What's with the name "Tangled Bank Farm"?
We enjoy hunting for wild fruit, nuts and mushrooms on our farm. The great thing about having an organic farm is that there is food everywhere. Anything that is edible is safe to eat -- nothing has been sprayed or otherwise contaminated. So we hunt for wild blackberries, wild black raspberries (known as blackcaps), plums, pin cherries, as well as black walnuts, hazelnuts, and the elusive morels.
A prime spot for summer blackberries is at the south end of the farm. Across the pasture and down the hillside there is an old logging road, which follows the contour of the hillside into the woods. It's fairly easy walking and mostly free of brush. Since it follows the contour, on one side the hill rises above us, and on the other it falls away -- sometimes very steeply. Blackberries seem to love the extra bit of sun they get on the uphill side of the logging road. They grow out of the steep bank and droop their canes down toward the road, making it (relatively) easy to find the plump dark berries among the leaves and thorns.
And that, in essence, is where the inspiration for the name Tangled Bank Farm comes from. Step off the logging road, either uphill or down, and you find a dense tangle of berries, roses, hazelnuts, fallen limbs and strong young trees. In the spring we find morels. One spring while looking for morels, I put my foot down inches from a wood grouse sitting on her nest. I backed away and gathered the morels nearby while she calmly sat. In summer, we find blackcaps and blackberries. The hazelnuts are there in the fall, but the squirrels get them first. We have lots of black walnuts, ash trees and poplars, as well as dying elms and challenged butternut trees. Wood grouse, turkeys, deer, lots of bluebirds and hundreds of goldfinches enjoy the woods and hillsides.
Charles Darwin coined the phrase in his book Origin of Species:
It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us…
Our woods are a tangled bank and our goal is to maintain that lively condition. In our pastures, we are striving to foster as much diversity as possible by planting as many as 15 species of grasses, legumes, forbs and wildflowers. We also intentionally foster earthworms, dung beetles, tree swallows and brown cowbirds by not using pesticides or harmful fertilizers. All this diversity of life, above and below ground, provides a healthy diet for our beef cows and calves. They eat this diversity, give rich milk to their babies, and produce healthful food for us.
Tangled Bank Farm means good food everywhere, for lots of creatures, including humans.