Tag Archives: mushroom logs

Summer 2014

tao-seph-fireWe kicked off Summer with a solstice party that I may try to do on a regular basis.

‘Midsummer Mayhem’ as I called it featured a large bonfire, a pickup truck pool, lawn games, garlands, and me in loin cloth and antlers for fun.

Plastered

duplex-back-plasteredThe major summer accomplishment was getting the 2nd layer of plaster done on all of the buildings.  The 2nd coat is the most labor-intensive coat, and involves sifting, mixing, and applying a large amount of plaster.   I owe a lot to my volunteers who put in a lot of sweat getting it done this year.

The finish coat won’t take nearly as much effort, though getting it nice and smooth will take a decent amount of time.  I’m excited to get it done at least in the common house next year, it’ll drastically lower the amount of dust that coats everything now.

Holy Shiitakes!

shiitake-harvest4I got a great harvest of shiitakes off of the mushroom logs from the 2012 workshop and a previous smaller batch of logs.  There are usually 2 big flushes of mushrooms each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.  I did some soaking of the logs prior to the logs fruiting to give them some extra moisture and I think it really paid off.

I think the mushrooms will be a pretty big piece of the puzzle when it comes to making Maya Creek financially sustainable.  I helped fund a kickstarter project to product a book called “Farming the Woods”, and I finally got my signed copy in the mail.  It looks to have some other great ideas on how to make a living off of non-timber products in a temperate forest environment.

The Garden Harvest

pasta-sauceFor the last couple months there’s been a weekly routine of harvesting the garden on Monday and then spending the next two days processing the harvest by canning or dehydrating it.  The sun hasn’t been cooperating too much this year as far dehydrating goes so a lot of it has been canned.

The tomato harvest was intense this year.  Despite getting off to a slow start I’ve ended up with 20-25 quarts of tomato sauce and probably another 6 quarts of salsa.  The amount of time and effort that go into it don’t make financial sense, but it’s hard to argue the quality of the end product.

Without my volunteers I’d be spending the vast majority of my time working in the garden and processing food.  I enjoy that work, and I hope that’s how I eventually spend my late summers, but for now I need to spend a lot of time earning money for construction and on the actual construction itself.

The Cistern Pit

cistern-hole-dugThe last part of the Summer was spent digging out the cistern hole. It was originally dug out in 2012, but because of too many things going on, it was covered up and left for the following year.  Unfortunately, the temporary roof collapsed and it filled with water, which then caused the walls to partially collapse in.

Sean, Caroline, Billy, and myself spent several hard days of digging and hauling out buckets of clay from the hole.  The original plan called for simply attaching mesh to the clay walls and spreading concrete on it directly and then building a thick frost barrier wall around the top.

Since the pit is now much larger, I’m planning on essentially building a below-grade concrete box, pouring a rebar-reinforced concrete slab, and the walls will be cinder blocks filled with rebar and concrete.  I’ll backfill outside of the cistern up to the frost line and then build the thick frost barrier wall and use that to help frame up the roof cap when I pour it.

Spring 2014

The day after my last post we planted potatoes. Last week we harvested those potatoes.  That’s how erratic my blogging has become so I’m not going to go into detail about the almost 3 months in between, but I’ll try to summarize.

solar-hot-water-collectorHot Showers!

Not long after my last post I finished up the solar hot water collector and the associated insulated hot water barrel.  I made sure to leave space next to the collector in case I needed to build another one.  That turned out to be unnecessary as the collector easily heats the 55 gallons of water to scalding temperatures within a day, and then holds it there even on cloudy days.

It feels so much more civilized out here now.  Sure, it’s still really dusty in most of the buildings, and there’s still plenty of work to do before we have real sinks or a washing machine, but at least now we’re just a bunch of mildly-dirty hippies instead of filthy ones!

 Workshops

plaster-workshop-2So far I’ve held a shiitake mushroom log workshop, wild edible foray, and an earthen plaster workshop, all of which have gone well.  There was plenty of good networking going on between people with mutual interests, knowledge was shared, skills were learned, and I got a nice pile of inoculated shiitake logs growing their way towards deliciousness.

One side note on the shiitake logs that I’m kind of excited about.  I cut more mushroom logs than I had spore plugs for, and I decided to take some of the mushroom logs that already producing and stack them interspersed with the uninoculated extra logs.  I have strong hope that the mycelium will grow into the other logs or that spores will fall on them and they’ll begin producing as well.  I’ve had the mycelium grow between the logs and from the logs into the pallets I stack them on, and have had mushrooms pop out of the pallet itself so it’s not far fetched.  If so, I may be able to seriously ratchet up my shiitake production for a fraction of the effort I put in now.

