Monthly Archives: August 2014

In the Kitchen with Prepper Pro

In the Kitchen with Prepper Pro

Prepper Pro w/ Logo

The Homesteader’s Supply logo is branded on each Prepper Pro

This morning I woke up with enthusiasm and dread. It’s a food day. Mushrooms needed to be cleaned and dehydrated. Beans were waiting to be picked, blanched and frozen. The blueberries were taken out of the freezer last night to thaw and needed to be made into jam today. I knew I’d be working with the Prepper Pro today. I waited until it arrived in the mail to make jam. When it was time to put it to use in the blueberries, I hesitated.

TheĀ  Appalachian Maple wood is treated with raw, organic coconut oil but I wasn’t sure the blueberries wouldn’t stain it. It’s such a beautiful piece that I didn’t want to take chances with it. I thought about wrapping it in Saran wrap but wasn’t sure it would stand up to two quarts of blueberries without slipping. I opted instead for a zippered sandwich bag. It worked perfectly to protect the wood.

A zippered sandwich bag protected the Prepper Pro from being stained.

A zippered sandwich bag protected the Prepper Pro from being stained.

I won’t use the bag when I grind dehydrated Chanterelle mushrooms into powder or when grinding herbs. I’ll be pulverizing wild mint later this week. The large end (pictured above) of the Prepper Pro fits into a wide mouth canning jar. The smaller end fits into a small mouth jar. As I used it I thought of more ways I’ll use this new tool of mine.

Prepper Pro Sm_03

The Prepper Pro is another of our new products that was designed by Jerri, owner of Homesteader’s Supply, and is being made locally from locally sourced Appalachian maple trees. It’s well balanced, smooth as can be, and fits comfortably in my hands.

You can purchase the Fermenting Kit that comes with:



The Prepper Pro fits into small and large mouth canning jars.

The Prepper Pro fits into small and large mouth canning jars.

Prepper Pro

I’ll be mashing strawberries, raspberries and blackberries I’ve frozen to use later. There are always herbs to grind, both fresh and dehydrated. And I think I’ll give a grind or two to my loose, dried tea blends to wake them up a bit before putting them into the tea ball. I’ll be using this for more than packing my jars when I make sauerkraut. I washed the Prepper Pro when I finished using it, applied more organic coconut oil, and put in easy reach on the shelf. This is going to be used often.

And I’ll be adding the Prepper Pro to a few Christmas baskets this year. I have friends who’ll put it to good use!

Autumn Vegetables to Seed Now

Autumn’s coming. The stressed trees are showing a little fall color now. Nights are cooling down and if they haven’t already, day time temps will cool soon. The soil temperature will drop as the amount of sunshine decreases, and that means it’s time to plant the cool loving seeds. Decreasing sunlight and warmth slows growth compared to spring planting. It’s best to plant in full sun at this time of year.

Premier, also known as Early Hanover, is an heirloom kale. It takes approximately 60 days to maturity when planted in late summer or early fall. In spring, as the days are getting longer, it averages 45-50 days. You can cutĀ  some as baby kale for salad and stir fry while leaving part of the plant to over winter under protection of a low tunnel in zones five and up. Not all plants will survive even with protection but those that do will start to grow again in March or April.

May Queen lettuce grows well in rich, moist soil. May Queen is an heirloom butterhead that needs 50+ days to maturity but only 30 for baby greens.

Inter-seeding Cherry Belle radishes will help you spread out your tiny seeds when direct seeding. They sprout quickly and will help mark your rows. Did you know radish leaves are great in salad and stir fry when they are young and tender? Save some of your seeds to plant in pots on the window sill for winter. 21 days to maturity.

Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach

Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach

Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach is perfect for the autumn garden. It dislikes heat but thrives in cool, moist soil. It requires 55 days to maturity but at this time of year you won’t want to let the plant reach maturity. Enjoy eating the spinach until about a week before the forecast calls for several nights in a row below freezing, then make your last cut and mulch heavily with straw or leaves. You can pull back the mulch when the nights are consistently above freezing in the sprig and have a head start on the growing season.

Turnip thrives in cool, moist soil. Purple Globe White Top needs 45-60 days to reach its mature size of three to four inch roots. Pull all of these turnip before the ground freezes as they don’t over winter well. If they do survive they’ll go to seed early in the spring.

Scarlet Nantes Carrot

Scarlet Nantes Carrot

For late season carrots we like Scarlet Nantes and Danvers varieties. Carrots, like other roots, get sweeter as the soil gets colder. Pull what you’ll eat fresh and can store, then mulch the rest of the row heavily with leaves or straw before the ground freezes. As long as you can push the mulch out of the way you’ll be able to pull carrots. Move mulch when nights stay above freezing in the spring and start harvesting again.


Detroit Dark Red Beet

Detroit Dark Red Beet

Detroit Dark Red beets are treated in the same manner as carrots. Enjoy the leaves as baby greens in salad or larger leaves for beet greens. Cut only two leaves per root at this time of year to ensure the roots receives enough energy to grow.

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.