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“Counting the 2020 Harvest”

There’s something very magical about producing your own food.  I’m not the best at keeping records, but I do try.  So here’s a peek at what we managed to produce in the 2020 season.  Granted, the ‘season’ is not yet over.  We’re still contending with foodstuffs grown last year.  Our food and farming season will not begin anew until the spring!

Canned Fruits:
79 gallons of apple, pear, huckleberry, aronia berry, and elderberry syrups, juices, and sauces

Pickles:
13 gallons of pickled carrots, onions, beets, greens, and cucumbers

Pressure Canned Foods:
39 gallons of canned squash
12 gallons of canned pork


Home butchered/cured/ground/smoked meats:

120lbs+ sausage
150lbs+ of bacon
7 butchered roosters (and another 15 running around still that need to go!)

Fats & Oils:
20+ gallons of rendered lard
100+lbs of raw fat for future processing

Fruit and vegetables from the garden:
200lbs of potatoes
75lbs of tomatoes
3 apples (haha! it was our orchard’s first year trying to produce, all of our other apples were wild foraged)
10lbs of cauliflower
5 tiny hot peppers
50lbs+ leafy greens
50lbs+ squash (most of our canning squash we traded for from a friend)
10lbs carrots
20lbs sweet corn
5lbs sunchokes3lbs of yams
100lbs of beets + greens

Wild Foraged Fruit and vegetables:
close to 1 ton of apples
6-7 gallons of huckleberries
20lbs of elderberries
20lbs of aronia berries (technically not foraged, we harvested these from a friend as part of a trade)
400lbs of pears

 

It was a cold, tough summer in 2020.  We still had nights close to freezing in July.  In total we had roughly 60 days of ‘warm’ growing season.  The heat-loving plants struggled terribly, but the cold lovers did wonderfully.  The peas, beans, peppers, corn, and squash limped along and produced a few morsels of food.  The potatoes, kale, orach, cauliflower, beets, and carrots did decently.  The apples and pears had a good season on the South side of the mountain, but the North side fruit trees didn’t have a single fruit on them this year. This year we installed 6 different varieties of raspberry in many different places. We have 3 varieties of asparagus growing, but each year I split them to the brink in order to multiply them, so we haven’t had a chance to eat any yet.  

 

With enough colonies spread around the greenhouses, this year I started spreading asparagus to outdoor areas as well.  I have high hopes for it!  My sunchokes are the same story; instead of eating the harvest, I spread and proliferate them in many different areas.  These food systems need time to establish before we can enjoy a fat harvest from them!

Here’s to hoping 2021 will be a little warmer in the summer!  We still buy salt, onions, yams, and popcorn, but are otherwise nearly sustained on what we produced in the last year.  Woohoo!

 


So what are the final 2020 tallies?

143  gallons of food preserved
300+ pounds of meat
20 gallons of oil (potentially twice that if we render the rest of the fat)
520+ pounds of food grown
2,500~ pounds of wild fruit foraged

 

 

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“Coral Root as a Healing Herb”

I wanted to talk a little bit about the medicinal herb Coral Root.  Members of the Corallorhiza family are many, and most of them are endangered.  In our forest we’re lucky to have a variety of coral root that is not state or nationally endangered.  Coral root is an orchid.  It’s entirely parasitic.  It produces no leaves and contains no chlorophyl.  It survives by leeching nutrients from the roots of the plants around it, as well as being fed by mycelium and other generous members of its ecosystem.

The ‘root’ of coral root is what we harvest for medicine.  Coral root doesn’t actually have roots.  It has an elaborate network of finger-like rhizomes that grow in segmented fashion, curling in on themselves and encasing anything they curl around.  The root ball then, which is technically a rhizome ball, is a tightly-knit wad of little segmented fingers.  Anything from roots to rocks become encased in their grasp.

The rhizomes, unfortunately, smell like urine.  Both fresh and dried.  I really wish they didn’t, because I love this herb.  And I dislike drinking my “cup of hot urine” when I need to take coral root.  Thankfully the flavor is easily masked with mint, pine needles, or other strongly aromatic herbs that combine well with it medicinally.

