Monday, February 28, 2011

Inoculations begin

Here we are, videos of the inoculation process!

First, the drilling. The first year Jeremy just used our regular household drill. I think that lasted about one day. It takes a minute or two per hole! He got a high speed drill which was very nice. This year he managed to find a working adapter so he is using an angle grinder (whatever that is!) which is even faster than the high speed drill. He also uses a drill bit with a stop so he doesn't have to guess how far to drill - it just goes to 1 inch exactly and then he moves on.
(Oh, and those puffs of air are Jeremy's breath - since it was 11 degrees out while he was doing this!)

After the log is all drilled, the spawn goes in. He uses a spring-loaded tool. He stabs it into the bag of spawn to pick up the spawn, positions it over one of the holes, and pushes the plunger - moving all the spawn into the hole. (Conversation and music aren't really pertinent information - in case you're trying to understand what we're saying!)

Lastly the wax stage. Jeremy gets a huge box of wax each year. He breaks of hunks of it and keeps it melted on a little burner. I don't understand it myself, but it has to be at a certain temperature to work the best. He can just tell by the sound it makes, how it looks, etc. I'm amazed. Anyway, he's got these little daubers (a tuft of wool or something on a metal stick) and he uses those to put the wax on.

When the log is done it goes in the "done" pile. Eventually these will go outdoors - when all the piles of snow melt!

Jeremy has volunteers signing up to help him with the whole process - and learn about mushroom innoculation at the same time. I'm contributing by making big batches of soup, cookies, bread, etc to feed the troops.

I think he'll have 15 or so logs done by the end of today (he started yesterday and did two then, so not bad!)

He's hoping to do a LOT of logs, but we're on a deadline. We've read/heard a lot of different (and often conflicting) advice, but he thinks, for the best results, he needs fresh logs from trees that haven't started leafing out yet and it's best to get innoculations done by the end of April or so. You can innoculate past then, but may not have as much success. At least that's been our experience!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The logs are here!

After a few false starts (delays due to machinery/broken parts and too much snow) Jeremy finally picked up the first load of logs today.

I think he'll start the inoculations on Monday!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Am an Urban Homesteader

I learned about this whole urban homestead(er/ing/etc) on Sunday and have been amazed at the progress. Anyone who is familiar with what I'm talking about has probably read plenty about this in the last couple days.

Here is a page from The Crunchy Chicken listing lots of urban (or not so urban) homestead blogs.
And make sure you join the Facebook page which has been growing by leaps and bounds since it was set up.

I've been trying to figure out what to say since this all blew up. A lot of folks have blogged (or tweeted or FB commented) much more eloquently than I can. And I agree with a lot of what has been said. But I think there are some things I can add to the mix from my own perspective.

First is my perspective as a Quaker. The D family seems to think they are the founders and creaters of the idea of urban homesteading. I think that's ludicrous, but bear with me. If they really believe that, there is a part of me that can understand why they would want to protect the term. They have a certain definition for what urban homesteading is and what if other people call themselves that but don't do urban homesteading in the same way!? This is what Quakers have been dealing with for something like 200 years (or whenever the splits started happening).

Some people say, "I am a Quaker, I believe in God, I'm a Christian, etc, etc." Others say, "I am a Quaker, there is no God or all paths lead to God," etc. A Christian Quaker looks at a non-Christian Quaker and says, "how on earth can that person call themselves a Quaker!?!" And the non-Christian Quaker thinks the same of the Christian Quaker. (Sad, but true.)
I can't imagine what would happen if one side trade-marked the term and said the others couldn't use it! So how do you work with an international population of people that call themselves by a specific term but all define themselves differently? It takes a lot of patience and love and a willingness to find common ground. The point is, it can be done. I think of urban homesteading as a process of learning, becoming self-sufficient, trying different things. It is not a list of prescribed things that you must do or not do. It does not look like one particular life-style or the response of one person or one family.

But of course this is religion which can have much more fierce in-fighting than a bunch of progressive gardeners and farmers...right? (yikes! maybe not considering some of the things I've read.)

Here is my other thought. What about the D family? I cannot help myself from thinking of the other side of the issue - I'm a bit of a peacemaker. They've just made a really bad move, made a really stupid mistake, and they are seeing a backlash across the country. People are sending them hate e/mail, unfriending them, ceasing support, boycotting them, etc.

No one can deny that they've done some incredible things on their property and, up till now, have been an incredible example. Is it possible for them to ever rejoin the urban homestead community? If they were to drop the whole trademark issue, would we welcome them back with open arms and say all is forgiven? Or would we hold a grudge and grumble about them for years to come? I wonder this because...if I had done something stupid like this I might be more likely to fight for my "rights" than back off and apologize, knowing that everyone would still hate me and my support would be vastly diminished.

I hate to see people in situations like this. I hate to see this breach in our community of progressive, earth-loving, farm animal-loving, vegetable growing peaceful folks. The D family obviously got a little too big for their britches. Couldn't that happen to any of us?

