Friday, March 10, 2017

Compost Update + Help + Tips

If you'd like to receive these updates and/or get involved in composting with us, please contact Gabriela.

Elisa's visits:

Saturdays at 11:30 am unless otherwise noted.

Compost update.
The winter composting season is going great! The active (left) bin has been between 80-115ยบ through the winter thanks to you and Elisa, who has been tending to the piles weekly. We have filled the left bin with veggie scraps and now are ready to turn the bins. The contents of the center bin will be moved out to cure for a couple of months in a pile - location TBD - and the contents of the left bin will be moved to the center bin to continue composting while we continue adding to the soon-to-be empty left bin.

We need your help!
1. Somewhat confused by the above? Come help us turn, or just stop by to provide encouragement! We are waiting for a warmer day to do this (we missed the warm weather spell!) Let us know if you're willing to give us a hand and we'll let you know when we pick a date and time.
2. Please let us know if you regularly contribute scraps to the pile. We're trying to figure out how many people are contributing to the pile and how often/how much, so we can know what our capacity has been, better calculate our need for browns and measure our efficiency.

Tip of the week: how to break down egg shells

Egg shells are welcome in the compost pile, BUT they take a VERY LONG time to compost, so it is particularly important to break them into as small pieces as possible so they turn into compost faster. This is sometimes tricky because of the thin, elastic membrane right under the shell. But MJ provides a practical and easy solution:
1. Keep two stackable containers handy (e.g., yogurt containers)
2. Place the egg shells in the top container and let them dry (this will make the egg membrane become brittle)
3. Take the bottom container and put it on top, pressing and rotating
4. Now you should have small eggshell pieces suitable for the compost bin.

Thank you for being a part of this and we hope to see you around, especially as the weather gets warmer!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Permaculture Discussion Group / January

On 1/14/17 we gathered at Lenore and Dave's house for our second meeting. In attendance: Gabriele, Marcelo, Mark, Els, Blanca, Lenore, Susan, Laura, MJ and Iris.

Dirt Pile
We first discussed the infamous pile of dirt in the Kitchen Garden. A group of hearty souls recently (on a chilly day) dug a trench in it, filled it with organic matter and covered it over in hopes of beginning the process of making it usable in the garden. We discussed using the dirt for paths around the garden, for leveling the sloping area near where the tools are currently kept.

KG Design Ideas
We looked at Gabriela's permaculture design plan for the garden some more. Marcelo suggested removing the raised bed closest to the gate because it is so shaded that nothing seems to do well there. By removing it and getting rid of the dirt pile, we could create a larger and more welcoming community space for meetings, pot lucks, music and other gatherings. The raised bed frame could possibly be relocated somewhere else in the garden. 

Possibility of making a raised bed for herbs, labeling them, making them more attractive; discussion of herbs in the labyrinth garden vs. kitchen garden

Food Pantry
•We want to talk to Molly about the Food Pantry needs. (Marc and/or Iris will connect with her.) How much do they depend on the KG vs. other sources like the CSA, etc.? What can we grow that the FP clients will want to eat? There's a shared interest in our group to connect the FP and KG. Perhaps we can think of activities to bring FP people into the garden. Events work better than a blanket invitation to stop by. Another theme is balancing that connection with our developing ideas of what we can do in the KG. Mark P. spoke about an event several summers ago that was in the KG and centered on food and storytelling. People came from Cabrini and shared their stories of food growing, cooking, etc. We could do another event and ask people to bring a dish to share.

Permaculture Concepts Applied in Berlin 
Broadening the discussion to permaculture in life (not just in the garden), Lenore described an inspiring apartment where she and Dave stayed in Berlin. She noted permaculture precept of stacking functions put into action there.

Every space had stacked functions: there was a piano in the kitchen, a swing in the living room (the family has 5 kids), a screen that could be pulled down to watch movies. The parents' bedroom also was a workshop. Each kid's bedroom had a loft bed with workspaces underneath for the kids. There were no closets but organized shelves and clothing rods were suspended way above (very high ceilings) with ropes and pulleys.

Ideas to follow this up at next meeting
MJ suggested choosing one of permaculture's first three precepts and thinking about how we use it in our lives before the next meeting. Next time we might address how each element performs a different function and each important function is supported by many elements. Think about how this is found in nature. Look for practical examples of principles.

Gabriela will select an appropriate segment of INHABIT for us to watch.

How best to compost leaves in KG
Discussion of composting of leaves in KG: permaculture urges most low tech solution
Leave big pile of unchopped leaves would be that but practicality it depends on space, time, needs, etc. Is there room for big (unsightly?) pile of leaves over several years?

Ideas for workshops and visits to make as a group: 

• Foraging workshop and walk

• tool care and use workshop during winter (Transition Westchester did one at Sprainbrook or check with Cornell Extension, etc.)

