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I Spy With My Little Eye…

December 2nd, 2011

Yesterday afternoon was really beautiful; the sun was shining and it was in the high 30’s temperature wise. Perfect for digging up the back hillside and planting some of the tulips that have been waiting in the garage. About dusk, I wandered back into the maple grove to look around and much to my surprise I noticed some of the my mushrooms logs had started to produce mushrooms!



I guess all that warm rainy weather we’ve been having the last couple weeks made them decide it was time to start fruiting. One of the ‘Pearl Oyster’ logs was producing huge masses of beautiful blonde mushrooms. They were a bit frosty because the temps dipped down into the mid 20’s overnight, but I picked them anyways. The texture might not be quite right, but they’ll still be flavorful in a venison stew.

These logs were inoculated way back on April 21st of this year. I ordered these spawn plugs from Grow Organic this spring, they’re also available from Fungi Perfecti.

Inoculating logs with mushroom spawn couldn’t be easier. Basically you drill holes in the logs 3-4 inches apart in a diamond pattern, pound in the spawn plugs, cover with wax and let sit in a shaded area. After a few months you can start watering the logs to encourage fruiting, or you can let them fruit naturally during spring and fall rains. (since folks were asking in the comments I figured I’d add that the logs are supposed to continue to produce mushrooms for 3-5 years depending on the size of log used and the type of wood used).


I used three different kinds of spawn plugs to inoculate logs this spring, Pearl Oyster, Hen of the Woods (Maitake) and Shiitake. I also inoculated some wood chips in the garden area with Garden Giant and Elm Oyster mushrooms spawn.

After plugging your logs with spawn you’re supposed to put some wax over the holes to keep bad fungus and bacteria out. I will use beeswax next time, but I didn’t have any when I did these logs so I used some extra cheese wax I had in the pantry. I’m not keen on using a petroleum product but it was all I had. I have since purchased some organic beeswax to use this coming spring when I inoculate more logs.

I’ve declared my love of mushrooms before, so being able to grow my own makes me a very happy camper! If all continues to go well with this experiments I’ll be inoculating many more logs this coming spring to keep up enjoying mushrooms by the bushel! My harvest tally for this picking was 3 pounds – not bad indeed!

Have you ever grown mushrooms? Do you think you’d like to try? Yay or nay on mushrooms in your food?

A New Hobby: Roasting Coffee

November 1st, 2011

I’ve talked about our love of coffee several times before. Mr Chiots and I are coffee aficionados; we drink coffee like other people drink wine, talking about the depth of flavor, the crema on the espresso right after brewing, and on and on. We were super happy to find a local source for the most wonderful micro-roasted coffee, but sadly Al quit roasting to sell and we were left sans good fresh micro-roasted coffee beans. Rather than settle for mediocre, we decided to take our normal path and simply start doing it ourselves.

We spent some time researching beans sources and coffee roasters then we took the plunge. There are many people that roast their coffee in an air popcorn popper. Since we’re espresso drinkers and like a dark roast, that wasn’t an option for us. We needed a drum roaster.

After doing much research we found CafeCoffees which is a guy who builds them on a small scale. What we really like about this roaster is that he makes them repairable with parts from the local home improvement store. Whenever possible we like to buy appliances sans electronic controls and made to be repaired. They’re usually more expensive initially but end up being much cheaper over the long term. As small business owners, we also appreciate supporting a small business. The 3 pound roasting capacity of the roaster we purchased was an added benefit since it will save time and money over roasting in smaller batches.


We ordered a collection of espresso beans from Sweet Maria’s, some single origin and some blends. Then we waiting for our roaster to arrive, eagerly anticipating the wonders of home roasted coffee. Our beans arrived about a week before our roaster. To fill in the gap, we had to buy beans from another small local roaster to get us through. Needless to say, our decision to roast at home was backed up by the flat flavor to of that coffee.



Our roaster arrived last Saturday; we set it up and roasted two pounds of coffee on Sunday afternoon. We were happy with the roaster that we chose and were also pleasantly surprised by our roasting results (especially since it was our first batch). Technically you’re supposed wait 2-3 days after roasting for the espresso to “bloom” fully, but we couldn’t wait. We brewed some on Monday morning.


