Spring Beekeeping Workshop

Spring Beekeeping Workshop
Demonstration Hive

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Schitaake Mushroom Planting Day Party

We have 12 acres of land here, so you'd think we would have lots and lots of room for crops, right? Actually, not as much as you would think. We may have only about one acre of open, relatively level ground for growing food.  The rest of our land is quite rugged and rocky, very steep in places or is wetland, ponds or streams.  It is really beautiful and diverse and is home to countless bird species and all kinds of wild animals including bear, coyote, fox, and many smaller mammals too.

Trying to obtain a yield from the wooded parts of our land is really fun and interesting.  There are obvious things to harvest e.g. firewood and building lumber and tree fruits such as hickories and acorns. 

Under the trees is the perfect habitat for logs impregnated with mushroom spores so we are trying our hand at Shitaakes.  We have already spread Winecap mushroom spores in beds of compost covered with wood chips under our fruit trees. That species will take more sun exposure than the Schitaakes.

To pass on the knowledge about this fun "farming" activity, we invited a few of our closest and earthiest friends over on a Sunday morning recently to help us plug the fresh cut oak logs with the mushroom spore plugs.  Of course, it was the coldest morning to date at about 20 degrees so we made a makeshift firepit on the driveway with cinder blocks.  The fire really threw off a lot of heat and kept everyone comfortable, along with hot tea and coffee from a never-ending pot.

The first task is to drill small holes into the logs in a uniform diamond pattern around the circumference  of each log.  Then we pounded the plugs into these small holes with rubber mallets.  The last task is to seal the plugs over with melted wax painted on with small paint brushes.  The fire came in handy to keep the wax melted - since it was so cold out, the wax only stayed melted for a few minutes at a time.

When all the logs were done, they were set out under trees in a very moist area as close to the house as possible.  It will be important to keep an eye on them from next spring on to see if they start to "flush" the mushrooms.  When the mushrooms emerge, they must be harvested as quickly as possible otherwise flies or slugs will infest and ruin them.

We've been told that once the logs start producing, they may continue, on and off, for a few months, and then again in subsequent years.  That would be really lovely!  Either way, though, we plan to do more next year and keep a continuous supply coming.  We can sell them to restaurants, at farmers' markets or preserve them by drying or freezing, for our own use.

All intrepid helpers enjoyed a sumptuous pot luck brunch afterwards and took home a couple of logs to try at their homes.

I'll be sure to post pictures next year when our logs start producing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Farmers Occupy Wall Street

My choices are now predicated on 2 beliefs:
1. The planet can no longer sustain a consumptive lifestyle that has been perpetrated during the industrial era, advertising agencies, and the notion of a continuously, and forever, growing economy with disregard for the finite nature of natural resources, on which that growing economy is based.
2. We can mimic nature, because we are part of it. By doing so, we can design a new “old” way of living that will sustain itself and be healthier and everlasting.
In these beliefs I have, of course, been influenced by many great thinkers who have written on many subjects stemming from these core ideas. There are also many writers and thinkers who have used their art or science to demonstrate what is wrong. There are many who are demonstrating how we can try to put things right.

To join people who are demonstrating publicly, in the streets, I journeyed to New York City on Sunday, December 11, 2011, with my friend, Jennifer, to be part of "Farmers' March Occupy Wall Street". This rally of several hundred people gathered at La Plaza Cultural at 9th Street and Avenue B, a lovely community garden space in a Lower East Side area with a lot of visible gardens on many blocks. After 2 hours of speeches by prominent activists in the national farming and Permaculture movements, we formed into a broad column to walk to Zuccoti Park at Wall Street.

Speakers at the event included Karen Washington, Founder of City Farms Market and board member at NYC based organization, Just Food; Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic farmer and lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and was named one of 25 World Visionaries by Utne Reader in 2011; Severine von Tscharner Fleming, food advocate and producer of the film "Green Horns" profiling young farmer entrepreneurs; Jalal Sabur, Founding member of the Freedom Food Alliance, an alliance of black urban comunities with black rural farmers; Mike Callicrate, Colorado rancher, entrepreneur and rural political activist; Andrew Faust, Permaculture expert and educator.

What struck me vividly was the cross section of generations at this event - the aging baby boomers and older generations, and many young people from all walks of life. The younger people will have to carry the torch for food security and social justice now. It won't be an easy task but I am confident, after seeing the vitality and enthusiasm of those present at this event, that it will happen.