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.

The Chicken’s New Dishwasher

New to Them

The junk pile groweth. The latest addition is a dishwasher tub, another ingenious idea from Melanie Jane-I guess she wasn’t a Phi Beta Kappa (farm girl) for no reason. Our twenty year old dishwasher blew a gasket, and the gasket wasn’t worth replacing. She said–put the main plastic part into the chicken’s junk yard. Mission Accomplished, and no chickens were harmed.

Nothing Like Junk

The birds like their junkyard as much as the digital sheep in the phenomenal British show Shaun the Sheep. Inventory reveals one mailbox, where the vast majority of our eggs come from, a red wheelbarrow, two tires, and now the dishwasher.

The bottom of the washer is leftover plywood, and the front is leftover 2×4. Some pine shavings and it’s done. Broody Bird, a Barred Rock, was the first in there. The ISA Browns like the dirt under there. I expect eggs in the dishwasher in the next week or so.

Shirley the Sheep, our favorite character from Shaun the Sheep, would be proud.

In Praise of Gas Stoves

Bertha!

I fell in love with gas stoves with our first one, which we named “Bertha,” because of the fact that she was probably too big to be moved out of the house we bought. This was in the wild lands of southern Alabama, in Pike county, which had a total population of 14,000 people (many of them students at the University where I worked,) and a literacy rate of fifty percent. In a county like that, cooking ranked as the top form of entertainment.

This stove was made by Home Comfort, and it had two ovens, and a warming chamber. One oven was propane, the other wood fired–not a combo we wanted. Therefore, cogito ergo sum, we never used the wood fired oven. The stove itself sucked down propane like nobody’s business. We had to order propane right after we moved in, and the propane delivery guy was a typical character who could have come out of a Walker Percy novel. He handed us his business card, and his professional name was–Slim Dicks.

Recently, having been rusticated for a year now, my chief form of entertainment has been reading the cooking “experts” on the interwebs. Their latest talking point is about how bad gas stoves are for the environment, and that we should all switch to sweet thing electric stoves. We learned in Physic 102 that the least efficient thing you could do with electricity was generate heat. Then there is this, from al.com:

“Alabama Power’s James H. Miller Jr. plant in Jefferson County is once again the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country, according to an environmental policy non-profit organization.

According to the report, the Miller plant produced nearly 19 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 – equivalent to more than half of the electricity generated by all of the power plants in California.”

Have a nice warm summer. Welcome to the real coal burning world.

Bertha up Close

Our current gas stove, strangely enough, was made in a Unionized factory right across the river from where Bertha was made. It’s a Premier Pro, and we bought it for two reasons: It was Union made, and most importantly, can run completely without electricity. Not only does Alabama Power pollute like nobody’s business, they also can’t be relied on to keep the lights on.

Bertha Jr, with the same Tea Kettle as Bertha Sr

This is a fine piece of equipment–A simmering burner, and three flame throwers. The oven will hit almost 600 degrees–I burned out the clock above the top on it, experimenting. We have used the cooktop so much we burned out three of the four piezo lighters. Melanie Jane found the following ingenious gadget on the interwebs. I think I like it more than the piezo lighters.

Come on Baby, Light my Fire

That’s an Arc lighter, that works off of a USB charged battery, so I can recharge it with one of my solar generators. Alabama Power charges a fee to people who admit to having solar panels attached to their house (seriously), so I have this to say about that–my panels are not attached to my house. However, the top question on Amazon about this arc lighter is–can I light a bowl with this?

Young people these days. You light a bowl with a Zippo lighter. Everybody knows that. While I don’t smoke, I inhaled enough second hand Cannabis smoke at the honors dorm at UA to give me lung cancer. Which brings me to the best prank I have ever witnessed.

My best friend was 100% Hungarian, as his parents were both born in Hungary, in Budapest. I asked George if they were born in Buda or Pest, and he was amazed that I knew it was originally two cities, separated by the blue Danube. I told him I just knew stuff.

