The month of September was dark and damp – or at least our workshops were. Despite the blazing sunshine outside, a sizeable group of curious minds gathered to learn more about innovative uses of mycelium and the perks of having an underground larder.
Maurizio giving us a crash course in the diverse and fascinating world of fungi
On 23rd September, Maurizio Montalti from the Italian company Mogu held a 1-Day workshop in the FabLab in Differdange. Mogu is a pioneer in the field of growing bio-material for construction and other things like leather using mycelium, the vegetative part of fungi. 19 interested participants (even some from Namur and Karlsruhe) got to know all stages of the mycelium growth, from the first thread-like fungal hypha to the dense, finished product.
After a quick introductory crash course in the technology that Mogu works with, all participants were ready to get their hands sterile, and then dirty: propagating “starter mycelium” in petri dishes, pasteurizing straw and corn starch (which our fungi would feed on) and preparing already colonised organic material for our own mycelium xperiments. Using 3D printers and a thermoformer, various artistic objects, lampshades and tiles and were quickly manufactured and served as moulds for the mycelium to grow in. Rodolfo Baïz (Fablab) and Rodrigo Vergara (Äerdschëff) built a low budget incubator that created the perfect conditions for the mycelium to thrive in. Some of the artworks grew particularly quickly and were ready to be “baked” in the Fablab oven after only two weeks (people must have thought we were baking some Pizza Funghi). Waiting is the hardest part, but soon we will hopefully see fungtastic results.
Tina (centre) and Mrs Block (left) in her earth cellar
A week later, the Austrian architect and earth cellar-expert Tina Wintersteiger came for a two day event to show us how teaming up with the elements can save a lot of energy. In her presentation on Friday September 28th in the Beckericher Millen, we learned about different clever storage options for all manner of garden-produce. The concept is simple and has been used for millennia: a dark space that is surrounded by soil as much as possible, in combination with strategic ventilation creates the stable temperature and humidity that fruits and vegetables need to stay crisp for up to two years. Having visited many community gardens, smallholdings and commercial farms in Austria and Germany, Tina presented us a whole inventory of unconventional ideas for earth cellar-inspired storage solutions. Most of us, for instance, were not aware that with a few little tweaks, already existing rooms in the house can become a suitable storage room for certain vegetables.
The next day (Saturday), a group of 12 highly motivated people met for the workshop that gave us the opportunity to ask in-depth questions about our own storage-plans. Every participant sketched their living situation and discussed the different options with the group and Tina. In the afternoon, we visited the earth cellar of Mrs Block in Calmus that she had built and used successfully with her family.
The idea behind both these workshops were directly related to the Äerdschëff – we wanted to get to know materials and techniques that will be implemented in it, while also spreading innovative concepts and potentially find willing volunteers for the Ä-project.
Thanks again to all participants and course instructors for the insightful and inspiring workshops!