Introducing: our very own Pegasus

As we mentioned back at the beginning of March, we got a grant from the Lakewinds Organic Field Fund (through the Lakewinds Food Co-op). With the funds we purchased the Okuda “Pegasus” Semi-Automatic Inoculation Tool. Sounds fancy, huh? It is actually pretty fancy!

Okuda is a Japanese company and they make these inoculator machines individually, by hand. It’s remarkably simple and complex at the same time. Last month Jeremy and I drove to Peshtigo in eastern Wisconsin to pick up the Pegasus. It was shipped to our spawn suppliers (and friends) over at Field and Forest Products. We spent a few hours looking over their Pegasus, taking it for a spin, taking videos, and asking lots of questions. We then loaded up our van with a ton of spawn (probably not literally a ton, but maybe close!) and our precious new Pegasus.

It was a couple weeks till we could really start using it because we really needed to collect the rest of the logs to inoculate before the logging site became impassable. But, Jeremy and our new employee have been inoculating for the last couple weeks. It will probably take another week or two to work out all the kinks and get the Pegasus perfectly tuned, but it’s going well so far.

Here it is in action on day 1  – new machine, and our new employee Cyle!

For you number crunchers, we inoculated 1,081 logs from November of last year through January. We started inoculations up again this month and have done 777 so far, doing 70-100 logs on each inoculation day. We’re hoping to build up to 125 logs a day as we get used to the tool.

Our goal is to finish inoculations by the end of May (if not earlier) and we have a ways to go as Jeremy has about 2,640 logs still left to do. Wish us luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indoor fruiting chamber is under way

We were the recipients this year of a grant from the Mill City Farmers Market to help start up some indoor mushrooms. Our outdoor season is mostly over so there is finally time to start building the indoor fruiting chamber and getting mushrooms going.

Last weekend we cleared an area in the pack shed and started installing a walk-in cooler box. Instead of using it as a cooler though, we’ll be warming it up so mushrooms can grow inside. Spore the farm cat was very helpful!

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As we reached the end the last wall piece gave us a lot of trouble. Jeremy was sitting on the ground trying to get the wall to stay together. “A lap!” is what Spore thought so she attempted to sit in Jeremy’s lap while he was trying to get the wall together. So helpful!

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Mostly done! We fit in a few layers of insulation on the floor as well. We need to fix that hole in the wall and then get some shelving into the space. We need to figure out a mix of heat, humidity, and fresh air as well, but hopefully soon we’ll be growing mushrooms in here! There won’t be enough to sell to grocery stores and restaurants. Our plan is to have them available for the winter farmers markets and maybe some winter CSA shares.

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The other big news on the farm is a changing of the guard. Andy, who was with us for about a year, moved back home to Pittsburgh. We’ll miss him – and his dog Kuma! With the growing season wrapping up our temporary worker Tony also moved on to another job. A few weeks ago we welcomed Desire as our winter worker. She’ll be helping with logging and inoculations and other winter projects. We’re happy to have her onboard and we’re looking forward to winter on the farm.

Recipe: Mushroom Stock

If you’ve cooked even a few of the recipes I’ve shared in the last year and a half you should have a good pile of mushroom stems saved up in your freezer. Now you can turn all those tough stems into yummy mushroom stock!

I made mushroom stock last weekend because we ended up with a pile of sandy mushrooms. Sad! We didn’t want to sell them and we didn’t really want to eat them, so I chopped them up, stems and all, and made stock. I’m sure all the grit went to the bottom of the pot and I strained the stock at the end.

Mushroom Stock

– Mushroom stems (and/or mushroom caps)
– Carrots
– Onions
– Parsley, Thyme
– Salt and pepper

How much of each ingredient depends on how big your pot is. You can fit a lot into a big stock pot. But if you only have a dutch oven (basically a large pot) or a large saucepan, you can scale down to smaller amounts. You want lots of mushrooms/stems and a little carrot, and you probably can’t have too many onions. I had a large stock pot and used 1 big carrot, 2 onions, a big handful of parsley, a healthy clump of thyme, and a ridiculous lot of mushrooms (I probably didn’t need as many as I used).

