Monday, August 17, 2009

In the Field

It's a busy time now here on the farm, especially now that we've noticed the leaves on the trees are starting to change color and fall. Once you notice the leaves falling you get a sense of urgency about finishing tasks before the cold weather comes.

Last night I picked a good quart of raspberries after supper. I'd like to pick some more berries before they disappear from around the big marsh. Maybe there will be blackberries down by the creek.

The hens are laying about 18 eggs a day now, and I collect them three times a day so they are as clean as possible. I ordered a freezer the other day from Sears so I will be able to start butchering the rest of those singing roosters soon.

Went out to the field this morning and started digging up the potatoes, and after lunch, Tom and Ed came out to help me. What potatoes we did get look good, but there were only two potatoes each from most of the plants. It's my fault though: I only hilled and weeded them once, gave them no fertilizer, and the only water they got was when it rained -- which wasn't much, so I have only myself to blame. I wanted to have a bushel to give my Dad for the winter, so Tom said he will give Dad a bushel from his garden. Dad likes those Kennebecs anyway. It is supposed to be nice again tomorrow so I told Tom we'll dig his potatoes. We'll see how many potatoes he gets and I'll decide how many spuds I can sell. It will be nice to finally have enough produce to take to the farmers market.

While I was out picking berries last evening, I took some pictures of a couple of plants I'm trying to identify. If you know what any of these plants are, please send me a comment.

Do you know if the berries from this plant are edible? It likes growing in the shade near my compost area.

This plant likes growing in the shade, too. The waxy green berries eventually turn black, and the plant grows about 2-3' tall. I usually find it near Basswood trees.

This plant develops white berries and the stems turn red. It also likes growing in the shade. All are definitely woodland plants.

I think I mentioned that I'm really getting interested in mushrooms after seeing the TED video of Paul Stamets talking about 6 ways to change the world with fungi. Well, I've found some mushrooms in the woods. I'm not sure, but I think the one is an oyster mushroom; the little ones I took off a downed tree I think are called Turkey Tails; and the last I think is called a Slippery Jim; it has small pores instead of gills beneath the cap. I cut the stems off and buried them in my compost pile. Then I put the caps on a sheet of paper to see if I can get spore prints from them.

Mushrooms seem to disappear quickly around here; I think the critters get them. There were a bunch of little brown mushrooms growing in the gravel of the driveway that I found the other day, and when I went back the next day with the camera to get a picture of them so I could try to identify them, they were all gone. Every last one of them. It is such an interesting subject. I am particularly interested in Mr. Stamet's use of mushrooms to build soil quickly. If I could use fungi to increase my soil fertility and combine the use of fungi with earthworms while continuing my green manure practice, I think my soil will improve quickly. While using green manures has made an improvement, being able to improve the soil more rapidly is even better. Learning how to increase mushroom spawn is low cost, and so is growing earthworms, so what with the economy getting ready to take another dive and the prices of agricultural inputs only going up, learning to harvest and work with Nature's gifts to improve my bottom line makes good sense and is very economically appealing -- not to mention how learning these skills help you be more self-sufficient.

I also watched David Blume's DVD, "Alcohol Can Be A Gas", last night and was intrigued by his statement that Dried Distiller's Grains With Solubles (DDGS) can be used very effectively as an organic fertilizer. (Reading the book and seeing the DVD is STRONGLY recommended!) I also read a recent study about using DDGS as a grain substitute in animal feed, especially poultry feed, because of its high protein value. I haven't looked into how much DDGS costs yet, but as it is a distillate by-product of ethanol production, I don't think it would be very expensive. While I would hesitate to use it in animal feed because there is no uniform commercial nutritional value standard yet available for DDGS (In other words, the DDGS obtained from one mill will probably differ in nutritional value from DDGS obtained from another mill -- e.g., the protein value will hover in the vicinity of +-27% and amino acid levels will vary so using it in formulating poultry feed would be tricky), I would be very interested in using it as an organic fertilizer along with fungi and earthworms. And speaking of earthworms, I checked my worm bin in the basement and saw worms moving around so I haven't killed them off yet. There was plenty of food still in the bin; I wonder if you can overfeed worms. . . .

Well, I am just a jabber font tonight, aren't I? Say, if you like to read my blog, why not make me look like I know what I'm talking about and become a follower?

Have a good evening, Everybody!


  1. Hello fellow neo-homesteader! The top photo is red baneberry and the bottom one is white baneberry or doll's eyes. Just from the names, I wouldn't eat either. Not sure about the middle one.
    We have about 6 acres of wooded hill in NW Lower MI, with a small garden, 2 bee hives, and lots of plans. Check out if you'd like.
    Good winter!

  2. Thanks, Kirk! I bookmarked your Snowy Hollow blog. I look forward to following your adventures in homesteading -- especially as I am a wannabee bee keeper!