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Mold and/or Mildew is that an issue at all?
Comment by wesley Sat Oct 3 22:01:22 2015
Rhonda --- They're actually quite common. I almost tried to eat some today, but the ones I picked at the edge of the woods here at home were a little too old. Probably the next edible mushroom species we'll try!
Comment by anna Sat Oct 3 14:06:18 2015
Eric --- I'm not really familiar with "selfies". That was the "oh my goodness, and I really taking part in a selfie?!" look on my face. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Oct 3 14:03:54 2015
Mom --- I know this is heresy, but I almost never use a compass. I didn't even bring one on this trip! I just use the map to figure out where I am (based on the combination of hills, creeks, and roads nearby). Then figure out where I want to be and plot my course that way. Basically, I'm using the topo map as it it were an aerial photo, giving me an idea of the lay of the land.
Comment by anna Sat Oct 3 13:56:51 2015

You two look so happy, like teenagers that sumuggled beer in! :)

Comment by Eric Sat Oct 3 13:16:03 2015
there once was a Boy Scouts Handbook (in the 5os) that explained how to use a compass. But, I admit, in hilly terrain, what is the best approach? For ex, the times we got lost at Steele Creek Prk in Bristol, having only a compass would not have helped, if we'd have had to climb or descend high hills. Could you put in a few more details, about how you read the map, and how you figured things out? I think you once before explained about topog maps, but would you mind running it by me again? thanx!
Comment by adrianne Sat Oct 3 08:32:39 2015
Thanks for identifying the fungi - that gem-studded puffball is one of the prettiest things i've ever seen!
Comment by Rhonda from Baddeck Fri Oct 2 22:57:50 2015
A place to start is 'The Intelligent Gardener' for gardening, but for anything else I prefer Neal Kinsey's 'Hands-On Agronomy' (he was one of Albrecht's pupils).
Comment by Michael Fri Oct 2 13:22:07 2015
Emily --- I felt a little bad to leave you hanging. But I figured even my most worry-wort family members would realize that if I wrote this post, I wasn't dead in the woods. :-) The final installment will arrive on the blog tomorrow! (And, yes, I know I owe you an email.)
Comment by anna Fri Oct 2 11:01:34 2015
Benge! And Aack! Are you gonna tell us the rest of the story? LOL
Comment by Emily Fri Oct 2 10:23:03 2015

NaYan --- I always figure there's no reason to go out in the woods if you aren't going to savor the experience. When I used to go on "hikes" with my birding mentor, we figured on one mile an an hour.

To answer your question --- fungi and lichen are hard to identify because there are no local field guides that include all species. So, often getting them to the genus level is as well as you can do. In this case, the top photo is easy though because it's a very unique species --- the Birch Polypore that only grows on more northern birches.

In the second level, the big photo on the left might be a Gem-studded Puffball (in which case I should have collected it since my book says they're choice edibles and pretty safe to eat as long as the interior is all white). The smaller photos on the right, from top to bottom, are a more mature puffball (don't know which kind), a rock tripe lichen (edible but apparently more of a survival food), and perhaps Loberia pulomina (aka lungwort, a lichen that's very sensitive to air pollution and is an indicator for old-growth forests. It also contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so feeds the forest that important nutrient --- quite a fascinating species!).

The next photo, a full-size one, contains more Gem-studded Puffballs on the right. The mushroom on the left might be Honey Mushroom...or perhaps one of the poisonous lookalikes. I wouldn't put that one on our table.

Finally, the last photo doesn't give me enough information to identify it. I just liked the shape of the cap.

Thanks for asking for IDs! I was too tired to look them up when I wrote this post hours after arriving home from my big adventure, and I learned a lot now as I took the time to pore over my mushroom book. I'm amazed that my google search for "green leafy liverwort" turned up the lungwort species on the first row!

Comment by anna Fri Oct 2 10:11:53 2015

Deb --- I've never done any running at all. I'm impressed by your stamina!

Rae --- The good thing about living next door to a floodplain is that floods are old hat to us now. If it looks like it's going to flood, we make sure not to leave the farm so we won't get stuck away from home. But otherwise, there's not really anything to plan. Bad weather just means we spend more time indoors. :-)

Comment by anna Fri Oct 2 09:52:50 2015

Ooooo! Thanks for the really nice pics! I'm glad I'm not the only one that goes on a "botanical expidition" (as I call it) when I go hiking. I was once a member of a local hiking club and they didn't hike - they RAN through the trails. I like to stop and take pictures, look at the ground, the rocks, the trees, the birds, the other critters, which is why I call it an "expedition" instead of just a hike.

