Category Archives: Blog

King Stropharia

King Stropharia mushroom

King StrophariaI purchased my spawn from Mushroom Mountain, the info below was written by them, if your looking to purchase spawn, use these guys, they have been great on the customer service end as well as providing viably spawn.

If you have a garden, a wooded lot, a compost pile, or a shaded area where you can’t plant vegetables, you can grow King Stropharia. This mushroom can perennialize and take resident in your garden soil, coming back year after year if it can find a source of hardwood chips to feed on. King Stropharia tastes earthy, like asparagus cooked in a splash of wine, meaty and delicious. Both the cap and the stem are edible, so don’t trim and toss the stem like other mushrooms! It is called King Stropharia because the mushrooms can get very large, but they are best to eat when young and firm, when the caps are tight to prevent bug infestation.

KING STROPHARIA IS GREAT
FOR YOUR GARDEN

King Stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annulata), also called the “Garden Giant” or “Wine Cap” mushroom, is very good at cleaning soil and water as well. Our chicken house has King Stropharia mycelium threaded through the soil all around it, eating woodchips and straw bedding, forming a mycoremediation barrier for reducing and eliminating coliform bacteria.
Our gardens also have King Stropharia colonizing and enhancing the soil, building and binding the soil together for the plants, unlocking minerals for them, and attracting earthworms that will also contribute their valuable castings to the area.

For directions on how to grow King Stropharia, please click here. (PDF)

fruit trees

Reflections

The Great Outdoors

Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

Reflections

I seem to be reflecting on the goings on here at the farm, work and in life in general. I guess with the winter weather having set in, hard freezes with stunted plant growth in the row gardens, the wildcrafted mushrooms coming to a halt due to cold, I began considering the directions my life has taken these past few years and the totality of it all looking back across time.

Reflection is a good thing; it brings focus and clarity if you will let it. At times my life is a jumbled mess, I wonder what the heck am I doing and how did I get here. What has lead me to this place and have my actions been the sole arbiter of the outcome. I do believe some of us are lead by unseen forces and that each of us has a destiny. How this plays out in our lives is another matter entirely. I totally believe in free will, yet I also believe there is something in this world each of us is here to accomplish.

We are thrown into this world as children, totally dependent on our parents, yet we are separate human beings, with unique thoughts and needs, some of us are so unique as to be given labels, smart, dumb, good looking, ugly, fat, skinny, dyslexic. ADHD, autistic, aspergers, retarded and I think some labels are not good when dealing with human beings. Many of us once labeled will carry around the internal reflection and sometimes the external manifestation of the label placed upon us by others. I think we should strive to do better and find a new way. Having said I do not like certain labels, I’ll have to confess there are those that I feel are of benefit and can raise a being to greater heights.

We are capable of self reflection and as a result, self judgment. When we decide to use this wonderful capacity of our mind for self improvement and not self dis-empowerment, we have the capacity to become that which we were destined to be. When we realize that our thoughts control our lives and that we have the capacity to not only change our thoughts, but to change the meaning of that thought, we are just on the edge of cracking a code many never figure out. Depression, feelings of inadequacy, being misunderstood, these are all creations of our own minds, be they mental or physical. As conscious humans we have the ability to change the outcome, but not necessarily the events in our lives. What we do and how we act or react is totally up to each of us.

The choices each of us make, to love to hate, to care, to lash out at, to forgive or hold a grudge, these will impact our lives in ways most fail to contemplate. We are totally capably of being something so much more, of seeing the world in a totally different light; all we need to do is choose.

Many years ago I figured it out, walla, an epiphany, not a slap you up side the head kind, but the slow, seep into your bones kind. Having had this knowledge bestowed upon me by the universe and seeing that my actions had a direct reflection of the outcomes I was experiencing was a watershed moment. You would think that from that time forward I would have been a freaking genius. Action equals reaction, who would have thought it and who could not deny it, its right there, staring you in the face.

Well, as most of you have come to experience, it does not work like that for many of us, the epiphany of knowledge needs to work its way into the core of our being, we have to relearn the art of knowing, and we have to rewire 10’s of years of hard coding into our systems/brains. If we could have only been shown or taught the how to be and perceive, to see things as they are and not how others perceive them to be.

We humans are a strange breed; some of us have the strangest thoughts about things, some life affirming, and some life deterring. It took me many a year to listen to my own inner knowingness, up the mountain I would climb, the vistas could be aw inspiring, life grander than I could image, then the inevitable avalanche and the rocky slide back down into the world of doubt and uncertainty.

I am so happy to say that for the last 10 years or so the vistas of life have stayed in the grander than I could have imagined just a few short years back. I found my place, I found solitude and grace, I found gratitude and an ease of life that I had lacked before and I found it all when I started listening to that little voice within, the one that says, this is what I love, this brings joy into my life, this does not hurt.

