly already. Hopefully they like it here!

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Since the Winter Solstice, a vision of mushroom abundance has been part of my year’s manifestation. The last few weeks have seen a lot of progress in this area and I want to catch up those following the blog and curious about growing mushrooms. First off, confessions – I’ve never cultivated mushrooms before. But they pretty much grow everywhere, and are the decomposers for the planet, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard!

Some simple steps I took over the last year were to:

  • search for species I know in the local woods (I have found oyster mushrooms at two locations in my neighborhood and turkey tails in many places).
  • Create a mushroom habitat (a wood pile that has mushroom species I like and feed…the birds like it too!).

This year was time to step it up, though. We’re currently working on two ways of doing that, the first of which is taking shape: Log-based edible mushroom cultivation.

Getting Started: Choosing Mushrooms / Spawn

About two weeks ago, I finally got around to ordering plug spawn. I’m mainly interested in the overlap of medicinal and edible properties of mushrooms. So I went to researching varieties, the logistics of growing them, and what works well locally (Atlanta, GA). After attending the Mushroom Club of GA’s meeting and interacting with members on their mailing list, I learned that a strain of shiitakes available from Mushroom People works remarkably well here (#510, wide temp range). My other preferred supplier is Paul Stamets’s company, Fungi Perfecti. Paul does an amazing amount of research and evangelism and carries the banner of “mushrooms will save the world” (check out his latest book). So buying from fungi.com means supporting a great cause, and from Mushroom People means supporting a local(sh) supplier.

My order consisted of:

  • 1,000 shiitake plugs
  • 1,000 pearl oyster plugs
  • 100 lions mane plugs
  • 100 chicken of the woods plugs
  • 100 maitake (hen of the woods) plugs

I have to admit I was really close to going for the price advantage (and becoming a reseller!) of a big bag from Mushroom Harvest. I got talked out of this for the pain of drilling 12,000 holes…

If you’re interested in a comparison of these suppliers, check out my brief recap here.

Next Steps: Medium…Logs!

Based on what I was wanting to order, I started mapping out what species I could probably obtain for growing these mushrooms. Based on those, species that worked and are common here (and/or fairly accessible to me) include:

  • oak
  • sweetgum
  • beech
  • tulip poplar
  • maple
  • american beech

A few general principles I was taking into account:

  • The logs need to be very recently cut (most people recommend no more than 3-4 weeks since cut)
  • The logs should be harvested before leaves are out on trees

This led me to get concerned – how would I have logs for mushrooms and not have to cut trees? This was my biggest personal fear / objection to mushroom cultivation. I know that mushrooms do wonders for the health of forests, but how could I justify cutting trees to grow them for personal consumption?

I began searching for ways to get logs. I had found two places where sweetgum and birch could be harvested without anyone minding. I still felt bad (though I’m not a huge fan of sweetgum, I like river birch a lot). As if in answer to that concern, I decided to check other options this morning before heading off to cut trees. I turned to Craigs List. Within half an hour, I had found 3 viable options of logs (two of which were within the perimeter) and was organizing logistics to pick them up!

The first location I visited had downed three trees, two very large sweetgums and one mid-sized oak. I filled a Ford F-350 (rented from Home Depot) until I hit the payload limit (3,000 pounds). I managed to get a great assortment of reasonable sized logs and big stumps (for the chicken of the woods and maitake). I then visited another site where trees had been taken down at an apartment complex and an assortment of great mushroom-log sized (4-8″ diameter) logs were available. In both of these places, the logs were already cut up! All I had to do was load and haul away.

The result? I got about 80 logs worth in one day. Now it’s time to prepare for the drilling, plugging and waxing day! Two weeks till that…in the meantime, I’ll be organizing my logs, figuring out what to do with them (how to stack) and where to put them.

