Our website was originally intended as an author blog, and a place to advertise/publicize products from our business. An earlier incarnation of our business was called “Deep South Nursery”. We grew hardwood seedlings, shrubs, and native herbaceous species.
After about one decade, we started taking firewood and smoking woods to the old Port City Market in Pensacola. I came up with the name “HHHH Nursery and Wood Products.” The four H’s stood for “Hainds Hardy Hardwoods and Herbs.” While I found the name brilliant, Katia wasn’t impressed.
We continued growing seedlings and plants, but my interest shifted to other products. Meanwhile, the Port City Market went away and we started attending the Palafox Market year around.
My first book, Year of the Pig, was published in 2011. I generally have a few copies at the market, and ever since it was published, I’ve looked forward to having a second book beside it.
We got some chickens, and started taking foraged mushrooms, herbs, berries, and nuts to the market. Florida changed its law, and that allowed us to add jams, jellies, preserves, and marmalades.
At Katia’s wise insistence, and with consultation from our customers, we changed our name to Sweetbill’s.
We wore out on the nursery, and then we wore out on the chickens. We’ll probably get some more hens in 2017, but we’ve further shifted our priorities towards mushroom production and lumber.
In the fall/winter of 2014 I walked the length of the Texas-Mexico Border. A manuscript detailing this walk is in the final editing process. In the near future, Border Walk will be handed over to an agent or a publisher. Hopefully, it will get published in 2017. A documentary about my walk became available in early October, 2016, and La Frontera will be playing on multiple PBS stations this fall (2016).
When I returned from the walk along the border, I spent an entire month (March, 2014) inoculating logs for mushroom production. The following winter 2015-2016, I again devoted an enormous amount of time to inoculation, and we are now witnessing the fruits of those efforts.
Although I grow the mushrooms, Katia is the woman who packs them so carefully in the containers. When you purchase a pint or quart of our: shiitake, chanterelles, oysters, nameko, olive oysterling, or lion’s mane, that container will hold some pretty mushrooms. It is not uncommon for me to arise at 3 AM on a Saturday morning, and find Katia still cleaning and packing the mushrooms. That’s a lot effort to get you bring you some fungi!
You may have noticed some attractive lumber and slabs propped against the trailer we pull to the market. I have been cutting and hauling logs to various mills for several years. But production picked up substantially when I located enormous amounts of cedar, oak, pine, pecan, cherry, and other woods, that in many cases, would be piled and burned were I not salvaging the logs.
In December I fly back to El Paso to attempt another leg of the US-Mexico border. This time, I’ll be tackling New Mexico and eastern Arizona. If all goes well, I’ll be back at the Palafox Market by mid-January, with more stories to tell.