Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer snack

Jeremy requested that I make a pound cake for his birthday. Turned out we didn't have sugar or several other ingredients so he had to wait. We eventually tracked down sugar, lemon extract, and convinced the birds to lay some more eggs.

This pound cake (recipe from Saveur) was divine.

Lemony, sweet, rich, perfect texture. It was excellent till the very last slice.

It went very well with a mountain of raspberries straight from the yard and fresh-whipped cream. Mmmmmm....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Floor

I guess I'd better get back to posting about the rest of life - it certainly hasn't ceased just because of all this mushrooms vs. the city business! (For further updates on that, you can join our new Facebook page: Save the Mushrooms!)

Three weeks ago I posted about the first row of flooring going down. Jeremy spent days coating the under-side of every piece of wood and making notations about any bit that shouldn't be used.

Then he rented a floor nailer and got to work:

He mostly finished the floor in one week - we couldn't afford to rent the nailer for any longer than that! He had a couple rows to do by hand at the end (the floor nailer wouldn't fit in those tight spots) and he just finished with that on Friday. Wahoo!

Our floor is so beautiful:

Obviously I like the closet too, and the way it seems to rise out of the floor (since it's bare wood too and everything else is painted).
Jeremy just rented a sander so hopefully sanding and coating the floor will be done in a couple days. Then he gets to work on all the trim.

This will all be done soon - our permit expires mid-August and we have to have it done by then! Yes, we could get another extension, but I won't allow it. I just won't. =)

If all goes well, we'll be moving into the upstairs by the end of August!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


We had a brief glimmer of hope last week. Friday we were out running errands and Jeremy's cell phone rang. It was the mayor! He wanted to know if we were home and if he could stop by. We stopped mid-errand and went straight back home. R.T. was already there walking through the yard, admiring our chickens and garden.
We gave him some background on mushroom growing and what the city cited us for. R.T. was very supportive and said he'd do what he could. But he admitted things moved slowly. We were hoping for a reprieve, a delay, an extension, but we haven't heard anything yet.

This morning Jeremy and his intern moved all the logs and dismantled everything here. It's amazingly bare and empty looking now...

...compared to before:

(uh, make that WAY before.)

I have hope that the mushroom logs will come back and Jeremy will be able to continue his business here in our yard, and in other yards, without fear of harassment from city inspectors. But I'm sure it will take time.

There is no hope for the back of the terrace. Here's what we got cited for:

I hardly know how the inspector knew the ground wasn't level five feet away since there are so many plants back there.

Jeremy spent the weekend digging out all the plants and dirt. Our fruit bushes and various flowers and plants, refugees from city policy, are huddled in twos and threes around the yard, their roots clothed in various pots and bins, awaiting resettlement. I hope they will not be damaged too much by this mid-summer transplanting.

I don't know when or if the inspector will come and what he will say. I feel a certain dread that they will surely find something else to cite us for: like too many trees, or too many rain barrels, or not enough grass!

We'll make the best of it, and move on with different plans. Projects continue in the house, so I'll update you all soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A letter & a request

(This is from my husband, Jeremy)

Dear citizens,

I have a small mushroom farm in south Minneapolis. I mostly grow shiitake mushrooms on oak logs but I’m growing a few oyster and wine cap mushrooms as well. The mushroom logs sit in our side yard, and some of our neighbors have donated shady parts of their yards to host logs as well. I don’t use fungicides or chemicals and the logs are sustainably-harvested just north of the Twin Cities. I sell the mushrooms to local co-ops and groceries and a couple of restaurants, all within a few miles of where they are grown.

With 350 four-foot logs and production of only sixty pounds (to date) of shiitake mushrooms, my operation is still too small to be truly viable. This business can be grown and made viable and sustainable if only the city of Minneapolis will adjust some of its policies and regulations.

As small as I am, I have already run into many difficulties with the City zoning department: they have targeted my operation as non-compliant with the current code. Early in June I had to move 125 logs from the yard of a neighbor due to non-compliance (they were seen as ‘improperly stored firewood’). Now I have received a notice of non-compliance for my own property. The notice calls attention to my storage of logs in the side yard and of the use of the shading structures that cover them. It also challenges the use of my residential property for a “home occupation business to produce vegetables for sale,” which is not currently allowed if visible from the street.

I am not averse to some regulation of my mushroom farming, but I want to challenge the code so that I will be able to store mushroom logs and run my operation in residential yards like my own – without having to hide everything in the backyard or behind tall fences. Starting a small business isn’t easy and purchasing a commercially zoned property is a luxury that most small business owners just don’t have. The city should be encouraging and helping small businesses, not discouraging them in every way possible.

