Because there’s so much cool stuff.
So much has been happening the past month! For starters, the Birch trees have come into full foliage, which blocked our line-of-sight antennae to the repeater tower of our ISP, so we’ve been without internet for a couple of weeks. Thankfully this situation was resolved today by a professional (thanks to Mats). The compost pile has a load of horse manure added and it has heated up quite nicely.
But yes, onto projects!
I downloaded (LEGALLY of course) a copy of “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Cultured Foods” by Sandor Elix Katz. The digital copy was parsed a little weird, but thankfully a friend here in Finnskogen has a hard-copy, which they were not able to read because their reading list got too large, and loaned out to us here at Solbakken.
I’ve been brewing kombucha and kefir before, using a nifty culture hack I stumbled across at Instructables, and I had a short but successful run fermenting tempeh when I was living in the bus; However I had not stepped into the wide, wild world of lacto-fermenting vegetables, making vinegar, and such. All that has now changed. Especially with going to a predominately plant-based diet (for the time being, blame Dr. Whals), eating “pickled” vegetables makes the nutrients more bioavailable.
Fermented projects so far include:
-Kimchi (we’re on our 2nd batch now)
-Onion-Rye Sourdough bread (my personal favorite bread, not so much gluten as the wheat breads)
-Braided Challah bread
-A sourdough-modified recipe on a raw sprouted-grain bread based on a recipe originally used by the Essenes. Dang that was a lot to type out; I’ll use the term “‘Essene’ bread” from now on, and you’ll excuse the blatant cultural appropriation. Vær så godt
-Alaskan Sourdough hotcakes
-Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes
-Vinagre de Piña (Pineapple vinager, still in progress)
-Fruit Scrap Vinegar (still in process)
-Raw milk kefir
-Almond/oat milk kefir (the kefir culture is versatile, and can ferment most grain/seed milks)
The raw/fermented food revolution is booming in our home, but as exciting as all this is, I’m even more excited about the Open-Source Protein project. . .so where were we. . .um, we had oyster mushrooms, tried a couple of different modes for fruiting (that were not that impressive, to be fair), then. . . .compost worms. No, we didn’t buy worms, we were given some by a friend who collects them for fishing (I like to think of it as an animal rescue on our part. We’re not going to kill the worms to get another animal on our dinner plate. . .we feed the worms our delectable food scraps and collect their manure for plant fertilizer and mushroom feed).
And HERE is where it all gets cool. Permaculture, vermicomposting, and mushroom farming, all in one.
The Oyster mushrooms LOVE the worm-castings, and both the fungus and the worms love spent coffee grounds, as well as general kitchen waste. The worms are faster at eating, but the mushroom is a slow, thorough march whereas the worms will eat their weight in food waste every day. The oyster mushroom however, loves to eat the worm casts, so the two get along quite well.Materials. Make it like a vermicompost bin, but crumble oyster mushroom culture on the bottom layer of paper/cardboard.
Once the worms and mushroom got settled in, it was just 1) add food and 2) stir the mycelium every week to break it up and redistribute it (it helps it propogate faster). If you have moss readily available, you can just set a thin layer on top to hold in moisture and it looks a lot more koselige than a piece of cardboard.
Among the food waste that was added to this bin was the remains of a melon (cantaloupe), including the see
ulp. P. Ostreatus is a saprophage so it only feeds on dead matter, and these seeds were still alive, so instead of digesting them, it waited for them to sprout, and then went immediately into a mycorrhizal relationship with the new roots. The seeds have been removed and planted, now to see how they do this summer
As the mycelium filled out, I changed the top layer of moss to take some of the worms to the safety of another compost bin, as I assumed the mycelium would force them out as it grew in. Two weeks ago I poured a couple of pitchers’ worth of water into the culture, and allowed it to drain off (keeping the rich dark yellow/brown tea to water plants). After a few days the culture began to show pins. . .this time much larger than previous fruitings in the fruiting chamber. 2 days later, we had well over 200 grams of mushroom.