Can you more specifically identify the fungi you took pics of? I recognized tree lichen on the top photo because I have that all over my trees and I was concerned about maybe they were doing something to the trees. They're even growing on the composite "wood" on my deck. After research I found out they were harmless.

Comment by NaYan Fri Oct 2 09:04:51 2015

Are y'all taking any special precautions regarding hurricane Joaquin? It seems the latest update is it's expected to track back out to the Atlantic, but there's still going to be heavy rains in Western NC and Southwestern VA, with possibilities for flooding, mudslides, etc.

In general, do you guys have preparedness plans for your homestead for inclement weather, or do you decide what needs to be taken care of based on whatever your current projects are and the state of your property and livestock at the time inclement weather is projected?

Comment by Rae Thu Oct 1 18:53:36 2015
I love it. In my non gardening life, I am an ultra runner, and a 21 mile trail would be a good Saturday training run... you can do it, i have no doubt.... you go girl!
Comment by Deb Thu Oct 1 17:51:19 2015
Lynne --- Please keep in mind I've only been present at one goat birth, so take my advice with a grain of salt. That said, I saw some whitish mucous from our doe a full five days before our kid was born. So you may still have a few days left. Good luck! I hope it goes well.
Comment by anna Thu Oct 1 16:29:04 2015
My mamma goat has been showing signs of kidding for the past 2 days. Her shanks are hollowing and her tail is thinning. She has also been having a thick milky discharge. I'm a "momma goat newbie" and am wondering if this is a normal discharge before giving birth. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me.
Comment by Lynne Thu Oct 1 15:48:43 2015

Seeding that developing soil with Ladino clover or whatever perrenial clover does well there might help too? If nothing else it will fix more Nitrogen in the soil and add more vegetable matter.

I have been refining clay in my back yard using 5 gallon buckets getting ready to plant a-la-Masanobu-Fukuoka clover and barley clay seed balls. The clover from my first failed fragmented seed balls (too much sand - thus the refining operation) were discarded in my back yard and I swear they took 24 hours to sprout. We have a good bit of warmer weather ahead of us here near Savannah GA so hoping there will be enough time for them to get established.

Comment by Andrew McDonald Wed Sep 30 21:43:31 2015

Terry --- I'm glad you enjoyed it!

BW --- You can start out by reading my lunchtime series about The Intelligent Gardener. Or, if you want to wait, I'm working on a book about soil that will sum up everything I've learned to date. It'll probably be out this coming spring.

Comment by anna Wed Sep 30 19:16:23 2015
I keep hearing how rotational grazing is one of the best ways to improve soil health, and this seems to be a nice confirmation of that. Thanks for sharing your results!
Comment by Brett Wed Sep 30 18:56:34 2015

Jennifer --- That's a good question. You'll notice, I only forage for the absolutely easiest species --- things that are nearly impossible to confuse with anything poisonous. And I look them up in a couple of books and online if I'm at all dubious of my identification.

Even then, with a species like this that I've only collected from the wild once before, I cook up a couple of tablespoonsful the first night, then wait to see if we get sick before cooking the rest. Unfortunately, in this case, I found that chicken of the woods starts to have an almost lemony sour tang after 24 hours in the fridge. I think next time, I'll feel confident enough to serve it up on day one for full flavor!

I used to be terrified of picking fungi that would kill me. But the truth is that if you pay attention, identifying oysters and morels and chicken of the woods is no more dicey than identifying paw paws. It's all in what you're familiar with. Heck, I knew kids when I was a youngun who were afraid to pick wild blackberries because they'd been told all wild berries were poisonous! In retrospect, the tales I was told about edible mushrooms at that age don't hold any more water.

Comment by anna Wed Sep 30 16:59:05 2015
Deb --- We've clipped wings before, and the chickens still manage to fly over fences. It seems that once a fence flier, always a fence flier.... Usually, we put fliers in the chicken tractor, but it needs an overhaul this winter. Barring that, we sometimes just eat them, but that seems a shame in this case since these pullets are just barely old enough to start laying. So, we'll play around with fences....
Comment by anna Wed Sep 30 16:53:44 2015
WONDERFUL story!!!
Comment by Terry Wed Sep 30 16:32:03 2015
This seems like a simple solution, and likely you have a good reason NOT to do it, but how about just clipping flight feathers on one wing?
Comment by Deb Wed Sep 30 16:28:22 2015

Hey Anna,

You have talked a number of times in the past about remineralization and soil testing. Do you have a good place to start learning about the process? I want to do some soil tests on my pastures/garden area to see how to improve the quality but that means figuring out what soil test to do and how to interpret it.

