This week we have just a couple Whole Farm baskets. They contain a cucumber, an Ichiban eggplant, a buttercup squash, 2/3 lb. okra, 1/2 lb. small-medium bell peppers, and a dozen medium, Grade A eggs.
Now to the real news: exciting things have been happening at the farm this week! For one thing, we now have a tractor with a five foot wide tiller that can make quick work of planting preparation! Quick work of almost anything, really. The most-used phrase of the weekend was: “Can’t you use the tractor to do [whatever task at hand]?” With the new tractor, we prepared the ground on which the raised beds will be placed, tilled the entire fall field, leveled ground in various places, pulled broken limbs out of trees (a real nail-biter), and mowed grass. I say we, but my tractor certification level only allowed me to drive the tractor 20 feet in a straight line and raise and lower the bucket 2 feet. But still!
In other exciting news, shiitake mushrooms have begun emerging from the logs we inoculated in February. Logs from recently felled oak trees are one of the preferred substrates from which shiitake mushrooms grow. In Japanese, the “shii” of shiitake refers to a single species of tree, Japanese chinquapin (Castanopsis cuspidata), a member of the same plant family as oaks, on which shiitake mushrooms are traditionally grown. The second half of the word, “take”, means mushroom. When we were scouting for trees in the winter, we were having a hard time finding deciduous oak trees to cut, though we did fell one red oak. Sweet gum was another preferred species listed for shiitake cultivation, and we had much less trouble finding a sweet gum tree to sacrifice on behalf of future shiitake mushrooms. Interestingly, all of the logs that are currently producing mushrooms are sweet gum. Additionally, we started with a shiitake kit that included one type of shiitake from each of the three strains: cold weather, warm weather, and wide range. These strain designations refer to the temperatures at which the strains produce fruit (i.e., mushrooms), not the conditions in which the strains can live. Not surprisingly then, we have seen some fruiting from both our warm weather (Night Velvet) and wide range (WR46) strains, but none so far from the cold weather strain (Snow Cap). Given that this is our first flush of mushrooms and we have so few logs, it’s still uncertain whether we will have any to sell this year, but it was exciting news that had to be shared!
We also pulled up all of the squash and pumpkins this weekend after coming to the realization that they were not going to become productive members of the farm. Even though planting winter squash in mid-summer in southwest Georgia was not a recipe for success, the winter squash (butternut) that we planted in spring did much better. Next year we may experiment with an earlier planting of some of the other winter squash (acorn, spaghetti, buttercup) as well.