Growing your own mushrooms with Spore Plugs

A couple of years ago, I was given a grow your own mushroom kit for christmas. It was awesome! I was super excited to grow my own!

I spritzed my mushroom every other day or so. Then tended the little mycelium to make sure everything was going well. And waited anxiously for my mushrooms to grow.

Just kidding, I forgot all about it, let it dry out and killed everything. Eventually, I just put the fungus block into the compost. Whoops.

This time, I got a little more serious. I purchased plugs from Fungi Perfecti, to grow my own! I’m very excited.

plug-spawn

Plug Spawn

I purchased Phoenix Oyster Mushroom  plugs to grow on a Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) that fell down during the winter.

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Phoenix Oyster Mushroom

 

I followed the directions to drill the log with 5/8″ holes and fill with the mushroom plugs.  Then I covered those holes with beeswax. It didn’t take me very long  to insulate the log and I’m excited for the results. This was all done in early April.

Currently, my log is laying in a shady grove, elevated off the soil where I can spray it with water to keep it damp during the dry summer.

In my area (and most areas), you can inoculate logs with oyster mushrooms in the summer. You can find out more information on the Fungi Perfecti website.

If I’m successful, I’ll be inoculating more next spring!

mycelium-log-end

Mycelium covered log

 

I also purchased several books to to guide me through my mushroom growing journey. My favorite so far is Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets, the founder of Fungi Perfecti. Because I have a book addiction, I also purchased his older book, The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home. My next purchase will be his other book,Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.

To round it off, I purchased Mushrooms Demystified the bible on identification of fungi by David Arora. I have a field guide by him as well, All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms.

I’m gonna come right out and say that mushroom aficionados are weird. Have you ever met a serious mushroom hunter in the woods? I met this crazy man the other day, he was older with white hair, reminiscent of Albert Einstein but crazier. It was July and we were surprised to see a mushroom hunter out at that time so we asked him about it. The slight smile and far away look in his eyes told me how much he loved mushroom hunting. Mushroom people are passionate.

 

 

 

 

All images are from fungi.com, they are not my own and I will remove them if requested.

 

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Update on sustainable practices

Over ten months ago, I wrote a post about becoming more sustainable. This post was a  resolution/goal list of sorts so I decided to include updates on how I’m doing.

Stop buying non-recyclable and non-compostable items.

So I haven’t exactly stopped buying these things. I buy a lot of things online and it’s a  habit I need to stop. While some stores have all sustainable packaging (Mountain Rose Herbs and Grove Collaborative are two examples) and most have gotten rid of styrofoam packing peanuts, many still include inflatable plastic bags.

Has anyone considered the difference in cost between buying online and driving to the store? Seriously, I’d like to know. All stores are at least a 20 minute drive from my house so I consider buying online and shipping to my PO BOX to be my best bet.

Reduce Plastic Purchases

I have definitely done this!  I try my best to purchase the most sustainable packaging in the store.

Buy used, organic, fair trade, or sustainably produced clothing and shoes

I made an actual New Year’s resolution to purchase clothes made in the USA or that were used. So far, I’ve done this at 90% of the time. One major slip up was when I had to buy something for a funeral but I consider that an exception.

I’ve recently discovered thredUp and I love purchasing quality used clothes online.

Shoes were definitely harder. I was shopping for running shoes this last winter and couldn’t find anything that would work for my feet. I finally found these Newton Running Shoes that are sustainably made. I’m considering purchasing these Softstar Shoes for running as well.

Only buy organic and biodegradable toiletries and beauty products

Check ✔︎and Check ✔︎

Only buy food in bulk

This has not happened, but I’m working on it. I try to visit Winco as much as possible. I rarely buy processed foods and generally make everything from scratch.

We are working on getting all of our meat from sustainable sources. Currently, we buy organic chicken and eat elk and deer hunted by ourselves or friends. We hope to replace hunted Grouse and Turkey for the chicken this fall.

