Garden finds, mystery squash, and pretty things

Heading out to do my morning rounds, it was already getting really hot. As I write this, we’ve reached 28C/82F, and we’re still about 5 hours away from when the hottest part of the day usually hits. We’ve got forecasts for possible thundershowers this afternoon. I hope we at least get some rain, but I doubt it.

The spinach we set out to dry in the sun room was… wimpy. πŸ˜€ I set them up outside, covered with mosquito netting, to dry in the sun and wind. We’ll see how it works. Meanwhile, once the oven is available, after making a spinach frittata, I plan to set some up to dry in there.

I had a very pleasant surprise while checking the garden.

The bigger Crespo squash plant has flower buds! Quite a few of them. It looks like it’s all male flowers for now, just like with the other squash.

Speaking of squash, we have some mystery squash!

These have popped up in the old compost pile. I’m not sure what they are. When we cleaned up the squash beds last fall, we used the old compost pile instead of dragging everything across the yard, but I didn’t think anything went in there that had mature seeds. The only think I can think of is the pumpkin. They were planted very late, and the few pumpkins were quite small and green when the first frost hit and killed them off.

It would be cool if they were pumpkins! Whatever they are, I’ve been watering them, too. πŸ˜€

Then we have these, near the pink rose bush in the old kitchen garden.

I had spotted them last night, when they were just little bumps breaking through the ground. They tripled in size, overnight.

In setting up the old kitchen garden beds this spring, one of the things I made sure to do was make paths that allowed us to enter and exit the garden in several places. The straw covered path that runs across the far end of the garden, near the beets against the retaining wall, continues around one of the rhubarbs and out the middle.

It now has a “gate.”

An asparagus gate!

It always amazed me that these are still coming up at all. There were more of them, when I was a kid. My mother had asked about them, not that long ago, and she mentioned that these were here before my parents bought the property. Which means they’ve been growing here for at least 60 years. I’ve never seen spears suitable for harvesting, but that’s okay. I love the ferns!

Now, they make a lovely gate across the path. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Drying mushrooms – sort of

At our last Costco trip, we picked up large packages of three different types of mushrooms. After using as much fresh mushrooms as we wanted, I planned to dehydrate the rest. I really like the mushroom salt we’d made, but wanted to have mushroom powder, without the salt, to use. The powder is an excellent flavour enhancer.

We had used a dry “gourmet mushroom blend” we’d picked up at Costco to make the salt, but it looks like they don’t carry it anymore. So I decided to just dry our own mushrooms.

I had used a coffee grinder to made the mushroom powder for the salt. The mushroom blend had some very large pieces – large enough that I cut them with scissors before I could put them in the coffee grinder. Even so, some of the thicker, more leathery pieces would jam the blade.

With that in mind, I very deliberately sliced the mushroom pieces quite thin, before laying them out on baking sheets to dry. I had enough button mushrooms to fill one sheet, while the other was filled with shitake and crimini mushrooms. The “warm” setting on our new oven is 175F, but I put it at the lowest temperature it would go: 145F. Then I left the trays in the oven overnight.

This morning…

Well… they did dry very thoroughly!

This is the sheet of white button mushrooms. They had been quite crowded together, and I could barely fit all the pieces in. They are now about 1/3 – 1/2 the size before drying.

They are also thoroughly stuck to the pan.

The shitake mushrooms didn’t shrink anywhere near as much, and were easy to loosen.

These are the crimini mushrooms, which are also very stuck to the pan! I have been using a spatula to try and scrape them off. We’ll keep working at it, little by little, as we are able, throughout the day.

Well, I wanted powdered mushroom, and I’m getting powdered mushroom!

Normally when I dehydrate in the oven on pans, I like to use a cake rack to allow air circulation under whatever I’m drying. Some things are just too small for that, which is why I didn’t use any this time. I was thinking that it might have been better if I’d had a drying screen, but looking at how the pieces have adhered to the pans, I’m thinking they would have done the same to a screen. At least with a pan, I can scrape them off and still use them. If they had stuck to a screen, there probably would have been no way to get them unstuck without damaging the screen.

So in the future, I’ll know to cut crimini and white button mushrooms thicker! I know we should be able to leave them whole, or just cut them in half, but I don’t want big pieces. I’ll have to find that balance.

We’ll just have to get more mushrooms and try again.

Not that we need an excuse to get more mushrooms! πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Recommended: What the Fungus

Welcome to my β€œRecommended” series of posts. These will be weekly – for now – posts about resources and sites I have found over the past while that I found so excellent, I want to share them with you, my dear readers. πŸ™‚ Whether or not I continue to post these, and how often they are posted, will depend on feedback. Please feel free to comment below, and if you have a favorite resource of your own, do share, and I will review them for possible future posts.

