Tag Archives: Sustainability

Fungus Among Us (In Black Garbage Bags That Is)

By: Mary

My appreciation of working in the garden and fields results in a creative exploration of gardening. From Apples to Baby’s Breath to Carrots, I am a devoted grower of produce, flowers, and fruits. What I’m not so excited about is growing fungus. Yes, that’s right: fungus comes in many forms and that includes in the form of mushrooms.

The term mushroom describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidomycota, depending upon the context of the word. Here at Sweet Ridge Farm this springs plantings have included Yellow Oyster mushrooms. Though I have no expressed interest in this experiment, my brother’s Robert and James have taken up interest in this project. Resulting from a few hours of their work, a collection of ever-so-mysterious looking black garbage bags are now behind the house. After a few months of marination, the 25 units of spawn spore will inoculate and decompose. Come fall, a bountiful harvest of fungus should be upon us.

A visual tutorial on the Slattery Fungus experiment begins like this. To start with the spawns are needed. They came to us via mail and are packaged in block sized units and packed in sawdust.

The next thing needed to plant mushrooms is a place. See what I told you? There is nothing pretty or cute about planting mushrooms. What could be a duller surface than a log to plant the spawn on? But hey, it is what they require, and unlike a garden, it needs no tillage.

After you have the spawn and log in order a brother is needed to plant them. Here is James: unlike his sister’s- blogs or being photographed in the said blog is something that my Baby Brother has no time for…but really, covering this topic isn’t all so fascinating so I thought I would add this photograph to spruce up the post a bit, you know?

Here is Ja- I mean 40 Hustle, and our sweet neighbor girl, Leah tying up the project.

I make the statement of tying things up literally. The process of planting the spawns starts with them being placed on a log, then being covered with newspaper and secured with a twist tie or two. Using a right wing conspiracy laden publication to cover them is optional. My father is a former journalist, and our home is full of publications with vastly differing viewpoints, but I believe this particular paper belonged to our good friend and resident, Peter Drake.

Lastly the log is placed in a garbage bag.

As previously stated, by fall the “fruit” of the spawns will be revealed. While the fungi slowly starts to flourish in the bags, I will continue to stick to my own choice of planting on surfaces complete with earth and weeds. I guess I am just not a fungus type of person. But that doesn’t keep me from being amused by the heap of mysterious garbage bags and my fungus care-taking brothers.

Cute Tractor

By Patrick Slattery

[Editors note: As the Slattery clan slowly heads back across the country from the wedding, Pat Slattery, patriarch of the Slattery clan returns to journalism here. After a 25 year career in journalism interviewing countless farmers, bishops, and every story in between, he has been relishing the peace and silence of the fields as a full time farmer for several years now. His inimitable style and worldview has clearly formed the prose style and lifestyle of his children. It is great to see his words in print again. Pictures and stories from the wedding will follow soon. -Kate]

Talk about an insult, well, I tell you, it was a big smack to my male ego.

There I was last week, pulling out of our driveway, driving my New Holland tractor hooked up to a five-foot disc, feeling pretty grand as I headed to the field for my first go at tillage, when my sister-in-law, Cecile, also in the same driveway, exclaims in passing, “Cute tractor!”

Trust me, no red-blooded heterosexual male wants his tractor to be called “cute.” Tillage of any sort has an element of mass destruction  inherent to it. Mother Nature must step aside, when it’s spring and time to do some sod busting.

Let us acknowledge that the tractor is a symbol of male virility. No wonder for the enduring success of that classic Country Western tune, “She think’s my tractor’s sexy.” My wife Terese hates that song, and truth be told, I would have felt more than a little uneasy had my sister-in-law sang that in our driveway.

A few words of defense  for my New Holland TC 25 tractor.

I’ll admit that my little blue tractor, which goes by the name of “Babe”(as in Blue Ox), is no mean machine. Compared to the monstrous tractors that regularly go past out house on Hy. 33, our tractor is little more than an overgrown lawn tractor.

But by gum, Babe’s got game, and so far has done everything I’ve asked of her.  Almost two years after buying her and I still delight in her being mine. Oftentimes in her saddle I find myself singing aloud, my song drowned out by her gentle diesel roar. Her fuel miserliness and reliability helps make me a happy agrarian.

In addition to the aforementioned disc, I have a mower and field cultivator that are right sized to Babe. With these implements I’ve been able to do so much more than in seasons past when I was under equipped for commercial garden farming. Do I wish that Babe had more horsepower? Sure, and a loader would be a dream come true.

But nonetheless for all Babe’s capabilities I am grateful. I count myself unfathomably blessed to work up land with a tractor instead of a team of horses, as do my vegetable growing Amish compatriots for Organic Valley.

These big tractors, manure spreaders, and  sprayers, my, I think they’ve gotten out of hand, and industrialized a very important cultural undertaking than nurtures the human soul. The size of our agricultural machines have emptied the countryside of people in the fields. The big machines allow for the land barons to farm ever more far-flung land. Seeing them go by and blow their black smoke is akin to watching military-like maneuveur in action. I and other organic devotees suspect the soil’s biotic community – the countless earthworms, fungi and assorted other microbes – must suffer under the assault of the weight of the heavy metal and chemicals.

As for me, I seek to sow peace, and if that means driving a “cute” tractor, so be it.

More guest posts by Patrick Slattery are located here:

Ali: My Iraqui Brother

Gary Elson: Son of the Middle Ridge Soil