Organic mushroom production begins at Half Hill Farm

Today is the first day of Fall and the official start of our organic Shiitake and Maitake mushroom production at Half Hill Farm!

This Summer we began working with a couple of local mills to source high quality organic wheat bran and hardwood sawdust for our indoor mushroom grow operation. Maitake jars (Hen of the Woods) and Shiitake blocks start in the Shroomery this weekend. Yesterday, we inoculated about 60 white oak logs we got when Mr. Logan had to take an old tree down after a bad storm.

Everything about growing mushrooms feels right. While producing a food with near magical health benefits, we are also sequestering larger volumes of carbon from felled trees into our soil through compost creating a multi-threaded sustainable loop that increases the health of our soil, our food and ultimately our planet.

Availability: It will take a few weeks before the first mushrooms appear, and you know we’ll post results along the way on Facebook like doting parents.

Our organic mushrooms will be available fresh by the pound to individuals or local restaurants or dry by the ounce online. Starting next year, we’ll host workshops and make fully inoculated logs, blocks and jars for folks wanting to grow their own mushrooms at home.

Old maps find their way home

Elder Jones went places – Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Massachusetts, Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky. He’s an awesome concrete artist and a little bit of an admitted hoarder. He eventually found his way to Readyville, TN where he left a few things from his life travels, including this wonderful box of maps.

I love maps, and I especially love this very personal collection and how practical and necessary a resource it was to someone finding their way in the world. Elder eventually found his way in love and married.

When Nora Robinson bought his place on the Stones River across from the Readyville Mill, she thought enough to keep the maps and a few other things Elder had to leave behind for a new life. She brought the maps over yesterday and warned me that what we were about to do with them was as permanent as concrete.

Organic vittles at the Woodbury Farmers Market

We had no idea our first year’s test patches would produce anything near enough to go to market. Maybe it’s all the rain. Maybe it’s a couple of exciting farm practices working in our favor.

Whatever it is, we’re enjoying meeting our neighbors Saturdays at our local Woodbury Farmers Market just a couple miles from the farm.

We’re one of about seven vendors, and we’re proud to offer our organic produce and small batch craft food products at conventional prices. Some of our seasonal products that will only last as long as the garden puts out are 16 oz. Raw Salsa (our most popular item), 16 oz. Spicy Dill Pickles, 16 oz. Pickled Peperoncinis (my personal favorite!) and 8 oz. Pesto. We also have limited tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, various peppers and basil with sugar baby watermelons and crook-neck summer squash coming soon. The USDA Certified Organic apples and blueberries will start coming in next year. Earlier this Summer, we gave our first harvest of Cascade hops to members of the Middle-State Brew Club and hope to bring more to the market in coming years.

   

If you’re out on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to noon, be sure to stop by the Arts Center of Cannon County (click here for map and driving directions) where the market is located and support local agriculture. You may start seeing construction of a 60 x 100 open-air market pavilion very soon to provide needed space with power and water for local farmers. We’re very excited about the market’s growth and serving our community with quality organic vittles grown and made right here in Woodbury!

The lessons of yesteryear are today’s opportunities

This week I helped a friend go through his mother’s attic at their historic Century Farm in nearby Readyville, TN and was reminded of a different time in our nation’s history.

Mary Dee Ready Cates grew up there during the Great Depression and appeared to have kept every scrap rag and glass jar they ever used. I was amazed at all of the American name brands on stuff she kept that simply don’t exist anymore. Steve gave me several of these old two and one quart blue Ball Perfect Mason jars pictured above that we found in the rafters around the chimney as well as an old pressure cooker Mary used to can food. They were some of the only items made by American companies that still exist today.

It’s an era that’s easy to romanticize in hindsight, but for many rural citizens in Tennessee at the time poverty was its own Great Depression. My grandmother told me her family knew there was a Depression going on but already lived so hard it didn’t bother them as much. They made their own clothes, toys and food. Things like oranges and chocolate were luxuries. For her family, the lessons of the time weren’t about being prepared as much as it was about being humble.

During the Great Recession, you would never have known we were a nation at war struggling to pay our bills watching the media’s reflection of a consumer culture in complete denial. If it weren’t for our investments in national infrastructure and social safety nets since the Great Depression, that would be a very different story.

We are fortunate to have so many choices today in how we struggle as a nation. Do we value the lowest price and the easy way out of hard work in exchange for the not so hidden costs to our communities, or do we heed the lesson to value something bigger? Humility, living modestly and sustainably, are values that are as important today as they’ve ever been.

The wisdom of organic farming pioneers

This weekend’s TN Organic Growers Association conference provided a wonderful opportunity to meet one of Tennessee’s organic pioneers. Alfred Farris and his wife Carney moved to their 487 acre farm in Orlinda, TN 39 years ago expecting a hard life following their values. At 82, Alfred attributes their health and well-being to a decision to live harmoniously with the planet.

On Friday, Alfred told us that his mission in life is to be a steward of the soil, caring for and protecting this chance at life we have. He anchors his farm practices to his faith citing the Genesis creation story.

“It’s right there in the Bible,” Alfred says with an assured conviction. “The Hebrew translations for Adam, or ‘Adamah,’ is ‘soil,’ and Eve is ‘life.’”

Alfred and Carney have placed their entire certified organic farm in a trust hoping to ensure the property will be an organic farm forever. Learn more about Windy Acres Farm.

Converting a smokehouse to a private bath in Columbia, TN

Noah, Jacklynn and their son Ace live like pioneers on their beautiful and very old 15 acre farm in Columbia, TN. We’re jealous most of the time.

They’re restoring an old 1800s farm house and cabin on the property while staying in a small Airstream. The cramped quarters have basically turned their entire yard into one giant all-season outdoor living space shared with chickens, dogs and a small pony.

Jacklynn keeps a Tumblr that showcases her eye for the charm of rural living while documenting this beautiful experience. It’s called Log Cabin and a Pony.

Despite it being in the 30s and spitting flurries throughout the day Vince and I came to lend a hand, they’ve gotten pretty use to the weather extremes. But when it comes to private time in the bathroom, they’ve got their priorities.

The outdoor solar shower worked amazingly well even in the Fall. Winter is a different story, so Noah is converting an old smokehouse to a bath (pictured behind Vince above). Jacklynn sounds content with it keeping a less than perfect feel, but Noah’s got other plans.

When he noticed the 100+ year old cedar posts holding the structure up were in remarkable condition, Noah straightened the structure, poured cement footings and let his carpentry skills go from there.

With a new 45 degree pitch roof opening the inside ceiling height, cedar shingled sideing, and soon to come paver floor and an old copper tub, it will fast become a sanctuary … if he thinks to make it lock from the inside.