Tributary Farm

  (Exeter, Missouri)
News from the tributary.
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farming is for the birds

That title may be cliche but how can you resist it when you have as great  a crop of  bird feed as we have this year.  And it has to be the best kind of bird seed at that; the birds love it, it is free, and I don't even have to fill feeders.  Yep, you probably guessed it.  We have got weeds, weeds, glorious weeds.  Just outside my window is our pig pen a couple summers absent of a pig now and flower beds that have not been put to sleep. They are growing an amazing crop of poke, giant ragweed, wing-stem, brown-eyed-susans, coneflowers, docks, mullein, goldenrod, pigweed and a thousand more grasses and asters and other unknown weeds; and they are all seed laden! 

The best thing is the ease with which this crop grows. 

I was fortunate enough to work with a man, Tom, who could off the top of his head recite many of  Aldo Leopold's writings  (and other conservationist / naturalists).  He once let loose  a passage of Aldo Leopold's extolling the virtues to habitat of a certain type of agricultural slovenliness. This was a passage about fencerows and how his fencerows grew up like the hair of an unkempt hermit; unshaven, unwashed and in all ways unneatened. I know  I messed the words up on that one big time(sorry Tom, sorry Aldo), but the point remains the same.  He was not the type to keep a well manicured fencerow and he saw value in that. 

Anyway, Adam, who I also work with, just returned from an Audobon meeting a couple weeks ago and told me how detrimental the loss of the family farm has been to birds.  Urban expansion and ever expanding industrial farms with their erasure of fence lines and overambitious tidying have done away with unkempt fence lines and things such as fallow hog yards.  These bird-food producing weeds grow best in edge habitats or disturbed and early succession areas and these areas are disappearing alarmingly fast. He had numbers and stats which blew my mind and then promptly flew right through the hole, but it was staggering how much of this habitat and the estimated accomanying food resource has been lost.

So I used to think I was lazy, but now I'm proud to be in the same company as the great conservationist Aldo Leopold.

And I'm happy that on this second snowy morning of the winter, as I was sitting here writing this, I was able to look out the window and see cardinals, juncos, a crow, white throated sparrows, goldfinches, and a carolina wren all feasting and well fed. 




forest flavor

"They concentrate the flavor of the sea".

I heard a radio show a while back and on old French oyster farmer was speaking of his love of oysters.

Mushrooms are that for me and our Ozark forest.  Their taste and smell are the forest.  It might make more sense to say that forests concentrate the flavor of mushrooms.  

I am in awe of mushrooms.  I love their bizarre shapes, beatiful colors, alien textures, and intricate details.  I love looking for them, finding them, observing them, and of course eating them. 

My buddy Toby (A twenty-somthing fifth grader) tells the joke... "Why was the mushroom the most popular guy at the party?"

Give up?

"Because he was a fun guy"  

It is true. 

This year was amazing for mushrooms.  Our harvest of morels, shitakes, chanterelles, corals, woodears, oysters, sulphur shelfs, and lion's manes has been the culinary force to be reckoned with. 

This week I have had just such a couple mushroom forces to reckon with.  Raven made a mushroom lasanga of corals, chantererlles, oysters and shitakes that was so.........(well, probably shouldn't use expletives).....good that the king's chef would have been beheaded had his majesty known what the peasants were feasting upon.  And then the next day my brother comes up with some pate of fresh chicken liver (we had just butchered) and chanterelle.  Chef better hide.

Any way, thanks to Aunt Susan for the Paul Stament CD and DVD.  The future is looking brighter as for our ability to cultivate these culinary treasures.  And it is also looking brighter as for how we can employ these tasty organisms to minimize nutrient runoff from our farm and better enable our land to take care of itself.  We are looking forward to experimenting with many of the techniques and varities he describes.  Thanks Susan also for getting Alisen on the boat: once she boards there is no turning back.

There is a decent chance of rain today and tomorrow.  Prime weather to excite the wood ears and oysters.

Untill next time----HAPPY SHROOMING!


essences of thanksgiving

Huxley (three years old) and Roland (three weeks old) and I went walking up into our wild part of the farm yesterday.  The sky was blue as blue and the day was warm. We found one dried but quite sugary persimmon  left hanging, we ate fingerfulls of magnificent rose hips, we licked the sticky sour oils from the berries of winged-sumac, all in awe of the season's golden colors which had been brushed over the landscape's grasses.

I mentioned to Huxley how fortunate we were.  I got an uncomprehending stare. "Do you know what fortunate is?", I asked.  An uncaring "nope" is his response.  I couldn't let it slide.  "Fortunate", I said, "means that our lives are full of fortune.  Fortune is kind of like pirtate treasure."  He knows what pirtate treasure is:  "I'm going to look for treasure" he will say and bring back a pretty rock, or a berry or leaf or seed head of some plant that he finds interesting.

"Where is our  treasure?", he asks. 

I tell him, "Our treasure is this beautiful view of the hills and that hickory tree, it is those rose hips in your hand, it is your beautiful baby brother and your mother and you, it is our beautiful friend Raven who has come down to stay with us and help us and share this beautiful time with us."

He says nothing but his face shows comprehension and his walk has changed a bit.  After saying it my walk changes a bit as well.  I'm a little more loose and movIng with a humble pride. In my hands is my new baby boy.  In my subconscience is our big pile of firewood, our larder of bountiful harvest, and the presence of the greatest imaginable family and friends.

Sailing in this fair weather on this beautiful life we are flying our skull and cross bones high, stealing treausures and burying thanks.


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