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Apr 122014
 

uo_logoTomorrow is the first event for Uprawiajmy na Ochocie, a series of workshops for Ochota residents.

We will be learning about how to get started with growing food in your apartment and on your balcony. Lots of possibilities from the easiest (onions in bottles, sprouts) to the more difficult (tomatoes, peppers). All you need to bring is a container (pot, bottle, old shoe??)

It all starts at 11 am in the common building at the Zelmot Allotment Gardens in Ochota (where Pixxe Garden is located). There may still be time to sign up. https://www.facebook.com/groups/603740809715692/

If you can’t make it, there are still two more workshops in May!

 

Apr 062014
 

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Today was the first big workday at the new SDK Community Garden. We started it with a quick lesson on Soil biology, texture, structure, acidity, and nutrition, then moved on to the big work of the day: fixing the poor-draining garden beds. One participant did it all in bare feet!!

First we removed all of the top soil — about 10 or 15 cm. The layer underneath is very heavy.
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Next we dug a few holes with the amazing dirt driller:
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The wholes were about 8 cm wide and 1 m deep.
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These we filled with landscape fabric “socks” filled with gravel.
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The finished drains looks like a cute bow tie:
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Next we broke up the hard clay layer as much as we could and mixed it with wood chips. A nearby stadium donated a huge amount of horse poop and straw. They even delivered it right into the compost bins:

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We added the straw-manure mixture:

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We decided to leave this and let the organic matter break down a bit. We’d like to build raised beds here…

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This is what it looked like when all was done — a bit of a mess!! That’s a work-in-progress.
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Apr 042014
 

We gathered samples of the top soil and the substrate for texture tests.

First we remove all visible rocks and organic matter, spread the samples on newspaper, and let them dry for a couple of days. The next step is to pulverize the soil. You can put it into plastic bags and crush it with your hands or a rolling pin, for example. Remove any additional organic debris or rocks.

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Then we put the soil into a jar (500 liters or a quart) until it’s about 1/4 to 1/3 full, add water until the jar is about 3/4 full, and add 1 tsp of castille or dish soap, something that doesn’t make too many suds. Typically, the recommendation is to use dishwasher detergent, but that is very expensive here in Poland. Shake for 10 or 15 minutes and set somewhere where it won’t be disturbed.

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Within a few minutes the sand settles to the bottom of the jar. Within a few hours the silt settles on top of the sand. Within a few days the clay settles on top. That’s the theory. In practice, the results are not always clear. For the Pixxe Garden’s soil, the results were quite clear. For the SDK garden, this is what we found:

GARDEN BEDS have a Sandy Loam:

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SUBSTRATE has either Sandy Clay or Sandy Silt — only two layers were really discernible:

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Apr 012014
 

sdk_IMG_0748What is Soil?

Before we sow seeds and plant seedlings we need to find out what sort of soil we have and what it needs to help foster the life that will support the plants in our new garden. On April 6, 2014, we will be conducting tests, as well as sharing the results of lab tests, in order to learn more about the soil — its biology, texture, structure, drainage, and nutrients. More importantly, we will start the hard work of preparing and repairing the ground. Plan to get dirty.

We will be doing some “citizen science” today — looking for organisms which live in the soil, checking to see how much sand and silt and clay we have, checking to see how quickly the soil drains, testing the pH. Come and join us and learn more about this fantastic UNDERGROUND WORLD.

WHEN: April 6, 2014 12.00 – 15.00

WHERE: the NEW Służew Dom Kultury

* Note — the new SDK is not officially opened yet. If you want to participate, please sign up at wspolnyogrodsdk@gmail.com

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Gleby!

Zanim zasiejemy w ogrodzie nasiona i posadzimy sadzonki, musimy się dowiedzieć z jakiego typu podłożem mamy do czynienia – gliniastym, ilastym, piaskowym? Czy teren ogrodu to teren podmokły? Czy gleba jest kwaśna czy zasadowa? Czy jest właściwie odżywiona, posiada wystarczającą ilość makro i mikroelementów?

Podczas najbliższego spotkania spróbujemy się dowiedzieć czegoś o glebie badając w dłoni teksturę i strukturę ziemi, przyglądając się organizmom, które można w niej znaleźć, testując pH, przyglądając się wynikom przeprowadzonych przez nas wcześniej testów laboratoryjnych.

Przed nami także sporo pracy fizycznej – kopanie, przerzucanie ziemi i kompostu, wiercenie! Trzeba wykonać czynności, które w przyszłości pomogą nam uzyskać jak najlepsze plony.

Warsztat poprowadzi Jodie Baltazar we współpracy z Pauliną Jeziorek

Mar 242014
 

Where am I?

Today I traveled very far, by bicycle and train, to reach the soil testing facility located west of Warsaw. I got terribly lost. Here is a picture of my lostness:

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WHERE AM I????

Eventually I chased a mailman (by bike, so it was a bike chase) about the address, which I mangled the pronunciation of to be sure. He replied that there was no such address. Eventually he was persuaded that it did exist — the address was in the next district over. Eventually, I found it.

Sep 182013
 

On Monday it was time to remove the Kompostowisko at the Copernicus Science Center. Hopefully soon the organizers will share some event photos.