Make my own:

I make my own granola, bread and vanilla. I have made my own cheese, crackers and yogurt. I’ve also purchased everything to make my own chopsticks but I haven’t done it yet.

Soon I hope it make my own beer and wine. This will have to wait until we have the space at new place.

Drive less, bike/walk more. Combine trips.

In my new job working for a Conservation non-profit I drive less because I work from home and I also combine trips when running errands.

Grow my own tea and drink less coffee

I have not bought a tea plant yet but it’s on my to do list once we move to our new place. I do drink less coffee.

Mexican Chickpea Soup

I recently subscribed to a new blog. Now this is a big deal. I get a shitton of emails from various things I’ve subscribed to over the years and adding more is usually a bad idea, no matter how many deals they appear to offer. There’s just not enough time to pay attention to most of them.

But I just had to subscribe to this one. It has beautiful food styling, wonderful recipes AND it’s local to me. I couldn’t resist.

The first email in my inbox from Feasting at Home included a gorgeous recipe for Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup. It looked fast and tasty, so I couldn’t resist. I especially liked that idea to substitute Chickpeas for the Chicken. I often use them interchangeably in recipes and always try to have some home cooked chickpeas in the freezer.

It’s rare that I can ever follow a recipe exactly. Either I don’t have everything required or I’ve convinced myself that my ideas are better. I almost always add more veggies than the recipes asks for and i’m convinced that all recipes are improved by more veggies. I guarantee that the Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup would been great as Feasting at Home has written it but I added a few things and changed some quantities. To make it even better,  I recently made homemade Ciabatta, making it a perfect meal.

Here’s my modifications to the recipe:

Mexican Chickpea Soup

Mexican Chickpea Soup with a side of homemade Ciabatta Bread

Mexican Chickpea Soup

Adapted from Feasting at Home
2 Servings | 30 Minutes Total Time

Ingredients
1 T Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 stocks of Celery, chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
2 Tomatoes, chopped
2-3 frozen or fresh Jalapenos
4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
2 cups Chickpeas (homemade with some liquid), you can substitute 1 Can
Spices: Cumin, Chili Powder, Coriander, Oregano and Cayenne
Stock to fill pot within 2 inches of top (about 2 cups)
Noodles to fill pot (1/2 cup but could add more if you have more space)
Juice of 1 lime
Garnish with avocado and fresh cilantro

Directions

Sauté the Onions in Olive Oil until clear and starting to brown. Add the celery and sauté for a couple minutes. Add the carrots, tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, chickpeas, spices and broth. Bring to a simmer until the carrots have softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the noodles and cook for another 10 minutes. Add lime at the end, season with salt and pepper then garnish with the avocado and fresh cilantro.  Yummy!

8 Ways to become more sustainable

I consider myself pretty ecoconscious and take the impact on the earth into account for purchases and decisions. But, I know that I can improve. So I made a list of goals

  1. Stop buying non-recyclable and non-compostable items
  2. Reduce Plastic Purchases
  3. Buy used, organic, fair trade, or sustainably produced clothing and shoes
    • Used is going to be key here, these things get expensive
    • Natural fibers are better as well
  4. Only buy organic and biodegradable toiletries and beauty products
    • Or make it myself
    • I’ve been doing pretty good with this one, but I’m not 100% there yet.
  5. Only food in bulk
    • Just imagine the savings in packing!
  6. Make my own:
    • Almond/nut/non-dairy milk
    • Vanilla
    • Mustard
    • Chapstick
    • Crackers & Chips
    • Yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Bread
    • Cereal
  7. Drive less, bike/walk more. Combine trips.
  8. Grow my own tea and drink less coffee
    • I NEED caffeine to survive, but it looks like I can most likely grow a hardy tea plant in Zone 6.

What are some ways you feel that you can improve?

The Quickest and Easiest Homemade All-Natural, Organic Face Lotion

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With ingredients you can’t pronounce and questions ethics, most facial moisturizers out there are less than perfect.

