April 19, 2013
While spring has been as hesitant as the last leaf holding on in the fall, we welcome it as the beautiful unpredictability of this life we have chosen. We find ourselves bundling up every morning, and taking regular breaks to warm our fingers. But we are not fooled by the chill in the air. So clearly is spring upon us, as our morning work is serenaded by the conductor-less, yet perfect, symphony of the myriad song birds. And as the day warms, the peepers come to life, and like hardcore party animals, go all day and through the night, lulling us to sleep at night and carrying on with their celebration of spring.
So what are we doing that I feel so hesitant to share? We are tilling. We continue to use extensive sheet mulching – laying down large rolls of paper and hay to smother pasture grass – followed by a minimal tilling to establish new planting areas. Then we use a bed former. The bed former replaces our shovels for the most part, and ultimately replaces weeks of intense work digging for half a day of tractor work. Our interns, volunteers, and MY BACK, are celebrating this one! Once the areas are established, we do not till them again. Light, fluffy soil is a myth! Good soil not only means what is in the soil, but the structure of the soil. Tilling destroys this structure that is an essential and integral habitat for the billions of microbial bits of life we rely on to grow the highest quality of food we can.
This decision to add mechanization to our operation came from another spring with an outpouring of requests to join our already full CSA. Maybe not the best place to make a decision from, but as our ties with our community strengthen, and our work continues to deepen as a labor of love, there is no better time for a decision than now. So that means, we are expanding the CSA even further this season. Maybe I’m too soft, but I just can’t say no to feeding people.
Finally, and so exciting here at Soul Fire, we started growing mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms to be exact. You may have read a few weeks back that we harvested logs for our mushroom operation as part of our larger land use and perennial plan. On Wednesday, Melissa, Capers and I inoculated close to 70 logs with mushroom spawn – a mixture of the mushroom growing mycellium and sawdust – at our recently constructed “inoculation station”. The logs are stacked in the woods near the pond and should produce their first crops early this fall and then regularly twice a year for anywhere from 3-8 years. While I think growing mushrooms for eating and making extra income generation is a great idea, fungus is a personal passion of mine that I know far too little about. Nonetheless, I thought this a good opportunity to share a few of the miracles of mushrooms that I have come across.
#1. Mushrooms have incredible healing qualities, many which remain untapped and unexplored. Several species are well known for their medicinal qualities in Eastern medicine. Yet many more mushrooms have healing qualities that range from being antiviral, antibiotic, cancer healing, anti-inflamatory, and the list goes on.
#2. In addition, fungus are the healers of forest ecosystems. The mycellial mat of a single fungus organism can stretch for miles. The mycellium are kind of like the roots of a fungus. Mushrooms are the “fruits”. Most of a fungus cannot be seen without peeling back a mat of leaves on the forest floor. These mats are so extensive that they have shown to divert nutrients from one healthy tree to a stressed tree through mycellial mats. In fact, it is fungus that are the only organism on earth capable of breaking down cellulose. Without mushrooms, there would be no soil on this planet, but rather piles of dead trees miles high. At least that’s how I think about it.
#3. The single largest organism in the world is actually a fungus, covering somewhere around 2200 acres. This happens to be a parasitic variety of mushroom that kills trees. Aerial photography shows this where it has decimated a forest. However, some edible fungus are beneficial to plants, which we hope to be growing in the gardens in the coming years.
#4. And this may be either exciting or disturbing to you. I find it exciting. Fungus, are more closely genetically related to humans than they are to plants. That’s right. Us and fungus branched off long after plants.
#5. And for the record, humans cannot digest raw mushrooms. They must be cooked. So the whole button mushrooms in salads, I hate to break it to you, but they are coming out the same way they went in.
I’ll leave it at that.
Have a wonderful week.
- THANK YOU! Almost all of you have paid your full CSA payments. If you still have balance, please let me know your plans for paying it. REMEMBER paying through Paypal is optional. You can pay with a check or cash and avoid the Paypal fees.
- If you are a shareholder, you can volunteer 5 hours over the course of the season in exchange for an additional week of food in the fall.
- Pasture raised poultry is available for pre-sale here.
- Remember that you are always welcome to visit socially and/or to volunteer. Give a call to schedule a time.
- All of our newsletters are archived on our website
- Please also like us on Facebook. There are larger picture albums there, and more being added each week.
- Return your cardboard egg cartons if they are clean.
- Summer Solstice Party is June 29. Dancing, trapeze, fire, food. Mark your calendars.