Mushroom Hound

I ran home between court and work the other day to let the dogs out. While we were on a quick walk around the block Snuffy pointed at a pile of leaves in the easement, which turned out to be a giant mushroom. I tired to give him lots of treats so maybe he will find me another one, but it turned out neither he or Mazy even like the mushroom when I cooked it! Ironically, I had gone out looking for a hen of the forest several times without success before Snuffy found this one in my own easement. Hen of the Wood is perennial and often reappears in the same place year after year. Once I saw it I realized there was one there a few years ago (before I knew about mushrooms) and without knowing any better I just let got rid of it! Like us, Hen of the forest gets darker as exposed to more light. As you can see, this one was in a very bright spot! Several subsequent walks have proven fruitless, which leads me to believe my house may be the only one in the neighborhood to host the fungus. It fruits almost exclusively at the base of distressed oak trees, although occasionally other hardwoods like maples. John joked that this tress must be trying to get back in my good graces after I threatened to innoculate it last year.

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Sorry for the blurry photo, for once it was not my phones fault it was sheer excitement. This guy weighed in at 6 lbs! I dehydrated half of it, and made several meals with the rest. You can also sautee and freeze hen of the forest for a short period, but I love using my dehydrated and research indicated dehydrating might yield better results, particularly if it is rehydrated using stock rather than water. For those of you thinking I should have left some, I actually recently learned that you can’t over harvest mushrooms. It doesn’t tax the organism to have the fruit harvested.

Homemade basil with hen of the woods (maitake) on the side. This is the first occasion I found worth using some of the fancy salt my brother brought me from Salzburg.

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Hen of the woods sandwich with parmesan.

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I tried this soup from this fabulous blog but regrettably did not love it. This mushroom is just best sauteed in butter and oil with a bit of salt, and it is the second best mushroom I have ever had. My all time favorite is Lion’s Mane.

Maitake (the japanese word for hen of the forest) is not only a choice edible but highly valued as a medicinal mushroom. Regrettably, mushroom season is almost over in Michigan without me finding the bright orange chicken of the woods yet, but there is one winter mushroom that I am after: Chaga. A Chaga is a big woody mushroom that grows primarily on birch high up, and even in the winter. It is not an edible but rather a potent medicinal mushroom when made into a tincture. Happy hunting!

Plants>Annuities

I don’t know why I spend my money on anything besides plants, they make me so happy.*

After receiving some hardy kiwi for my birthday that did not survive the first month of my 27th year I bought these (larger) replacements. So far they are looking significantly more…hardy.

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While some hardy kiwi will pollinate without a male plant, they fruit more densely when you have one of each.

In the second year of my front yard garden I am learning that one half is a lot shadier than the other, and nothing really grows. You can sort of see behind this shockingly tall grape vine…So tonight I put in some supposedly shade tolerant june berries. I am trying two varieties, a Regent, and a Princess Diana juneberry. I did not realize that among the titles the queen could give, she could also name plants after you. While I never really had royal aspirations, this leads me to wonder if there is a Kate Middleton short day onion, or Duchess of Cambridge squash out there.

 

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Since the grapevine is doing so well in the front yard if I find one at end of the year clearance I might start it up another leg of the trellis.

And I should also probably continue to spend a fair amount of my disposable income on mustache straws because they make me drink so much water and delight at being at work for only $1. Also they are much less susceptible to bindweed. Excellent marketing 7-11 .

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*The real reason is because once I plant them sometimes I have seven consecutive weeks of traveling weddings and forget to weed and water at all, resulting in a very poor return on investment. Hopefully I will have the same joy when I buy them again next year.

Sorry I’ve been gone, squirrels ate my wireless, and my computer has been down

photo 2 Remember when John tried to stop me from redoing our bedroom when we hadn’t even finished the kitchen yet? Yea he might have been on to something because here six months later I am just finishing the top of the quilt. So happy with how it is turning out though!

So far so good with bees in the city!

photo 3 (4) photo 2 (4)It is so fun to be out in the neighborhood and see my bees out and about like on these so called “pussy willows.” Alternatively, when I can’t find them i’m like where do you girls go all day everyday! It is like having a dog that that is entirely self-sufficient. Perhaps too self sufficient. Womp womp. Thats a nuc box in my driveway. 

