Growing Mushrooms, Part Five–A Cornucopia of Mushrooms

Branched Oyster

As soon as I saw that the Latin name for Branched Oyster mushroom was Pleurotus cornucopiae, I had to grow some. This is a widely sought after variety well known to mushroom foragers, as it has an enormous range in the wild, and in many locales, can be found all year. Once again, the substrate here is just used coffee grounds with their filters.

The container is the difference. That’s a one gallon glass canister that was made in the US, and costs the princely sum of ten bucks. If someone had set out to design the perfect mushroom growing container, they could have done no better. The lid is left cracked open slightly as the mycelium expands, removed daily for the water spritzing, and then replaced to maintain humidity.It obviously comes off permanently when the young shrooms reach the top of the container.

The Mushrooms Two Days Earlier

Commercial growers in this country use plastic grow bags, which like all plastics, end up in our enormous waste stream. The glass canisters, with proper treatment, could last for generations. As far as single use plastics go, just remember P.I.E.–Plastic Is Evil. Last week, for the first time, plastic microbeads were found in some dude’s bloodstream.

Maple Fry Fork

Maple and Walnut

I wasn’t familiar with the Swedish term “fry fork” until this year (Google translate says that the Swedish is “stek gaffel,” for what that’s worth). I ran across it in the new English edition of Carving Kitchen Tools, by Moa Brännström Ott. I was so intrigued by this book that I made sure that it arrived on the first day of publication, 2/1/2022.

Spoons, Fry Fork, Butter Knife

I made my fry fork before I knew there was such a thing. It excels at flipping bacon, and most of all, making soft scrambled eggs. Here’s how to make them, from a French farmhouse, to the great writer Elizabeth David, who learned the technique there, to her student Jane Grigson. That’s how cooking works.

Soft Scrambled Eggs

Eggs (One per person)

Sea Salt

Olive oil

That’s it. The trick is in the cooking. I like carbon steel pans for this, as they heat up fast, and cool off quickly.

Give the eggs a thorough beating, and heat up the olive oil in the pan at high heat. As soon as the oil begins to spread out, starts moving around and forming thin layers at the point of the heated surface, and thicker layers elsewhere, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, and take a break. When the oil has returned to an even surface, pour in the beaten eggs. Then do nothing.

What, no running around like in a cooking competition? This is more Zen than that. When the eggs begin to set, slowly separate and turn the curds to the desired size. Serve the eggs while they are still moist–no rubber eggs here.

The fry fork is just the tool for this dish. Carved from green Maple, I call mine the trident style for obvious reasons. If Neptune wants to banish me to ten years of roaming the eastern Mediterranean in an Odyssey, eating great seafood, kicking butt and taking names, and generally playing ancient Greek James Bond, I’m down with that-especially if I get to slaughter all the local scumbags, who are eating my food and drinking my wine, when I finally get back to my home city. No wonder that poem is still so popular.

Making Oil Wax Finishes

Cooking the Finish

First, to clear up a common confusion between paste waxes and oil wax finishes. Strangely enough, a paste wax is a surface polish, and an oil finish is a drying oil based finish that soaks/penetrates into the wood, and eventually dries into a polymerized surface. Two examples follow.

When wax is melted with a solvent, say terps, mineral spirits, or citrus solvent, it becomes a paste wax, or a pure wax held in solution by a solvent. When wax is melted by a heated oil, sometimes in combination with a solvent, it becomes an oil wax finish. Time for some specific examples.

Melting away in my Trangia 25 cookset (still less than $100, alcohol stove included), is some oil finish composed of 4 oz of Walnut oil (highest oil content of any drying oil), 2 oz Beeswax and Carnauba wax, and a teaspoon of Citrus solvent. This is definitely the best smelling finish I have ever cooked, and should be durable as well. Here’s the Roman workbench with a couple of coats on it.

Still needs Four More Legs

The Citrus solvent idea came from Christopher Schwartz, who uses a 3-1 ratio of oil to wax. I tend to go with 2-1, but to save time, I should have dissolved the Carnauba wax in the Citrus solvent before adding the oil and beeswax. I applied the finish with a high tech applier, an old smart wool sock that has a big hole in it.