The Garden

garden-6-18-14The garden has done really well this year.  We’ve gotten an above average amount of rain and only had to water occasionally mainly to get seeds started and transplants settled.  All of the extra rain made construction projects difficult, so the volunteers spent an above average amount of time in the garden; weeding, fighting bugs, harvesting, etc and we’re now reaping the benefits.  The dehydrator is constantly full and anything we can’t dry we’ve been canning.

It now seems clear that I can grow almost all of my own food, and probably trade excess for the things I can’t grow.  The volunteers have been a big help, but I could do it all on my own if I didn’t have construction projects to deal with too.  Maybe in a couple years I’ll try a year of total food self-sufficiency and see how it goes.

Construction Projects

earth-tube-trench-billy-diggingI originally planned on working on getting the inside of the common house finished, but after more detailed planning I saw that I needed a lot of carpentry work first that wouldn’t be easy to use volunteer help on so instead we’ve been working on getting the 2nd, and most labor/material intensive, coat of plaster on the cabins.  The small single cabin now has it’s 2nd coat completed and we’re well on our way to getting the duplex coat on.

We’ve also been digging a 100′ long 2′ deep trench to lay some PVC pipe in and use as a very simple geothermal cooling/heating system called an earth tube.  I’m mostly concerned with the cooling side of it, though it should decrease the already small amount of firewood I need in the winter.

According to what I could find on the internet I believe the air coming into the duplex even at the hottest part of the summer should be 70F or less and be significantly less humid.  A small CPU fan will pull the air and as it cools in the pipe the moisture should condense and drain out.  Another CPU fan attached to a pipe going through the highest point of the roof will blow the hot air out.  The fans may not be needed all of the time since natural convection should move the air, but they certainly won’t hurt.

The rainwater cistern is the next big project and we should be starting on that in August.  The pit is still wet from all of the rain this year, but the storms seem to be dropping less and less water and I think it’ll dry out enough to work on within the next month or so.

Volunteers

manu-billy-mulchRight now I’ve got a full house with 3 volunteers.  Billy, my full-summer volunteer is turning into a real asset now that he’s gotten the feel for things.  The other 2 volunteers are Emmanuel, from France, and Daniel, from Utah.  Both of them have been hard workers with good senses of humor and pleasant dispositions.  I’ve also had a couple of volunteers from Pennsylvania and London earlier in the Spring.

Lumberjacking

It’s not fun to cut down trees, for the trees or for us.  No one likes using a tool as noisy, smelly, and dangerous as a chainsaw, but this last month has been packed with tree felling and processing. We’re clearing out our construction sites for this year, and turning the trees into firewood, mushroom logs, and we’ll be milling some of the trunks into lumber.

We’re also culling some cedars, trimming them up, and peeling them for use as posts in the shed and strawbale duplex.  They’re rot resistant, beautiful, and plentiful here.

In exchange for harvesting some trees we’re taking on the responsibility of protecting the other trees on the property and providing for their survival.

 

Workshops Posted

Update: The date for the Primitive Skills Primer is actually June 16, NOT June 19.

We’ve finally settled on the workshops and the dates that we’ll be holding them this year.  We chose these based on how much experience and success we’d had with each of these topics.

All of the workshops are free, but we do ask that you register ahead of time so we know how many people are coming.  We doubt that we will have too many, but you never know.

We’ll be hanging flyers around the area, specifically in Columbia.  Although if anyone wants to print some out and hang them around their areas we can either give you some or you can print your own from this pdf.

Looking forward to seeing some of you there!

 

A Little Bit of Everything

As usual, sorry for the blog hiatus.  Time has just been zipping by, but that’s what happens when you’re busy from sun up to sun down.  So, let’s see what’s new.

I’ve planted a ton of new fruit trees and berry bushes in the garden.  At the last minute I decided to try some blueberries and put three plants in this evening and added some sulfur to acidify the soil and mulched them with dried out cedar needles.

I also planted two different varieties of Goumi, which fixes nitrogen in the soil and grows an edible berry.  It’s related to the Russian Olives that grow here wildly so I figure it’ll do fine.  I planted them in among the fruit trees so that when I cut it back its roots will die back and feed the fruit trees.

The garden looks amazing and the first thing I do every morning is go check on it and just soak it all in.  The sugar snap peas have started coming in full tilt and there’s more lettuce and spinach than I know what to do with.  The first little green tomatoes have appeared on the early variety tomato plants, and there’s already some little zucchinis in the making as well.