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I found a swarm cell on Sunday. Of course, it was on a deep frame and I only had a medium nuc so John whipped up a quick spacer. By the time it was all put together though it was pretty unstable so I hope the queen was not crushed. in the ensuing jenga. The queen cell was in the middle of the frame but pretty well developed into the larval stage. Its so funny how as soon as the hive is closed  I start to second guess myself and think there wasn’t even an egg in there. However, the first time I looked it looked shiny on the inside (like royal jelly) and the second I was sure there was a larva. It was just really sunny and hard to see. I also didn’t have enough deep frames. It really is true that you never have enough equipment.

In other news, this is how your dog sits in a car, right?

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Maple, the most optimistic tree

This has been a weird year in Michigan, which is why I had high hopes that the fruit trees were just seriously delayed in blossoming. While the apples are blooming, albeit pretty conservatively, and the cherries are showing promising signs, all the rest of the fruit trees seemed to skip blooming and go right to the leafing out phase.

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Cherries

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Pear

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Grape

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Peach

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Plum

Granny Smith

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photo 2 (3) Honeycrisp- one branch bloomed a lot and the rest were entirely bare, it was not even a south facing branch

However, I couldn’t ignore it any longer when I found this chart.  It seems that while no late frosts came our way to hurt the buds, even in solid dormancy the buds were likely killed the weeks it got down to -40 a few nights this winter. This will likely emphasize the biannual fruiting cycle that was set up two years ago when a very late frost killed most fruit tree buds. Since next years flowers develop behind this years fruit, when trees are unable to produce fruit one year (as is the case this year) they put all their energy into next years buds so next year would be a bumper crop. My dad pointed out that while this means only apples and cherries next year, it also means that I will only be doing significant canning once every other year which is a good sign. Also, since apparently wine grapes, apples, and even cherries are mostly only hardy to -20 I guess I am lucky that there are any potentially viable buds.

While I also had high hopes for the fig I put it at the end of last summer, figs are pushing it even if the winter were normal. I purchased this new guy:

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When I went to put it in, the other one had set a single bud. At first I was optimistic but it does not seem to be flourishing so I guess this new Chicago Hardy will be going in after all the replace the turkish brown.

And finally, does anyone else have maple trees sprouting all over their yard? Maple trees must just see a crack in the sidewalk and be like oh yep this is my spot, I can just hang out here…forever. Oh well, sprout where youre planted I guess, unless its in my front yard garden like this guy.

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Plans for Spring

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#1: Wear Carharts on Carharts whenever possible.

#2: IMG_0280. Every fall after I look at the ruins of my garden I think about how much better I am going to plan next year. Specifically I vow to make organized rows and not broadcast seeds wildly around the neighborhood, keep track of where I plant things, and finally, not to over plant squash. This year so far I have not over planted squash, because I have not yet planted any. Last year I had spinach in the ground by late February and was confident it would grow. This year I planted the first round March 22 and am not quite so confident. I put in spinach, arugula, bright lights chard, radishes, beets, and lettuce. I had planned to put in more chard, kale, and some more greens but my hands were freezing. Then this happened:

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This is a major metropolitan area by my office. See those office buildings across the street?

My rough plan is to put early plants in the front beds. Then, when the permaculture babies arrive in late May I can selectively rip out the early greens, plant the perennials, and plant other annuals around them. I may put some additional hot season annuals in the back beds, or I may preserve those spaces for a fall planting of greens as I try to phase those beds out and reclaim some backyard space.

#3: Wear this dress as much as possible. Butterick B5919.

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#4: Make lots of baby hives out of my Michigan survivor stock bees. Knock on wood, the hives my dad and I started this summer are both still alive and buzzing. Since this was the hardest winter in Michigan since 1880 (which, as my mom pointed out, is the year of the Long Winter documented by Laura Ingalls Wilder), the bee conference I recently attended made me feel a sort of duty to propagate this line of bees. Spring, and especially a late and wet one, can be very difficult for bees so we’re not out of the woods yet but I am far more optimistic than before.

I will start the season with one hive (H1). I also have a package coming (H2). At this time I plan to establish these as separate hives at my house. Ideally, H1 will make a swarm cell this year which I can separate into a nuc until the queen is mated and laying. Then, I could requeen H2 with that queen in the fall right before the eggs for winter bees are laid.

