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Thursday, September 21, 2017

On The Wild Side of Stink

Highbush Cranberry is known by many names. The scientific name is Viburnum trilobum. It is also known as Guelder Rose, Crampbark, American Cranberry, Moosberry, and locally here in Maine - Maple Leaf Viburnum. In my house, we call it Stinky Sock Berries - more on that in a minute. It is delicious and a very good or even better berry than Lingonberry, or traditional cranberry.

The berries have a distinctive musk aroma. This is especially pronounced when cooking them. It is so strong, you may want to do the cooking outside. How could something that smells like soccer socks taste good? It is a bit of a mystery to me to be honest. After sweetening processing into jelly, the flavor is fabulous and a bit earthy. No doubt it is there and that's probably one of the reasons they are so good.

What is the earthyness, in the flavor world? Umami. The fifth taste. Salty, sweet, bitter, sour are familiar, umami is not as well known. That deep, dark, meaty intensity that distinguishes seared beef, soy sauce, blue cheese, ripe tomato, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, and mushrooms, among other things. It hits the back of your throat and leaves you craving more. That's umami which translated to english as "deliciousness". The chemical responsible is glutamic acid and it was identified in the early 20th century by a Japanese chemist. So American Cranberries have it and that's a good thing.

Wild Cranberry Jelly

Mix berries in a saucepan with sugar. I used 8 cups of berries and 5 cups sugar. Gently heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. You can adjust this to your tastes. Continue cooking and stirring frequently until the sauce is a good consistency and the berries are well cooked and mixture has just reached a rolling boil. You may add a little citrus zest or any spices you like, but only a very small amount of liquid, as this will only extend the cooking time. Add a package of pectin - powder or liquid is fine.

Strain by pressing through a sieve. If you are lucky enough to still have a cone and wooden pestle food mill, use that. Discard seeds and skins.
American Cranberry jelly has a delicious cranberry flavor and the umami isn't pronounced after cooking but does give it a bit of an earthy flavor. It might not be the best for toast (neither is cranberry sauce) but try it with turkey, pastured chicken, pork, or your favorite moose meatloaf.
Can't find it in the wild? Plants are available at in the spring or at our farm until the snow flies.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Radical Radishes

There is more than one way to eat a radish.

Raw, radishes are great.  Wash, trim the tops and root off and pop into your mouth. Delicious.  If they are a little hot for your liking, a shake of salt tames it down.  Chunk or slice and add to a salad, that is good too and you know about that already.  What else can you do with a radish? 

  1. Sauté 

Clean and slice your radishes.  Add to a skillet with butter, salt and pepper.  Add garlic, substitute olive oil for the butter and add dill or your favorite herb if you like. Radish tops are a good addition, just clean and lightly chop them up before adding to your skillet. 
2. Roast

Roast your radishes in foil with oil, thyme, and rosemary.  Grilling outside? Put the foil packet on the grill.  Whether the grill or the oven, radishes cook quickly in about 10 minutes. 
3. Braise
Radishes Braised with Shallots and Vinegar

Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices bacon, diced
2 large shallots, finely sliced
1 pound radishes, about 2 bunches, tops trimmed and radishes sliced in half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter and bacon over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy skillet — preferably cast iron. Cook for about 5 minutes. When the bacon is cooked through and getting crispy, place the radishes cut-side down in the pan and cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes or until the bottoms begin to brown. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Add the balsamic vinegar and the water — the water should just come up around the sides of the radishes. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the radishes are tender.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced into a syrupy sauce. Add the the parsley and stir to wilt.
Season with salt and pepper and serve.

4. Cook like Greens

Don't forget that radish tops are edible! While you can eat them raw like lettuces, you can also stir-fry or sauté the tops, or blanch the greens and blend them with some garlic, nuts (sliced almonds, toasted pine nuts, etc), and cheese to make a lightly spicy pesto. Radish tops can also be wilted into pasta dishes, risotto, or even soups.

