Tag Archives: wild mushrooms

Hi Everybody!

Remember me?  I had this blog, and then I bought this farm, and then, and then and then….well, I am back. Let’s just say I am glad 2016 is in the rear view mirror.

 

So much has happened in the last year, including a big life reality check that put a hitch in all of my giddyups, including this blog.  But we survived, and all is well for now. And boy am I grateful for every sweet farmy day.  I need to go pot up peppers, but here’s a quick overview of what is happening on the farm, headed into year 3!

I went morel hunting, and finding!  This really is an R rated mushroom. But delicious-we made morel/nettle/bacon pizza.

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On the farm I started experimenting with occultation a la Jean Martin Fortier, a la french intensive gardening.  Very happy with the results so far, including being able to work up some beds in spite of the relentless, never ending, ceaseless, continual rain.  Is it raining right now?  Yes, yes it is.  Heck, people on the East side of the Cascades are complaining about the lack of sun.  Like they even know…..

IMG_0607.JPGLeft to right-prepped and planted terrace, terrace with amendments but no compost (it is there at the end of the bed), terrace whose tarp has just been removed and then rotoharrowed, then a terrace that has just been mowed and covered with the tarp.  This process seems to take about a month to 5 weeks in winter, I expect that to shorten down to two or three weeks in summer, when soil biology is more active.  I have high hopes this will reduce weed pressure significantly.

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I am also hoping this tarp process will help me incorporate cover cropping into my rotations-here is a bed I seeded this spring with the intent to let it bloom and grow all summer and then prep using the tarps for fall crops.

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As my soil improves I can plant more intensively so I can actually take some terraces and beds out of production for a while-and I am changing my methods away from row cropping and more towards intensive planting.  Growing things with a shorter turn around time also helps me keep ahead of the gophers, though I am seriously considering introducing some gopher snakes to the farm. I had to replant almost all of my garlic, and I built a screened bottom bed just for that purpose.  But it isn’t big enough-I should have at least twice as much garlic as this.  IMG_0625.jpgSigh.  Moving on….the greenhouse is awesome.  So awesome I went nuts and planted a bunch of stuff that has matured 3 weeks early.  Oops!  Well, consider this research into season extension and a possible future Shoulder Season CSA.   Call me if you want lettuce.

P4097916.JPGIMG_0632.jpgHope everyone out there in blog land is healthy and happy!  If you want to know more about the farm and what we are up to-head over to the farm website:

 

cheers!

 

The county said yes…..and now we wait.

So, I have been holding off on posting about this property for TWO MONTHS, as we weren’t sure the seller would be able to resize the parcel in a way that would work for us.  As of today the word is it can be done!  The down side is it will take 8-12 months for us to close, as the county has to resurvey the parcel and finish the final paperwork and the seller has to do some work before they can legally sell it to us.  It is going to be challenging to wait one more year before planting my fruit trees….but we should be able to get in there and cut back the blackberries at least, before they get out of hand.
We have in jest been referring to this property as ‘the bunion’, as it is being carved off the toe of the larger parcel.

That said, it has a wise old house and a nice barn and equipment shed, a year round creek, located in a lovely pocket valley that faces south and surrounded by timberland, well drained soils, and close to some very dear friends.  Best of all, my husband loves this place, possibly even more than I do.

There are no water rights, but the price is so good we will have funds for water catchment, and plenty of roof to collect from.  How I am going to last without planting the half acre worth of seed I bought this month I am not sure.  Maybe I will rent a plot on Sauvie’s Island this summer.  Otherwise, I have lots of time to brush up on my business plan, work on the marketing materials (logo is close to complete already), budget for things like tillers, hoop houses, fencing (we are going to have all kinds of wildlife and predator pressure, from our own dogs to the 50+ herd of elk that rambles through this place), water filter systems (house is on a gravity fed spring), irrigation, water catchment, home and barn repair…..not to mention spruce up our own place so we can put it on the market.

Enough talk….here she is:

Our friend Jon started calling the house the ‘ghost owl house’, after seeing this picture.  This is my nearly ninety year old mother in law, Clara, in the kitchen.

clara with ghost owls

Here I am testing out the gravity feed water system.  It works!  I should also mention the light fixture is retractable, so you can bring it down right over your dirty dishes when you need to do some serious scrubbin’.gravity fed spring water...it works!

Here is a view from the mailbox.  It is on a dead end road, with only one other house.

view from the mailbox

No real estate deal is for real until the papers are signed the check is cashed and the keys are in hand, still, we have good reason to believe the deal will go through.  Wish us luck and patience!  Good things come to those who wait, or so I am told.  My guess is we will go out and visit sometime soon, so I may be able to post some more pictures of fun things like the beautiful walnut tree, and the barn.  The other good thing is having a whole growing season to wait will give me a chance to get a feel for this property’s rhythms and patterns, so I can put some real thought into where more permanent things like fences and hoop houses and fruit trees  and bee hives should go.  Still, it will be so hard to wait!

Heartbreak, and updates.