If they drop the whole urban homestead/ing trademark issue, are we willing to take them back?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Defense of Tea Cozies

I started making tea cozies a couple years ago and started trying to sell them last summer. I'm not really sure how this happened. I think I made one or two for gifts and then it grew from there. Sometimes I wonder, "Why on earth am I doing this!?" Especially when I see people responding to them.

(a "frilly" cozy)

Here's a hint: how many of you readers are thinking "what the heck is a tea cozy!?"

I would guess about half of you have no idea what I'm talking about - even if you see the pictures. That's about the ratio when I'm selling them at the farmers market. Half the people know what they are, the other half think they are hats!

(sleeping cat cozy)

So let's back up. A tea cozy is a padded cover for your teapot. It keeps your teapot, and your tea, nice and warm. If you don't have something wrapped around your teapot the tea will cool off quite a bit quicker. And, though I cut into my business by saying this, anything will do for a tea cozy! Before I made my own I wrapped a small towel around my teapot - and that did the trick just fine.

(the excited chicken cozy)

I've managed to sell half a dozen or so of these tea cozies in the last year (so obviously I haven't quit my day job!). I was thinking about tea cozies and teapots and, I admit, waxing philosophical, the other day.

(this little piggy cozy)

What does it mean to have a teapot (and hopefully a tea cozy!)? What does it mean not to have these? I saw in the answers to these questions the state of our society (remember: waxing philosophical!).

(dinosaur cozy)

We are a nation of people who desire instant gratification. We are impatient and always on the move. There is no time to make tea in a teapot, let alone boil water on the stove. We'll take the hot water dispenser or a mug of water in the microwave, and plop in a single serve tea bag. Which reminds me - we're a nation on the lookout for the cheapest price, which means there is an awful lot of substandard, nasty tea on the market. We're also a nation of individualism and isolation. Back to that single-serve tea bag in the individual mug.

(elephant cozy)

Having - and using - a teapot, means patience and taking time. I hope it also means selecting a higher quality tea. And - unless you're drinking that whole pot of tea yourself - it means sharing time with friends or family. Sitting around the table, eating tasty (homemade?) snacks, sipping hot cups of tea, and catching up on life. Doesn't that sound great?

(my first dinosaur cozy)

(Coffee drinkers - you're not off the hook! Coffee can also be made the "instant" way or made more slowly and savoured, and enjoyed with friends instead of alone.)

(another chicken cozy)

So here's your challenge: if you have a teapot, dig it out, dust it off, invite a friend or two over, and drink some tea together!

(stars & galaxies cozy - a birthday present for my brother)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Get ready...get set... wait...

Ah spring. At mid-February in Minnesota it's probably jumping the gun to say spring is starting. But enjoying the 30 and 40 degree days we've had recently, many people are thinking about spring and summer. Here are a few things about spring in Minnesota.

1. There is no way 30-40 degrees felt so warm back in October!
2. Here in Minnesota, we start putting coats on when it gets down to 30 or 40; and we start taking coats off when it gets up to 30 or 40!
3. Spring in the northwest is beautiful. Flowers blooming everywhere, temperatures warming, people start planting things... There is one word for spring here: UGLY. All the piles of snow turn blackish-brown, and as they melt you see garbage everywhere, and there are huge puddles everywhere. Yeah. It is not a pretty sight.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about our spring plans - and mostly that involves waiting around at the moment.

Jeremy has a planting station with grow lights all set up in the basement. This should be a bit easier than last year's set-up, but it's all an experiment trying to figure out where it works best, how much space we need, etc. But... who knows when we're going to get around to actually starting seeds!

Jeremy also has the chicks' brooder all set up and ready to go.

We invested in a sweeter heater which a lot of people here swear by. So we'll start the chicks out with this and move the heater (that long white box thing on top of the brooder) out to the coop when the chicks are big enough. But the chicks? Alas, we've been delayed another month because the hatchery has had trouble hatching Marans lately.

And lastly, Jeremy has been working hard on getting ready for the start of the new mushroom season. He's been tracking down new yards to store logs in; designing new shade structures; researching new varieties to grow and new methods of growing. And, he designed this sweet mushroom inoculation table:

It has several stations because he's hoping to get volunteers (especially those who want to learn about mushroom cultivation) to help him with the whole process.

All the spawn arrived a few days ago and is waiting in the root cellar.

But the logs? Jeremy was planning to start picking them up today, but it turns out the logger is delayed because of some broken equipment. So it probably won't be till Friday! Jeremy is pretty bummed about this.

So in the meantime, he's been dreaming and making plans for getting rabbits!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The dangers of snow

Because we have a metal roof, the snow doesn't slowly melt off - it all slides off in great house-shaking chunks. We thought this was fun, last year, but it can be a little destructive too.

Most of our berry cages look like this. Just fine, though buried under almost 3 feet of snow.

And then there is this poor cage, which lives just under the sewing room roof, where all the snow from the second story and the sewing room roof falls off. I hope the plant underneath is okay!