The Diverse Future of Cultivation

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

By Kyle Brookens

It is quite astounding that animals “are more closely related to fungi than to any other kingdom” (Stamets 2). Mushrooms, born from their mycelial networks, hold great potential for our future. It is known “that a single cubic inch of topsoil contains enough fungal cells to stretch more than 8 miles if placed end to end” (10)! This mycelial network is so fascinating because the architecture of mycelium is much like the neurons found within our very own central nervous system. What exactly makes the mycelium of mushrooms so valuable to the environment of our future? They are the most useful and powerful biological recyclers of the universe.

            There are four basic categories of mushrooms. Saprophytic mushrooms are known as the great decomposers. Parasitic mushrooms are, as the name implies, parasites which feed on a host organism. Mycorrhizal mushrooms are a symbiotic species because they help maintain the health of their companion, and in return, are supplied with nutrients when their companion dies; thus, mycorrhizal mushrooms grow in cooperation. Lastly, endophytic mushrooms are termed “mutualistic symbionts,” which means that they, like mycorrhizal mushrooms, partner with many different species of plants and trees (31). Mycorrhizal mushrooms are extremely difficult to cultivate at home because they are heavily dependent on these symbiotic relationships. On the other hand, endophytic mushrooms reproduce much like saprophytes and are relatively easy to cultivate at home. Knowing how to distinguish a mushroom between these four categories is important when cultivating or harvesting mushrooms from the wild (a good field guide is David Arora’s “All That the Rain Promises and More”).

            Mycilium and mushrooms are inspiring because they have the ability to detoxify the environment, they are nutritious for both plants and animals, and they may even be used as medicine, again, for both plants and animals. Clustered woodlovers, oysters, garden giants, psilocybes, and turkey tails are just a few species that prevent disease and combat parasitic fungus in the forest (Stamets 51). Mycilium and mushrooms also have the ability to restore polluted environments because they are biologically designed to do so. By selecting the right species of mushroom for cleaning up specific pollutants or heavy metals, we all have the ability to restore environments that have become polluted with our waste and emissions. Not only do mushrooms have a unique ability to decompose and filter out toxins, but they also taste great (Warning: do not eat mushrooms that were specifically bread  to detoxify or filter waste sites, roads, industrial factories, etc., for they will contain those contaminates).

            A garden with inoculated soil is a healthy and thriving garden. The endophytic mushroom Piriformospora indica has been found to speed and improve the growth of corn and parsley. Certain species of mushrooms also detour pests and promote disease resistance; mushrooms may also have antinematodal, pesticidal, and antiblight properties (Stamets 66). Having mushrooms such as the garden giant and the elm oyster growing with the vegetables in the garden, our plants will have the ability to absorb nutrients that they would not be able to access on their own. This is the case because the mycelial network in the soil can penetrate far deeper than the vegetables alone, and therefore, the vegetables receive many of those nutrients if they are in a symbiotic relationship with the mushrooms. Companion planting between both plants and fungus holds great potential for the future of farming, gardening, and the agricultural sector in general because of these mutualistic relationships. We may realize greater harvests, healthier ecosystems, better nutrition, more leisure time, and improved personal health and well being if we cultivate diversity in our backyard, especially if we utilize the power of mycilium.

 

            Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2005.

Cooperative Relay

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

By Kyle Brookens

Scoop, whoosh, plop. Scoop, whoosh, plop. We build the soil for a new community garden in Crested Butte, Colorado. Movements circulating back and forth like an eddy in the river. Dust rises from the disturbance and rides the flowing breeze of the wind. Rising and falling, just as the sun and moon during day and night. Sounds of labor continue until the job is complete. Social, Cultural, and individual interpretations of this place transform and grow simultaneously with the freshly sown seeds. Heat of the sun burns and tans the flesh, but fuels growth springing from the earth. Scoop, whoosh, plop. Scoop, whoosh, plop.

