Tag Archives: Mushroom lab

Making Way for The New: Bittersweet Changes

First, The Bittersweet

I have a sad confession to make: I have not set foot into my greenhouse in probably six weeks. Oh, I planted all my winter greens: Radishes by the dozen, all kinds of lettuces and Asian greens. Kale by the yard. Everything was thriving. Hearty salads and cooked greens were just around the corner.

Enter Omicron. Suddenly, EVERYONE needed emergent dialysis. Our poor little community hospital was simply overrun. And, like everywhere else, terribly understaffed. My coworker and I worked basically round-the-clock for six or seven weeks. In one two-week pay period, I worked 130 hours. That doesn’t include my two-hour round trip. When the weather was too bad to drive, or I was too exhausted to drive safely, I would get some blankets from the linen cart and catnap in one of our dialysis chairs at the hospital. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s been a long winter. My ex has been watering the greenhouse plants and putting row covers on during the cold snaps, but I’m fairly certain I’m going to find most of my veggies are well past their prime. The greens have likely bolted. I’m sure I’ll be able to salvage a fair amount, but a lot of it will be destined for the compost (To see my update after I finally gathered the courage to tour the greenhouse, click here).

Winter greens during better days

Last Fall, I built a lovely mini greenhouse for starting my seeds. I haven’t even pulled out my seed packets, and it’s March. Rationally, I understand that a 60-year-old woman working 65-hour weeks isn’t going to have anything left to give during her down time. Many of my days off consisted of two or three long naps and lots of cell phone casino games. Any lucid awake time has been spent working with Mike to get his business off the ground, planning our next steps as a Homestead, and revising our long-term goals. Incredibly time-consuming.

Yet deep down, I still get twinges of guilt, of self-criticism. I feel that I’ve been lazy rather than exhausted. I tell myself I should have prioritized my time better.

However, if I was to be completely honest with myself, I would admit that the hours of work that I put into tending the winter greenhouse is a lot of time expended for minimal returns. While my family does eat the veggies I grow, our kitchen facilities are such that it is quite difficult to process large quantities of the produce. A lot of it gets wasted and ends up in compost. Last winter, when I had more free time, I would take the excess, wash and bag it, and share it with my coworkers. This winter, five uninterrupted hours of sleep felt like a vacation. I have come to the conclusion that it is time to downsize the gardening operation a bit.

My blog posts had ground to a halt as well. I have so much I want to share here and have simply been unable to even consider working on the new projects I have planned. The worst of the Omicron wave seems to be subsiding now, though, and work seems to have settled down for now. Now that Spring seems to be knocking at the door, I am looking forward to getting out with my cameras again and writing a lot more.

Making Way For The New

As a family unit, our thoughts of what long-term financial stability and self-sufficiency means to us have evolved and changed greatly. The plans we had for this property when we bought it five years ago are radically different from the direction we are headed now.

The mushroom culture/substrate business that my son is preparing to launch has potential for great success. With online sales platforms and social media, his reach to potential clients will be global. It is a grossly underserved market with crazy recent growth.

The “Blue Hell Box”

As we transition to a radically different version of “Homesteading,” the property we have now just isn’t going to work for us long-term. So on top of all the other activity going on, we are working on lining up all our financial ducks so we can begin looking for a new property. We love our community and are all adamant about staying in the immediate area. Also, we are all adamant about having a real house with a real inside toilet. Living large.

Anyway, this is what has been going on these past several weeks here at the Homestead. As the weather warms up and I (hopefully) have more time, I am looking forward to sharing a lot more here. I am also looking to try dipping my toe into the YouTube game at some point with some instructional videos.

P.S. I’ve noticed a handful of new followers lately. To my new followers: Welcome! I appreciate all my followers and thank you all for supporting my blog.

Abundance Mushrooms: A Dream Being Realized

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.

So excited to be able to make kefir again

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…

Exciting Change of Plans and Some Pretty Pics

One thing we have learned over the years is to always be willing to change our plans if a better solution presents itself. Our original plan was to build our home using Aircrete, completing one room at a time. The kitchen and living room would be the main “hub”, and all the other rooms would come off of that central hub.

The layout we had chosen dictated that Mike’s mushroom lab (Edible, gourmet, medicinal) be built first. Mike and I tend to be overly-optimistic about large projects: They always seem take five times longer and cost three times more money than we expect. Throw in 3-4 weeks of COVID recovery, and now we are in Fall, looking at a lovely, perfectly level spot where a lab belongs.

Enter Plan B: Mike decided to talk to the cabin/mini-home builders down the road, and ended up purchasing a 12×20 side entry cabin for his lab.

While more expensive overall than the Aircrete structure, this cabin will give Mike something he needs: The time to start generating some income here on the Homestead. We have a level spot already. We are picking up some gravel today and then the cabin can be delivered. Water and electricity are located right next to the lab, so hookups should be fairly straightforward.

An added bonus is that we will get our workshop/garage back. Mike has the entire interior of his lab filling the garage: A full kitchen cabinet set, flow hood, microscopes, fruiting chambers, and boxes upon boxes of miscellaneous equipment, just waiting to be set up and put to use.

I will be posting pics of our progress soon! For now, I got some pretty shots around the Homestead today.