Beguiled by Bunnies, Charmed by Chicks

Our PLAN was to build a wood hutch. Our PLAN was to order some chicks and ducks this month, and a few more next month, and to build the bunny hutch this month, and to get the rabbits next month.

Until we went into the farm and ranch store. And they had chicks. And rabbits. They RARELY have rabbits. They have a hard time getting them in stock here. And basically, I buy chicks from the hardware store, but I NEVER thought I’d buy a rabbit that way. You don’t know the breed, you don’t know the age, the gender, or anything. But it is also really hard to find any rabbits other than New Zealand out here, and I’m just not crazy about that breed. Hard to find anything else any closer than 150 to 200 miles away.

But there in the rabbit pen was a good sized chinchilla rabbit. Sprawled out all comfortable. And my husband, who always LOOKS at the rabbits, but rarely gets INTERESTED in a particular one, started asking questions, to which he was given no satisfactory answers, but it did not matter, the damage was done! There were two other bunnies also, much smaller – one adorable little fluffy thing, and then another that will probably have to be named Flopsy by someone, because it has one lop ear, and one perky upright ear.

And they had Buff Wyandottes. We ordered some layer chicks. We still needed meat chicks. Wyandottes are classed as a Heritage Meat to Dual Purpose breed. I like Wyandottes.

After doing our scheduled shopping, we took a trip into another ranch store. There, in the back, we found some rabbit cages that we could afford. From that point on, it inevitable. To our great delight, when heading to the feed area, we found a stack of clearance cages – We managed to pick up two large ones for just $14 each, and a smaller one for $20. I had already picked up two large used totes at the second hand store, so we were set.

We picked up a little lumber so we could build a frame and enclosure for the cages, and then headed back to the first ranch store. Kevin made a beeline for the bunnies, and asked for the chinchilla. I told him that I wanted one of the other smaller ones too – the lovely little fluffy beige bunny with darker tips on its ears and paws, which looks like it might have a little angora in it, but not enough to be too fluffy. Since we want meat mutts (we like the hardiness of cross breeds), and since we want to start working with the pet market, with smaller “cute” breeds, these two fit right into our plans. And it does not matter whether they are male or female because as the first two, we can acquire others depending on what these turn out to be – we will subject them to the indignity of a gender check in the next few days sometime.

And then there were the chicks. Of course the ones I wanted were more expensive. But I just could not make myself buy the cheaper ones, they were NOT breeds I needed! I did not need more layers! So I decided, after quite a bit of arguing with myself, to get 8. I wanted more, but just could not justify the cost. As the sales associate lifted them into the box, he said, “You might as well get nine, and then you’ll get 12.” They were running a Buy 3 Get One special. Yeah. Might as well. 12 it is!

We hauled them home, fed the rest of the poultry, and then assembled a cage for the bunnies. They can share (they were in the same pen anyway), until we can get a framework and shelter made. Then they can go out. Nice thing about the pen, the wire is good quality, heavier than I expected. Of course, it was held together by flimsy plastic clips that would not hold up under real use… but lucky for us, we keep J-clips on hand, so we just assembled it with those.

The chicks get to spend a few weeks in the house before start to we transition them out.

But we are definitely going to need to get another sack of feed!

Snail Mail! No Joke!

The first eight were DOA. I was pretty bummed, because each month when we decide what we need to invest in to move our projects forward, every single thing we choose to purchase is purchased at the expense of a dozen other things that were competing for those dollars. So eight dead snails were NOT a happy arrival.

The seller made good, and shipped eight more, all of which were a healthier color and showing signs of life when the box was opened.

So we now have eight snails climbing the inside of the jar that is their temporary home, until we can move them into a more varied environment. Any movement of the jar, or near the jar, apparently startles them, and they drop from the side to the bottom.

How do snails win out over the dozens of other things we could purchase right now to grow our farm and business? The simplest reason is because I am writing a book. On raising creepy things as livestock feed. So snails were the next logical step after mealworms, and nightcrawlers. We still have redworms (though I have enough experience to write that chapter already, but we want the worms), superworms, rice beetles, dubias, and BSF larvae to go. All things I really had no intention of getting up close and personal with. But this we can do now. So we do it.