A while back, I was doing the oil cleansing method and while I still do it now and then, I’m just too lazy. Sunflower Seed Oil was my go to oil and I still love the way it makes my face feel. Later on, I was using Yes To Cucumbers Face Lotion and happened to look at the ingredients list. Turns out, it’s pretty much just aloe vera and sweet almond oil. I though “Damn, I’m spending $15 for less than 2 oz of this stuff, I should just make my own!” So I did.

I decided to keep my recipe basic, mostly because I’m busy and don’t have the time mix ten ingredients together every week or so for my face. So my basic recipe is simple:

One Part Oil : Two Parts Aloe Vera

One Part Oil : Two Parts Aloe

One Part Oil : Two Parts Aloe

Of course this is easy to spice up a bit and tweak however you see fit for your face.

Instead of Almond Oil, I chose Sunflower Oil, even though I had both on hand. This is why:

  • High in Vitamin E
  • Won’t make you break out
  • High in Vitamin A and other vitamins

Almond Oil is great too and recommend using all Almond Oil or a mixture for those with dry skin.

Here’s the Basic Recipe

One Part Oil to Two

Note: It’s important to keep Sunflower Oil refrigerated, so I’d recommend keeping this face lotion in the fridge as well. 

A word on Aloe Vera:

I highly recommend using fresh aloe vera. Most of the bottled aloe vera out there has preservatives and many of these preservatives are irritants. I purchased a itsy bitsy teeny tiny aloe vera plant this spring and it’s gotten huge (you can see if it in the picture above)! I’ll have to bring it in this winter, but the $5 I spent on the plant has been totally worth it.

That being said, I always have a bottle of Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera on hand. It has a couple of preservatives but I find it so much purer than most Aloe Vera out there, especially the florescent green kind of my childhood.

Wear my Shoes and be a Hippie Too

How to Wear Shoes and Be a Hippie too

I just wanna do good. Be a good person, do good things and feel good about it.

Sure, I’m doing good things now. I recycle, try to reduce my consumption, drive less, buy and grow organic. But, there’s always more good to be done. I could work for a non-profit (believe me, I would if someone would hire me). I could purchase an electric vehicle (if only I could afford it). Even purchase a vehicle with better gas mileage – “but the extra space is so convenient and my current vehicle is paid off.”

In a conversation the other night with BF, we were talking about being fed up society and money. He mentioned that only Hippies have the guts to really get out of society. I exclaimed that we should be hippies! However, he shot back saying he needed his shoes, he needed his Keens, specifically. But that’s not at all what I meant when I said we should be hippies.

I want to wear my shoes and be a hippy too. 

(As a side note, my BF has the nickname Hippie, but it was because of his long hair and because he smoked lots of weed in his younger years. Only one of those things has changed.)

It’s taken me a little while to realize my views of hippies was pretty idealistic. I’ll blame Bellingham and Portland for that one. I never actually thought of hippies as dirty or freeloading. I’ve always thought of hippies as loving, caring, peace and conservation minded folk. Or maybe my view is more correct and I’ve been spending too much time around undereducated, Faux News watching, Walmart shopping sheep. That’s mean, sheep can be good people too.

Often, being good is inconvenient. It’s not the easiest thing to do and can be a burden. We are in this mess because convenience. It’s just easier to live life and not worry about anything else.

So how to do you be Hippie and still keep your shoes?

Just do the best that you can. I get a little be jaded and forget that every little bit counts. I say, keep the idealistic view and create a better world with that view.

Drop in the Ocean

Wannabe Quit Piece – Financial Analysis of Organic Farming for a Living

Confession: I’ve been spending way too much of my time planning for the future and NOT living in the NOW.