See us at the farm or at the farmers' market.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

"Live A New Way" Permaculture Nursery

Current Availability at

Created 4/4/2017 Quantities and prices are subject to change
price each depending on quantity
COMMON NAME LATIN NAME Availibility From: To:
1 American Cranberry VIBURNUM TRILOBUM 93 $8.00 $10.00
2 American Persimmon Diospyros virginiana 96 $5.00 $6.00
3 Anne Gold Raspberry 49 $9.00 $9.00
4 Aronia ARONIA MELANOCARPA 20 $20.00 $20.00
5 Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 204 $5.00 $9.00
6 Black Cherry Prunus Serotina 100 $6.00 $7.00
7 Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia 284 $5.00 $8.00
8 Black Walnut Juglans Nigra 100 $5.00 $7.00
9 Buffalo Berry Sheperdia Argentea 59 $7.00 $14.00
10 Caroline Red Raspberry 50 $9.00 $9.00
11 Chinese Chestnut Castanea Mollissima 198 $5.00 $6.00
12 Corneilian Cherry Cornus Mas 20 $10.00 $12.00
13 Delaware Red Grape 50 $10.00 $15.00
14 Duke Blueberry 30 $18.00 $18.00
15 European Filbert CORYLUS AVELLANA     97 $5.00 $6.00
16 Frontenac Blue/Black Grape 47 $9.00 $15.00
17 Japenese Quince "Spitfire" Chaenomeles speciosa 0 $22.00 $22.00
18 King of the North Grape 44 $8.00 $12.00
19 Korean Nut Pine Pinus Koraiensis 181 $5.00 $9.00
20 Lord Hippophae Rhamnoides 22 $20.00 $17.00
21 Manchurian Apricot Prunus armeniaca "Mandshurica" 70 $6.00 $7.00
22 Nanking Cherry Prunus Tomentosa 37 $10.00 $12.00
23 Osage Orange Maclura Pomifera 90 $5.00 $8.00
24 Paw Paw Asimina triloba 0 $18.00 $18.00
25 Russian Mulberry Morus Alba Tatarica 77 $4.00 $6.00
26 Serviceberry Amelanchier alnifolia 99 $7.00 $10.00
27 Siberian Pea Caragana Arborescens 88 $5.00 $8.00
28 Somerset Red Grape 46 $10.00 $12.00
29 sunny Hippophae Rhamnoides 96 $18.00 $22.00
30 Swenson White Hardy Grape 50 $10.00 $12.00
31 Thornless Honey Locust Glenditsia t.inermis 0 $12.00 $12.00
32 Unsexed Hippophae Rhamnoides 64 $7.00 $10.00
33 Valiant Blue/Black Hardy Grape 47 $11.00 $15.00
34 Yellowhorn Xanthoceras sorbifolium 75 $7.00 $9.00

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fungi Demystify – Garden Giant Mushroom Cultivation

Mushrooms can be a fantastic part of your edible landscape.

I’m going to tell you about one species that is easy and can be quick to make you some mushrooms to eat.  While the mushrooms are making you some healthy and delicious food, they are doing even more service to your garden and soil.  More about that later.
Shady Garden?  Rejoice!
You may have a hundred acres of field and forests, or, you may have a small lot with a home near your workplace.  Either way, what you need is a shady area or side of the house, some wood chips, mushroom mycelium and water, water , water.  Easy peasy.
Most of the mushrooms we grow are inoculated into logs.  This is true for shitake, oyster, chicken of the woods, lion’s mane, and, reishi.  Not wine cap however. No drilling. 

Names, names

Mushrooms have been cultivated for a long time in many places around the world so names can vary for the same species.  Garden Giant is synonymous with Wine Cap and King Stropharia.  There is probably more.
Most importantly use wood chips from unsprayed hardwoods.  Try a local arborist, they might be glad to drop of a load of them to you for free.

The Mushroom Lasagna Patch

The Wine Cap/Garden Giant mushroom patch can be any shape you wish. Fashion a ring around a deciduous tree in your yard, alongside the shady part of the house, it doesn’t matter. Clear it out a bit down to about a depth of about 6 inches.  Put down a layer of cardboard to retain moisture and reduce the growth of competing mycelium. Lay about 2 inches of wood chips, then some Wine Cap spawn available from jiovi®.  It runs about $25 and will cover about 50 square feet.  Next, put about 2 more inches of wood chips and the other half of the spawn.  No need to buy any more spawn after the first planting.  Wine Cap easily self-propagates.
Expect flushes of mushrooms throughout the season from late spring to fall; wine cap has a wide range of fruiting temperatures (40F to 90F). After the first fruiting, either feed the patch more wood chips or scoop a bucketful from the mycelium-rich patch and start a new one, using a ratio of approximately 1:20 (or one bucket of spawn to 20 new chips). Or let it go and plant right into the rich compost it has created.
Without continued feeding the patch will expend itself into fertile compost and stop fruiting. To re-feed the original patch just dump on 2 to 3 inches of moistened fresh chips, mix in well and recover with straw.