At any rate, George’s problem was that he was 6′ 7″ tall, and our dorm had been a women’s dorm, and the doorways were only 6′ 6″ tall. It was a problem for his forehead.

George could pull some pranks off with perfection. He showed up one day with a huge bag of seeds, which he claimed he found in his dorm room closet. Not likely, as it was all cannabis seeds.

He had a plan–we were right behind the President’s mansion, which was one of the I think four structures that survived the Civil War (UA is almost as old as UVA, the first US public University). The rest of the campus was burned down by Union troops, who started by burning the Library. That’s always the best way to restore trust in Democracy, with a good book burning.

At any rate, he decided to sow all the weed seed around the President’s mansion, and our President happened to have been a member of Tricky Dick’s presidential cabinet. I offered to help, but he insisted that it was a one man op.

A month later, the largest group of gardeners I had ever seen came in for a massive weeding job. It took them days to get rid of all the weed plants. We laughed the whole time.

George went on to Columbia Law, and became editor of their Law Review. I went to Illinois, and both my schools have a chance at the NCAA basketball title this year. Fight, Illini, and Roll, Tide, Roll! Hopefully, we will meet in the title game.

Optimus 45 Retrofit–Tilley Cast Iron Burner Grate

Hippy New Year!

Knowing that I have a not wholly rational obsession with camping stoves, MJ gave me this little ring of cast iron for Christmas. It came from South Korea, so I assume it was made there, or possibly nearby. If we ever get a day where the high temp is below 60 F, I will crank it up with the following top:

Exterminate. Exterminate. Exterminate.

The ultimate hand warmer, or possibly an infant Dalek. Only Dr. Who nerds will get that reference.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Four–Miniature Planes

She is small, but she is fierce–Shakespeare

For your perusal is an assortment of small planes and spokeshaves, the latter of which are actually small specialty planes themselves (or at least function as one). The green plane is a Kunz #100 made in Germany; the middle plane is a Lee Valley copy of the Stanley #100 1/2, with a curved sole, made in Canada; and the last plane is a Lee Valley copy of the Bailey/Stanley #50 Little Victor plane, which caused quite a stir when first introduced a little over a decade ago. The small brass spokeshaves are no longer produced, but occasionally turn up on fleabay. If I remember correctly they was sold by Garret Wade, and were made by a small manufacturer in Detroit.

Kunz #100

This “Squirrel Tail” plane is just about an exact copy of the old Stanley #100. It has a flat sole, and is excellent for trimming and general work with small or green stock. It lives in my green woodworking tool bucket, as the red paint makes it easy to find should I lose it in the woods. The price is also right for a German made plane.

Lee Valley Squirrel-Tail Palm Plane

This is only one of the superb palm planes manufactured by Lee Valley in Canada. A take off on the Stanley #100 1/2 plane, this has three major improvements. The materials are far superior, the design is more useful, and the machining is about the best there is. To be specific, the handle is larger to accommodate the overgrown beasts that we have become. The blade adjustment is based on the old Victor plane adjustment–more on that in a second. The machining matches that of the innovations introduced with the LV Little Victor plane.

The curved sole makes this ideal for chair makers, though it works just as well on large carved bowls. The Stanley #100 1/2 was marketed as a “modelmaker’s convex plane.” The ease of adjustment on this new model is mind blowing, circa 1877.

Lee Valley Little Victor Plane

This is not an exact copy of the 1877 Bailey #50 Little Victor plane, but it is pretty close. Leonard Bailey introduced a newly designed set of planes that year, under the Victor name. A series of lawsuits with Stanley, Bailey’s former employer, resulted in Stanley gaining the rights to the designs. They promptly canceled the entire line of planes.

When introduced, this little plane was considered a marvel. Both the sole and the blade are machined practically literally flat, to the point that the plane could be used right out of the box. One woodworking magazine editor had the entire staff convinced they should order one the day he received it. They all did.

