My oldest son Mike is a fungiphile. Ten years ago, he built a very rudimentary mushroom-growing setup and was immediately hooked on all things mycologic. When we moved to Kentucky, a landlord dangled a carrot of grants available for starting a new mushroom business (using his alleged political clout to expedite the process), which never materialized. The letdown was devastating, but Mike’s dream never died.
Fast-forward to 2021: We are now settled on our Homestead. Money is not nearly as tight as it was back then. And most importantly, over the last 10 years we have been able to snipe nearly everything to outfit a full laboratory for pennies on the dollar. Hospital auctions, garage sales, and pawn shops have yielded incredible finds that we would have never been able to afford otherwise. Guy at the pawn shop had no idea what he had: We got a fully functional autoclave for $40.00! These types of things happened with amazing regularity. To us, it was a confirmation that at the right time, this dream would be manifested.
Mike is now literally weeks to months away from actually launching his business, and I couldn’t be more excited for him. He (with help from my brilliant grandkids–yay unschooling!) has done every bit of work himself: Wiring and plumbing, insulation, drywall and painting, installing cabinets and appliances, and even designing a built-in base for his hospital-grade flow hood. The flow hood needed a new filter ($400.00 and several months’ delivery!!!), but that was the biggest expense as far as equipment went. We still need to install flooring and trim, but that will be a larger expense, and we are waiting until we find a really good deal on some laminate flooring.
Starting off, his plans are to produce sterilized substrate and mycelium syringes for home mushroom growers. At first, he is going to concentrate on the basic edible mushrooms: Oyster, Bella, Shitake, etc. As production ramps up, he will start branching out into some more exotic gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. There are even ornamental mushrooms that glow in the dark!
We have some nebulous plans for simple growing kits for homeschoolers. Honestly, there are so many possible avenues here, we’re not sure where we’re going to end up with this!
Oak logs will be inoculated with Shitake mycelium, and in two years we will begin harvesting fresh Shitakes! Excess product will be dehydrated and powdered with spice blends for gourmet cooking.
The laboratory will not just be for mushrooms, however. Tiny house (camper!) living has put a big crimp in many of my hobbies: Lacto fermenting veggies and making kefir, kombucha, and yogurt. Once we are up and running, I hope to produce some YouTube how-to videos on these processes.
We will now have room for our distiller, which will allow us to make our own essential oils and hydrosols. Looking forward to foraged honeysuckle and mint oil and the ability to produce our own salves, lotions, etc.
Wine and beer brewing are also on the drawing board. I’m really excited to make some wine with the blackberries and mulberries on the property next year. When we lived in Kentucky, Justin made a batch of blackberry wine. It was so incredible, Jenny and I could not keep out of it, and we ended up drinking most of his wine in a very short period of time. It’s about time I replaced it! And being a craft beer snob, I look forward to Justin experimenting with brewing some low-alcohol probiotic beers.
Our old well house was falling apart, and the new laboratory was placed directly behind it. Mike has fashioned a new sturdy well house, which will be painted and roofed to match. This spring Justin and I will work on landscaping around the lab, and there are future plans for a mud room.
I’m just so proud of Mike for working so hard to get things put together. I am also amazed that the less we fretted about it and tried to force things to happen, the easier the process became. By the time we got to the point where we actually had a building, the entirety of the lab was sitting in our huge garage, just waiting for a place to call home. A couple crazy call weeks at work provided the money needed to purchase the insulation, drywall, and paint. A stranger unexpectedly gifted us the exact kind of stove Mike wanted. The entire kitchen (upper and lower cabinets, countertop, pantry, and sink) was found locally for $100.00. Office desk and chair were 10.00. Filing cabinets were 10.00. We found a pristine leather loveseat at Habitat for Humanity for $50.00. Even the miniblinds were sniped at an auction for just a couple of dollars.
Shortly, it will be time to purchase the consumables for production. Costs for that should be fairly reasonable, so we should be able to get what he needs pretty quickly. In the meantime, I will be working on setting up an Etsy account for him and beefing up his social media presence.
All in all, it’s been a wild ride watching Mike’s dream fall into place. We have lugged a lot of equipment to many different houses, knowing that eventually it would all come together, but not knowing when. Can’t wait to see what’s next…