As I reflect back on the years, I see and feel the outdoor experience had been calling me home, each time I had gone back to the soil, each year when I had planted the spring gardens I would feel the blessing of contentment and love, it was if the sun was caressing me, being outside in nature, working with my hands, watching life happen all around me and knowing that my actions were creating the results I was seeing and feeling, how had I missed it all those years, why did I not listen to that small voice within all those years ago.

It’s the middle of January 2014 and it’s going to be a heck of a year, things on the farm are continuing to progress, the green house is in process, greens galore are growing, even those hard freezes did not get them. Jan, 2014 brought 18 new fruit trees, 20 Kiowa blackberries and a massive load of composting material is being delivered this week. I have connected to a new group of people in the permaculture world and I am thinking of changing the focus of the farm a bit, new website, and new name. I’ll be adding new features, bath house, smoke house, solar kiln, saw mill and some new chickens this spring.

If you made it this far into this ramble on consciousness, rather than farming or outdoors, I thank you. The idea of knowing that we each have the capacity to do what ever it is that floats our boats and never giving up our dreams is something I want everyone to take to heart. If you have a dream, go get it, stop all the negatives and recognize the positives in your lives, be mindful, listen to your hearts.

As always get outside and enjoy The Great Outdoors.

Robert Patrick

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

https://www.facebook.com/robert.patrick.505

Master Gardener – Master Naturalist – Wild crafter (Medicinals & Edibles)

Amateur Mycologist – Custom Furnishings

 

green house

Mid winter gardening

Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

Mid winter gardening

I would say not a lot is going on, but then it is just slow in getting there. This cooler than normal weather has put my late planting into a kind of hibernation. The wetness of these past couple of months has been good for all things growing; we sure needed this to help the water tables, but even more to bring back the health of our forests and fields.  I do regularly plant a late winter garden and am used to the slow getting going nature of a winter crop, but dang, this is a slow one for sure.

As I try new methods, new soils, new ground covers, I am finding success. The wild animal composts are doing really well; the wood chip ground cover I put down last spring has almost turned to soil and has given me a break from the normal grass pulling. Now I hope this stays true into the spring, winter gardens are so much easier as you don’t have to fight the grass. The long straight rows of chard, kale, carrots, beets and cabbage are coming along and this week I laid down a side dressing of compost, the coming rains should let it settle into the soil nicely and give them a little boost when we get some sunshine and warmer temps this coming week. When reading about what I am doing, you’re getting a 15 day lag or so, I write on or about the 15th and you guys get to see what I was up to in the first week of the month.

Several weeks back, heck it’s been a month I guess, I did some broad cast seeding of the new compost bed I finished at the end of summer and goodness gracious has it ever turned on, it’s a blanket of green and I can’t even guess the number of plants, millions of them. The seed was a gift from my buddy Larry, some of the seed was some that I had given him and then others he added, I was not sure about carrots, but as they are developing I am seeing hundreds of carrot seedlings sprouting up, it will be by far the largest carrot crop I have grown and in the best soil, very fertile and friable. I could see some giants this year and I have grown some big carrots.

I cut the sugar cane down and replanted, the 5 starts I began with will produce 100’s of canes this coming year, not sure what I am going to do with it all, but then who wouldn’t want a big patch of sugar cane. The cold weather has put a whooping on the taro, the big green ones built bigger corms, the pretty purple one built more corms, each were growing in different types of soils, so next spring I’ll be planting each in the others location to see if this makes a difference in corm development.

As the cooler months have marched forward I have been spending lots of time in the woods, the weather (cool and wet) has produced a plethora of mushrooms this year. I can see a combination of factors building to the large numbers of oyster mushrooms I am bringing to market. The droughts of these past few years killed many trees and those trees in turn are being colonized by the wild strains of mushroom we have in our forests, I am finding more and more trees in my local area that are pinging oysters and on a more regular bases than in years past. I am not complaining by any means, this part time income is very welcome and the excellent nutrition I am adding to my diet is superb.

The time is almost here when the fruit tree sales will start in earnest and I am planning on putting in a good number of new fruit trees here on the farm. Two years ago I rooted out a number of figs from a tree growing at my uncle Jacks homestead, I have 15 figs growing in different areas and in a couple of years I will be in fig heaven, I hope to do this with many other varieties, the prices are a bit high sometimes, but if the tree lives and makes it to fruit bearing age, you have an great resource for a long time to come.

I have almost collected all the parts I am going to need to erect the greenhouse; I scored from a neighbor almost all the pipe I was looking for. The old ones that I got with the deal were mostly rusted out, they were the thin wall type and I found some heavy gauge, this should last many, many years. I think I have all the structural components and now I’ll be saving up for a 6 mill Infrared Anti-Condensate Thermal Greenhouse Film, 32 x 100 roll. That will put me in the growing in cold weather business and allow me to get started much earlier than I have in the past and allow me to grow out a bunch of the plants I want to add to the mix.