You may think roasting your own coffee at home is difficult and you need special equipment – but it’s not and you don’t. There are some people that simply use an air popcorn popper and some that even do it in a cast iron skillet (which I may try someday when we want some coffee to brew in our Chemex). Basically you put your green coffee beans in your roaster and roast until desired doneness, we like a darker roast so we wait until they start the second crack (sounds like popcorn popping). Then you cool as rapidly as possible and you’re done. We were actually amazed by how easy it was!

Roasting coffee at home also saves money! We purchase our green coffee beans for between $5-$6/lb and our roaster only uses about 5 cents of power for each batch (we can roast up to 3lbs of coffee). Of course it will take us a while to recoup the cost of the roaster, but since we invested in a roaster that will last for years to come so it will save a lot of money over it’s long lifetime.

Our initial efforts aren’t as good as the coffee we used to get from Al, but they’re better than any other coffee we’ve purchased. We’re also using single origin beans at the moment and we like a blend of beans for more depth of flavor. We have a few blends to try as well and we will most likely come up with our own blend with much experimentation. It looks to be a fun and delicious hobby! I’ll keep you posted on our adventures (Oh and I’m planning on making a how-to video someday for Ethel so I’ll let you know when that happens).

Have you ever roasted your own coffee or do you know someone that does? Have you ever considered roasting your own?

Making Your Own Whole Grain Mustard

June 7th, 2011

I posted my recipe for Whole Grain Stout Mustard on the Your Day blog at Ethel so head on over there. If you remember I talked about my love of condiments one Friday. Of all the condiments mustard is my favorite. I love a good hearty whole grain mustard, but they can be pricey in the store. Making your own is quick and easy.

I get my organic mustard seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs in case you’re wondering, they’re inexpensive and you can buy in bulk. People will certainly be impressed when you take homemade mustard to the next cookout you attend.

Head on over to the Ethel Blog and tell me what your favorite condiment is.

Homemade Potting Soil

May 18th, 2011

I grow a lot of things in containers each year and if I bought potting soil I’d spend a small fortune. So I make my own every spring. I also like knowing exactly what’s in it so I don’t have to worry about chemicals and other weirdness.


Mixing up your own potting soil is actually very quick and easy if you keep the ingredients on hand. I always have a stash of peat moss and vermiculite so I can mix up a batch whenever I need it.


I won’t write an entire post explaining how I make my own potting soil. I filmed a video explaining the process. Head on over to the Your Day Blog to watch the video on how to mix up your own potting soil.

Do you grow a lot of plants in containers?

Friday Favorite: Homemade Ice Cream

May 6th, 2011

I have fond memories from my childhood of Saturdays at the family cabin with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. All of us kids would spend our days running around the acres of woods, collecting rocks, feathers, bones, and all kinds of things children find fascinating. We built dams in the little creek, caught crawdads and gathered berries along the edges of the woods.

The best part of the day was evening when the old fashioned ice cream makers would come out. My grandma would make custard and we’d all have a turn cranking until it got too hard for us kids. Then we’d wait by with bowls in hand for the finished ice cream.

We still make homemade ice cream on special occasions. This past Sunday we celebrated my dad’s birthday and a belated Easter since he just arrived home from Colombia. We enjoyed a delicious meal of ham and other side and had to finish it off with homemade raw milk ice cream.



The kids wanted to help of course, but quickly tired of turning the crank. They played happily nearby while asking “is it done yet?” every couple minutes.

After 20 minutes or so it was done and we dished it up. We all enjoyed a bowl of fresh homemade ice cream with a piece of my mom’s famous pound cake. It was the perfect ending to a family meal.

My ice cream recipe is fairly simple, warm some whole milk with vanilla beans, let steep for 30 minutes. Mix a few egg yolks with some sugar and a dash of salt. Slowly pour in hot milk while whisking. Add some cream and chill for a few hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker, old fashioned or electric. I don’t have specific measurements, I taste and add and taste again and the amount varied depending on which ice cream maker we’re using. Sometimes I add more egg yolks if we can more custardy ice cream, sometimes I add fewer for a lighter ice cream. I also make mine slightly less sweet and with a little less cream than most recipes. This is a great recipe, you can swap the milk/cream to make it less creamy if you want.

It’s nice to know that we’re passing along the love of homemade ice cream to the next generation. I’m sure our nieces and nephew will have fond memories of making old fashioned ice cream just like my brother, sister and I do!

Do you ever make homemade ice cream? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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