Companion Planting in your Vegetable Garden

In mid-summer, once your Wine Cap garden has fruited in your chip garden, remove some of the chips that have the white mycelium through them, and spread them in some chip mulch under your vegetable plants.

A Word about Light

Wine cap mushroom patch does like a bit of light. Think dappled shade. Shade cloth rigged up out in the middle of a sunny garden can work.  (As well as under your tomato plants) Be creative. Have fun!
Make some circles around the larger plants and mix it in.  Pick the plants that are the larger ones and create their own shade.  You’ll be harvesting mushrooms there too and they will be helping your vegetables by breaking down the organic matter in the soil and chips making the nutrients available.
They can grow as big as 5 pounds!  They can also naturalize in your garden. Garden Giants are fast to fruit.  Plant (inoculate) in the spring and you can have mushrooms in a few months if you are lucky.  They may take longer depending on growing conditions.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Osage Orange Tree: Useful and Historically Significant

The Osage orange tree, once a favorite of American settlers, deserves a look from modern-day homesteaders.

"Good fences make good neighbors," wrote poet Robert Frost. But what, exactly, makes a good fence?

If you've ever had the dubious pleasure of putting a fence up — of cutting, splitting and setting posts and stretching wire — you just might answer, "A fence that builds itself." And since you're fantasizing, you might add, "...and takes care of itself, too."

Well, believe it or not, there is such a fence. Chances are you've seen one while driving along rural roads and looking out over neat hedgerow-lined fields. During the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first few decades of this one — up until the time barbed wire became widely available and inexpensive — settlers and farmers throughout much of the eastern half of the United States planted their fences.

More often than not, the tree they used was the Osage orange tree, sometimes also called prairie hedge, hedge apple, horse apple, bowwood or yellow-wood. Most folks today, though, know it only for its distinctly ugly, almost otherworldly-looking fruit: an inedible, fleshy green orb the size of a grapefruit or large orange, with a warty, furrowed surface sparsely covered with long, coarse hairs. When you break the globe open, it exudes a bitter, milky, sticky sap that eventually turns black and that gives some people an irritating rash.

But beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder, and any homesteader who places greater value on usefulness than on appearance will find much to admire in the Osage orange.

The Extraordinary Osage Orange Tree
Osage (Maclura pomifera) is the sole surviving member of the genus Maclura — of its many relatives from past geologic eras, only fossils remain. It is also, however, a member of the family Moraceae, which encompasses the mulberries and the figs, as well as a large number of tropical and semitropical trees.

When mature, the Osage orange measures from 10 to 50 feet tall and has a trunk 1 to 2 feet in diameter. Its branches form an even, round crown, unless the trees are growing closely together in a hedge and don't have room to spread naturally. Between May and July, the species sports tiny greenish flowers.

Other distinguishing characteristics of the Osage orange include deeply furrowed, braidedlooking, dark orange bark; long (3- to 5-inch), shiny, egg-shaped, dark green leaves, which are pointed at one end; and (perhaps most significantly) many sharp, steel strong thorns that make this tree a formidable barrier, to say the least.

But Osage orange's value extends well beyond its use as a living hedge.

A Tree With a Past 

When early French settlers ventured west of the Mississippi River — into what is now eastern Texas and Oklahoma and western Arkansas — they encountered the Osage Indians, who were known far and wide for making bows that were superior weapons for fighting and hunting. The unusual tree that the Osage used for making their bows was unknown to the French, who promptly dubbed it bois d'arc, or "wood of the bow." Later pioneers corrupted the name to bowdark, and eventually came to call it bowwood.

In fact, it didn't take the early pioneers long to acknowledge that Osage orange was a valuable timber resource. Because of its great strength and durability, the settlers used the newly discovered tree in nearly every application that required a tough, tenacious wood.

The hubs and rims of the wheels on farm wagons, covered wagons and chuck wagons were made from Osage. Its great strength enabled it to bear heavy loads, while its flexibility made it relatively easy to bend into the circle of a wheel rim and also gave it the capacity to absorb shock without cracking or splitting. Those properties, added to the wood's ability to resist the effects of soil and moisture, made for high-mileage wheel rims.

