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  1. I ❤ fresh mushrooms

    It’s been really wonderful to expand our mushroom consumption over the last couple years. Just today I fixed a big stir fry made up of a lot of shiitakes. They’re nutritious and delicious! Just about every mushroom is medicinal and having my own organic source is a real delight. 
  2. Shiitakes for dinner, fresh from the yard. 
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  4. Alon showing off the shiitake harvest of the day, one by one.
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  6. The logs – 2 years in

    Mushroom logs are supposed to last between 2 and 5 years (some people say one year per inch o diameter on the log). It’s been two years since I innoculated my first logs and the logs have definitely changed!  
  7. As you can see below, the bark is coming off and some of the logs are fairly degraded. Somewhat to be expected…these are my shiitake logs and most of the logs you see here are still producing (just finished a flush). 
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  9. After reviewing my logs, I found that 13 of the original shiitake logs were still producing with another 4 that might be producing still. That is about a 50% loss after 2 years. For the oysters, I might have a couple producing logs, but the situation is much worse. Seems that nearly all of them were lost last summer during the hot, dry spell (while I was traveling). 
  10. In the hot, dry South, the mushroom logs need attention to keep from drying out. I keep a shade cloth over them and have them positioned in a fairly shady spot in the yard. If they get too dry, the mycellium inside will die and then no further fruiting will happen! That happened to several of my logs, and they were subsequently taken over by other mushrooms (not edible, unfortunately). To keep them from drying out, I soak them in trash cans filled with water a few times a year. With 12-24 hours per log, they get charged back up with moisture. This process also triggers the flushing of the mushrooms. 
  11. With the original 70 logs we innoculated, soaking them took nearly a week to cycle through in my two trashcans. And it was a lot of wasted effort, water and time to soak a bunch of logs that aren’t growing what I want…so this year I’ve done a culling of the logs. All the oyster logs will be retired and about half the shiitake logs. Now I’ve got about 20 logs to soak for a cycle. In addition, I’m moving the location to a spot more protected from the wind, slightly lower in elevation and (I think) a bit more shaded. Hopefully that will keep the remaining logs going!
  12. More Mushrooms, Please!

    But with a serious reduction in producing logs, I figured it was time to expand capacity again. It takes about 6-12 months to get more fruiting from logs and early spring is the perfect time to innoculate logs, so I set about it again. This year I went with sawdust spawn (from the nearby Mushroom Mountain). Sawdust spawn is just sawdust with mycellium growing on it (see below). It gets injected into holes drilled in the logs (instead of the – much more expensive – plugs). 

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  14. While the innoculation step takes longer (than just jamming a plug in), the sawdust is about half the cost of an equivalent amount of plugs. It’s also more conducive to cultivating new spawn, which I plan to do on cardboard, mulch, and more sawdust. 

    My trusty sidekick Alon, now more engaged than the first time we made mushroom logs, operating the innoculation tool that pushes the sawdust into the logs. He declared it his favorite tool and offered to do that anytime I made logs :). 
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  16. In the first two days of innoculation in a few hours here and there, I’ve finished 18 logs, 12 with oyster mushrooms and 6 with shiitakes. Instead of the “lots of hands” approach, in which we busted out about 70 logs with 5 people in about half a day (see pictures and stats from that experience here), it’s mostly just me plodding along at it this time. The time per log is pretty similar (about 20-30 minutes), but I spent less money on getting the logs and a little more time preparing it. 

    So far I’ve spent about 25% of hard costs (and anticipate only a few more bucks in that). So far that’s been 
    * $7 (logs) gas for two trips about 30 miles total
    * $66 in mycelium 
    For time, it’s been about 7 hours to get to 18 logs with: 
    * 2 hours in log gathering
    * 5 hours in inoculation 
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During this century we are going to see a total remaking of how we design all of our systems.  Food and energy systems are both seeing a proliferation of innovation.  Farm to table, farm to school, slow food, community gardens, urban farming, all of these are small pieces of a system re-engineering itself.  We are in a prototyping phase.  Different models are being tested all over the country – Detroit, Atlanta, and rural Ohio.  Many models are inefficient, not scalable, or generate poor returns of any kind – social, ecological, or financial.  But others like the DC Central Kitchen are supporting local organic farms, generating jobs for the unemployed, and keeping quality food out of the land-fill.

These efforts are small in comparison to the agricultural complex that governs the vast majority of our food supply.  But the  changes are happening organically with limited  access to capital and working in the face of incentives that push the market in the opposite direction.  When oil prices begin to climb and with it the transportation cost of melons from Mexico, we will find ourselves needing to redesign our food system.  And we may need to do so quickly and on a grand scale.  The small, prototype efforts that the DC Central Kitchen or the People’s Grocery represent are the blueprints we will be turning to when the pressures of fuel cost and water scarcity drive the need for massive change.