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You can just throw your mushroom stems (and mushrooms too) into the pot raw, but sauteing them in oil first adds a lot of flavor. Whether you saute or not, you want to cut everything up. It doesn’t need to be perfectly sliced, just roughly chopped. And the beauty of stock is, you can use everything! Throw in the carrot top and rooty bottoms, throw in the onion skins, use your onions and carrots even if they’re a bit dried up or gone limp. Saute everything (carrots, onions, mushrooms, herbs) in batches and then toss into your pot.

Add water to the pot to cover all the ingredients and an inch or two over that. Bring the pot to boil and then turn the heat down and let it simmer. You want to simmer for at least a few hours, the longer the better. Skim any foam off the top as its simmering.  When you start taste-testing, add salt and pepper to taste.

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How do you know when the stock is done? Your carrots will be well cooked and mashable. The water level will have gone down in the pot a couple inches. And you’ll know by the all important taste – is it mushroomy enough?  When it’s to your liking, you can strain the stock into canning jars. Freeze the jars to thaw and use when ready, or can them (which saves freezer space).

Use anywhere you would use stock or broth!

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Volunteers!

Hmm, “volunteers” usually means mushrooms, but in this case it means actual people!

Last weekend we welcomed several folks to the farm to help with various projects. We picked some apples, filled all the holes in the shade structure (yay!), picked some mushrooms, and moved some logs. It was fun to have several folks out at the farm lending their energy and hands and seeing the farm in full swing.

Loading up logs for fruiting:
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Searching for mushrooms:
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Some very happy mushroom “hunters:”
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We got in on the action too, bringing in a couple new tables and a bunch of shelves I secured for us at an auction. That was an adventure!

Here’s a before and after of the south side of the pack shed where we added two new tables and a couple shelves. So much more space for boxes and packaging and so much more room for packaging! It’s a beautiful thing.

 

And here’s a before and after of the north side of the pack shed. It’s hard to capture the beauty of how much more organized this space is. I guess it looks like it’s still a bunch of pallets of boxes and things, but there are many things on the shelves so we can actually find stuff in the pallet piles. I guess you’d have to be here to see.

Speaking of being here, tomorrow, Saturday September 15th is our second “come on out to the farm and help us out” day this month. I’m very excited to say one of our main projects tomorrow will be planting two new cherry trees we just picked up. Out here on the farm it’s not just planting the trees – it’s building fencing around it to keep the deer out too! We still have plenty of apples to pick, some other plants to stick in the ground, and I’m sure mushrooms to pick and logs to move. So come on out any time tomorrow!

Volunteer Days!

We haven’t had an open house or anything on the farm for quite a while. It’s time for that to change!
We’ll be hosting several volunteer days throughout the month of September. Come on out to the farm for a tour, see what we’re up to, enjoy some sort of mushroom meal, and help us out with some projects.

There is always plenty to do! Some projects we have in mind:

  • some general clean-up
  • weed whipping around the mushrooms logs and other places. If you like weed-whipping, we’ve got lots of places that can use it!
  • fixing the chicken coop roof
  • replacing the shingles on the milk house (which we hope some day will be a little farm store!)
  • moving a shed (aka cabin) from one spot to another spot
  • finishing fixing up the shed so it can be used as a cabin
  • planting a couple fruit trees
  • and there are always logs to move – for those who want to try out our “Farm Fit” log-moving program!

Many hands make light work – and they make the work more fun. If you’d like to join us for a few hours or a day, please let us know! If there is a project that sounds fun to you or if you’re just happy to do anything, let us know that too.

We’ll have the volunteer days on Saturdays, September 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th.

