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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Hi Jeanne! If you ever find yourself passing through Missouri you're more than welcome to spend some time at our Community Land Trust. I made a post about it a few weeks ago, it's called Bear Creek CLT, and our website is here!
Deb Stephens wrote:Sounds interesting! I see you have links to the other communities but not one to your own website -- could you put one up so we can go look at your new place? How many acres do you have (it looks huge!) Also, are you accepting new members?
And yes, we're accepting new members! That's 98% of why I'm making this thread.. we have leaseholds available! Some have well established infrastructure and some are raw land. Pretty soon the website will have all the listings clearly laid out for what's available. They range in size from 10 acres to 1.5-3 acres.
We've been living here for about 7 years now, and it's been at least 3-4 years of working out all these details. Considering all the communities that have failed over the years there is plenty to think about while establishing something new. We've been wanting new members for a while, but wanted to make sure we had all the details worked out before we really put it out there.
Thanks for your questions! Let me know if anything else isn't clear.
Hello fellow permie community folk! After years of meetings, upheaval, research, babies, comings and goings, legal stuff, potlucks, and a few more meetings, we are happy to announce that we've created Bear Creek Community Land Trust in NE Missouri! What began as a loose network of satellite homesteads around the Possibility Alliance has evolved into a cohesive community.
I don't want to just rewrite a bunch of things already mentioned on our website, but I'll try to give some basics...
We relied heavily on previous work done by Red Earth Farms, see here, as well as their neighbors, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. These communities are about a 45 minute drive from ours. We are made up of individual leaseholds where members have autonomy within our bylaws, as well as substantial chunks of common land that can be used for cooperative agricultural pursuits or shared communal infrastructure. The land has a good amount of mixed hardwood deciduous forests, prairies/pastures, many ponds, and a few seasonal creeks.
Some of our founding members include the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm as well as Giving Tree Homestead (yes, that's me!)
Here's a reasonable map that is not definitive, but close enough..
Our very first visitor thingy is rapidly approaching, but we will have other opportunities to visit throughout the rest of the season.
Please please let me know if anyone has any feedback or questions regarding our exciting new adventure!
I think it's an interesting question, and I'm curious what you're actually asking. Are you wanting there to be a regulated 'Regenerative Organic' labeling and marketing program just like there is with USDA Organic that is maybe added on with the the existing NOP (National Organic Program), or is maybe completely separate from the NOP?
Just like Bryant said there are plenty of people out there who are calling their practices regenerative or whatever they want and that's fine. There are plenty of people calling their practices organic who are not certified so they can't use the USDA seal to sell their products. People who pay for organic certification get a significant premium on the price of their crops so there is a huge economic incentive that has been driving most farmers who transition to organic (I'm not really talking about someone growing veggies for their farmer's market, rather commodity row crops). If a similar premium starts to be assigned to products being marketed as regenerative due to consumer demand, and I'd have to assume it would be an even higher premium than organic, then people will start using that label regardless of what their actual farming practices are unless it is a regulated process. There are countless labels that you see on everyday products that are voluntary 3rd party certifications with no regulations behind them other than the reputation of the company giving out that label.
I guess my point is where do you want your regulations coming from and why? We can all buy from neighbors we trust and grow our own etc. which sounds great to me, but there are millions of people who can't/won't/don't do that and will trust someone else to verify their sources. Fraud is much more tempting when there are no consequences. Even though organic isn't what everyone dreamed it would be prior to the NOP I believe it is responsible for millions of acres of farm land that would otherwise be growing GMO crops soaked in glycosphate. Certainly not perfect, but much preferable to the alternative.
Who said this thread died? The project is very well active and ongoing.
The "thread" refers to the conversation happening on this forum, not the project itself. When it's been over 6 months from your last post and no replies to the most recent comment the thread would appear to be dead. That's not to say it can't be revived, so let's get this party started back up!
From my experience it seems that what most farm/homestead/community type places are looking for is people to come and help out, hopefully learn something, and probably not get paid. I've seen all these terms used to attempt to describe this exchange. I appreciate Jocelyn's post that clarifies the legal definitions because that was always something that bothered me when I saw places throwing around those terms.
Do you think many people use this site to find true volunteer opportunities where there isn't even camping/meals provided? It seems like you'd get more of that from your local community and people looking online would be needing at least a place to pitch a tent. Maybe if your project is close to a larger metro population.