The possible combinations are almost endless:

Oils I have used–

Walnut Oil (my favorite)

Polymerized (heated) Linseed Oil

Oils to experiment with–

Sunflower seed oil

Tung oil

I have made mass quantities of paste wax with Tung oil, to the point that I have run out of it, as well as the Citrus solvent. Time to make a shopping list.

Waxes I have used–

Beeswax

Carnauba wax

Note to self–Dissolve the Carnauba wax in Citrus solvent first, then add the oil.

Waxes to experiment with–

Candelilla wax

Bayberry wax

Candalilla wax fascinates me, as it is not as hard as rock hard Carnauba, but harder than soft beeswax. One day I will look up the technical specs. I once owned somewhere between a few hundred to a few thousand wax myrtle bushes, growing wild on a twenty acre farm in south Alabama. The seeds are the source of Bayberry wax. If I had known what I was doing back then, my whole house could smell like a Bayberry candle now.

Want Jumbo Eggs? Raise Jumbo Chickens

Double Extra Large

Our Barred Rock chickens have passed their third birthday, and are still churning out some eggs. Not only that, but they continue increasing in magnitude. Here are the USDA grades for eggs:

Size or Weight ClassMinimum net weight per dozen
Jumbo30 ounces
Extra Large27 ounces
Large24 ounces
Medium21 ounces
Small18 ounces
Peewee15 ounces

Notice these are per dozen sizes. Therefore I have deduced the per egg sizes. I just give the three largest:

Jumbo–2.5 oz per egg

Extra large–2.25 oz per egg

Large–2 oz per egg

Obviously the grades are divided by increments of .25 oz, which makes perfect sense, but these grades are intended for commercial producers. For home growers who sell a few eggs, I propose a couple of new marketing categories:

Double Extra Jumbo–3 oz per egg

Extra Jumbo–2.75 per egg

The Jumbo is considered a rarity in the commercial market, but two out of a random dozen of our eggs that I weighed were Jumbo eggs, and one was a 2x. This size was not at all unusual:

Extra Jumbo

Using these new size categories could mean a few extra bucks at the farmer’s market this year, for growers of quality eggs. I think we will have a couple of 2x jumbo eggs for breakfast today.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Honorary 14–Gage #14 Fore Plane

The Original

My collection of Gage planes is now probably complete. I have two Stanley Gage planes, and now one of the original Gage planes, the first two a smoothing and a jack plane, the latter being an 18″ long Fore plane. This one is probably in better condition than the first two.

My plan is the following, and I have a schedule of about a year for it. I have all the windows for a good sized detached workshop, all of which cost between $1.50 and $2.00 each (long story). Each has never been used, and just need a good home. Thanks to the recent tornado, I have enough lumber for said workshop, that only needs to be milled, including pine, white oak, black (a form of red) oak, and assorted other hardwoods. Logical conclusion–new workshop, with Gage planes.

Here are the two different styles side by side:

19th v. 20th Century

The differences between the two manufacturer’s planes are mostly stylistic and cosmetic. The handles are beefie, on the old Gage, while the more stylish handles on the Stanley Gage were prone to breakage, as one of mine has a decent sized chip out of the tote. This handle is not likely to be broken:

Now that’s a Tote

I’ve thought of these as cabinetmaker’s planes, as opposed to the Stanley philosophy of the jack of all trades planes. The Gage could easily stand up to everyday use in a production cabinetmaker’s shop. Apparently that was their main market.

But not this specimen. It may have been used, but the blade had never been sharpened, as it still had the original hollow ground bevel on it. That sharpened quickly, but then the back had never been flattened. Flattening the back of a nineteenth century plane blade is not my favorite pastime.

I said my collection is “probably” complete. If the price is right, and the condition is as good as this one, it quickly becomes an investment instead of a collection. Maybe I should become a plane flipper, instead of just someone who has a bunch of flipping planes.

Outdoor Kitchen, Part Catastrophe–Destruction and Reconstruction

Yikes!

On 2/23, Melanie Jane’s birthday, we were hit by a small tornado. Our house had negligible damage, but the outdoor kitchen got whacked by a 60+ year old pine. Notice that the brick oven was strong enough to break said pine in two. Alas, the pine took down the roof and about one half of the oven. All this means is I get the chance to rebuild it even fancier than it already was.