Bonus: if you feel like coming Friday night or staying over Saturday night, we have plenty of room for camping. Bring your camping gear and hope for a clear night for lots of excellent stargazing!

Hello Almond Agaricus!

Last weekend I was looking at the Almond Agaricus bed from afar. You may remember from a couple months back when we started that bed. We dumped in compost, the spawn, and then covered it all in a layer of straw. And now the bed was covered in grass!  Darn grass.  I was worried about pulling the grass out because I didn’t know if I could step in the bed. Jeremy said that was fine, so I went to weed the mushroom bed.

Imagine my surprise when I went out to the bed and discovered a ton of mushrooms growing!

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Giant Almond Agaricus growing up from under a log.

I pulled out the trusty walkie talkie and called in.

“Does anyone have a walkie talkie on them?”

After a few moments pause, Jeremy came on, “Yeah, I’ve got one.”

“Hey, so, there are a ton of mushrooms growing out here.”

“WHAT?! Oh my word!”

Next thing I see, Jeremy and Andy are running across the lawn to see the mushrooms!  Sure enough, they are Almond Agaricus. And clearly they have been growing for a while because they are huge and way past their prime. Andy tried one on as a hat.

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We had to toss out most of these because they were too big, but there were a few that were a bit better sized – which you can purchase at the farmers market this weekend!

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There are a lot more coming on as I discovered the next day:

Okay, I made it sound like they’re growing on the logs, but they’re not. They’re just growing under the logs. They want some shade and it’s nice and shady under the logs! So we’re working on getting some shade set up for them. Go, Almond Agaricus, go!

Recipe: Broccoli Rabe

Okay everyone, you can file this one under, “messing around with sacred family recipes.”  My mom found this recipe when I was growing up and we had it all the time. It was easy to make and we all loved it.

I’m not sure what the original recipe called for, but we definitely made it our own. For one thing, we never actually used broccoli rabe – which is a bitter, broccoli-like vege. We always just used broccoli. Recently I wondered, “what would this be like with mushrooms?” It’s a bit of a sacrilege to add or remove anything from this sacred family recipe, but I did it anyway. I think my family will forgive me because the mushrooms are a great addition!

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Broccoli Rabe

Bowtie pasta, about 2 cups dry
Butter
A couple heads of broccoli
Italian sausage, 1/2 to 1 pound (depending on your preference)
Shiitake mushrooms, 8 ounces or more
Garlic
Chicken broth
Parmesan cheese

Put on a pot of water to boil for your pasta. While that’s going, heat about 1/2 a stick of butter in a large pan. Break the sausage off in little bite-size blobs and add to the pan. Cook the sausage thoroughly and then turn the heat off and set pan aside.

While the sausage cooks, de-stem and chop the mushrooms. Cut the broccoli into bite sized pieces, using the florets and as much as the stem as you like.  Mince 1-2 cloves of garlic.

Steam the broccoli over a pan of boiling water (sometimes I’ve managed to steam it over my boiling pasta). Heat a pan on medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil and saute the shiitake. When they’re soft and smell fragrant, add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Keep an eye on that garlic as it likes to burn!

When the mushrooms are done, tip them into the pan with the sausage. When the broccoli is done, add that to the sausage and mushrooms. When the pasta is cooked, drain, and add to the pan. If your original pan wasn’t big enough, you may need to switch to a bigger one! Add about 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the pan and mix everything up. Grate some Parmesan cheese, at least 1 cup – more if you like it cheesier. Add that to the pan and mix again. Put the lid on and let it sit for a couple minutes to let the flavors mingle and the cheese melt.

 

To be honest, I have already messed around with the making of this recipe. The way I grew up making it: after cooking the sausage we added a bunch of chicken broth to the pan and then put the uncooked broccoli in there and steamed the broccoli in the pan over the top of the sausage. When the broccoli was cooked, we added the pasta and cheese and let it all melt and integrate. Feel free to try it that way too!

