Mike Patterson

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since Mar 02, 2013
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Currently building up a 10 acre homestead in northeast Missouri. Put in a pond and some hugel-swales, planted 100's of native trees, and building a roundwood timber frame with trees from our forest. Originally from outside of Cleveland Ohio on Lake Erie, spent many years traveling and working on organic and permaculture farms in Oregon, Hawaii, California, Arizona, Missouri, and Ohio. Was also exposed to different natural building styles; cob, strawbale, quecha, post + beam, bamboo-y stuff. My partner, Julia, learned timber framing and other skills at yestermorrow in Vermont, and also spent many years doing natural building in Thailand. We now have a 3 year old daughter and infinite homestead projects ahead...
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Recent posts by Mike Patterson

Ok, now I'm pretty convinced I've been eating sochan. Thayer has a chapter on them in his newer book, Incredible Wild Edibles, and describes them in fairly glowing terms... somewhat of a 180 from calling them "unpleasant" in his 1st book. Also got directed to this site via a facebook group. I have to say it's pretty mild tender and tasty!

Anyway, don't mean to hi-jack the waterleaf thread!

Thanks for the input!


greg mosser wrote:mike patterson, do those different-looking plants taste any different?

the not-watermarked ones look a lot like sochan (cutleaf coneflower/Rudbeckia laciniata) leaves to me, which is another perennial edible that i have in abundance here in western nc. i don't seem to have waterleaf (though i know i've seen it around somewhere locally) but will try to get it (as well as honewort, since you mention it) on my property. sochan has a pretty distinct flavor that i find hard to classify (i've heard people say it tastes medicine-y to them though i don't quite get that)...i haven't heard if waterleaf has much of a distinct flavor? it would definitely be obvious to you in the late summer/fall during flowering if sochan was there, since the flowers are yellow and 3-5 feet tall, very different from waterleaf.

That's a good question, thanks for bringing it up! I had to delve back into my go-to wild edible bible, the complete works of Samuel Thayer. He writes about Waterleafs in The Forager's Harvest. It's not one of his longer chapters, but one thing he mentions is the similarity in appearance to cut-leaf coneflower. He even includes a picture of it growing right alongside waterleaf. The picture also has a waterleaf with spots and a waterleaf without spots, and this is all within maybe a square foot of soil. He describes cut-leaf coneflower as being more tough and coarse compared to waterleaf and "unpleasant to eat" but not dangerous or toxic. Based on that and your description as tasting distinct or medicine-y I would think that is not what I've been eating. I think I mentioned in my first post that I found the waterleafs with the spots as being a little more hairy compared to the other two I was eating, and not nearly as sweet or succulent. The "flavor" is still mild, but it almost seems like with greens the texture is more important. None of them were even close to as "strong" of a flavor as honewort. I guess I'll just keep an eye out for when they all flower and should have a better idea then.

He also mentions 8 species found in the US: California waterleaf H. occidentale, Pacific waterleaf H. tenuipes, ballhead waterleaf H. capitatum, Fendler's waterleaf H. fendleri, large waterleaf H. macrophyllum, broad waterleaf H. canadense, appendaged waterleaf H. appendiculatum, and Virginia waterleaf H. virginianum. After doing some disappointing google image searching, it almost seems like one of them could be H. capitatum even though Thayer classifies that as one found in the Western states.

I'm leaning toward all 3 of the examples I found to be variations of H. virginianum, but again hopefully the flowers will help!

Thanks for posting this! I had just begun harvesting Virginia Waterleaf this season; it's wildly abundant down along the creeks where it occasionally floods.

I'm curious if anyone can help me figure out if I have different species growing here, or just variations of H. virginianum.

They all seem to grow in the same areas right around each other. The size variations depending on location also seem to pretty dramatic. The ones growing right along the creek bed in nice sandy soil seem to get significantly larger than elsewhere, but also I've noticed (and not just for this plant) that there are natural hugel-ish situations where some old partially buried logs create little micro-niches of fertility.

Another observation, fwiw, is that they don't seem to mind sharing space with black walnuts! They actually seem to occupy the same niche that wood nettles (Laportea canadensis) occupy a month or so later. At this point there always seems to be some Spring Beauties nearby (Claytonia virginica), as well as honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis) that's starting to come up now and many violets as well (Viola sororia). There are many places in the woods where almost everything I can see on the ground right now is edible!

Whenever I'm out hiking I'll eat them raw. I find the 3rd one down, with the "water marks" to be drier and hairier while the other two are quite good and mild. Just a hint of a terpene or something you might find in carrot tops, but not nearly as strong as with honewort. I've been eating a lot of them cooked and they hold up pretty well. When cooked the hairiness reminds me of eating cooked stinging nettle, and honestly if someone had served me this and told me it was stinging nettle I probably would've believed it! They can have a fairly long stem that can be a bit fibrous, but not in a bad way.

I decided to try and blanch and freeze a bunch to see how it holds up in those conditions and if it's something I could preserve for year round eating. About 2 quarts worth of packed fresh leaves fit nicely on a cookie sheet after blanching for around 90 sec and then cooling. (Collecting that much maybe took around 30 min of casual browsing). After freezing it on the sheet it all fit pretty nicely in a gallon ziplock bag. I had some 1lb bags of frozen organic spinach from Aldi's and it seemed to be around the same quantity, but I didn't weigh it. I'll try to eat some after a few weeks and I'll let you know how it tastes!