A little clarification about snails. The snails that arrived were aquatic Mystery snails. Yes, they are edible, just like escargo (but not as slimy so they are simpler to prepare). No, people don’t usually eat them – I don’t know if it is a quality issue (funny applying that word to snails), or if it is a familiarity issue. Whatever it is, I do not intend to eat them. I do, however, intend to feed them to my ducks. Ducks love small snails, and the calcium in the shells helps layer ducks.

We do hope to raise regular snails also, but it is more complicated. You can’t just order them off eBay or Amazon. Shipping them is illegal without a Federal Permit, and they are illegal in many states – even though they occupy back yards in virtually every place they are illegal! So we may have to sneak out and capture contraband in the dark of the night in order to get the real Escargot snails. Aquatic snails, however, are not regulated in the same way, and Mystery snails are legal pretty much anywhere.

Most snails reproduce exponentially, as do most insects. This is why many people seem to think they are more of a liability than an asset – because they do not know how to use the abundance.

The aquatic snails in our livingroom will soon be joined by fish, and shrimp. And some more plants – currently they are sharing their habitat with algae and duckweed, both of which they eat. But soon we will add in fish, which will eat THEM (but not all of them). Snails do reproduce wildly when they are given comfy digs. But that is an asset when you have lots of things to eat them.

And that is why we got snails. Not only will they help me finish the book, but they will help us close the loop on the food chain for our livestock.

Mystery snails can come in many colors, but the black ones are more diverse genetically, and they are less expensive than other colors. So we went with basic black (which is NOT a decision I’d ever make in my wardrobe because black makes me look dead). I am now hoping they really ARE as easy to care for as they are supposed to be, because one thing I am NOT into, is fussy. I’m all about easy, and once we have to break out the test strips and meters, I’m outta this!

We picked up a damaged 35 gallon fish tank the other day, that came with some filters and a bubbler, so the snails will get the bubbler as soon as we get it cleaned (the tank is not watertight, but it is bug-tight, so we will use it for either snails or dubias). We have to keep a cover on the jar, because snails will escape if there is an opportunity for them to do so. While they cannot take up habitation in the back yard and survive, they can live for a few weeks out of water, and then they die, and stink, and finding that underneath the furniture is just not an experience I am anxiously awaiting!

Today we got snail mail. And I don’t think it is going to be the oddest mail we receive.

Mr. Quail Goes to Jail

It started about three weeks ago.

One morning one of the quail hens was bleeding. We moved her into a temporary home next to the bantams. We had to partition off part of the bantam cage to do it, so the bantams were understandably put out. The quail cage above the bantams had three hens on one side, and three hens and a roo on the other side. One from the roo’s cage was injured.

Two days later, another quail was bleeding, and this time there was no question who the culprit was – our only quail roo, housed with his small harem, was taking them out, one by one. So we moved the injured one in with the other injured one, and the one healthy one that was left, went in with the other hens. We have two double cages, so the quail are in one (partition in place), the Bantams were in the other (partition was removed until we had to put the quail into isolation).

Mr Quail got to learn how to be alone, since he could not control himself in the presence of ladies.

It took about two weeks for the battered wives to heal, and we decided to give Mr. Quail one more chance. We removed the divider in the quail cage, and put all the quail back into it. We put in two sand baths, and they fought congenially over those while Mr. Quail ran around taking advantage of every female he could pin down. It took him about 4 minutes to make the rounds with all the girls. Twice. Then he started getting distracted by the sand bath. He likes the sand bath almost as much as he likes girls. Almost.

All was well, for awhile. Then we noticed nobody was eating. Lots of running around in the extra space, but they were barely touching their food. This, from quail that previously had to be fed three times a day just to keep up with them. I’m not sure what that was about, but given the subsequent events, I am thinking Mr. Quail seriously upset the pecking order, and was disrupting the feeding hierarchy.