I suspect; however, that the package bees will either swarm or supercede the queen right away. Last year I made the mistake of trying to head this off, but this year plan to embrace the bees plan. If they take action to this effect I will let them supercede. Any new queen will ideally be mated to Michigan bees, and hopefully to drones from my other hive so they will have at least 50% Michigan survivor stock genes.

Alternatively, my dad and I are talking about investing (and it IS an investment) in a Buckfast queen (of the prestigious buckfast line, only partially a joke). If I were able to requeen the package with some descendant of this line I would be pleased because then I would be combining the Buckfast line with the current Michigan survivor stock.

However, making plans for bees seems to be rather futile, as it turns out that the bees and I have not read the same books.

What are your plans for spring?

Kitchen Renovation

 

 

 

 

 

I am so excited to show you what we have been doing for the past three weeks! You remember when my kitchen used to look like this?

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Well, it doesn’t anymore.

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This was one of the projects I had been really dreading because I thought it would end up really expensive. However, it actually ended up being pretty reasonable thanks to some craigslisting, re-storing (the act of going to the restore), and slate tile. Some of the most exciting changes:

-painting the cabinets. While I thought this would be a horrible job, it actually didnt take very long at all. I took the doors off and spray painted them in the garage while John rollered the drawer fronts and remaining frames. Now I am starting to think maybe they need pulls?

-the open shelves. While we replaced cabinets with open shelves, we kept most of the cabinets resulting in a net gain of kitchen storage. The shelves are reclaimed cedar that we found on craigslist for about $100. Yes, the storage has to be pretty now, but so far that has been ok. I just need to remind myself that I don’t have to display ALL of my pretty dishes. The shelves also mean we have enough cabinet space to put in a dishwasher.

- The countertops. I found pretty countertops to be super expensive. We followed this tutorial, and it worked really well. Also they came in at $100.00 after a quick trip to the restore, and you really can’t tell they were ever doors.

John thought it was SUPER FUN when I went out and bought paint for the bedroom before the paint on the cabinets was dry. Looking forward to showing off how that turned out….but more than that I am looking forward to being able to blog about my garden again. Last year I had plants growing outside by this time.

My sister in law linked me to this online permaculture course and I am so excited to get started tonight, will let you know how it is.

My Epic Takedown of Greek Yogurt

Hey guys, while I am not a registered dietician (sometimes I think I would have liked that job) I am a bit of a dairy queen and I have to tell you some things about greek yogurt.

First of all, making my own cheese has really shown me that all dairy is on a continuum. There is milk, yogurt, greek yogurt, soft cheeses (like cream cheese), hard cheeses with a short aging period (manchego, some cheddar), and hard cheeses with a long aging period (parmesan, romano, etc). Everything is just milk with a higher or lower ratio of milk fat solids to whey. The reason people (and by people I mean women in yogurt commercials) seem to like greek yogurt is because it has a higher protein content than most yogurt. However, it also has a higher fat content. You know what has a higher protein and fat content than greek yogurt? Hard cheese. But you never see any ladies in commercials talking about how they had a light breakfast of fruit and cheese. This is because in order to compensate for the higher fat content, “low fat” or “nonfat” greek yogurt is filled with sugar, salt, and other fillers.

I am much more solidly on the protein train than I was when we were eating vegan. However, excess protein is stored as fat, just as excess carbohydrates are. It may be easier to get excess  carbohydrates than excess protein, but in my experience those who have never embraced a plant based diet seem to inflate both the importance of protein, and the difficulty in obtaining protein (i.e. plants, nuts, and beans are some of the best sources of protein). Additionally, excess protein, especially from animal sources can leach the calcium out of bones. The idea that consuming milk promotes strong bones was a construct of the milk lobby. 

Furthermore, the only sense in which greek yogurt, or any source of dairy really is a “health” food, is with respect to weight loss and it is only a good food for weight loss due to low fat and nonfat varieties. Humans are meant to produce an enzyme called lactase through the age of approximately four, when it was thought breastfeeding would end. Lactase serves to digest lactose. It was only though a defect in the system which was meant to turn off the production of this enzyme, that any adults are lactose tolerant. This defect became dominant when some populations of humans co-evolved in conjunction with herd animals.

