Mushroom Abundance

While just two hours away Dallas was getting flooded, we got a measly two inches. Certainly not enough to fill the pond or raise the creek or get the ravines flowing again.

But it was enough for a crazy number of mushrooms!

I was collecting mushrooms for several days afterward, including some first-time-finds—a choice edible and the weirdest mushroom I’ve ever seen.

The ‘Giant Blob’ mushroom? These are all through one of our raised beds planted with sweet potatoes, scattered throughout the vines.

Mushrooms popping up everywhere.

And now on to the good stuff!

Foraging for anything is just about my favorite thing to do in decent weather, and mushrooms especially. But in hot, sticky weather there better be some bang for the buck, as the saying goes.

Especially because the chiggers thrive here when it’s hot, wet, and humid, so shorts and sandals are not an option.

Last year with our very wet spring we had chanterelles all summer long. We’ve had very few this year, so this nice haul has been a real treat.

“Chicken” mushroom — Laetiporus sulphureus

Hubby found this ‘chicken of the woods’ on a rotting Oak tree while feeding the pigs. It’s a first-find for us here and is considered to be a good “Beginner’s” mushroom, because there are no similar mushrooms to it which are poisonous. It’s very tasty in cream of mushroom soup and does indeed have a texture similar to chicken breast.

Another new find is considered to be “choice”—related to the shiitake mushroom—Lentinus lepideus.

Found on rotting pine, which there’s loads of around here, so it’s surprising we don’t find them more often. I’m going to try to cultivate them!

We got a marvelous wild harvest right in the back yard. These “Pink bottoms” (Agaricus campestris) are very common and closely related to commercially cultivated mushrooms in the grocery stores.

They resemble another common yard mushroom that fools a lot of folks—the toxic Chlorophyllum molybdites —including me once when I was a beginner. It was an excellent lesson considering spending the night hugging the toilet has made me a much more cautious mushroom hunter!

These two often grow together as well, preferring the same conditions, sometimes in ‘fairy rings’. When they are very young the gills of both look white, while still mostly closed.

As they open, the good ones have pinkish gills that change fairly quickly to chocolate brown. The toxic ones have greenish gills that get a grayish-olive tone with age.

The ‘campestris’ after a few hours on the left and another fresh from the yard on the right.

And to make matters more confusing, once a little older and browned they could also be confused by a novice with another yard mushroom, the ‘magic’ mushroom, the common psychedelic Psilocybe cubensis. The very bitter taste will be enough to figure that out.

And now, for the grande finale . . . the most perfect specimen of Macrolepiota procera I’ve ever seen! A delicious edible, fairly common wherever there’s been ruminants wandering, like quite a few other wild mushrooms.

It’s the System, Stupid

To me this entire story positively reeks of stagecraft. But, even if we take it at face value it demonstrates how screwed up our food system really is.

MONDAY, JAN. 26, 2015 PHOTO In this Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 photo, cows are milked on one of the carousels in a milking parlor on the Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Ind. Fairlife, which is rolling out nationally in coming weeks, is the product of a joint venture between Select Milk Producers, a dairy cooperative, and Coca-Cola. The product is filtered to have more protein and less sugar than regular milk. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Here’s the story in tiny nutshell: The McCloskeys were sued for animal cruelty at their dairy farm following an undercover employee’s secretly videotaping several instances with four workers involved. Now a settlement has been reached:

Completely denatured milk sold as natural, tasty and healthy

The Fairlife ads, cartoon milk dresses.
Classy.

A $21 million Settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed against Defendants The Coca-Cola Company (“TCCC”), fairlife, LLC (“fairlife”), Fair Oaks Farms, LLC (“FOF”), Mike McCloskey and Sue McCloskey (“the McCloskeys”), and Select Milk Producers, Inc. (“Select”), relating to fairlife and FOF Milk Products. The lawsuit alleges that Defendants falsely labeled and marketed certain dairy products produced using milk from cows that were allegedly not treated humanely. Defendants deny all allegations and have settled this lawsuit to avoid further litigation.

The Court has not decided who is right.You may submit a Claim Form to receive 25% of the average retail purchase price, up to $100, for your purchases of fairlife Milk Products and FOF Milk Products, if the products were purchased for personal use and not for resale, and were purchased on or before April 27, 2022. Claim Forms submitted without Valid Proof of Purchase will be capped at a Cash Award of up to $20 and Claim Forms submitted with Valid Proof of Purchase will be capped at a Cash Award of up to $80, subject to certain adjustments (upward and downward) depending on the number of claims submitted.