I have a work exchanger from Nebraska who I’ll call “Dan” for privacy’s sake among other inside joke reasons… He’s been helping me since early May.  He’s staying through the 4th of July weekend when I’ll be holding an earthen plaster party and having a large bonfire down at the lake.  If you’re interested in coming just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll get you info.

Mid-way through May I also had a couple visitors from St. Louis who stayed for a week and helped me raise the wind generator.  I would’ve raised it sooner but it had been far too windy, and now that it’s up the wind hasn’t come back.  I’d like to have gotten higher above the trees but it just wasn’t easily done without cutting a bunch of trees and having a lot of ugly guy-wires all over the place.  I may have to cut the tops off a few trees to get some better air flow, but it still spins regularly.  I’m thinking about getting a small solar setup to augment it in the meantime.

Dan and I have gotten a lot done on the interior of the roof, and tomorrow we’ll be filling over half of it with cellulose insulation made up of recycled paper.  I also put quite a bit of alpaca wool scraps in there, but it was nowhere near enough and apparently all the other alpaca farmers sent their scraps to the gulf to help with the oil spill.

I’ve also installed the basic wiring for the house and put in the breaker box.  I used the chainsaw to cut out the depressions for the switches and outlets, and then attached the boxes to a plywood wedge and pounded it in between the bales to secure it.  I left them jutting out a little over an inch so that they’ll be flush once the wall is plastered.

With the help of my dad, Charlotte, Jessica, and Dan we’ve also got a bunch of mushroom logs inoculating.  Right now there are 3 different kinds, shiitake, chicken of the woods, and reishi.  I have another large bag of plug spawn for maitake(hen of the woods), which I need to get plugged in the next few weeks.  I won’t actually have any mushrooms for at least 6 months, possibly a year.

The main trees that needed to be removed from the dam have been cut down and piled up for the bonfire on the 4th.  The roots can penetrate the heart of the dam and cause leaks.  There’s quite a few more trees that need to come out though and there’s already enough wood down there for several large fires.  While I was clearing one day I almost stepped on a fawn in the reeds by the lake.  It was clearly scared, but just hoping that I didn’t see it or would ignore it.  I somehow just expect animals of that size to run, even if they’re small.

We also cleared the tour route and cut back the grass so ticks won’t be a big issue when I give tours.  The ticks haven’t been bad, and the only reason I get them at all is because Pink brings them in on his fur and they fall of in my bed in the camper.  I’m working on getting a lavendar oil/water mix to spray on him so that hopefully the ticks won’t hold on to his fur.  The mosquitoes are just now getting kind of annoying and aren’t nearly as bad as they were this time last year.

I’ve got 200 pounds of hydrated lime slaking in preparation for making lime mortar, i.e. lime putty and sand, which I’ll use to mortar rocks against the foundation wall of the house.  I’d come up with the plan of using the rocks surrounding the foundation wall at the old cabin.  My dad told me that they actually got the rocks from an old farm house that had been on the property so far, so this would be the 3rd time they’d been used.  However, I passed a granite counter place in Jefferson City that just had piles of broken granite pieces and I’m talking to them trying to see if they’ll sell or let me have it.  In which case I might have a really pretty foundation wall material, not to mention a great material for mosaic counter-tops, furniture in-lays, etc.

I took a fantastic trip down to a place called Jack’s Fork in south east Missouri.  It’s actually in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  We went canoeing one day, and exploring water falls and springs the next.  There also a bunch of really interesting caves.  Surprisingly, the water was almost perfectly clear.  I have a bunch of fun and interesting stories from the trip and I’m contemplating whether to post that kind of stuff on the Maya Creek blog.  I know I make this pretty personal, but it has a pretty specific scope.  Let me have your input on whether I should branch out or not.

I’m having a hard time believing it’s June already.  I still think I should have everything done to live in the house this winter, but I’m getting a little anxious.  The trip to Jack’s Fork this last weekend and the wedding I’m going to in North Carolina this coming weekend have me feeling like I’m not getting enough done.  I had a couple other trips planned later in the summer, but I may have to cancel them depending on my progress out here.  I’ve definitely got one new work exchanger coming out at the beginning of July from Ohio, and very possibly a second one from New Jersey coming at the same time.  Having help is fantastic. It’s great to get so much done, but also to have someone to hang out with.

Hopefully, I’ll be getting back to my regular 2 week posting rate, but we’ll see.