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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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.

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
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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.

Fall Gardening

The nights are starting to cool here in the Inland Pacific Northwest. The days seem to staying warm but all of the smoke from the wildland fires is keeping the heat away until mid-afternoon.

Late summer blooms

Late summer blooms – please ignore the weeds in the background

It’s getting kinda late to start the a fall crop but many cool season veggies will stWarmer Temps in the Westill make it, especially because the months ahead are expected to be warmer than usual, at least in the west.

You can find out climate predictions for the U.S. here and here from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)

Beautiful Northern Prairie!

Beautiful Northern Prairie!

Generally, I’d start a late season crop of veggies late June through mid-July and then a small crop in early August to harvest in late-fall before the cool winter temps set in. However, I was out of town working on the short grass prairie in eastern MT (sometime called mid-grass or mixed-grass).

I’m gonna start a fall garden anyway, even with only a month until frost.

Now, I was gonna make my own fancy design chart showing you when to start a fall crop but I found this one instead. It’s not super pretty, but full of great info. The only thing it needs is the average days to maturity.

Keep in mind that Territorial Seed Company is in Plant Zone 8, so your planting time may very. You can find your USDA Plant Zone here. The USDA Plant Zones were updated a couple years ago (the climate’s getting warmer, ya know) and many other sites with zip code inputs haven’t updated their info yet.

On that note, I’m in Zone 6 and would feel comfortable following the suggestions for planting times in there chart.

Territorial Seed Company Winter Gardening

Territorial Seed Company Winter Gardening Guide

Things I’ve planted so far for the fall garden (mid-August)

  • Snap Peas
  • Spinach
  • Hardy Lettuce (Rouge d’Hiver is a good one)
  • Arugula
  • Swiss Chard
  • Kale

I’m still planning on starting Cilantro, Parsley, and Garlic. Starting some carrots and covering with a row cover would be a good experiment for the winter. I’ll let you know how they do.

Have you started a fall garden yet? Or is it too late in your neck of the wood?

Frost Tolerance of Garden Vegetables #1

I like to engage in risky behavior:

  • I’ve climbed the second tallest mountain in Washington State
  • I like to scramble around precarious places – rocks, trees, etc.
  • Sometimes I get paid to light large swaths of acreage on fire
  • I like to set my plants out earlier in the year than recommended.
Frosted Tips

Frosted Tips

This poor baby Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
has been damaged. I left for a few days and decided it would be better to leave them outside in the natural light than leave them under my lamps.

Now, I knew it was supposed to get down to 32 F or so but I risked it anyway. I knew it would be better for the plants to be in open air and natural light for the four days I was gone, rather than be inside under fluorescent lights.

The dark edges on the leaves are necrotic (dead) from the cold, whereas the lighter spots are sun damage. After being inside under the weak fluorescent lights for so long, the real thing can be a bit much for plants to handle. I didn’t want the poor plant babies to get sunburned again this year so I risked a bit of frost nip.

Through my trials and experiments (read: lazyness and carelessness), I’ve found that baby plants can handle a lot more than you think. Once, I planted everything in early May and left for a week, only to have a 28 F Freeze, A FULL ON FREEZE! I was devastated! I though all the baby plants would die. Everything but that Basil lived. The eggplant lived, the peppers lived, the squash lived, the cucumbers lived, even the tomatoes lived along with all of the other more hardy vegetables. Out of those, only the peppers didn’t actually produce any fruit.

Warning: The hardiness of plants depends on the variety, . Furthermore, one frost is waayyyy different than multiple days of freezing temperatures. Wind speed and daytime highs also play a role in how well plants will handle frost. These are my non-scientific findings and may not apply everywhere. To follow my advice may result in some damage to plants, reduced yields, or even dead plants. Remember, hardening off is important. 

There is a lot of good information out there about frost tolerance and this is one below of my favorite infographics on the subject. But it’s WRONG!

Getting started, find your Frost Free Date. Your USDA Plant Zone can also be useful. I also recommend checking a 10-Day Forecast in the weeks leading up to your normal Frost Free Date because it could be later or earlier, depending on the year.

Very Hardy

All of these can be planted as soon as the soil is thawed. The plants won’t germinate until after the soil warms (40 degrees F for some varieties, closer to 50 degrees is optimum for others).

First of all, Asparagus is a perennial so it doesn’t need to be planted every year. It takes careful planning to start but is certainly worth it. Rodales has a great How to Grow Asparagus explanation. If you start using crowns (pieces of the roots), 4 to 6 weeks before the LFD (Last Frost Date) is pretty accurate. If you’re starting from seed, you need to start inside earlier, in February or March (especially in cooler climates) and probably wait a whole year before planting out.

Rhubarb is also a perennial. This year, I planted some in mid-March (8 weeks before my frost date) and it’s doing just fine.

Fava Beans and Arugula also fall under this category.
Frost Tolerant

You can probably plant all of these a bit earlier, especially if you start them from seed. They won’t come up until it’s warm enough and won’t be damaged. I’d be a bit more cautions of you are transplanting but I bet four weeks to six weeks before the frost free date would be fine. I’m a risk taker! If you invest in some Frost Cloth, row covers, or even an old sheet you could plant these a bit earlier or a least have a piece of mind.
Tender

Tomatoes can handle down to 28 F but will get damaged! Even at 32 F they get damaged, but they will live and produce.

I would plant snap peas much earlier, like four weeks earlier, I don’t know what they were thinking.
Warm Loving
Infographic Source: Fix.com

This one is pretty accurate. Peppers are babies. They’re sensitive little buggers that need to be sheltered in the beginning. Squash, Melons and Cucumbers need the soil to reach 60 degrees before they will germinate.

I highly recommend taking some risks, getting a few frosted tips and taking notes about what works for you.

Next, I’ll go into some more detail about frost tolerance, soil temperature and planting dates. 

Remember, Frosted Tips were cool once.