Claudette

I like naming things. I think it adds some personality to whatever it is that I’ve named, and it’s easier or perhaps a bit more fun to refer to things with names as opposed to nouns.

I named my shiitake block (thus my mushrooms), Pierre. Mushrooms just seem French to me. Mushrooms are sophisticated, classy, cultured, and have a worldly presence about them. So naturally they get French names. Pierre is resting for the time being but I expect he’ll be back in action in no time.

My latest mushroom adventure is named Claudette. She’s a blue oyster mushroom and I have to take a moment to describe just how incredible and beautiful she is!

Claudette came to me by way of Ryan Smith, a local master cultivator with Exotic Earth Mushrooms. He was kind enough to give me a bag of freshly spawned oyster mushroom mycellium.  And let me tell you. She is beautiful and she’s growing fast! Ryan took spawn and inoculated some pasteurized straw on October 28th. Since then she’s practically taken over the entire bag. It’s really incredible!

2014_11_05_Claudette1 2014_11_05_Claudette2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hoped Pierre would have produced a few more mushrooms but I ran into some problems with mold. So I’ve treated the block as best I can for it and he’s resting now. But I’ve got Claudette growing and I couldn’t be more excited.

She’s only 8 days old and just look at how much the mycellium has made it way through the straw.  I think in a week or so it might be time to start fruiting. This is my first time growing oyster mushrooms (and my second attempt ever growing mushrooms) so I really do not know what to expect, when to do…well anything, and what happens after that. Yes, I’ve read several books, listened to podcasts, reviewed numerous forums, watch videos and TED talks, but this is the sort of thing that you can’t get through with just book smarts alone. There’s a lot of feel to this, and watching, and paying attention to the mycellium, and being careful all the while. It’s a tremendous learning curve actually, but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had growing anything.

Regardless, I am just as taken with Claudette as I am with Pierre – who will be back in action soon I’m sure.  Expect updates and more interesting anecdotes very soon.

 

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Home Grown

Ha! I thought the title would make some of y’all do a double take.

I decided to try my hand at growing mushrooms.  For my first act, I’ve decided to go with shiitakes.  I ordered my mushroom growing kit from Mushroom Mountain in South Carolina.

I first heard about Tradd Cotter while I was perusing the podcasts on the permaculture podcasts website.  After listening, I was thoroughly intrigued. Then I remembered that I saw a TED talk a few years ago given by Paul Stamets and was floored then too. Absolutely riveted. I had no idea fungus could be so incredible. I mean, who knew it (they?) could do so much? How could one not be fascinated by mushrooms? Though I found mycelium to be intriguing, the thought of studying it more simply fell off the radar. Not because it wasn’t worthy but mostly, but because other things came up.

After rediscovering my fascination with mushrooms I decided to get Tradd Cotter’s book and maybe give growing mushrooms a try. I ordered the shiitake fruiting block from Mushroom Mountain and was expecting it any day. I got the book earlier in the week so I thumbed through it and paid closer attention to the shiitake section.

If for no other reason, find or buy the book and just look at the photos.  Some mushrooms are particularly stunning.  Others are just…weird.

Anyway, when I got home today I found the fruiting block on my porch.  I brought it in and couldn’t wait to open it!  That is, until I opened it. It was this big, semi-light block of fungus.  There were already some mushrooms growing which was comforting.  To be honest, I had no idea what to expect.  But I didn’t expect anything so large.

10/16/2014

OutOfTheBoxShitakeFruitingBlock

The directions read that I should submerge and soak the block for 8 hours and then put it on a plate, tent it with the tent it came with, and mist it twice a day every day until the shiitakes are about 2 inches long.

No problem!  Or so I thought.  The directions did say that the block would float and that it needed to be weighted down.  Let me tell you.  This thing REALLY wants to float!

ShitakeFruitingBlockFloating

Weighing it down was a bit of a challenge, but I did finally prevail, after a few misfires and several relatively small puddles on the floor.

WeighedDownFruitingBlock

At 5:30 am tomorrow I’ll take it out, tent it, and wait for the mushrooms to grow.

10/17/2014 update.

I need a life.  It’s 5:18 am and here I am snapping photos of fungus.  HA!  I’m such a tree hugger.  That said, Pierre soaked overnight per the directions, and the block is noticeably heavier, maybe, 15 pounds now.  I’ll set him on a plate and tent him, and he’ll stay in a room with bright, indirect sunlight.