So, there’s video evidence, but the Court has not decided who is right. Must be so confusing, poor kids.

But you get some money anyway if you can come up with your milk purchase receipt, potentially from 2015. Brilliant.

In an interview the McCloskeys talk about all the fantastic improvements they’ve made to garner public trust once again in their dairy products since the video’s release, and the broad coverage of ‘the scandal’ by MSM (I do believe they neglected to mention the product line was owned by Coca-Cola, but I may have missed that part and really do not care to re-listen. It was annoying enough the first time listening to Mike Rowe pander to these creeps).

What I did hear in the interview was how proud the McCloskeys are now of their complete video surveillance system, how they are well on the road to becoming ‘Net Zero’ so that they can help curb climate change as responsible business owners, and how very excited they were to see the gleam in the eye of the school children who came there to tour their facilities and were so thrilled to see cows being milked by carousel machine.

Now they might grow up to become mechanical engineers, Mrs. McCloskey beamed!

I’m so excited for our Green future too, aren’t you?!

Homestead Happenings

Just posting some happy snaps to distract our attention away from all that’s dying in the garden. And the fact that the hens have mostly stopped laying, our oldest goat is looking dangerously thin, the grass has turned crispy, and there’s no end in sight.

Bubba trying to keep cool

Still, the kids are growing like weeds.

Walnut’s nearly as big as her mama already (back left) and even little Athena (front) is catching up to the rest of the kids.
Morning glory, another goat favorite

The birds and the bees are still doing their thing while we can’t manage to stay outside past 11 am.

Unfortunately, so are the ants. The leaf-cutters are slowly destroying our young fruit trees. Only the more mature pear is escaping their attack.

Almost ready, fingers crossed!

Plants are simply amazing. The purslane and arugula are growing fine and make a great pesto. The sweet potato vines are a goat favorite, the okra’s just coming in, the peppers and watermelons are still hanging in there.

The zucchini hasn’t given up either, and somehow we still have broccoli that’s not bitter.

Just as the old cucumbers got bitter, the new volunteer is producing like crazy. Not too shabby! 😁

Homestead Happenings

Time to wine!

It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s miserable. Every day we enter the garden and the orchard knowing we’ll find something else dead.

First it was the tomatoes, then the salad cucumbers and cantaloupe, now it looks like even the tomatillos are giving up before ever producing well. The squashes are all struggling and the peppers and figs are mostly stalled.

I wish that meant it was time to rest on our laurels and have some long, slow and sweet indoor days of movie marathons and Kombucha cocktails.

But no such luck, because it’s time for making wine!

Our painstakingly cultivated Muscadine grapes are not doing well, we expect a minimal harvest, at best.

But, the native Mustang grapes are a lot tougher, apparently.

So, fortunately! We’re still able to make some wine and jam.

Did I mention it’s really F’ing HOT? And dry?

I’d whine a lot more, except I keep going back to the miracle of all the critters and plants who can take it so much better than we can. Though, I know they are struggling too, and are just less whiney than I am.

And just for those keeping track, the ‘chemtrails’ have not abated.

Rebel Canning?!

Drama in the canning community? This sounds serious. Especially now that it’s coming home to roost.

Or is that roast?

Yes, now that Hubby has enthusiastically taken up canning, there’s trouble brewing in Kensho paradise.

It’s not only that he dominates our small kitchen for hours on end, heats up the house with his fancy pressure canner, or is filling every conceivable space with his jars. It’s not even that’s he’s far better at it than I ever was.

No, I’m generous that way, perfectly willing to share in the glory.

I am, however, growing weary of his methodology. His modern, high-tech, USDA, strictly by the book, precision style is beginning to conflict with my laissez-faire, look how the old timers did it, just wing it attitude.

I suggested we try the ‘Open Kettle Method’, which for the record is taken directly from my 1933 Kerr Home Canning Guide.

He quips, “No way, it’s not approved.”

Huh?

And I’ve just learned we’re not alone in this clash. There’s some fiery online debate—wouldn’t you know it—as in politics, so in the kitchen.

They call themselves the ‘Rebel Canners’ and that’s got me quite intrigued. Those rascals are daring to question The Official Science! They must all have a death wish. Clearly they have they never heard of botulism.

It was no sooner than Hubby and I had a tiff over water bath timing that a YouTube video hit the top of my feeds.

How did they know?

A rebel canner, in the flesh.

She doesn’t look nearly as crazy as I thought she would. She brings up the Amish, who never pressure can.

Never! Not even for meat.

It’s positively scandalous.

