Author Archives: Homesteader's Supply

Tips for Hunting Wild Mushrooms

Tips for Hunting Wild Mushrooms

Picking mushrooms has been an important part of stocking the homesteader’s pantry for many generations. Lessons are passed down from generation to generation, shared with friends, written in books and presented in workshops. These tips will help you get started as a mushroom hunter and improve your skills and methods.

Chanterelle, Bolete, Coral mushrooms

Chanterelle, Bolete, Coral mushrooms

    1. Take a class or workshop before you pick your first wild mushroom. Better safe than sorry. One mistaken amanita could end your mushroom hunting days…permanently. The workshop or class should include a hands-on mushroom walk with an experienced guide. Or, go with a friend who is well versed in mushrooms and doesn’t hesitate to say “I don’t know what it is.” Look for workshops and classes through land trusts, cooperative extensions or organic co-ops.
    2. Invest in guide books. They are no replacement for a knowledgeable person but they do have a solid place in mushroom hunting. Read the books as needed, study the photos, look up answers to your questions. Write down questions that pop up as you’re reading. Look for guides with color photography.
    3. Have the tools you need. You don’t need much.
      • A knife. You’ll cut off the dirt-covered end of the stem to keep the rest of the mushroom lean. A sharp pocket knife is plenty. Dirty mushrooms can be hard to get clean so keep them as clean as possible.
      • Newspaper. A layer of newspaper between layers of mushrooms will absorb moisture and block dirt from falling to the mushrooms below.
      • A basket or other container to hold the mushrooms you’ve picked. It should be wide but not too deep. You don’t want to stack delicate mushrooms so high they get crushed. Recycled bread trays are great. They have plenty of room between trays for larger mushrooms and will stack as high as you have room to stack them. Line the bottom of each tray with newspaper.
      • Your guide books. This is when ebooks are handy. One Kindle weighs a lot less than three or four books and take up less room.
      • A camera is handy when you’re unsure of a mushroom you aren’t going to pick. Take pictures of the mushroom from different angles and of the surrounding. Knowing what kinds of trees are growing nearby, the amount or lack of sunlight and proximity to water can be helpful.
      • Paper and pen, in case you want to make notes or jot down questions.
    4. Start out in familiar territory and ask permission where necessary. Nobody need get lost over a mushroom. Stay on the trails when possible. Many of us hunt from the road and look into the woods and up and down banks. If you’re tagging along with an experienced hunter before courteous and respectful of that person’s favorite places, and don’t go back unless invited. It can take years to find a good spot.
    5. Leave some of the mushrooms in every patch you find. They don’t all grow in groups so there are exceptions. If you find a few leave one to spread its spores. If a mushroom is past its prime (“going by” or “gone by”) you should leave it untouched.
    6. Look around. Where are the mushrooms you find growing? Some varieties are very particular. They might grow only at the base of an oak tree or dying hardwoods, for example. Make notes:
      • “Chanterelles. At a hemlock near the stream.”
      • “Corals. On a decaying log on the road to Ben’s camp.”
      • “Unknown. Photo taken. Red top, white flesh and stem. Gills on top, solid stem.”
    7. Back at home, use your resources to make sure your mushrooms are safe if you have any doubt. If you’re still not sure you should pass on eating it this time.
    8. Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry or slightly damp towel. Don’t get them wet.
    9. Try one new variety of mushroom at a time. If you have a reaction you need to know what mushroom didn’t agree with you. One or two bites of one cooked mushroom is a good start. Wait a few days between new varieties.
    10. A little salt and maybe some pepper are all you need for that first bite. You want to know if you like the taste of the mushroom. From there you can decide what you want to add when cooking.
Coral Mushroom

Coral Mushroom

Chanterelles are a popular mushroom that most people seem to favor. The going price in northeastern Maine right now is $28 per pound, and around $50 per pound in New York City according to friends who wild harvest and sell to chefs. Knowing that makes them that much better! This recipe is hard to beat.

Cooking Chanterelles

1 pound of Chanterelles, cleaned and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
1/4 cup bacon fat
4 tablespoons butter
1 small, mild onion, diced

Saute mushrooms and onions in the fat and butter until the onions are translucent.

