January 2022: This Month On The Homestead

The mushroom lab is complete! Mike has some micelium started. When it is mature, he will be hanging up his shingle on Etsy, selling mycelium syringes and substrate to fellow mycologists. We are still waiting on some much-needed supplies, but like everything else, there are “supply chain issues.” Soon, though.

This lab is the culmination of over a decade of dreaming and planning. So many times we were discouraged, thinking it would never happen. The false starts, the lack of funds; it has truly been an uphill struggle.

Then one day a couple months ago a random thought completely unrelated to mushrooms led to a flurry of manifestations. Brilliant ideas started coming. Outside-of-the-box thinking helped us to work around the obstacles in our path, and suddenly it all just fell into place. And here we are, soon-to-be entrepreneurs!

It’s the end of January, and we are chomping at the bit to get this business started. Fortunately, the lab isn’t just about mushrooms. Mike and I have had so much fun playing with different ferments while waiting to launch. So far we have experimented with:

  • Kefir
  • Tepache
  • Wine
  • Lacto Fermented baby carrots
  • Lacto Fermented garlic cloves
  • Rye kvass
  • Rye bread
  • Sourdough bread

Kefir

Kefir getting thick and bubbly!

We have had many successes, and a few spectacular failures. Most heartbreaking was the loss of our kefir grains. Our grains were multiplying and we were able to make a gallon of kefir at a time. Some close-to-spoiling milk tainted the grains, and they took on that “off” flavor, making subsequent batches equally nasty. We just received some new grains on Wednesday and are starting over again. Keeping a family of 7 in kefir is quite a challenge.

Tepache

Bottled tepache, full of glorious probiotics

Tepache is a Mexican fermented pineapple drink, and it is awesome and healthy! The best part is only the skin and core of the pineapple is used, along with some spices and a bit of brown sugar, so it is nearly free to make. Mike has designed an awesome system for brewing, which makes the entire process super easy. I am considering a YouTube video on tepache making.

Wine

First batch of wine after racking off

We had a lot of fun making wine. We lost a batch of white wine because we were keeping it too warm. Being beginners, we started off making wine using just frozen juice from the grocery store. I am so looking forward to using fresh fruit from the homestead: Blackberries, mulberries, and elderberries are on the roster this summer. Mike racked off the first batch into two one-gallon jugs. We bottled one jug and left the other one for an extra week/10 days. The difference in flavor and clarity was amazing. It’s a simple dry grape table wine, nothing fancy. But quite tasty. We are looking forward to honing our skills and making some awesome wine. As soon as we get a quart of local honey, we will be venturing into making mead, which is wine made with honey.

Lacto Fermented Baby Carrots and Garlic

Different fermented veggies

Next to lacto fermented sauerkraut, the baby carrots are a family favorite. Lacto fermented veggies are packed with healthy probiotics for gut health. The fermenting process not only keeps the produce from losing any nutrients (as opposed to cooking or canning), it actually makes the nutrients more bioavailable. I have not fermented garlic all by itself before. Can’t wait to start using it to boost our immunities.

Update: I just checked the garlic. The entire lab was filled with its pungent aroma. Absolutely perfect. The baby carrots are crunchy, slightly sour, and delicious. The new kefir? Not so much. It was spoiled again. I think we may have an issue with fluctuating temps in the lab. But as Ma Ingalls said: “There is no great loss without some small gain.” Still, though, out of everything we’ve been doing the kefir is everyone’s favorite. So there are seven very disappointed people here on the Homestead.

Kvass

Rye kvass starter

Many people are familiar with beet kvass, a fermented drink made from beets. Another traditional kvass is made from rye bread. Quite honestly, we didn’t care for it very much. At some point we are going to try again with some homemade rye bread and see if we can’t improve it the next time.

Rye and Sourdough Bread

I am especially excited about being able to make bread again. This rye bread recipe was my uncle’s from when he was a baker in the 60s-70s. I felt so honored to be able to bring this family recipe back to life, especially as my lovely Uncle Louis had recently passed.

The sourdough bread was a bit more challenging. I don’t think it will be a part of my regular repertoire, as I simply don’t have the time right now to nurture the starter on a daily basis. If I had a full kitchen and was baking bread several times a week, I would definitely incorporate the sourdough, but it’s just too much right now with my job. I can go several days without having a chance to tend to it. Sourdough bread is a fairly complicated endeavor, especially when working in a makeshift kitchen. My two loaves were flat and ugly, but quite delicious.

What’s Next?

February should be quite a busy month. Mike will soon be getting the last few things he needs to launch his Etsy shop. I have done some basic setup on Etsy for him, but we still have a lot of work to do on it before it goes live. We will also be revamping his Facebook page. And then there’s Instagram, which I truly don’t understand. TikTok, Spotify, YouTube……it will definitely be a learning process.

My granddaughter received a neat little Vlogging camera for Christmas. I am hoping to borrow it and start making some simple “how to” videos for YouTube. Again, a big learning curve for me. I am at the age where I simply hand my electronic devices over to my kids to set them up for me.

We will be working on some more wine soon. There is a scoby in the fridge just waiting for us to start some kombucha. And my winter greenhouse has been terribly neglected. I will be venturing in there today after a two-week absence; I should have a ton of kale, greens, radishes, and beets to pick.

It is nearly time to start my seeds for spring. I have a mini greenhouse within the big greenhouse with shelving, heat pads, and lights. It’s hard to believe that spring is just around the corner already.

There are just so many different projects here in the pipeline for us. Lack of time seems to be our biggest obstacle right now. There is so much we want to do, and yet there are still only 24 hours in a day. I look forward to the day I am able to retire and spend my days having fun, doing all the things I am passionate about.

If you have any questions or comments about any of our projects, I would love to chat with you about them. Please contact me and I will be happy to discuss what we are doing here on the Homestead!

Peace and blessings to you. Spring is coming!

Soon!

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