The site of the Great Blue Heron Music Festival in Sherman, NY has recently become the site for another heron venture: the Green Heron Growers. This was the destination of our 2010 Thank You Fieldtrip for Audubon education volunteers.
Julie Rockcastle was our gracious hostess and gave us a tour of the agriculture operation in the morning. At noon we dined on a lovely potluck lunch. After lunch we did a little exploring – in particular on the chunk of property that is rather bog-like.
Near the house, Julie and her husband Steve grow a variety of vegetables and herbs. The egg-laying chickens are raised here, too.
Across the street on a certified organic pasture, the meat chickens are raised in moving pens – allowing them to eat fresh grass (along with organic grain) every day.
We helped move the pen, then feed and water the chickens:
A little further up the hill were the grass-fed beef cattle.
Back down to the house, then out to the woods we tromped to see the Shitake Mushroom operation. To me, this was the most fascinating part of the tour.
But before we could start, the log-flippers gave a quick, impromptu Salamander Lesson.
As part of regular timber stand management, trees with 6- or 8-inch diameter trunks, preferably oak, are cut. This harvest happens in early spring after the sap is running, but before the leaves are out. The trunks are cut into lengths approximately 3 feet long and small holes are drilled into the sides.
The holes are filled with Shitake Mushroom “spawn” – living mycelium. The holes and the ends of each log are sealed with wax to prevent colonization by other fungi.
The logs are stacked. It will take 12-18 months for the mycelium to spread and fully colonize the log. After a year or more in the stacks, the logs are moved to the fruiting area where they are leaned against “fences” to give the fruiting bodies room to grow.
Julie and Steve are trying something new: These copper bands at the base of the logs are intended to keep away slugs… who apparently don’t like to crawl over copper.
After touring all the agricultural parts of The Heron, we headed back to the house for lunch where we celebrated our college intern’s 20th birthday!
After lunch, we changed into mud boots and headed down the road to explore a boggy area of the property. We found sphagnum moss and sun dews and some plants we couldn’t identify, and a few critters…
After leading fieldtrips for countless school children through May and June it was delightful to go on a fieldtrip of our own. Many thanks to our wonderful (goofy) volunteers (and staff!) who help get us through this intensely busy time of year. We couldn’t do it without you!
(There are several others who couldn’t make it to the fieldtrip… we thank you, too!)