Friday, July 2, 2010

Of Blackberries and Chanterelles

This winter and spring were interesting as it was colder and wetter than usual. As a result, some things like fennel and spinach did not get planted; wet and cold ground takes the longest to dry out, so by the time they could have been planted it would have been too warm for them. Mache has proven to be extremely hearty and is one of the few vegetables that tolerates the cold weather quite well. This was my first year to grow it, and its steady growth has made it an excellent candidate for next year’s winter garden

On the foraging front right now there are several things going on. Blackberry season is in full swing, and dewberries are starting to ripen. Dewberries look like Blackberries, but they are bigger, juicier, and have bigger seeds. Wild ginger and sassafras are growing all over the place in the hollow. The red berries of the Smooth sumac are starting to develop their white coating of ascorbic acid. The green version of the Japanese herb shiso as well as Wild Mountain Mint also grow wild all along the road through the hollow.

It is also a great time of the year for foraging Smooth Chanterelle mushrooms. In this part of the country they start appearing in early June along creek banks, draws around the hollow, hillsides where water drains, and along the road through the hollow. The picking has been good for the past two weeks. The smooth chanterelles are so fragrant and delicious!

This year has also been one of reflection. As I get older I think more and more about money and family and the long term. My girlfriend Elizabeth has pushed me to not only think about farming as a way of life, but also from a business point of view - which I find particularly challenging as a farmer. She has also helped with the marketing aspects of running a business to help spread the word about the farm. I am becoming more and more determined to become a hard nosed businessman while maintaining my vision and ideals for the farm. This has involved taking a closer look at the garden from a business and profitability standpoint. What was in high demand last year? What should I eliminate from the growing roster this coming season? It is one of the major challenges of farming – to decide where to scale back and where to expand…all while staying in sync with mother nature.

I am extremely excited for one of the new ventures for the farm – egg production. The little chicks should be arriving in the next several weeks, so I am scrambling (pun intended) to prepare the tractors and fenced area where they will live. This is a joint effort initiated by a Birmingham based restaurant owner and chef who was looking for a local source for organic farm fresh eggs.

The farm is participating in a new farmer's market this year. It is in downtown Homewood at the corner of 18th Street S. and 29th Avenue. We are there every Saturday from 7:30- 12:30. Hope to see everyone there!

Hard work, determination, and some savvy planning will keep Hollow Spring Farm on the path to profitable sustainability and biodiversity.

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Chanterelle


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