Paradise Gardening update


Mountain Gardens began in 1972, when I obtained 2.8 acres of woodland in the high mountains of western NC. Almost from the start, the intention has been to develop a garden which addresses the problems of our times: environmental destruction, war & economic injustice, personal distress & dissatisfaction. Paradise Garden theory holds that these are all manifestations, at the different levels of life (planet, species, individual) of a single problem: that humans no longer occupy a valid niche in Gaia, the superorganism of which we are a part.
We slipped away from a valid niche with the rise of civilization, following the development of agriculture. Civilization is an upstart superorganism and is in fact an aggressive cancer within the body of Gaia. Modernity is the final stage in which all humans occupy a niche in civilization, and Gaia, the living matrix, is redefined as ‘raw materials’. Paradise Gardening is the practice of creating, maintaining and ‘making a living’ from the development of a Paradise Garden, the garden where everything you need (not necessarily everything that you want) is there for the taking. This is proposed as a ‘valid niche’: one which increases (or at least doesn’t decrease) the diversity and fertility of the garden (and the planet), which does not use more than a fair share of Gaia’s resources (land, clean air, clean water, etc.) and which promotes the health, happiness and fullest development of the gardener. Every era and culture has attempted to realize its version of Paradise, but in the run-up to full modernity the subject has been sadly neglected – the search for Paradise abandoned as the earth is trashed and human suffering increase to unbearable levels. Yet the search for the way home remains the most urgent, meaningful and enjoyable life work.
I originally defined Mountain Gardens as a ‘botanical garden of useful plants grown ecologically and arranged ornamentally’, and over the course of forty years have found no reason to alter that, only ways to amplify it. A botanical garden implies a collection of plants, useful plants includes of course food and medicine, also craft plants (fiber, dye, basketry, paper, incense, etc.), fuel, building material and, of course, wildlife – birds, bees, butterflies – and soil improvement, hedges & windbreaks, ornamentals and so on. As of 2014, Mountain Gardens may incorporate the largest collection of ‘useful plants’ in E. N. America, particularly medicinal herbs, perennial vegetables and wildfood plants, our specialties.
“Grown ecologically’ includes naturalizing the plants by utilizing or creating habitats in which they will thrive without, or with minimal, human assistance – thus the effort to maximize diversity of species is tied to the development of / maximizing the diversity of micro-habitats along axes such as sun-shade, wet-dry, acid-neutral, humus-rich, sandy, clay, etc. Grown ecologically also includes the concept of respecting the potential (or in my case, actual) natural vegetation, which in this area is forest. More specifically, my few acres includes examples of rich cove hardwoods, hemlock, white oak and red oak/hickory/heath plant communities – portions of each of these (about half the property) have been maintained and enriched with additional useful species appropriate to them. Ecological cultivation also includes building fertility by recycling all organic matter and preventing erosion.
‘Arranged ornamentally’ has to do with creating an ideal environment. Travel/tourism is, we are told, the next largest consumer of nonrenewable resources after military/defense. The Paradise gardener would rather stay home. In addition to fulfilling our physical needs (see ‘useful plants’, above) the garden can provide for our aesthetic, creative and spiritual needs. Chinese Daoist gardens provide a model for creating a ‘separate reality’ which is both an environmental work of art and an optimum environment for fostering human development to as high a spiritual level as you care to go.
Paradise Garden theory contends that we are born pre-programmed to fit into the world (Gaia), to our mutual advantage. Despite the fact that reprogramming begins (especially in ‘advanced’ societies) almost from the moment of birth, our original program can only be overwritten, not deleted., and it is this archetypal level that it seeks to tap in claiming the ability to fulfill all our needs; physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. (and social – see Paradise Garden as a utopian community, below). At the highest level, Paradise Gardening (the practice) becomes wu-wei, ‘not-doing’ (‘flow’ is a contemporary term in the same ballpark) – a daily focusing on the ‘dressing and keeping’ of a beautiful environment which is itself the result of a dialogue between the gardener and the environment (Gaia) as expressed in the garden, the sum total of all the previous days.
An important aspect of this garden project from the start is that it be relevant to as many people as possible. This means a small piece of land (a ‘fair share’) and minimum external inputs such as fossil fuels / machinery and, especially, money. I began this project with several acres of woodland and $500, and no training and only slight experience in any of what I have been doing since: garden making, building, botany, horticulture, herbalism, homesteading. No grants or other capital infusion. I have rarely been on a payroll until I began to teach one class per semester at a nearby college of Chinese medical arts (I teach medical botany and herbal preparations) , and have always lived below the ‘poverty line’. No savings, no insurance (except now I get Medicare and $150/month from the government – I didn’t ask for it, but I don’t turn it down either) – it’s a matter of harmonizing not only our deeds with our words, but also where we place our faith and trust. The reward is the freedom to work/live whole-heartedly, and the peace of mind the Greeks called ataraxy. The eschewal of money has a deeper meaning: money is the ‘blood’ of civilization, and the amount of it that flows through us is a direct index of the extent to which we are a participant, both depending on and supporting civilization. Exactly where we are on a line that has Paradise at one end and money at the other is less relevant than what direction we are moving in. Paradise making will be a multi-generational endeavor, so much of the satisfaction must be, and is, in the process.
Of course it is almost impossible to live completely outside of money / civilization, so the garden must earn some income, which it does by selling seeds and plants (we grow some rare ones), medicinal herbs and preparations, and teaching . Occasionally we do in fact generate little burps of $, which are quickly converted into one of the three recognized acceptable items of purchase: plants, books and tools. (all non-consumables). Life without money, far from being regret-filled, is liberating – like fasting, when you suddenly find yourself with all those extra hours in the day (formerly devoted to cooking, eating, cleaning up). We are told that hunter-gatherers had more leisure time than any human populations since. I enjoy waking, whenever I feel like it, to a choice of interesting creative tasks all of which I want to do; or, best of all, just stepping out into the world and responding to it: total immersion: Paradise gardening.