Finally, CAFO farming of animals is an environmental catastrophe in its own right, but greek yogurt specifically is an abomination. When any dairy product is coagulated, its drained of the whey in order to increase the proportion of milk solids to whey. The harder the cheese/yogurt, the more is drained. As such, greek yogurt is drained more aggressively, so it has a higher waste of whey. There are ways to make whey delicious (See whey ricotta, or zeigerkase- my all time favorite) but overall its a waste product and a gross one at that. You would be shocked how much whey comes out when you  make a cheddar, as there are only 8% milk solids in milk. A lot of cheese making techniques such as even curd cutting and slow temperature increases is designed for efficient expulsion of whey. Leaving too much whey in butter for example, can result in it curdling in a few hours. However, there is a huge crisis of whey coming from greek yogurt factories. Since it becomes toxic as it decomposes, it cannot be dumped. Many farmers are being paid to accept whey and mix it in with their animals feed, which is not a natural food source.

And finally, it is not even Greek.

I propose the following solution:

1. Get some (or make some) regular plain yogurt, a bowl, a colander, and some cheese cloth.

2. Put the colander inside the bowl.

3. Line the colander with cheese cloth.

4. Pour the yogurt into the cheese cloth and let drain until it reaches the desired consistency.

5. If you want, you can hang it and leave the “curd” in the cheese cloth overnight. At some point on the continuum it will become “yogurt cheese.” This is entirely up to you at which point you want to spread it on toast rather than eat it out of a bowl. Please see my follow up article, My Epic Takedown of Cream Cheese (yet to be released).

6. Mix in whatever flavoring you like.

and that is how you make greek style yogurt healthfully, at a fraction of the cost, and without creating a poisonous sludge stream of whey.

Ta-Da

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I think Martha Stewart discontinued golden pearl because it smells so bad. I couldn’t find it anywhere! This is antique gold which is almost the same but smells fine. I am really looking forward to doing some old lady crafts while rocking away in this thing. Also, I love spray paint so much I may marry it.

Censorship and Targeted Marketing

 

Since we decided to do open shelves in lieu of cabinets in the new kitchen, I am making an effort to purge some mismatched dishes, and make those that we are keeping a little prettier. One way was this quick and easy project:

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A little chalkboard paint and trader joes (nice glass) herb containers work nicely both to censor Charlize Theron, AND to store dried garden herbs.

Looking forward to getting these little projects done while its cold since spring is coming:

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Just kidding, thats my basement, and further proves that spring is never coming. However, it also proves exactly how wonderful chicken manure is at fertilizing (this is pretty close to Josephina’s jail).

Something else that is keeping me happy until spring:

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When I was studying for the bar I was so miserable because I couldn’t do ANYTHING, so one of the ways I indulged a little was by developing a pretty heavy fancy tea habit (to the tune of…more than $100.00). Since I assume I am literally their best customer, the Republic of Tea now sends me their magazine with a free sample each month. I kid you not, I have bought the full size of every single sample they send. My co-worker suggested they probably talk about me as a success story at marketing meetings. Anyway they sent me this sample and despite my affinity for Downton, the tea is also amazing. And its purple, what more could you ask. The top says “Limited Edition: When its gone its gone!” These people seriously have my number.

In which the weather is so bad Eva and I both spontaneously decide to re-do a room

There has been a fairly solid amount of bitching going on about the weather and the winter around here, but you know things are serious when both Eva and I are so stir crazy we decide to start major home renovation projects on a whim over the weekend.

Right now eva is painting her bedroom the perfect shade of gray while we are doing this:

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Perhaps she can sleep at our house and I can cook at hers? Meals have been mostly this:

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aaaand this is what the living room looks like:

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Thankfully, the home improvement gods heard me say I was bored this morning and Eva and I “rescued” this beautiful rocking chair from the side of the road

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If you have never had the pleasure of living a block away from your best friend you probably should drop everything to do it now, because having someone to run errands with makes everything awesome. Like today for example, when we went to the grocery store and came home with a rocking chair and a slight buzz from the wine and cheese tasting that just happened to be going on. Anyway, this is so nice that I thought maybe someone wanted it even though it was on the curb so if this was less “rescued” and more “stolen” and you know to whom it really belongs, please let me know. We scooped it up into the car and drove away so quickly you would have thought we were professional thieves, or at least garbage women. Eva had the idea to paint it white all over, and do a dip style gold on the legs. Thankfully, I have some of that horrible Martha Stewart gold metallic left over so I can get started, I don’t know…tonight?

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