IntroducingPierre

PierreInHumidityTent

Steps 1 and 2 are complete.  Step 3 – misting twice a day until the shiitakes are about 2 inches long, is next.  I’ll post photos as all the little Pierre’s start to grow.  How exciting!  Anyone up for mushroom ravioli?

Stay tuned!

10/19/2014 update.

I noticed some dry spots on the block and I’ll be keeping my eyes on those areas.  I’ve misted these areas a good bit and removed most of the run off water so that Pierre is not sitting in a puddle.

Dry spots on the side of the block

Dry spots on the side of the block

Dry spots on the front of the block

Check out the little Pierre’s!

2014_10_19_LittlePierres

 

 

Posted in Out of Town | 2 Comments

Weapon of Mass Destruction

I’ve found one. It’s real, intense, and can and will do great harm to all living organisms across the globe, the planets and their moons, and the entire solar system. If one uses enough, our central sun Alcyone will go dark and the greater part of the universe will be rendered incapable of sustaining life. I understand now, why people tremble at it’s very mention. After having experienced one first hand, I too, am very afraid.

Bird’s eye green chilies.

In my never-ending quest to see how much food I can ruin, today’s disaster was the liberal use of green chili paste I made with the Bird’s Eye chilies I got from a local Indian market. These reside in the produce section and I didn’t give them any special consideration until I had to evacuate my home late last night, during a severe cold front (in the high 50’s) ravaging the state of Florida, in flip flops, in my bathrobe.

These are rather inconspicuous looking, being fairly small and faint of smell. Based on the Indian food I’ve had before I knew these chilies would cook up a bit on the spicy side, but nothing in heaven or on Earth could have prepared me for the experience of using too much fresh green chili paste.

Nothing.

I made the green chili paste using the directions I got my friend Suneeta. I took a bunch of green chilies and a bit of salt, jammed them in a mason jar and used my immersion blender (since I haven’t gotten a new food processor yet) to blend them to a paste. Simple. Easy. No problems here. I left them in the jar  until I was ready to use them and began the rest of the prep work for the meal. Even after having ground these to a paste, I detected nothing that caused me alarm or concern. No intense odors, no heat waves – nothing.

Next, I chopped some ginger and onions so that I could saute these with the green chili paste for my first attempt at making black-eyed pea fritters (alasanda vada), and this too went well. In fact, everything was just fine until I put a few heaping teaspoons of green chili paste into the very hot frying pan along with the peanut oil, onions and ginger.

And that’s when everything started to go terribly wrong.

The first thing that happened was that my eyes, nose and throat began to burn. Even when I backed away from the frying pan, the effect of the green chilies was unabated. After a few seconds of me trying to stir whilst simultaneously leaning as far back as I could from the stove, I found it difficult to breathe normally. Or at all. But being the consummate adventurer that I am, I thought that maybe things would get better as soon as the chilies cooked up a bit with the onions and ginger, and the agony that I was enduring would soon end if only I could muster the fortitude to weather the discomfort of chemical burns.

After about a minute or more, I could no longer stand there and stir. I dropped the spatula and exited the kitchen rather quickly. I thought, maybe turning on the ceiling fans might help the situation. They’d circulate the air thus disband the effect of the chilies, and keep me out of the kitchen long enough for me to get some tissues and wipe the tears from my eyes. I’d go back into the aired out kitchen refreshed, ready to resume making this fine, delectable meal.

Upon re-entering the kitchen I was overcome with a series of heart stopping, body racking sneezes. I didn’t even make it to the stove before I was overcome with the most forceful sneezes I’ve ever had. When the sneezing stopped, my nose started running uncontrollably. Once again I found myself exiting the kitchen post haste, fast tracking it to the other side of the living room where the Kleenex tissues were. Fortunately I’m in fairly good shape and I made it to the Kleenex box before a torrent of liquid poured forth from my nostrils.

It was a good thing for me the box of Kleenex was full. I stood under the ceiling fans running on high, blew my nose for a long while, trying to see through a haze of tears, wondering if the smoke alarms were going to get tripped. Hopefully the fire alarms were only sensitive to smoke and not chemicals.  Since nothing seemed to be getting better, after a short time I opened the front door, took a deep breath and filled my lungs with fresh, cold air, and walked back into the kitchen to remove the pan from the stove and turn everything off.

