Looking back at 2021’s gardening season

We had a decent summer. I got really busy and have not updated here in awhile. My main garden is fenced, inside another fence (for our dogs). The deer have not really gotten in until this year – my dogs are getting older and I guess don’t really bark at the deer when they come in. The deer figured this out and essentially annihilated my main garden toward the end of the season. They ate all my tomatoes, and zucchini, and anything else they found out there. I did get a good harvest but I had to get what I could before they could eat it all. There are some things I didn’t even get to harvest because of the deer, including cauliflower and broccoli. Looking forward to next year, I’m going to have to make my garden fence taller, or something. I’ll figure that out. Luckily they didn’t get into our cottage garden (not sure why, but I’ll take it). For now, here are some cool pictures of the end of our gardening season 2021:

A walk in the woods

My son and I took a walk in our woods, across the street from our house tonight.  The leaves are all developed now, and we’ve gotten a lot of rain the last few weeks so it’s very dark and dense in the forest.  Here are some cool photos of our walk:

I really liked this part of the woods – We got some good rains last night and this morning, so there are little pools everywhere. My son Daniel was having fun walking on logs.

oyster tree
I saw this tree from 40 feet away and had to get closer. This tree broke somewhat recently, but it’s full of these mushrooms. Daniel is ready to defend the tree from slugs, it looks like.

oyster mush
Here are the mushrooms. They look so like some kind of oyster mushrooms. I don’t know for sure though, and didn’t have a mushroom book with me. I don’t know if we get oysters that grow here anyway. I’d like to find out.

You can see the bugs were loving these mushrooms too.

Here are the slugs. They were all over this mushroom tree.

We came across this crazy thing – it looks like a giant morel that is disintegrating. I thought it was a piece of foam or something till I got up close and realized it was a mushroom.

huge mushroom thing
This is how large it was. There was only one. It’s too late for morels, and this is the wrong color, but it looked like some kind of giant fake morel.

climbing trees
Daniel climbing some trees.

big tree across the street
This tree is huge, and must be very old. It is still going strong, but it has some dead branches on it. It’s at the edge of the woods near the road.

On our way out of the woods.. we have Lupines all over the place here.

Busy Springtime

There has been a lot going on lately around here.  After my last post, no more chicks hatched. We ended up with 22 hatched out of 42 for that batch.  I candled the remaining eggs – 10 were empty, and 10 just didn’t hatch. And then a day or so later one of the chicks who had hatched died.  So we now have 21 small chicks, and 4 larger chicks. I’m done with hatching for the year – we now have 43 chickens including our adults.

Here is one of our larger chicks, Escape Artist’s daughter:

esky daughter
Looks like her mama. Also tries to jump out of the box just like mama did.

We vaccinated the chicks for Marek’s last weekend. The older chicks were given it at the same time – may be a little late but it’s better than nothing. We only had the one vial and didn’t want to try to split it up, especially since this was the first time we’ve ever given it.  My chickens from last year were all vaccinated at the hatchery. I don’t know if my 2-year-old chickens were vaccinated. Either they were or we don’t have Marek’s disease here, but I have heard that it is all over the place.  I’ve read that it takes 2 weeks for the chicks  to build up any immunity after being vaccinated, so next weekend we might move the older chicks outside.   We were going to add another little chicken house for the youngsters, but we’ve decided we will do a split coop again – we have the room in the chicken house, with two separate rooms, and fenced runs on both sides, so we can keep them separate but all safe and comfortable.  The smaller chicks will have to go out later – they are still too small.  I’ll have to integrate them with the larger chicks when they do get moved, but there are so many smaller ones I think they’ll be able to hold their own against the 4 larger chicks then. Here is one of the smaller chicks:

red head maran
I think she’s one  of the Marans (or came out of one of those eggs), but she is black with a red head. I noticed her feathers growing in stick out a little bit, like a frizzle chicken. We’ll have to see what she ends up looking like. She’s one of my favorites from this batch.

frizzle wings
Here you can see some of the feathers on the top part of her wing stick out, away from her body. I’ve never seen that before, but hers are doing that symmetrically on both sides of her body so it must be what she is supposed to have happen.

We lost one of our ducks this week. We had a male (we think) who had some trouble with his feet – he wasn’t really able to keep up with the group when they were moving around, we had noticed.  In their pen that didn’t matter so much, but earlier this week I was outside and noticed he seemed to be stuck in the pool. I don’t know if he got sick, or just got stuck in the pool and got too cold. I took him out and set him on the grass in the sunshine, and dried him off a little with a towel. I hoped he would get better, but he died a little while later.  Here are our remaining 11 ducks:

It looks like someone had a pillow fight in our back yard, with all the duck feather dander everywhere. 

