How to watch the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in Middle Tennessee


Trudy Capootie quality checks the Solar Eclipse viewers at Half Hill Farm.

On Monday, August 21, 2017 at 12:29 p.m., a total solar eclipse will pass almost directly over Woodbury, TN and last a whole 1 minute and 47 seconds. The partial eclipse will begin 11 a.m. and end at 1:55 p.m. It’s a once in a lifetime event for most people, and a swath of America will share this celestial event with us.

In a time when shared experiences are increasingly rare, the solar eclipse can bring together millions of people at the same time to marvel at the universal precision and geometry of something greater than us. If the weather is good, you will likely want to look up and share in the experience yourself.

FREE Solar Eclipse Glasses: We’re giving away solar eclipse viewers that you see Trudy modeling above. They are yours free with any purchase at our store in the Arts Center of Cannon County while they last. These viewers are ISO compliant for direct observation of the Sun – and they were made right here in Tennessee!

When and Where to view the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Click the map below to see NASA’s interactive 2017 solar eclipse viewer. Once loaded, click the map to see instant calculations for that point on the map.Here are a few local events you may want to consider:

How hugelkultur can help heal the planet

Hugelkultur is German for “hill culture.” It’s a composting method that allows you to grow food while longer decay processes break down large volumes of buried or mounded wood. It’s an amazing way to sequester carbon and help reduce CO2 outputs that recently have been measured at record levels along with record setting heat. It’s also something you can commit to doing right now to make a difference this Earth Day.

The problem: According to a 2010 report by the EPA, the total global emissions of carbon since the Industrial Revolution are estimated at 270 F 30 Pg (Pg = petagram = 10*15 g = 1 billion ton) due to fossil fuel combustion and 136 F 55 Pg due to changes in land use and agriculture. That’s 400 metric tons of carbon. The potential of soil organic carbon sequestration through composting is roughly 1 F 0.3 Pg C/year, or 1/3 the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 per year (which is 3.3 Pg C/year).

A backyard solution: All of that simply means composting yard wastes could reduce the annual increases in carbon output over the next 20 years by 30%. That’s not through an act of Congress or demanding corporations do anything. That’s a 30% reduction made by each of us in our own backyard. Composting yard waste simply takes all the carbon that your trees and plants sucked out of the air and puts it back in the ground (sequester) where it increases the health of soil, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, increases water conservation and reduces CO2 emissions. When we burn yard wastes or send food wastes to landfills, we release stored carbon and converted methane into the atmosphere and become part of the problem.

How to make a hugelkultur: The process is pretty simple and a perfect way to get rid of brush, control erosion, retain water and create carbon-rich beds that will produce a lot of food. One thing we’ve added to our hugelkultur beds is old mushroom logs we hope will fruit as well.

  1. Collect carbon: this can be sticks, logs, wood chips, leaves, dried or freshly cut weeds. If you can keep a brush pile going for years, the decaying wood makes a great addition to kick-start the compost process.
  2. Dig a trench in the shape of the bed or hill you want. If you are addressing erosion, keep the trench along contours to capture or slow surface water. 2 feet is deep enough.
  3. Place a thin bed of stick in the bottom and then place your largest logs on top of that. Surround the log with more sticks and cover with wood chips and some of the dirt you dug up.
  4. Super charge your hugelkultur with mushroom logs. Myceliated mushroom logs will break down quicker while also producing edible and medicinal mushrooms. There is naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi in healthy soil that will network itsway through your hugelkultur, but you can also introduce various fungi in a powerful way.
  5. Cover with dirt and compost if you want to immediately plant in your bed or mound. Cover with nitrogen inputs like green manure (fresh grass or weed cuttings) or animal manure if you plan to plant next season.

You will notice the bed adjust quickly after a few rains followed by a slow decay that makes the surface sink. Over time, the heavier logs will disintegrate. What’s happening is mycelium, microbes, insects and decomposition are making a rich mix of carbon and nutrients for whatever you want to plant. You can plant perennial herbs or annual fruits and vegetables for years as long as you continually amend with inputs from your property. The two beds pictured here took about 1.5 tons of carbon inputs this year alone.