And then, this morning, one of the two previously battered wives was bloodied again, and Mr. Quail was chasing her, cornering her and pecking viciously at her. Caught in the act. I grabbed Mr. Quail and put him into the banty cage.

Cary Grant (the bantam roo who presides over our two banty hens, Princess Grace and Audrey Hepburn) was not about to let an upstart perpetrator of domestic violence go without reprimand – or maybe he was not about to let him get near the banty girls! He chased him and gave him a taste of his own medicine, cornering him and making him cower under an onslaught of stern pecks.

I got them all over to one side of the cage, slid in the partition, and moved Mr. Quail once again, into isolation.

We had no other accommodations for our birds, and it was clear that the bantams needed the entire cage, and that Mr. Quail was not capable of behaving himself if left alone with the ladies for more than 2 days at a time. We needed another cage!

Hardware cloth was cheap at the local building supply store, so we grabbed a couple of rolls. We already had some J-clips, so the only other thing we needed was a latch for the door.

So we spent this afternoon building a small cage out of half inch hardware cloth, j-clips (for holding the sides together, and to work as hinges), and an aluminum pan (snagged from our fodder shelf where it had been in use as a sprouting pan). The deep aluminum pan now has sand in the bottom. We designed the cage the right size for the pan to go in the bottom, and we made a hatch that opens to slide the pan out for cleaning. A second access door above lets us put in feed and water.

In went Mr. Quail, who then spent the next 10 minutes (while we were feeding them all), running up and down the side of the cage next to the hens’ cage, trying to find a way through the wire. Ain’t happening! We slid a plastic barrier between, just because it was so pathetic.

So now we have all the hens in an open double cage, and the bantams have all of their house back now that the unwelcome visitor has gone.

Mr. Quail will get conjugal visits once a week. Considering how quickly he can make the rounds, we won’t need to leave him in long enough to give him a chance to think about anything else. This way we get fertile quail eggs without having to risk him beating the hens bloody.

It is kind of distressing to me, because I prefer things to be more natural, and ideally, I’d have them in a larger pen with plenty of hiding spots. But reality being what it is, I can’t always do things the way I’d like, so we’ve had to take measures to ensure that we protect our investment in these little birds.

In between weekend visits, Mr. Quail will have to content himself with the sand bath, which he now has all to himself.

The Flight of the Guineas

A neighbor came over yesterday and took Kevin off to his farm. The neighbor had nine guinea fowl roaming wild on his property. He never fed them, except a little corn now and again when he felt sorry for them. They foraged on his farm, cleaning up after the other animals, and were plump and healthy birds. Several weeks ago he had told us that if we wanted some, he’d gather them up and let us sort out as many females as we could identify.

So I went promptly to Google to learn how to sex Guinea Fowl. Most of the information listed only a single difference – the males had a single syllable call, the females a two syllable call, often described as “buck-wheat!”. It is loud, and distinctive (“distinctive” being a preferable word to “annoying” which is also used to describe the call).

Further research another day, showed that sure enough, there WERE visible differences as well. The males have larger wattles, and taller helmets than the females. We went out and looked over the Guineas and had a little practice identifying the females from the males. We wanted a mix, but mostly females, and the neighbor did not care, since he never got eggs from them anyway, and had no safe place for them to raise young.

So the neighbor put some corn in his unused chicken coop, and waited until the guineas were in the coop. It took three weeks.

Yesterday, he and Kevin caught five of them, attempting to make sure they got as many females as they could, since his flock seemed to be mostly male. They drove them over in a dog crate that was in the back of the neighbor’s pick-up truck.

Guineas can get out through holes smaller than you think they can! This was the first lesson that the guineas taught us.

When the crate was picked up, three of them promptly escaped through a hole in the bottom. The other two were deposited into the chicken coop – a fairly large open-air affair that is pretty decrepit, and has holes patched throughout the coop, and more in need of patching.

The three that escaped kept near the coop, for a while. I got a bucket of seeds, and scattered them around the door of the coop, and inside the door across the floor. The coop has two rooms, so we drove all the chickens and ducks, and the two guineas, into the inside section, and left the outer area open.

