Memoir of a First Time Mushroom Grower

July 15, 2015 in Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging! PASA thanks this volunteer corp of guest bloggers, who have stepped forward to share their experiences, points of view and the goings-on in their communities with the Good Food Neighborhood. We look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives in this blog.


 

Jen Hine

Part I: Inoculation

By Jennifer Hine

I’m not exactly sure how the obsession began, but in the past few years I have been on a mission to live more sustainably.  After completing a permaculture certificate program through the School of Living in Freeland, Maryland in 2012, I was sure I had been forever changed.  My fellow permie buddies and I, all strangers when the course began, bunked at a commune every weekend that we had class.  I met folks through this experience, some commune members and others just course takers like me, that are permanently ingrained in my memory, some in my heart.

When a desire for change strikes within you, try exploring how others go about everyday life.  It was incredibly eye opening to share close quarters with people who otherwise would’ve meant nothing more to me than a stranger passing by on the street.  I learned about passive design, what hugelkultur is and how to pronounce it, how to plant asparagus, and how to build with natural materials.  I got so much out of the experience by way of the relationships I made, but one of the initial things that attracted me to the course was that mushroom inoculation was on the syllabus.  I find fungus fascinating and oddly beautiful, and along with other things I consume, I’ve always wanted to know how to grow mushrooms myself.

Having so many exciting topics to cover in the course’s one year timeframe, mushroom inoculation day came and went like a breeze.  Eluding a false sense of effort, the logs were pre-cut and laid out, along with all the necessary components, for us.  We were instructed how to use a handheld inoculator tool, something I had never seen before.  This was needed because we were using sawdust spawn, meaning that sawdust was the medium in which the spores were growing.  Unfortunately, graduation from the course came before we were able to see the fruits of our labor.  Since I had really hoped to delve further into the details of the process, I vowed to attempt mushroom growing on my own…somehow, someway in the near future.

Living in a small in-town apartment with no balcony or patio has proven to be a challenge to my homesteading endeavors.  Even the attempt to grow herbs has proven frustrating thanks to my north facing windows.  Luckily for me there’s Dad’s place, a beautiful woodland property close enough to so-called civilization to see street lights when looking out from a high point on the mountain but far enough away from it all to feel tucked into serenity, the perfect setting for my first-time mushroom experiment.

Unbeknownst to my Dad, I began researching mushrooms and home-growing practices.  I stumbled upon a great company online, Field & Forest Products.  Their website is thorough and they have a wide variety of offerings and also provide some educational background, making it easy for first timers.  From their 2015 catalog, I selected Native Harvest Shiitakes, a variety of Lentinula edodes.  For those in-the-know, Shiitakes might sound like a boring choice but I went for them because I already know I enjoy eating them and because there seemed to be the most information available on this kind to help out a newbie grower.  To spice things up a bit, I also purchased Italian Oysters, Pleurotus pulmonarius.  I chose to go with the no-fuss options; plugs for my spawn and a plug wax tub protectant.  The plug wax is pliable in room temperature and doesn’t require being melted for it to be applied like the other options did.  In hindsight, I am happy to have gone this route and also to have bought aluminum tags on which I wrote the type and inoculation date, and nailed them onto the end of my logs to easily track my experiment.  It was a bit of a late night impulse buy when I purchased all of this online which included a total of 500 plugs, but go big or go home, right?

My advice to a fellow beginner: start small, but definitely do start.  This novice had no idea how long it would take to drill the holes, hammer plugs, and cover them all with wax, prior to investing in such a large order.  All of this comes after the most strenuous part of the cultivation process, the felling and chopping of live trees.  Lucky for me, I have a willing assistant to whom this job was delegated, Dad.  Because each type of mushroom has their own substrate species of choice, he reluctantly cut down two medium sized trees, a White Oak for the Shiitakes and a Tulip Poplar, preference of the Oysters.  This was done near the end of March, within the required window in which the trees are in their dormant season.  In return for his loss and in the name of sustainability, I replaced Dad’s trees with several red oak and white pine seedlings, free from a local Arbor Day event.  Not exactly an equal trade.