Even with the door open and the fans on, it took a good ten minutes or more for the house to get aired out to the point where my eyes weren’t tearing up and the sneezing stopped. It goes without saying that there was no way that I would be able to salvage this dish. I’m glad I only had a few ingredients in the pan because I really don’t like wasting food.

Fifteen minutes later give or take – dejected and humiliated, I went back into the kitchen and walked cautiously towards the stove. With a sense of wonder and curiosity, I wanted to see just how hot the green chilies cooked up.  It was the same kind of curiosity I had years ago when I wanted to see just how bad a shock an electric fences really gave. I took my spoon, put a minuscule amount of the vegetables on the end of it – like in the grits scene in “My Cousin Vinny”, and tasted it.

It never ceases to amaze me how I can make such spectacularly bad decisions.

Once again, I couldn’t breathe. My tongue burned hotter than molten steel. I started snotting and coughing uncontrollably. The sneezing resumed and my eyes teared up instantly. As I’m trying to regain my composure all I could think about was, at least I didn’t rub my eyes, though at the time that wasn’t all too comforting. Had I made any more mistakes I may have had to write this using braille from the burn unit at Shands.

When all was said and done, I threw away the half an onion, a teaspoon of ginger, and the chili paste that went into the dish. I used about a third of a box of Kleenex, my culinary self-esteem has taken another nose dive, and I still have a small jar of the most toxic substance known to human kind. And I’m hungry. It’s now about an hour later and my sinuses are still not back to normal.

But that’s ok. Next time, I’ll just pick a dish to make with less harmful ingredients. Or, maybe I’ll just get take out.

 

Posted in Adventures, Cooking, Humor, Local, Vegan | Comments Off on Weapon of Mass Destruction

2013 – A Year in Review

Now that 2013 is almost done and gone, I find myself reflecting on what has been quite a year. There were unexpected changes, exciting ventures, heartfelt moments, pleasant surprises, funky pursuits and important successes.

While the entire year has indeed proved interesting, it’s the last six months that have really made 2013 so incredible.

I attended a 72 hour permaculture design course, enrolled in culinary school, ventured out of my neighborhood to see a few other parts of Florida, created my first permaculture garden (three hugles and counting), made some wonderful new and dear friends, read many books, learned to cook a few vegan recipes well, finished fixing things up around my house finally, had the pleasure of a visit from some out-of-town friends, did a lot of volunteer work, assisted a professional photographer on photo shoots, stayed diligent with my three days a week cross fit work outs, became a vegan mentor, conquered the art of baking bread, started writing regularly in my blog, began playing my guitar again, and I have gone out and been social on a regular basis.

It’s amazing what can happen in six months time.

The most unconventional thing I’ve embraced is, I ditched store-bought shampoos, conditioners and other hair care products and substituted these with baking soda (shampoo) and apple cider vinegar (conditioner). All I have to say about this is, I wished I had done this years ago. I’ll post the recipes for these soon.

The coolest thing I did was attend the permaculture design course. I got a lot more out of this class than expected, and I could not have anticipated how much I would learn about permaculture, life, people, giving, generosity and friendship.

The most heart-felt was Christmas with my dearest friends. There was something really wonderful about our day together. It was one of those days where I was filled with love, joy, happiness, calm and peace for the entire day, from the moment I got up.  These feelings even lasted well into the next day.  The day will be etched in my mind forever, and is by far the best Christmas I’ve ever experienced.

The most rewarding experience was being a vegan mentor. By chance I met someone who was in a similar situation that I was in not long ago – health wise, and after much encouragement I was instrumental in getting this person to embrace a vegan diet to see if this change would make any difference for the better. I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say, it sure did! It’s not that I’m patting myself on the back for my efforts. That’s not at all why this was my most rewarding experience. What made this so incredible was that yet another person learned that by changing diet alone, many health problems can be solved. More than most may think. As a result of that change, this person was able to start living again, enjoying old and new hobbies, friends and family with minimal pain. And as a bonus, I have a new friend with whom I can share stories, frustrations, successes and recipes.

2013 was filled with countless epiphanies, both spiritual and intellectual. I’ve had so many that I quit counting months ago. I feel fortunate that for reasons I do not yet understand, the growth spurts I’ve experienced have been often and extreme. With each new discovery, each new realization, peace and calm become greater in me and the vices I used to use to accomplish a false semblance of these are needed no more. Inner quiet is abundant even in the most trying of circumstances.

