Farm In Autumn

A Poem of Halloween At The Farm

Season of warm colors: red barns, flaxen sun, yellow and orange harvest compliment each other as the farm readies for the day.
Ripened squash scattered atop the mahogany soil, fields spreading flat as far as the eye can see.
Signs hung out inviting passersby to sample the offerings of a long summer’s bounty.
Smell of roasted corn drifts through the crisp air and cider is offered to visitors.
Rain boots of every color adorn feet, following the path of mud and straw to the corn maze.
Rustling groves of tall green stalks hide shady corridors that beckon those who dare to enter.
Wagons loaded with pumpkins are drawn to the scales, delighted children hugging them in anticipation.
As the day shifts light to dark, so to, does the tone and setting.
Country highways fill with bright lights as the brave make their way to the haunted farm.
Muddy parking lots fill quickly as souls bundled against the cold file through the gates.
Ghouls and evil clowns entertain those in line awaiting their fate.
Screams from within evoke nervous looks and giggles, exhalations silhouetted in the glare of lights.
Once in, the macabre awaits them in every dark corner, every hidden space as couples clutch each other in fear.
Witches, skeletons, mad surgeons and the walking dead long to possess their souls: struggling against chains, restrained by bars.
Out at the end to safety with smiles and relieved laughter.
Happy revelers depart for home intact.
Travelers gone, parking lots empty, the farmers set about harvesting the night crop.
In a windowless barn in a far corner of the property, they begin with the heads.

 

 

Mushroom Farm

Growing morel mushrooms in nature.

Morel mushrooms are highly sought after and are currently going for forty-plus dollars a pound.

They’re apparently hard to cultivate but we got lucky – you see, they already like it here. They grow on our property. Just not enough to sell but enough to make mushroom “slurry” out of. A slurry is a kind of spore soup used to propagate more mushrooms.

We’ve been tossing around the idea of farming mushrooms since we moved onto our almost four acres of land in eastern Washington a couple of years ago. We were thinking of growing oyster or medicinal mushrooms but our tight budget, the need for snow-load rated greenhouses, and a lack of knowledge have kept us from moving forward.

Then I had a great idea – the mighty morel!

I’m no expert on them but my husband and I have been harvesting them for a couple of years and know they bring a pretty penny – dried or fresh. The biggest problem is that they only grow once a year – in the spring – and for a very limited time. May is morel month but we only find them for about two weeks. You have to know where they grow and we haven’t yet found any good spots locally.

The competition seems fierce.

We’ve been up and down many forest service and DNR (Department of Natural Resources) roads looking for them but not a one have we seen – until we get back home. Turns out we are fortunate to have land that is naturally host to morels.

In our area of the Pacific Northwest, they grow around Ponderosa pines in slightly grassy to semi-spongy areas and often along roadsides. My understanding is that the mycelium (which lives under ground), have a symbiotic relationship with certain tree roots. The mushrooms themselves are the fruiting bodies of the organism.

We dried out the few we’ve found and started the spore slurry. This is the first time I’ve made the mixture and the idea is to soak the mushrooms in water that has had salt and molasses added in order to germinate the spores. The molasses feeds the rapidly reproducing spore population and the salt keeps the bacteria away.

After soaking the slurry for twenty-four to forty-eight hours, you spray or pour it around host trees where, theoretically, they’ll search for roots to become roommates with.

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 I was stirring the slurry with a wooden paddle when the thought came to me that if they like wood, why not add pieces directly to the slurry then bury them under trees? The thought is that the spores will find and start a home before they are planted. This will be an experiment that won’t show results for a couple to a few years when the mushrooms grow – if they take at all.

If this works, we might eventually have enough mushrooms to harvest to sell.

For the time being, we’ll have to content ourselves with the ten  to twenty we find each year.