Tuesday, December 23, 2014

From Fiber Harvest to Seed Packets

After harvesting corn, okra, arugula, potatoes, lettuce, and sunflower from the 2014 Seeds InService bed, we got working on turning the material into food, supplies for hand papermaking (like okra slime, which is great for Asian fibers), and papermaking fiber. We designed a series of seed packets and posters to describe the historical and political context for these crops locally, nationally, and internationally. Maggie Puckett designed the image above about the history of corn in the Americas. It is letterpress printed on corn paper at the Center for Book & Paper Arts.

This onion tart recipe was created by Melissa Potter, designed by Maggie Puckett, and printed on onion paper created from the garden. The bottoms of the onions were used for the tart. More than just food, easy and inexpensive recipes engage the Seeds InService philosophies on food justice and access, and the local communities that Jane Addams supported through domestic and craft arts classes at Hull House.

This seed packet honors the sex workers who worked in the South Loop neighborhood, just steps from where the Seeds InService garden is located. It tells the story of the Hull House wage study, and honors their memory with velvet queen sunflowers which were grown in this year's bed. Designed by Melissa Potter.

Lettuce and okra packets are forthcoming. These packets will be sold as limited editions for profit to support seed saving and papermaking workshops offered by Seeds InService. They will also be created in collaboration with other community farms to explore seed propagation as a revenue stream, and creative outlet for the community.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Seed Packets: Part I

Today in the paper studio: Seed packet-shaped sheets made from corn husks and stalks

Using corn fiber grown in the Papermaker's Garden we pulled sheets shaped specifically for folding into seed packets. In an upcoming workshop the packets will be assembled, decorated, and filled with dried corn kernels.

Drying Black Aztec Corn

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lettuce Paper Part 1: Trials and Tribulations

Who knew lettuce stalks would be such a tough fiber to process into pulp? Over the past week Seeds InService has been processing, cooking, and soaking stalks from mature lettuce plants but remain with tough, woody lengths of fiber. We'll beat it to a pulp eventually, but for now enjoy images of the process thus far:

First, the entire plant is uprooted and leaves, flowers, and weaker stems are separated from the central stalk.

Mature seeds are collected and saved for another planting. 

When the stems break a milky white latex-like substance seeps from the plant.
Cooking begins!

 Separating the squishy inner pith from the outer bast fiber.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Insects of the garden

The SIS garden is home to more than just plants, many insects make it their home and workplace too. We benefit from the insects that pollinate our plants as they hop from flower to flower. 

Here are some of today's sightings:

Small White Butterfly - Pieris rapae

Spotted Lady Beetle - 
Coleomegilla maculata

Let's hope this is a paper wasp in the Papermaker's garden! Let's collaborate, little wasp!

House fly - Musca domestica

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cooking lettuce, saving seeds, and generally loving the garden

Today Seeds InService is cooking up some lettuce stalks in the Papermaker's Garden. Here is a shot of the hefty stalks cooking in a water and baking soda solution. 

We're collecting the mature seeds as we go, learning every minute something new about growing plants and harvesting seeds. Every plant is different. Here are some seeds we collected today:

We also collected some arugula seeds:

Meanwhile, the rest of the plants are looking good! 


Strawberry spinach

Cherokee trail of tears beans


Check back soon for lettuce paper updates!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Seed Libraries and the Law

The Papermaker's Garden in full bloom.  Seeds InService is the second bed on the left.

At the heart of the heirloom seed movement is an anti-corporate statement against Monsanto, the personhood status of American corporations, and the rights of small communities to propagate their own food.

Seed libraries must adhere to basic laws about maintenance and proper marking of seeds, especially if they are being sold (which...would make it not a library).  The Pennsylvania legislature just tried to crack down with Draconian legislation that would render a small library like the one Seeds InService partners with impossible to run.

Here is the article.  What is your opinion on this issue?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)

In 1830, white settlers in the southeast demanded a removal of the land's original inhabitants. Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forcibly removed and marched, thousands to their death, to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. Known as the Trail of Tears, this genocidal death march is remembered by the black bean that bears its name. 

In the SIS garden, we're growing this vine variety using traditional companion planting methods. Beans were planted around the base of corn and sunflower stalks, which provide support to the winding vines. In turn, beans fix nitrogen in the soil, to the benefit of the corn and sunflowers. We are looking forward to watching the bean pods grow and change color as they mature. Dry pods will be harvested at the end of the season for seed, dye, food, and fiber.

A flowering Cherokee Trail of Tears black bean vine winding up a sunflower stalk.