These last few months have been so fulfilling, so much fun, that I can’t imagine what next year is going to be like.  I have made a list of things I want to do, but I can’t really call these resolutions.  They’re just extensions of life I haven’t ventured into yet, and I’m going to make room for them next year.  In making my 2014 list of things to do, it goes without saying that everything I have begun in 2013 should also continue into 2014 and beyond.

  1. Make ginger ale from scratch
  2. Make root beer from scratch
  3. Make and keep a sour dough rye culture going
  4. Make kombucha
  5. Make my own toothpaste
  6. Make at least four very good restaurant quality raw, vegan dishes
  7. Finish a particular book I’ve been reading (challenging, to say the least)
  8. Convert my entire yard to a permaculture food forest
  9. Make a cob oven at home
  10. Make a rocket mass stove at home
  11. Make cute, artsy signs for the plants in my garden
  12. Make at least four new really excellent vegan sandwiches
  13. Make at least four new really excellent drinks, preferably with ingredients from plants from my garden
  14. Learn twenty new songs on my guitar
  15. Post on average, one post per week on my blog
  16. Make a large solar oven (from maybe an old BBQ grill)
  17. Have a fall harvest party where everything we eat comes from my garden – even if it’s only appetizers
  18. Create a permaculture vertical garden
  19. Take seeds or cuttings from all the foods I eat, and either plant them or save them
  20. Introduce permaculture to my neighbors and offer to start gardens for them
  21. As an art project, see if I can use a fresnel lens to melt some beach sand and see if I end up with a pretty glass sculpture (even if I don’t get interesting glass sculptures, this is going to be wicked fun)

I have been saving a bottle of the best beer I’ve ever had (Southern Tier Crème brûlée Stout) for new years, and 2013 will end in the company of great friends, fabulous beer, and with excitement and anticipation of the coming year.  2014 will begin with the Polar Plunge (9:00 am, South side of the pier) followed by some really hot tea.

To everyone and all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!  May next year be everything you hope it to be.

 

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Merry Christmas from THE BEACH

Merry Christmas, everyone!

After having just gotten back from THE BEACH for the 4th time this weekend, I wanted everyone to know that I truly and genuinely hope all of you have a warm, heartfelt, relaxing Christmas, filled with family, friends and love.

We’ve had some spectacular weather lately, especially this weekend. I just got done washing the sand from my flip-flops, tossing my shorts and t-shirt in the laundry basket, cleaning my sun glasses, putting my bicycle up for the weekend, and opening the doors and most of windows to let the warm, BEACH breeze in. With my chores all done I thought now would be a good time to send everyone some warm holiday wishes.

THE BEACH was packed today, and it’s no wonder given the weather we had. There were a few surfers and lots of kite boarders due to the strong and constant winds. So many people were out today that I had to brake suddenly several times to avoid children darting out into slowly moving, on-coming bicycle traffic. Today though was more treacherous than usual. Kites were very popular and most of their child handlers had no idea how to fly them.  I wasn’t hit myself, though I was buzzed twice by two different kites flown by very apologetic parents. A sunbather came within inches though of being the first kite casualty of the season.

Christmas in Florida is quite a scene. Just today as I was wheeling along THE BEACH and I saw a few young women wearing shorty short shorts, a bikini top and sheep skin winter boots with faux fur lining. If this isn’t the equivalent of a weather identity crisis then I don’t know what is. I understand being prepared for a sudden change in weather but this was a bit of a stretch.

Later I saw a woman in the grocery store who was wearing a long, knee-length wool coat, a scarf and mittens.

It was 81 degrees today.

As she walked she kept pulling the front of her coat closed around her neck, as if she were protecting herself from a cold breeze.  The funny part was she wasn’t even in the frozen food section. She was in the check out line.

Just because it’s warm here doesn’t mean we don’t get into the holiday spirit!  I saw a man jogging on the beach with his two dogs, each with collars with little sleigh bells on them. Everyone within earshot turned their head as he jogged by because the sound of those bells conjured up scenes of Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, sleds, fire places, and ice skates. The sleigh bell sound was so out-of-place and it was  just hilarious. There was something very comical with the bells against the back drop of sand and waves. The jogger loved it. It was clear he enjoyed turning heads.