I feel it is imperative to have as many different types of food growing, veggies, fruits, nuts, berries, herbs, spices, grapes, mushrooms. One day I hope to be 100% self sufficient when it comes to food. With the lake as source of fish, the rabbits and chickens I keep and the mushrooms I gather, I have most if not all of the protein I will need. Yea, most likely I could survive on what’s growing hear now, but then I love variety and Blue Bell…J So I guess I need to keep planting and growing till I run out of space or someone stops me. Before the 1st of the year I hope to bring in a load of fresh cut sweet gum, with all the oyster mushrooms I am finding I plan on trying a bit of tree splicing. I’ll be cutting the logs into 1 ft sections and stacking them in a vertical tower like system, 10 – 4 ft sections and lined up just outside my oyster mushroom bed, I’ll be putting a few mushrooms in-between each section of the log and stacking them up, then tacking a piece of red oak on the side to stabilize them. That should produce shrooms come next year and for 2 or 3 years to come.

 

Well, I guess I won’t see you folks until next year, hope your Christmas was a good one and don’t forget those new years resolutions. Mine is to get the green house constructed and covered by the end of January 2014. Lots to do, lots to do!

 

Robert Patrick

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

https://www.facebook.com/robert.patrick.505

Master Gardener – Master Naturalist – Wild crafter (Medicinals & Edibles)

Amateur Mycologist – Custom Furnishings

 

winter greens

Winter Gardens and goings on!

By: Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

Winter Gardens and goings on!

Here in east Texas on the banks of Lake Livingston winter has arrived. The curtain between crops has come down and is closing out a number of my permaculture crops. As the sun was rising I was getting my first look at which crops are taking damage from my first frost of the fall of 2013. Most of the online weather stations are not showing freezing temps, but then the taro and sweet potatoes are singing a different tune.

The taro is a major food crop in many countries, but most of those countries are in a warmer climate. I am experimenting to find out how well the taro will grow here in east Texas. FYI- growth over the warmer months has been great, large green tops and Hugh leaves, lots of pups, 6, 8, even 10 on some of the plants. With the frost event the large green tops are looking like they are about to turn to mush, this self shedding of the greenery is a good thing, the corms left in the ground will now be easier to harvest and clean. I’ll be leaving a number of the corms in the ground over the winter to see how well they store in the ground.

Should the corms be viable for consumption come spring, it will be a very good thing and confirm to me the value (in caloric terms) of keeping taro as a major part of the permaculture system.

An update to one of the many experiments I am performing, the King Stropharia mushroom beds I have created produced the first fruit this past month, mind you it was only one mushroom, but then the temperature was right at the edge of being to cool for them to fruit and as the taro grew it took away the sunshine needed to warm the ground properly for this excellent mushroom to fruit. The new spawn I inoculated into several of the garden beds is also growing and much better than the first inoculations I did back in the summer months. I do believe this experiment has been a success and come next spring and summer I should be collecting 100’s of lbs of shrooms here at the farm, man don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

Over these past few weeks I have been busting butt getting a portion of the gardens ready for planting. It was a few weeks back we had an almost torrential rain, 7 inches here at the farm. I had planted 3 rows just a day prior and have been watching for signs of the seeds sprouting, it seems they got hammered. I see a few sprouts here and there, but nothing like it should be, I’ll selectively be replanting this weekend and hope they can get a good start even in this cooler weather.

Now, if you know me, 3 rows just ain’t enough, after that major rain I got busy and cleared out the spring and summer area where I had planted the 140 tomato plants, it’s about 60ft x 30ft and I got 6 nice rows laid in and planted just before that nice ½ in rain two weeks back. I put in a new to me type of kale (Siberian Kale), it is supposed to be blue hued and man did it sprout, thousands of sprouts are rocking there way out of the ground, can’t wait to see this plant, I grow Russian Red kale and curly kale, so this should be a winner as well. I also put in Detroit red beets, early jersey cabbage, Imperator carrots, Swish Chard and a combo row of spinach, collards and turnips. If all of them sprout well, I’ll be in high cotton as they say.

Other good edibles I put in this month were garlic, it’s sprouted and doing well, multiplying onions were pulled and separated and replanted and have taken well. I started the winter garden about 45 days back, maybe 60. I have nice stands of kale and turnip greens, I’ll need to thin the turnips ASAP as I planted them in the broadcast method and they are too thick to produce the roots/tuber, I love me some turnips. Everything needs to be thinned, but then that’s a good thing.

