Our Sunday afternoon GANG garden work party went wonderfully well, nearly a dozen people streaming through, some staying for long periods to work, others just to say hi — and all of us to hang out and have fun.
Thanks to Sarah (our SPEA intern, for the second year), Doug (co-founder of the Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage GANE, who lives across the street), Volker and Nikki (IU professors who currently rent the house next to the GANG, having recently moved from Iowa to IU and nearly finished building their small passive solar house), neighbors and long-term GANG gardener Mary and her partner Abby, Daniel (who made and gifted the GANG with a sweet little bench, see photo below) and Jason (who has recently moved to B’town, and is sponsoring an Earth Day event at Ivy Tech this evening). Plus Jim, of course, a young permie who lives in my house and is the new Director of the GANG garden, and yours truly, who documented the scene, lifted a few shovelfuls of dirt, and tried, but failed, to machete new green bamboo in the back of Doug’s house to replace the old brittle bamboo teepee (for the beans).
These beans, by the way, have a reputation of producing 12 inch pods, and are not only heirloom, but personally so: they are the descendants of beans grown by Sarah’s great grandmother!
(As a recent transplant to Indiana (ten years here: a long time for this gypsy), I am in awe of those who have lived here (or anywhere!) for generations. One of my friends, local permaculture teacher and designer Rhonda Baird, is a 7th generation Hoosier!)
Sarah, who announced that she has signed up for the upcoming two week permaculture course, planted her beans in the bamboo teepee that is now three years old, and cracking.
So we decided to change out the bamboo. That was quite a project. Jim gave me the job of hacking the bamboo with a machete. I tried, but I was not up to the task. So he did it. Doug and Jim returned from the bamboo expedition with six perfect poles, longer and thicker than the first ones we used, and green, so they should last longer than three years.
Jim set the poles in place, Mary and Nikki strung them with jute twine for the beans to climb on, and then Jim got the ladder to finish the job of constructing the new, improved teepee.
Lots has already been done this spring. Jim has planted a circular corn bed, complete with a stepping stone in the middle (so you don’t have to compress the dirt when you work that bed). The stone came as a “found object” (with owner’s permission) from a house a few doors down that has been sitting empty for a year. I asked Jim to tell me what all was in this bed — besides corn — and to give me a short statement about what he’s up to with this and other plantings, this year.
Here’s a scan of the list of plants in this bed.
And here’s why:
“The planting method I am using is an experiment in Polyculture stacking, where I am selecting a variety of creepers, climbers, root vegetables, along with other plants which will create a short canopy and provide a climbing structure such as corn.
“The Milpa planting system originates in Central America and has a very long history, my efforts this season are an experimentation after becoming aware of the potential inherent in this ancient method of planting.”
Two other projects that Jim conceived are even more ambitious, both of them thanks to the generous gift of an old elm tree we had to pull down last Fall (Its trunk was split in two and threatening the roofs of both houses). Jim has begun to utilize that massive tree in the garden. The result, so far? Two hugelculture beds (one nearly finished, one not), and a gorgeous, deep raised bed for plants that require deep roots.
Hugelculture beds are energy-intensive, human labor, that is, at first. The job of moving the logs and putting them in place took an afternoon, again with lots of help, last fall. Yesterday, a number of us took turns patting the final soil in place on the sides of the first hugelculture bed, which, when done will be over four feet tall. It’s likely to go on producing from the biomass buried in its center for 20 years or more, and will hold water beautifully in drought times.
But the piece de resistence in the GANG garden currently is the elm tree’s raised bed . . .
I had no idea just how much Jim has planted in the bed. Here’s his list: Whew!
Last spring I got my fanny in an uproar trying to dig up all the Creeping Charlie which I called a “horrible” plant because it had taken over the garden. But Jim wants to keep all ground covered all the time (so soil nutrients won’t be lost in the rain), so . . . I changed my attitude. AND, now I’m beginning to eat the stuff! It’s not bad, and it’s good for you, i.e., both edible and medicinal, taken a little at a time.
Here’s Creeping Charlie on the right, with another plant, also edible (and medicinal), called Purple Dead Nettle on the left. And of course, the edible medicinal called dandelion . . . BTW: do wonder what the word “dead” refers to . . . maybe not good for certain animals?
Recent rains have filled the pond. New and old goldfish swarm. Our resident bullfrog jumps out when disturbed. And I even saw a polliwog in there yesterday. Plus, all the little lotuses and other greenies are starting to float up, clearing the water.
Here’s the little red bench I mentioned above. It holds the tiny bottoms of a family of school kids, while waiting for the bus mornings. Thanks again, Daniel!
Finally, here’s puppy Shadow enjoying the shade with a leaf on his snout.
Oops, I almost forgot! What perfect April afternoon is not spoiled above by a resident chemtrail?