The ducks always run away when you get near them. The chickens, much smarter, come running because they know people=food. Here are my chickens out today:

got snacks
“Did you bring us some snacks?”

Our trees are starting to fill in.  Springtime is in full swing, except we are in the U.P.  So we got snow flurries today, and it didn’t even get in the 40s.  It’s supposed to warm up in the next few days though. Here is our cherry tree in bloom:

cherry tree
Our cherry tree. My son’s pool and Slip’n’Slide are under the tree – we really haven’t had warm enough temperatures for either of those, aside from a couple days here and there.

Since spring is here, I’ve been planning the garden.  We are using the same spaces as last year, and I’m making a new space for my son. He had a little flower-bed area last year but it didn’t get enough sunshine. I gave him a big square, about 8×8 or so, that used to have weeds and asparagus, and some old rhubarb. The rhubarb and weeds were the only things that really grew there. So he’s helping me clean it up. And we started our garden plans:

garden plan 2016
This year’s garden plan

And we started seeds last weekend:


more seedlings
Here is one of our two trays. I figured out we don’t need to start as much in the house as I used to.  Last year a lot of things did great just sown directly in the ground.

My strawberry patch is doing well. I put some new plants in this year. The old ones are growing well and spreading, and the new ones are doing ok.  I need to make a cover in the next few weeks or so, to keep tiny creatures from stealing my berries this year.

strawberry patch
This whole mulched area is strawberry patch, except right against the house is for raspberry bushes. I only have one in the ground right now;  a few others that I just bought this year are in pots waiting to go in.

My son and I were taking a walk last weekend and came across something extra delicious. I have been telling him and my husband about morels since we moved up to the U.P. and have not been able to find any.  We found 4 in the woods last weekend. Not many, but it’s enough to show them what I was talking about, and let them have a taste.  We haven’t had much rain this year, but now we know where we might be able to find them – I have been checking in that area again but haven’t seen much else, either because of the lack of rain, or because forest creatures are finding them first. Here are the morels we found:

The four morels we found this year. They were delicious.

Updates – Maple, Mushrooms, and Growing Chickens

Our maple syrup making adventure is over for the year – It’s still prime collection season but we were having trouble cooking it all up inside the house.  We have a propane-gas stove, and propane is not cheap.  Plus I just didn’t like leaving it cooking for so long at a time.  Next year I will need to figure out a way to boil it outside, preferably using some kind of wood burning set up.  The collection bags weren’t the best option either, but they did the job. I ended up using large sticks to weigh them down so they wouldn’t get out of place.  My sister Diane, commenting on my last post, told me about our parents using old milk jugs to collect the sap, which I still don’t remember.  I’m older so I don’t know how she remembers these things better than I do.   So next year, instead of using flimsy sap bags, or expensive buckets, I will use old milk jugs.   For a couple weeks of collecting and boiling, we did pretty well in my opinion.  Considering that the sap to syrup ratio is about 40:1, I think we got enough for this year:

My syrup in a quart jar

The Mushroom kits I’ve been growing have done somewhat well – It’s possible we just don’t have the moisture in our kitchen that they needed, but I was expecting a little more at one time.  The oyster mushrooms only gave us a few mushrooms for their first flush.  The pom pom blanc, which were supposed to taste like crab meat, were not as good as I hoped.  The mushroom clump doubled in size since my last post, and I wasn’t really sure when I should harvest them – they started to look like the pictures you see online of them – with some little tendrils (kind of like a lion’s mane) – so I thought that was the right time to pick them.  I cooked it up in a little butter, so as to not drown out the flavor, but I was unimpressed.  The shiitake are doing well, here is the large mushroom that is currently growing:

Our Shiitake mushroom.
Our Shiitake mushroom growing out of its log

There are little baby mushrooms on the right side of the log, and in the picture above, I think the white webby-looking stuff on the bottom may be another cap forming – it has a similar appearance to the cap of the large mushroom, but it hasn’t actually popped out of the log yet, so I can’t really be sure.  I’m very excited to eat the shiitake mushrooms, since I know I like them.  The oyster mushrooms were very good too, we just didn’t get a lot.  I have the oyster and pom pom blanc logs drying for now, and in a month or two I will try to start them again – you are supposed to be able to get a few flushes.

Our six little chicks are growing up.  They have changed a whole lot in their three weeks of life.  I’m really excited to see their coloring change – some have changed in unexpected ways. I’m sure they will change a lot more as they grow up too. I’ll have to wait to see what kind of chickens they are (and what gender they are) until they are almost or fully adults.  Here are their updates, along with pictures of when I first got them, so you can see the difference three weeks makes.