So it is small, but it is fierce. I used this extensively while I built the “great wall” in the previous post, and it qualifies as the leader in the race for the perfect pocket plane. Nothing is better at trimming pieces of millwork.

Brass Spokeshaves

Project too small or curvy for a mini-plane? Look for some of these little brass planes, in used condition, on the interwebs. The set has one with a flat sole, and two with varying degrees of concave-convex-osity.

I use mine constantly when carving spoons, and even when making bowls. They hang in a leather pouch I made just for these three, right next to my shaving horse, which is spoon carving central.

Here is a definite case where bigger is not better. These take up almost no space in the workshop, and if needed the whole set could fit in a tool belt. For someone who has a shop as buried in shavings as mine always is, they also create small shavings that are easy to clean up, for those of you who actually clean up your shop occasionally.

Kitchen Invasion

What a Great Wall–Richard Nixon

It happens. This is not a kitchen intervention or a kitchen rescue, this is about when your kitchen begins to invade the rest of your house. We have at least three living spaces where the kitchen is slowly creeping in. I will mention two, but describe one in detail.

In detail–I made this dough bench intending that it be used strictly for bread making. The USA made maple butcher block top is oversized to accommodate clamped on tools–too bad it’s too thick for any of them that we have. Instead, I have a clamped down meat grinder, an Enterprise #22. Which leads to the four tasks this unit now performs.

Meat Grinding/Sausage Making

The #22 grinder is such a beast that it requires a bolted down installation. The clamp on version is much less common, and less useful. This will grind pounds of meat in a matter of minutes, and in a variety of grinding thicknesses/textures. It’s clamped on with a giant c-clamp.

The sausage making tools are stowed beneath the butcher block. Essentially, these consist of a sausage plate and three sausage stuffing tubes of different diameters to accommodate different sized casings. The world of sausage is infinite, and worth the trouble, for as Bismarck reportedly said “The less you know about how laws and sausages are made, the happier you are.” He was reffering to bought sausages and purchased politicians.

Wine Storage

It’s far better to have good drinkable wine than fancy wine storage. Jacques Pepin once showed off his homemade wine storage, and it was essentially plywood boxes in his basement.

Our little portable rack is all we need, what with our regular trips to the good wine selection at our local Publix supermarket. Most of our wine is Italian, French, or German, as all three countries have strict wine regulations.

Pecan Cracker

An antique but portable item, this old pecan cracker that belonged to MJ’s grandparents has a definite 1900 industrial look. The only thing it won’t crack are hickory nuts, but I have a 23 ounce framing hammer for those. Not too many people have a Pecan cracker in their living room, but sometimes nuts need to be cracked.

Dough Station

And it sometimes is even used for what it was intended! Everything ensconced on the top can be removed quickly. If I am making my usual Creole French bread, there is not even the need to do that. Even the French baguette pan is housed directly under the butcher block top.

The last two invasions: our dining room literally has an entire wall covered with dishes and glassware. Even the bookcase next to the dough bench is being invaded, as it is now 1/8 food books. In amongst my two first edition works by Henry James are food autobiographies by Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, and Barbara Kingsolver, and sausage making books, which are handy for task #1. I should also add that MJ’s corporate home office is overseen by two shelves of cookbooks, stacked in various configurations, one of which is a strong 19″ high.

And then there is the rolling pin hanging on the wall, which is soon to be joined by another. Every living room needs a couple of those.

Stanley #82 Scraper

Scraper, Meet Kitchen Floor. Another Justus Traut Masterwork

As it is time to refinish our kitchen floor once again, I needed a tool upgrade. Our dogs take a few years to do the damage, but there is practically no finish they can’t ruin–one of them even ate the grout out of a tile floor. Therefore, it was time to hit the dreaded fleabay for a classic tool, and as usual, this hog found an acorn.