What one can do with all this leisure time, the theory suggests, is go deeper into whatever aspect of the Paradise garden (or anything else) that takes your fancy; for example, I got interested in medicinal herbs, for several reasons. I was growing them, because they are important, but rarely using them, because I rarely got sick. Then I learned about tonic, health-promoting herbs, an aspect of Chinese herbal medicine, and wanted to grow them. Twenty years later Mountain Gardens is a pioneer both in growing Chinese herbs in America, and in incorporating native herbs into the highly sophisticated Chinese herbal medicine system. I rely on these herbs for my own health and longevity, and we provide them to our community through our ‘self-help herbal medicine center’, which consists of an extensive library of both popular and professional texts and a very large collection of dried herbs, single herbs extracts and Chinese formula extracts, as well as other preparations (syrups, pills, salves, lotions, liniments, etc.) which we make here. (We do not sell our products on the open market as jumping through the requisite hoops would draw us in the direction of $ and away from Paradise). This is a unique facility for anyone wishing to do self-diagnosis (or already having a diagnosis; I do not do diagnosis) and self-treatment with Chinese and/or native herbs, and it’s self-serve and open to the public 24/7/365.
A related topic to which we devote considerable energy is exploring the ‘great botanical /floristic disjunction’ between E. N. America and E. Asia, particularly as it relates to useful plants. We grow oriental and closely related native edible and medicinal herbs side-by-side, for comparative study – another unique project. Thus, for example, we grow a wide selection of sansai – the ‘wild mountain vegetables’ of Japan, as well as their close native relatives. This aspect of our garden researches generates its own income – we sell spring wildfoods, including such rarities as wasabi leaves and the young shoots of the prickly-ash tree (another prized condiment), to a restaurant and could certainly sell more if we decide to – what we have been doing for thirty years is now avant-garde cuisine. Efforts are underway to develop some of our delicious native wildfoods as a marketable product (small-scale, artisinal). Similarly with the medicinal herbs, we grow both native and oriental ginseng, black cohosh, Solomon’s seal, wild yam, and many more ‘non-timber forest products.’
The property is a small valley (‘cove’) oriented approximately north – south, with high mountains to the north and a ridge on the east and west (incidentally, or perhaps not, excellent feng shui). The center acre, the valley floor, slopes from north to south, but is horizontal east to west, it is triangular – narrower to the north (my boundary with US National Forest), and wider to the south (the boundary is a gravel road). Originally, the property was entirely wooded, the center was rich cove hardwoods, mostly tulip poplar stump regrowth from logging about 30 years before. This is the area which I cleared for garden space and building material – a log cabin. The land had never been cultivated because it is very rocky; the rocks were used for terrace walls, paths and steps. Everything was done by hand labor with simple tools, my only compromise being a chain saw. The original plan was very simple: a clearing in the woods, divided by several E-W hedgerows of useful small trees and shrubs and dwarf evergreens, and a circuit path along the wooded ridges with framed views of the central terraces. The various structures (there are now about a dozen, counting sheds and outhouse) mostly ring the clearing.
Around the clearing (the cove hardwoods area) was a band of hemlocks, and above that (i.e. drier) oak / hickory with Rhododendron and other heaths. The dense evergreen hemlocks were a major factor in the layout of the property as they provided screening to divide the garden into separate ‘rooms’, and to block and then frame the views from the ridge path. Tragically, they have all died, over the past ten years, due to an imported pest.
An ending is an opening and, in this case, there is suddenly sunlight reaching fertile soil which had previously been too densely shaded to permit an herb layer. A priority for the past few years has been to influence the direction and composition of the succession process which will inevitably follow, by broadcasting seeds and spreading brush (to catch autumn leaves for mulch and, eventually, humus), burning the hemlock brush and spreading the ashes to neutralize the acidity of the soil and using the logs to define paths and terraces (and inoculating the stumps in hopes of generating edible fungi – no luck with that so far). As a result of the hemlock’s demise the circuit path joining the two ridges has now been completed and instead of the garden being ‘a clearing in the woods’ , the garden is now the entire property.
What was for the first ten years mainly a solitary effort is now a group project. I began having a helper as soon as I had an extra shelter, and that has gradually expanded into an apprentice program with 6-8 interns living here from March – October and usually one or two short-term visitors / WWOOFers in addition; we also occasionally host college classes and work parties. I recently inaugurated a fellowship program to encourage apprentices to return for another year or longer. I would like to see Mountain Gardens evolve into a small community in which we all work together, half time, to maintain the garden; and each person works half time on an individual garden-related project for personal income. The apprentices receive room and board, but no stipend; the facilities I have developed here: the gardens, the quite extensive research library, the herb shop and apothecary and the surrounding natural areas constitute a unique educational opportunity, and I have many more applicants than I can accommodate. The apprentices live in several small structures (cabins, yurts, earth-sheltered dome) and share an outdoor kitchen, common room, solar shower & hot tub. Meals are communal, The life style is ‘neo-primitive’ – we cook and heat with wood, utilize gravity water flow, have a limited amount of photovoltaic electricity for lights and computer with internet.
Outreach is important; my main purpose is to inspire and empower others, particularly young folks who are not yet trapped in the cash economy and feel that there must be a better, more satisfying and harmonious way to live on earth. In addition to the apprenticeship program, we offer many workshops on gardening and medicinal herb topics and maintain a website where we share helpful information. Recently the apprentices have developed a Facebook page. We have also begun making short videos about useful plants and about Mountain Gardens, these are posted on youtube.
Current goals (2015) include increasing food production – I believe it will be possible to provide all the food, not just vegetables but also fruit, staples and protein, for ten people from a couple of acres of very marginal (agriculturally) land, which will be a demonstration of the fact that, to feed the world, we don’t need genetic engineering but land distribution. Also mapping the garden and producing a guidebook to our plant collection. We have recently added ducks and now have enough sunny garden space to grow staples: corn, potatoes, beans.