I thought this guy would end up being all white, but he is getting some black in her/his feathers, and also now has a black spot on his beak.

black chick
Here’s our little black chick, starting to get more white in his coloring.

black and white spotted face
This little guy already has a comb, which may mean he’s a rooster. Combs can be deceiving though. He looks like he’s wearing a vest from the front now, and his legs are dark and splotchy – I’m wondering if he’s some kind of Maran (copper maran or other). That is just a wild guess though.

Our little orange chick – now getting some brown in her feathers.

mask face
Little mask face – now has brown/black speckles in her feathers, so I think she/he will be a speckled chicken. But it’s really too early to tell for sure – they may change a lot before adulthood.

fighter fuzzy boots
Here’s the feather booted, strong-will-to-live chick. As you can see the feathers on her legs are getting really fluffy. I really like how they look. Her coloring is really nice too – she’s getting some black in her feathers, and a small comb is forming.

I’m really enjoying watching them grow.  I will be getting the replacements for their fallen brethren around April 20th, so I will have even more chicks to watch grow up at that point.  Some day my spare bedroom will stop being a chicken nursery.  Until then, this is pretty fun.

Home grown edible mushrooms!

I have been wanting to buy one of the “grow your own edible mushroom” kits for a long time.  I heard about morel kits, and since last year I couldn’t find morels in the wild anywhere, I decided I wanted to get a kit to grow my own.   I found one website that had a special, where you could get an outdoor morel kit along with three other indoor edible mushroom kits, for a good price – under $80 for all 4 kits.  Usually morel kits are $25-30 on their own, depending on which website you look at.  I got my kits from the Gourmet Mushrooms website. The combo special I ordered is called “Gourmet’s delight.” It came with a morel habitat kit, a shiitake mushroom kit, an oyster mushroom kit, and a pom pom blanc kit.

The morel kit is in the fridge until spring when I can get out and work the soil to plant them, and I won’t actually get mushrooms from it for a year or two.  If it works it will be well worth the wait.   When I got the kits I set up the three indoor kits right away.

one of the mushroom logs
one of the mushroom logs

The kits consist of a “log” of sawdust or other material, inoculated with spawn of whatever type of mushroom.   They come with instructions, and it has been pretty easy.  We got a small flush of oyster mushrooms so far.  I got pictures of them when they were first starting, but we ate them too quickly for me to get a pic of the fully formed mushrooms.  I’m not sure if this first flush is over or if we will get some more oyster mushrooms.  You can dry out the log between flushes, and it should give you 2 or three crops of mushrooms.

oyster mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms forming (on the right side)

We are getting a flush of the pom pom blanc, which I have never tried but it is said that they taste like crab meat. That sounds delicious.  Here they are forming:

pom pom blanc
pom pom blanc flush of mushrooms forming

The shiitake log has not formed a flush yet, but the instructions for that kit are a little more complex than the other two, and it says that they can take a couple weeks to start forming. I should see them start any day now.  I’m excited for when they grow.

So far it’s been fun (and delicious) to grow indoor mushrooms.

A mushroom tour of 2014

I love mushrooms.  We had a plethora of them sprouting up all over our yard and woods this year.   Most of them are probably not edible, but they are beautiful.  My favorite edible wild mushroom is the morel, which sadly did not appear for me anywhere last spring. I looked everywhere.  In early summer we had a few random mushrooms sprout up but in mid to late August we had tons everywhere.  Below are some pictures of the various mushrooms we found this year.

These tiny mushrooms grew on our picnic table in June.
These tiny mushrooms grew on our picnic table in June.

Huge Shaggy Mane growing next to my son's leg.
Huge Shaggy Mane growing next to my son’s leg.

Amanita Muscaria in our woods (I think variety Formosa?)
Amanita Muscaria in our woods (I think variety Formosa?)

I believe these are deadly Amanitas. Growing in our woods.
I believe these are deadly Amanitas. Growing in our woods.

Some cool brown mushrooms on a tree.
Some cool brown mushrooms on a tree.

Tiny orange mushroom
Tiny orange mushroom

Orange Mushrooms
Orange Mushrooms

A pretty little red mushroom.
A pretty little red mushroom.

Yellow Mushrooms
Yellow Mushrooms

A Tall brown mushroom
A Tall brown mushroom

Little mushrooms on a log
Little mushrooms on a log

A purple and white mushroom being eaten by a slug.
A purple and white mushroom being eaten by a slug.

Big curled up mushroom
Big curled up mushroom