The redesign is not going to be limited to food.  Energy, transportation, housing, and manufacturing systems are all going to undergo shifts in how materials flow and where decisions are made.  There is no way to create the kind of large scale systems redesign required to meet the needs of 7 billion + people in a finite world, in a top down centralized fashion.  Its going to be democratic, market driven, and its going to happen at a pace that makes the last 100 years look sleepy.

Social media technology is going to the backbone of the shift.  I do not mean to suggest that Facebook or Twitter are going to bring us to sustainability. But the ability to instantly form groups, deliver audience specific information, and generate and vet idea remotely just might.

ICLEI USA works with local governments across the country to implement greenhouse gas reductions and other sustainability projects.  The organization is building tools that will enable cities to get clear insight into the projects other cities have completed and the results.  Cloud technology is enabling them to provide analytical information alongside relationship management and social tools. The mix of high quality data with social networking is quite heady. When Ann Arbor shows a less than 4 year payback on lighting retrofits, and Cleveland can see not only what they did, but who supplied the services, what lightbulbs were used, the policy that made the change, and connect to the city planner who made it happen, we see the diffusion of innovation go very fast.

Imagine what happens when cities implement similar tools for working with their citizens.  And then when this kind of information management is available to neighborhoods.  Remember that the tools are still very new and our collective ability to use them is nacent.  We are still too fascinated with the see-saw to realize the full potential of the lever.  It is only when we take it for granted that we have the power to gather ourselves to create the communities we want to live in that we will realize the full potential of social media. Then we will witness communities move mountains.

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This is a piece I did a few years back.

Tirza Hollenhorst

Tirza Hollenhorst has led innovative projects in communities, businesses and non-profit organizations worldwide. Her insight and research has contributed to the success and sustainability of mission driven initiatives at the local and international level. Her work is rooted in an interdisciplinary approach and an coherent scientific, philosophical, and spiritual framework. As ifPeople’s President, she is building a professional services firm dedicated to the success of values-driven enterprises.

Living systems seek the conditions that support life. In your body toxins are sequestered or removed, wastes are eliminated and wounds are healed. If you listen carefully your body seeks out the activities, foods, and positions that support peace, and movement in the body. In ecosystems the same things happen, toxic metals are buried in the earth, wastes are cycled, and uprooted earth soon become covered with plants. Life is intelligent. Whether you call it god, consciousness, or nature, this intelligence guides living systems toward sustainability.

Daily we find ourselves knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly making decisions that in small ways destroy our planet and our bodies – pesticides in the backyard, petroleum fueled commutes, carcinogens in our shampoo. While society makes these choices seem easy and necessary, we know that they are wrong. Continuously making choices that do not support life drains us of energy. Exhausted, many of us look at a more sustainable life as requiring even more energy. Composting, washing bags, buying in bulk – sounds like effort. But living in alignment with the intelligence of life does not require more work and it does not require a minimalist lifestyle. Here’s why.

If you take a G-tuning fork and hold it to a well tuned guitar, the G-string will begin to vibrate. This is called resonance. A sound wave of large amplitude is produced by a relatively small vibration (the tuning fork) the same frequency of vibration as the natural frequency of the resonating system (the guitar). When your actions are coherent with your values, the same resonance occurs. Shifting your daily choices requires effort to change the inertia of habit, but then resonance takes over. Composting, washing bags, buying in bulk are small actions that require only a moment of attention. Then, garbage day you realize that your can is practically empty, while your neighbor struggles to close the lid. The energy that comes will propel you forward and you will want to bring even more of your life into alignment.

Making choices that support life, does require that you raise your consciousness enough to see the impact of your decisions. At first this will require the painful breaking of habits and lessons learned from a media society. There are a few changes to begin living more sustainabley that are easy and provide the most momentum going forward.

Composting -Composting is the best was to increase your awareness of one of the most fundamental truths of living systems, “waste = food”. In all living systems what is waste from one process is nutrients for another. Recently, humans have broken the cycle by creating durable materials which cannot or are not reused and by removing biological nutrients from living systems and disposing of them in landfills. Composting is a simple way to bring your kitchen scraps and garden clippings back into the natural cycle. For apartments and those with small yards, I recommend buying a compost bin.. Bins can accelerate the process and keep waste free of pests. In large yards you can build your own bin. See www.greenhome.com and http://www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/ for bins and information. Even apartment dwellers can use there compose for herb beds and house plants. Witnessing the transformation of carrot peelings into dirt, helps everyone in the family understand how natural cycles work. An understanding of systems may even motivate everyone to get involved in recycling TV’s and aluminum cans so they become “food” for other industrial cycles.

