The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A curing rack becomes a mushroom station

Jar of screws

If you're like me, you should be building with screws. Sure, they're easy to install, but more importantly, they're also easy to uninstall. Perhaps you're able to guess exactly how each piece of homesteading paraphernalia should be constructed the first time around, but most of us make mistakes and have to take our projects apart, then we put the materials back together in a slightly different configuration. Using screws, Mark and I easily saved 99.5% of our fasteners from our current project to reuse, and we also saved quite a bit of swearing and hassle.

Garlic curing racksSo what are we taking apart and what are we rebuilding? The garlic curing racks a friend built for us 2.5 years ago served us well for a season, but once we had porches and Mark's mom gave us our current drying racks, there was no going back. Curing rack version 2.0 stays drier during heavy rains, and the vegetables are also much easier to access. As always, the gardener's attention is the best fertilizer (or, in this case, drying agent).

So the racks are coming down, and the lumber and location will become our new-and-improved mushroom station instead. As with our curing racks, our mushroom operation needed a face lift, and Mark and I think we've figured out exactly how to make our mushroom station more dependable for version 5.0.

We've tried various mushroom permutations in the past, but none has fit into my busy summer schedule. Sticking logs under fruit trees does produce some mushrooms, but I often miss the fruits because who crawls under their peach canopy on a regular basis? Rafts didn't work at all for me, while totems do so-so, but the top of each log tends to dry out and die while mushrooms pop up just above the soil line and get dirty. The more mainstream Demolitionmethod of stacking the logs in a shady spot and then soaking them in a kiddie pool to prompt fruiting also fell through because I get too busy in the summer to reliably soak my logs (or I leave them in too long and the fungi drown). Plus, soaked logs are heavy and unpleasant to manhandle. That version also suffered from two other problems --- the logs were too close to the ground and thus accumulated weed fungi, and they were also hard to access and thus tended to be overlooked.

So, version 5.0 is in the works, and Mark and I want all of our infrastructure in place before we inoculate new logs this spring. The shady north face of the trailer is now relatively weed-free (due to years of Mark's weed-eating efforts), so building elevated racks for the logs will provide them with a good permanent home. Meanwhile, the skeleton of the previous vegetable-curing-rack setup can be tweaked to support an IBC tank, which we'll hook into the gutters and turn into an elevated rain barrel for summer watering. Add in some low-pressure sprinklers (and maybe even a valve on a timer to automate the process), and we should be able to provide our mushrooms with the inch of rain per week they need to fully colonize their logs, then extra water as needed to promote fruiting.

But it all starts with a ladder and a screw gun. There are few things more fun than helping my husband tear things apart on a rare, sunny January day when you can work outside in shirt sleeves and I can hardly wait for part two this afternoon!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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