Stropharia first fruit

Yes! The Stropharia mushroom bale is fruiting with its first mushroom! The bugs were already enjoying the mushroom when I found it, so I left it for them to finish.

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I inoculated the straw bale the mushrooms are growing in earlier this spring by soaking it in one of our ponds for a month (a spring fed, clean pond) both to get it wet and let it ferment, and to drown any fungi already in the bale. Then, after the bale had dried for a day or two, I put mycelium I had purchased into it and let it sit

The location I have the bale in is a ledge I dug in the side of the water storage ditch below my Fukuoka-style grain patch. It is somewhat shaded there inside the ditch, because the side of the ditch blocks the sunlight; but I plan for it to be much more shaded once I have plants growing on the ditch wall. The bale is also well watered there, since it is on the side of the ditch where it can suck up water, water that I didn’t have to lug up there.

Since the bale is in such a good situation, I planted tomatoes into the straw — with some compost under them so thy aren’t in pure straw. The bale was already white with wonderful smelling mycelium when I dug the holes into the bale to plant the tomatoes, so the bale should have started breaking down, and the mushrooms should be feeding the plants the straw residues, and distributing water to them. The tomatoes look pretty healthy.

I hope to colonize a few more areas in the food forest from the mycelium in this bale. You could probable guess the first place I want to colonize is my Fukuoka- style grain patch, where the mushrooms can speed up the rate of decomposition, and hence, fertility by eating the straw I harvest, feeding their leftovers nutrients to the growing grains in a form the grains can easily absorb. In between, I get really tasty mushrooms, since Stropharia is an edible kind of mushroom, and a tasty one at that, if the taste is anything like the smell. I hope to post about what they taste like soon.

Group and Conquer!

Of all the weeds that will inhabit a garden, grass is the worst. It is not all that bad in singular form –that is singular root, singular blade, singular plant. But grass grows in numbers, and while an individual grass root is rather fine and easily broken, an established grass root system is unbreakable without a shovel. Likewise, singular grass blades don’t shade too much in the garden, but if they close the gaps? Grass has perfected the art of group and conquer.

In starting a food forest, or garden, most people don’t start with a well tilled, weed free piece of ground; they start with grass. This can be a big problem if you are the kind of person who frowns on tillage, abhors grass poison, and try’s to avoid bringing in outside resources such as for foot thick sheet mulch made of wood chips, newspaper, cardboard and all that. In this situation, there isn’t much a person can do, accept revert to one of the above approaches, unless they observe nature, think outside of the box, and come up with a very permaculture solution, the problem. That is not a typo.

I am referring to the “The problem is the solution” principle as taught by the so called “father” of permaculture Bill Mollison. His idea is that there are no ‘bad’ forces in nature, just forces, which can be used to our disadvantage, or advantage. We could go on for a while about the depth of meaning in this principle, but back to the practical aspect of grass.

The grass is a force. It grows, it chokes out other plants, it seeds, it rots. Grass is not going to rid you of grass, but you can use grass to rid you of grass by mowing a large area of it (preferably just before it has bloomed), and thickly mulching with it (grouping it). In this way, the grass doesn’t get any light, and dies (conquer it)! Yet you have not brought in any outside materials, have not tilled, and have not sprayed poison.
Sheet mulching like this is far better than just hoeing the grass, which dry’s out the soil and leaves it exposed to sunlight. The thick cover of grass holds moisture very well, and the abundance of grass translates to abundant nutrients for soil organisms to eat, which leads to healthy soil life, and a rich layer of humus to grow plants in.

In the case that your mulch wasn’t thick enough, and the grass can make it through to sunlight, rake the mulch around to bury the grass again, and continue to do so until the grass has starved to death.

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In the picture, I made the mistake of planting strawberries directly into the green mulch. It was only about four inches deep when I applied it, so there is some grass coming through, so I am just reaching underneath and cutting them of.

In the places where I have been smart, and have refrained from planting anything, until the grass is dead, I will plant lugumes in the mulch, and let them establish a new root system before planting my perennial and self-seeding annual vegetables.

Blog Intro

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I took this picture the morning of a very late frost, just before I left for the Farmer’s Market.

This picture says a lot. It says this food forest is not super secluded, is on a slope, is south-west facing, that it is a young food forest which is just getting started. If you read into the picture further you might guess that the white sticks are marking plants I have in the ground, and that the straw covered spot is a vegetable area. Some things this picture doesn’t say are what flora and fauna of the plants are  planted there, and what plants are going to be planted there.  It also doesn’t show a fraction of the design that is already figured and ready to come into play, or what reasons are behind those designs.

I will be happy to fill in the blanks in more detail, and I am sure I will give some details for which at the moment I don’t have any blanks. Gardens are evolving creatures, and the garden of Mortal Tree is no exception.

Besides this garden of Mortal Tree, I have several other gardens, and even a whole farm I live on, which  I, along with a lot of other people, am slowly but surely making more sustainable and alive. So keep checking back to watch the alchemy that enlivens this place.

Also, feel free to comment and give your opinion on any and all of it. I want to encourage some networking, so you are welcome to contact me, even just to introduce yourself, as I would love to find out where is, and who owns what food forests–especially in the US–especially in Ohio. Once I get a healthy collection of plants going, I fully intend to swap and donate to any enthusiastic food forest gardener.

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So here it starts, and from here on, here it goes!