Eliminate toxins – Replace cleaning and personnel care products with non-toxic alternatives. Most household cleaners and many personnel care products contain chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment. Non-toxic cleaners can be expensive. Shop around for the best prices and begin by making simple effective cleaners from lemon, baking soda, borax, and olive oil. Learn about harmful chemicals found in shampoo,deodorant,and lotions at http://www.safecosmetics.org/. Be aware that once you have made the switch to non-toxic products, your body may resist going back. When you look under the sink and see a small selection of simple, effective cleaners that treat your home, your family, and the earth gently, the relief and joy may even prompt you to take a look at your gardening products.

Buy organic produce and bulk dry goods. The switch to organic produce comes with a sticker shock, especially here in Georgia where we have few local organic farms. You can control costs by buying in season and shopping farmers markets. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In a CSA you buy a share of a farmers harvest. You will receive a box of fresh organic produce every week. Buying organic not only keeps pesticides and chemical fertilizers out of our streams and off your diner table, organic produce is more nutritious and simply tastes better. To keep your grocery bill in check, by dry goods in bulk. Bulk sections allow you try a variety of new products, buying only what you need. Bulk is significantly cheaper and you reduce your packaging waste. You will find it easier and more fun to create nutritious meal in a well stocked kitchen. With tomorrow’s beans soaking on the counter and a stock from yesterdays leftover veggies bubbling on the stove, an organic kitchen becomes a wellspring of delicious food.

After making these changes, you might be surprised to find yourself asking what’s next, how can I make more decisions that support life. This question will be answered differently by everyone, for some it is reducing their dependence on oil for electricity and transportation, for others it is growing their own food, for me what came next was building a business that is coherent with my values. I was inspired by two books written by Paul Hawken, “Growing a Business” and “The Ecology of Commerce”. Hawken taught me that business is both the cause and solution to much of the world’s environmental destruction.

My company ifPeople provides information technology and consulting. When I founded the business I began to look around for models of how technology firm could be sustainable and contribute to the healing of the earth. I did not find many examples and so we invented our own model. Three years later we are an organization of 30 and nearly everything we do runs contrary to what is expected of a technology firm. We are a carbon neutral company, offsetting the greenhouse gases we produce in travel and paper use by planting trees. We have an organic growth curve fueled by a business model built for continuous innovation, not a quick sell. We believe that the people who use the our technology should be our central focus, not what we can sell the quickest.. It is not easy to challenge the system. Everyday when I come it to work and see the piles of things to do and say, “Hello beautiful business” I know that I am nourished by a vibrant business that is working everyday to support all life.

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On Outrage

At several key moments of my life I have consciously and clearly chosen the path of positive solution.  I have witnessed and selected not to go down the path of activism, protest, and litigation, preferring to dedicate my life to creation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.  I would rather design new ways of being than to fight against poor choices. But lately I find myself being called to express outrage.

Outrage, not anger. Outrage has an element of surprise, of innocence. To be outraged is to be dumbfounded by a pattern of behavior. Anger comes from a place of judgment. Outrage from compassion. Anger moves to violence and no positive change can be made from a place of violence. You may train a child to obey through violence, but you simply cannot teach a child to make right, wise and joyous choices with violence.

If we can accept that there are basic principles that support the conditions for life, that life creates the conditions for life, it a matter of calling on life’s intelligence to see that some human behaviors are not acceptable. This is not a matter of judgment. Judgment relies on morality, on what is right and wrong. Life’s intelligence makes no distinction between what is right or wrong, only what supports the conditions for life.

My first experience of outrage was when I learned about “pollution”. I remember learning the word at about 6. My second grade reader had story about the future with dark, smoky illustrations of skies that could never be bright. Almost all the in the school readers at that time had one such story way in the back. Most teachers never taught that story, but at that time of my life I read everything. When I understood that the adults around me were actually allowing poison to be released into water and air, I was outraged.

At about 8, while with a babysitter we watched some of the China Syndrome. With little elegance, the sitter explained to me the nuclear bomb. I was contemplating this new knowledge at the playground with my regular afternoon sitter. She came over to find out what I was brooding about alone. I told her about my concern. She explained to be the concept of shared mutual destruction, assuring me that no one would push the button because the other side would too. I thought that was a ridiculous argument. But of course I said nothing. It would take a very special person to listen to an 8 year olds argument against their beliefs. The issue in my mind was not whether we are going to be wiped out by an enemy. The issue is that it is simply outrageous that we would even conceive of creating a nuclear bomb in the first place.

Somethings that I find outrageous

  • Hormone disruptors
  • Child trafficking
  • Slavery
  • The cutting of what remains of our old growth forests
  • Nuclear bombs

I made a commitment this year to turn outrage into action. I know that I must speak out. I will put my voice behind existing efforts. I am not an 8 year old afraid of challenging adults and I will not just watch in outrage.

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