Introducing the Mycelium Collective.

Mycelium Collective logo and banner with morel mushrooms and mycelium growing in the dirt with plants in the background.

My family is part of the Mycelium Collective, and I am honored to have had the chance to design the website. It is still a work in progress, but check it out at myceliumcollective.org

Nate

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Upcomming events, and an early spring.

Photo of bloodroot flower blooming.
Booldroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) flower blooming. Bloodroot is not edible, but is one of my favorite woodland flowers.

It is now officially spring, but as far as the plants are concerned, it has been spring for a while already. Before we get into that, let me mention some of the up coming events that will make this a really busy spring for us.

First, We will be attending our first permaculture class this Saturday March 24th (10am – 6pm). The class is called “Design Your Organic Home Garden Sustainably” and is being held at The Horn Farm Center and is presented by Susquehanna Farm School & The Rewilding School. I assume the class is full at this point, but check out the Susquehanna Farm School website for more upcoming classes and workshops.

Also on Saturday the 24th, I will be giving a talk called “Exploitation, Anarchy and God’s Ecology”. I will be discussing hunting, gathering, and Permaculture solutions to our ecological problems from a Biblical perspective, as well as demonstrating some simple Earth skills and tools. It starts at 7pm at
351 N. Mulberry St in Lancaster.

Then on Sunday the 25th, we will be going to the 2nd Susquehanna Permaculture meetup. It is from 2pm – 5pm at Chickies Day Use Area off of 441 on Long Lane. There will be child care available.

The next weekend we will be taking our hunting classes. Hopefully after that we can take some time to relax and go foraging and fishing.

Photo of part of a small colony of ramps (also known as wild leeks).
Part of a small colony of ramps/wild leeks (Allium tricoccum).

This past Saturday my wife, son, and I went to a workday with some friends who are doing pretty much what we want to do. We inoculated mushroom logs, toured the land they are farming, and did a little foraging in the woods.

Spring weather arrived so early this year that many plants are appearing about 3 weeks before they did last year. One of these plants is bloodroot, with it’s beautiful flower. We also got to try ramps for the first time.

Yesterday, we went to hang out with some other friends who live across town for super. The weather was warm so we cooked over a fire in their back yard. We had some excellent mountain pies, and also harvested and cooked a bunch of garlic mustard, curly dock, and garlic, with bacon.

What a wonderful time of year.

I will be announcing some more wild food and Permaculture classes and events in the near future, so stay tuned if you live in the area. If not, let me know, and I can try to help find people closer to you.

Nate

Eastern Agricultural Complex: An Eric Toensmeier Video.

This is a very informative video about Native crops from before Mexican and European crops arrived. These plants have a lot of uses and I forage the wild forms of many of them. With a vulnerable unsustainable food system like our current one, these plants may once again play an important role in feeding us in the future.

Just a quick note, this is not a how to video, some of these plants need special preparation and or harvesting knowledge before they are good to eat. For instance, when it says that black nightshade leaves and berries are good to eat, that is true but they both need to be harvested at the proper stage of growth or they could be harmful.

Eric Toensmeier is the author of Perennial Vegetables, and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. Both of Samuel Thayer’s books cover a number of these plants, and Carrol Deppe’s book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties has a great chapter on how to domesticate wild plants.

Nate

Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation.

Photo of the cover of Enduring Seeds.

Enduring Seeds by Gary Paul Nabhan, University of Arizona Press 2002.

I just finished reading this, and had to review it. I got this from the library thinking that I might be able to glean some good information from it. I ended up reading it cover to cover, and more importantly it has really helped to expand my understanding of indigenous land management.

Nabhan refuses to see the world in simplistic terms, and does an excellent job of advancing the case that traditional land-based cultures and their agricultural practices are vital to both the future of agriculture as well as the health of the planet. He critiques many of our current attitudes as well as showing the great value of wild plants and indigenous crops, while avoiding black and white answers to the problems we face.

Each chapter weaves together compelling stories of the author’s experiences with different cultures and crops, with many fascinating details and complex traditional land management concepts.

I was particularly interested in the idea put forward that not only are small scale indigenous farmers more knowledgeable about the ecosystems that they live in than large scale commercial farmers, but maybe also many hunter-gatherers. The farmers do have to have long unbroken agricultural traditions and still rely partially on hunting and gathering for this to be true.

I strongly recommend Enduring Seeds to anyone interested in wild plants, indigenous cultures, ecology, plant breeding, or heirloom crops. another good read.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

Gardening: Cultivating Wisdom.

Photo of book cover.

Gardening: Cultivating Wisdom edited by Dan O’Brien, from the series Philosophy for Everyone edited by Fritz Allhoff, Wiley-Blackwell 2011.

So here I am, the wild food proponent, reviewing another gardening book. How did that happen? Well sometimes one thing leads to another. After reviewing The Resilient Gardener, I was offered for a review copy. Considering it covers gardening and philosophy, I was pleased to read it.

While this isn’t a super specialized foraging or permaculture how to manifesto, like I often read, it is a very good book that would be of considerable interest to anyone who wants to learn more about people’s relationship with the natural world, especially in the context of the garden.

