Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recent Doin's at Small Batch

Mushroom business off and running. Here I am drilling 5 gallon buckets, holes about 6 inches apart vertically and a couple inches apart sideways, to stuff with grain spawn and substrate.
In goes a handful of grain. You want about one grain per square inch. I went a little heavier since I'm new to this, and not using a pasteurized substrate.
Trash can half full of soaked wheat straw. Half a bale fits in these 30 gallon models, so I do 2 cans at a time. I stuffed eight 5-gallon buckets with a soaked 40 lb bale of straw.
Keep layering straw and grain spawn every 3-ish inches. Pack it tight! Be better if it was chopped; you could get more in there. Sawdust works too I think. I'll try some sawdust next round, since there's a cabinet maker nearby with a dumpster full of sawdust free for the taking.
Two stacked and bagged to retain humidity. I hope this works. The temperature is just about right these days (55-75F) for the Po Hu variety of Pleurotus ostreatus I'm growing. Humidity needs to be HIGH, and outside is more humid than in for sure! I don't have a climate controlled room yet, may never, so I hope the bags will do. Should I seal up the bottom with soil or mulch?
Four bagged stacks, 8 buckets, 1 bale of wheat straw soaked in cold water for 3 days, 2 lbs of oyster grain spawn.
Next bale on to soak. These cans are really heavy when they're full of water, so I put them in the blueberry patch (very young blueberries still) before I filled them, thinking they might benefit from the tannic water after the straw has soaked. Old-and-busted in the background is slowly coughing up its parts for poultry/rabbit coops and tractors, and goat sheds. I'm hoping it's gone by spring, and since it was a boat garage in a former life, I'll grow a crop of sunflowers and mustard greens to accumulate heavy metals from the site. Maybe an oyster mushroom crop too. Oyster mushrooms can actually digest petroleum derivatives and metabolize heavy metals. Some say that they digest environmental toxins so completely that you could eat them after bioremediation! Not sure I'm that hungry yet.This afternoon Ella and I installed 5 worm towers in the sweet potato bed. You can see the large white PVC pipe sticking out, 2 in this view. As you can see, peppers and tomatoes are still going strong here in the zone 8 piedmont/coastal plain ecotone! We're testing these out with some leftover plumbing pipe in this one bed to see if they're worth using on a larger scale, and to make sure the plastic behaves. They're full of holes below ground level, and the idea is that the worms will come in to dine on compost we throw in there, down to 16" deep, and then leave their juicy castings all over the bed, tilling and fertilizing Nature's way. Not a lot of natural precedent for rototillers in a temperate climate. All of my annuals grow in double reach beds done Emilia Hazelip style.
Close-up of one of the worm towers filled to ground level with weeds and compost. Leave the really heavy stuff out as worms aren't much for eating banana and orange peels, and don't particularly care for aliums either. They love coffee grounds and tea though! The post-hole-diggers found some small and unexpected sweet potatoes maybe a foot deep, so I have a lot of hope that next season will produce a lot of them. Doesn't my sand look nice after a season's love??
I'm finding out how tough it is to grow food under Sugarberry trees (Celtis laevigata), but this bowl of radishes, a late zuke, and especially the little loquat tree!, seem to be doing just fine. I'll repeat this successful pattern more next season. Figs and tea camellias were a no go. They will find a new home for 2011.
A little stash of fall greens, complete with the requisite chicken barrier. They don't come up this far usually, but better safe than sorry. It works just as well as a kitten confounder.
New fire pit back near the livestock paddock. Woke up to a cool drizzly morning today and just thought we were going to need a hot fire. It was perfect.
Also started work on the central chicken coop of my rotational paddock system today. My 2 Americauna pullets are looking on eagerly. Woo-hoo!! Thirty-six square foot mansion. How spacious!
Their eggs are prized by French chefs and 007! Brought this breeding trio of French standard Black Copper Marans home last night. They're the ones that lay the dark chocolate brown eggs. Supposed to be the best quality egg available. We take our food very seriously around here! Oh, and my 2 crazy guineas seem to have taken a shine to ol' Chaucer.

Well there you go - a tour around Small Batch circa November 3rd, 2010. Hope you enjoyed it!

Tripp out.


  1. wow wow wow!! this is the post ive been waiting for. Looks like macon is a-okay you are maximizing the benefits of the climate. hows it going with the neighbors? really interesting about the mushrooms..by the creek here is probably a good place for me to grow them as i see plenty of natural ones popping up - too bad i hate mushrooms. i saw a demo at the farmers market about drilling into logs and putting spores in. okay, if it starts with "spores" im probably not that hungry either. Love the new pea hens...they are so white that hawks will see them easily. the marans are gorgeous. i really have liked my barred rocks eggs...they are almost as big as large standard eggs but in a compact bantam bird. and they ride nice and quiet. unlike the miserable belgiums.

    broccoli is doing well here, onions on track. i was in ATL during the first freeze and lost some herbs. tomorrow i will make the vizqueen domes over the broc and lettuce. ive got onions and still a ton of peppers. i have never in my life seen as many jalapenos as i did this year.

    im concerned about a crop rotation for next year. i dont know how i can have tomatoes on the south end..the tree line makes it get light too late. i might have to till up more land...unless you have a better idea

    awesome post. I loved it and have some ideas. good reading about the worms - im applying that wisdom TODAY

    -mean dovey cooledge

  2. I like this post great work indeed well don keep posting
    Double Beds

  3. Like your Blog!

    Would fore go the sawdust at the cabinent makers...They use a lot of laminates which contain formaldehyde & other toxins. Don't know if it will work, but you can get chips free from the contractor's that keep the power/phone lines clear of trees.

