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Foraging reflections

Another school year has started and another season of changes on the farm. Since the summer garden is coming to an end and we wait, again, on the new seedlings for the next veggie season, there has been more time to take notice of what is growing in our ‘grasses of mystery’ as I like to think of them. I am starting to love the possibilities as I start out learning what is popping up at my feet, with only the help of natures gardeners (birds, squirrels and so on).

The best parts of a food forest/permaculture farm is seeing the results of patiently watching the “weeds” grow. It is probably no secret that we love our winged sumac here on the farm. With the American Indian Lemonade recipes we have posted, it is obviously a favorite. But as we explore the grounds in our 4th summer/fall season here, the abundance of the winged sumac is just glorious. They are everywhere and they are all at different stages of growth. Although they are considered an aggravating invasive plant, to some, I mean one Sumac bunch seems to have 1000 seeds, I can’t help but appreciate what all they can provide, once you take the time to research them and use them.

So, here is what we have come to appreciate about this plant. First, as the spring flowers fade into summer and the veggies start producing and stop flowering as much, the sumac flourishes with flowers. And the bees are very thankful! The ‘dearth’ period, when bees have small amounts to forage, was not so harsh for our buzzing friends. Next, you get to see the white flowers fade away and a crimson berry form. The tall branches with their winged leaves stretch out to provide shade for our chickens and a welcomed napping spot for our dog. Now the fun begins, harvesting their sticky berries. We have been harvesting the sumac berries going on a month or so now and the prime time is still coming. We have been making so much Sumac Lemonade and it is being perfected with each harvest. We have learned that the darker the berries and the juicier they look, the tangier the flavor. So yum! We have now perfected our identification of the exact moment to pick them to achieve the best flavor. That is when there has been a hot, dry spell and the berries are deep red with a white glaze over them. The rain washes away the wonderful lemon flavor and the beneficial vitamin C so harvest before a big rain.

So yesterday, as the weather appeared to be starting to storm, I rushed outside to collect the best looking berries. As I walked around, I noticed the different stages the Winged Sumacs were in. Some were at their very end, with dried black berries, some were just turning a red color, some haven’t even started producing berries. I stopped and realized how thankful I was to have this “invasive” surrounding our farm. What a rewarding gift. Then I found other recipes and uses of this plant. I made Sumac Lemon Pepper and ground Sumac for seasonings. I found that the young shoots of a sumac are edible, still need more research on this. Then there is the spice blend to make Za’atar, an eastern Mediterranean spice blend which uses ground Sumac. I am in heaven! And to think none of this would have been discovered if we didn’t patiently let the farm grow wild.

And this is just one moment in the year of seasonal surprises. We have so many favorites on the farm, our wild blackberries, the purple violets in the spring, native persimmons that are coming soon, the wild hazelnuts, our newly discovered Elderberry and more! Each year we learn more, discover more and we all grow taller for it. Patience, persistence and perseverance have been our strategy and there is more to come! We encourage you all to go out there and explore, just make sure you wear bug spray, sunscreen and bring along field guides for safe identification.

Cheers to happy foraging!

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON?

Here at Forest Gully, we have fallen in love with them all. The unique plants of each season and the importance of the process throughout the year make it hard for us to answer that simple question. However, we know many people do have favorite seasons. So, here are just a few things to expect on the farm during each season.

WINTER (December – February): Snuggles by the fire, sounds of nature, hikes…

 

SPRING (March – May): Flower forager’s delight, goumi berries, butterflies, hikes…

 

 

 

 

 

SUMMER (June – August): Blackberries, blueberries, flowers, veggies, creek fun…

 

 

 

 

FALL (September – November): Oh the colors, hazelnuts, persimmons, muscadines, hikes…

When imaginations are set free

Our recent guest left us a very creative story in our guest book. We had to share.


“We needed to go to the bathroom so my siblings and I walked to the bathroom in the dark. SNARLING coyotes were just stumbling just meters away. Luckily with my quick wittyness, I tripped my dear sister for I could get a chance to get into the bathroom. Sadly my dear ol’ sister was eaten by the hideous torn apart with her shrieks cutting through the silence of the night.” – Michelle (12), Nick (14) & Micaela (8)
Very creative! lol

The Gingerich Family from Indiana


Celebrating the summer, we recently had the pleasure of hosting the Gingerich family. Driving from Indiana, they each got out of there car and instantly their two excited young ladies ran to the playhouse and of course the bathhouse. 😉 With 3 ladies who were not interested in camping but all about our underground “glamping” accommodations. To quote Mr. Gingerich, “my wife and daughters who don’t like to camp or I should say (glamp)Lol that they actually enjoyed it and wanted to stay” 

When they first arrived, one of the girls mentioned not liking chickens much but, I see in some of their pictures they managed to at least open the coop door. They also seemed to enjoy the hikes and our quaint waterfall. 

It is always nice to see the huts being lived in. We are so glad this wonderful family shared their experience with us. Picking  blueberries, waiting for breakfast, s’mores by the campfire and even finding some fun Halloween decorations. We are honored to host families like the Gingerich. Thank you for the pictures and the words in our guest book. 

Video fun!

Seeing how it is summer and we have been so busy, we decided to have some fun with the boys. So I wanted to share their acting debut and some visuals of our Gully Huts. Just some summer fun. Have a great day everyone!​

The Great American Farm tour

The Great American Farm tour decided to drop by our farm and look around. We are just one of many great farm adventures this family is experiencing, follow them to see their journey.

While they were here they made this cool video of the farm, check it out!

Summer is here!

Believe it or not, it has been a year since we started this blog. A year since we officially went underground! A year of so many changes, new friends, new places! It has been a year blessed!

We have had such wonderful experiences with the people who have stayed on our farm and who have fallen in love with the farm, the woods, the huts, the stars!

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Photo by: Philip Murphy

We have photographers (thanks Philip Murphy for this stary night). We have families, birthday celebrations and just weekends needed away.

It has been such an honor to host all these wonderful people and we have so many more on the way. So many people have taken on the farm as their own. People care for and feed the chickens, people try the new fruits and berries, even if they are not their favorite.

There is a feeling of a reboot from people that has made us all overjoyed. I like to think those who come stay with us might come to Forest Gully Farms for the “hobbit” huts but leave falling in love with nature. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you! This has been a year of growth, work and blessings! Come fall in love with the outdoors all over again and again! We can’t wait to see you all.