When we came to feed the poultry a little later, the three outside had come over to eat the seeds near the coop door, but they bolted as soon as they saw us. When we went inside to feed the other poultry, the guineas inside panicked. One flew up to the roof, and escaped through a hole we thought was not large enough for them to get out through.

Guineas can FLY through holes much smaller than you think they can. That was the second lesson.

So we got screws, dug out some more pieces of discarded metal siding to use as patches, and started in on the roof. Again. We patched as much as we could before the drill battery died, and then we put a makeshift patch over the one other hole we knew the birds could probably get out through.

While we were working on the coop, the remaining guinea revealed her identity with her loud and raucous call. Not only a hen, but a vocal one. If you need a decoy, with a guinea, a hen is best! Guineas are flocking birds, and they don’t like to be alone, so they complain about it. Other guineas will be attracted to the noise, and hang around their flock-mate.

That hen in the coop looked surprisingly small. They seemed so much bigger when they were bobbing up and down the pasture, and roosting on the roof of the neighbor’s barn. In the coop, she looked more like a miniature turkey and was the same size as one of the smaller chickens.

We tried a little more to encourage the errant four into the coop last night, but they were rattled enough for the day, and they flew off to a neighbor’s field. We left the door open, and left the rest of the birds in the interior section of the coop.

Today, Kevin heard the calls of the guineas. He went out to find them in front of the coop. He moved slowly around to head them off from their preferred escape route, and one of them hopped onto the coop doorway, and Kevin said he knew he had them when that happened. Sure enough they all went into the coop! They had come back for the free meal, having remembered those seeds in the doorway, and likely hearing the hen inside. Once in, Kevin shut the door, and they are wandering around inside, eating seeds, thinking life is not too bad right now.

We still have a few more patches to do on the roof, and then we have to catch those things, and clip their wings. They are so skittish that we’ll constantly be dodging them and having to pull them out of a panicked effort to batter their way through any light coming through the roof otherwise. I suspect I’ll have to clip some of their secondary flight feathers, and not just the primary ones, to keep them from bolting for the door to fly past our heads.

I’m still puzzling over why Kevin was able to get those guineas into the coop. One person should not have been able to do so, and they should have bolted and flew off again. But they did not. They just went in. I’m also filled with immense gratitude, because the loss of all but one guinea would have been heavy.

We had no idea when they would be coming in, but thankfully we have a good amount of feed on hand, so it won’t tax us to increase the feed going out each day.

I expect it will take a few weeks for the guineas to settle in, having been entirely wild, and now being confined, even though the coop is very large with plenty of space and roosting area. It would hold two, perhaps three times the birds we have in it, and not be crowded, so the guineas at least won’t be cheek by wattle with the chickens.

The hens were already trying to establish a pecking order where the lone guinea was subject to them – I do not know how the equation will change with five guineas grouped together, but maybe the bully hen will find that it is a different proposition when there are five, and not one!

We spent part of the afternoon today making more patches. They could not be called repairs, there is no way to repair without replacing the whole thing. But the holes are now down to a collection of much smaller ones, and there is less daylight coming through the roof. We moved slowly while doing the repairs and the five guineas huddled together along the back wall, moving around to the wall furthest from us as we moved around the coop to put up more patches on the ceiling (the roof is not strong enough to hold the weight of a person to make repairs from above). This is not our coop, so this is the best we can do. It is a near fall-down that just happens to be on the property here, and which we had permission to use. We will replace it soon with a hoop house of sorts, I think. But for now, at least the animals are secure, and fairly well protected from the weather.

The guineas had settled down enough that they did not panic as we did the work. That is a major improvement. They weren’t happy with us being in there. But at least they didn’t fling themselves against the chicken wire front and try to beat their way through it!

So the day has taken shape in a way we had not anticipated yesterday. We hadn’t realized how much more work the coop needed just for Guineas. And that is the third lesson. Coop repairs always happen when you least expect it.

But this is good. And we are satisfied.