Seems like most places will take whatever help they can get and you can call it whatever you want.
Shouldn't hunting be separate? When I think of or hear the word foraging I'm not picturing hunting animals. It seems like one could be a very proficient hunter with little plant foraging skills and vice versa.
What sort of stuff do you do at your place? Do you do any gardening, livestock, orchard/food forest?
Well there are a number of different "homesteads" I guess you could call them and each one is implementing some sort of permaculture design. So yes, pretty much everyone has at least one annual garden. 100s if not 1000s of trees have been planted, some of which you could call an orchard of cultivar varieties, others in more of a food forest/polyculture setting, and lots of native species planted all over the place. A few of us keep chickens/ducks and often trade off chore duties if needed. We've raised weaner hogs in the past and would be open to doing that again. One community member has a dairy cow with two calves so there's always plenty of milk. There have been goats around in the past but none at the moment. There is a team of draft horses on the land that a few people work with. We're not quite to where we are farming with them, but they're certainly useful for mowing and hauling stuff around. Some stocked ponds were already here and a couple more have been added. There is a good mix of open pasture/prairie land and forest with very little tillable acreage.
Personally at our leasehold we have 2 large gardens, one hugel-swale food forest with around 15-20 cultivars, one decent sized pond with young fish stocked and aquatic plantings, plenty of wild fruit and nut trees and shrubs, mushroom cultivation, and random things planted all around. We also make syrup from black walnut and silver maple trees. And endless building projects everywhere. Essentially a little bit of everything.
Hi James, thanks for the interesting conversation. Just for a quick summary... I'm an '86er, and I moved onto this raw land in 2012 when I was 25. When I was 20 I dropped out of college after a year and a half (before I could accumulate any debt) and began wwoofing and travelling to different farms and communities. It didn't take long before I knew I wanted that sort of lifestyle, so I started looking for places to settle. For a variety of reasons I ended up in rural NE Missouri. The land prices and taxes are quite affordable and there are few laws preventing one from pursing an off-grid DIY path. But really the bigger reason was the other people in the area who shared similar interests and were committed to creating community. Even if I found cheaper land that was "better" or something somewhere else, I wouldn't be interested in doing what I'm doing without the context or support of an extended community. I met my partner within the context of this community, and we were able to acquire our land without any savings because of connections made through this community. We've had to work extremely hard in order to build what we want here, and for many years that meant spending up to half the year in the city working to save up money for our homestead. Since we were willing to live in a tent for extended periods of time and weren't in a huge rush to get infrastructure built, we were able to slowly acquire materials and build things as we could afford. Some of it could be credited to good luck or being in the right place at the right time, but it did not require having savings or inheritance or other things like that. (If you're interested in what we've built here, I documented most of the first few years in this thread)
We, as well as all our friends and neighbors, are still constantly trying to figure out how to pursue our dreams of community and homesteading and all this permie jazz while still making ends meet and not have to work in town full time. Everyone is for the most part within the millennial window. One thing I do notice in these circles is that there tends to be a thread of varying degrees of Luddite-ness in the people who choose this lifestyle. What that looks like is few people I know who are doing what I'm doing participate much in social media, including forums such as this. I'm not saying that's good or bad, but since that's a primary way most people connect and network these days, it does seem to make it harder to find each other. Even in my own community I'm not sure if anyone would know about permies.com if it wasn't for me talking about it, and even then I don't think any of them ever visit here. Going further, there even seems to be active judgement of many modern technologies including all types of screens and internet etc. I don't necessarily agree or disagree with any of those opinions, but it does seems to present another hurdle in responsibly utilizing those resources and technologies to build community and all that.
That being said, I don't know anyone who I grew up with, went to high school with, or went to college with who are doing anything remotely like what I'm doing.
Also if anyone is interested... we are in the final stages of going public with our Community Land Trust. It will be called Bear Creek CLT and hopefully within the next couple weeks we'll have a basic website with pictures and descriptions of who we are, what we're doing, and available openings for future leaseholds. I'll be making a larger post about it soon with more info somewhere in the community forums.
Thanks Alicia. After a couple more soaks I've called it good. I tried to roast them in the oven but it might not have been hot enough. They're dry though, and I'll probably just grind into flour with my blender.