Lobster Mushrooms

Lobster Mushrooms

If you pick more mushrooms than you can use fresh you can put them up for later. Personal preference plays a large part in your preserving method. Some folks prefer to saute mushrooms in olive oil and then freeze them. Others can their mushrooms and some dehydrate their extras.

Planning Ahead to Plant Garlic

It’s that time of year – garlic. It’s time to check on the garlic you planted last year and to choose and order your garlic varieties (unless you’re growing your own seed stock, that is!) and plan ahead for the day you plant garlic.

Garlic Bulbils

Garlic Bulbils

I pushed a garden fork into the damp soil this morning, loosened a head of garlic and gave it a tug. It’s small. I missed this plant when I cut off the scapes and energy went into producing lots of little bulbils in the flower rather than a larger head. We’ve had plenty of rain so the soil has never dried out. There was plenty of compost in the soil when I planted the individual cloves 10 months ago, and I mulched with more than enough hay to control weeds. It’s small but probably very tasty, and there’s still a little more time for the rest of the plants, which still have nice green leaves, to grow.

Look around the garden. What area will be open in late fall that will also be convenient next year? You won’t be able to drive a tractor through the place you choose for this fall’s garlic planting. Is there room to go around? Will the spot be inconvenient when you’re maneuvering the rototiller between rows next year? Does the soil drain well? If there are puddles in that spot each spring it’s not the place for your garlic.

Fresh garlic

Just dug…

Garlic likes soft soil that has been enriched with lots of compost. You’ll need to turn over the top 8 to 12 inches of soil. If the spot you choose has a weed problem now’s the time to get it under control. Garlic doesn’t like competition. If the weed load is light you’ll have an easy time planting and can skim ahead past solarization. If that’s the case, a lot of gardeners are envious!

Solarization will kill tender annuals and some perennials, and kill a large portion of the seed bank. The seed bank is the ungerminated seeds in the soil. Seeds can survive for years before germinating. The Hairy Galinsoga you thought you got rid of five years ago might germinate next year because it’s been sitting dormant the seed bank.

Prepare the soil for solarization by harvesting whatever you have growing, and pull all of the weeds you can possibly get out of the ground. Smooth the surface, leaving no room for gaps between the soil and the plastic you’ll use.

Soak the soil deeply, at least 12 inches. Moist soil will retain heat better than dry soil. You don’t want to have to remove the plastic for the next four to six weeks so be generous with the water.

Cover the area with a single sheet of clear plastic unless you live in an area that doesn’t get very hot. In that case, it’s probably best to use black plastic that will prevent germination in seeds that require light to germinate. Weeds that germinate under clear plastic will “cook” and die. Choose 1.5 to 2 mils (thickness) for larger areas. It will stand up to wind and light foot traffic from wayward pets and wildlife better than 1 mil. Painters plastic will last three to five weeks. Keep an eye on the plastic for signs of breaking down and remove it before it starts to crumble. If your seed bank is extreme you might opt for UV treated plastic (greenhouse plastic) that won’t break down so that you can leave the soil covered from now until planting time.

 

 

A Taste of Raspberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

How to Make Raspberry Jam in 30 MinutesMid-July, raspberry time. The canes are loaded, it’s been a good year for raspberries. Picking gallons at a time barely makes a noticeable dent in amount of berries to be picked. It’s time to make raspberry jam.
Raspberries to mash

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll need:

  • Two quarts of fresh raspberries
  • 1/3 cup, rounded, bulk pectin
  • 5 to 6 cups of sugar

Lightly mash raspberries, one cup at a time. You’ll have five cups of mashed berries when you finish.

Stir in pectin.

Move mixture to an eight quart pan and heat to a simmer over medium heat. When simmering, stir in sugar. Bring to a boil that can’t be stirred down and continue to boil for 60 seconds, stirring constantly.

Ladle into hot, sterile jars. Wipe the rim clean with a damp cloth. Place sterile lids and rings, leaving a 1/8″ air space, and hot water bath as recommended.

If you’d like to make jelly you can use one of our juicers to speed the process.

Omega VERT Juicer

Omega VERT Juicer

If you’d like to do this by hand, freeze the berries, let them thaw, and strain the seeds out. Frozen berries are much easier to juice than fresh.

