Schrooming

The rainy weather we’ve been having has delayed our fall plantings, but it’s been great for mushrooms.

We took some of the mushrooms we found lately that we hoped were edible to the market yesterday to show to a couple of our friends who are wild mushroom experts–master chef Chris King of King-Cropp Farm and Vernon Pearce of Greenberry Hollow Farm.

Chicken-of-the-woods

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When they saw our chicken-of-the-woods and chanterelles they both lit up with excitement.

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They confirmed what we (read Cherie) thought.  They were both edible delicacies, selling for $16-20/lb.  Of course we weren’t planning to sell them.  We did trade some of the chicken-of-the-woods for a couple of oyster mushroom logs and some kombucha, but we kept most for ourselves.  As soon as we got home Cherie sauteed the chanterelles. Delicious.

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We had some of the chicken-of-the-woods for supper. Super delicious.

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Then we headed out to forage more.

We discovered several blue milkcaps.

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And best of all, lots of chanterelles.

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We’re having a mushroom omelette made with the chanterelles for breakfast this morning.  We’ll be enjoying plenty of delicious mushrooms for a while.

Nature’s bounty never ceases to amaze.

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Sunflowers

Our sunflower garden came in beautifully this year.

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There are so many bees feasting on the flowers that the garden hums.

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We’ve been selling freshly cut sunflowers at the market and we have heads and flowers drying in the basement.  One or two of the heads provide enough seeds for an entire large garden.

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We’ve been enjoying the company of the goldfinches who come for the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder.

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In a few months the seeds we’re harvesting now will be treats for the birds who spend their winter here.

Reducing Waste

We aim to have very little waste on this farm.  Anything that we harvest and don’t sell or eat ourselves goes to the pigs or chickens.  Anything organic that they won’t eat goes to the compost pile.  Our tea leaves and coffee grounds and filters go to the worm bin.

Nothing says "sustainable" better than a big steaming pile of compost

Nothing says “sustainable” better than a big steaming pile of compost

Sweet corn culls and watermelon rinds make great chicken feed

Sweet corn culls and watermelon rinds make great chicken feed

Chemical-free heirloom tomatoes for lunch

Chemical-free heirloom tomatoes for lunch

We recycle all paper, plastic, glass, metal and oil and we’re careful to avoid buying things with excessive packaging.

Back when we were living the suburban life I’d roll a couple of large trash cans out to the curb twice a week.  Now I probably carry off a trashcan of trash about once a month.

I’m sure we can do better, but it’s good to know that we’ve reduced our share of the mountains of trash that our culture sends to landfills every day.

 

Welcome Back

One of the joys of seasonal eating is the pleasure that comes from that first bite of asparagus, that first ripe tomato, that first cucumber slice, that first piece of watermelon, and from knowing that anything worth having is worth waiting for. So as we’re saying goodbye till next year to some of our favorite veggies, we’re welcoming the first delicious cantaloupes of the year.

Welcome back cantaloupes.

FCLD

I just read that our state’s former attorney general (and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate) has launched an interesting new business.  Instead of moving on to the lucrative pastures known as “consulting” (as so many former politicians do), he has formed a company called “Virginia Self Defense Law” (their website is HERE), which for a fee of $135-150/year provides prepaid legal services to anyone who later is named as a defendant in a criminal or civil proceeding arising out of the use of a firearm.

That seems a bit weird to me. I have to wonder why anyone would think something like that to be so likely that they’d prepay for a lawyer to defend them.  I suppose it would be a good bargain for anyone who is planning to do something that will likely make them a defendant. If anyone buys this and does end up getting sued or prosecuted for an offense arising out of the use of a firearm, I expect the prosecutor/plaintiff’s counsel would have a field day with that fact.

Having said that, we farmers have something similar, but more sensible.  We’re members of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. As members, in addition to supporting advocacy for food freedom we are able to consult with an FCLD staff attorney for advice on matters related to government regulation of direct sales of farm-produced food, and to obtain potential representation in the event the farm becomes the subject of some USDA action (as often happens with farms selling raw milk).

FCLD membership makes sense to me.  Prepaid defense for being prosecuted for crimes involving the use of a gun?  Not so much.

 

Raised Beds

One of the many advantages to gardening in raised beds is that it’s not necessary to till them.  We’ve been swamped with rain over the past two weeks, making it impossible for me to till and prepare our fall gardens.  Although we have some raised beds, I planted sweet potatoes in them once the spring lettuce was done, and the sweet potatoes won’t be ready to harvest until October.  So yesterday, in the rain, I began making some more raised beds.  I’ve been planning to add more anyway, but the prospect of a muddy remainder to summer motivated me to move that project up the priority list.

Raised beds, overflowing with sweet potato vines.

Raised beds, overflowing with sweet potato vines.

With raised beds, crop plants can be grown close together (there being no need to leave space for walking or tractor tires).  Not only does this dramatically increase the yield in a given area, it has the effect of crowding out and smothering most weeds, cutting back on the time spent weeding.  And without the soil compaction caused by a tractor, weeding is much easier.  With a smaller area under cultivation, the available compost and organic matter can be concentrated on the area where the crops are grown, enriching the soil faster and more efficiently.  With a smaller area to protect, it’s easier to keep the deer out too.

Many people incorrectly assume that you have to have a large farm in order to grow enough food to feed yourself, or make a significant impact on your food budget.  But, using raised or permanent beds, a typical city lot is more than large enough to provide food for a family.

We may gradually transition to that style of farming, but for now we’re still primarily using our 18 large gardens, emphasizing crop rotation and cover cropping.  If I was starting all over again I’d probably try to implement a more intensive method of raising vegetables, using raised beds or permanent beds, rather than row crops that require a tractor for cultivation. For anyone thinking of trying to start growing some of your own food, I’d recommend starting with a backyard raised bed or two.

My Symphony

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.

William Henry Channing