There really is no stopping a moving train. At this point we’ve gained enough critical momentum that there is no stopping or turning back. Not that we’d ever had plans to stop. Simply put; the reality of the encroaching growing season and, its unique backyard slant for us, is setting in quickly and deeply. We predicted we’d be busy, but as we’ve learned recently with our economy, predictions are one thing, reality is another.
During the past two weeks, both Jessie and myself have moved homes and started building a new garden space in the Mission. We’ve developed strategic tag-team watering plans for all of the spaces (plants don’t give us a day off!!) And we’ve begun to take the first of our weekly shipments to The Corner (18th and Mission www.thecornersf.com
). We are jumping with glee each time that we do. Moments like that are when what we do most feels like a selfish act rather than an environmental or communal one. Mainly because it is. When what you happen to enjoy is also something that is good for communities and the environment, there is no reason not to be as selfish as possible. The pure satisfaction I get from bringing our own city-grown organic produce to a restaurant 4 blocks away is narcotic. All idealism aside, I like this…. a lot.
Of course I knew that I liked it when I was farming in VT, but this is something different. I am continually awestruck by how little I know each time I learn something new. Each piece of food we pull from a backyard feels like a triumph, a victory. It feels like we are regaining control of our spaces and inspiring others to do the same. And not simply because it is trendy or altruistic, but because it feels good. It feels right.
Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to:
“talkin’ it over”
“a little help”
“Green garlic for The Corner”
Exciting new things are always happening here at Amyitis. It seems that, with each week, we’re faced with a new challenge, a new experiment, and a new opportunity. Stepping back to admire the growth of this project is truly inspiring and motivational. This week we were inspired and motivated by the show of support we received from our volunteers. Joel, Sierra, and Dillon came out on Tuesday to help us with our biggest job yet; moving 8 cubic yards of soil mix into the new raised beds at one of our gardens. It was a tricky project with only the use of 5-gallon buckets and tarps to move all of that soil through a tight (and very clean) carriage house and two doorways. Scheduling this project has been tricky as well. We have fully welcomed the much needed rain but it sure makes a muddy muddy mess out of a huge and heavy pile of planting mix. Trying to dance around volunteers schedules and make peace with the weather for long enough to get it done wasn’t easy but ended up working perfectly. We had to cancel the soil move a couple times before we just had to go for it. Even though it rained throughout the day, we were able to keep things dry enough to get the job done. And while we suspected that it would be really difficult without sufficient help, we now know that we couldn’t have done it without them. As the pictures below will illustrate, we had a lot fun doing it too.
Now that our second garden is ready for planting, we’ll be able to start planting some of the seedlings we’ve had growing in our grow room. They are continuing to grow healthy and tall but it is clear that they are ready to spread out their roots. So far we’ve started five heirloom tomato varieties, lipstick peppers, red butter lettuce (MFS for those that care), calendula, Athena cucumbers, and several varieties of patty pan and flying saucer squash. It is also nearly time for some direct seeding now that we’re gaining considerable sunlight with each passing day. We’ve already moved some butter lettuce seedlings to a cold frame we built last week. In the coming week we’ll be making the plans for how to make the most productive use out of our new space.
Enjoy some of the pictures below from this week’s soil project as well as another peak at our grow table as it moves along.
Dirty Dirty Dillon
Link of the week:
With the fear that I might spoil some grand surprise, I have been hesitant to announce a prideful secret: Amyitis is the subject of a documentary film now underway! And yes, theyand their gear braved the rain to film us move all that soil. Alex Beckstead and Joelle Jaffe of 4SP Films have started filming our trials and triumphs throughout a full growing season for the subject of their latest documentary. Alex and Joelle most recently produced Paperback Dreams,
the story of two independent Bay Area bookstores trying to make ends meet in the digital age. Paperback dreams, which aired on PBS, is a thoughtful and in depth film that is a perfect fit for anyone interested in the future of literacy and the ever burgeoning history of the San Francisco Bay area. Paperback Dreams just might help inspire you to save your local bookstore as well as whet your chops for the in-depth look at the life of Amyitis. Find out how to watch and buy the movie at www.paperbackdreams.com
We don’t know if they have a title yet or a release date, but you can be assured we’ll keep you posted. We have some title ideas of our own, but we wouldn’t dare yet release such nuggets of gold.
Posted in Boogaloos, DIY, organic gardening, Paperback Dreams, raised beds, restaurants, san francisco, Sustainable Agriculture, urban gardening, volunteering, Weird Fish
Before I left to see my family on the east cost for the Christmas holiday, Joel and I had gone wood hunting at a couple of the local green waste management facilities. Climbing upon huge towering piles of mostly cedar and eucalyptus wood scraps, branches, and stumps, we culled a couple of logs that looked like appropriate hardwoods (again, hardwoods are what we need for mushroom cultivation). The facilities managers all were invariably friendly, eccentric, and happy to let us free climb dangerously unstable piles of scrap. In spite of the fact that my tree identification is poor at best, I evidently seem to be able to successfully sniff out hardwoods from a nebula of various aromatic pine and cedar. I only know this because, still unsure of my gleanings, Jessie and I traveled to the headquarters of some SF tree removal specialists in the midst of a holiday barbecue to get an ID on the species of log we had gotten. According to them it was Poplar; a fact to which we sunk our heads to upon hearing. Poplar they said is “…about as soft as you can get”. ”It’s only good for toothpicks and Camembert boxes. You’re holding a couple million tooth picks right there.” Though discouraged, we didn’t stop there. A little more research was in order.