Sep 152013
 

Yesterday on the way to Pixxe/Jadalnia Warszawa/Slow Food Youth’s Jam Session, Iza and I were unable to get into the Finskie Domki (Finnish Homes) neighborhood by car because there was a giant Soldariność protest blocking all entrances. The driver dropped us off on Ujazdowski above Trasa Lazienkowska. So there we stood with two enormous crates plus two other bags — easily 50 or 60 kg of fruit, sugar and kitchen equipment. The driver suggested we get Solidarity people to help. We tried asking people but they just streamed by; it didn’t seem to be working.

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Crowds make me nervous –  so I lifted may arms and started screaming, in English, “Please help us!” and also “Proszę mi pomóc” (Please help me! — at the moment I forgot how to say Please help us!) Finally four guys stopped, listened, picked up the boxes and carried them ,5km right to the house. HURRAH!

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JAM SESSION IN PICTURES

Sep 132013
 

Today we collected 20 kg of fruit for tomorrow’s JAM SESSION

  • 2 kg cornelian cherry (dereń)
  • 5 kg apples (jabłek)
  • 10 kg pears (gruszki)
  • 1 kg plums (śliwki)
  • 2 kg grapes (winogrona)
  • 1 kg aronia (aronia)
  • 2 kg elderberry (czarne bez)
  • 250 g blackberries (jeżyna), which were eaten on the spot

Click on the pics for a little story.

Sep 132013
 

For a few years now, I’ve been making tempeh because I couldn’t find it for sale in Poland. For the last month or so, I’ve been making it and selling it to the Kooperatwya Dobrze here in Warsaw. This week I documented the process to to show people how tempeh is produced, and also just to assess how much time and money it costs to make.

Making tempeh starts Monday night and ends Thursday morning.

MONDAY

Crack and soak the beans

Of course we start with organic, GMO-free soybeans. 1000 kg of soybeans makes about 1600 g of tempeh. Interesting, huh? That means that 37,5% of tempeh is — well, what is that white stuff exactly? It’s the mycelia of fungi Rhizopus oligosporus and Rhizopus oryzae! (I apologize for referring to then as bacteria and mold in the past.)

The first step is to separate the husks from the beans. The husks must be removed because Rhizopus oligosporus/oryzae cannot penetrate the husk. The husks are separated with a loosely-set grain mill, which cracks them and in so doing removes the husk.  If you don’t have a grain mill, you’ll have to remove them by hand after the beans have soaked or you could try to find soybeans that are already de-husked. I have not yet been able to find these in Poland (organic non-GMO de-hulled soybeans).

The beans are put into water. At this time, some of the husks float to the top and can be skimmed off.

The beans are left to soak overnight.

TUESDAY

Wash the beans

By morning, the beans have expanded and more husks have floated to the top. These husks are removed. The next step is to partially cook the beans — this means about 30 minutes. As they cook, a foam forms and yet more husks rise to the top and are removed. As you can see, removing the husks is he beans are placed in a colander.

Dry the beans

The beans are spread out on a flat surface on clean lint-free cotton material, such as pillowcases or sheets. It takes at least 4 hours for the beans to dry. Wet beans prohibit the growth of Rhizopus oligosporus/oryzae and encourage other kinds of growth — the kind we don’t want. So it is important for the beans to be completely dry.

Inoculate and pack the beans

By the evening, the beans are ready to be inoculated. All 1000g of beans are placed in a big pot or bowl. To this we add 2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinega and 2 teaspoons of Rhizopus oligosporus/oryzae starter. Any kind of vinegar can be used, just make sure the acidity is no greater than 5% acidity. I once used white Polish vinegar (acidity 10%) and killed the spores. Vinegar creates an acidic environment in which other fungi and bacteria cannot grow.
Next we pack about 500g of the beans into 1 gallon-sized / 3-liter-sized zip-locked bags. The bag has already been punctured with many tiny holes spaced about 1 cm / .5 inch apart. By using zip lock bags, the tempeh can be removed without destroying the bag, and so the bags can be reused many times.

This step takes about 30 minutes.

Incubate the beans

The bags are placed on some sort of rack that has holes or space to create airflow. I use a shelf from Ikea and a rack for drying cookies. These are placed in a box, or some other insulated space with a light bulb — approximatey 40-60 watts usually generates enough heat. We need a fairly constant temperature of between 26-30 C. Lately, I have been using a cabinet in my desk. It’s painted black and does an excellent job holding the heat. The tempeh goes on the top shelf and the light on the bottom. The tempeh is not placed directly under the bulb where it is very hot.

WEDNESDAY

The beans must “cook” for 24-36 hours between 26-30 C. The temperature should be monitored during this time. I no longer use a thermometer (because mine is broken) so I had to develop my Temperature Sense. In this case,  the door is nearly closed the first 8 hours and open the rest of the time. It is better to err on the cool side. If the temperature is too high, the spores are killed and the tempeh is ruined. It’s important to have air flow around the tempeh.

THURSDAY

The tempeh is done. Each 500g bag of soybeans yields about 820g of tempeh. Removing and sectioning the tempeh takes about 30 minutes. The tempeh is then delivered to the co-op Thursday afternoon.