Does anyone have any info regarding nutritional or medicinal info? I've googled it a couple times with no luck. Since it's a wild green I'm assuming it's "real good for me", but I'd love to know more specifics and also if there's any concern with eating too many. I've had a few fairly large servings a number of times over the past few days without noticing anything to be concerned about.

Hope that's all helpful or whatever.

I've attended a number of elderberry presentations by Terry Durham from River Hills Harvest at the Mid-America Organic Association Conferences. Last year (this year's conference starts this Thursday) he informed us that when they independently tested the American Elder, Sambucus canadensis they found extremely negligible quantities of the pre-cyanide or whatever it's called compounds. Like, less than apple seeds. And if I'm remembering correctly it was also not really present in any parts of the plant, not just the berries. I can't find my notes at the moment or any links to the studies, but what seems to have happened is that there was extensive research on European varieties like S. nigra which are much more toxic, and everyone in North America just assumed our elderberries must be the same.

Please don't go out and start eating American Elder leaves based on this, but I'll keep looking for some citations and maybe I'll get a chance to ask Terry about it this weekend at the conference.
4 months ago
Hello! You'd be more than welcome to come visit our community here in NE Missouri, Bear Creek Community Land Trust.

We're in the planning stage for our 2020 workshops and programming, but we welcome visitors at any time!

Good luck with your search and travels, and feel free to ask any questions you might have.

4 months ago
I'm pretty sure that's what we did for our cistern. I think we used cement, lime, weird glass fibers, and calcium sterate? We built it 4 years ago and it doesn't seem to leak atm.

Just a couple months ago I emptied the cistern in order to install a submersible electric pump, so I also got to clean it out. The top of our cistern is exposed above ground, and often in the winter the top 6-10" will freeze. I noticed some cracking and flaking of the plaster in those upper regions of the cistern, and I'm guessing it's from that freeze/thaw pressure.

9 months ago

George: I would love to know how to search for the intentional communities that seem to be working well, any suggestions?  The reason for the land is that we would like to do a large garden and raise animals both to sell and to eat ourselves.  In order for us to do that we would need the space.  I wouldn't mind sharing these things with others but to do so we would need to increase the amount of production which would mean more land needed.  Our final goal is to be producing 80% of our own food and then offsetting the other 20% with the income we would be making from the sale of our produce/animals.  If we could make enough that my husband could work freelance outside the home occationally that would be a dream come true!  I will definitely look into getting that book!!  

Hi Sami. I'm assuming you've been to https://www.ic.org/ already, but I guess you can't really tell which ones are "working well" necessarily. You can find communities that have been around for a while, and I guess that is one way to define working well or success. I'm sure you can find folks who have lived at long standing intentional communities and they might argue the community isn't working well, but I think it's also a matter of finding the right fit. Once you go visit somewhere I'm sure you'll leave with plenty of ideas about where to visit next.

One community that I could confidently direct you toward is the one I've helped start, Bear Creek Community Land Trust! We happen to have a few 10 acre leaseholds available, as well as some smaller options, and are actively seeking families with children. Let me know if you'd like to come for a visit or had any questions!

Good luck with your search! There's a lot of options out there.

10 months ago
So when people read or hear stories like this it seems very tempting to lament all the ways "organic" isn't the rainbow permie-dust we all hoped for. Maybe someone would hear this story and think, "I guess buying organic isn't worth it... etc." which would feel like a real shame. Until there is a well regulated alternative that is "better" than USDA Organic we don't have a lot of options at the local grocery store (if you're lucky enough to have a grocery store that stocks organic produce). I do believe the main reason the majority of farmers who are certified organic are doing it for the financial premium they get for their crops.

That being said, according to the NOP, 205.206(c)(6)

(c)Weed problems may be controlled through: (6)Plastic or other synthetic mulches: Provided, That, they are removed from the field at the end of the growing or harvest season.

the plastic needs to be removed at the end of the season. Whether the farmer recycles, reuses, or chucks into the ocean this plastic is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not we're willing to pay an even greater premium for produce that is more aligned with our superior permie values. Would a more fitting yet less click-baitey title be "Organic farmers being forced to abuse plastic resources to even attempt to compete with conventional farmers"? It's a lot easier to spray sevin or whatever, but if we want carrots for <$1/lb. we shouldn't expect them to come from a hugel-polyculture.

In other words, you get what you pay for. I guarantee you could purchase certified "plastic-free organic" produce as long as you're willing to spend a lot more than what you're already paying for certified organic produce. The failings of commodity crop economics is not the fault of the NOP, more a symptom of the bigger agricultural/economic challenges we're facing. Know your enemy.

11 months ago

Rebecca Amstutz wrote:Hi Mike! My husband and I are super interested in visiting soon. Could you tell me approximately how much are the leaseholds that are available for rent/sale? We're curious if they are within the range of possibility for us or not. But we want to visit regardless!

Hi Rebecca, thanks for the question. At the moment there are larger leaseholds (~10 acres) with buildings and gardens etc that would be more expensive due to the valuing of the improvements, but there are also some raw land leaseholds that would just be priced by the acre with a potential contribution to commons. I don't actually know the exact pricing for the available leaseholds, but if you do come for a visit I'd be happy to break down all the options. Were you wanting to start from scratch or did you need some infrastructure in place?

11 months ago