With the cold weather setting in or at least making its appearance, I’ll be harvesting my first crop of sugar cane. Now then most of this cane will be replanted and that will happen in the next few weeks. I put in 5 starts this year and all of them took, they were not full stalks, just cuttings mind you, but each has produced between 5 and 14 stalks each and they are 8 to 10 feet tall, I’ll get a few hundred cutting if I go that direction or I might just plant the stalks whole. At any rate, I’ll have hundreds of stalks next year and the ability to sell.

One of the things I like about winter gardens is the lack of grass pulling, god knows I have pulled my share of grass and I can grow some grass. I had a magnificent crop this year, some of it almost out grew my veggies…lol I’ll be working on getting my grass growing under control, I had the opportunity to obtain a number of bales of bad hay, it had gotten wet and started molding and the cows would not eat it, so its become part of the garden, I rolled them out on top of the ground and have been smothering some nasty grass, hopefully to death. At any rate, I’ll only expose the ground where I would put in rows and that should keep the grass from growing in the walk/harvesting rows in between.

Some folks are confused by my use of the term permaculture and heck I can’t blame them…lol Sometimes I can’t adequately describe it myself. It encompasses so much I am not sure I will ever get enough of the design concepts built into my farm to really call my place a permaculture center, but I am trying and I will continue to try until I am successful. Let’s just put the definition here for future reference. “Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.” But then it is much more than this, it also incorporates ecological design systems for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more. So it’s a big thing and hard to describe or get the whole gist in an initial conversation.

Something that I consider as part of this is hugelkultur and I built my first large hugel bed this past month. I do hope that those who have interest do take the time to research these subjects I am covering as they can be quite beneficial to humanity as a whole and will directly benefit those who begin to practice these techniques.

More Great news, I’ll be erecting a green house this winter and be ready for getting starts started come January and February. I hope to use the green house for more than just my spring plant starts. Plans are being laid, schemes are hatching in my mind for a future business, but then I am always working on creating something, building something or trying to figure out how to do something. I may be needing some help around here come next year if all goes as planned and will be looking for a few good gardeners/nurserymen/women to join in a project. So keep your eyes peeled to these pages in the coming months. I’ll lay out the plan and keep you folks advised.

Robert Patrick

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

https://www.facebook.com/robert.patrick.505

Master Gardener – Master Naturalist – Wild crafter (Medicinals & Edibles)

Amateur Mycologist – Custom Furnishings

 

Oyster mushrooms

Mushrooms of the fall

By: Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

Mushrooms of the fall

We had a taste of fall a few weeks back, the rains came, the temps dropped into the 50’s and that feeling of downright oppressive heat has finally taken aback seat to some pleasant weather. Being a naturalist, loving the Great Outdoors and enjoying a fall garden are just the start to the fall season here at Indian Creek Farm. Its about the middle of the Month (Oct) and we have had another round of rain soak the country side in the past couple of days and if the weather forecast is correct we are looking at a bit more rain over the next week or so, the rains are a blessing to us all, but especially the gardeners and ranchers among us. As a naturalist the rains bring a special smile to my face, I love seeing the natural world come to life, plants love the nitrogen rich water that mother nature provides and it seems all the microscopic creatures are equally as thrilled.

For me fall, like spring, is a busy time of year, the gardens have been fallow for a few months (the flat land gardens), working in compost that has been cooking over the summer and the rains allowing for working some of my heavy clay soils down in the row gardens. I spent a hard 10 hours getting as much done as possible this past weekend, spreading some large piles of compost, planting garlic, pulling bunches of multiplying onions and replanting them in some of the new composted areas, dragging some large oak logs into place and back filling the area with a soil compost mixture. I planted kale, chard, turnips a couple of weeks back, all are doing good, I planted spinach but not one seed sprouted, it was old seed and I have more, so I’ll be replanting soon. Lots of other veggies will be planted over the course of the next month or so, but let’s get started on what this article is really all about.

For me the fall brings a new $ flow into the capitalistic side of life, everybody has to make a living, I just happen to like doing so many things and hate the idea of a monotonous JOB doing the same task over and over again each and every day.

Fall brings on the flush of mushrooms here in east Texas, Boletes, Oysters, Chanterelles, Herciniums and a host of others. Mushrooms are a great source of protein and have many medicinal benefits if eaten as a regular part of your diet. Many folks are familiar with the store bought varieties, the white button mushroom and some of the portabella types, but not many folks get to sample the goodness of fresh mushrooms from the wild. As part of my master naturalist training, mycology, or the study of mushrooms really floated my boat, something about it, can’t put my finger on it, but I am hooked on shrooms.