 

Recipe: Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Mushrooms

This might just be the laziest (or weirdest) recipe to date! Last week I had an excellent lunch all ready…and then I forgot it at the farm. Back in Minneapolis the stores were closed and I had nothing in the kitchen but a few boxes of macaroni and cheese…and mushrooms of course! Could those work together? I was willing to try!

Jeremy sauteed up a bunch of our baby shiitake and some garlic. I thought the garlic might be getting a little too weird, but it was good!

So… prepare your Mac ‘n Cheese according to package directions. While the water is boiling you can heat a pan on medium high and saute your mushrooms. You can use our packaged babies (which have the stems removed and are quite small, so no chopping needed) or you can chop up larger shiitake. Once they’re good and cooked, you can add some minced garlic (a clove or two) and saute for maybe a minute. Garlic burns fast so keep an eye on it.

Once the macaroni and cheese is complete and dished up, pile some yummy sauteed garlic and mushrooms on top. Yum!

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Recipe: Pasta and Baby Shiitake

We’ve had quite a crop of baby Shiitake this summer. These are mature Shiitake that are just very small. Light levels, mushroom log fruiting frequency, or weather conditions cause this to happen. But they are fun to work with – all you have to do is remove the stem and throw the whole mushroom in to saute. If you get packaged baby shiitake through one of the grocery stores we sell to, then you won’t even have to do that; we’ve already removed them for you!  Added to pasta it makes a simple, quick, and very tasty dish.

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Pasta and Baby Shiitake

  • pasta – bowtie, noodles, or whatever you have on hand
  • 8 ounces of baby shiitake (approximately two packages), stems removed
  • salt to taste – probably about 1 tsp.
  • a few cloves of garlic, minced
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste
  • half a dozen cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Boil your chosen pasta until it’s cooked to the amount you like.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a cast iron or other heavy pan on medium-high heat. When hot, put in the shiitake and saute. Cook them for around 5-8 minutes, until they’re soft, aromatic, and starting to brown a little. If you’re not sure they’re done, try one and see if you like it!  Toss in the minced garlic and cook for just a minute or so. Garlic burns easily, so keep an eye on the pan and remove from heat when the garlic starts to brown.

Drain your pasta and dish pasta into shallow bowls or plates. Pile on shiitake and garlic, sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and add a few sliced cherry tomatoes.

Jeremy added a few nasturtium flowers to his because he loves those tasty flowers!

Recipe: Mushrooms and a lot of veggies

On my way home yesterday, Jeremy texted, “You’re getting a lot of veggies for dinner!” We have a CSA share through Blackbrook Farm (who we also sell mushroom add-ons through) and yesterday Jeremy picked up our box of veggies. So many beautiful veggies! Jeremy set to work cooking up as many different things as he could – and added mushrooms of course!  To the best of his memory, here’s what he did:

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Mushrooms and a lot of veggies

— 1/2 cup wild rice
— 4 strips of bacon, chopped
— vegetable oil
— 4 large scallions, chopped
— 3 bok choy, chopped
— 2 cups of chopped bok choy and kohlrabi leaves (and/or other greens)
— 8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, with stems removed, chopped

Place the wild rice in a wire strainer and rinse with cold water. Place the rice in a pot and add water so water is 3/4 of an inch above rice. Bring to rolling boil for ten minutes then simmer, covered, until the rice opens and becomes fluffy, or about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally while simmering. Keep an eye on the water and add a little more if the pan starts to get dry and the rice isn’t ready yet.

While the rice cooks, fry the bacon in a teaspoon of oil on medium heat.  When soft (3-5 minutes), add the chopped scallions, chopped bok choy, mushrooms, and salt to taste.  Stir occasionally as this cooks. Once this mixture has cooked through and begun to caramelize, add bok choy and kohlrabi leaves (and/or other greens), and cook another few minutes.

Top rice with veggie/mushroom mixture and add toasted pecans.  Enjoy!