Well said, Wendell.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS
When these beauties were harvested several worms were seen rapidly fleeing the scene into the mycelium. They were too fast and strong to catch, so they slipped away. I dug down to the bottom of the culture in just that one corner of the tub to discover the worms were alive and well, thriving throughout the mycelial network and cleaning up small dead regions of mycelium (the mycelium then absorbs the casts and in this way seems to repair itself.
It reminded me of a BBC documentary where David Attenborough was explaining coral reefs as a super-organism. This discovery of sustainable symbiosis of the compost worms and p. ostreatus has led me to dub this superorganism “Garden Coral”
That’s it, no witty ending tale or quaint quotes, just a final picture demonstrating the indomitable will to thrive
The Open-Source Protein project continues on.
Fungi, like most *every other living thing* need variety. Some of the tried and tested complementary substrates have been
– Root vegetables (carrots, leeks) and tubers (yams/sweet potatoes)
– Yerba Mate (p. ostreatus consumes it faster than anything else we’ve tried)
– Cat hair
– Fresh kombucha scoby
– Moose manure (tried in a different location from the other cultures. Mushrooms for me, yeah. Moose-leavings? Nahh)
– Dried kombucha scoby cleaned with a vinegar wash. The fungus simply routed around, though it never molded
The first jar of culture that we naturalized with cat hair has sprouted a cluster of fruitbodies in the past day and a half. New blend of coffee/yerba-mate are developing strong mycelium.
2 jars have been naturalized in the developing compost pile.
1. Red-wrigglers (vermicompost) also like coffee grounds, and many species of mushroom will readily feast on worm-castings with all the rest. Waiting for it to get warm enough that the worms come up into the compost more.
Hypothesis: Worms (great soil-builder/decomposer) and p. ostreatus mycelium will form symbiotic bonds filling in complimentary ecological niches. Increase rate/thoroughness of compost process. If a developed culture is installed in middle of raised garden beds, the oyster mushroom mycelium will also form symbiotic/mycorrhizal bonds with the vegetable roots.
2. Seeing as how p. ostreatus can digest crude oil and nuclear waste (? Trying to find source), and kombucha can partially break down rubber and lower-grade plastics (it turned the rubber gasket on a flip-top locking bottle to a nasty goo. Bottling with caps is a lot better), one wonders if the two can work in tandem to accomplish bio-recycling (related to bioremediation). If the kombucha scoby can be inoculated with that culture they found in South America hat digests nylon, like it can with kefir, the sky’s the limit.
Oh! And before I forget. . .if you happen to find a (**legitimately licensed, of course) copy of the 2-volume set of “Edible Forest Gardens” by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, READ IT. There are very few “should”s in this world, this is one of them
So there’s a story involving some hurricanes hitting Norway in the winter of ’11-’12, infrastructure disruption, and mail that was way late.
My parents sent us an oyster mushroom growing kit produced by the good fellows at Backtotheroots.com as a Christmas gift. I am a major fan of the company and what they are doing, and I have cultivated mushrooms in the past. . .the major block for continuing production (or for starting production in the first place) is the cleanliness issue.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a slob, and I enjoy living in a clean house, but the cost for starting and maintaining a sterile lab environment are prohibitive to most, not to mention the investment of time that is required. So this project (“Open-Source Protein”) is setting to the task of finding a method (or family of methods) to start and maintain cultivation of this wonderfully healthy source of protein.
So in the 2 months since we finally received our package the loose timeline is as follows:
The project starts
T+7 days: We followed the instructions (cut a “+” and soak the culture-bag. Mist twice a day, expose to indirect sunlight) to no avail. The culture block started secreting a yellow brine, with no other activity
T+9 days: A snap decision is made to save the culture, which is only secreting more of this discharge into its bag. Some jars filled 2/3 with coffee grounds are sterilized in a pressure cooker. 12 hours later, with a clean knife wiped in a strong vinegar solution, small sections of the culture block are cut off, and crumbled into the coffee grounds.