Hubby tries to block out the insanity coming from the speakers. I tell him I want to try it. Meat, my dear, imagine, meat water bath canned!

Let’s go for it!

He looks at me with the same look as when I try a new foraged mushroom without proper identification. And I know just what that look means.

I can repeat the sentence for him, I’ve heard it so often.

“You go ahead, sweetie, someone has to live to tell the story.”

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee hodgepodge of happy snaps and some light commentary for today.

Our preserving efforts have been at fever pitch with bushels of cucumbers and melons coming in. The Noirs des Carmes cantaloupe that was my main prize experiment for this summer has been a success, for the most part. We’ve gotten loads of melons, way too many to count, and the majority of them have been good.

But many of them have ‘exploded’— and that’s not just split, but within a day, before even being fully ripe, they’ve blown open completely. Some are tasteless even though fully ripe. Some are softening while still small and unripe.

The pigs have been the great beneficiaries of these rejects. I do understand why this melon is not commercially available and is not a favorite at farmer’s markets either, even though when they’re good, they’re delicious. Though some of these issues could certainly be the extreme heat and drought, they do not last long once they are ripe. They must ripen on the vine, and once ripe they last only a few days before rotting.

For us they’ve been prolific and very tasty even under stressful conditions, so they will be a keeper. Needless to say, we’ve been eating A LOT of melon! Melon for breakfast, snacks, aqua fresca, desserts, juice, syrup, jam and smoothies.

A small fraction of our harvest, preparing to make preserves.

We’re trying to take advantage of the heat by trying out a recent gift, a sun oven!

Our place is so small and we love cooking, but it’s hardly economical heating up the whole house every afternoon, when it’s blazing hot outside, and while inside the air conditioning is blasting away.

The kids are growing so fast! I’m slowly, gently trying to ween them. In this heat I don’t dare take too much milk for us, just enough for our morning coffee. But the daily training is still essential, for us all.

Around 5:00 am I separate mamas and kids for about 5 hours. The kids are eating grains and forage already, but they don’t like to be long off those teets, that’s for sure! By 9:00 they are wailing and it’s hard to listen to them while we’re working away outside, but it must be tolerated.

I train them on the milk stand and bring them a wheelbarrow full of sweet potato vines, which they devour.

A few baffling successes have been carrots and broccoli that are still producing in this heat! This is a first for us. I guess I got the timing and variety just right, for once. They are both under shade cloth and not totally productive or tasty, but good enough for us and a very nice surprise.

I’ve started some seed trays of tomatoes and lettuce indoors for the fall garden. Fingers crossed, I’ve never had successful fall tomatoes so far, but you never know, considering those carrots and broccoli!

Squash Mysteries

Hey, you bee, you got my cucumber in my Trombetta!
Right?!

Some interesting twists and turns in the garden, as usual.

I did realize that cross-pollinating between cucumbers and squash do occur. It’s result is sometimes ‘parthenocarpic’, fruit that is seedless.

But, different fruits off the same plant?
This is news to me.
But, I’ll bet the Robo-Bees in the future technocrazy will have an ap for that!

These really did come off the same plant, same age, Hubby just happened to harvest some before I got a side-by-side photo. Next time.

I have the big seed-saving goals this year, but there is a learning curve for sure.

Because of space requirements, and that learning curve that seems to be getting steeper by the month, I decided to start with just a few crops. I already do most of the herbs, and the other easy stuff, like okra and sunflowers. I’ve ventured slightly into peppers and tomatoes, with negligable results.

Cucumbers, melons and squash are all in the ‘challenging’ category. I thought I planned correctly when I put the ones I want to seed-save at opposite ends of the garden, but then. . .

In my reference book, The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds by Robert & Cheryl Gough, it seems pretty hopeless. “Recommended isolation distance for varieties that can cross-pollinate is 1 1/2 to 2 miles; recommended isolation distance for other Cucurbita species is 1/4 mile.”

As in, Miles?! Oh my.

And furthermore, there’s another squash mystery. I’ve got zucchini right by Trombetta, as already mentioned. Yet the zucchini leaves, which look gorgeous, better than I’ve ever seen them, are flowering, and not producing. Yet the cucumbers and Trombetta are producing like crazy, and the Trombetta leaves are not really looking too good.

Any gardener, myself included, would immediately claim a gorgeous zucchini plant flowering just fine, but not producing, is the result of poor pollination.

But, I know, that’s highly unlikely. First, I’ve seen bees on them. Second, the nearby Trombetta and cucumber, also bee-pollinated, are producing just fine.

So, what gives?