Hi everyone.. just a quick question and I apologize if this has been covered already.
When you're hot leaching, how long do you tend to let each round of water boil or simmer or whatever before transferring to the next batch of clean water? Also, how clear do you want the water in order to know it's done? I'm currently trying to leach my first small batch at the moment. They are white oak acorns, probably a quercus alba with maybe some bur oak genetics, but pretty good sized acorns. I didn't really chop or grind them up before leaching so some are still whole or at least split in half while some got more crunched up during the shell cracking. I've done at least 7-8 water changes already and its still pretty dark every time and the meal still seems kinda astringent. I'm happy to keep going but if it always takes this long I might just try cold leaching instead.
Sorry for no pictures, but if that would be helpful I'd be happy to take some.
I really appreciate all the responses, and I'll take the time later to give a longer reply.
Just quickly... the pond we had dug back in 2012 was all done with a good sized dozer by a local operator and it took him 18.5 hours and cost us around $2800, including a frost free hydrant under the dam wall. The pond is just under 1/2 acre.
I believe our neighbor's pond will be larger.. maybe closer to 1 acre? And it has quite a bit more trees that would need to be removed. They are getting quotes from $6-12,000. I'm 99% that renting a dozer is indeed an option around here, we're in rural NE Missouri... pretty much anything goes around here.
Also, it is indeed heavy clay soil, so any sized hole quickly becomes a pond with no added inputs or effort.
My neighbors are getting quotes for a pond that seem kinda outrageous, especially compared to what we paid for our pond about 6 years ago. This got us thinking why don't we just rent, or possibly even purchase our own bulldozer and figure it out?
Does anyone have experience operating dozers or have any feedback or ideas about this?
When I saw this in the dailyish email, I was worried Paul had started his own pork snack stick business. John and Holly Arbuckle are good friends and neighbors of ours, and I had no idea they were going to be promoting their kickstarter through permies. I do know they are both really amazing people who are totally committed to healthy food and farming in the most ecologically responsible way. I've been eating these snack sticks for years as they have worked with different producers and tweaked their recipies and really went all in for this business. Roam Sticks is the culmination of a long and thoughtful process, and I'm really happy their kickstarter is off to such a good start.
It was their 8 year old son Noah's idea to try out pineapple in their sticks, and even though it goes against their bioregional principles, I would highly recommend it. Also, I've tried a number of other similar products out there, and the Roam Sticks are very tasty. I'm not really their target market since I'd rather raise my own hogs and cure my own salami, but if I could afford convenience foods I'd totally buy these.
In case you were wondering, they did not ask me to write this and I'm not sure they'll ever see this, but I will let John know he should at least give me some free sticks.
Ok, here's the rest...
That cistern I mentioned took up a significant portion of our fall last year. Here's a few photos..
It's about 3500 gal. We're catching water from the north half of our roof, and it didn't take long to fill up. We've been bucketing water from the manhole in the top, but this year we'd like to get a good hand pump hooked up to bring it into the house.
Anyway, that was all last year. We came back in January to keep moving things along. We had some walnut milled into tongue and groove for our 2nd story finish flooring.
We also finished the red oak on the 1st floor, and finished up some interior walls with lime plaster and pigmented lime washes.
Here's some more floor with fresh oil and wax and whatnot..
We built the stairs with nice wide sections of old fir boards from a reclaimed barn or something like that, as well as walnut risers.
We also got our bedroom mostly finished and livable. And the reason we had such a winter push to get things ready was...
As you may have guessed, further finish work on the house has all but ceased. We have managed to get our garden in and stay on top of cooking and cleaning, but our expectations for the rest of this year are pretty low as far as house projects are concerned.
Needless to say, there's a lot more of this going on...
Hopefully this is still interesting to some people! I'll let you know when we get a chance to get some more work done.
Sorry for not seeing your post sooner! I'm not sure how relevant or interesting updates are at this point. If it's OK for this to just become somewhat of a project blog or something like that, that's fine with me, but I want to respect the format or whatever.
Anyway, last year we did a lot of blown in cellulose insulation in the ceiling and floors. It was messy and miserable, and I don't think I have any good pictures to post, which is probably good since I don't want to trigger any of the trauma from all of that. We also put up our ceiling wood; reclaimed knotty pine tongue and groove wallboards that we picked up for pretty cheap from a local place tearing it out. The backsides of the boards were flat and un-finished which we liked the look of more than the yellowish polyurethane front side. There's talk of us doing some sort of finish that will probably never happen.