Keeping an Eye on the Goal

Want to check out oyster mushrooms growing? Here’s a 1 minute time lapse video:

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Tonight I went to the first meeting for 2010 of the Mushroom Club of Georgia. It was my first meeting (thanks for Robert Hamilton for pointing me towards the group), and I felt at home right away. The room we were in was packed (apparently there was word that morel season is about to start and everyone wanted to know more!). I went to learn about the club and they did a nice overview presentation, with many members giving insight into what they do, including:

  • Walks: this is definitely the highlight. Wander in the woods with knowledgeable folks and collect mushrooms, identify species, etc. The first hike is on April 3, free and open to all. Most walks are members only though, so be sure to join.
  • Educational meetings: the club meets on the second Thursday of the month and has informative talks. Next month includes a biochemist talking about how medicinal mushrooms actually work.
  • Fun events: there is an annual event for southeastern groups on Oconee. Everyone who went had a hard time describing it but clearly enjoyed it massively!

I’m looking forward to my first walk and am hoping to go on April 3.

At the meeting, I found I had something to contribute so I figured that meant I should share. I’ve had some exposure to mushroom identification and collecting, thanks to some friends, and tonight I even got some further backing for what I learned about a medicinal mushroom from a health practitioner, so here goes…

Turkey Tale Tea!

Turkey Tales are an incredibly common mushroom, even in the city. It’s easy to identify, gorgeous, and medicinal.

Note that the underside of Turkey Tails are pourous (not gills) and are white.

The easiest way I know of to access the medicine of turkey tails (believed to be a general anti-viral and anti-bacterial) is by boiling. The recipe, known as Turkey Tail Tea, is easy – just throw a handfull of Turkey Tail mushrooms into a crock pot and let simmer for 48-72 hours. After that point the good medicines are released. Just get a cup and drink!

I was amazed the first time I had this – these mushrooms are very pleasant and have a mild, nutty, aromatic taste. Drink some and stay healthy!

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Saturday 23, 2010  I am out into the cold morning and off to pick up Carter.  Alon didn’t sleep well last night and I feel like I didn’t sleep at all.  No time for coffee, if this sale is anything like the Trees Atlanta sale its going to be packed when it opens at 9.  We arrive at the Food Bank and 9:10 and there are mobs of people.  Surely all these people are not here for the tree sale?  But surely the Food Bank would not schedule another event for today.  The Organizational Change Alliance has their meeting inside starting at 10 and thats enough to ask of one parking lot.

Crossing the street, it was clear that all those people were here for the tree sale.  I went straight for the persimmons and pomegranates that were my reason for coming – gone.  Sold out at 9:15. I grab a plum tree and look around raspberries – sold, blueberries- not a trace, pawpaws – gone.   I am not committing to apples or pears unless I know a lot about the variety and the root stock. I have about 1/8 of an acre for fruit trees and thats not much space if I plant full size trees.

Almost all fruit trees are made of two different trees – the root stock and the cultivar.  The root stock is chosen for its hardiness and its size.  The tree will only grow as big as the root stock allows.  Put a Macintosh apple cultivar on full size root stock you get an apple tree that will get a tree that is 20-40 feet tall.  Put the same cultivar on a semi-dwarf or dwarf root stock and you keep the tree to as small as 4-6 feet. I prefer to put in small trees and have more variety.

So I took my plum (a pollinator friend for a plum I already own) and got into the long, long line.  Waiting was no bore, because I ran into at least a dozen friends.  Even people I don’t know were coming up to me and saying hello.  ALFI wisely set up a line for ordering trees to be delivered next week.  I would have ordered 4 times more, but I am going to SOCON 10.  So I bought my plum and headed over to Cafe Campesino’s booth to get my cup of coffee.  They just opened a shop selling organic, shade-grown, fairtrade coffee in the Atlanta Curbside Market.

I spoke with Kyla after the sale.  She says that the sale was so successful ALFI will be able to hire a full time employee next year.  The difference between being an all volunteer organization and being having a single employee is a massive step for an organization.  It allows for consistancy of communication, planning, and volunteer organizing.   Orders may be up to 5 times the amount of plant material sold the day of the sale.  Amazing.