The first big flush of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) began/happened a couple of weeks ago when the first of the good rains hit and the temps went doing into the 60’s. Mushrooms are the fruit of a plant like structure called mycelia. The substrate or type of place the mushroom grows is dependant on the species of mushroom; some grow on logs, other in the soil. Many of our native mammals eat much of the mushroom population before us humans have the change to ever see them, if your not out and about in the woods and the fields, you would never know they are there. Not only that, many only last a few hours and even the hearty species are only around for a few days to a week.

This past week while out on a mushroom adventure, looking for new source logs for oyster mushrooms I came upon my first big stash of chanterelles (chantharellus cibarius). OK, the hogs had found them first, the ground was torn asunder from can to can’t in all directions, but I did manage to find enough for a nice meal and while looking around I found a patch and a nice size one at that, of small golden yellow dots covering the ground. I’ll be heading back to this spot in a few days to check on the growth progress, having not found many of this type, I am unsure of the growth habits, what I have heard is from the very small stage to the picking size, it could take a few weeks. I’ll clue you all in when I find the answer.

I am just learning my boletes and therefore will not go into details as there are so many types growing here in Texas, I do not think we have any poisonous types, but some are less than palatable if you know what I mean. I have determined a few types that I’ll be sampling over the course of the next month or so and I’ll keep you all informed.

Now to the king of the group, the rarest, the most delicious and one that has almost magical healing properties. One of the common names is the Lions Mane mushroom and its official name is (Hericium erinaceus). We have three species of Hericiums that grow here, but the later is the king of the three. I only find a few of these solitary beauties each year and feel very fortunate to do so, it’s not that there are not a lot of them in the forests, it’s just that you have to be in the type of forest, at the right time and be looking in the right direction, they grow on the sides of trees, usually in a scar or rotted out limb hole, sometime you will find them in downed logs, but most of the time, it’s just ONE.

Making a measure of my living from the fat of the land and fall being an extra good time for enjoying myself in the outdoors, I get the best of both worlds, loving what I do and doing what I love, how can it get any better than that. Although I am trying to set up here at the farm some large mushroom patches, one oyster bed and several King Stropharia patches, the oysters grow on logs in the wild, but can be grown on other substrates and the King Stropharia (also called the garden giant) is a garden mushroom and grows well in wood chips and garden soil. I started building these natural like beds here at the farm in the spring and summer but have yet to get them to flush, the process is a natural one, I introduce the mycelia into the substrate (logs, woodchips, hay, straw, cardboard) and wait for it to colonize. The oyster’s need to take over the whole of it’s host, be it a log or a bag of straw, when it runs out of things to consume that signals the plant to bear it’s fruit. This is when the mushrooms start to emerge from the host substrate. If I am lucky, I’ll see a few oysters so up before the cool weather abates in the spring of next year and the garden giant should if all goes as planed be a part of my spring and summer gardens starting next year.

It’s my hope that I have not bored you guys to tears; I can get a bit long winded when it comes to my passions. I hope each and everyone has the opportunity to get outside and enjoy these great outdoors. It’s time to step off the porch and put your feet on one of the many natural surface trails here in San Jacinto county, the Loan Star Hiking trail is an excellent resource, use it when you can, just leave them mushrooms alone, there mine…lol

Robert Patrick

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

https://www.facebook.com/robert.patrick.505

Master Gardener – Master Naturalist – Wild crafter (Medicinals & Edibles)

Amateur Mycologist – Custom Furnishings

 

False spring

A false spring

By: Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

 

Wow, what a difference a few weeks of warm weather can do for my soul. Many of us outdoor folks are itching to get into the garden and I for one could not wait when those couple of weeks in February warmed up and gave me the hope for an early spring, then the ground hog foretold an early spring, goodness gracious I was filled with the spirit and nothing was going to stop me from an early planting.

We also had a window of opportunity when the rains abated and let the soil conditions get just right to start the tilling and weeding process, wow, I was in heaven, outside, sun shining, the old Horse was running like a top and the tilth of the soil was showing me great progress in my dance with some heavy clay soils.

I had been working through the late fall and winter on several large no till garden spots, a hugh by most standards new lasagna compost garden bed (100 x 12) and was chomping at the bit to get to planting. The no till areas may give me a bit of nitrogen drain as the material I used was not 100% fully decomposed, but well on its way and as you might already know, I can’t stop myself from gardening and growing things…lol Last year when the power company was having the high line’s cleared I was able to get those crews to drop off the chipped material from all the limbs and trimmings here at the farm, got me 14 loads.

Knowing that the forest floor is the richest soil profile in all the land, I just had to have as much as I could find room for and it is not going to disappoint I am sure. I should have turned the piles more often, but then I can only do so much. I covered two large areas, one (65×25) the other (75×40), the soil underneath was in great shape, but I was trying to kill off the single leaf signal grass that has been so gracious to cover my gardens in the past couple of years, got to send that stuff packing if I can.