Here's another shot that shows the gable wall which we added another set of studs to to widen it for more cellulose. I think it ended up being 14" or something like that. There's also the hole for our stovepipe, which I'll talk about more later.
We also put up some pretty minimal interior framing. Just a small bathroom in the middle of the north side of the house which will have stairs going around part of it and a kitchen wall on the other side on the east.
We then moved on to interior plaster. With the help of a couple work parties with some friends, it wasn't too drawn out or unbearable, but I did seem to end up hauling a ton of buckets of clay and water and sand and it got old pretty quick. We were able to get a finish coat on a few walls, but not all of them yet.
On the second story we did a subfloor of 1"x6" rough cut white oak from a local Amish sawmill. Made the whole house smell like bourbon.
We did a couple different techniques for our interior walls dividing the two bedrooms on the 2nd floor. One side we did lath and plaster with some really old reclaimed lath as well as some we made with a table saw. Part of it we insulated with clay slip and wood chips, and parts we left empty. The other wall we tried to do light straw-clay or whatever it's called. We used thin plywood screwed to the 2x4 studs as our forms. It worked pretty well I guess.
Here's part of a lath with chip-slip wall.
I can't seem to find any pictures of the light straw clay.
As the year started to get colder, we moved on to making it livable for the winter. That meant hauling in the ol' cookstove!
We scored some nice pieces of slate from a neighbor's auction that we laid down for the stove area, and got stainless steel stove pipe for the first section.
We had to switch to the triple walled crazy expensive stove pipe as we went through the first floor ceiling. Trying to maneuver around the timbers and avoid the dimensional framing and shoot it through the rafters was a horrific bit of math or some godawful relative of math that was somewhat maddening with only 15 and 33 degree angles to choose from, but we managed. I also wasn't expecting cutting a hole in the roof to be so nerve wracking.
And of course, the rest of it on the outside of the roof...
And it all worked! Hooray.
We also were able to lay down the start of our finish red oak floor. We were able to get 3rd grade pieces for about $1.10 a sq/ft.
Last fall there was a cistern built and a few other things, but I have to run so I'll save that for another post later today or tomorrow!
I dry them and regularly put them in soups. Just because their flavor might not be outstanding doesn't mean it's not worth harvesting them and adding to your diet. Lots of foods we take for granted and eat on a regular basis aren't that tasty on their own but we still use them all the time. I figure any safe wild edible mushroom is contributing something positive to my health.
In areas where it's a native there are efforts to eradicate it, which has led many people to sing its' praises in defense. It certainly doesn't seem "too invasive" to me, but there are disturbed areas where, when left unmanaged, autumn olive can become very dominant.
As far as the taste, Matu, it does take forever to ripen, and until then it is very tart and astringent. When it finally ripens I find it very sweet, although the birds have been waiting for it to ripen as well, and they might get there first. It makes excellent jam.
Here's some quotes from Stephen Harrod Buhner "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers" that seem to apply to your question.
"In ancient times, wild yeasts were all that were used. The sugars were freed from grain by malting, or used directly through the use of honey or the sap of trees, or converted by saliva or molds, and set out in a water solution, an offering for the magic yeast. And the yeast would come. Once ensconced safely in its new food, the yeast would take steps to protect it. A thick head of foam would form on the surface of the sugar/liquid and the feeding yeast would give off clouds of carbon dioxide gas. Both prevent other yeasts from settling in the food and feeding."
He has a few more thoughts that fall much more on the purple end of the spectrum. (In a good way; I'm not trying to say it isn't valid, just trying to clarify.)
"Yeasts, like more complex plants, respond to being 'treated like a human being.' The scores of recipes for beer I offer in this book suggest the use of a domesticated, store-bought yeast. But if you can bring yourself to experiment, you might try making some of them with wild yeast. When the wort is ready, you might leave it out, uncovered, in a container with a wide opening. Then sit near it and begin to talk with the spirit of the yeast - to call on the bryggjemann or kveik to come - and see what it is like. To do so means reconnecting to the ancient tradition of fermentation - to connect to the thousands of wise women and wise men standing over their brewing vessels in small villages around the world calling on the spirits of fermentation to come to the wort and kindle the fire in it. Once you have brought a wild yeast to live at your home, place a carved stick in the fermenter and allow the yeast to fall deeply within its carvings. When the beer is finished, take the stick out and hang it up to dry somewhere out of the way. At your next fermentation, take it down and place it in your fermenter and call on it once again to awaken life.