I hope you find these recommendations as useful and enjoyable as I have!

When I was a kid, I refused to eat mushrooms.

Especially morel mushrooms, which we found in various places here on the farm. I thought they looked like brains.

My parents, being Polish, loved mushrooms, but couldn’t make me eat them.

To this day, I have yet to taste a morel mushroom.

I have, however, developed a taste for other mushrooms, and even an interest in the idea of growing them at home. I had discovered a website that sold different types of mushroom spores, which I didn’t even know was a thing until then. We were still living in the city, however, so the closest we ever got to growing mushrooms was to buy an oyster mushroom kit we saw at a grocery store. Once.

It didn’t grow very well, but we did get a couple of mushrooms out of it.

Since moving back to the farm, we have talked about buying spores and inoculating areas around the farm. I have been interested in trying morel mushrooms, but have only ever seen very expensive dried ones in stores. Since I already know they can grow here in the wild, it seemed logical to inoculate an area somewhere closer to the house.

Unfortunately, the website I’d found years ago has disappeared. I found a few other sites, but they were all US based.

Then I saw a video on a YouTube channel I’ve recommended previously, The Urban Farmer talking about a company called What the Fungus.

Oh, have I been smitten!

For starters, they are Canadian. They might be in BC, but it still makes being able to find varieties that will grow here in our province much greater.

What is awesome is that this company doesn’t just grow and sell fresh mushrooms, mushroom spores and the things you need to grow them. They provide a lot of information and support to teach people how to start a viable mushroom growing business for themselves.

With the current Wuhan virus shut downs, they are now producing videos that focus on how to continue to run a business and make an income when almost all avenues for sales are no longer available.

While most of their growing videos involve greenhouses or indoor mushroom farms, they also have videos on growing mushrooms on logs, outdoors. Which is more in line with what we were originally thinking of doing here at the farm.

Their video channel is a wealth of information, from how to grow different types of mushrooms, to equipment used, to financial concerns.

On their website, you can buy mushroom kits and supplies and, if you are in their area of BC, order fresh mushrooms. They even have a mentorship program for those interested in commercial mushroom growing.

Now, we’re just interested in growing mushrooms for our own use. We have lots of mushrooms growing wild here at the farm, but I have no idea which ones are safe to eat (except morels, which I have yet to look for since we’ve moved here, because where I remember finding them is actually on the other quarter section that’s rented out), so this would be a way to have mushrooms we can be sure are edible. We would also be able to grow varieties that are either not available locally in stores, or are way out of our budget.

After discovering What the Fungus, however, I am starting to feel that growing commercially is something we could do at some point. Right now, this farm makes no money. We don’t own it, so we’re not the ones paying the taxes or the property insurance (and the income from the renter barely covers the taxes, if I remember correctly), but the maintenance of this place is almost all out of our own rather limited pockets. As it stands now, at some point, when my husband and I are no longer able, it’s already planned for the girls to take over as caretakers, and it would be good to have things set up so they can run a profitable farm, even on just the few acres that aren’t rented out. So this is one of the avenues we can consider in the longer term.

With the wealth of information and resources available in the videos and on the website, this actually seems quite feasible!

Big Tree ‘shroom!

While taking my walk around the yard, I noticed a new tree mushroom by the collapsing log shed in the yard.

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Unlike the others I’ve found, this one was quite low down, so this photo was me holding my phone under it and hoping for the best!

I’m happy with how it turned out.

It amazes me just how fast these things can grow!Β  One day, there’s nothing but tree trunk.Β  A few days later, there’s a huge mushroom.

I have no idea what kind they are.Β  Something to research in the future, I think. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

I see you!

While walking around the yard this morning, picking up branches fallen after last night’s high winds and a bit of a storm, something caught my eye.

I ended up having to grab a stool to get any photos, since standing in my tip-toes, stretching as high as I could and using voice commands to take pictures, wasn’t quite cutting it. πŸ˜‰

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These pretty little mushrooms are tucked into the V split of the large maple that is causing me so much concern about the power lines.

I love finding these little, hidden surprises. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

There are fungus among us

My apologies for the bad pun… πŸ˜€

Walking through the West yard, we noticed these, high above our heads…

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This is on one of the three big maples near the fire pit.

They showed up very quickly; I know for sure they weren’t there, just a couple of days ago!

Looking around, we found these on another branch of the same tree.

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That’s as much as I could zoom in with my phone’s camera and still get a half decent photo.

Of course, we immediately started looking around the other trees for more, but found none, so we continued on through where I had been working this morning.Β  We ended up going through the rest of the maple grove, too, and found more!

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These were just a few feet above our heads.

Whatever these mushrooms are, they like maples, they like the spaces where branches used to grow, long ago, and they grow really fast!

The Re-Farmer