Heres what I think ALFI did right

1. Well designed invitation.  With a catchy title, neutral but attractive colors and clear information.  I saw this invite on a lot of different websites, on Facebook and in emails from several friends.

2. Fiscal sponsorship.  ALFI is not an independent organization.  It is a project with fiscal sponsorship from Georgia Organics, this means that the project operates under the umbrella of GO.  All of ALFIs money must go through GO.  GO probably takes a small percentage to cover bookkeeping and accounting expenses.  ALFI doesn’t have to set up its own legal entity.  I am a huge fan of fiscal sponsorship.  It creates synergies and helps prevent duplication of efforts.  It also slows the outrageous proliferations of nonprofit organizations occuring now.

3. Grow it Yourself.   ALFI hit the message right on.  Grow it yourself, Do it yourself, Take care of yourself. People are looking for self-reliance.  The recent turbulence in the economy and the growing instability of the globe has people seeking more control over their lives.  Whether its growing their own food, doing home improvment projects, or taking control  of their investments, people are taking charge of their lives.

4. Organization.  This event was well organized right from the start.  They had clear lists of which trees they would have.  At the event they had pre-printed order forms and booklets of information about the trees.

5. Tap into communities. ALFI got their invite and messages firmly planted into different communities. If 3 of your friends are going to the same event, you might as well go also.  They successfully tapped several functioning communities including local food fanatics, community gardeners, tree planters, and food bank supporters.

May all the baby trees be blessed with a well dug hole, regular watering, and safe passage through their first year.

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On New Year’s Eve, I supported a community gathering in deep ceremony that culminated in an act I didn’t think I could, or would, do. The day started with a sweat lodge of the Stonepeople. Afterwards, there was a medicine circle, and then, special for the new year’s (Blue Moon) lodge, a fire walk.

This event had nearly 40 people at it, and in ceremony we enter relation with the fire and asked permission to walk across the hot coals. Though the possibility was that no one walked, everyone walked, or some portion of us walked, we as a community all benefited when anyone walked across the fire.

The fire was prepared with sacred wood and when it was hot the coals were spread out. We were all in music and celebration, and then quite suddenly, we started walking.

Even the day before, it didn’t cross my mind that I was a firewalker. But the strength of community and the service and ceremony of the day inspired me to walk across the fire. Glowing red embers spread over a pathway 10 feet long. My bare feet crossed the soggy, cold ground on the path from our circle to the fire. And then, as if walking on any normal walkway, I was safely across the hot path.

So now what? Fire walking was something that didn’t seem possible…and now I know it is. Any fear that was standing between me and that challenge evaporated when my feet touched the tops of the glowing fire that night. And if I can conquer that fear, is there anything holding me back at all?

I believe that since we have proven to ourselves that we can walk on fire, we can do anything. The bigger question for me becomes, what will we do together now? What challenge is ahead of us that requires our full attention, cooperation, and focus to overcome? What does are path hold for us?

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This year at the Solstice we drew upon a Hopi Legend which instructs us that at this important juncture in history…

…there are things to be considered.

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relation?
Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

Every year I declare my intentions in different areas of my life.  Its a bit like resolutions, but more aspirational that admonition.  I avoid talking about what I am not going to do and more about what I am becoming.  In past years, I have set intention around each Chakra or around such areas of my life as creativity, work, and body.  Until this year I kept the intentions and even the fact that I did them to myself.  This year I shared the practice with Chris and I am sharing my writings publicly.
Before setting my intentions, Chris and I tried to establish set of questions which we can come back to year after year and throughout the year.  The questions we are working with are (in order).

  1. Where am I  living?
  2. How is my body?
  3. What is my work?
  4. How is spirit within me?
  5. How are my relationships?
  6. What is my play?
  7. How is my rest?

The questions may evolve.  I am going to explore them one by one and what it means for my year.

Where am I living?

I am living in a sacred place, surrounded by divine light, right relations, and love.  I am blessed with pure food and water from known sources.

