Radical Fungi Are My Favorite Teachers

Guest Post by Peter McCoy

When I get asked why I started the Radical Mycology project, I often say that it was to share the lessons that mushrooms have taught me.

Turkey tail logs

Turkey tail logs

Since I started studying mushrooms as a teenager, I have always seen mycology (the study of fungal biology) as an endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking science. Whether I am using them as a nutritious food source or as a potent medicine, I am always honored to taste their wonderful flavors and alluring textures. Hunting mushrooms in the woods, I love to watch them grow, knowing that they are cleaning the forest soil, protecting plants from disease, and turning decaying matter into fresh topsoil so new plants can thrive.

And using them as remediators, I am awed by the mushrooms’ ability to break down and eliminate some of the most toxic industrial compounds in the world.

Grassroots Bioeremediation workshop with Leila Darwish at the Radical Mycology Convergence

Grassroots Bioremediation workshop with Leila Darwish at the Radical Mycology Convergence

Seeing how the densely branched mycelial networks of mushrooms share nutrients among plants, I also find a wonderful example for humans to follow when working to collaborate with their communities. Further, the incredible spore loads that mushrooms drop in the fall are designed to adapt to any given environment, demonstrating the ability to adjust to challenges and remain resilient during hard times.

These same attributes provide a model for how humans can best relate to each other, whether on a personal or societal level. By mimicking mushroom mycelium, cooperative businesses and housing projects work more efficiently by spreading out tasks and networking with affiliated organizations.

Fungi are also highly symbiotic with most organisms on the planet, so we find, yet again, the importance of collaboration among creatures throughout the fungal kingdom. In essence, fungi act in countless ways as grand harmonizers of the Earth, something that humans can aspire toward to live in balance with their surroundings.

King Stropharia bed installation at Peter's Mushroom Cultivation & Application Course in Olympia, WA

King Stropharia bed installation at Peter’s Mushroom Cultivation & Application Course in Olympia, WA

The Radical Mycology project revolves around just this philosophy: that by studying, working with, and learning from the fungal kingdom, humans can best find solutions to problems of personal, societal, and ecological health. To this end Radical Mycology has put a lot of energy into providing free education to the public on the benefits of fungi.

Our website (radicalmycology.com) is a database of all things mycological. We offer two free publications we have written, Radical Mycology and Mushroom Cultivation For Remediation, as well as instructional videos and protocols for mushroom cultivation.

Nameko Bed installation at Demeter's Permaculture Garden in Olympia, WA

Nameko Bed installation at Demeter’s Permaculture Garden in Olympia, WA

We organize regular multi-day events on mushroom cultivation and its practical applications (the Radical Mycology Convergences), with another being planned for the spring of 2014. And since 2011, two Radical Mycology-inspired volunteer clubs have sprung up in San Francisco, CA and Olympia, WA. These groups teach free workshops about simple and practical mushroom cultivation and community resilience.

The next and biggest project for Radical Mycology is writing a book exploring the theory, practice, and applications of mushrooms for personal, societal, and ecological change. We are currently in the midst of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund the book. Our campaign page will soon be up and running. Stop by the Radical Mycology website to learn more about our work.

Update: The Radical Mycology Book fundraiser is underway! This unique book on the uses of mushrooms and other fungi for personal, societal, and ecological wellbeing will be a powerful resource for the geek and do-gooder inside us all and we are excited to bring this dream to the rest of the world.

You can view the live campaign here:

http://bit.ly/radmycogogo

Vacant Lot Becomes Community Space

Guest post by Lisa Boyles

My vision is to give purpose to a vacant lot. Where once stood abandoned houses, there will be a reflection space with a labyrinth and a community art installation.

In June 2013, we brought light to this space on the longest day of the year with a circle gathering and a modified sun salutation series. The children at this gathering helped decorate a stepping stone for the labyrinth entrance.

Since the summer, various people have joined me at this lot on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. We have prepared the ground, moved bricks, unloaded wood, and removed trees. It is enlivening to get in touch with the dirt and have ruddy cheeks from working so hard outside.

Gordon removing an invasive tree.

The transformation from empty lot to Rivoli Park Labyrinth is primarily funded through a community action grant from Peace Learning Center‘s Focus2020 initiative.

The vision of Focus2020 is to create an engaged and inclusive city. I was one of several grant awardees at the beginning of September. The collective effect of these grants will be seen throughout the city over the course of the next year. The Peace Learning Center offers workshops so that more people can become Focus 2020 graduates.

John Ridder of Paxworks: the Labyrinth Shop created the triune focus design of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth.  Logo by Susan Williams Boyles.

John Ridder of Paxworks: the Labyrinth Shop created the triune focus design of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth. Logo by Susan Williams Boyles.

The Rivoli Park Labyrinth project brings the international labyrinth movement to an urban neighborhood setting. Our space will be listed in the worldwide labyrinth locator, putting the eastside of Indianapolis on the labyrinth map.

To offset the often solitary nature of walking a labyrinth, this project also includes a healthy dose of community celebrations. For example, on May 3, 2014, we will celebrate World Labyrinth Day. And workdays at the site include a potluck to celebrate our growing community.

Aaron, James and the neighborhood cat moving a young tree to a new place to make room for the labyrinth.

Aaron, James and the neighborhood cat moving a young tree to make room for the winding path of the labyrinth.

Many partnerships are arising from this effort to give purpose to a vacant lot. One example of that synergy involves the documentation of the upcoming Oct. 10 workday (part of Indy Do Day). A KI EcoCenter videography intern is mentoring another young man that he met through this project. We can’t wait to see their collaborative videography of the workday, when volunteers will place bricks outlining the labyrinth path.

Meanwhile, the soil needs repairing and we plan to use hugelkultur to do it. We’ll mound soil and compost over woody debris and put our plantings on top of that mass. Permaculture designer Katherine Boyles Ogawa says, “Hugelkultur is an ideal method for urban lots where the soils are usually very compacted and often contaminated with heavy metals.”

Permaculture designer Katherine supervises unloading of logs for hugelkultur.

Permaculture designer Katherine supervises unloading of logs for hugelkultur.

We hope to eventually make the space into a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

Another goal is to display artwork and illustrated quotes along the fence. Panels would be created by special education students at the nearby public school and the art group at Midtown Community Mental Health Center.

Sarah donating paint for the community art wall

Sarah, a fellow Focus 2020 workshop participant, donating paint for the community art wall.

The community art aspect of the project is being funded through this crowdsourcing site.

We would love to have you join us in celebrating a year of this project coming into being on the summer solstice, June 21, 2014.

Like the Rivoli Park Labyrinth Indianapolis Facebook page to see project news. Join the Rivoli Park Labyrinth community group to collaborate with others and be invited to the annual celebration. We will post monthly featurettes and more detailed updates on our blog.