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I’ve been reading how we are going to make enough money if I quit my job. I’ve been reading too many quit pieces. I’ve been running the numbers and rerunning them, too make sure my math is correct but also to try and quit my job sooner then the numbers are telliIMG_0780ng me too.
I’ve read a lot about how you won’t make any money through farming (just google it) and I’ve read a few pieces, especially this one, about how you can.

I’ve created a financial analysis, or feasibility study, for my personal goal of farming for a living.

Expected income or net profit

From what I’ve read, a profit of 40% to 50% is expected, if the business is managed properly.

Here’s a summary of my plan

  • Selling 3,000 – 4,000 lbs of mushrooms – $20,000
  • Money saved by not having a job – $5,000+
    • More detail below
  • Sell 500-1000 heads of gourmet garlic – $3,000
  • Farm stand with veggies, flowers and mushrooms for sale – $2,000 to $5,000
  • Start a CSA – eventually go from 10 members to 30 – $3,000 to $9,000

Total: $33,000 to $42,000

Shiitake Mushrooms can sell for $8/lb.

What I make at my job now, including benefits, is at the higher end of that range.

Right now we are still in the process of remodeling and both of us need steady jobs, especially me, since the BF does all of the remodeling himself and obviously can’t work for profit when he is doing so.

More of my ideas on how to make money

  • Craigslist buy and selling
  • Blogging (yeah right)
  • Crafting (not my best skill)
  • Selling t-shirts – we have some awesome design ideas that might be able to pull in $500 a year or so
  • Selling specialty items such as decorative gourds, edible flowers, hardy kiwis, extremely hot peppers, candied fennel, etc

Monthly money saved by one member of the household not having a job (in a Zero Children Family)

  • Growing our own food – $300
    • Includes spending less on on convenience food, coupons, timing sales, etc.
  • Gas – $100
  • Job related expensed – $75
    • Nice clothes, eating out, etc.
  • Performing bookkeeping and other admin tasks for Honegger Construction – $50

Total: $525/month or $6300 per year

Other ways we could save money – mostly because I’d have enough time

  • Thrifting!
  • Firewood chopping
  • Home repair
  • Brewing our own beer
    • Sometimes this can be more expense than buying but make your malt can greatly decrease the price
    • Wine is definitely cheaper to make
  • Making some of my own dog food from elk and deer scraps
  • Teaching Naturalist and other courses

I’m sure you could add another $10,000 to $15,000 with children, but since I’m not a parent, I really have no idea.

Saving money on food – the breakdown

We spend at least $400 on food each month, for the just the two of us! This is a breakdown of what we could save every year by making our own.

  • Bread: $125
  • Yogurt: $250
  • Cheese: $60
  • Cereal: $30
  • Tortillas and Corn Chips: $25
  • Cut our own lunch meat from roasts: $150
  • Condiments: $25
  • Potato Chips and Crackers: $40

This is almost $60 per month saved, just by cooking, which I really enjoy.

Now, this doesn’t even take into account the quality of life. Currently, neither of us barely have enough time to sleep enough hours, get in a good workout and generally  enjoy life. I work at least 50 hours per week (50 is required at my job) and commute at an hour each day, at least three days a week (except when I work out of town all week, which is at least 30% of the time).

This means, that on a weekday when I commute to work, I have 4 hours left over after sleep and work for cooking, cleaning, eating, getting ready, and relaxing <—doesn’t happen.

Usually, one day on the weekend is devoted to getting our lives in order: cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, precooking rice, beans, etc. for the week. Then maybe we’re lucky enough to enjoy the other day, but mostly we work on the remodel.

I need a nap.

Wild Yeast Semolina Sourdough Starter – Getting Started

I starter some sourdough starter the other day. It’s pretty simple to make, just equal parts water and flour, let it sit in a warm spot until it starts to bubble (a week or so) and feed it again. It’s kinda like getting free yeast and getting very tasty results as a bonus.