Permaculture slogans: Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share

Next meeting: Feb. 1110 a.m. at Lenore's house

Permaculture Discussion Group / the first meeting

Friends, we have started a permaculture discussion group as this was the foundation of Roots & Wings back in 2011. Our meeting notes - thank you Iris! - will be included here. 

No photos, but after today's meeting, I decided to type my notes here as an incomplete summary of what we discussed. These are just disorganized notes I scribbled while we were together. Anyone who has more to add should feel free! Anyone who doesn't feel like reading this should delete it! I just thought it might possibly be useful.

Books recommended by various people:
The Hidden Life of Trees--Peter Wohleben
1491 and 1493 (two books)—Charles Mann
Monocultures of the Mind—Vandana Shiva

We are looking for info on permaculture--books, articles. Gabriela has not yet found the one "perfect" source/explanation.

People and websites to investigate (just a random list of those mentioned):
Andrew Faust--gives permaculture workshops in NYC
Dave Jacke--a big name in permaculture; www.edibleforestgardenscom; also talks about "internal permaculture"
Nikki Coddington in Irvington is working on an edible forest garden at the Irvington Nature Center and could probably use help

MJ has been to permaculture convergences around the area (long weekends with workshops and talks.)  Maybe we can find one to go to some time (field trip!)
Radical Urban Sustainability Training in Albany (
Mark spoke about a Roots & Wings idea to work in Yonkers with recently released inmates to teach them about gardening in conjunction with Groundworks and Greystone
Next Roots & Wings meeting (open to all) Tuesday, Dec. 6 at South Church; 7:30
We veered off into a bit of political discussion and MJ mentioned an NPR podcast on the difference between being a bullshitter and a liar; discusses ways of talking to people and understanding how others think. I couldn't find this program but did come up with an old article on this topic, specifically about Trump  . . .

Gabriela has a permaculture design for the garden that she drew up as part of a class. People were enthusiastic about applying the ideas to the garden, maybe restructuring the beds, social areas, and expanding functions but we will learn more about permaculture and then try to apply the lessons learned.
We discussed the infamous dirt pile and tried to apply a permaculture lens (the problem is the solution); then many of us went to visit it. We decided to meet next Saturday 10 a.m. (Dec. 10) to work on it (weather permitting) as there is a small window of opportunity before it gets to cold to do something that may have an impact by next spring. We plan to pull off the rough organic material that's thrown on top, dig a trough or trench in the middle, layer the trench with broken sticks and branches (for aeration) on the bottom, then cover that with somewhat chopped up organic matter (that had been pulled off the pile) and add chopped up leaves. Then we'll cover the trough with dirt so that microbes, etc. can do their work over the winter inside the pile. In the spring we can add more organic matter, stir up the pile and use it around the garden if it is ready.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Essence & Aroma Soap Making Workshop

Ten of us learned to follow an ancient formula of (Lye + Water) + Fats = Soap + Glycerin. The smell of lavender oil was  a m a z i n g !
We each left with one pound of soap, which we cut into bars two days later. Now, the bars will air dry for 4 - 6 weeks . . . just in time for gift giving.

Thank you, Melissa!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November Clean-Up in The Kitchen Garden

Marcelo, Gabriela, Linda H, Els, Susan, Laura and Iris met for a final time this fall. We put some chopped leaves on the beds, removed the final tomato cages, and generally finished the fall clean up. 

We found another praying mantis! Some discussion and googling occurred to determine if they are or are not beneficial insects. It seems they are bc they eat many insects but that can also be a problem because they are apparently indiscriminate and sometimes eat other beneficial insects. This one did not seem at all rattled by all of us clustering around and pointing at it.

Lots of talk of next year. A few last photos for now. . . .signing off till the spring!

If you are interested in a plot for next season, please contact Marcello at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Roots & Wings at the Ferry Festa

Roots & Wings shared a table with our friends at Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry at this year's Ferry Festa. We had a great location--across the way from the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct booth, with the fragrance of Sushi Mike's BBQ and music from the Main Stage filling the air.

It was a beautiful day to greet many Kitchen Garden, CSA, and Food Pantry friends, and introduce ourselves to others.

Our bean bag toss and farmer photo opp was a hit with all ages.

Our Festa Special is a Farm to Ferry Thanksgiving Delivery of lettuce, butternut squash, potatoes, brussel sprouts, beets, turnips, and whatever else is ready to be harvested.

Pick up is Sunday, November 20, for a cost of $30--if interested, please let Nancy, our CSA Manager know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Kitchen Garden party report - October 8th

We had a great time last Saturday at the Kitchen Garden! Marcelo, Laura, Blanca, Akiko, Iris, Linda H, Linda M​, Susan, Gabriela and her friend Chiara gathered around the table. In addition to great conversation and exchange of ideas and recipes, we shared a wonderful potluck breakfast that included coffee, South American mate, muffins, casseroles, among a host of yummy delicacies, and the star of the party: our own mini watermelon, just harvested--it was delicious and we are so proud of it!

Enjoy the pictures below (​thank you Iris for great pictures as usual)!