Why Bare Roots?

Bare Roots Ready For Shipping

Bare Roots Ready For Shipping

What it is : After a few years of experimentation, and with almost no requests for replacements, we are this year offering a wide range of ‘bare-root’ plants for sale. This means that, after receiving your order, we dig up a plant, or division of a plant, cut back the top, shake off most of the dirt, wrap the roots in moist paper and then plastic, wrap the whole plant in paper, and pack the plants in a prepaid Priority Mail box for immediate shipment. We ship early in the week so that you will receive the plants before the weekend. You should plant immediately, either direct into the garden or into pots, and provide appropriate after care (watering and, if necessary, shading).

Why we’re doing it: We think this is better than the conventional way of shipping potted plants.

  • economy - instead of charging you, for example, $5 for a plant in a 3″ pot plus another $5 shipping, we can supply a (often larger) plant for $3, and (depending on quantities ordered) less than $2.00 / plant for shipping.
  • ecology - This means we don’t have to buy the plastic pots, buy or make bushels of potting soil (peat moss, perlite), and water, fertilize and maintain the potted plants for weeks, months or perhaps years before selling.
  • enjoyability - growing plants in pots is not that satisfying. A pot is far from the natural environment of a plant. We prefer to let our plants to grow wild – spread vigorously and/or generate abundant seedlings – and harvest the surplus for sales.

Experimental: We’ve been shipping plants this way for a few years, but are still working out the details. Not all plants can be handled like this: I wouldn’t attempt this with ginseng or wasabi, for example. Some spp. can be shipped bare root in spring or autumn, but not summer. Spring ephemerals (like ramps) will be shipped in spring or as dormant roots in summer and autumn. We will continue to refine our list of what can be shipped bare-root and when, based on feedback from our customers.


2013 Review

Keenan taking down trees for us early in the year.

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


pollinating mandrakes…


Will’s class out on the terraces…


medicinal meads.  these made with Will’s class.


Pao Zhi, preparing chinese herbs…


Wasabi in flower.


Collecting ‘kinome,’ sechuan pepper tree leaves.


Chinese herb series, weekends throughout the summer.


Ganoderma tsugae, growing on one of many dead hemlocks.


Bare root plant sales.


Looking at plants during a workshop, as Jennifer films.


The ongoing pond construction…


A new home for our remaining beehive.


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


Apios priceana flowering.


Jiaogulan, Gynostemma pentaphyllum, Southern Ginseng …


Experimenting with cob…


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


Will Hooker’s Permaculture class.


Digging up yacon.  This plant overwintered.


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


Area cleared for planting, horse manure heaps…


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 

from website>  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

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.


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.


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


.Shiitake inoculation.  Another early spring ritual.


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


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.



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.


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, 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….




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