Shapes of New Pangea

I’ve been starting to explore the shapes and silhouettes of plants found in the EPA urban weeds garden. What wisdom do these forms hold? Perhaps the shapes of future protest and vegetal resistance? (Chris)

Weeds Maintenance and Car Mechanics on Block 1126

Catherine and I, andrea finished to take care of the urban weeds island we call the Lucky Island on Block 1126 sidewalk by picking up the the trash to give air to the soil. In the end we had a big black plastic bag of trash. Across the street Steve, who has is car mechanic business for 10 years waves to us. He wants to fight to keep his place. He wants not to move. I observed the last 4 years many down the block building got sold and with selling the building the new landlords don’t want the mechanic businesses anymore. Such as in this neighborhood the urban spontaneous plants are not welcomed, the car mechanics are not welcomed. A business that uses the sidewalk is not desirable.

Body Transect

At the EPA we’ve been exploring different approaches to field science and ecology — embodied methodologies that include the sensual, the unseen, the metaphysical. In the videos above, the body is used a ruler – a unit and variable to measure the length of the garden. Catherine’s study resulted in 11.5 bodies (5’8”) or 65.17 feet; Chris’ study resulted in 11 bodies (6’0”) or 66 feet.

Surveying Urban Weeds Islands

Today we explored a number of weedy islands that border nearby Franklin Avenue, and foraged for mugwort to make dream pillows. Luck Island was looking flush with life, although we are speculating about the soil quality along the southern edges which are high in sand, glass and have evidence of frequent compaction. We also began to explore in more detail an “enchanted wild garden” on the corner filled with milkweed, a jungle of everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius), flowering prickly lettuce, wild grasses, a variety of creeping vines, lambsquarter and other weedy friends. At the base of the southwestern edge of the fence is a small opening where a community of feral cats reside. A perfect hiding place amidst the city’s layers and rhythms.

Between a rock and a plant place

The EPA’s open garden hours continued Sunday with a new score from collective member Carrie Ahern. Carrie asked participants to engage in a collaborative mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) tea ceremony to tap into the unconscious dream potential of the plant. As a rhizomatic organism, mugwort is known for its ability to enhance dreams, perfect in a tea before bedtime. After touching, smelling, and making a tea, each participant shared a snippet of their dreams on a ribbon now attached to a patch of mugwort in the EPA’s urban weeds garden.

A Brief Romance with a Weed

Today, EPA guides activated the urban weeds garden and engaged visitors in a range of experiences. We experimented with a new score developed by Andrea that continues her Radical Care Sitting practice asking participants to create a weedy collective plant label in response to a series of embodied inquiries. Catherine also shared three new scores developed for the garden, including one called A Brief Romance with a Weed. And Chris began to explore (Outer)Field Science Practices – experimenting with novel approaches to urban geology, plant identification, meteorology, and neighborhood mapping.

Bull thistle en vogue

A patch of bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) are almost in full vogue at the EPA Weeds Garden. We can already see bright purple blooms surrounded by a thorny exterior that stands nearly 6.5 feet tall. The thistle can produce about 100 to 300 seeds per flowerhead, and anywhere from 1 to over 400 flowerheads per plant. The majority of seeds fall close to the base of the plant, while dense patterns of seedlings radiate outward from the mother. The thistle is strongest when flowering, and most resistant to chemical herbicides in this stage of its development.

We invite you to stand tall and vogue like the thistle.

Mycoremediation test patch for desert island

Today we started to experiment with mycoremediation strategies – using fungi to build and stabilize damaged soil. Using pearl oyster spawn donated by Chloe Zimmerman and Jan Mun – we’ve created a one square foot test patch in a particularly toxic area of the Urban Weeds Community Garden know colloquially as desert island. The soil is currently high in heavy metals like lead and copper, as well as oil from its past use as an auto repair shop. To provide coverage and food for our fungi friends, we also spread a layer of excess sawdust from a local furniture maker down the street. After a month we’ll test and compare soil samples from the test patch and surrounding area.

Radical Care Sitting: Offering refuge to a crown vetch and other weedy species

Artist andrea haenggi engages in her practice of radical care sitting, providing refuge for the spontaneous urban plants of Pacific Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Today we start by surveying a nearby lot that will soon be paved over with cement and asphalt. We look closely amongst the rubble for plants that need a home. At first we only see nightshade, tree of heaven, and a field of knotweed.

We then find a young crown vetch (Securigera varia) and what we think may be the humble beginnings of a devil’s beggarticks (Bidens frondosa). In the video above, andrea extracts the crown vetch to begin its relocation to the Urban Weeds Community Garden at the Environmental Performance Agency.

We hope these plants will take root and find refuge here at the EPA.

Airing Out the Mugwort + Plant-based Dye Making

At the EPA today, we’ve been caring for the Urban Weeds Community Garden by “airing out” some of the Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) that has taken root throughout the site. As a rhizomatic plant, Mugwort extends its roots horizontally and is able to develop a complex and thick network with just a small amount of soil or permeable surface. Rather than merely disposing of our Mugwort friends and mentors, we are experimenting with natural dye making – using the leaves of the Mugwort as a pigment for textiles. Above is documentation from some of our experiments. We used a recipe of boiling water for 90 minutes with the plant fully submerged. We’ll let it cool over night, and boil again for 60 minutes, and then the dye should be ready for dipping.