Deep Time Seed Futures, NESL & Uptown Summer

In partnership with NATURE Lab at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, NESL ran a seed time capsule workshop for the Sanctuary’s Uptown Summer 2018 Youth Program. The workshop was a new iteration of two earlier burial projects, Time Capsule for Pacific Street Futures and Here Lie Sleeping Seeds.

After a discussion about seed longevity and resilience, we collected seeds from wild urban plants growing on the Sanctuary’s Environmental Campus. We focused our attention on the site surrounding an abandoned building that will soon become a new environmental education center for North Troy. We mixed those seeds with seeds from NESL’s collection that are known to have longterm viability (meaning they can stay alive, in a kind of “hibernation” mode, for long periods of time, then sprout when conditions are right). These included species like spotted spurge, Virginia pepperweed, evening primrose, and curly dock.

Photo credit: Catie Rafferty
Photo credit: Catie Rafferty

We held a conversation with the youth and program mentors and interns about how North Troy might change over the coming years, as climate change intensifies. What might we expect in ten years? In 20? In 120? Participants wrote down hopes, fears and messages for the future of North Troy on slips of paper, and packed them into vials filled with a mixture of soil and seeds. We also filled a pair of pyramid-shaped ceramic vessels with a communal seed mixture, and sealed them with wax.

Photo credit: Catie Rafferty
Photo credit Catie Rafferty

After our conversation and seed packing activity, we focused on burying our seedy time capsule. We reflected on how seeds and plants engage the soil, then worked together to dig a hole in the side yard of the soon-to-be environmental education center, looking for roots and artifacts as we dug. The determined team managed to dig down more than three feet into the rocky, rubble filled soil. We placed one of the ceramic vessels and seven glass vials in the bottom of the hole, and covered them with soil. We also mixed in a “mycobacterium vacce soil cannonball” made by artist Moira Williams and provided to us by Sanctuary intern Julia Cavicchi.

In a final team effort, we moved a huge slab of slate onto the raw soil where we’d buried the seeds. Soon we’ll add a plaque announcing our intention to return and unbury the seeds in 2042, the year climate change will be fully upon us here in the North Eastern United States (thanks Andres Chang for the link).


NATURE Lab Open Hours: Lawn Lab!

Establishing a test plot at Freedom Square (photo by Luke Bateman)

The Sanctuary’s NATURE Lab is hosting a project by PhD student and NATURE Lab volunteer Ellie Irons called Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory. One study site for the project is at Freedom Square, where Irons and workshop participants removed a square of lawn to see what plants would sprout in its place. The site got a makeover last week, so stop by and take a look to see what’s growing in the 1 x 1 meter square of bare earth! You can read more about the project here. You can here Ellie talk about a related project, the Next Epoch Seed Library, in this WOOC segment. Below, photos of soil sampling & plant surveying with NATURE Lab summer intern Maya Sandem (at the Ingalls Avenue brownfield), and soil seed bank tests underway inside NATURE Lab. Come by and visit us Tuesdays 4-6 pm at open hours at 3334 6th Ave!

Soil sampling at Ingalls Ave Brownfield: the view from President’s street into Ingalls Ave brownfield
Hole from the soil auger, surrounded by yellow sweet clover
Black medic at Ingalls Avenue Brownfield
Yellow sweet clover at Ingalls Avenue Brownfield
Bird’s foot trefoil at Ingalls Avenue Brownfield
white clover at at Ingalls Avenue Brownfield
Indoor soil seed bank germination tests at NATURE Lab
Soil from RPI approach (indoor soil seed bank germination tests at NATURE Lab)
South Troy lawn soil sample (indoor soil seed bank germination tests at NATURE Lab)