First Quail Egg

The fellow we bought the quail from presented us with a transport cage with about 10 quail in it. One pretty gold pair of Italians, and a bunch of browns. The browns were mostly male. It is what he had at the age that he usually sold them (4 weeks). We needed females and told him so. He trotted off to his cages in the back, and brought out more females, a little smaller in size, to make up the difference.

So we had an Italian pair, and a brown male and 5 females. We took them home, and put two of the brown females in with the Italians, so we now have two cages of 4 birds, each with a male and three females.

You can really tell which females are older. Or at least, you could last week. They sing, and they get more aggressive at feeding time, throwing themselves at the cage when your hand comes near, and nipping at my fingers whenever I put my hands in or near the cage. It does no hurt. It is just annoying.

Not knowing the exact ages, and having disturbed the birds by transporting them for about half a day, we knew it would be a bit before the eggs started coming in. But just over two weeks after bringing them home, a tiny brown speckled egg appeared in the cage with the largest female. The most obnoxious female. The one that routinely tramples others in the cage to get to the feed, tromps in and out of the waterer, and flings feed in the most messy manner. I guess I’ll keep the brassy little thing a little longer!

The egg was inexpertly colored, the color was thin, the speckles were tiny, and some of the color rubbed off when I washed the egg. But inside was a large dark yellow yolk. Ok, so the term “large” is relative in this instance! The yolk was actually about the size of a dime.

What do you do with one quail egg. NO! I did NOT want to wait until I had more! Where is the fun in that?? So I fried it, and ate it with my breakfast. (Kevin does not care for plain eggs, so he did not mind.) A tiny little fried egg perched on top of the sausage and potatoes.

 

One little bite and it was gone. But the taste was excellent, and the egg yolk was smooth.

Waiting for the first egg from any birds you bring home is a daily reminder that maybe just maybe you have no idea what you are doing. Even though I’ve raised poultry before. Even though I’ve fed them without commercial formulated feed before. Even though I grew up with poultry. Every day I questioned whether they’d ever lay. Whether they were getting what they needed in order to produce. Did they have enough light, was it warm enough, did they have enough calcium, salt, protein, vitamin A? Was the feeding protocol we were using right for them to be able to lay well?

In the middle of the second week, I was in front of the cages running over the list, wondering if they’d be able to do the job, and I had a calming thought go through my head. “Laura. Stop questioning what you know. You DO know this stuff. You’d done it. Stop worrying about what you know you know.” I had to laugh. Because I DID really know. But here were these little birds, dependent upon me to get it right, and I would not know I REALLY had it right until they began to lay – their purpose on our tiny farm.

If you bring home an eating machine, and it never produces anything of value for you, then you have not succeeded at farming. I could feed those birds, and keep them alive, and still fail, if they never laid an egg. Because eggs are why they are here. Eggs are how they earn their keep, and how they justify the cost of the grain and fodder they fling with abandon about the cages. If they don’t produce, they are just an expense we cannot afford. And so it is with all our livestock… and until it actually happens, it is a gamble. I hate gambling.

The first egg is a landmark. The indication that yes, this is going to work. Yes, we did get it right. And yes, these little things will likely be worth the investment.

One egg today. In a few weeks, we are promised, we will have six eggs a day. Eventually the little banty hens in the larger cage below will begin to lay, and when they do, we’ll put in a nest box, and let the banties brood some of the quail eggs.

From small things, come that which is great.

A Little Bitty Rooster with a Funny Little Crow

“aah-ee-aaa-ow!”

A thin and wobbly screeching noise drilled its way from the other side of the basement, and into our bedroom. It sounded like a cat, screaming in pain. My muddled brain could not quite place the noise as belonging to anything recognizable.

I was barely awake, and in the process of trying to decide if I REALLY wanted to get up or not. I knew the noise was coming from the small birds that we had installed in cages in the room next to the back porch, but it was unlike any poultry noise I’d heard before!

“Aar-Ee-Aa-Ow!” Whatever it was, it was a little more sure this time.