My home is a place of beauty and rest.  A system where order supports creative play, movement, and love.  Sturdy infrastructure allows people to gather and share.  I bring inspiration and intelligence areas where energy becomes stagnant, where objects tend to get stuck.  I establish a rhythm to my week that ensures all areas are tended to regularly and keeps housekeeping in its place.  Well planned projects bring lasting value to the house.  Using a prioritized backlog aligns my priorities with my actions.

I seek learning as I improve the quality of the soil, the diversity of the ecosystem, and the production of food both at 522 quillian and in N. Georgia.  We use mushrooms, cover crops, and amendments to improve the soil.  We invest in fruit trees and turn the tree nursery into a nursery for under story, native shrubs.

My connection and commitment to the earth is renewed with trips to places of beauty including one visit to the Emmigrant wilderness, to see wildflowers against granite.  I will not keep the conversations held in these places private, but share my connection to the divine without fear.  I turn outrage into action.

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Note: this is an older post that I’m moving from another site to this blog to have it all together. It was originally published in Feb 2008.

We have been working on an addition to our “rooted” house (ie not the nomadic getup, but the mortaged one…). Throughout the process, we have tried to be wise in respecting the earth, creating quality indoor environments, and providing sound building construction. We didn’t have the bandwidth for taking on a certification, such as the Southface Earthcraft or LEED for Homes, but we wanted to stay true to the spirit.

Even so, when I heard that a friend told another person we were doing a “green” addition, I had a moment of panic. When I hear “green” building here, it brings up images of solar panels that don’t make economic sense, rediculously expensive materials (from counter tops to insulation), and bureacratic certification processes. Ever since then, I am wondering if we are doing it “green”…not in the USGBC sense, but in the true sense of what is intended in any of the standards.

While there is a way to view the addition as additional consumption in a consumption-heavy land, we were looking to make take advantage of our physical space without needing a new dwelling. Our existing house is 800 sq. ft with one room and one bath. Originally built in 1939 and completely rennovated, it is a nice little house. But with a new family member on the way, we knew space would be even more challenging (we had already kicked our business out two years before when it became too crampt in the house). The addition adds almost 400 sq. ft. for a master bedroom and bath as well as a laundry room.

Our approach to “green” in the house is to be:

  • Realize that this isn’t the “dream” house…ie we won’t get everything right, and in many cases we have no idea what we are doing. Go with imperfections, while being
  • Very mindful of materials, seeking to reuse or find used, use recycled, or use “green” wherever possible
  • Follow best practices in building to make sure the addition is tight.

These have led us to (sometimes accidentally) find ways to reduce our negative impact from the building. Some of those include:

  • Doing the work ourselves for the most part, and thus learning the skills necessary and being involved in the details of the project. This also means we are building (bath vanity, etc) instead of importing products from overseas, with lots of transportation miles.
  • Sourcing materials and fixtures via Craigslist (used items), such as sinks, granite vanity top, flooring materials.
  • Sourcing materials in either low-intensity forms (structural lumber is engineered, reducing actual tree use; using donated paint and found wood) or sustainable forms (FSC certified lumber for studs in framing; No-VOC and no-toxics paints; recycled paint; )
  • Seeking Energy Star fixtures to save energy (so far we have the ceiling fan, all light fixtures able to accept CFLs, a high efficiency heat pump and A/C unit (16 SEER), high efficiency washer and dryer).
  • Building for a energy efficient structure, with great bio-based foam insulation on the walls, extra fiberglass insulation in the ceilings, and a radiant barrier on the roof decking to reduce heat from solar gain.
  • We are also collecting rainwater from the roof (about 550 gallons storage), which will be used in the garden and landscaping.

As I realize/remember what we have done and figure out what we will do for the rest of things…I will continue to post information on our blog.

What we realized through this construction process is also that the addition is heaps more efficient, sturdy, up-to-code etc than our existing house, and will probably out last it by a long while. The best part of that is that we will be excited to get in there as soon as we can finish it!

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