Water garden ready for the season

Last weekend thanks to our fantastic work day team we were able to muck out our rather neglected water garden. Now it is stocked with mosquito-eating goldfish and loaded with fantastic aquatic vegetables.

This year we’re growing arrowhead, Chinese lotus, water celery, water fern, a native edible water lily, an edible aquatic native hibiscus, and our native skirret (water parsnip).


Here’s a photo of the garden in its glory a few years ago – we’ll do even better this year!

Leaning to garden like a forest

How did I learn food forestry? Some from books and classes, but mostly due to the opportunity to help out in other people’s gardens. Steve Breyer of Tripple Brook Farm, orchardist Dave Gott, and many others gave me the chance to learn skills, be around the plants,  and actually taste things I had only read about in books.

In this spirit, Paradise Lot work days offer you the chance to taste seasonal fruits, nuts, and perennial vegetables, to learn the skills hands-on, and to ask questions of people with experience.

For the time being you can sign up at the Paradise Lot Facebook Page or email toensmeier@gmail.com.


Off to greener pastures

This month Jonathan, Megan, and Jesse headed off to a farm in Ithaca New York. We already miss them – who is going to help us eat all that fruit? We’re proud and happy to see them take this next big step towards their farm dream.

Jonathan and I worked together to get the garden ready for their departure, including simplifying some beds, moving some big trees around, and dismantling the aquaponics system.

Meanwhile friends, our new neighbor Roxy, and volunteers are keeping are garden looking lovely. We have new chicks, some exciting new spice plants (spicebush, Carolina allspice, sansho pepper, and mioga ginger among others), and are off to a great start.

Paradise Lot evolves, Food Forest Farm is moving
by Jonathan Bates

I’m learning that one of the assurances in life is that impermanence is a part of the natural flow of things. We already miss our close friends the Toensmeiers. The years of home gardening together was life changing and magnificent. We look forward to frequent visits back to Holyoke to be with them and help eat the harvest 🙂 For those customers, acquaintances and readers who are learning of our move for the first time in this blog post, Paradise Lot is evolving, and Food Forest Farm will relocate to NY.

Let me explain… In terms of the plant nursery that was born at Paradise Lot, Food Forest Farm fall plant orders will sill go out starting October 2017. And future plant sales will continue from our new food forest in NY after we transition all plants from our production nursery in Massachusetts.

So, although there are big changes a foot, and Food Forest Farm is starting a new chapter, we are excited about the opportunities and adventures ahead. Food Forest Farm is looking forward to these future potentialities and partnerships: digging deeper into broad-acre silvopasture and agroforestry; soil carbon and climate change solutions; building our network in New York including these awesome folks: shelterbeltfarm.com; edibleacres.orgwellspringforestfarm.comgroundswellcenter.org;

If you’d like to contact Jonathan and discuss opportunities for building relationships and connections in our New York home we’d love to hear from you! As for visiting Paradise Lot in Holyoke you should attend one of our educational opportunities this summer and fall: Garden Tours, Workshops, and Garden Help Days.

Call to Action: hardy kiwi may be illegal to grow in New England


The Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG) has voted to designate a locally-produced species of kiwifruit (Actinidia arguta; a.k.a. the kiwiberry) as “likely invasive” in the state and has petitioned to have it added to the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources (MADR) statewide prohibited plant list – on questionable grounds, according to Dr. Iago Hale, assistant professor of specialty crop improvement at the University of New Hampshire. Such an unprecedented listing of a commercialized fruit crop will, says Hale, prohibit Massachusetts farmers from growing kiwiberries, a low-input perennial specialty crop with a profit value exceeding $20,000/acre; and will deny Massachusetts residents the ability to buy kiwiberries from their grocery stores and farmers’ markets, even if the berries are produced out of state. Much of the evidence provided by MIPAG in this case is anecdotal or speculative, says Hale, adding that in many instances the claims are false.

Before the January 10 deadline (5 PM), please email Taryn LaScola (Taryn.LaScola@state.ma.us) and request that MDAR not include the kiwiberry on its list of prohibited plants. Or, even better, show up in Westborough to give oral testimony in person: link for Call to action letter, and more details about giving oral testimony: http://www.unh.edu/halelab/kiwiberry/MIPAG_Call_to_Action_Jan1.pdf


1) Genetic testing to determine whether individually dispersed naturalized growth of kiwi vine is speculative, due to the fact that many of these vines were likely planted over 100 years ago and at that time all vines planted as ornamentals where seedlings, thus they cannot be tracked back to known varieties, thus they are incorrectly assumed to be wildlife dispersed seedlings and labelled “invasive”.

2) If this legislation was in place 200 years ago, apples would have been banned, and the entire New England apple and cider industry would be illegal. Sorry Johnny Appleseed.

3) Invasive Biology is a Pseudo Science.

4) People will grow and eat hardy kiwi despite the passing of this legislation.

5) The time, effort and resources spent on disparaging this plant, and the people growing it, is wasting all of our time. Global Climate Chaos won’t wait for confused people to wake up and realize their ignorance. 

6) If hardy kiwi would have been growing during the Great Depression, millions of people in cold temperate climates would have had access to an easy to grow, delicious fall fruit easily stored and preserved, filled with life giving nutrients including more vitamin C then oranges. Don’t kid yourself that socio-economic food scarcity is a thing of the past.

7) Most of the Northeastern temperate climate forest biome is a patchwork of human created novel ecosystems. Actinidia arguta has already been established in this patchwork.

8) If hardy kiwi is banned in Massachusetts there is a reasonable probability that all New England States will also restrict the cultivation and sale of this fruit.

9) As of 2017 Stephen Breyer at Tripple Brook Farm has a 30 year old kiwi vine that is at the top of a 100 year old maple tree. A wild concord grape is smothering the kiwi vine and killing it. Grape vines are sooooo invasive 😉

10) Based on geologic fossil evidence, Actinidia were once native to North America and likely were present on various parts of the continent for nearly 80 million years (Late Cretaceous into the Tertiary Period).  Fossilized Actinidia seeds have been identified in north-central Oregon (Dillhoff et al., 2009) and in Arctic Canada (Matthews and Ovenden, 1990), where the vines grew in a forest composed of pines, spruce, redwood, and tamarack, at a paleolatitude of 74 degrees (well north of the Arctic Circle).  Changes in climate and repeated glaciations during the Late Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene eliminated Actinidia and many other plants from North America.

DON’T LET OUR EYES BE DECEIVED BY HISTORY (pictures of the most cited “invasive” hardy kiwi vine, the vine that started it all):


kennedy park hardy kiwi.jpg
Same hardy kiwi vine 100 years later? Kennedy Park, Lenox MA (guess they forgot to prune this one).

Global Climate Change, Food Trees, and the Mushrooms That Orchestrate It All

Six years ago a squirrel planted a sweet chestnut seed in my plant nursery and forgot about it. The tree grew, and grew and grew. Today I harvested the first nuts from that tree (and roasted them for dinner, mmm yum). While harvesting the nuts I noticed a few puffball mushrooms growing on the soil scattered around the tree. I didn’t think anything about them, other than they were some of the first mushrooms I’d seen since establishing the perennial nursery many years ago. Later that day I reconsidered what I had seen, because…

Read more here…