    Not sure what kind of varmits you have there, but my rural property has about everything. So under my chicken wire I used 2X4 horse fencing dug down one foot deep to keep them out and I covered the top in chicken wire to keep them from climbing in on the wire/posts...if you lock your chickens in at night this would be unnecessary. My run remains open and they can get out even if I'm gone for a few days.


  4. Dovey, you'd make the best mushroom dealer since you wouldn't dip into your stash like I do! Have you tried oyster or shiitake? Very delicious. And uber nutritious too. Top shelf medicine in Asian cultures. The guineas do indeed draw in the hawks - saw a beautiful juvenile sharp-shinned the other day - but they sure as hell let everyone within 3 blocks know about it too! Should I have onions in the ground? From seed or sets?

    Qasar, thanks for stopping by!

    Jerry, thank for the advice about the cabinet dust. Good point. I'm going to need logs for shiitake cultivation, so I guess I better just go ahead and start making friends with the tree service folks. I'm going to make that coop pretty darn tight, but I've lost a few birds (including both turkeys!) to predators, so I owe them. Can't wait for eggs again! I hate paying $5/dz for inferior eggs.

  5. I really appreciate how well you document your urban farming with photos and how-to instructions. I would like to grow edible mushrooms here in Seattle. After Thanksgiving, I can get a lot of free straw bales from local grocers who use them for store displays.

    However, I just learned about a nasty herbicide called chlorpyralid which is commonly used in Eastern Washington wheat farms and ends up in non-organic straw bales.

    Seattle Tilth warned me that the herbicide in the straw shouldn't be used to mulch edibles, especially not anything in the nightshade family. It can kill or stunt the growth of those plants.

    Most of the straw bales available in W. WA come from the corporate wheat deserts of E. WA. The research I found indicates that the herbicide from manure produced by herbivores who eat chlorpyralid-treated hay survives hot composting. Evidently, the herbicide just passes through cows and horses. However, nobody seems to know whether chlorpyralid is dangerous to human health.

    Can you get organic straw bales in Georgia? Have you heard whether mushrooms grown in a bucket of chlorpyralid-treated straw could be harmful to humans? Has anybody else heard bout chlorpyralid?

  6. Su said:
    "Seattle Tilth warned me that the herbicide in the straw shouldn't be used to mulch edibles, especially not anything in the nightshade family. It can kill or stunt the growth of those plants."

    Having a hard time finding specific information of whether or not the straw I'm getting contains chlorpyralid residues. But to approach this from a different angle, if chlorpyralid does indeed stunt nightshades, I'd say mine didn't, since I mulched my nightshades quite heavily with it, and they got pretty darn big and were productive.

    One thing I'm discovering is that plants grown in healthy living soil and companion-planted with beneficial permaculture guild members, can process environmental toxins more effectively than we give them credit for. So can humans! Mushrooms take this ability to the extreme.

    So I say pile on the biomass, utilize symbiotic mushrooms species in the garden, involve your livestock every chance you get to increase biological fertility, and enjoy the hell out of whatever you're doing;)

    See the link to Geoff Lawton's YouTube video "Greening the Desert" over in the right column of my blog under "Videos Worth Watching". He talks about how the mushrooms they used were locking up salt and making it inert under some pretty hairy conditions. Great video if you haven't seen it.

    Thanks for stopping back by!

  7. Thanks, Tripp, for your response. Either your straw is clean, or your soil is strong enough to defeat the herbicide residue.

    I just watched both parts of "Greening the Desert" after clicking on the link you posted on CFN. I was astounded to see mushrooms growing in the desert. If permaculture can desalinate land in Jordan, it can probably take care of stray herbicides. I've been pruning back trees and taking out non-native ornamentals on my little homestead, so I have a lot of material for hugelkultur. I'll plant native blueberries and huckleberries on top. Western Washington is a perfect environment for growing mushrooms, so I will give them a try.

  8. Su, here's the symbiotic mushroom spore for garden veggies:


    Scroll down to "MycoGrow for Vegetables."

    The price has almost doubled since I bought a pound a year and a half ago! Apparently our secret is out.

    Here's a 1.5 lb offering for $50 from another company, although I've never used them before.


    Doesn't have any effect on brassicas, so don't waste it on them. Otherwise, I've really enjoyed the results, sometimes totally unexpected results, from using it.

  9. If it's any reassurance, we used black bin liners over sycamore stumps inoculated with oysters in our woodland this year. We had a very hot and dry summer but the bin liners kept the stumps from drying out and we've had a great harvest of mushrooms within 12 months of felling the trees. Before spring, we'll put the bin bags back to protect the stumps until next autumn.