The hardest part for me – even after being in Florida for a while, is vendors selling Christmas trees. I realize that no other thing symbolizes Christmas like a Christmas tree, but seeing them in Florida is still very funny to me. The ones with fake snow on the branches make me smile even more.

But my all time favorites are the pink flamingos lawn ornaments, dolphin and manatee mailboxes, with red santa hats on them.  There is nothing more “quintessential Florida” than pink flamingos with santa hats.  I just love those!  One of these days I’m going to have to get a few of those and do up my whole yard in a tropical Christmas theme.  I want to have string lights in my palm trees, and flip-flop and pink flamingo Christmas tree lights, tiki totems with santa hats, and reindeer wearing board shorts.

With that said and bedtime quickly approaching, I again wish everyone a very merry Christmas.

Now if y’all will excuse me, there’s fresh coconut, mangos and pineapples to munch on.

Sand man

Sand man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, The Beach | Comments Off on Merry Christmas from THE BEACH

Operation Allium

With the momentum generated by Operation Daucus Carota, surely now is a good time to commence with Operation Allium. Given my feelings of invincibility and grandeur with having converted what would otherwise be garbage disposal material into potentially viable plants, I can’t wait to get started on my next project.

It’s not surprising that I went overboard on the Alliums. I use either onions or garlic almost every time I cook. But that’s not the whole reason I went overboard. The real reason is, I get a tremendous amount of happiness and joy saving, nurturing and growing plants. Especially food. What doesn’t go my garden will go to a welcoming home elsewhere. And too, I get a great deal of satisfaction giving away my seeds and plants. The more plants I have the more I can give away, and this is a beautiful thing.

I bought four heads of organic garlic some time ago and did what I too often do. I bought extra thinking I had none at home. So when some started to sprout I put them in tiny containers, covered them with dirt and then (Austrian winter pea) mulch, and sat them out side. I got the scallions from the Beaches Green (farmer’s) Market today, and these were just picked just this morning.

I probably could have started the scallions outside but I choose to put them in water. Like the carrots, it’s nice to be able to check up on them each day and see their roots and tops grow.  It won’t be long before these are either in my hugle somewhere or in small containers to give to others.

Alliums - scallions and garlic

Alliums – scallions and garlic

 

 

Starting my scallion cuttings in water

Starting my scallion cuttings in water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic straight into containers.

Garlic straight into containers.

 

 

 

 

 

Two additional garlic plants.

Two additional garlic plants.

 

 

 

 

 

My new garlic plants with all my other garlic plants.

My new garlic plants with all my other garlic plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will post updates as soon as something interesting happens.

 

Posted in Humor, Local, Permaculture, Vegan | Comments Off on Operation Allium

Operation Daucus Carota

 

FLASH!

Operation Daucus Carota is a SUCCESS!  Check out the little roots on this beauty!  How exciting.  Free food!  Next up:  Operation Allium.

Carrots with roots, 9 days later (12.19.2013).

Carrots with roots, 9 days later (12.19.2013).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Daucus Carota

In my ongoing  attempt to become more proficient and experienced with permaculture and all things gardening, my latest adventure is trying to propagate dinner one species at a time.

First up:  Carrots.

At the farmer’s market this weekend I picked up some beautiful, tasty, heirloom carrots, complete with tops. After I got done munching on the carrots I thought I’d stick the tops and the remaining carrot bits in a jar of water just to see what would happen. Now granted, I think I should have left a bit more of the carrot in place but I didn’t think about that until after I was done munching on them.

I thought, what the heck. I’ll just stick ’em in water and see what happens. What do I have to lose? I am going to bury these in my hugle mounds as food for critters and worms and such anyway, so if nothing happens I’ve lost nothing. And if nothing happens, when I do this again I’ll remember to not do things next time the same way I did things this time. It’s a win no matter how you look at it.

So here’s what they look  like, all nice and cozy, in a window that gets afternoon sun. I really hope the carrots sprout some roots so I can plant them in my hugle mound as future food for my friends and me. How cool would that be – free food!

The Okinawan spinach cuttings I put in water sprouted little roots in about 10 days.  With some luck and a whole lotta good vibes, maybe these will have at least as much luck as the spinach did.

Operation Daucus Carota

Operation Daucus Carota

 

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