If you do risk calling on a wild yeast and the wort turns out badly, what will you do then? you might ask. The wise ones might answer, 'Perhaps you will have to dance harder the next time.'"
The yeast covered stick concept seems to be the most common way of finding a wild strain and maybe starting your own heirloom or whatever.
"Once the gong or bryggjemann or kveik had come, the brewers and their culture had a special relationship with them. In many cultures, indigenous and otherwise, the wild yeast that come into the wort would be kept and nurtured as part of the family. Like sourdough starters, some wild yeasts were used for many hundreds of years - no new wild yeasts being coaxed out of the heavens. All regions and clans, even brewers within families, used many different methods to make the bryggjemann a home until it was time to feed him again. Inside South America and Egyptian clay brewing pots, when they were being made, lines, almost like language, were inscribed in which the yeast could live, in hibernation, until the next brewing. In the southwestern United States, the Papago would sometimes keep a little of the fermented tiswin in a special pot until the next year's ceremonial brewing, or else the baskets into whose weave the yeast insinuated itself were saved and used again for only this purpose. In Norway they often used a log or juniper branch."
This is what I'm most excited to try out once I have some spare time...
"If a yeast log was used, a section of a birch tree was cut. Sometimes it was shaped and carved, sometimes simply placed in the wort. The yeast covered the log, and at the end, it, too, was hung up to dry. At the next brewing it was placed in the bottom of the fermenter, new wort was added, and fermentation began once again. Interestingly, birch has an extremely sweet sap, somewhat like maple, though weaker. The sap from the freshly cut tree draws the yeast deep within it as they search out its sugar. Then, during drying, the wood of the log cracks, forming deep crevices that allow the yeast to penetrate deep inside during the next brewing. Yeast can easily live a year in such a manner, and if tended to with devotion, will always produce a good ale."
There are also some mentions of placing certain herbs on or around your brewing vessel, such as wormwood or mugwort, which have natural anti-bacterial properties.
He does mention Belgian lambic producers still doing wild fermentation with up to 30 different strains of wild yeasts contributing, although he doesn't seem to acknowledge or differentiate the bacterium also being present. Of course these wild beers are what we've unfortunately categorized as "sours", and I'm assuming you're not wanting to make sour beer? (Though I can't imagine why not!)
These articles really made me wonder how I can apply Fukuoka philosophy to beer. I mean, what can we NOT do when it comes to brewing? Can we skip some of the boiling to reduce fuel consumption? Can we utilize hay boxes in the process? It seems to me that wild/naturally domesticated yeasts (as opposed to lab grown) are much more vigorous and could better protect beer from contamination, making some of the boiling unnecessary.
If you're mashing your own grains you will need to heat up the water somehow, but once it's heated up an insulated mash tun does work just fine. The boiling process afterwards is more for the hops than for sterilization. Boiling the hops, or other herbs for that matter, will give bitterness to your beer. For just flavor and aroma you can do a very short boil, but the bitterness needs some more time. You don't need to use hops at all if you don't want to, and you could try to add some herbs to the fermenter without heating the wort back up. You might get a different flavor profile and as alcohol gets produced it will also interact and extract qualities from the herbs. You'd probably be introducing yeasts and bacteria with the herbs this way, but if you use one of the above methods for yeast and maybe wait till that gets going before you add the herbs the yeast will be strong enough to outcompete whatever may be getting introduced through the herbs. Also the cooling process after the boil is more where I see people freaking out about contamination. That's why there's all these fancy gadgets to cool your wort as quickly as possible so you can introduce your selected yeast. If you only heat up water hot enough to strike and mash your grains, it probably wouldn't take much longer for it to cool to an acceptable pitching temperature.
I guess it all depends on what sort of beer you're wanting to make. If you're hoping for a certain flavor profile that you'd recognize as beer you're used to drinking, you'll probably need to do some boiling and hopping, but if you're ok with experimenting and trying new flavors you'll have more options I think.
Good luck with your experiments! Let us know how they turn out.