No One In Sight

In the winter during the week, the road we live on can be silent for hours at a time. We can just barely see the road through the naked trees and brush during the winter months. If a logging truck or road commission truck rumbles by, we try our hardest to get a glimpse as they roll by. On a weekend day, we may hear or possibly see a snowmobile, quad, or ORV. This weekend, we even got a glimpse of a couple of walkers with brightly colored clothing. Other than that, it is very quiet here.

We were able to snowshoe with the dogs for 5 days in a row. The consistency of the snow makes so much difference when you’re trying to walk through the woods on snowshoes. Too warm and you sink into the snow, and after a warm day then cooler temps, the snow is hard and crunchy. imageTuesday was a particularly beautiful day and Les and I were out with dogs. We took a break near the back of our property, and started talking about an idea I had the day before when I was out by myself. I was wondering how far it actually was to the nearest human to the south of us. There are at least four 40 acre parcels to the next inhabited homes. So, we started to do some math and were amazed at what we came up with. When we got back to the cabin we got the plat map book out and drew a circle and were surprised to discover that there are approximately 2100 acres of vacant forest land around us. 2100? Wow! Our closest neighbor is at least 3 miles away by road, but the amount of acreage that only sees humans a few times out of the year is staggering. Hunters and an occasional vacationer or camper are the only people that visit the properties and state land that borders our property throughout the year. Most of the vehicles that use our road are just passing through from point A to point B.

When you live in an environment where there are fewer people than say, whitetail deer,  you tend to really take notice. You become hyper-sensitive to sounds, sights and smells. You need to be aware of your surroundings not only for your safety but for the well being of your property and domestic animals. Carelessness can get you hurt or worse.

There are so many bonuses to being out in the middle of nowhere, but also some detriments. We’ll talk about that more another time.

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.

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The Cowboys

I would like to introduce you to the canine buddies who share our life and our tiny home. They are Dish and Newt, “The Cowboys”.

First, we have Dish. He will be 2 years old in March of this year. He was from a rescue group who provided medical care after his owner surrendered him for lack of cash for treatment. He was 20 weeks old when we picked him up. He is beautiful dark brindle with a white patch on his chest that stretches up under his chin. Dish is a Mastiff/bully mix weighing in about 90lbs now. In comparison to his body, Dishs’ head is huge, and with his mouth open he looks like a land shark. He is a lean, mean muscle machine. When he runs through the woods, he is as graceful as a gazelle. I’ve owned greyhounds in the past and they too are powerful, graceful runners, but nothing compared to Dish. He is completely comfortable running and dodging trees at full speed. He loves the woods with all its’ smells and the quiet sounds of nature. But with all his grace and beauty, Dish is not the brightest bulb in the box. The early extreme medical issues caused him some developmental problems.

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Second is Newt, he is going to be 1 year old in March. Newt is a smaller Mastiff/bully mix weighing in about 45lbs so far. He is a beautiful fawn color, with a white patch on his chest.

Newt is a handful, still a pup, he is a chewer and a digger, with a keen sense of smell. He can dig up a mole a foot under ground. Newt, like Dish, loves his time in the woods. Chasing chipmunks is his favorite thing to do. He races through the woods with his ears on high alert listening for the chipmunks whistling back and forth and his nose to the ground not missing any scents that have passed through. Newt is not graceful or agile, but he is a protector.

We live in an area that is surrounded by absentee owners, sportsmen who use their property three or four weeks out of the year for hunting or cutting firewood. We also have a huge tract of state land that lays untouched by humans a good share of the year. Because of the absence of homeowners or other cabin dwellers, we have a vast array of wildlife that travels around and through our property including black bear and coyote. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure Newt would have no problem facing down a bear. He is fearless.

We get many questions about their names. Well, life is all about compromise, so we decided that if my husband picked the dog, I would name it and vice verse. Well this time I chose the dog, I mean dogs, so he got to name them both. Their names come from the movie, Lonesome Dove, my husbands favorite, and Dish and Newt were cowboys in the movie. My Dish and Newt are just as rough and tough as you can imagine any cowboy  in the old west were, so their names are very fitting.

 

 

 

Living Small

imageAs the “Tiny Home” movement becomes popular, I have to tell you from experience that living small is not as easy as you would think.There are a couple of things to consider when thinking of living small.

1.  Organization skills. If you’re good at organizing, but not at maintaining it, you could get into trouble quick.

2.  Cleanliness. Even though you only have a small place to maintain, dust and dirt collects very quickly. If you don’t clean up your dishes after preparing and eating meals or make your bed right away your place is a mess in no time.

3. Storage. If you don’t have enough storage, where do you put the extra 5 rolls of paper towel you just bought?

4. Pets. Where do the food bowls go, where will they sleep, when it’s raining or wet outside, how long can they stay calm inside without tearing things up?

5.  Guests.  During nice weather, no problem, a couple of lawn chairs and outside you go. During inclement weather, rain, snow, or whatever, if you don’t have enough room in your tiny house trying to entertain can be challenging. If you have 2 dogs and a cat, it can be really challenging!

6.  Hobbies.  Consider a hobby that takes up very little space. Since most of your storage is going to be used for clothes and food, there will be little storage for hobbies.

7.  Humor.  If you’re thinking of living with someone else in a “tiny home”, you need a sense of humor. It’s so easy to lose it when you are in close quarters, day in and day out.

These are just a few things that come to mind. Each and every one of them have been or could be a problem for us at any given time. Our tiny home is 12×24. It is one room of comfy living. We have a kitchen area, dining area and bedroom/living room area. Upon entering our home, a visitor is exposed to all aspects of our life. If it’s a bit out of sinc, it can be really uncomfortable welcoming guests. Just something most people don’t consider when dreaming of those cute little homes they see on TV.