welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Thursday, December 17, 2015

mushroom update...

It's been a month since we started the oyster mushrooms and I've been keeping a loose eye on them. Today I thought I'd take an updated photo to show how well the mycelium is taking over the straw.

But then as I checked more of the bags...

I think there will be mushrooms for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


The latest new, big experimental project here on the farm is mushrooms. I tried a very small batch of these a couple years ago and it went well. So the time finally seemed right to work on a bit of a larger scale.

What we have here is a bag of grey dove oyster mushroom spawn growing on grain, as it came from the spawn farm.

These oyster mushrooms will grow on straw in plastic sleeves. The first step is to chop the straw into small pieces (we used a leaf vacuum - noisy, but effective), then pasteurize it. We did this by using a sterilized stock tank and really hot water, letting it soak for an hour. We also added hydrated lime to adjust the ph of the straw to give the oyster mushrooms an advantage over any stray fungus that might have been around.

Next, we spread the straw out on a clean table to cool off.

Then added the grain spawn.

 Next, the bags were stuffed with the straw/spawn combo.
(intern Machelle stuffing bags on a warm fall day)

The bags were closed with zip ties and hung in the greenhouse. Oysters like growing in light rather than the dark and manure of button mushrooms.

 Holes were poked into the bags to allow for  a bit of air exchange.

 And here's what it looks like now.

I'll post photo updates as the spawn fills the bag. If the spawn fills the bag. If we didn't totally screw this up. 

My heartfelt and abundant thanks to intern Machelle for all her hard work this fall; planting seedlings, weeding, hoop house building, harvesting, mushroom making, and all the other things she pitched in and helped with. Your energy, enthusiasm, and good company were much appreciated!

Speaking of interns, I'll be posting a notice here soon about internship positions opening up for next year. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

and... not an ant

We found this lovely lady meandering among the leaves near the Jerusalem Artichoke bed we were harvesting on Monday. About an inch long, black with a definite metallic blue sheen. Ant? Beetle? Some bizarre combination of the two? Today we looked it up and it is a Meloe angusticollis, the blue short-winged blister beetle, or oil beetle. As it turns out, it's a good thing we appreciated her beauty but didn't touch her. Apparently when disturbed, they secrete an oil that causes blisters. Woah. That's harsh. Moral of the story? Enjoy nature, but don't touch bugs if you don't know what they are.

Monday, October 12, 2015

definitely not a hedgehog

Glancing up from harvesting, I noticed what appeared to be a hedgehog in the grass near the garden. Surely an impossibility, but intriguing enough to find out just what it was. To my happy surprise, I realized it was a chestnut burr. Looking up, I saw the young tree filled with them! I had been told this would not happen since there was just one tree. Apparently, no one told the tree and so this year he'll provide my first home-grown chestnuts!

About seven years ago, I bought and planted three american-chinese chestnut seedlings, hoping they would be blight resistant and their nuts would be as tasty and large as the original american trees. Two of the trees died, mostly from being grazed upon and so there was just one sole survivor. So far he's healthy and clearly producing nuts even with out cross pollination.
A happy discovery!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Polka Dots and Daisies

Last summer I planted several flowers in front of my porch with the goal of attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial pollinators. One of the things in the mix was a milkweed. Happily, it re-seeded itself and this year there are many growing and blooming in the bed. It was enough to attract monarchs along with yellow, black, and zebra swallowtails, skippers, and others. Suddenly it seemed there were over a dozen monarch caterpillars munching away on the milkweed, and then just as suddenly, they were gone. Or so it seemed until I noticed the first chrysalis hanging from the arm of a chair, then another and another until I found a total of seven of them. Today they began to emerge...
Monarch chrysalis, green with gold lame'

See the wings? This one emerged just a few hours later.

 Brand new.

 Polka dots and daisies!

Can you imagine wearing such an outfit? The girl's got style.
I was able to get her to climb on my hand while she finished figuring out her wings, then she floated away to the tops of the trees.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2015 summer internships available

I am now accepting internship applications for the 2015 growing season. If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass it along. Thanks!