Kombucha starter kit – how to make kombucha at home

If you regularly drink kombucha you already know the many health benefits of this fizzy fermented beverage. Did you know you can make it yourself? Our new kombucha starter kits are everything you need to brew your own organic kombucha at home! Our kits include:

  • 1 SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) in 1 cup of kombucha mother
  • 1 cup of organic raw sugar
  • half ounce of organic Assam black tea
  • a 2 gallon glass crock
  • a cover and string
  • a one-page instruction sheet

HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA AT HOME
Order your kombucha starter kit from Half Hill Farm online. Each kit comes with more detailed instructions, but here are some basics for home brewers:

  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil, turn off heat and add half ounce of loose black tea. Let steep for 4 minutes, then strain out tea and dissolve a cup of sugar in the tea.
  2. Pour into clean glass crock, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Open SCOBY pack and pour all the contents into the crock, cover and secure with string. (TIP: make sure your pH is 4.0 or lower to prevent bad bacteria and molds. You can lower the pH with more kombucha mother. Cheap pH meters will work for a while as long as you keep them calibrated.)
  4. Allow to sit on the counter out of direct sunlight for 7-14 days. Use a straw to gently push aside SCOBY to pull a sample. When it is sour enough, it is ready for flavoring and bottling. (TIP: If you see defined patches of green, brown, white or black fuzzy spots on the surface of your SCOBY, toss the entire batch and start over. The perfect kombucha fermentation temperature range is 75-85 degrees. Do not stir during fermentation. You will see an explosion of yeast as brown strands followed by them falling to the bottom as a thin new SCOBY forms on the top. It may appear cloudy at first and begin clarifying close to the end. You can use thinner cheese cloth, but risk contaminants slipping through and landing on your SCOBY. Use fabric that does not prevent the air flow needed for your surface fermentation.)
  5. Remove SCOBY and at least 1 cup of mother per gallon of new kombucha you want to make later and set aside in a clean bowl covered with a napkin.
  6. Strain the kobucha to remove large strands of yeast or pieces of SCOBY. Flavor with organic cold pressed juices of your choice starting with a cup of juice per gallon to taste.
  7. Pour into pressurized bottles (do not use glass designed for vacuum such as canning jars). Cap and allow to sit at room temperature for 2-5 days during which time a secondary fermentation will increase carbonation (it will also decrease sweetness, increase alcohol and increase yeast and form a small SCOBY – control this with refrigeration). Place in fridge to stop fermentation and enjoy! (TIP: beer bottles work but can explode if secondary fermentation goes too long. Use flip-tops, or swing-top bottles instead. They are expensive but well worth it.)

Want to keep it going without needing to buy more SCOBYs and mother? Take the SCOBY and mother you set aside in step 5 and repeat the entire process using your new SCOBY and mother! It’s that simple.

Need to replace your SCOBY and mother? We have you covered. You can order Half hill Farm’s SCOBY’s with mother through our online store or our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County.

Health benefits of kombucha: By transforming a Southern staple beverage of many meals (sweet tea) with the natural process of fermentation, you reduce your sugar intake while aiding in digestion with the introduction of organic chemicals that are increasingly missing and eliminated from packaged and processed foods. The primary organic acid in kombucha responsible for helping the body process blood sugars is the acetic acid (vinegar) you smell and taste as “sour.” Another acid that helps the body detoxify by binding to fat soluble toxins in the liver and making them water soluble and easier to flush out in urine is gluconic acid. Look up more benefits these two acids play in your health and well being. Digestion is also aided with a healthy balance of probiotic bacteria used to ferment the alcohol to various organic acids. These good bacteria help bring your gut’s biome in proper balance.

Got any questions? Leave them in comments. We are happy to help spread the culture and appreciation of fermentation, better health and well being!

Free fermentation workshop – make your own kombucha


Half Hill Farm’s Christian Grantham demonstrates how to make kombucha at home

THANK YOU to everyone who came out Saturday October 29 for our free fermentation workshop demonstrating how to make your own kombucha from home! The workshop also featured our kitchen partners and fermentation revivalist and New York Times best-selling author Sandor Katz!

Getting the most from your Shiitake mushroom log

Shiitake mushroom logs in the woods at half Hill Farm

Last night looks like the last of forecasted freezing temperatures for early Spring here in Middle Tennessee. If you have one of our Shiitake mushroom logs marked SP15 (Spring 2015) or earlier, now is the time to prep your log for an early Spring flush.

Shocking logs: Get a five gallon bucket and fill it with rain water or water from a nearby creek and then soak your log for 24 hours. Place the log in a wooded area with roughly 80% shade. You can place it under a bush near your house’s North side if you do not have woods. If you have more than one log, use a larger tub like the one pictured above. The water should not be chlorinated tap water and should be very cold. This hard soak and cold temperature followed by the gradual warming of outdoor Spring temps will “shock” the mycelium into “pinning,” the beginning stages of mushrooms.