The city of Minneapolis has set goals for urban food production, but these goals haven’t yet trickled down to affect city code. According to the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative recommendations: “Zoning, Licensing, and other City codes should provide a hospitable regulatory environment for local foods operations…” The City needs urban farms like mine in operation right now so that we have real scenarios for the benefits and challenges that come up for urban farmers, residents and City policies and regulations. That is the only sure-fire way to make the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative more than words on paper and to increase the availability of local foods in Minneapolis.

To that end, urban farmers like me will need more than a ten-day extension when we are served notice for a zoning violation. The City needs to push through improvements to zoning, licensing, and other codes and farmers need extensions until those improvements are made. But that doesn’t let us off the hook: urban farmers should be plugged into current efforts of the city to carry out the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative, such as development of the new urban agriculture topical plan. Everyone needs to step up and participate in this effort. If you are an urban farmer, find out how to get involved in the policy changes being discussed. If you support urban farming talk to your city council representative – email, Facebook, on the phone or in person! Let them know you support urban farming, you want to see positive changes in the codes, and you want to see some support for farmers who are struggling under the current restrictive codes – and make sure to mention me, I need all the help I can get!

Thank you for your help in making urban farming in Minneapolis possible!

Jeremy McAdams
Cherry Tree House Mushrooms

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chicken glamour shots

A couple friends of ours from North Carolina visited last week. JJ brought his super fancy camera and got these amazing pictures of one of our girls. I don't know how he got her to hold still. Most of our pictures are of chicken backsides - they're more camera-shy than I ever was!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back upstairs again

When I left for my trip nearly a month ago (ack! how time passes!) Jeremy was just finishing the closet walls upstairs.

When I came back, the walls were done!

Not only that - oh no my friends, not only that - but he had moved the pile of flooring wood from the first floor to the upstairs. I walked in the house and it was like a miracle to see the floor again. I think I might have screamed. I was so shocked. It was a glorious thing to see again after 6 months!

Now all of that flooring has to be sealed on the underside before it can go down. We're working on that now and the first row of flooring has gone down!

Isn't it just beautiful?

When the rest of the flooring is ready to go Jeremy will rent a floor nailer from our local rental place and hopefully get the whole floor done in a couple days. I hope, I hope, I hope!

Then the trim, the inspection, then finally moving in!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Even more berries!

Our raspberries are doing very well this year. I think we've picked somewhere around 2 pounds of raspberries. Our records aren't very good though because every time I leave the house I grab a few, or when we're picking some I eat half as many as go in the little boxes.

In any case, we've got black raspberries, two different red kinds, and the Korean gold which is very tasty. Here's the haul from a few days ago:

The Korean Gold is in an off-year. Given how many stalks it's sending out it should be incredibly prolific next year.

The ones we haven't eaten went into the freezer to make jam later. I insisted on this because I want Jeremy to get back to work upstairs!

Last week Jeremy and his intern went out strawberry picking and brought home about 50 pounds of strawberries. Yikes! They were processing them for days. After freezing tons of them and making some jam, there was still a bowl left so Jeremy decided to try his hand at a strawberry pie.

He's quite the pie maker!

Apparently it didn't taste quite as good as it looked. I didn't try any. The very idea of a strawberry pie - blech! Not sure how to improve on the taste, but I know Jeremy will figure it out - if he decides to make a strawberry pie again...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Garden update

It's been a month since I showed you the garden. It has exploded of course. =)

The beans are reaching out desperately for something else to hold onto. Must grow higher - must grow higher!

What's hiding in there?


Little baby broccoli:

Giant beans:

Little baby peppers:

And some other things of course!

This is the other garden bed, with more beans and the two squash plants.

Yes, nearly everything you see in the foreground are those two squashes trying to take over the world - or at least break out of the confines of our squirrel-proof bird-netting fence.

Jeremy was quite pleased with this salad he made for us the other day. I think some of the greens are from our garden, as well as arugula and nasturtium flowers, our dried cherries, our shiitakes, and some foreign walnuts. Love eating out of our yard!

Friday, July 2, 2010

We are under attack.

Not from slugs or bugs, but from the city.

We feel a little like Joel Salatin who wrote "Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal." This excerpt in particular caught my attention:

Every time a letter arrives in the mail from a federal or state agriculture department my heart jumps like I just got sent to the principal’s office.
And it doesn’t stop with agriculture bureaucrats. It includes all sorts of government agencies, from zoning, to taxing, to food inspectors. These agencies are the ultimate extension of a disconnected, Greco-Roman, Western, egocentric, compartmentalized, reductionist, fragmented, linear thought process.
He's talking about the difficulties of farming out in the country. We're just beginning to get a taste of the difficulties of farming in the city. It's bad enough that land is hard to come by, plots have to be smaller, it's hard to get compost and manure, and most city dirt is contaminated. No, we also have to contend with a city government that just doesn't get it. Worse, they pay lip service to understanding all about local foods and urban agriculture, but their policies do not back it up. People in other cities and states think we've got it made because we have Homegrown Minneapolis. Do not be fooled. That sweeping piece of work has not made many (if any) changes on the homefront.