            Sliding down the temple, sweat helps cool the body. Music emulates from the speakers of a nearby SUV. Shouts, screams, and murmuring pass though the atmosphere and funnel into the lot from the busy street. Our movements, smells, and sounds attract the attention of passerby’s much like flowers and bees in the summer.  Scoop, whoosh, plop. Scoop, whoosh, plop. Vibrant green plants, blue sky, white clouds, yellow straw, brown dirt, and showering clear water stimulate the senses albeit, abundant and primitive. The native birds fly from spruce to spruce, and from building to building. Flying back to the ground, birds whiteness several students working efficiently creating a new habitat. A strong mutualistic relationship is already beginning to take hold.

            The day began with the construction of an herb spiral. We quickly stacked various sized bricks upon the surface of the earth. From the center, the spiral grew to the height of our knees, and at the terminus, the spiral dropped to the height of a cotton tail rabbit. Disbursed on the bare soil, we scattered woodchips, forming a path resembling that of a tree branch. Layered like lasagna, compost and manure coated the top of the beds. Nutrition and sustenance erected for the benefit of civilized and wild creatures, nothing should starve this winter. Scoop, whoosh, plop. Our energy transformed into life, giving birth to a necessary revolution.

            The energy flows just as the dust flowing with the breeze of the wind. The grains drift through the air, settle to the ground, and provide the conditions needed to sprout into more positive energy of communal growth. Spiraling outward, beyond the herbs, the implications of growing produce on Elk Avenue stretches the ordinary imagination. But, we may not find this stretch too far when provided with a tasty and diverse orchestra of yields. Such fruits will reseed upcoming generations just as the bee pollinates flowers every summer. In the heart of the small mountain town, we telekinetically infiltrate the minds of common folk. Scoop, whoosh, plop. A single alteration in the landscape at that very spot exemplifies dust and seed blowing in the vigorous winds of spring.  

            The line of spruce drew eyes between the buildings and down upon the beds. The sun was at the cusp of either horizon, and the children began to take root in their new home. The roots will travel from Colorado to Utah, then onto Arizona, Texas, California, and Wyoming. Passing along and traveling with the wind. Reinventing and redesigning, we foster diversity. It won’t be long before the molecules of hydrogen and oxygen break free of the eddy and rush to the sea. Transforming into a gas, condensing into a liquid or even a solid in the winter, the water will circulate back to home in the form of rain or snow. The products of our labor will cycle horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Our message will grow with the plants of the season, progress though time, and evolve our collective perspective.

          …

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

                So far this summer, I have learned many lesson in the arenas of sustainability, urban agriculture and permaculture. It has been wonderful to come from planting seeds all the way to a burgeoning organic plot! This experience has allowed me to gain a deeper level of intimacy with my food and cuisine in general. I have also learned more about the processes behind moving toward low input sustainable systems. I am grateful for all of this gathered knowledge. However, the idea that this internship has taught me that appears to have the greatest potential would have to be developing a sense of community. As my relationships have developed in the valley through persistent communication and recreation with both my fellow interns and the community abroad, optimism and hope have assuaged my former despair towards the monumental environmental challenges of our generation. In Gunnison, I know that if someone I know has the time to help me out, they will help me. We have begun to see it with the Chipeta volunteers helping with watering, weeding, and even the creation sumptuous kimchis!

               From what I have read the principles of permaculture are seem fairly cut and dry. (Gaia’s Garden is really my first foray into permaculture text)  However, I have felt for a while that there are certain nuances that have been escaping me. I would love to really dig into the topic with all of my fellow interns btw! There is one aspect of permaculture that I believe is integral to the topic. That being community. A strong community of people will inevitably take on the principles of permaculture, creating holistic synergies in their relative bio and socioregions. One could argue that permaculture is community, or at least many sustainable communities creating effects larger than their net sum. I believe it’s possible that the two will eventually blend into one, as interconnected community members begin to subconsciously apply the permaculture critical thinking paradigm to their everyday lives.

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