It’s Been A While

 

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been away from our home for almost 2 weeks. Staying down state has been cost effective but very anxiety inducing. There had been a couple of storms which produced freezing rain and a couple of inches of new snow in our northern region and we have been stressed about the food in the refrigerator and the condition of the driveway and the amount of propane left in the tank. The only good thing was that we had enough foresight to bring the kitty back with us knowing our stay down state may be more than just a few days. Thankfully she settled in to the tiny apartment like a champ!

We’ve had the worst luck with our vehicle. First the accident, then a mechanical failure. Not just a simple mechanical failure, it had to be the ultimate out of our budget kind of mechanical failure. So we look for a simple solution, which really there isn’t one, and we purchase a substitute vehicle to get us by until we can make the needed repair to our Trailblazer. Finally we can make the trip home after struggling with getting this, new to us, vehicle on the road while also managing grandkids sporting events (in which we like to participate ).

The Cowboys are crazy to get back to the freedom of the woods. However, they are apprehensive about the new ride. Dish is particularly anxious. He has been really scared to ride since the accident. Now we’re loading him up into a strange vehicle and he is visibly shaken, won’t even take a treat. We had to physically lift him in.

The ride north seemed really long and loud. There are some tweaks that need to be made to the new ride.  As we pass the Cedar Springs exit, the snow on the side of the road is increasing. By the time we get to US10, there is a considerable amount of snow.  As we turn onto our road, it is ice covered and with a soccer mom van, it’s pretty scary. Upon arrival, my husband Les, has to shovel the end of the driveway before our first attempt. First attempt is a failure to get in, then a second and a third failure.  Time to get “Pinky”. Les hooks up a tow strap to the back of our vehicle and after many attempts with the tractor, finally pulls us up the driveway. The very first thing I do is open the back and let the boys out.

Before I can even get to the cabin Newt is circling the picnic table. His eyes are crazy and he is sniffing the ground and running around that table. I walk over close and see an animal under the table and I’m hoping for a raccoon. Nope, it’s a porcupine. A big “porky”. The porky doesn’t seem too ruffeled, but both dogs are excited and trying to get under the table. I yell for Les and he is able to get Dish into the cabin and after numerous attempts, I am able to snatch Newt by the collar, barely, and get him into the cabin too.  We stayed inside while Les took care of the porky, I’m not a participater in the elimination process.

I hate even the thought of killing an animal, even a mouse, but porky’s are very destructive. During the winter for the last two years they have eaten the tender boughs at the top of several hemlock trees which eventually kills them and have destroyed many trees in the compound by eating the bark off. They are also notorious for eating the siding off cabins and outbuildings causing thousands of dollars in damage. Most often, I make Les trap the raccoons and one time, even a skunk (under his most adamant protest) and then release them out of harms way. But a porky is a different deal. Their tails are down right treacherous. One swipe and you could be pulling quills out of your legs or arms or the nose and mouth of your dog for hours. Or worse yet, a stressful, costly visit to the vet or ER to have them removed properly so infection doesn’t set in.

image

So, with the porky now deceased and dusk setting in, I cook dinner, and we can finally crash for the night. The end of  yet another interesting day at the Rollin’ Rock.

Saturday brings sunny skies and warm 39 degree temps. On go the snowshoes and off we go into the snowy northern woodland we call home. The dogs are at their best running free through the snowy forest. I can tell I’m 2 weeks out of shape, but it’s great to be home again, even for just a short while.

 

Advertisements
Aside

Fungus Amongst Us

 

For a year or so, I’ve been becoming increasingly interested in mushroom production. I not only love to eat mushrooms, but I also like searching the woods for them. In the spring, there are Morel mushrooms and in the fall, a mushroom some know as stumpers or Honey mushrooms. Both are good for eating. We have both on our property, however, Morels are hard to come by. Honey mushrooms are abundant each  year, but you have to be there at exactly the right moment to harvest them or the opportunity will pass you by quickly.

Both of these species are found throughout Michigan, but are seasonal and subject to weather and environment, so domestic production is unpredictable. However, after doing a little internet research, I found two other species that seem more likely to fit into a home production scenario, the Shiitake and the Oyster mushroom.

These two mushrooms appear to have a fairly simple reproduction method and don’t take much space or supples. You can grow them indoors or out, depending on the space available, quantity desired, and weather conditions.

Oyster mushrooms and Shiitake mushrooms seem to be the easiest to home-grow. So after many months of contemplation, I decided to take the plunge and ordered  some spores from a site online. The spores are called mycelium which came through the mail ready to use. Without a solid plan in place, I was glad to know the mycelium would keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

We needed to gather a few supplies and we started at the cabin. First were the logs.  We searched out just the right tree. My husband cut the tree down and then cut it up into sections. Next we scavaged some straw from the garden. That was tougher than cutting down the tree. It was frozen tight in the bale. We chopped it out with the pick axe and were on our way. We brought these items back to the city so we could inoculate each medium with the mycelium. Keeping the mycelium at appropriate temperature and light intensity could not be achieved at the cabin, not this year anyway. By next year we hope to have that resolved.

We took the logs and thawed them out in the kitchen. Then we took them downstairs where we thought we would be keeping them and drilled the appropriate holes in them to embed the Shiitake plugs. After pounding them in with a hammer, we covered each mycelium plug with melted cheese wax. All that’s left is the waiting. In two weeks we need to figure out how to soak the logs in water to keep them hydrated.

Next was getting the straw ready for the Oyster mycelium. I started out by cutting up the straw into small pieces. I used a pair of kitchen scissors, a big job for sure. Then I got a big pot and filled it with water and brought it to a boil. You have to keep it at 170 degrees for an hour. The plan is to pasteurize the growing medium to free it from bacteria. You can also heat it in the oven, but this is a smelly process. I also added spent coffee grounds. Our local coffee barista was kind enough to offer up a large bag for this project. So, I put my plastic gloves on and I mixed it all together. Then I cleaned the inside of a large plastic bag with alcohol, and began layering the straw/coffee ground mix with pieces of mycelium.

I tied the ends shut and hung them in an old shower stall. I poked a couple air holes in the top and a drain hole in the bottom. Now keeping them dark, warm and moist will be my job for the next couple of months.

UPDATE

Just want to you know that this has not been an easy process. Air flow, humidity, temperature and just the right amount of light or lack of it is what it takes to produce Oyster Mushrooms. Wow! The process was only suppose to take a few weeks and has taken me a couple of months. All the internet directions and videos make it look really easy, but it took me a while to get it all figured out, and for now, I figured it out!

These pictures represent 3 months of trial and error. However, I have learned some do’s and some don’ts. I have also learned how to take mycelium and start new colonies, which I have now done and am working hard to continue this process.

Hopefully by the time the Farmers Market at the corner of 170th and 9 Mile Rd. in Reed City opens, I will have mushrooms to sell under our new brand name, which I will share in a later post.

image