Pinning: Each pin that forms pushes through the bark as you see pictured above and will develop into the beginnings of a mushroom within 2-3 days followed by a rapidly growing mushroom over a five day period. Depending on the weather throughout Spring, you could experience 2-3 natural cycles of mushrooms with roughly two week resting periods between each flush.

Harvest: Once you start to see the mushrooms unfurl their outer edge (typically tucked under the mushroom cap), it is time to pick mushrooms. At this point, the mushroom is in the early phase of releasing its spore. Simply cut them off at the log, brush off any debris and either eat them fresh, store them in the fridge for up to two weeks, or dry them to use for months to come.

How to purchase: Each Shiitake mushroom log from Half Hill Farm produces up to 90% of the log’s dry weight in mushrooms over a 3-5 year period. You can purchase your own inoculated logs from 15 lbs. one foot logs up to 50+ lbs. four feet logs at our farm here in Woodbury, TN. Just give us a call and let us know you’re coming!

How to get more vitamin D from your Shiitake mushroom harvest


Shiitake mushrooms growing on oak logs at Half Hill Farm in Woodbury, TN

If you purchased a Shiitake mushroom log from Half Hill Farm that is tagged “F14,” now is the time to follow your soaking / shocking steps to get your first edible mushrooms within a week.

Once your Shiitake mushroom log starts producing mushrooms, there’s a simple technique that dramatically increases their vitamin D before you either eat them or dehydrate them for long term storage.

Mycologist Paul Stamets details this simple process and science here, but the basic steps are pretty simple:

  1. Remove stems and slice into roughly half inch slices.
  2. Spread slices evenly on drying racks (anything that allows air flow) in the sunshine with the gills facing up for 6 peak hours avoiding early morning dew and evening moisture.
  3. Bring the mushrooms indoors overnight to avoid humidity, then repeat 6 hours of sun exposure the next day to achieve 12 total peak hours of UV exposure.
  4. Finish completely drying your Shiitake mushrooms in a dehydrator, and store them in sealed jars. To enjoy anytime, simply soak them for an hour and follow most any recipe for fresh mushrooms.

According to Stamets, Shiitake mushrooms that are not exposed to sun may have less than 40 IU/100g of vitamin D. With the steps above, you can expect 46,000 IU/100g of vitamin D, D2, D3, and D4!

To achieve healthy serum levels of vitamin D exclusively from your dried Shiitake mushrooms, you will need to eat no more than 10 grams a day which is roughly equivalent to 100 grams of fresh Shiitake (3.6 ounces).

Purchase your own mushroom log: Our one foot Shiitake mushroom logs are available for scheduled pick up on our farm in Woodbury, TN. They are $22 and will produce 15-20 lbs. of mushrooms over a 3-5 year period. Here is how to get yours.

Make your own mushroom log: Schedule your own private 2-3 hour mushroom log workshop for groups of up to four people on our farm, take home the log you make, and start turning your own logs into a sustainable food source. Here’s how to schedule your workshop.

DISCLAIMER: I am a farmer. I am not a doctor. Please consult your physician before using any of our products or advice for health purposes.

Grow your own mushrooms with our inoculated logs

What better way to celebrate the first full day of Spring than inoculating some locally harvested oak with medicinal and edible mushrooms! These one foot Red Reishi, Shiitake and Turkey Tail mushroom logs from Half Hill Farm are available for local pick up ($22) or ordering online if you live outside the area. We accept most major credit cards. Call 615-469-7778 for pick up.

Each log comes with instructions on how to care for your log to ensure it produces for many years to come. You can expect between 50% – 90% of the log’s weight in mushrooms over the years depending on the variety and proper care.

We also offer spawn pegs in 100 count units to inoculate your own logs. These are $12 per unit (100 will inoculate roughly three 4 feet logs) and are created from our cultivated spawn in the farm’s Shroomery lab. 500 or more are $10 per unit. These also come with basic instructions. Check out our other products for the more advanced mushroom grower.

Workshops: We do Spring and Fall workshops for small groups up to four people by appointment. You’ll learn all the basics in a quiet rural farm setting 12 miles East of Murfreesboro, TN and take home the log you inoculate.

Medicinal Reishi mushroom extract infused chocolates

Test batch #2 of our medicinal Reishi mushroom extract infused semi-sweet chocolates came out excellent! The bitterness of the reduced dual extract (upper right) was completely complimentary to the chocolate, and we put a full daily dose of our Reishi mushroom extract in each serving size.

The next step is to make these with locally made chocolate and experiment with a couple other ingredients before packaging and making them available. We’re excited about sharing the many noted health benefits of Reishi mushrooms in a manageable serving of chocolate.