The harvested rhizomes are a PAIN to clean.  If I wanted to get paid a living wage for selling coral root I’d have to charge $20-30 an ounce for it.  I’m not going to do that because I want folks to have access to this herbs that has little or no industrial production and is not widely available.  To clean the rhizomes, root balls anywhere from 5 inches to 10 inches across must be completely broken apart.  Every last little segment of rhizome (each segment is less than an inch long, there are thousands of them in a small ball) must be broken apart, since their style of growth means they have encased huge quantities of substrate and forest debris.  The amount of substrate they can harbor is astounding.  So the entire ball must be tediously picked apart in a container of water, and thousands, if not millions, of little segments must then be washed and virtually scrubbed free rocks and soil.  It took me many back-aching hours to clean about 10lbs of coral root rhizomes in 2020.  And sadly they dried down to just 1 pound of dried rhizome.  It didn’t

leave much to go around, and I ended up gifting the majority of it to friends in need of herbal anxiety relief.

 

Moving on, though, to what coral root actually does.
First, as it’s more known for, coral root addresses cerebral tension and can help quiet racing thoughts, agitated moods, and anxious states.  It works via the central nervous system to calm and quiet the mind and body.  I find coral root very useful when I feel overwhelmed, over worked, and bordering on states of mental anxiety.  It’s a reliable way to turn the volume down on all of the mental ‘white noise’ and regain the ability to focus and think clearly.

Coral root is also specific to lung infection recovery.  Weakened immune systems and long-standing lung infections specifically indicate oral root.  One friend I sent coral root to in 2020 found drastic improvement in his condition.  He got COVID in the spring of 2020 and even though he had otherwise recovered, he had a persistent lung infection he couldn’t clear up.  I now know of at least 3 people who have this same complication, where 6-9 months after

recovering they still have deep stubborn lung infections.  This particular friend saw an immediate movement and expulsion of the long-standing fluids with each cup of tea he drank.  I likewise use coral root when I have lung complaints or stubborn fluid in the lungs after an incident or illness.

 

Additionally, coralroot can be mildly stimulating to menstruation, so best to exercise caution if One is striving for pregnancy.

Because I have rationed quantities of this herb, I typically make 16oz. pot of tea with a small pinch of about a dozen or so segments of rhizome in it.  These segments, once dried, are only a few millimeters in length.  Just a small pinch is enough to give me coral root’s anxiety fighting effects.  In a rush, I’ve even swallowed a pinch of root with water, like pills.  The effects were slower to kick in and not as pronounced.  But it works if making tea isn’t an option.  Back to making tea though- I typically steep the same pinch of rhizomes twice, with the second steep lasting as long as I can let it to leech every last bit of goodness out of the rhizomes.

Coral root is relatively safe and benign.  It provides a bounty of benefits that are extra applicable during this pandemic.  I’m not trying to sell you on COVID cures- I don’t even have any coral root for sale at the time of posting this!  My intent is to provide you with another tool in your arsenal of herbal healing.  If coral root sounds like it could improve your quality of life, find a good source to buy from, or better yet, go wander your nearest conifer forest, identify you local coral root variety, and if it’s not endangered, dig yourself up some anxiety relief and lung-healing rhizomes.

It’s worth noting, additionally, that when digging up a rhizome ball, I take all of the ‘buds’ and replant them.  These are thick, thumb-like nodes on the finger-ball.  They are bulbous and often have a small ‘spike’ on them, which is an immature shoot poised to sprout out of the node.  I try to leave these buds with a small amount of rhizomes still attached and replant them in the area so I don’t impede on my local coral root’s population.

 

I want to add one cool story about harvesting coral root.
When harvesting, I have found no correlation between the number of flowering stalks present above the surface and the size of the root ball below.  Some huge root systems sport only 1 stalk, and some tiny golf-ball sized rhizome clusters may sport 6 or more flowering stalks.
To-date though, the biggest and most healthy rhizome  cluster I’ve found was symbiotically functioning as an ant nursery!  This rhizome mass was over a foot across.  I mined out only half of it.  It took harvesting the first half to really understand what I was seeing.  I certainly didn’t want to rob the ants of this sweet relationship with the coral root, so I replanted the buds and buried the hole I dug open, leaving the rest of

the coralroot undisturbed.

In amongst the rhizomes were networks and caverns of ant brood.  Little nurse ants scurried through tunnels in the rhizome ball.  Tunnels in the substrate lead to and from the rhizome mass to their anthill a few feet away.   Angry worker ants eventually began pouring out of the tunnels as I disturbed the nursery.

I can only assume that this was a successful symbiotic relationship.  It was the largest, healthiest patch of coral root I’ve ever seen, and the ants seemed to be flourishing as well.  I have to wonder if ant feces or carcasses fed nutrients to the rhizomes, or if said waste fed mycelium that fed the rhizomes.  Or perhaps the ants themselves offered supportive nutrition to the coral root via bodily fluids or intentional delivery of physical nutrients.  I’d really like to know!  It was a fascinating discovery!