Wild Yeast Semolina Sourdough Starter

Wild Yeast Semolina Sourdough Starter

The hard part is keeping it up. Last time I make some wild yeast sourdough starter, I eventually got busy lazy and stopped feeding it, so it got all watery and gross, then it went bad. Lucky for you, I don’t have any pictures of that.

Last time, I make some super tasty bread by adapting this super fantastic recipe and guide to my own liking.

Using the sourdough starter resulted in the bread with best crust I’ve ever made! I ate half of the loaf the day I made it (but that’s not super unusual). And I make bread pretty frequently, usually with 5 minute/overnight recipe. I also made some pretty tasty pancakes.

Super Tasty and Crusty Sourdough Bread!

Super Tasty and Crusty Sourdough Bread!

Then, there was that one time in college that I tried to make sourdough starter. I had some grape laying around from my parents and though that wild yeasties would make some fantastic bread. I forgot to take into account that the we didn’t keep the main part of the house heated (I was in college and poor). So I kept using the oven to warm it up. Anyway, long story short, I killed the poor yeasties before they had a chance to make anything tasty.

Here’s the recipe. And cheers to keeping it alive and well this time!

Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter Recipe

  • 4 oz (1/2 c) Water
  • 4 oz (3/4 c plus 2 T) Flour (Rye, White or Semolina is preferred)
    • I’ve heard rumors that whole wheat can make it taste bad
    • I used half semolina flour and half white flour

Let rest, lightly covered with cheese cloth for a week or so, until it starts to bubble. Feed the sourdough EVERYDAY with equal parts flour and water. If you’re using a 1 Qt mason jar, you shouldn’t need to remove any for the first feeding, but afterwards, remove around half of the mother and discard (or use) before you feed it again.

Once you get it started and all bubbly, you should only have to feed it once or twice a week.

Note: If it starts to smell funny or turn funny colors, please discard it all. It should smell sour, like sourdough but not funky. Be safe when trying to harvest wild yeast, you could get some nasties (probably bacteria) in there instead.

I’ll post an update when the yeasties are alive and well in the starter!

Frost Tolerance of Garden Vegetables #2 – Fall Frost

I live in Zone 6 but am tainted by growing up in Zone 8.  Every early spring, when temperatures are still constantly dipping below freezing I start to hear about Zone 8ers eating lettuce, carrots, radishes and other veggies from their gardens and greenhouses. I’m jealous, fresh garden veggies in March sounds so fantastic. Alas, I’m otherwise happy in my Zone 6 home and not going anywhere soon so I make due with what I have.

In the later summer and early fall, warm days can help kick start your fall garden.

I try to look for hardy varieties and plant what does best in my areas. More importantly, I pay attention to the temperatures certain veggies can handle, making sure a frosty morning doesn’t get my eggplants come early October.

Knowing the frost tolerance of garden veggies can help with fall garden planning. In concurrence with watching the weather, one can be garden bedside, waiting to throw a row cover on to keep veggies toast warm on a cool fall night.

Here is a summary of frost tolerance:

Very Hardy (below 25F) – Collards, Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, Mache, Parsley, Parsnip, Spinach

Hardy (25F – 28F) – Arugula, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Chicory, Cilantro, Endive, Fava Bean, Green Onions, Lettuce, Radicchio, Radish, Rutabaga, Salsify, Swiss Chard, Turnips

Moderately Hardy (28F) – Artichoke, Asian Greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage, Cress, Fennel, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mustard Greens, Pak Choi, Potatoes, Peas (Flowers are Tender)

Tender (32F) – Beans, Celeriac/Celery, Dill, Gourds, Squash, Stevia, Tomatoes

Very Tender (35F) – Basil, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Lima Beans, Muskmelon, Okra, Pepper, Sweet Potatoes, Watermelon

Things that can impact Frost Tolerance

  • High wind speeds
  • Multiple nights with freezing temperatures
  • Cool/Cold daytime temperatures
  • Flowers and Fruits are usually more sensitive to frost, making fall starting plants more sustempale to damage
  • Multiple early frosts can prompt unwanted early flowering for brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, asian greens, cabbage, etc.).
    • While this generally isn’t a problem for fall, it’s important to remember in the springtime

I’m ready for wearing sweaters and beanies, but I’m not ready for the gardening season to be over yet, so I’m not gonna let it be.

