Last weekend, urban gardener Amy Mullen traded her jeans for a corset and gown at the Indianapolis Steampunk Society’s Steampunk Through the Looking Glass at the Columbia Club.
Is there a relationship between growing your own food on a small city lot and steampunking? Yes, she said.
“Steampunk is a reaction to mass production, entertainment technology and homogenous design,” said Mullen, 42, who holds degrees in physics and management from DePauw University.
Steampunk celebrates the individual craftsman and appreciates technology you can look at and see how it works. The farm-to-fork movement is one response to outsourcing growing food to industrial agriculture. “With gardening, we recapture the skills we lost. There’s a streak of individualism and creativity that runs through both gardening and steampunking,” Mullen said.
Since buying her home in Irvington in 2000, Mullen has embraced the role of urban gardener. She has converted her city lot into an urban farm with vegetables and fruit trees in the front yard and two chickens cooped in the back.
Among the challenges of city gardening: Soil contamination, fighting squirrels, birds and cats and preventing people from traipsing through your garden.
The rewards are more than food on the table, though. “Because I moved my food garden to front of house where sun is best, I have met a lot of neighbors. That builds bonds. I get anonymous thank you notes,” especially for the strawberries she allows people to pick, she said.
For beginners with gardens in town or in the ‘burbs, Mullen recommends “starting small, something every gardener in history has been told. If you are interested in food, one 4-by-4 foot garden can provide salad crops for two adults all season.” She also suggests researching what you want to grow to increase your ability to succeed.
Her favorite plants are lavender, especially ‘Munstead’, because of the color and fragrance, and ‘Provence’ for its length of wands for crafts.
Gardening occupies Mullen’s day, too, as a designer for Spotts Garden Service, an Irvington company that aligns with her philosophy of organic and sustainable practices.
An Indianapolis native, Mullen comes from a long line of teachers and Spotts has opened up opportunities for her to share information. She teaches about gardening at farmers market and other venues. And, she blogs at fraudulentfarmgirl.com and at spottsgardens.com.
“Just don’t panic. Gardening is not an exact science. There’s a lot of trial and error and fun in the process,” she said.