The first day of the log inoculation process attracted several helpers as there just happened to be a few family members hanging around the house.  I was surprised by how interested they all were in the process.  It wasn’t long before my spectators took over and I was on the sidelines.  Inoculating the 3 ½ foot long logs seemed to work best in an assembly line fashion; drilling the holes, hammering in the plugs, coating them with wax.  After a few hours, we finished inoculating five logs with the entire 250 count pack of Shiitake plugs.

The golden rule of sustainable living should be to always invite your friends and family to partake in your homesteading adventures.  This is two-fold. One, because the backbone of sustainability is the fostering of community and the wish to be able to provide more than just yourself with a bountiful harvest.  Two, because it’s a lot of work.  You will appreciate more helping hands, and they will appreciate sharing in the end product.  And, of course, it is more fun with friends!

The following weekend, the Oysters seemed to go much more seamlessly as I had already developed a few techniques during the Shiitake inoculation.  For one thing using the antiquated dinosaur of a drill that is older than me actually turned out to be much more efficient than the modern day power tool I began with.  They just don’t make things like they used to, so they say.

By the end of the last session I had also trained myself to resist the urge of playing in the wax, waiting until I had hammered in a row of plugs before getting a finger full of the goop.  By the end of the day, all of Dad’s tools had waxy fingerprints.  Oops.

Once the inoculation was complete I felt an immediate sense of pride.  I completed one thing that I had set out to do on my adventure towards a more sustainable and self-sufficient path.  I didn’t know what I was doing when I started and I won’t find out for some time if it actually worked, but I surely am glad I tried. My main point being that there are no failures when it comes to this stuff, only learning experiences. Give in to the voice of curiosity inside of you!

We placed the logs in rows, grouped by mushroom type, in a shaded gully in which the rain can wash over them from time to time, keeping them hydrated and out of the direct summer sunlight.  The pro’s call this a laying yard as it is the suggested position to allow the spawn run, or colonization.  Following this time, we will stack them, a step for which there seems to be a thousand suggestions for online.  Throughout my research I have been unable to find sources that agree on the absolute best timing for these laying and stacking periods or the optimum environmental conditions.  I plan to wait a few months and then prop the logs like an A-frame, one end up on a small walking bridge that overtops the current laying yard gully.  It will be trial and error, a true experiment.
Now that the inoculation is complete, I realize that the things I have learned from this process encompass much more than the act itself but rather so many traits that I need to develop in my quest for a more sustainable life. It is easy to read and follow directions to complete a task. It is another thing to cultivate a lifestyle.

It will likely be about one year until the first fruit on the logs can be harvested.  This is another time period that varies due to mushroom species, spawn type, and environmental conditions.  Although the long wait, the rewards will continue to be reaped from these same logs for several years to come.

And now we wait…

 

PASA’s Good Gifts Guide / Turn Holiday Shopping Green on Black Friday!

November 28, 2014 in Community Events, Community Resources, Community Support for PASA, Local Goods / Good Gifts, Uncategorized

PASA’s Good Gifts Guide

Support Local & Regional Businesses That Support Sustainable Agriculture

Are you looking for great holiday gifts that also support local farms &
businesses? Check out PASA’s Good Gifts Guide! GoodGiftsImage2

 

As always, many thanks to our Sustainability School partners around the state:

 Chatham University’s Master of Arts in Food Study,

 Country Barn Farm,

 Dickinson College Farm,

East End Food Co-op,

Eastern PA Permaculture Guild,

Fair Food,

Glade Run Adventures,

IMBY at Misty Hollow Farm 

Jennings Environmental Education Center,

 the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County,

Pennypack Farm & Education Center,

 Spring Creek Homesteading,

and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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Savor September with Sustainability Schools and Local Food Celebrations!