Unfortunately, the wood's extraordinary ability to resist rot also put the tree in great demand, causing the huge native stands of Osage orange growing in the bottomlands of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas to be harvested wholesale for use as fence posts and railroad ties. Osage orange might have ended up being a very rare sight for most Americans were it not for its suitability as a hedge. The plant met all of the qualifications: It was "horse-high, bull-strong and pig-tight." The tree was easily propagated from seed, and grew fast. In a few years, it would form a hedge almost tight enough to hold water. Any spaces between the trees would be screened by the Osage's thick, thorny branches. And since the trees propagate by sending up shoots from their roots, all the holes would eventually fill in with new trees.

If planted close together, Osages would grow only to about 20 or 30 feet, never attaining the height of most deciduous trees. Consequently, they made perfect field borders: They could contain livestock without shading crops excessively. Besides, it was a lot easier to plant trees in lines around fields and pastures than it was to erect and maintain rail or stockade fences.

As a result, thousands of miles of Osage hedges were planted in the Midwest, East and South, far beyond the original range of the species. The tree was hardy and adapted well to new surroundings, and today it can be found growing (mostly in hedges) from the Great Plains to the Eastern Seaboard, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

Although not commonly used for fencing anymore (some people claimed that, once established, the trees were hard to control and that their thorns sometimes injured livestock), the stands of Osage planted fifty to a hundred years ago remain a valuable resource. Some farmers still utilize them as natural enclosures, and many more use the trees for making exceptionally long-lasting fence posts. Crafts people — woodworkers and those who make and use natural dyes — hold the Osage orange in high esteem. And, perhaps most important, the trees serve as windbreaks and as badly needed cover for wildlife.

If Frost was right in saying that "good fences make good neighbors," then the Osage is truly remarkable, because it is both a good fence and a good neighbor, to man and beast alike.

Visit to check current availability of Osage Orange. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

3 Ways to Grow 6 Mushrooms on the Homestead

Mushroom Cultivation with Sawdust Spawn

Get your Mushroom Spawn and Supplies at  

Sawdust Spawn works well with the Log Method, Stump Method, and Totem Method (described below)
Tools of the trade: to inoculate logs with sawdust spawn using the drill method you will need at least an inoculation tool (available at our online store). The angle grinder adapter, though optional, will exponentially speed up the process by turning your higher RPM angle grinder into a drill. The drill bit with stopper is manufactured specifically for mushroom cultivation and works with the angle grinder adapter. The trio of tools will make any scale log inoculation project a breeze!
Tools of the trade: to inoculate logs with sawdust spawn using the drill method you will need at least an inoculation tool (available at our online store). The angle grinder adapter, though optional, will exponentially speed up the process by turning your higher RPM angle grinder into a drill. The drill bit with stopper is manufactured specifically for mushroom cultivation and works with the angle grinder adapter. The trio of tools will make any scale log inoculation project a breeze!

What type of wood should I use?
Excellent- Red and White Oak, Sugar Maple
Very Good- Beech, Ironwood, Musclewood
Good- Black and Yellow Birch, Hickory, Red Maple
Bad (Except for Oysters)- Soft Hardwoods like Poplar Aspen etc.
Bad- White Ash, Elm, Fruit Wood
Unsuitable- Conifers
Unknown- Other Hardwood Species (experiment!)
Should the wood be old or freshly cut?
Only freshly cut disease-free wood should be used. Old or rotting wood should be avoided as it will likely contain contaminant fungi or be too dry to support mushroom growth. After cutting the wood the sooner you can inoculate the log the better though you can wait up to 4 weeks after cutting before inoculating the log. During the winter months the inoculation window can be extended for several months by covering freshly cut wood with snow to maintain moisture until you are ready to inoculate in early spring.
When should I cut my logs?
It is best to fell your trees during the early spring or winter (the dormant season) and as close to the anticipated time of inoculation as possible. The worst time to cut your logs is during the tree’s budding-out period. When the leaves are developing the bark on the tree is particularly weak and susceptible to damage. Although considered less ideal by some growers trees can be cut during the summer months after the trees have leafed out and into early fall.
Works best with the Log Method. It will take at least 12 months of colonization before producing mushrooms and tends to fruit in the Summer through the Fall after rainfalls.
Preferred wood species are Oak, Maple, or Beech.
Grey Oyster or Italian Oyster
Works well with the Log, Stump, and Totem methods. Colonization is fast and should start producing in 4-12 months. They fruit best in the Spring and Fall and prefer softer hardwoods such as Poplar and Birch. Though they will also work on Maple or Oak. 
Golden Oyster 
Similar to the Grey Oyster. Prefers Log, Stump, and Totem methods. Colonization is fast and should start producing in 4-12 months. Golden Oyster is a tropical species and prefers to fruit in the summer months. They also prefer softer hardwoods such as Poplar and Birch.
Lions Mane 
Prefers the Totem Method, though works with Log or Stump Methods. Colonization is 12-24 months and fruits in the Fall. Prefers Maple.
Chicken of the Woods 
Chickens prefer very large Logs or Stumps. They are the slowest colonizers at 16-24 months. They can fruit through the Summer and Fall and prefer hard woods such as Oak or Maple.
Reishi likes any of the three methods. Colonizes in 12-24 months. Prefers Oak and fruits in the Summer.