The larger of the two spots is going to be my tomato garden and I plan on growing 4 types of heirlooms and my favorite (better boys) in large numbers.

As the cold winds of winter were blowing I was transporting old spent hay and some super rich manure to the farm, this is how I am going to hope to overcome the possible nitrogen deficiency where the tomatoes are going to be planted, this year I hope to not have any grass or morning glories taking over the tomato patch. I’ll be adding a good shovel full of composted manure to each of the tomatoes I plant, kind of like the Indians did when adding fish to the soil at each of their plantings.

Now back to that early spring thing! Wow, I was planting up a storm, got two rows of green beans in the ground (contenders and blue lake bush), planting 5 kinds of squash (butternut, spaghetti, yellow, zucchini and scalloped) and an heirloom melon (canoe creek) it’s a kind of cantaloupe, it grows real big (up to 25lbs) excellent taste too.

I also set up two of the big round bales (bad hay) and am doing a bit of hay bale gardening just for fun. Planted some squash and Kentucky Wonder pole beans on the top of them, thought how cool it would be to have green beans trellising down the sides and have a large pile of compost at the end of the growing season to boot.

Well, can you folks guess what happened…lol FROZE it did, all of them. Dang the luck. Ok, seeds are cheap, I had a great time planting and I have knowledge of how tender baby squash plants are. The first frost did little damage to the green beans in the ground and almost none to those on the hay bales, the squash however was done for, took it out like some nasty brush killer herbicide (no, I do not spray that stuff on my farm, no way never, ever) but I am aware.

Now the second frost/freeze wiped those green beans out and I had them covered with a frost blanket. The blanket was a bit short of the row, so I cover the rest with hay, those with hay faired better but still took damage, a few might make it, but I will replant the whole row next week with the new growth of the moon. Those squash will be replanted as well, along with a few more varieties.

I can’t say I learned my lesson and if given the chance of an early planting I will do it again, to have a full months jump and be the first to harvest is almost like being the guy with the most compost and you gardening folks know the old saying “The gardener with the most compost wins”.

I have been gardening all my life, I can remember being about 5 or 6 and being in the garden with my dad, when I was 8 we moved into the family home in Coldspring, the back lot had been the horse barn back in the day the ground was very fertile, soft loamy soil full of nutrients from the many years of being a barn yard. The barn and the horses were long gone; really no trace other than my dad telling me about it, but that soil was wonderful.

Here at the homestead (Indian Creek Farm) I have been gardening this soil for 18 years, each year adding more compost, sand, silt and more compost. I never use chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers, I will admit, once upon a time I did put out a bag of triple 13, but that was long, long ago. I raise chickens and rabbits, the manure from them both are added to the compost piles of leaves, grass clippings and all the silage from the gardens, then turned into the hay and manures from a wildlife ranch.

I try to raise the best veggies I can. I am not opening my CSA this year, but will be selling in downtown Coldspring on the weekends come about the second week in May, I look forward to meeting some new folks who enjoy the blessings of home grown foods.

Just an aside, I have 3 RV spots here at the lakes edge for a special few clients to enjoy my little bit of heaven. I’m a bit picky as I have young fruit trees and gardens to protect, free ranging chickens and such, but the right clients could find themselves a long term RV spot with garden benefits, 6 canoes and a view you might not want to ever leave.

Robert Patrick

Master Gardener

Master Naturalist

Master Forager

 

hugel culture

Organic Life

By: Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

“Compost” the gardener with the most compost wins and he who has bees is twice as lucky.

Compost is the life blood of a healthy and productive garden, at no time in my gardening life have I ever had so much compost and my gardens are a testament to its ability to enhance the soil. In the past couple of weeks I have been moving compost or almost compost into a new area here on the farm. The area in question was turned a few years back for the first time as a garden spot, but I found the soil was a bit heavy for my liking and I sorely wanted to improve the tilth. I started with the 5 gallon bucket method in the first couple of years of using the spot, but it seemed to me to be like paddling upstream if you know what I mean. So in the third season I abandoned the area for a season and began to think of how I was going to improve the area and get some good use out of it. During this time I took a job as a ranch hand on a local exotic wildlife ranch, the Owner has allowed me to reclaim the spent and spoiled hay for use in my gardens, he has also allowed me to haul said hay/compost to my farm using the ranches 4 yard dump trailer, this has truly be a gift from above.

Over the years the bison and the longhorns (the cowboys) as we call them were feed in several primary places, a large round bale and 8 big animals will produce a lot of manure, now move forward in time, this manure and the hay over a season turns into black gold and into a physical mountain/mound (abet spread over a large area). This was happening on its own until I entered the picture and knowing about compost, I started to speed up the process by turning the mass of hay and manure on a regular basis. In the year I have been at the ranch I have developed about 100 yards of quality material, many of them were built by nature in the slow composting method, others by the faster method of developing heat for the breakdown of the materials in question.