And furthermore, more, why does spellcheck capitalize Trombetta and not zucchini?

I’m open to facts, theories, or random guesses.

Forbidden Cheeses: Little Turd & Wetnurse Breast

I ran out of attention span last post before I got to talking about cheese. Now that we have three mamas in milk I’ll be having a ball experimenting with new cheeses, which along with kombucha experimenting, is my favorite homesteady sort of thing to do.

Gardening and cooking being not far behind, to be sure!

Aged chèvre (goat cheese) in the French tradition is made of the highest craft and care, even when they are whimsically-named, like Crottin (Little Turd) and Sein de NouNou (Wetnurse breast).

But here in the U.S., Land of the FreeTM, Velveeta is ‘safe’ for consumers and aged goat cheeses, ideal for homestead creation, are completely illegal.

Because they care so very much, right?

“Chèvre evolved in frugal farming households of the sort that continue to make it today. It is a cheese that’s very economical, in both time and ingredients; made on the family farm, where there are many chores to take care of and livestock to feed, a cheese that didn’t need much attention or many costly ingredients fit right in.”

That is in Central France and other locations where it’s not illegal to sell. These are cheeses that require few inputs and no regular purchases—you don’t need a cheese press, or any expensive cultures, or even rennet. Fig sap (or other coagulants like nettles) can easily be substituted for rennet as only a few drops are used to set a gallon of milk.

These are also cheeses suitable to make in warm climates, similar to the more well-known goat cheeses like Feta or a fresh goat cheese. What makes the aged chèvre so unique is that it can only be made with raw milk. You may find hard raw milk cheeses in your grocery store or farmer’s market, like Gouda or Cheddar, these are pressed cheeses aged over two months, which are legal to sell with all the proper licensing. (I have NO interest in that!)

Feta, aged in salted whey for 2 weeks, some still soaking for a sharper flavor and others now drying for packaging in Foodsaver bags for longer storage.

These illegal aged goat cheeses sit at room temperature for about four days.

Imagine the horror the germophobes have with that!

You most certainly can’t do that with pasteurized milk. These cheeses were invented before pasteurization and before refrigeration and aged for a month or two in caves.

Mine will be aged in Tupperware bins inside a small beverage fridge I use for aging cheeses. (I would prefer not to use plastics at all, but they work just fine and I don’t have other options at the moment.).

I use natural cultures, not store-bought or freeze-dried, developed from previous cheeses, and stored in the freezer. Once the cheeses develop their fungal coat after a couple of weeks, they will be wrapped and aged for about a month.

Traditionally wrapping for these cheeses include leaves, like grape and fig, and even hornet’s nests. A few will also be coated with ash, instead of wrapping, like the traditional Sein de NouNou.

It is positively amazing how differently the cheeses will taste based on just a few variables in the process!

“Relatively unknown in North America, this class of cheeses includes some of France’s most famous fromages: ash-coated and pyramid-shaped Valencay; Sainte Maure—pierced with a blade of straw (the industrial version of Sainte Maure features plastic straws!); and small, moldy Crottin are all aged chèvre cheeses. Perhaps the only well-known North American aged chèvre is Humboldt Fog, a creamy, ash-ripened goats’ milk cheese from Humboldt County, California.”

(I’ve not looked into why or how the Humboldt Fog is legal to mass produce and sell. I plan to dig into that, but my initial guess is they’ve been able to either find a way to use pasteurized goat milk or they have a state-of-the-art affinage ‘cave’ where they can age it over two months without losing the creamy texture.)

“Goats are a belligerent species that have rejected the rigorous production regime thrust upon their bovine cousins. Unlike cows, who contentedly chew their cud in confinement and produce enormous quantities of milk year-round, goats refuse to be cogs in the machine of industrialized dairying.”

On left: Cutting into the last Kensho cheese experiment, aged two months, a washed-rind cheese similar to something between a Muenster and Gouda.
Result: Delicious Success!

A most excellent resource, and the source of the above quotes:

Goats, a belligerent species? HA!
The perfectly adorable non-conformists more like!

The latest and last addition to the herd this year (in the foreground) yet to be named, and already twice the size of our wee Athena (in the background, about 5 days old), formerly Zena, we decided we prefer the former.
Any name suggestions on our newest? We are at a loss so far with this big girl who is sure to be a lifetime keeper! She came out huge and most active and ready to suckle immediately and play within 1 day!

Kids, Kombucha, Bees & Cheese 

What better day to ponder than Mother’s Day why kids are so darn cute?!

The newest kids, born yesterday, Phoebe’s firsts—Hercules & Zena—notice he is twice the size of her!