September 2, 2014 in Community Events, Sustainability Schools, Uncategorized

SO MUCH TO DO IN SEPTEMBER!

image002Local Foods Month in Pittsburgh! Celebrate the local bounty in Western PA, with a variety of fun events. Follow this link for more information.

sauerkraut_JoePhoto_flickr-1024x676

Sustainability Schools are offering great programming this month including Beginning Beekeeping at the Country Barn Farm, Sharing Nature with Children at the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County and tsaving the seasonimely workshops on  preserving the season: Get the Skinny on Sauerkraut at Dickinson College Farm or learn about Saving the Season at East End Food Coop. Scroll down to see the whole calendar.

And don’t forget Chester County Bike Fresh coming up on September 21st.

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As always, many thanks to our Sustainability School partners around the state:

 Chatham University’s Master of Arts in Food Study,

 Country Barn Farm,

 Dickinson College Farm,

East End Food Co-op,

Eastern PA Permaculture Guild,

Fair Food,

Glade Run Adventures,

IMBY at Misty Hollow Farm 

Jennings Environmental Education Center,

 the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County,

Pennypack Farm & Education Center,

 Spring Creek Homesteading,

and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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July and August – Fun Learning is happening in your Good Food Neighborhood!

July 18, 2014 in Community Events, Community Resources, Sustainability Schools, Uncategorized

 

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Summer Salsa at Dickindon (JeffreyWW, Flickr User)

Summer is speeding past — don’t miss these great sustainability programs and fun events!

The weather has been fine and PASA’s Sustainability Schools are offering great programs to fill out July and August! Check out what’s happening in your neighborhood!  This weekend Earthen Building Intensive at Quiet Creek Herb Farm and Varroa Mite Treatments at Country Barn Farm. Wrap up July with the Science Behind Raw Foods & Juicing at East End Food Co-op! August brings a continuation of the Sharing Nature with Children Series at the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County. Delve into Wild Edibles, Medicinals, and Mushrooms at Quiet Creek Herb Farm or take a fresh look at Simple Salsa in a Jar at Dickinson College Farm. There are also lots of cool opportunities for kids and the whole family! Check out the programs near you!

 Scroll down for a complete listing of upcoming events and register today!

Thanks is due to all our partners:

 Chatham University’s Master of Arts in Food Study,

 Country Barn Farm,

 Dickinson College Farm,

East End Food Co-op,

Eastern PA Permaculture Guild,

Fair Food,

Glade Run Adventures,

IMBY at Misty Hollow Farm 

Jennings Environmental Education Center,

 the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County,

Pennypack Farm & Education Center,

 Spring Creek Homesteading,

and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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Sustainability School Programs — Jump Into June

June 2, 2014 in Community Events, Community Resources, Sustainability Schools, Uncategorized

community-workshopsCheck out what’s going on near you!

PASA’s Sustainability Schools are heating up in June with “hot” topic programs on composting, industrial hemp, honey harvesting, landscaping strategies for bees, cultivating biodiversity, seed balls, and making your own pesto. There are also lots of cool opportunities for kids and the whole family! Check out the programs near you!

 Scroll down for a complete listing of upcoming events and register today!

Thanks is due to all our partners:

 Chatham University’s Master of Arts in Food Study,

 Country Barn Farm,

 Dickinson College Farm,

East End Food Co-op,

Eastern PA Permaculture Guild,

Fair Food,

Glade Run Adventures,

IMBY at Misty Hollow Farm 

Jennings Environmental Education Center,

 the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County,

Pennypack Farm & Education Center,

 Spring Creek Homesteading,

and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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Bike Fresh Allegheny County / Sunday, June 1st / Walk-ins Welcome!

May 30, 2014 in Community Events, Community Resources, Community Support for PASA, Uncategorized

The Good Food Neighborhood invites you to Bike Fresh in Allegheny County this weekend!

Bike Fresh Label 2013

Join us for PASA’s 2nd annual Bike Fresh Bike Local in Allegheny County! The weather forecast is gorgeous for  this first Bike Fresh of the season —  this Sunday, June 1st in Western Pennsylvania! 

PRE-REGISTRATION IS CLOSED:

WALK-INS WELCOME!

$50 WALK-IN REGISTRATION

PROCEEDS FROM THIS EVENT SUPPORT PASA’S WORK IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA ON BEHALF OF FAMILY FARMS.

