Here at the Nomads Lounge, we love to find solutions that benefit many people. Here’s our latest find: free workouts! That’s right, get your cardio and strength training without an expensive gym membership!

If you’re looking for a way to tone up for summer, come by the Nomads Lounge this Sunday. We’ll have a great workout at thesame time we are getting ready for the Solstice Gathering! Plan on at least 20min to get your cardio workout, but feel free to go at it for an hour or two or more!

Nothing is required to participate, but do wear sturdy shoes and your exercise clothes. And if you happen to have a wheelbarrow you can bring, that would be great! ūüôā

We’re just a month away from the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year. Hope everyone is enjoying the long days! In the rhythm of the year, Summer Solstice is after spring has sprung and the land is vibrant with the vigorous growth of plants and leaves. Green is everywhere as all the plants want to soak up the sun so they can grow.

This is usually when gardens are growing strong too – summer plants like peppers and tomatoes are in the ground and now they’re growing fast and ripening fruits. It’s the time when we can sit back and enjoy all that is growing, all that is happening. At this half way point in the year, we can also take stock of what we have going on, as it is what we will be harvesting later this year.

Here at the Nomads Lounge, we’ve got a bunch of spring crops we’re enjoying (a wide variety of salad greens, snow peas and snap peas, strawberries), but I can already tell they’re getting towards the end of their season. We’ve got tomatoes, peppers, hops, blueberries (and other berries), figs, peaches, cherries growing. We also created mushroom logs last month, which we may get oyster mushrooms from this year.¬†Outside the plant kingdom, we have several projects in the works too (imagine that!), including a cordwood sauna that is in planning phase and will be ready by Winter Solstice. This is part of a women’s space Tirza has envisioned on the property.

Solstice is coming! As usual, we will be celebrating with a community gathering on the exact day of Solstice (June 21, 2010). Read more about the event here.

What are you working on? What are you hoping to harvest this year?

Tonight I presented our first experience inoculating logs for mushroom cultivation at the Mushroom Club of Georgia meeting. The whole process, since initial idea till now (with completed logs) is only two months (or less). We’re new to this, but we dove into it and learned a lot in the process. I put together some slides to show the process, what we did, how much time it took, and how much it cost. See slides below. Since it’s TIrza and my anniversary today, special thanks to Tirza for making it a community night!

It was great to learn from others tonight about some of the details and experience items. Great panel with lots of experience:

  • Katharine and David have been growing mushrooms for 14 years and have a wealth of local experience. They talked about there process for adding a few new logs each year to keep a steady supply, how they stack them, and getting logs off the ground (with bricks/blocks) to make them last longer. They also answered a lot of questions from the audience and let me know that I should see oysters in 3-4 months but shiitakes won’t be for a year.
  • Brandy Arts talked about the approach to fungi integration into life and gardening she learned from working with Paul Stamets. Lots of great resources in a digestible form in¬†Mycelium Running. She proposed integrating fungi into gardening as a source of fertilizer. She says the school she teaches at (where Alon is at!) will be doing a project to use hair + mycelium to clean up oil. Send those kids to the Gulf Coast!
  • Rod Stafford geeked out on his chemistry-lab-inspired mushroom cultivation setup. He brought in petri dishes, the sterile jars filled with rye seeds and mycelium and then the bags where he grows the mushrooms. He showed pictures of a laundry basket filled with hay that was busting out oyster mushrooms! In September, he’s giving a talk about his “lab in a box” setup. Amazing patience and attention to detail he has!!

Slides from our experience:

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 РDetroit, Atlanta, and rural Ohio.  Many models are inefficient, not scalable, or generate poor returns of any kind Рsocial, 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.

Tomorrow we’ll be working on our mushroom logs! 80+ logs and 2,300 spawn will become one ūüôā

We’ll be working all day at the Nomads Lounge. If you’re interested to learn about cultivation of edible/medicinal mushrooms, please feel free to drop by. Also, if you want to be more involved and are willing to help out for a couple of hours, you’ll be rewarded too!

RSVP for event and find details on Facebook page.

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!

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: