2013 Review

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Keenan taking down trees for us early in the year.

Clearing space and removing trees turned out to be a theme of 2013.

 

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pollinating mandrakes…

 

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Will’s class out on the terraces…

 

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medicinal meads.  these made with Will’s class.

 

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Pao Zhi, preparing chinese herbs…

 

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Wasabi in flower.

 

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Collecting ‘kinome,’ sechuan pepper tree leaves.

 

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Chinese herb series, weekends throughout the summer.

 

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Ganoderma tsugae, growing on one of many dead hemlocks.

 

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Bare root plant sales.

 

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Looking at plants during a workshop, as Jennifer films.

 

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The ongoing pond construction…

 

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A new home for our remaining beehive.

 

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Peter up in a tree.  He did some great arborist work for us.

 

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Apios priceana flowering.

 

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Jiaogulan, Gynostemma pentaphyllum, Southern Ginseng …

 

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Experimenting with cob…

 

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With Will’s class, discussing the new solar herb dryer.

 

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Will Hooker’s Permaculture class.

 

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Digging up yacon.  This plant overwintered.

 

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Bean harvest.  These were grown from seed given to us by Jim Veteto.

 

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Area cleared for planting, horse manure heaps…

 

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Locust posts along staircase, new planting space in front of house….

 

 

 

Sansai: on beyond ramps

    Sansai means, literally,  ‘mountain vegetable.’  Mountain vegetable implies wild vegetable., as opposed to cultivated (on the plains).  Mountains are high, closer (than plains) to heaven.  Mountain vegetables, because they are wild, because they grow closer to heaven, embody more qi (ch’i) (usually translated as ‘energy’ – this is the energy which flows in the acupuncture channels, and is activated by ‘Tai Ch’i’ exercises).
Furthermore, most sansai are the early spring shoots of various perennial herbs and shrubs, so eating them partakes of the vital, bursting-forth energy of spring.  And they are delicious. In Japan, the arrival of sansai in urban restaurants and markets is eagerly anticipated.  Grocery stores offer commbination packages which might contain, e.g. a bamboo shoot, a few fiddleheads, a bunch of mitsuba, some Hosta shoots and of course kinome, the ‘essence of spring.’
I have found, so far, three lists of plants used as sansai in Japan, and they are included below.  The main interest and relevance of these is that almost every one of plants listed occurs or has a closely related species in Eastern N. America (an exception would be Hosta – there are no American Hosta spp.  But Hosta is well-established in American gardens, and even if only deer eat them at present, that will be changing soon…)
Of particular interest is the fact that most of these are woodland plants.  While our S Appalachian ‘rich woods’ are famous as the source of most of the well-known American medicinal herbs, we rarely think of them as providing food.  And while it is true that the amount of food we can gather, particularly from the spring ephemerals and also the tender early shoots of many woodland perennials, is relatively small, it is also true (or so I and many others hold), that it’s ‘the best food you’ll eat all year.’  (Not to mention that it comes right at the time we are most pining for fresh green plant energy.)
We supply ‘mountain vegetables’ to three nearby restaurants, and their chefs want everything we can bring them.  So we are not looking for more customers for our sansai;  rather, we see our niche as offering seeds and ‘starts’ to folks who’d like to establish these exciting, new (to us) food plants for their own future harvest.  This includes anyone who grows vegetables for discriminating chefs.
So, our project is to develop a repertoire of sansai plants for our garden (and yours).  Below are the the plants we are currently working with (more to come): we’ll be adding pix and instructions as time permits.  Most of these are available either as seeds or bare-root plants or divisions.
We’ll be having a workshop about sansai and spring wildfoods on Friday April 19,1:30-5:00 pm.  Please go to workshops page to register
first priority:
ramps Allium tricoccum
solomon’s seal Polygonatum commutatum
indian cucumber root  Medeola virginiana
ostrich fern  Matteucia struthiopteris
Hosta  Hosta spp.
mitsuba, honewort Cryptotaenia canadensis
bamboo  Phyllostachys spp.
udo  Aralia cordata
kinome  Zanthoxylum piperitum
woods nettle  Laportea canadensis

next ten:
Jap. knotweed  Polygonum
Canada lovage  Ligusticum canadense
tall bellflower  Campanula americana
anise root  Osmorrhiza longistlis
aralia / acanthopanax spp.
crinkle root / toothwort  Dentaria diphylla
Smilax herbacea
Chinese wolfberry (leafy shoots)  Lycium chinense
arrowhead  Sagittaria latifolia
Oenanthe javanica 

SANSAI PLANTS in Japan:
from website>  www.shizuokagourmet.com  This website has a nice photo of each item.
Allium victorialis  ainu negi
thistle    azami
akebia  chocolate vine (fruit)
Polygonatum odoratum    amadokoro
Petasites   giant butterbur   fukinoto
Glehnia littoralis    hamaboufuu
Senecio cannabifolius    hangonsou
Lonicera caerulea   hascup    hasukappu
flying spider monkey tree fern   hikagehego
Urtica thunbergiana    irakusa
Polgonum   Japanese knotweed    itadori
Erythronium   dogtooth violet   katakuri
Hosta fortunei    plantain lily   kiboushi
Matteucia (?)   ostrich fern   kogomi   (exists as green & red)
Acanthopanax sciadophylloides   koshiabura
Lycium   Chinese wolfberry   kuko
Clerodendron    harlequin glory bower peanut butter shrub    kusagi
silver vine (fruit)   matatabi
Cryptotaenia  canadense   mitsuba   Japanese honewort
Anemone faccida    nirinsou
Allium macrostemon   nobiru
Synurus pungens    oyamabokuchi
Clethra barbinervis   ryoubu
Actinidia arguta    sarunashi
Japanese parsley    seri
Portlaca   common purslane    suberiyu
bamboo shoots    takenoko
Taraxacum    dandelion   tanpopo
Aralia elata   tara no me
Equisetum (arvense?0   horsetail   tsukushi
Adenophora triphylla    tsuroganeninjin
Arali cordata    udo
“          “            yamaudo (bundle of blanched shoots)
Hosta montana    urui
Pteridium aquilinum    warabi
Vitis    crimson glory vine (fruit)
wild horseradish    yamawasabi
Osmunda japonica    zenmai
aiko
akamizu
aomizu

Sansai – ‘wild mountain vegetables’ – “Sansai convey a strong sense of spring and are a great favorite of vegetarians, often featuring in the menus of shojin ryori (zen buddhist cuisine)… The following is a list of the commonest plants used:
lamb’s quarters Chenopodium album var centrorubrum
asatsuki chive Allium ledebourianum
ashitaba Angelica keiskei
Japanese butterbur, unopened buds Petasites japonicus
chive Allium victorialia var platyphyllum
Japanese knotweed Polygonum cuspidatum
water shield Brasenia schreberi
licorice Glycyrrhiza uralensis
dog’s tooth violet Erythronium japonicum
ostrich fern fiddleheads Matteucia struthiopteris
indian plantain Cacalia delphiniifolia, C. hastata ssp. orientalis
sasa bamboo Sasa kurilensis
red garlic Allium grayi
plantain lily Hosta sieboldiana
saltwort Salsola komarovii
water dropwort Oenanthe javanica
green brier Smilax riparia
angelica tree shoots Aralia elata
field horsetail, fertile shoots Equisetum arvense
acanthopanax Acanthopanax gracilistylus
nettle Elatostema umbellatum v. majus
bracken Pteridium aquilinum v. latiusculum
udo Aralia cordata
aster Aster yomena
wormwood Artemisia princeps
royal fern Osmunda japonica ”
Richard Hosking A Dictionary of Japanese Food (Tuttle, 1995)

The third list is in the Wikipedia article on sansai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Year in Review

 

1 - treefall, Jan

 January Treefall  The year started with a bang as my favorite tree, the largest of the poplars that ring the deck, snapped off in a windstorm,  It had been struck by lightening a year previously, and I was still dithering about how to drop it since there was no direction for it to fall which wouldn’t damage something.  In the event, it trashed part of the deck and destroyed the outdoor kitchen addition and cob oven (all has been rebuilt).  Could have been worse.

3 - new solar panels

Solar panels. For the past 30 years, I’ve been hearing that cheap solar panels are right around the corner.  Apparently we’ve finally gotten to that corner (if not quite around it).  I found (friends found for me) a great deal on panels, and we tripled our capacity.  Then I had to buy a new voltage regulator, which nullified the savings. Well, its all been paid for, and now we can actually use the computer on a rainy day.

4 - hike for ramps, April

 Hike for ramps. A spring ritual.  Ramps grow in abundance in the richest coves, mingled with early wildflowers: Trillium, squirrel corn, hepatica, wild delphinium, bloodroot and many more. Most are ‘spring ephemerals, and will be gone with the ramps when the trees leaf out.  The ephemeral moment (actually it lasts about a month). I go for tzu-jan “occurence appearing of itself…the ten thousand things unfolding spontaneously, each according to its own nature…” – Hinton*).  Of coure tzu-jan is eternal and everywhere, but the ‘doing of nothing’ (wu wei) is hard to experience, hidden as it is by the ’doing’ of humans.  The best of all times and places I’ve found to dwell, if briefly, with tzu jan are among the boulders and rivulets near the head of the deep valleys in the mountains behind my house.
* David Hinton; the quote is from his selection Chuang Tzu the Inner Chapters, his Mountain Home: the Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China is inspiring reading in conjunction with mountain walks.

5

Ramps…..Our motives on that particular hike were not entirely pure.  We gather ramps – to eat, to pickle and to sell to one restaurant (the Lantern, in Chapel Hill).  Note that these are without roots – we left them in the ground to grow again.

7

Solomon Seal, Hosta, etc..  morels and dryad’s sadle mushrooms, a few more delicious wildfoods from our surroundings.  In Japan, wealthy gourmands make pilgrimages to the mountains for a meal like this. If you want to cater to wealthy gourmands, I’d say America is ripe for the same aesthetic.

8 - shiitake inoculation

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.Shiitake inoculation.  Another early spring ritual.

10

Bees. The bees survived the winter! (sometimes they haven’t)

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bees…and swarmed! We managed to catch one.

13 - readying for Asheville Herb Fair, May 14

Herb Fair….Getting ready for the Asheville Herb Festival at the beginning of May.  This is the best organized and labelled our nursery was all year. The biggest money-making event we do. There are a lot of ‘herb fairs’ in the spring, but this is the biggest and most fun.

15 - bareroot plants, May

Bare roots. The apprentices filled an order for $1000 of bare-root Chinese herb plants. Dug, divided, wrapped, packed and shipped in a two day marathon.  Their prize? $1000..

16 - gathering bamboo

bamboo…There are some nice stands of bamboo nearby.  We use it for walls and trellises (and gather the shoots to eat)

17 - sean assembling computer

Computer….sean….. (website…..) With so much more electricity, we got a computer for the pavillion (apprentices).  We also got reasonable internet (DSL), after 20 years of dialup.  Hopefully this will result in an increasing flow of information onto this website this year.

19 - wasabi pool wasabi ….We’re setting up a kiddie pool for planting wasabi.  A layer of chunky rocks, then good woodland soil and leafmold mulch. Wasabi likes cool water on its roots; but not stagnant, so there are holes to let the water out.  We’ve made three of these now, and they’re quite successful at growing this somewhat challenging plant.

 

22

apprentices….. kitchen projects…..

24 - PaoZhi Workshop, July

Pao Zhi workshop for my students at Daoist Traditions college. This is Chinese herb processing, using heat, from mild to ‘blast-fried’, and ‘adjuvants’ such as rice, clay, honey, wine, ginger juice to alter an herb’s energetics, reduce side effects, neutralize obnoxious flavors, etc. This is always a fun workshop: the alchemical experience.

26 - essential oil demo, during med's of the earth

essential oils ….   mugwort, holy basil, etc.  Ryan figured out how to get the essential oil still functioning.  Another alchemical experience. No, we don’t get much E.O., a tablespoon or less, but more hydrosol, which is also useful  It’s fun to do.

29 - Mycol's trove

Mushrooms galore…It was a big year for gathering wild mushrooms around the place.  This is a typical day’s haul.

28 - Joseph with Ganoderma tsugae

Joseph with Ganoderma tsugae…Ganoderma lucidum is reishi in Japan, lingzhi in China: the ‘mushroom of immortality.’  G. tsugae, growing on hemlocks, probably has similar properties, maybe better. 

38 - Workshop, making Honey Pills, Aug

making honey pills… (workshops…) Lots of workshops and college classes last year..  These folks are making honey pills from a powdered Chinese herb formula, an ancient Chinese technique.  Since they are students, the formula was probably bu nao wan which strengthens the brain and, in particular, memory.

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herbal intensive…..We held a six-day workshop on Chinese herbology: propagating, cultivating, harvesting, processing and making medicinal preparations.  It was fun but a little much.  This year we’ll do a series of weekends covering the same material

39 - seed collecting

seed collecting….Late summer and autumn is harvest time, and one of the main things we harvest is seeds of our many useful plants.  Geoff took on the job of collecting, cleaning, drying and cataloging, and the seed collection is now very well organized.

42 -Garden, Septvegetable garden…Sean took on the vegetable garden, and it is also now more organized than it has been for years.  We moved a lot of perennials around and doubled the area for food production.

68mushroom-inoculated garden beds….Experimenting with edible mushrooms which can be grown as companions to vegetables.  Hopefully we’ll see results this year.

52 - digging KuShen, clearing beds..clearing beds… digging ku shen….Here we are moving those perennials around (and harvesting).  There are five shen plants in Chinese medicine, all are very important. renshen is ginseng, kushen is Sophora flavescens, an important herb for clearing heat.

46 - assembling new dryer, Sept.new dryer constructed..Joseph is working on a new solar herb drier, since finished and installed.  It works much, much better than the previous incarnation and we are looking forward to harvesting and drying a lot of our herbs this year for the pharmacy, tea blends, etc.

44 - cobbing new brick oven, Sept

47 - pizza oven, end of Sept.

new brick & cob oven…Under Tom Trout’s direction, we built a new cob pizza (bake) oven, to replace the one detroyed by the fallen tree (back in the first picture).

50 - pond work, Oct

pond construction…One of Will Hooker’s horticulture classes from NCSU. They’re building a rock wall for the front of what will be a large pond in the center of the garden.

55 - Will's Class, Oct.

Will Hooker’s class….

 

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57

arborist visits….All of our hemlocks have been slowly dying due to the hemlock wooly adelgid, and it finally got time to cut them before they fall on something valuable.  We were blessed to get help from some experienced arborists.  Very sad to lose the hemlocks – the garden was designed around them – but it will increase the sunny area of the garden, and we’ll experiment with growing mushrooms on the stumps.

65 - new terraces, Dec66

new terraces…A big project is the construction of a series of terraces on a south-facing slope at the bottom of the garden.  Unlike most of the garden, there is not much rock here, so we’re using locust slabs from a nearby sawmill.  This will eventually become an intensive fruit orchard, but we’re pioneering with potatoes and vegetables

70 - snow outlines

snow traces new garden beds….A view of the lower part of the garden.  This was a very random mix of edible and medicinal perennials, but they were moved out, beds reconfigured, cover cropped, and now it’s ready for intensive food production.

 

7675 - green inside

green in the greenhouse…The best thing this garden (with limited sun and a cool mountain climate) produces is greens of all kinds and in every season.  This is January in one of our unheated greenhouses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Projects and Workshops

We have a lot of very exciting projects ongoing. This winter I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the excellent library at UNC Chapel Hill and discovered a lot of obscure reference material, some of which I managed to purchase on line, others have been added to our library thanks to xerox. All of these projects involve both research and gardening, and in both areas we have made significant progress in the past year and look forward to greater progress in 2013. Here is a rundown on the diverse range of projects we’re working on:

 

  • Our overarching project is to develop a ‘demonstration botanical garden of useful plants’, distribute propagating material of the plants, and generate important information about their cultivation and utilization and share it via this website and workshops taught at Mountain Gardens. We do have some special interests; there aren’t clear boundaries (the most interesting plants are both food and ‘medicine’), but I’ve made an effort to separate specific topics below. The overarching Current project: is to expand the plant collection, offer more seeds and bare root plant sales and begin publishing our plant database online. We offer several workshops, both half-day and all day, which are extended plant walks, in the garden and adjacent National Forest, with discussion of ID, ecology / habitat, propagation, harvest and of course uses (edible, medicinal, craft, etc.) of hundreds of native and introduced plants.

A major theme here, as will be seen below, is ‘E-W comparative studies.’ By ‘E-W’, we mean specifically E. Asia and E. N. America. We want to compare, and create a new synthesis from, eastern and western botany, ecology, herbology, horticulture, pharmacy, garden design and, indeed, philosophy.

 

  • Sansai literally ‘mountain vegetable’ – the Japanese word includes what we call wildfood. About 50 spp. of plants are used in Japan, mostly in the form of young sprouts and shoots and hence only available for a short time in spring. This category of food is highly prized and eagerly awaited in spring. At least 75% of Japanese sansai plants have a closely related native (S.Appalachian) equivalent. See the article “On Beyond Ramps” [link] Current projects: Integrating native wildfoods and plant introductions from the far east, we have assembled probably the largest collection of sansai plants in the eastern US. I continue identifying and searching out propagating material to add to the collection. We will continue to supply Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC and one or two local restaurants. This year we’ll be offering seeds and, a new feature, bare root plants of an initial selection of 25-30 species. [links] A goal for 2013 is to develop and post a database of all spp. present with habitat, propagation, harvest time, etc. There will be a workshop on propagating, growing & harvesting sansai plants.

 

  • Bupin literally ‘repair substance’ – about 75 spp. of Chinese herbs, in the form of dried roots, seeds, fruits,etc. which are combined with food (meat, rice, vegetables) to “adjust or tonify a person’s physiological imbalance.” Bupin “revitalize the strength” and “replenish one’s natural power of immunity.” The Asian supermarkets which are appearing in most large cities feature an entire aisle of bupin. Most bupin plants can be grown in E. N. Am., and there are probably a number of native plants which could be included in the category- certainly American ginseng and other Araliaceae. Bupin are frequently consumed as soup, and there are many classic recipes involving 4, 6 or more herbs. Current projects: We now grow almost all of the bupin spp.which it is possible to grow in our area, but a there are a few valuable plants for which we are still seeking propagating material. We are expanding our offerings of seeds and bare root plants. We will be setting out several beds of spp. which grow well here, for sale to restaurants or in value-added products. I hope we will post more instructions and photos on the subject on the website. There will be a workshop on growing & using bupin.

 

  • Perennial vegetables – I have been collecting and propagating and growing these for over 30 years; only one or two of the hardy spp. from Eric Toensmeier’s excellent Perennial Vegetables continue to elude me. Current projects: Offer more spp. as seeds or bare-root plants. Incorporate propagation, cultivation and harvest information in overall MG plant database and publish web. Continue ongoing experiments with cultivation methods for efficient harvest of roots and tubers, fertilization and spacing trials for native perennial wildfoods, seed germination methods trials – keep records and share. Try to get Dioscorea figured out. Teach a workshop on perennial vegetables.

 

  • Tonic / longevity herbs and formulas from China & India – these are another long term interest. I got a piece of advice when I was 30: “chart your course to intersect with the future.” So I’ve spent 40 years on this topic, figuring to meet up with the post-war generation right about now. Yes, both Chinese and Indian herbal medicine have devoted considerable energy to developing anti-aging, rejuvenative herbs and formulas. (Curiously, western herbal medicine has little to offer on this topic). These herbs and preparations are called ‘tonics’ in Chinese medicine and ‘rasayanas‘ (rejuvenatives) in Ayurveda. Many of the Chinese tonic herbs are the same as bupin (above), but the tonic formulations, which can be prepared as decoctions, pills, wines, tinctures, syrups, etc., are much more elaborate and precisely targeted than the bupin soup recipes. Rasayanas, coming from S. Asia, are unfortunately mostly, but not entirely, not-hardy. Mtn Gdns has devoted considerable effort, over 30 years, to collecting any reputed ‘longevity’ herbs which will grow here, and learning to grow them (1) and collecting formulas (2), and now we have quite a treasure trove to share. Current projects: Offer more of these species as seeds or bare-root plants. Summarize cultural, propagation, harvesting and utilization information on MG herb database. Make wines, tinctures, pills and other classic longevity formulations incorporating our fresh, organically-grown herbs. Share on line the most interesting usages and formulations from some scarce texts which we have acquired (ben cao gang mu, Pharmacopoeia of the P. R. of China, , Ishimpo, etc.). Since we no longer sell tonic preparations on line (not GMP), begin offering packets of herbs so folks can make their own preparations (tincture: just add alcohol!). Begin planting beds (a couple square yards each) of most important spp. Teach workshops on growing and using tonic herbs

 

  • Medicinal herbs (other) – In accordance with our generational mandate, Mtn Gdns collects (plants & their usages, literature) and explores the herbal aspects of ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’: CNS stimulants and depressants, libido (vital essence) tonics, calming / anti-stress / sleep. Also brain / memory tonics (E.g. Calamus varieties and formulas ). Also, herbs to promote immune fuction (adaptogens – we grow all possible adaptogens), anti-allergic, anti-arthritic, vision, hearing, etc. herbs and formulas. Current projects: Not so many of these plants are easy to grow in this area; a goal is to explore processing, combinations & formulas for those we can grow. Teach a workshop on psychoactive herbs

 

  • Pao zhi – refers to a number of herb processing techniques used in traditional Chinese medicine to alter the energetics, reduce side-effects, increase palatability, etc. of herbs. I have been practicing and teaching pao zhi for 10 years, and continue to research the topic, currently exploring the newly available ben cao gang mu – a treasure-trove of information. Current project: Continue to develop techniques and accumulate ancient and contemporary information. Application to Western herbs? Teach paozhi workshop.

 

  • Herbal Preparations – We like to make preparations from the herbs we grow. For ideas and inspiration we draw on both traditional Chinese and late 19th century American pharmacy. We practice the best (that we have discovered, so far) pre-industrial extractions and formats for medicinal herbs, utilizing the best Eclectic and standard pharmaceutical texts and Chinese information gleaned from a variety of sources including Li Shizhen and unpublished notes from Andy Ellis. Current projects: Continue to expand our repertoire of herbal formats, internal & external. Making alcohol from herbs, rather than adding herbs to alcohol. Continue developing longevity liqueurs, incorporating more herbs that we can grow and harvest. Expand repertoire of topical and skincare preparations. Distill more essential oils and make use of the hydrosols (in tinctures and other preparations). Offer herbal CSA? Teach workshops on traditional Chinese and American / Eclectic pharmaceutical techniques and preparations

 

  • Native wildfoods – Our work with spring wildfoods is mentioned above (sansai), but of course there are wildfoods at every season. Two recent books by Samuel Thayer: Nature’s Garden and The Forager’s Harvest constitute a quantum leap in the quality of information on ID, harvesting and preparation of more than fifty of the best native wildfoods. Current projects: The only problem with wildfood is the gas you have to burn to get to where it is. Our contribution to the movement is to offer seeds and bare root plant starts, and information on appropriate habitat, propagation, etc., so that you can naturalize these plants near your house. Well also offer several workshops on this topic.

 

  • Li Shi-zhen’s forgotten herbs – Li Shizhen’s ben cao gang mu is a massive encyclopedia of natural history which treats almost 2000 minerals, plants, animals, insects, fungi, artifacts, etc., with details of harvesting, preparation and utilization (thousands of formulas and combinations are given) not available anywhere else. Fortunately: it has been translated into English! Unfortunately, it lists for $1600, there are deals online but it’s still about $800. Also few libraries seem to have purchased it. Fortunately, I have a copy! It only took about $60 and 10 hours of turning pages at the copy machine. Unfortunately, the ‘editorial apparatus’ (indexing, explanatory notes, etc) is minimal, the text is riddled with typos and who knows how many errors in translation. Current projects: Begin to supply some necessary study aides such as a table of contents by latin plant name (the only table of contents given is in pinyin, and often it’s an obsolete pinyin name). Continue reading through the text, highlighting its unique information, esp. on preparations and longevity formulas & techniques, edibility, propagation and cultivation, etc. Compile a list of herbs not included in modern TCM (E.g. Bensky), then develop a list of new spp. to acquire. Incorporate much Li Shizhen information in the series Chinese herb workshops. .
  • Positive identification of Chinese herbs:

 