There are so many things to do this time of year that being able to freeze the berries and make jelly later is a great convenience.

After thawing the berries you can heat them to around 100*. Don’t cook, just heat. Remove the juice you can pour out easily, then hang the remaining berries in cheese cloth to drip into a pan. When the dripping slows to an unproductive rate, give the cheese cloth a gentle squeeze to get the last of the juice.

Lightly mashed raspberries

Lightly mashed raspberries

Raspberry Jam. Imagine a warm biscuit and jam this winter.

Raspberry Jam. Imagine a warm biscuit and jam this winter.

Raspberry Jelly Recipe

This recipe is different than the jam recipe in a major way. This recipe doesn’t use pectin. You might need to make it a few times to get it just right. If it’s too thin you can use it as pancake syrup, on ice cream or in smoothies. It won’t be what you were aiming for but it won’t go to waste.

4 cups raspberry juice
1 1/2 pounds sugar

Mix together. Heat to a gentle boil. Skim off any foam that settles at the top. Continue to boil for 20 to 30 minutes. When your spoon is lightly coated the jelly is ready to be jarred. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, leaving a 1/8″ head space. Wipe the rim clean, place lids and rings on, tightening the rings to “finger tight.” You want it tight enough to keep water out but loose enough to let air escape during the hot water bath.

raspberry bowls

Sheller and Pitter and Shredder – Oh My!

These three items are featured in this week’s newsletter. Sheller and Pitter and Shredder – Oh my! Have we got what you need for mass food production!

Mr. Pea Sheller

Mr. Pea Sheller will shell your peas and beans. It’s fast, safe to use and built to last.

Cherry Stoner, Jr

Cherry Stoner, Jr makes quick work of stoning cherries by nearly effortlessly removing the stones from up to five cherries at a time. There’s no need to be careful to load the cherries just right, the Cherry Stoner, Jr can handle it.

Deluxe Cabbage Shredder

The Deluxe Cabbage Shredder is great for church suppers, sports clubs, restaurants and diners and other folks who make large batches of coleslaw, kimchi or sauerkraut. Cooperatives and groups of friends might get together to buy the Deluxe Cabbage Shredder to share.

Coleslaw Recipe

The sauce for coleslaw is key to making the best slaw possible. This recipe is easy to remember when you’re in the middle of cooking for a big dinner.

1 part vinegar
2 parts sugar
4 parts mayonnaise

Every cup of mayo gets a half cup of sugar and a quarter-cup of vinegar. That’s it. Mix it up, pour it over shredded cabbage and carrots and you’re done.

One cup of mayo will coat one to two pounds of cabbage depending on how creamy you like  your slaw.

Vermicomposting with Worm Factory

Vermicomposting with Worm Factory

Peelings, cores, pea pods, junk mail, leaves – composting worms thrive on your scraps. Vermicomposting with Worm Factory is simple, takes up little space and is odor free. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans send 34 million tons of food waste to  landfills every year. More food is put into our water system and that then has to be cleaned out when food is put down the garbage disposal. That’s a lot of wasted food and a lot of unnecessary waste placed in our landfills and water. We can cut down drastically on what we waste with a little thought, and compost what’s left. “Waste” becomes compost with minimal effort on our part and becomes useful. Your plants with thank you with higher production when you incorporate worm castings into your garden and potting soil. Worm castings tea is a terrific fertilizer and can be used as a foliar spray. Your houseplants will thrive, too. I’ve found a few worms in my houseplants’ pots a year after re-potting. They contribute to keeping the potting soil healthy.

Red wigglers (Eisenia fetida)

Red wigglers (Eisenia fetida)

We’ve been using the Worm Factory 360 for six months. With three full trays of compost so far and a fourth near completion, we’re very happy with this system. It was easy to set up and takes only a couple of minutes a day to tend the worms. You shouldn’t feed your worms dairy, meat and citrus, and we recommend avoiding grass. Grass mats together, heats up quickly, and causes the worms to try to escape, or die.