The last bunch I started moving over was not quite fully composted, so this stuff will need to sit a while before I can use the bulk of it to grow crops, but I am hoping it gets busy and finishes off the hot part so I can put some seeds in it, I can almost not try it now, but then again, I should give it some time to cool off.

My other compost, the deer based manures, along with the goats, kudus, pere davids, lamas and others to numerous to list and the excellent hay source (Alpha) builds up pretty fast around the central feeding location. The area were I pile this compost is near the big burn pile (ranch nearness) so from time to time I will turn in a tractor bucket of wood ash to the mix, this is a mixture of charcoal, not quite burnt limbs or chunks and ash, all of which will improve a quality soil even more so, not so much a poor soil as it would bind up many of the nutrients for future use and being a poor soil, the plants need that food now, not later, a very healthy soil has nutrients in abundance and saving some for later is a good thing. Most of this compost was ready and could be used for planting, so I decided to build up the fallow area. My first attempt was to build a compost/lasagana garden, I spoke about this in my last article, I used a lot of bad hay, hay that had a fungus in it from getting wet and sitting to long in the barn, the cowboys would not eat it, so I rolled it out, two bales wide and 100ft long, then started the lasagna process, hay, manure, compost, until I had it about 24in tall and let her sit for the winter, I am planted in this section now and the plants are hugh.

Next to this and built as part of this bed I started something new to be, Hugalculture.  Ok, not a fully developed Hugalculture bed, but a start at it. Here on the farm I had a few trees die from drought, so I cut them down and used them as borders/containment sides for one side of the lasagna bed and on the upper slope I did the same, in the area in-between I put in all the smaller branches and big limbs, those that I could back the trailer over the top of and began to fill the area with trailer load after trailer load of the composted material, its been 20 loads, 18 to fill the area and two more as a cherry on top. It’s mighty deep for a top dressing but then I know it will drop a bit after it finishes composting and settles in. The two cherry loads are for the parts that are less composted than the rest, 11 loads were ready, 7 loads needed more composting and the two were hauled and placed to be separate beds, but attached. You folks need to read up on Hugalculture practices, you might find it useful.

OK, with all that said, you gardeners and farmers need to find your own source of compost, its all over the place, beer manufactures, horse ranches, timber companies, lawn services, find a source of the carbon, get ya some rabbits and chickens, find some manure, bag your lawn clipping and start a lasagna garden, you will love yourself for it, God gave us everything we need, we just need to take his example and move on it.

If all were normal my crops would be in full production as this time, the soil is right, the rains have keep the moisture in a good range, but the lack of pollinators is worrying me to know end. As of this righting I have seen very few bees in the gardens. Next month we will talk in length about bees and other pollinators and the need to help them help us. I am working with a local bee keeper /  hive builder in putting together a hive or two for here on the farm. Both the European bees and the native solitary bees and wasps are very important to our gardens health, its easy to build nests for the solitary bees and warps and I suggest you do so.

Robert Patrick

Master Gardener

Master Naturalist

Master Forager

Taro Plants

A Gardeners Life!

By: Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

I want to introduce myself, my family has been in San Jacinto County, Coldspring, since the mid 1800’s, one of my forbearers set up and ran the first ferry crossing on the Trinity River way back then (Patrick’s Ferry). My grandfather I. T. Patrick was the county sheriff for about 15 years back in the 30’s and 40’s, my Dad; T. T. Patrick raised me and my two siblings on the banks of the trinity at my uncle Roberts hay farm that stretched out down along the river. Seems I was something of a river rat when I was a young boy and I enjoyed endless days with my dad on the banks of the Trinity, then we got the Lake, I watched as the landscape changed, the water rose and I lost my childhood playground, ah the nature of change…J Jump forward 40+ years!

Here we are at April 11, 2013, working our way into May and wow, I would have not thought I would have seen the temp drop this low. The wind chill is down in the 30’s here on the banks of Lake Livingston. With that front blowing in we got a blessing and a curse, as an outdoor worker, rain is the life blood of my gardens and we got another doosey last night and this morning, it also keeps me from doing much of the work I perform for the owners of the wildlife ranch I part time on.

I hope that as time marches forward I will be able to share with you the readers a snapshot of my life as an outdoor worker, Master Naturalist, Master Gardener and Forager. I will be sharing information, telling stories (all true) about what its like to have the privilege and opportunity to spend the majority of my life in the great outdoors, from foraging wild foods from the forests and fields to working on a exotic wildlife ranch here in east Texas and the trials and tribulations of being a working truck farmer. I may drop in a bit about the custom tables I build from time to time or the 3 RV spots for those special few, but this will be mainly about life lived on the land. So, with all that said lets get to what the spring of 2013 has brought and what might be in store for the Month of May.