“AHR-EE-AA-OW!” Oh! It was the rooster. This time it at least sounded like it MIGHT be a rooster! But it was not the confident “Cockadoodle doo!” that one expects from a rooster who knows what he’s about!

He’s a pretty little thing. Red, blue, and black. I know just enough about their coloring to be confused, so I don’t know the name of his coloring. But he is very pretty.

“AHR-EE-AA-OW!”Less thready, and a little less screechy now, the rooster notified us of the commencement of the day. Whether or not I wanted to get up, it was clear that I would be scolded until I did!

He and his two hens are in a cage indoors. The hens are also lovely, in an understated Jaqueline Kennedy sort of way. Nothing ostentatious. Lovely sleek feathers and conservative colors. Bantam hens are like that. They leave the flash and glitz to the men in the family.

We don’t advocate cages for Poultry, as a rule, but this is a special case. Because the cage above them holds 8 quail – 2 roos, and 6 hens. One of the roos and one of the hens are a very pretty Golden Italian coloring. The rest are just ordinary Brown Coturnix. Good egg layers.

The Bantams are not confined because we like having them in cages. They are confined because we need them to be able to serve as Broodies. Those two Bantam hens, whom I am going to be forced to name after Audrey Hepburn (the black hen), and Grace Kelly (the silver hen), are needed, to brood quail eggs. And their own eggs, of course, we would not want to deny them the privilege of seeing what kinds of other interesting (if confusing) color combinations that blue and red roo can inspire in the gray and black hens. The only practical way to keep them where they can do this through the winter, is in a roomy cage, indoors.

“AHR-EE-AA-OW!” Well, it is clear that this little roo is not going to be crowing in an expected manner any time soon! Kind of funny, since I wrote previously about a rooster with a wobbly little crow (The Rooster Who Crowed Too Soon). But at least this little fellow does not feel compelled to roust us from slumber at 4:00 each morning, hours before the sun as even thought of rising! He is at least polite about that, and waits until the sun comes up.

His crowing stopped when I came in to feed them – having asserted his authority, he was content to stop announcing daybreak (and besides, it is harder to crow with a mouth full). He and his ladies are rather messy eaters though, scattering assorted seeds and grains across the floor of the room. Their companions, the quails in the upstairs apartment, are equally messy eaters, so the Banties cannot be blamed for the entire mess. We are working on ways to get them to adopt more acceptable table manners, but in the mean time, the mess needs sweeping daily. We’ll be going to sprouted fodder grains soon, which should reduce the messiness since it is harder for them to fling that out of the cage in their hunt for the juicy bits.

The quail are quiet. They coo and chirp and crow quietly, and that is all. The crow is not like a rooster crow. It is softer and more gurgly. They do not wake me in the morning.

The Bantams are familiar territory. We’ve raised them before without purchasing commercial layer feed. The quail are a new adventure. Their diet is similar to the Bantams, they just need a little more protein – a few more tasty bugs. Harder to provide to indoor poultry than outdoor poultry, since the indoor birds cannot forage for themselves. I foresee a worm bin taking up residence in the basement room in the near future. Six fodder trays have already been set on the shelf below the Bantam cage, with dampened seeds for sprouting.

Since the rooster is still very young, I don’t doubt his crow will change. In the mean time, he is amusing, and not too obnoxious, so he can get away with sounding like a scalded cat.

There IS NO Debate About Refugees

Everyone has an opinion about whether the US should “rescue” refugees or not, and the opinions seem to center on two basic topics – compassion, and safety.

The issues here are lengthy, and often distracting. Mostly distracting. Because the things you have been lead to focus on, are not the issues at all. A few loud voices have controlled the dialog, and carefully circumvented the facts.

I’ll try to break this down into some coherent sub-topics.

Compassion

If the government resettles refugees, that is not compassion. That is socialism. That is theft of American money, from American taxpayers, given to foreign entities. There is nothing compassionate about it.

Compassion is an individual thing. You feel it, sufficient to act upon it, GIVING OF YOURSELF (not taking from someone else, or ordering someone else to do it). If you do not decide to GIVE… PERSONALLY… YOU DON’T HAVE COMPASSION. You are only pretending.

