Wednesday, June 29, 2011


During the past few months we have purchased (from Fungi Perfecti) 200 inoculated dowels for each of three different kinds of mushrooms.  We have Shiitaki, Lion's Mane and Pearl Oyster.  The birch dowels, also called plug spawn,  have mycelium growing in them.  You drill holes in logs and insert the dowels, then keep the logs moist for about a year while mycelium eventually grow throughout the logs.  At some point, usually after a rainy spell, the mushrooms sprout on the logs and you can pick them.  The logs are supposed to provide mushrooms for several years.

We have 18 logs in all and they are stored in the woods behind our house.  The black tub is for soaking the logs if we have a dry spell.  The red dots are where the dowels were inserted into the logs, then covered with red cheese wax.  The wax keeps foreign fungi out and keeps the dowels moist.

The next picture shows the red wax melting in our solar oven.  If the oven looks a little beat up it is because it floated about 1/2 mile down the creek during the flood last year and was recovered from our neighbor's property.  We straightened out the reflectors and bought a new glass top.  It works fine now.  We had this solar oven on the deck of our sailboat!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Drywall is up

Randy has started to paint the exterior of the house and all of the upper parts requiring scaffolding are now finished.  Our friends, Tim and Darrell, have also finished insulating the walls and hanging the drywall.  It is beginning to look like a house inside and out.


The next picture is a view from the upstairs balcony (off the bedroom) looking across the driveway down to the creek.  The little white spots between the driveway and the creek are where we have planted seedling trees.  They include white pine, willow oak, pawpaw, tulip poplar, winged elm, heartnut and many others.

The next picture shows the hardy kiwis.  There are four females and one male.  Eventually we will build a sturdy arbor for them to climb on, as they can be very vigorous and heavy vines.  Surrounding the kiwis are sorrel and chicory.  They are both dynamic accumulators and tasty greens for the salad.

This is a closeup of the east porch with our new deck furniture.  We enjoy spending evenings on the deck with our two cats, Roscoe (age 19) and Tigerboy (age 15).

Below is the blueberry patch.  On the right side I have planted five beds of flowers, including blue wild indigo (a nitrogen fixer), red bergamot (also called bee balm), which is a great hummingbird nectar flower and a tea plant, boneset, which has daisy-like white flowers and is a medicinal plant, wormwood, which repels certain pests, and more sorrel and chicory.   

These are the grape vines.  They are growing well and two have almost reached the top wire (at 6 feet).  When they reach a few inches above the top wire, I will snip off the top and train four lateral branches along the two wires.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

The annual garden

We didn't have much time this year to build up our annual garden area, but we did manage to put in a few crops and we worked on improving the soil.  Last year we prepared three beds by covering the grass with cardboard and adding soil and lots of horse manure in a frame of logs.  Those beds are very rich with loose soil now and were planted in garlic (softneck and elephant) last fall, then potatoes and lettuce this spring.  Here is a picture of half of our garlic crop that I am setting out to dry.

Last fall we had Ernest Connor, who did some of the excavation for our house, use his back hoe to loosen the soil in another area for additional garden space.  Our soil is very compacted and we thought this procedure might break up the hardpan about two feet down.  After Ernest loosened it up, we formed 7 more garden beds with paths in between, and added manure and organic nutrients.  These beds sat over winter and we planted them earlier this spring.  The organic nutrients consisted of 4 parts soy meal (for nitrogen), 1 part rock phosphate, 1/4 part each of agricultural lime and gypsum and 1/2 part dolomitic lime.  This is a formula I read about in Steve Solomon's book "Gardening When it Counts".

I got really excited about asparagus and ordered 100 crowns (50 Purple Passion, which is an all male variety, and 50 Jersey Giants).  The asparagus took up 4 of the 7 new beds!  It is doing really well, putting up lots of shoots, with some almost large enough to harvest.  However, I am not harvesting any until next year, to let strong roots develop.  In the other beds, we planted sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, rattlesnake beans, scarlet runners, and lots of peppers.  Here are some pictures.  Note the bluebird box with Dad on top with nesting material in his mouth.  They already have two kids this year and seem to be going for another round.  The bluebird family keeps watch over the garden.

The blue barrel collects overflow water from our spring and we use it to irrigate the garden.  In the middle picture you can see the compost piles in the background (framed by pallets).  After harvesting the garlic, dill, basil and cucumbers were planted in its place.