  • E-W herbal comparisons – There are at least 50 ‘east-west herb pairs’ (genera embracing both an E. Asia and an E. N.Amer. medicinal species), and a question of great interest is to what extent can our native plants be used in place of the imported species? We have assembled all available published information (four books and assorted information from the internet), and are assembling the pairs of plants (ginsengs, black cohosh, dioscorea, solomon’s seal, hawthorn, etc.) affording a unique opportunity for comparative study. Current projects: Continue filling out the plant collection; utilize new spp. suggestions from Li Shizhen. Organize the extensive collection of reports which my students at Daoist Traditions have prepared over several years, each comparing the native and oriental species of a medicinal genus (a bulging file-drawer full).. Incorporate info on ‘equivalent spp’ in Chinese herb workshop series.

 

  • Heirloom vegetables. One of our major Current projects is food self-sufficiency. Not just kitchen garden vegetables, of which we grow a good supply, but starch and protein crops like corn, beans, squash and potatoes. My former apprentice, Dr. Jim Veteto, recently purchased land just over the ridge from Mtn Gdns on which to establish his Institute for the study of S. Appalachian food crops. We’ll be partnering with his Southern Seed Legacy project to grow out heirloom corn and bean varieties collected right here in Yancey County. What a thrill! We look forward to working closely with Jim on his projects, sharing apprentices and workdays and assisting in the preservation of local heirlooms.

 

  • Towards the development, demonstration and promotion of a way of living on earth that is sustainable, just and personally satisfying: this is of course the sine qua non [without this, nothing]. I put it here last, but it’s first, always. The best philosophy we have of a sustainable, just, satisfying life on earth is Daoism. If this is true, one would expect to find echoes (at least) in other times and cultures, and indeed similar philosophies arose in ancient Greece but, lacking a Zhuangzi [Chuang-tzu], they lost out to Plato; and, since the victors write the history, the Cynics, Skeptics and Epicurians have been grossly misrepresented and are now largely forgotten. ‘Primitive’ people understand, which is why they’ve retreated to some of the most inhospitable environments on earth rather than joining up for the ‘benefits’ of civilization; unfortunately, they don’t write books about their philosophy, writing itself being an artifact of civilization. ‘Primitivism’ (within which I include Daoism) is the philosophy of living on earth; modernism, from Confucius and Plato on up, is the philosophy of alliance with the human superorganism, which cancerously grows by consuming its host. We all must choose; how we live is our bet, and we are betting the survival of our (thus far immortal) genes.

Summer’s End

The first day of October arrives with a chill in the air, constant rain, and a bounty of new colors in the trees.  With this change in the weather comes an opportunity to sit down at the computer.

The last weeks of summer brought a flurry of activity to Mountain Gardens.  Wade and I had the opportunity to milk Goldie, the cow who lives year-round at Camp Celo.  We went with Keenan, our friend and neighbor, who gave us a yogurt culture to make our own delicious yogurt out of the 2 gallons of milk we brought back to the farm.

Tom Trout, a friend and local builder, came over to help us build a brick and cob oven to replace the one that was destroyed by a falling tulip poplar early this year.  The brickwork took a large group of people one day to complete.  The cob was added in two layers, over a period of several days.  Most significantly, we have been able to bake several loaves of bread, sweet potatoes, and pizzas in our new oven!

Amanda, a former Mountain Gardens intern, came to visit to help us harvest honey from our hives.  We only got honey from one of them–the second hive donated a “super” of honey to the third, which otherwise might not have had enough honey to make it through the winter.  What a delight to enjoy our honey on the yogurt we had made!

Our new herb dryer was completed, after much hard work from visiting friends Jenny & Frank, Joseph revised the plan and construction.

Wade and I got to visit the land that our friends Jim and Elena recently purchased, and enjoy samples of just a few of the many heirloom apples in abundance there.  Their homestead garden will soon be a treasure trove of all the many heirloom Appalachian seeds Jim has collected in his work in the area and beyond.

Finally, I was able to go on a wildcrafting hike with Joe.  Although we did not return with any ramp (wild leek) seeds, which was our initial mission, we did encounter an American chestnut tree on our hike. It was a special treat to encounter one of these rare trees!

Wishing you a bountiful fall harvest,

Kate,
Mountain Gardens intern

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