I found that the old Stanley #82 scraper has something of a cult following. A chief writer for one of the best woodworking magazines stumbled across these on fleabay, and liked them so much he ended up buying something like nine of them, giving most away as gifts. The kicker was when one person pointed out that this scraper could reach into practically any corner. Try and do that with a random orbit sander.

I bought one that was listed as a “planer,” whatever that is. Some WD, sandpaper, and a micro abrasive and the thing was bright and shiny. I also renewed the wood handles with some wax polish.

As there isn’t much detailed info about these available, I was intrigued by the original scraper blade, which has two edges bent at ninety degree angles. A couple of swipes with sandpaper revealed the Stanley logo. No big surprise there.

Double Threat

Then the extra words began to appear: “Rough” and “Finish.” After a little inspection, the two edges were finished differently. The Rough edge is curved, while the Finish edge is flat. Traut must have been a genius at multi-tasking.

The final feature is that many many scraper blades can be used besides the original one. I have already tried a high quality Swedish made Sandvik blade in it, and it scrapes like nobody’s business. The dogs will be banished from the kitchen for a good long while.

Enterprise #5 Meat Grinder

Everything Old is New Again

After swearing that I would not buy another grinder, I bought another grinder. Temptation was too strong with this one. I would describe the condition here as mint, and this is straight out of the Fleabay box. I haven’t done so much as wipe the decades old dust off of it.

After a little investigation, I decided that the grinder was not mint–it was unused. The first clue was the state of the inside, working part of the grinder. There was not even a scratch on the grinding mechanism.

#22 and #5

I put the grinder plate from our #22 next to the #5 for comparison. We saw a television show about a small sausage factory in Cambodia whose only machine was a motorized #22. (Pulleys are still manufactured for the #22 and #32. You have to provide the motor.) The #12, #22, and #32 are all bolt down grinders–The #5, #10, and #20 are clamp to a countertop models. The #5 is a much more practical size for weekly use in a kitchen.

Back to the final evidence for why this was unused–it couldn’t have been. I took the machine apart, to inspect the condition of the cutter. The cutter is the essential part for decent grinding. This cutter had not only never been sharpened, it hadn’t even been ground to the point to where it had a beveled edge. It was exactly as it had been cast. The best it could have done was to make bread crumbs out of toast.

Appropriately enough, I ground it on my hand cranked grinder. I then sharpened it with a diamond coated metal plate, then a hard Arkansas natural stone, and finished it with a truly hi-tech 3M micro-abrasive sheet, with a grit of 15 microns. I’m not a complete Luddite. Just mostly. I couldn’t work without WD-40, either.

At any rate, this thing is ready to grind, and I love bright shiny things as well. The new model of these–they are still being made–is around a hundred bucks, and has an (ugh) epoxy finish on it. Although I have sworn on the Picayune Creole Cookbook that I will not buy another grinder, it will be hard to resist one in this condition. Especially if it’s the same price as this was–$6.

Early American Industries Association

Celebrating Trades, Crafts, and Tools in American History and Their Impact on Our Lives

OffGuardian

because facts really should be sacred

Ruth Blogs Here

Or not, depending on my mood

A Haven for Book Lovers

I am just a girl who loves reading and talking about books

what sandra thinks

because I've got to tell someone.

LadiesWhoLunchReviews,etc

a little lunch, a little wine, a LOT of talking!

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

This, That, and the Other

Random musings on life, society, and politics.

talltalesfromchiconia

Tales of quilting, gardening and cooking from the Kingdom of Chiconia

Cyranny's Cove

Refuge of an assumed danophile...

Exiled Rebels

Serving BL since 2017

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

Beauty lies within yourself

The only impossible journey in life is you never begin!! ~Tanvir Kaur

Southern Fusion Cooking

Country Living in the Southern Appalachians, USA--A little of this, a lot of that

Discover WordPress

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

The Atavist Magazine

Country Living in the Southern Appalachians, USA--A little of this, a lot of that

%d bloggers like this: