A local St. Louis community project.
Initiative: Land Lab
Cultivating community through a renewed connection to regional history, nature’s cycles and sustainable practices. 900 years ago a network of Mississippian mound builders thrived in this area. These communities’ lives were informed and controlled by the sun, the seasons and cycles of nature. With an approach rooted in this regional history, the Mighty Mississippians are dedicated to re-imagining this vacant lot as an asset for learning and sustainability. To promote community and cultivation, the team will use this lot as a demonstration garden using native plant selections, and as a platform for educational, celebratory and exploratory cultural programs. Our basic calendar structure starts around the natural cycle of equinoxes and solstices, planting and sowing, and is populated with activity as the seasons and conditions dictate. The site will be a center of activity, not a completed composition and therefore, will continually evolve in appearance.
After groundbreaking in April 2013, the Mighty Mississippians team has been busily bringing their project to life. Ongoing site activities have included multiple planting days where participants planted corn, squash, beans, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, sunflowers, walnut trees, and other native plants on the site. Experiences from last year’s planting season and more research into heirloom and native plants will inform this year’s planting activities.
Beginning in June of 2013, the team held weekly yoga class on site (led by Kathy Palumbo Vanderselt of Yoga Ready and Julie Gill) in conjunction with the Old North St. Louis Farmer’s Market. These classes continued through the fall and attracted a large gathering of local residents and Sustainable Land Lab enthusiasts.
A modern interpretation of the Cahokian Woodhenge was built on site and visually indicates the time of year on site, reminding people of the cycle of seasons. The first phase of a giant Solar Calendar, the Wooden Mast, was raised in late June. Since then, a mound was built and shadows were marked on the mound to complete the Solar Calendar.
In conjunction with students of the Buder Center for American Indian Studies at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work, the team planted gourds and sage. The students were able to use the gourds and sage, as well as corn and beans from the site, in their Native American cooking demonstrations.
To celebrate the Winter Solstice, the Mighty Mississippians hosted a bonfire at their site, with a storyteller on hand, who regaled attendees with Native American tales. Guests enjoyed exploring the site, eating s’mores, and keeping warm around the fire.
This year, the team is excited to develop more activities on site with its partners, inspire more community participation, and inform future planting decisions with lessons learned from the last growing season.
Project Scale: Neighborhood, Street