Wow, I really thought we had found the farm and was hoping this would be The Post…..then the deal started getting weird and then it fell through.  Looking for property is  just like dating.  You are initially attracted, and see the potential.  You get a little closer and see the flaws, and second guess.  Then at some point you either don’t call back or you start to fall in love and jump in.  If you do jump in and get rebuffed….Ouch!  Most likely we dodged a bullet, the sellers were suddenly in a big hurry to sell the place, so who knows if there were outstanding liens, or the house was about to fall down (didn’t look like it to me, and I used to carpenter), or a LNG line is aimed down the driveway, or they just got a better offer and handled it poorly.  Anyway, we are back in the hunt.  It definitely feels like the market is warming up, which is not reducing my desire to find it any, but the good news is that means it will be easier to sell the house in town. I learned quite a bit in a short time about what it might take to transfer Points of Diversion (ie get the irrigation right applied to the well on property from the well off property), finding well logs, and what to expect and what the pitfalls might be if the seller offers to carry the note on a property, and who I might use as a real estate lawyer/pump service/well driller if I might need one.  Mainly, it was a good reminder not to panic if things start to go south or the deal starts to smell rotten.  With any transaction, you have to be able to walk away.   It will be interesting to see if the property comes back on the market, or actually sells.  Kudos to my husband, who is as disappointed as I am, for helping me keep my head and being willing to talk things through on short notice in the middle of a busy work day.  Ugh.  I do hate Drama.

 

On to happier stuff:  The garden is mostly put to bed and cover crops are in, though I am waiting for a frost to dig up the Dahlia bulbs.  I also need to put the cloches on the beds of greens and radishes.  The rains have come at last, but possibly too late for much of any mushroom hunting.  Fall break was last week and that is my usual Chanterelle picking window, and I spent it chasing farm rainbows and talking to county Watermasters.  We will have to check the Bolete patch, see if anything is doing there.  Davey went salmon fishing for the weekend in Tillamook, landed a gorgeous 16 pound hen and 12 giant Dungeness Crab (!!).  We have been pretty crabby the last few days, with Crab for dinner on Sunday, Salmon with Crab hors d’oevres on Monday to celebrate our farm joy when we thought we had an accepted offer, and Crabbit deluxe last night to soothe our farm woes.  Dungeness may be replacing Rock Lobster in my heart as Preferred Crustacean (sorry Mom!  But when in Rome….).

On the Bunny front, Momma had her last batch of kits for the year, 5 adorable fuzzballs. 2 black, 2 spotty, and one Blanc de Hotot.  The black ones have adorable little white stars on their foreheads.  She is a good producer, this makes 20 kits for the year!

Snacks was also (finally!) mated for the last time, and should be due in about 3 weeks.  I have converted a pet carrier into the Dating Cage, and it works great.  She hopped right in, I left her in the Buck’s cage in her carrier for a few hours to get reacquainted, and then let her out for about 10 minutes.  The bunnies had their fun, then I brought back the carrier, she hopped right in, and back to the home cage she went, no muss, no fuss.  And no scratches on my arms, either.  I didn’t really want to wait this long to breed her again but she was pretty thin after the last big batch of kits….so I fed her up for a couple of additional weeks to get her back in condition.  We will see if she kindles, and if so how many.  She is the nicer rabbit, but this year so far has only produced 10 kits.  She typically cranks out 8 or 10 per kindle in high season (late spring and summer), she may take another break with a small batch this fall, we will see how she compares with Momma when all the chips are in.  Cute and sweet as Snacks is, I may have to use Momma’s offspring for future breeders over hers if we do ever expand the bunny operation.  Although really I should also weigh all the fryers before I make any final judgements.
I can tell winter is really on its way, the gas fire place is the first place I go to warm up when I get home and I have a new gallon carboy bubbling away on top of the fridge.  This time it is fermenting hard cider from the home tree.  Happy almost Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meat Rabbits reviewed

So I have been mentally reviewing the backyard bunny project, and here is how we did this year:

momma buns

We mated both does twice in 2011.  Momma bunny (who is a somewhat unwilling breeder and not very fond of Poppa bunny generally, but a good mom) had two litters of kits.  The first litter was 7 baby bunnies, the second litter was 8, for a total of 15 baby bunnies.  This was her second year of raising babies.

snacks looking for snacks

Snacks was new to the game, but was a champ and a great mom. She rather likes Poppa bunny.

poppa bunny munching raspberry canes

Her first litter ever was 11 kits, three of which she either killed or were still born, but she raised up 8 in the first batch and 10 in the second batch, for a total of 18 kits.  We gave away two kits to our niece, and butchered the rest, so produced for ourselves 31 meat rabbits.  We figured that for organic bunny kibble it costs about 7.50$ a rabbit (half a bag of bunny pellets per kit), plus maybe another dollar’s worth of hay to raise a kit from newborn to 10 weeks, which is when we typically butcher.  At somewhere around 3# a processed bunny, that is pretty cheap organic meat.  The bunnies also produce great fertilizer, which we compost for 3-6 months and then use in the garden.  Labor is not included in these costs, but it takes about 15 minutes a day to feed and water three bunny pens, and it is the same whether we have kits or not.  The bunnies also get fruit and greens from the garden, grass, apple trimmings and berry canes as a food supplement.  Commercial rabbitries will have does produce up to 5 litters a year, but my sense is that is a lot to ask of a bunny doe year in year out.  You can literally mate a doe the day after she gives birth, but that doesn’t mean I think I should.