The book is comprised of numerous essays by different authors, each with their own unique angle. I am very impressed that Permaculture is mentioned at least once by name, and hunter-gatherers, foragers, and horticulturalists, are discussed in many of the essays. Also, each author brings their own definition of gardening, and some of them are broad enough to include the most cutting edge forest gardens as well as many primitive peoples’ land management techniques. Even the essays with a more narrow view of what a garden is had interesting thoughts of our interaction with plants and how that impacts us philosophically.

Of special interest to me were the essays grouped together in section two. These four deal with the political and hierarchical nature of gardens in specific times and places. They cover a range of topics such as how early the British and early Mediterranean Empires used gardens as tools to maintain social inequality to the effect of urban allotments on the level of political engagement of the working poor in the United Kingdom.

Another essay that I found enlightening was about the attempt of Epicurean philosophers to replicate the positive aspects of primitive peoples’ lives, while continuing to benefit from the security provided by the cities of their day. Their critique of society and their understanding of history are remarkably similar to current Primitivist thinkers.

Anyway, these are just a few examples among the many thought provoking essays in this quality book.

Just a quick personal note, now that my first photography show has come and gone, I should be able to post more frequently again. The plants have been coming to life so fast that I am at risk of developing a serious backlog. I’ll try to keep up, but get out and see for yourself what is happening all around us in our yards, our gardens, and out in the woods.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

A minimal forage garden, and garlic sprouting.

Photo of staghorn sumac and evening primrose in a large pot.
Evening primrose (Oenothera species) rosette on left, staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) on right.

I transplanted a staghorn sumac tree and an evening primrose plant into a large pot today. I guess that is about as small a forage garden as one could create.

What is a forage garden? I use the term to mean any area of wild plants specifically planted and or tended by humans with the purpose of using the plants for food or other household uses. I also use “forage garden” instead of the more popular “forest garden” for reasons that I will have to cover in another post.

This potted forage garden isn’t really permanent, once we own some land the sumac will likely be transplanted into a thicket or woodland edge, while the evening primrose’s descendants will be planted in a more sunny area.

Photo of garlic sprouting.
Heirloom garlic sprouting.

In the realm of more standard gardening, our heirloom garlic started sprouting this week. In the fall we went to a Skill Share Collective garlic planting workshop at the Lancaster Farmacy, and came home with several varieties to plant in our own garden. We are very thankful, and excited to harvest the garlic scapes as well as the bulbs.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.

Photo of my copy of The Resilient Gardener.

The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, Chelsea Green Publishing 2010.

Why would someone as passionate about wild food as I am choose a gardening book for their first book review? Well, when it comes to The Resilient Gardener, there are a bunch of reasons. For one thing, as much as I love foraging, I believe that small scale cultivation of staple crops will be an important part of any sustainable future. This book is also well written, thoughtful, and actually discusses the authors experience foraging large numbers of black walnuts and hazelnuts during one of her “hard times”.

The book walks you though ways to cultivate your life to be more resilient when difficult times (personal or global) happen, and how to make your garden an asset instead of a burden. Unlike some similar books, it manages to remain calm and upbeat, never descending into simplistic ideology, fear mongering, or individualistic survivalism.

While The Resilient Gardener is a far more useful “how to” book than many books that largely fail because they attempt to cover every possible garden plant, it is more than a “how to” book and every bit as much about the gardener as the garden. It is full of compelling stories from the author about her challenges with health, diet, and caring for her sick mother. Deppe’s personality really shines in this book. Her writing is thorough, precise, and scientific without losing the human touch. In fact this is one of the most human books that I have ever read. I am impressed that the publisher didn’t make her edit out some sections where she examines some of the minutest details of her dietary issues and health concerns. While there were points at which I was incredulous at the degree to which she studies herself and her bodies reaction to various components of what she eats, it is a more complete and authentic work this way.

The first half of the book looks at gardening and resiliency in general, delving into a wide variety of topics including climate change, traditional Native American agriculture, seed saving, food preservation, ecology, soil fertility, gluten intolerance, and a whole lot more.

The second half offers an in depth look at five different staple foods. These are potatoes, duck eggs, squash, beans, and corn. These five profiles tell you how to breed, cultivate, harvest, preserve, and prepare each crop. As well as offering tips on selecting varieties, and ways to obtain a good yield even in those times that you can’t afford the time or resources to pamper your garden the way you might like.

Photo of cornbread that I baked, based on a recipe in the book.

Each profile has several recipes. The picture above shows my version of Carol’s Skillet Cornbread. The only difference is that I use one sixth the amount of butter, and still get excellent results. This is a cornbread with no wheat to hold it together, yet it crumbles less than most cornbreads that I have tried. Deppe has such an obvious love of good food that by the end of the book, I almost forgot that it wasn’t just about enjoying homemade meals.

So why did I chose The Resilient Gardener as my first review?

I guess ultimately the biggest reason is because it is the perfect gardening book for a forager to own. It gives you a whole lot of good information on getting the most healthy and usable calories with the least amount of toil. Combining the knowledge in this book with that of a few good foraging books, could put you on a path towards better food security and a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. I just wish that I had this book last growing season, maybe my garden would have produced something worth what little work I put in.

Once again, thanks for reading. Comments and questions are appreciated.

Nate