Comment by BW Wed Sep 30 13:50:32 2015
So at what point do you feel like you KNOW that you are plucking a mushroom that won't kill you? Seems as though, aside from reading texts about identifying edible mushrooms, that the common advice is to forage at the grocery store or farmers market for your edible fungi.
Comment by jennifer Wed Sep 30 13:38:59 2015

Now that we're finally settled here in Piney Flats, if you and Mark make it back down this way again during your staycation, holler and maybe we could get together for lunch! Elise is working all week, but I'm sticking close to home to finish up splitting firewood and prepping the house for winter, assuming the rain doesn't make all of that impossible.


Comment by Dave Marshall Wed Sep 30 08:29:23 2015

There's a simpler way. Get thickest nylon rope which will fit , stick it thru hole on either and tie a knot.

Before that cut a piece of plastic soap bottle (Tide etc.)roll it into a spiral. Make it long enough so the rope ends don't hurt your hands.

Tape it and put a piece of plastic heat shrink tubing over it. Heat and shrink it with a heat gun.

Comment by Dave Mon Sep 28 03:07:46 2015

If you can find some people who are local to you and see what they are growing and what they wish they had done differently or what worked well for them, that will help. Especially with choosing varieties to plant. I planted six dwarf apple trees (on EMLA 26 -- I have limited space, but Bud-9 is not as good here, and EMLA-27 just seemed silly) the first fall after I moved to SW Virginia from NE Pennsylvania after doing tons of research on what varieties to choose and what the threats would be, like did I still need CAR-resistant apple varieties, or did VA not have Cedar Apple Rust (I wish!). Sadly, I think I still might have made a couple mistakes... so now I'm learning grafting and will topwork a couple trees over into different varieties to try to improve my yields. One more thing, I'm also now reading Michael Phillips book THE HOLISTIC ORCHARD right now, and I recommend it. I don't know that all of his zone three recommendations and 200 tree based ideas will work for me (or you) but he is at least practicing what he preaches so it isn't just some barely-researched ehow advice. The gist seems to be healthy soil makes healthy trees and pay attention to helpful fungi. He's very keen on the soil-root-web thing. Wish I had thought more about that aspect way back when I was first starting! So yep, prep your site... maybe a fall/winter cover crop this year.

Comment by Kiina Sun Sep 27 18:38:58 2015

I see you grew Iron Lady, that is one I grew this year too and won't be growing again either. I was really disappointed with them in my garden so I'm glad to know it wasn't just me having trouble with them. Did yours taste like supermarket tomatoes? I just did a rundown of my 2015 tomato varieties over at my blog ( Five years in this zone on this soil now and I'm still trying to find varieties that can survive and thrive. Have you tried Indigo Apple Tomatoes before? I had good luck with them this year, they may work for you.

Comment by Kiina Sun Sep 27 17:14:13 2015

One of my favorites, and expresses some of the same concerns about frosts and pests that we all have...guess not much has changed in apple growing.....

Comment by Deb Sun Sep 27 16:38:12 2015
I'm a longtime reader of Anna & Mark's and often rely on their experiments and learn from their mistakes. This advice is spot on! Getting to know your site is the best predictor of success in the garden.
Comment by Fostermamas Sun Sep 27 15:04:46 2015


Thank you for the thoughtful reply! It sounds like I should consider scaling back my first-year ambitions and focus on learning, not just planting. The deer issue worries me, because they are definitely a problem in our area too. But I know every site has its own set of challenges. Time will tell.

Comment by Brett Sun Sep 27 11:10:55 2015

Anna, you are a wealth of evidence-based knowledge! Thank you for all your work, observations, and publications (including this blog).

A tip from our local tree guy about fruit tree siting: he says if your area is prone to late frosts, to plant trees on north slopes or other colder locations - the idea bring to keep the trees from flowering early, so they are still dormant (or have less-developed, more frost-resistant buds) when the cold snap happens. It's ground temp, not air temp, that most influences budding, and north slopes get less sun.