Okay, I'm a little cynical. But you would be too if you'd been cited by the city four times in a year! Those of you who read this blog regularly know the incredible amount of work we've put into our house, yard, and landscaping. It's not like we're burning furniture in the front lawn or something!

Sometimes I think the city would prefer it if we razed everything to the ground and put in a nice normal chem-lawn - and then never stepped foot outside our house. That's the kind of citizens they want. Not us trouble makers.

We have two issues to deal with at the moment.

The slightly less complicated one is that we aren't allowed to have our "pile of dirt" in the backyard because of some zoning regulation. The "pile of dirt" being our terraced hill, which I haven't posted pictures of in so long (it doesn't look anything like this anymore).
It turns out there is a rule that you can't have any "obstructions" in your yard within five feet of the property line. I guess a tree or a garden is fine, or you could have a 6-foot privacy fence, but you can't have a terraced hill growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and flowers. Because someone, someday is going to need that access space. For something. I don't know what or why. But there it is.
So we're supposed to dig everything out five feet away from the fence line and put in a retaining wall. Yeah. Our neighbors are going to love that. I'm hoping we can get a variance or appeal or something.

Now to the bigger problem. Some of you know that Jeremy has been keeping logs in neighbors' yards because we have too many to fit in our yard. One of our neighbors got sited for "improper storage of fire wood" so Jeremy had to move all the logs elsewhere.
Last week, along with the notice about the "dirt pile" we were cited about the logs in our yard. So, we aren't allowed to have the logs or screen structures (the shade cloth Jeremy uses) in the side or front yards. We also cannot use the yard for storing any logs, etc for the purpose of producing and processing food. In addition, our home occupation must be located within an enclosed building so no one walking by can see what we're doing. "Nor shall any home occupation be visible from a right of way." I'd love to know how that law got into the books. Basically, we are not allowed to grow mushrooms outside in the city.

The really ironic thing? We looked into purchasing a property earlier this year so Jeremy could build something to grow mushrooms indoors. The city wouldn't allow it because of zoning issues.

So they won't let us grow mushrooms indoors or outdoors!!

The problem with the building solution is location and money. The ideal property for us is located across the alley, two houses up. It's a vacant lot (they razed the house earlier this year). It's zoned residential and I guess the only use other than a house there would be a community garden. Never mind the fact that it's Cedar Avenue and NO ONE is going to buy a vacant piece of land and build anything there (they'll never get their money out of it) and the fact that half of Cedar is commercial anyway. Jeremy's mushroom building would be perfect there. The lot is probably going for 20K anyway, which we can't afford. But that's way more affordable than a commercial lot would be. And there aren't any commercial properties anywhere near us. For us, "near" is within two or three blocks. When Jeremy waters the logs he has to go over every 30-40 minutes to move the sprinkler around and this goes on half the day. It would not be cool if the logs were 20 minutes away.

Jeremy thinks he's going to have to move out to the country so he can keep doing this. But of course, as an extrovert, he'd go stark raving mad. So that's not really an option.

There is a small ray of hope in the log business. After demanding action from our city council person (who still has yet to acknowledge this) and some other folks, someone from the city said he'd work with us on the issue and try to get this sort of urban farming into the topical plan (or something like that). The inspector who cited us says this process will take a long time and probably some businesses [like ours] will just die in the meantime. Thanks a lot Minneapolis! Way to be supportive of urban agriculture! Geez.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cherries, cherries, cherries!

When I got home last week from my two-week trip I was amazed to see how overflowing and abundant everything was. The cherries, hard little greenish blobs when I left, were ripe and ready to pick! The daisies are blooming, there are raspberries to pick, the beans are 6 feet or taller, and everything else looks huge.

If you want to see dramatic change in your yard or garden, just leave home for a week or two!

Jeremy and his new intern have picked almost 20 pounds of cherries. We still have several bags of frozen cherries from last year so Jeremy is experimenting with drying most of these.

This is the "fruit roll up" batch. Later batches look much better!

I decided I had to make my tart cherry muffins. And then I had a brainstorm and decided to throw in some cocoa to make them chocolate cherry muffins. Holy cow! So tasty!

The cocoa is my addition, but I got the recipe online from some place called the Cherry Hut. Here it is:

The Cherry Hut's Tart Cherry Muffins

3 cups flour (about 1/4 cup less if you use cocoa)
3/4 cup baking cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp baking powder
¼+ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten well
1/4+ cup oil
1 ¾ cups milk
2 cups tart cherries, pitted and chopped

Mix wet and dry ingredients together. Add cherries. Pour into greased muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes. (Makes 48 muffins.

Originally it was a pretty runny batter - but with the addition of the cocoa it firmed up and did very well. Those muffins were gone so fast...