What do you do to extend your garden into fall?

Fall and Early Winter Garden To Do List

Autumn and Early Winter Garden To Do

Just because the growing season is winding down, doesn’t mean that the gardening season is over. There are plenty of this that can be done to stretch that gardening itch in the fall and winter.

This to do list is tailored for my Zone 6 garden but you can easily modify for your zone as well. You can find my suggestions for modifications at the end of this post.

September

Start moving tender herbs and plants inside

I plan to keep basil, stevia, rosemary and aloe inside throughout the winter. The basil and stevia needs to come in once nighttime temps reach 35-40F. The rosemary can handle 20-25F (Note: “Hill Hardy” or “Madeline Hill” Rosemary is hardy in Zone 6 and can stay outside all winter, other varieties are available for cooler zones as well)

Plant a few more winter hardy veggies

I plan to plant some more spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula and green onions one last time. With row covers and/or cold frames as few more things can be added. Check out my post on frost hardiness for more info.

October

Replenish nutrients in soil with compost
seasonalroadrestrictions_signjan2010x
In the springtime right when my garden soil is thawing, the soil under the roads is     thawing too and road restrictions are put in place. This means, I can’t get bulk compost brought to my house! So I do it in the fall.

There are many good reasons to add compost in the fall. It allows to nutrients to become fully available for plants in the fall as the compost continues to break down. In some winter rainy areas (I’m talking to you Northwest Coast), nutrients can be lost due to rain. But you compost could be added later in the year instead in these areas.

Plant Garlic, just after first frost

Make sure you amend the soil properly with lost of compost for the garlic and mulch to protect the little babies. Here’s some good info on growing garlic.

This year, I’m gonna try and plant some winter onions as well. I’ll plant some seeds and mulch heavily a couple weeks after the first frost and see what comes up in springtime. I’ll be sure to post the results.

Mulch

Shred your fall litter and add to garden. The leaves will compost by springtime, adding nutrients to the soil. I’ve heard that lawn mowers are pretty good at shredding the leaves

My place has very few deciduous trees around, so I just what few leaves fall for the forest floor.

November

Build Raised Beds

Since the growing season is winding down, it’s a good time to start planning for next year. You can also do other garden projects such as:

  • putting up fencing
  • building trellises, stakes, and tomato cages

Put up a bird feeder

It helps birds get through the winter. Birds can be useful for controlling pests around the garden. Just be sure to take it down once springtime mating season starts. Studies show that some birds may spend more time guarding their feeder than getting a mate.  It would be pretty easy to build one yourself, but this Audubon Bird Feeder has been on my wish list for a while now.

December

Garden Planning and Inventory

It’s a good idea to get organized for next year, spring is coming soon, I promise. Considering that I purchase seeds in January, it’s good to know what I have and what I need.

I got a little excited and have already started planning next years’ garden.

Garden 2016 Layout Draft

Garden 2016 Layout Draft

Organize Seeds

After you’ve taken inventory, organize your seeds. Either a shoebox or or hanging file folder tote with labels would work well. I’ve been thinking a utility tote like this one would work great.

More Garden Projects

It’s the perfect to build raised beds and other garden projects.

Maybe a DIY bird bath would be a good idea. Birdbath3

What are your plans for the fall and winter in the garden?

Suggestions for Different Plant Zones:

Zone 4  – Do these a month earlier or so

Zone 5 – Do these two weeks or so earlier

Zone 7 = Do these two weeks or so later

Zone 8 – Do these a month earlier or so

Zone 3 and Below or Zone 9 and Above – Rodale’s has some great suggestions for you.