snacks' first batch of kits

The one thing about the bunnies that I have yet to work out is that I would really like to have a larger communal play space that they can use when they are not breeding, so the does at least can keep each other company, and everyone can get more exercise.  The bunnies have big pens, but I still feel like their quality of life is less than that of the chickens, who at least get to get out and run around in the yard for a few hours.  There is an interesting article on bunny quality of life issues in the lab here.  I think these approaches could be incorporated into a meat rabbit setting without too much extra work.  Joel Salatin’s movable fryer pens are another approach to this issue of letting rabbits be rabbits, but I don’t know if the breeding adults also get to get out on grass or if it is just the young stock.  Being able to raise the young bunnies on grass would also probably reduce our overall feed costs, though it would increase the labor somewhat.  Our urban yard is currently too small for a pastured meat operation….but there may be room for a bunny play pen.

For those of you who have never eaten rabbit, well, you should.  They are delicious.  If you are like me and prefer the dark meat on a chicken or a turkey, then I guarantee you will love rabbit.  We basically cook them all the same ways we would cook a chicken.  They are excellent brined and roasted, fried in batter, or our favorite current rabbit recipe, braised with mushrooms and tomato sauce.  Here is the recipe for ‘Rabbit Marengo’, a chicken recipe adapted from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

1 young rabbit cut into pieces

one onion, diced small

1/4 cup white wine

mushrooms (about a cup or so?  we eyeball it)

tomato sauce (we usually use somewhere between a pint and a quart)

flour

olive oil

salt and pepper

Cut the rabbit up into pieces and dredge in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper.  In a saucepan heat olive oil and then brown the floured pieces of rabbit on both sides.  Set aside.  Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the diced onion until translucent, and then add the mushrooms and cook until browned.  Add the white wine and reduce for a few minutes.  In a braising pan (we use a Le Crueset braising pan but a heavy cast iron pan wit an ovenproof lid will work too) place the rabbit pieces in first and then coat with the wine/onion/mushroom mixture, and cover with tomato sauce.  Cover and braise in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes.

rabbit marengo

We usually serve this with homemade bread, a big green salad, and a nice local pinot noir.  My husband came home this week with a backpack full of porcini mushrooms, so I look forward to making this with some wildcrafted queen boletes soon.

fall’s wild harvest

One of the great perks of being a teacher is the breaks in the academic schedule.  We just had our fall break, and this year it coincided with 7 days of glorious weather.  The husband also had some time, so we did some fishing and crabbing out at the coast.

my favorite way to cook big oysters...on the grill

The fish my husband caught was a hen fresh from the sea.  We used to take salmon roe and make steelhead bait with it, now we salt it and make caviar instead, because we are Much Wiser Now.  It is really beautiful, and of course, delicious.  This is what the roe looks like when it is removed from the fish.

And in all the fair weather, I got to do some hiking in the coast range, and picked some wild mushrooms.  We had some heavy rains followed by a long stretch of fair weather, so the mushrooms were in beautiful shape.  Chanterelles are lovely in cream of mushroom soup with just a touch of nutmeg.  Picked fresh they have a slight scent of apricot.  We dry ours in the food dryer and then rehydrate for soups and sauces.  They are also excellent on homemade pizza.  Good picking etiquette is to cut the mushroom above the bulb at the base, and always leave a few in every patch to perpetuate future good picking.

you never find just one! A gorgeous clump of chanterelles

I found one of the possibly most delicious and satisfying wild mushrooms….a giant King Bolete.  It had several companions who were all past edibility, but this one was still in good enough shape to bring home and eat.  It was the most delicious mushroom I have ever eaten, and we dried the stem and tubes for future use.  The cap was almost as big as a dinner plate!

And finally, as if we haven’t been eating well enough, my husband tagged his first deer in 11 years.  I literally have been thanking the earth for her generosity, and marvelling at the richness of our lives for the last 10 days.  It is a blue wonder.  We have been joking about how one cannot find a mason jar anywhere in our house as they are all being used to store food.  I think we will make it through winter, no matter what La Nina throws at us.  Let it snow I say.  Or rain (more likely).

I also got to help Clare and Brian from Big Table Farm sort grapes one day for this year’s pinot vintage, which was a hoot.  Clare made us amazing pizza for ‘winery lunch’.  These folks work so hard and make just beautiful wines from some of the best organic grapes in the Willamette Valley.  Clare has documented some of the process here on her blog.  And I had a lovely day in the fields with my friend Amy at Square Peg Farm, harvesting mangels for pig food.  A mangel is a type of gigantic beet, and Amy and Chris will use those as well as squash and pumpkins to finish off their organic pork for market.  Their farm outside of Forest Grove is so beautiful I literally get homesick for it over the winter.  You can find Square Peg Farm produce (and Amy and Chris) at the Saturday market in downtown Portland.