Each Worm Factory comes with an instructional DVD, bedding and a scraper. The Quick Tips on the lid tells you what you can and can’t feed to your works, and how to manage the bin. It took about an hour to get it set up and add red wigglers (Eisenia fetida), the species of worms most often used for vermicomposting.

Leachate, the liquid produced by the worms and food, collects in the bottom tray. It is drawn off through the spigot to be used as fertilizer.

We have four Worm Factory setups on sale. You have a choice of three or four trays and three colors. You’ll want to choose the unit you need according to the amount of food you have to feed the worms. Red wigglers will adjust their reproduction up and down according to the amount of available food. If you have an excess of worms they can be used for fishing, fed to poultry and shared with friends. Even my goldfish get a few worms now and then. The Worm Factory 360 holds up to 12,000 worms. It’s perfect for a large family, people who cook from scratch (lots of peels, carrot tops and other whole food scraps).

Red wigglers migrate between trays.

Red wigglers migrate between trays.

If you’re leaving on vacation you give your worms a little extra food and forget about them. They’ll survive two weeks after their food supply disappears. They’re just that simple.

The worms shown in this photo are migrating between trays. They’ve almost finished off the food in the bottom. A few return to the bottom tray but most have moved to the top. You can see worms in various sizes. They’re reproducing well.

Worm Factory with 3 Trays

 

We offer four Worm Factory setups and they’re currently on sale. Shipping is free to the lower 48 states. For other areas, give Jerri a call and she’ll get the shipping costs for you. (928) 583-0254. Or, fill out the contact form with your shipping address and number of Work Factories you’ll order and we’ll get back to you.

The Worm Factory is made in USA and has a 10 year warranty on parts and manufacturing.

 

You can choose between:

 

 

 

 

The Homestead To Do List

The Homestead To Do List

It’s overwhelming sometimes, isn’t? Seems like the Homestead To Do list grows as fast as the weeds, is as hard to whittle down as it is to muck stalls in spring, and that it has a mind of its own. Leave it sitting on the table unsupervised and someone’s apt to add to it while you’re not looking.

These tips might help you keep the list from taking over every waking moment.

Separate your lists. One list for the homestead work, one for household work, one for kids. But keep control of how many lists you have. Combine what goes together naturally.

Homestead tasks include the garden, putting food up, firewood, livestock, poultry and similar tasks. Household tasks include laundry, dishes, floors, dusting, painting and decorating.

Homesteading To Do List

Control your lists, don’t let your lists control you.

A daily list is a big help to me. I end my day but writing tomorrow’s To Do list on a 3″ x 5″ spiral bound notebook that fits in my back pocket. I have tiny pens that fit in my pocket, too. A fresh list, in the order I should work, keeps me focused. I don’t have to clutter my mind trying to remember what else I need to do, and that helps me concentrate on the task at hand. Anything I didn’t accomplish today goes to tomorrow’s list if it still really needs to be done.

Here’s one for your to do list. Subscribe to Homesteader’s Supply newsletter.

The pen is a big time saver. Write down your additions. Again, if you’re not working to remember everything you’re better able to concentrate.

Be Seasonal. If you’re not going to get to certain tasks until winter don’t clutter your list with them now. I makes your list look and feel longer than it is. Make a note on a master list and forget about it for now.

Accept that your lists will probably never be empty. That’s a hard one. It’s a relief to cross items off the list. It must be a great feeling to not have a To Do list. I’m not familiar with that feeling. Lists evolve. They grow, shrink, change, get crumpled up and thrown away.

Set Time Limits. Set time limits. Be realistic, but aim to get the job done in a certain amount of time. It takes me one hour to weed the beans if I hustle. Keep moving and work efficiently.

Weather. Pay attention to the weather. I can weed the beans today before it gets too hot but I can’t put them on tomorrow’s list because it’s going to rain hard all day.

Do a good job. Doing a good job today means some items won’t be back on your list too soon. It’s worth the extra time and effort now even when it feels like a big burden during an especially busy time of year.

Be Realistic. I had beautiful perennial gardens on my list year after year after year. Weed. Plant. Weed. Prune. Weed. I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t time to raise pigs and poultry, have a half-acre garden, put up all this food, cut, split and stack the firewood, and have beautiful perennial gardens.

Control your to do list, don’t let your to do list control you.