Celebrate at the end of the ride with Event Partners Whole Foods Market and North Country Brewing, who team up to provide a delicious local foods lunch and refreshing beer (for those 21 years and older) or root beer to all riders.

Menu

Your choice of:

Sweet Stems Farm Beer Brats braised in East End Brewing BeerSpicy
Chicken Sausage with peppers & onions in North Country BeerGrilled
Portobello Mushroom with peppers & onions with Chipotle Aioli

Served with the following:

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
Lemon Dill Petite Potato Salad
Watermelon Wedges

Many thanks to:

Allegheny Bike Fresh Event Partners — Whole Foods Market  and North Country Brewing

Allegheny Bike Fresh Sponsors — East End Food Co-op, Green Mountain Energy, Eat’n Park, and SOTA Construction Services, Inc.

BIKE FRESH BIKE LOCAL

Great Routes, Good Friends, and Delicious Local Foods! Best Sundays ever and a great chance to support local farms, sustainable agriculture, and our local food systems!

 

Pro Bikes602913_591502600888827_231090669_nOur friend Chris from Lowe Rider Bikes and Boards2012-06-26 14.08.09Whole Foods Staff Proud daugher of Bike Fresh Rider (1)Mortensen1001744_592167780822309_2143042532_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainability School Programs – MORE BUZZ IN MAY!

May 13, 2014 in Community Resources, Sustainability Schools, Uncategorized

honey bees

Check out what’s going on near you!

PASA’s Sustainability Schools are offering more cool opportunities in May including: Sheep to Shawl, Honey Bees, Medicinal Plants and Wild Edibles. Check out the opportunities in your area.

Scroll down for a complete listing of upcoming events and register today!

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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2014 PASA Sustainability School Programs — February Update

February 10, 2014 in Community Events, Community Resources, Community Support for PASA, Film Series, Sustainability Schools, Uncategorized

Scudder_Stevens_-_DSCF0088-225x300Sustain the winter wonder!

PASA’s Sustainability Schools kick off 2014 with a series great work shops, films and more! Scroll down for a complete listing register today!

Thanks is due to all our partners: Chatham University’s Food, Farm, and Field Program, Country Barn Farm, Dickinson College Farm, East End Food Co-op, Eastern PA Permaculture Guild, Greener Partners, Home Grown Institute, Jennings Environmental Education Center, the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County, Pennypack Farm & Education Center, Spring Creek Homesteading, and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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Partner sites:

Chatham University Food Farm Field Program

Country Barn Farm

Jennings Environmental Education Center

Pennypack Farm & Education Center

Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County

Greener Partners

Dickinson College Farm

Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild

Spring Creek Homesteading

Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living

The U.S. Supreme Court – Landmark Decision Concerning Protections for Organic Farms

January 13, 2014 in Take Action, Uncategorized

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From PASA’s friends at Wood Prairie Farm in Maine — news concerning a disappointing pronouncement by the US Supreme Court in the  landmark federal lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto.

Read the full article at their website: woodprairiefarm.com

 

 

Reignite your passion for living sustainably in 2014!

December 17, 2013 in Community Events, Uncategorized

Attend PASA’s 23rd Annual Farming for the Future Conference – February 5-8, 2014

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is hosting its 23rd  annual Farming for the Future Conference at the Penn Stater Conference Center in State College, PA. This is PASA’s signature event and widely regarded as the best of its kind in the East. The Farming for the Future Conference brings together an audience of over 2,000 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists and business and community leaders annually.

Featured Speakers:

daphne_speaker1Daphne Miller, MD
Opening Keynoter, Friday Morning

In her latest book, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, Miller discovers how learning from sustainable farmers can make her a better doctor. Read more…

 

 

 

 

 

 

miguel_speakerMiguel A. Altieri
PASAbilities Main Speaker, Saturday Morning

He is the author of more than 200 publications, and numerous books including Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture and BiodiversityPest Management in Agroecosystems and Agroecology and the Search for a Truly Sustainable Agriculture. Read more…