RECIPE: Red Reishi and Turkey Tail mushroom extracts


2 1/2 quarts of Red Reishi extract made at Half Hill Farm. Purchase our 1:1 dual extracts.

Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) mushrooms have been widely known for their medicinal value for centuries. Today, new studies reveal anti-cancer and anti-viral properties of high concentrations of polysaccharide K (PSK – an approved cancer drug) and lesser studied triterpenoids in both mushrooms. Last year, the FDA approved a $5 million study focusing on use of Turkey Tail PSK adjunctive treatment for stage four colon and lung cancers after promising results from an NIH study on breast cancer patients.

Many people mistake these two particular mushrooms as edible. Some websites actually prescribe so many grams of these dried mushrooms. The fact is, you cannot fully digest these medicinal mushrooms. The protein-bound polysaccharides can only be extracted through a several hour decoction process while triterpenoids typically are extracted over several days in an alcohol solution. You certainly won’t die eating these mushrooms, but the best way to realize the full health benefits is to create a single or dual extract.

SINGLE EXTRACT (DECOCTION): A typical decoction is a 1 oz of dry mushroom to 1 cup of water. A single decoction will extract water solubles such as polysaccaharide K (PSK) and beneficial polypeptides (PSP).

  • 1 oz dried Red Reishi or dried Turkey Tail mushrooms
  • 2 cups of distilled or purified water

Take 1 oz. of the mushroom of your choice and place them in 2 cups of water. If you are using Reishi you will need to chop it up as close to 1 inch squares as you can. You can break it up into small pieces. Boil for 3-4 hours, reduce to between a light boil and simmer after the first 30 minutes. At the end, remove the mushrooms. You will then want to filter out any pieces of mushrooms. Your two cups should have reduced to close to a cup, including whatever you can squeeze out of your mushrooms.

Jar and store in the fridge for about 1 week before discarding. Take 2-6 teaspoons twice daily. Reishi is very bitter and best in coffee or soup broths.

DUAL EXTRACT: To extract antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral triterpenoids and other medicinal compounds present in the fruit body of the mushrooms, you will need to take the mushrooms from the first process and place them in a high proof alcohol for a month and blend them using proofing formulas.

OTHER USES: Our first use for these extracts is 1 tablespoon in 16 oz. soup servings we are making for Vince’s mother who was recently diagnosed at age 72 with stage IV lung cancer.

You can put 2 teaspoons of either extract in coffee and tea, or slightly more in soup, stews, or water you use to cook things like rice or even larger recipes calling for fluids.

WHERE TO GET: Growing your own medicinal mushrooms and following the steps above is the most affordable way to get extracts. We offer 1 foot logs inoculated with either mushrooms through our online store or larger logs for pick up at our farm in Woodbury, TN. This is the most economical way to grow your own. It takes several months for the logs to fruit and will produce seasonally for 3-5 years.

PURCHASE NOW: Our farm makes quality dual extracts of both Turkey Tail and Red Reishi mushrooms using distilled water and USDA certified organic alcohol (USP). Buy our Turkey Tail or Red Reishi extracts online.

Ganoderma Lucidum dual extract

Research on Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) mushrooms

Research on Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms

DISCLAIMER: I am a farmer. I am not a doctor. Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Saving seeds from last year’s crop

Seeds are pretty inexpensive, and you can find just about any variety of anything in the world online. But this year we selected seeds from some of our best organic plants that were left in the garden to fully mature and produce seeds well into Autumn.

I take small brown paper bags, place the seeds in them, label them with the variety and date and allow them to fully dry for a couple weeks. Since warm temps and humidity can ruin your seeds, place them in small airtight jars and then store in a cool place like your fridge.

Fermenting Seed: This year I went a step further with my tomato seeds by fermenting them. This removes the seed’s gel which contains a germination inhibitor and other potential disease. The entire process take about 5 days, but the steps are pretty easy.

 

Take a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of filtered water and place the freshly harvested tomato seeds in the water and sit in a cupboard for 3-5 days. Over time, the seeds will float and then sink. A film or mold will develop over the top and the water will become a little cloudy. It will also smell really bad. This is normal.

Close to the 5th day, or when all the seeds have sunk to the bottom, carefully remove the top film and then add water. What you are wanting to do is stir up the pulp and other sediment to slowly pour off until you can put the seeds in a sieve and rinse. Set them aside on a paper plate (seeds will stick to napkins) to dry. You should have fuzzy seeds ready to plant next year!