Comment by Emily Sun Sep 27 08:05:42 2015

Hi Anna I have been reading your blog for some time now and have learned so much. Soybeans as a cover crop fascinate me. Where do you find your seed? I'm curious about experimenting with them as a cover crop/ green manure. My "Ranchette' is in zone 9B. I live SW of Houston very near the Gulf of Mexico. I frequently see them as row crops grown commercially here. I am a fellow experimenter and would like to grow them. I enjoy eating them also. I find most legumes grow fantastic here- just poke em in the ground and let the South Texas heat and humidity do its thing. So I look forward to finding a good organic source. Are they heirloom? Thanks - Susie Q

Comment by Susie Sat Sep 26 21:28:36 2015
I will look into an aftermarket key switch ignition before I go any further rigging a push button start or rigging up a jumper. The one I did from a push button starter using 16 gauge wire going to the heavy (pos) and (neg) terminals on the starter solenoid definitely did not work. In fact, the wires got so hot they started to melt and actually caught fire for a second or two. Quickly disconnected and no other damage. Must be too much current draw from the battery to the starter for that gauge of wire. Thanks, Jerry Freiman.
Comment by Jerry Freiman Sat Sep 26 09:24:27 2015

Caves around here are still pretty unexplored, in spite of another big cave, Appalachian Caverns, in Sullivan Co, Tn and Wolf Hills Caverns, in Abingdon. There is a caving group, maybe still led by Charles Bartlett (the geologist who advocates for hydrofracking, which seems so confusing to me, as I'd think he would say that our limestone--and karst?--formations are too risky for hydrofracking!). Anna, what do you think now about the "bat cave" under Bristol--didn't you get to go in that, once? And the little cave at Steele Creek Park...Also the cave on the edge of land next to the WalMart on the Volunteer H'way, in Bristol?? Also the fact that the Bristol, Va landfill abuts on sinkholes, and actually, the whole sinkhole geology of our region?

The most awesome cave I ever got to go into around here was off the Mendota Rd, going to the Gate City H'wy, which was up off a ledge, and high enough to stand up in:) This didn't have water in it, and seemed more what we think of, for where "cave men" could have lived. The ones with water, which make me think of the Gollum (in the Hobbit) are longer. (Besides Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, there are so-o many wonderful cave descriptions in novels, from Walter Scott to Zane Gray, and to E.M. Forster's Passage to India--even to Ehle, who whose book, The Road, tells about caves that were used as part of tunnels, in blasting thru the mountains in NC. in building the railroad.

How cold was it inside, when you went? There is also a miles-long cave in KY that has been used by a woman minister for her to feel the darkness in...

I think the people who run Bristol Caverns do a good job, altho some of the naming of the formations is kind of silly!

Comment by adrianne Sat Sep 26 08:47:52 2015

Hi Mark and Anna. I'd like to thank yall for taking the time to post on thing you do at your homestead, very informative. I've read two of your books and have been coming here for some time now. I downsized last year to 1200' house and live in 700' of it, elect. last month was $54, wood stove, garden, chickens and living on less. Doing no till now also. Thanks again for showing that there is another way to live and love the earth. dan

Comment by danny Sat Sep 26 06:58:04 2015

Jerry Freiman, Just for safety, its always better to have an inline fuse the same amperage rating as the wire, that way it blows the fuse before the wires get hot enough to melt or catch fire. What I would do if I were you (if money is know object) is buy a new aftermarket key switch, usually you can find them relatively cheap on ebay or amazon, that's assuming that the solenoid itself is fine then the new key switch should send current to the starter solenoid and bridge it completing the circuit like its supposed to.

I can tell you that the setup with 16 gauge wire with the push button will not work, that wire is too small, You could however use smaller wire and run a hot from the battery to a push button and then to the hot on the solenoid (not the posts with the heavy gauge cables, but where the harness connector connects to the solenoid) basically using the push button to engage the solenoid.

But replacing the Key Switch sounds the simplest and safest way.

Comment by Matt Casdorph Fri Sep 25 20:00:11 2015
I just read a post that indicates the person commenting thinks the wire used to jump across the starter solenoid with a push button starter switch was too light a gauge if the wire was heating up. I am having this exact problem. I installed a push button starter switch in my dash and ran 16 gauge wire to jump across the starter solenoid. Not withstanding that my battery was almost dead, the wires were heating up. Not enough juice in the battery so I am charging it up. What gauge of wire should I be using? I have no idea what amperage is involved from a 12 volt battery going to the starter solenoid and I have not installed any kind of relay or inline fuse. I just want to jump the solenoid with a push button start because my key switch does not function. Everything else powers up okay, just won't turn over off the key.
Comment by Jerry Freiman Fri Sep 25 13:38:10 2015