Keep your sawdust spawn refrigerated until use.
Only open your spawn bag when you are ready to use it! Opening it prematurely will increase the risk of it molding.
It is not ideal to use spawn for more than one inoculation day. 

Uses 3-4' sections of log 4-6'' in diameter. The preferred method for Shiitake, Reishi, and Chicken of the Woods, but can be used with Oysters and Lion's Mane.
  1. Cut living tree trunks or large branches into 3-4' lengths.
  2. Drill holes in an equally spaced diamond pattern around the entire log. Drill holes 6'' apart, about 1'' deep, in a row running the entire length of the log. Move about 2-3'' around the log and drill another row, with the holes 3'' offset, creating a diamond pattern. Repeat, drilling a row of holes down the length of the log, around the entire log. It's okay if the rows are a little uneven. For sawdust spawn use a 7/16'' bit (12mm).
  3. Inoculate each hole. For sawdust spawn, tightly pack sawdust into the inoculation tool and inject the spawn into each 7/16'' diameter hole, completely filling the hole.
  4. Cover each hole with melted wax using a brush, wax dauber, paintbrush or rag. Eventually, after the log is colonized, wax will flake off. Beeswax or food-grade paraffin work well. Using a crockpot is a great way of keeping the wax melted while applying it to your logs.
  5. Incubate logs in a shady place, close to the forest floor but not in contact with soil or leaf litter. Lay down tracks of scrap wood that elevate the logs 1-2'' above the forest floor. Stack the logs in a layer with a little space for airflow between each log. If you have more logs, you can make multiple layers by off-setting each layer by 90°. Keep the stack lower than the average snow line, as the snow cover protects the logs from dry winter winds. Generally no special care is needed while the mycelium grows throughout the log, but watering may be needed if excessively dry weather occurs.
  6. Restack the logs into a log cabin fashion for increased air flow and ease of mushroom picking, about a year after inoculation. Log cabin stacks can be as high as 5' in wetter climates but in dry climates shorter stacks, closer to the ground, help keep logs moist. Fruiting naturally occurs after rains, and occurs in cycles. After the log has fruited once on its own, it can be stimulated to fruit by watering or soaking it in cold water for 24 hours. If it has recently fruited, forcing will probably not work.


Smaller sections of logs are stacked upright with sawdust spawn sandwiched between the sections of log. Large-diameter wood becomes easy to use and attractive to display. The preferred method for Oyster Mushrooms and Lion's Mane. No special tools are needed.
  1. Cut three sections of log for each totem: one piece only 1-3'' long, and two sections 12-18'' long.
  2. Bring your setup to your planned incubation place and create totems on site.
  3. Open a contractor-size black plastic bag, sprinkle a layer of sawdust spawn about 1'' deep in the bottom of the bag, and stand one of the 12-18'' logs upright on top of the spawn. Make another layer of sawdust spawn on top of it, and place the second 12-18'' log on top of that. Create a third layer of sawdust spawn of top of the second log and then cap the totem with the 1-3'' piece. 
  4. Wrap the plastic bag up around the inoculated totem, securing the top loosely with a strip of cloth or a rubber band, positioned in such a way that an opening allows for some air exchange but does not allow rain water to enter the bag.
  5. Incubate the covered totems for 4-12 months. When the logs are covered with a visible layer of mushroom mycelium, the plastic bag can be removed. The totem can be left intact or broken up into individual sections for fruiting.

Any size stumps can be inoculated but they should be located in a shady environment. Make sure you know what species of tree the stump came from!  
Use a 12mm bit and drill 1’’ holes all over the top, sides, and exposed roots of the stump. 
Use inoculation tool to push sawdust spawn into the holes. Brush melted paraffin or beeswax over each plugged hole. We use a crockpot to melt the wax and a paint brush to apply it!
Stumps take a while to colonize but will produce for up to a decade.