Three weeks later, the scene is different. No pine, except for firewood, and no debris. I have over a thousand new bricks, and literally a ton of sand to make mortar with. I have an unlimited amount of yellow pine to cut into lumber, and the new roof is going to be made of pine shingles, split out by yours truly. I even pulled out my old broad axe to make pieces parts with.

Cross Section of a Brick Oven

I re-laid the fire bricks, and even found a spare one. So this was only a part catastrophe. I’m going to be such a busy man that I should probably make a list–rebuilt oven, new enclosure with pine shingles, and then world culinary domination. Maybe I should relax and read some Walden instead, like the magnificent conclusion to the chapter “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For:”

Time is but the stream I go afishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first let- ter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors, I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

HD Thoreau

Like HD, my head is hands and feet. It’s time to put them all to work.

Send Ukraine Aid, and Russia US Factory Farmed Chicken

Talk about chemical and biological warfare! I am taking my idea from Steve Ellis, the founder of the Chipotle restaurant chain. In the early 2000’s, McDonalds owned a 90 percent share of Chipotle. That was when they made the mistake of inviting Mr. Lee to tour one of their chicken producing farms in the South.

To get to the point, Lee said it was absolutely the most disgusting sight that he had “ever seen in his life.” Soon thereafter, McDonalds sold off all of its stake in Chipotle.

The trick is to make a great diplomatic offer of free chicken to Russia, to be supplied by McDonalds. In fact, also re-open all the now closed McDonalds in Russia. Both Vlad and Ronald McDonald will be happy, as well as all the cardiac specialists in Russia. Their business will boom.

A modest proposal, endorsed by both Big Pharm and Big Chicken. I know of a couple of senators that I can likely get on board as well, like the one from Alabama who said we absolutely have to help the Uranian people-his spelling, not mine.

Chicken Liver and Oyster Mushroom Pate

The second flush of basement grown Oyster mushrooms is here, with a couple of whopper specimens. The smaller one went into this pate, and the larger one is going into mushroom gravy for our roast chicken tonight. Another species has already started eating coffee grounds in a new one gallon glass canister we bought. My plan is to have five or six different varieties of Oyster mushrooms started by the end of the summer.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Bacon Fat (rendered from Lard de Poitrine, fatty Bacon)

1 tablespoon Butter

1 medium Oyster Mushroom, chopped

1/4 pound Chicken Livers

1 crushed clove of Garlic

Salt

2 tablespoons Brandy (or more)

Melt the butter and bacon fat, and briefly saute the chopped mushrooms. Add the chicken livers and cook until they are done to your liking–four or five minutes. cook the garlic for about a minute, and then set the whole thing on fire with the brandy. Whoosh! It’s as much fun as the Leo DiCaprio character had at the end of the movie Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

The finished product, before it heads for the refrigernator for an overnight visit:

Big Oyster with Pate

I must have used more livers than I thought, as that looks like about seven ounces of pate. It was zapped in a food processor with a few drops of cream, and will be covered in plastic wrap so it will be ready to be devoured beginning tomorrow.That big Oyster mushroom next to it? Not so lucky. It’s on the chopping block for tonight.

Lunch Poems, Part Two–Eating Poetry, by Mark Strand

A real classic here, and a GOAT. Mark Strand was the US poet laureate, though Mark Twain would have said “Poet Lariat.”

Eating Poetry

BY MARK STRAND

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

There is no happiness like mine.

I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.

Her eyes are sad

and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.

The light is dim.

The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,

their blond legs burn like brush.

The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.

When I get on my knees and lick her hand,

she screams.

I am a new man.

I snarl at her and bark.

I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Those last two words are what literary types would call a “word cluster,” or a combination of words that are unforgettable. Poetry–It’s what’s for lunch.

I’m Exhausted of Being Exhausted

Every expert in the cable news media tends to think that I, and most other people, are exhausted. We’re exhausted by (blank)–just fill in your least favorite word–war, politics, masks, Covid. So here is a poem for our times, entitled “Poem”, by Frank O’Hara, from his book called Lunch Poems. Not poetry for lunch again, Mom!

Lana Turner has collapsed! 
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline 
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

Thanks to the American Academy of Poets for this one. I could sing a French song about ennui, or talk about herd mentality instead of herd immunity, but instead I will say to my fellow citizens: we love you. Now get up.

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