It has been one heck of a spring, a warm start, then a light frost, more warmth, then a freeze, I had to replant twice all of my veggies and I had thought I was way ahead of the game, only to be at the place now of being behind by about two weeks. Last nights prediction of 39 degrees was a bit of a surprise and even though it was not a killer, that cold snap will have a dampening effect of the plants growth. I will have to say we have had a good start in the rain category; I did use the water hose when planting a number of the veggies, making sure the seeds got a good dose of moisture for the sprouting process, but I have not had to water any of the gardens for plant growth.

I had been working through the late fall and winter on several large no till garden spots, a hugh by most standards new lasagna compost garden bed and was chomping at the bit to get to planting. In the early fall I covered two large spots with some chip material, these will be no till areas and may give me a bit of nitrogen drain as the material I used was not 100% fully decomposed, but well on its way and as you might have already guessed, I can’t stop myself from gardening and growing things. Last year when the power company was having the high line’s cleared I was able to get those crews to drop off the chipped material from all the limbs and trimmings here at the farm, got me 14 loads.

Knowing that the forest floor is the richest soil profile in all the land, I just had to have as much as I could find room for and it is not going to disappoint I am sure. I should have turned the piles more often, but then I can only do so much. There are two large areas, one (65×25) the other (75×40), the soil underneath is in great shape, but I am trying to kill off the single leaf signal grass, Johnson grass and the morning glories that have been so gracious to cover my gardens in the past couple of years, got to send that stuff packing if I can.

The larger of the two spots has turned out to be my tomato garden; I am growing 4 types of heirlooms and my favorite (better boys) in large numbers, 140 plants in all.

As the cold winds of winter were blowing I was transporting old spent hay and some super rich manure to the farm, this is how I am going to hope to overcome the possible nitrogen deficiency where the tomatoes were planted, this year I hope to not have any grass or morning glories taking over the tomato patch. I added a good shovel full of composted manure to each of the tomatoes I planted, kind of like the Indians did when adding fish to the soil at each of their plantings. I also added an egg to each of the planting holes when I planted my tomatoes, I’ve got chickens as you may have surmised and sometimes I have a surplus of eggs, so why not improve the soil in a natural manner if possible.

The large lasagnas garden spot I built with old moldy hay and manure is now sporting a good number of cucurbits (squashes, melons) it turned out to be 100ft x 12ft and stands 24in high for most of its length, this will be a boon for the garden and increase the numbers of produce I will harvest this year. It’s doing well, and would have been better had it not been for the heard of chickens that love to scratch the ground, they have dug up a number of the seedlings; chickens love to dig around and at the edge of just about anything and can find fresh soil/dirt anywhere. The couple of rows of black berries are a prime example, those chickens can’t help but pull the mulch back away from them in search of grubs, worms or bugs, they dig it out, I rake it back, it’s a back and forth game. My chickens get some protein feed, they had been free to roam the farm but its time to clip those wings and keep them out of the gardens. I for sure don’t want them finding the tomatoes.

This morning before releasing the chickens from their roost I trimmed their wings so they can no longer get to the gardens. I also noticed I was shy one rooster, guessing a varmint or hawk made off with him, sometime things happen and you will have no clue.

With the chickens not being able to do any more damage around the garden, I did a replant on the cucurbit patch, the chicken dug up about 20% of what was planted. Now I will have a new crop making when some of the old is petering out.

With the freezes out of the way (I PRAY) I should be able to count on all the plants producing that are up now, sometime close to May 15th I should have lots of good veggies for sale at the courthouse square in downtown Coldspring, so those who want to meet their farmer, come on out, in the first few weeks, green beans, tomatoes and squash will be the majority of what’s available. It’s a Saturday and Sunday thing and if I sell out on Saturday, I won’t be around on Sunday.

This first in a series of articles is a bit bumbled I realize, I wanted to get a few threads of thought started, so when next months article comes out you will have a basis to start from, then again, it could be just as jumbled. If it’s outdoors, I may have something to say about it, as I love the great outdoors.

I try to raise the best veggies I can and I look forward to meeting some new folks who enjoy the blessings of home grown foods.

Just an aside, I have 3 RV spots here at the lakes edge. A special few clients may enjoy my little bit of heaven. The spots aren’t for everyone and I’m a bit picky as I have young fruit trees and gardens to protect, chickens, rabbits and such, but the right clients could find themselves an RV spot with garden benefits, 6 canoes and a view you might not want to ever leave. If anyone wants to get in touch, use the contact form on the farms website. http://www.indiancreekfarm.co

Robert Patrick

Master Gardener

Master Naturalist

Master Forager