T+12 days: Two of the jars of coffee grounds have been successfully inoculated, one of them is showing the first signs that it has been infested with the dreaded Trichoderma mold. It is immediately disposed of, and the tupper box holding the other two jars is wiped clean. Turns out that sterilization isn’t the way to go, especially with open air (non-sterile/lab conditions) culturing. I’m not so used to being over-effective at things 😛
T+16 days: Several more jars have been inoculated (thanks to the local café for their spent coffee-ground donations. We can’t drink THAT much coffee, try as we might). The two jars from the first batch are fully covered with mycelium, and are now being naturalized to other foodstuffs (a small sliver of a fresh, well-brewed kombucha culture in one, and some cat-hair in the other (hair contains protein, and oyster mushrooms can eat most anything, they just have to develop the enzymes first). Now the great ironic fun: The original block (which we’ve been continuing to mist/fan 2wice a day and keeping in a clear tupper box) finally started to fruit!
There are now 13 jars with healthy cultures growing on coffee grounds. 1 jar/culture has been soaked, and is in the fruiting chamber with the original culture.
Harvesting the ‘shrooms off of the original culture in a few days, and cooking them up (mmmmm, tasty. . .). Naturalizing some more cultures to various complementary substrates (Ash/poplar sawdust, book paper, human hair, etc) and hoping the jar that was soaked will fruit. Stay tuned!
Many individuals and groups of people around the world are creating, modifying, and improving high efficiency gardening techniques. We here at Soria Moria are working on getting a window-garden set up (for herbs and leafy vegetables), and laying out plans for a raised-bed garden outside. These assorted projects have many goals in mind, but some of the key themes are
– Ecological sustainability
The impact on the environment should be small enough that the ecosystems involved/affected are not permanently or adversely affected
– Economic solvency
The cost to the individual to produce their food should be less than the costs to import/ship the food from the sites of production.
You don’t have to be a doomsday prophet to realize that infrastructure is sometimes disrupted (and the more centralized/hierarchal the infrastructure, the longer the rebound time). Storms, trade embargoes, war, strikes, and more can affect the flow of food to consumers.
– Health concerns
Currently there are battles being fought against the multinational corporation Monsanto (producer of Agent Orange) for their use of patented genetically-modified crops, and the whole ensuing legal headache that wreaks on individuals and smaller producers. But even food crops that are not being used to bully individuals in patent litigation are sprayed with pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and preservatives. Growing food at home or within your community is a way for many to avoid these threats.
Some of these inspiring and promising setups are
While this is all fantastic, and greatly needed, man cannot live on leafy-greens alone. We also need protein. And if there are ethical problems with plant crops, boy howdy are there problems with meat products.
Raising one’s own animals for meat/eggs, or finding ethical hunters willing to sell their excess meat is not a feasible solution for everyone, especially in urban areas. So how do we incorporate protein into a high-efficiency production system? One of the most promising answers to this question is hemp, but due to the smear campaigns in the U.S. during the 1930’s, hemp/cannabis was banned. Hemp seed is an amazing source of protein, but thanks to the laws enacted/enforced by nation-states at the behest of their corporate bedfellows, most cannot acquire this, or grow it for oneself.
Enter: the Oyster Mushroom (pleurotus ostreatus). This amazing saprophytic organism contains anywhere from 15-30% protein, a whole load of amino acids, and many other beneficial nutrients besides.
The fine folks at backtotheroots.com sell grow-your-own kits of oyster mushrooms which give several harvests of oyster mushrooms, but more importantly: They give you a decentralized source of healthy protein.
Let me explain. A living culture can be used to spawn several other cultures, which can be fed with coffee grounds, food waste, you name it. Most mushroom growing strategies involve a working knowledge of lab-style sterile work, a squeaky clean grow room, and a tendency towards OCD. This project will cover the propagation and nurturing of the oyster mushroom culture to produce an amount of protein that satisfies all the points outlined above for vegetable production, in a way that does not require the rigid parameters most often associated with mushroom cultivation.
Updates (with pictures!) to follow
Update! (with pictures)
Click on the photos for more description