When we began growing annual vegetables last year, we came to the task with at least some experience, but we certainly had a lot to learn. Still, I'm amazed by how much food we're getting already out of our little 1/4-acre homestead habitat.
Mushrooms and Fungi
Anthony and I attended the St. Louis Native Plant Tour for the first time this year. It was a masked, socially-distanced, outdoor (of course) affair in early June, with a wide range of gardens to view. A joint offering by both the St. Louis Audubon Society and Wild Ones St. Louis, this year's tour included nine residential gardens located across the St. Louis metropolitan area, on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. We made it to six of the nine.
A sourdough starter is a thing of beauty and seeming magic. All it takes is a bowl of water and flour, and you can 'catch' wild yeast from the atmosphere, claiming it as your own to use in everything from a simple loaf of bread to pancakes and pizza dough.
I've been tossing around the word 'permaculture' to describe some of the activities Anthony and I are engaged in here on the suburban farmstead. As it's not a mainstream way of gardening (and way of life) yet, I thought it might be helpful to define it.
This past week, I attended Gateway Greening's Community Agriculture Conference. It was entirely virtual and took place in the evening, so I was able to participate around my full days running Brunette Games. I attended most of the conference sessions, only taking a break mid-week. The conference was free, though I did kick them a donation since I get so much out of the group's offerings, and this conference was just one example. Gateway Greening has been so kind as to upload all of the conference videos to YouTube, where you can watch them free until the first day of spring, March 20.
This fall marks three years since we purchased our home - a 1904 World's Fair-era house on 1/4-acre just outside the St. Louis city limits. Those of you who've followed this blog since then - or even before that time - have witnessed a series of trials and triumphs as we've worked incredibly hard and enjoyed the fruits of our labors. While the to-do list continues, and with gardening it seems the work is never done, we feel we've already achieved much toward our vision: a productive, wildlife- and pollinator-friendly garden bursting with native plants, beneficial non-natives, and edibles.
One of the benefits of removing the turf grass in our entire backyard - which constitutes the majority of the 1/4-acre plot - is that we have a lovely carpet of native violets growing over most of it. I've raved about viola sororia previously on the blog, and the best part is that the violets arrived of their own volition, free of charge. And with them, came edible mushrooms.
They look like life forms from another planet. But they're very much terrestrial. Cedar-apple rust is a fungus that is very common throughout North America. Remember that row of evergreen screen trees we planted along our fence line? That was in the fall of 2018, when we had a little help installing a row of nine mature eastern red cedar 'Taylor' trees. This past spring, I discovered massive galls attached to the twigs of many of the trees.
Back in January, I'd asked mystery author and wildlife biologist Ellen King Rice to help me ID some of the mushrooms I'd found growing in the woods and here at Dragon Flower Farm. As you might recall, we ended up turning the post into a series of tips on how to ID mushrooms, which is something no one should take casually, at least if you're looking to eat them.
I'm an herbalist, so why did I relegate herbs to part 2 in this series? Because without giving time and attention to everything I outlined in part 1, herbs will be nowhere near as effective as they could be, if they are effective at all. If we aren't taking in the basic building blocks to support healthy immune system function and implementing necessary lifestyle practices such as a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, stress reduction, and movement, we are really expecting a lot of the plants. They are not magic bullets. We have to do our part so they can do theirs.