We’ve bartered or sold most of our piglets already. We’re not on social media where such information is exchanged, but it certainly does seem the homesteading community in our area is growing rapidly. Yippie!

One family who came by insisted we were under-profiting from our piglets. Their 11-year old daughter offered her mom to pay us $50 more than we were charging, ‘for the cuteness factor’. Aren’t kids precious!

In not-so-cute news, the swelter season has started abruptly. Bye, bye beets and broccoli, before your time, because I think not even the shade cloth can save you now. The last rain that was hyped on about for days, that flooded some areas and caused tornadoes in others, yielded us a whopping 1/4 inch, not even enough to penetrate the mulch layer.

Of course I’m happy we didn’t get hit with another tornado, but I can still be miffed I have to start watering the garden. Half my roses haven’t even bloomed yet, or the zinnias. The parsley and celery have gone to seed before I got a decent harvest from them and the lettuce will soon follow, no doubt.

The bees are feeling it, too. I checked these hives last week and they were just half-full, yet the bees are bearding. Unfortunately, the swarm we got a couple of weeks ago left after only one day, unhappy with the digs I’d offered apparently. Now it’s already too hot for me to do the splits I’d planned. Better luck next spring.

I’m so pleased to be getting any strawberry harvest at all, they’ve never done well before. Then I saw this video and quickly got a reality check.

Hubby tried to make me feel better by saying those were probably grown in California and loaded with pesticides harvested by illegal aliens. He’s mentioned before something is off about this (Fabulous!) channel. It must be CGI, or heavily staged, or something. Never has a country cottage been so clean and picturesque. Where’s the chicken poop on the table and the flower pots dug up by the puppies? Good questions!

By ‘doing well’ I see I need to learn a thing or two about growing strawberries. They are too crowded and between the humidity and the wet mulch they are mostly half-rotted by the time they get ripe. I’m really loving the strawberry kombucha though! As well as the blackberry, and mulberry. I’ve started making the kombucha tea from yaupon, which grows like a weed around here. It’s delicious and sweeter than the store-bought green tea I usually use.

And speaking of mulberries, what a great surprise, Hubby found a full grown, wild mulberry tree in a spot we walk by regularly and never noticed before. What a treasure hidden in plain site!

More mulberries, please!

And this post has reached my attention span limit, so I leave the cheese to the next post. It’s gonna be a good one all on its on, really! Stay tuned!

Instead I exit abruptly, like spring has done in East Texas, with this quick lesson from Bubba in best yoga techniques.

The ’Just Chill’ technique ala Bubba

Homestead Happenings

Huge days on the wee homestead! The pigs and sheep have all had successful births without a single hitch. Mama Chop did lose a couple, but she has such large litters that’s not such a bad thing. We were very concerned about her as she crushed her last two litters, literally, not in the new way of the term—She crushed it! Nope, in the old way, as in she smooshed them all.

Hubby was able to prevent that sad ending this time by clearing out her corral space of every last twig. She was in the habit of building huge nests, full of branches and twigs and so steep the piglets would roll right off it, falling between branches and getting pinned whenever she moved around. We were worried with another total loss we’d have to get rid of her because we like her so much, she’s so gentle and good-natured. She loves company and will even go on walks with us. It is truly amazing how graceful these huge creatures are around those tiny, squirmy little things!

I did not mean to hit ’slo-mo’ during this video, oops! Need to work on my skills.

Virginia had a similar setup to Momma Chop, but she wanted nothing of it. She went off into the woods to build her own nest, her way. Luckily she doesn’t have such a penchant for branches and twigs. She’s got more of the wild side in her attitude as well as her nesting preferences. And she certainly does not appreciate prying eyes and will come after anyone who gets too close to her brood!

Peek-a-boo! Yes that is Hubby running away from one irritated mama!

Watching the little lambs play, and sleep, is so cute. But I expect when the kids come next month we’ll really be in for a comic treat! It will be our first experience with goat births and I hope it goes as smoothly as the sheep did this time.

Getting friskier by the day!

We have a new visitor to the garden which surprised us.

It’s been there every day now for about a week and I’ve never seen one like it around here before. It flies just like a hummingbird and had us quite confused. It was darting all around so fast and so far that it took me about 10 minutes and 30 attempts to get one decent shot of it. After some searching we learned it is some kind of hawk moth. Fastest moth in the west? Sometimes I undervalue the usefulness of the Internet, I might’ve been left baffled on that simple identification for a lifetime!

Not to mention the joy of sharing these simple pleasures with y’all!

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