After doing a bit more research we found out that Poplar IS actually a hardwood, commonly called Cottonwood. Perfect! Cottonwood just happens to be an ideal species for shiitake cultivation! My sixth sense for hardwood location was verified. I had unknowingly picked a very ideal couple logs. It was time to start plugging away.
I started by drilling the holes in a diamond pattern about two inches apart. Immediately I was glad that we only were starting with two logs. I can imagine it being a really back-breaking job to do 200 or so logs (what we’d most likely do if we had a commercial mushroom operation). After I had drilled holes for the better part of an hour I started with the plugging. The dowels are soft enough that they need to be pounded in with a rubber hammer. Once the plug spawn bag is open you have to use them all. Once exposed to the elements, the plugs can’t be saved. So pound away I did for another hour or so. In the end I was able to get in about 170 plugs. Following getting the plugs in, I heated up about 1/2 lb. of beeswax. This all natural wax is recommended to seal the fresh plugs that you’ve just labored to put in. Evidently the wax will give the shiitake spawn the best fighting chance of inoculating the log by not letting in competitor fungi or disease. After drilling, plugging, and waxing all exposed wood I was finished. All in all the process maybe took 2 and 1/2 hours. Now the logs will sit for 4 to 6 months until it is time to induce fruiting. ”Fruiting” has a couple different methods that encourage the fruiting bodies (the mushroom itself) of the mycelium to emerge. But, more on that later. Much later.
Link of the Week:
You may have noticed by now that my links of the week are all over the map. One week were talking local and the next were promoting Incorporated and global. In an Internet column, I think that it is a duty to diversify ones sources and influences, from the grass roots to the corporate level. The Internet being the Internet, the vast and sprawling matrix of information it is, it holds for us the keys to drive contagious information all over the planet. I feel it encourages the destruction of barriers to conscious changing information and wisdom no longer confined by physical location or hours of operation. This of course means we are faced with the responsibility of honing our own skills of discernment and critical thought. One’s challenge is to glean valuable bits of good information despite its maybe suspect context. In other words, our challenge is to recognize a good thing when we see it. In the last few years, the New York Times has tuned an ear to the low but growing rumble of the food movement. The NYT magazine has been highlighting young farmers and their efforts to reclaim this human right that Amyitis attempts to exercise. A couple weeks ago they posted a slide show and feature on young farmers. While I don’t often feel that large corporate media enterprises need my help in spreading their journalistic wares, I commend them for their part in helping to spread this grass roots food movement. You can visit the slide show here
, as well as gain access to more of the stories about the farmers featured there.
I guess you could say that sometimes when I sit with my finger on the trigger, ready to make hasty Internet purchases, I can be a little hair-brained. In this case I had shiitake for brains. Or at least, shiitake on the brain. Admittedly, the excitement of an Internet deal is often hard for me to squelch. And in the case of mushrooms (one of my favorite foods) nary can I turn away from the bright LCD screen begging for me to add another item to my virtual shopping cart. Often times, in these situations, the finger click is followed by the synapse fire.
I had written a couple of weeks ago, hinting at my lust for fungal fare, and mentioned the possibility of growing some shiitake plug spawn. Plug spawn are small wooden dowels inoculated with spores of whichever mushroom you fancy. The plugs are about 1/2″ in diameter and roughly 1″ long. They are meant to be “plugged” into holes around 2″ deep in fresh hardwood logs. Fresh in our terms means cut no more than 5 months ago. The reason we need fresh wood is because older wood has had more time to sell its fresh heartwood to the highest bidder, i.e. another fungus. We don’t want to go eating any mushrooms of course without knowing exactly what they are. And if our shiitake plugs were to mingle with a less than edible sort of mushroom, we’d be deep in the pits of wonderland or worse. Being in California, I thought that the possibility of finding freshly cut oak logs would be no big deal. Easily done. Just a phone call, right? Wrong.
As it happens fresh oak that has not been promptly chipped, shredded, split, cured, or turned into a piece of flooring is rather hard to come by. In fact it has been rather consuming to find just what we need at all not to mention without driving all over kingdom come to fetch it. To add to the frustration of finding the wood, plug spawn are living organisms with a 30 day time limit. On top of this is the onset of the holiday season and holiday shopping madness. In short, this has been less than the good time I’d first imagined. Had I known then what I know now I would have simply continued to grow them from sawdust bags, saving plug spawn dreams for a day when I was huddled in my woodland yurt amidst acres of hardwood trees. I am unsure just how many times I will have remind myself to always do my research before I let myself be reeled in by the flashy lure of a sale sign.
Alas, we have yet to give up and are still on the hunt for fresh wood. Like vampire Ents we will not rest until we plug our spawn! If any of our readership knows of a reliable source of any fresh hardwood please send them to us or us to them. Any little bit helps.
Link of the week:
In case you too are interested in growing gourmet mushrooms but want to do it in a much easier and faster way you can usually get bags of impregnated sawdust that produce great results but far less of them. Before, I’d mentioned Fungi Perfecti, a Washington based company started by one of my personal heroes Paul Stamets. For a more local source of equally great products go to Far West Fungi . They are a Bay Area based operation with a store front in the Ferry Building downtown San Francisco as well as market stalls at various farmer’s markets and an online store to buy kits and produce. They all are very helpful and informative. I buy the bulk of our mushrooms from them every week at the Heart of the City farmer’s market in the Civic Center on Wednesdays and Sundays. Check em out!