So let’s stop the pretense that those who want the government to fix the problem, somehow have more compassion than those who want to stop the government from acting beyond the scope of immigration law.

Economics

Our nation is broke. Maybe you don’t realize this, but when you are so far in debt that you will never have the resources to get out of debt, you are broke! When your income exceeds your expenses year after year, and there is NO EFFORT to restrain or economize, YOU ARE NOT JUST BROKE, YOU ARE STUPID.

For our government to discuss SPENDING money to take on the upkeep of refugees here, is not only contrary to our law, it is unbelievably irresponsible, and CRUEL to the very people to whom this government owes its first allegiance – that is WE, THE PEOPLE… NO, that does not mean people from around the globe. No, that does not mean citizens of another nation. It means AMERICAN CITIZENS. We pay the tab. We come first. It is the duty of the government to see to the needs of its own house before aiding another (that is Biblical, for those Christians who want doctrine – it is just plain fair logic for those who don’t care about that).

If you are living in a house with a mortgage payment that is 3 months past due, and your bank is about to foreclose on you, then taking out a mortgage on another home so that you can fill it with refugees is REALLY DUMB. You don’t offer to pay for someone else to have a home while you and your own children are crying in the cold because you don’t have sufficient to pay for your own home. You see to the needs of your OWN FAMILY FIRST. Then you render aid wherever else you HAVE THE MEANS to do so, whether it be a dollar or five, or a hundred. OUR GOVERNMENT is under the same obligation.

This year, there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment for Seniors on Social Security. People who paid into a system, and to whom the government made promises. A system that would be self-supporting were it not periodically robbed by that same government to fund things unrelated to Social Security. To make a decision to not increase Social Security because “we don’t have enough money”, and then turn around and offer to pay welfare for refugees is senseless, corrupt, and inexcusable. If we do not have money to take care of those close to home, we certainly don’t have it for those whom we have no allegiance to!

Immigration Law

US immigration law requires that anyone coming to the US as an immigrant not be a drain on welfare resources for at least 5 years. They must be employable, or they must have a sponsor. Historically, recent immigrants were ineligible for welfare services – only those who had paid taxes IN were eligible to draw on the system. This is only fair and just.

Children may not immigrate without a home to go to. Orphans may be adopted, but the family receiving them must be able to show sufficient income to ensure that the adopted child will not draw upon welfare services for a 5 year period.

In a refugee situation, the powers of the US government have historically been limited to ONE decision only… That is, how many immigrants will they allow from each country, each year. In a refugee situation, they may increase the number allowed from that country.

In all cases, standard background checks are required, refugee or not, and immigrant law is not circumvented. So when the House currently seeks to require background checks on Syrian refugees, they are NOT asking for special treatment for them! They are only asking that CURRENT LAW be observed.

If immigration law were enforced, and not set aside, the government would NOT BE INVOLVED in any kind of debate at this time!

Sponsoring Adults

When an adult immigrant, or a family of immigrants, has a sponsor, the approval processes are generally much faster. This sponsor may guarantee a job for the head of household, or they may certify that they will ensure that the needs of the family are met so that welfare resources are not required.

If this provision were utilized at this time, ANYONE who felt like Syrian Refugees SHOULD be brought to the US, would be capable of stepping forward, and volunteering to sponsor a refugee, or refugee family. If you think they ought to be here, then by all means, PERSONALLY welcome a family into your home, your business, or your neighborhood.

No government involvement necessary, beyond standard immigration policy.

Those who claim “Compassion” for the refugees are free to act upon their conscience, and demonstrate to the rest of the nation, just how it should be done!

Adopting Children

Syrian refugee children are with families, or a guardian – they don’t get out otherwise.

In Muslim countries, women and children are possessions. They are not free to act for themselves. They are not able to travel by themselves without being taken captive, and abused, or punished for being without proper company. Muslim countries do NOT allow their orphaned children to be adopted by infidels.

But, supposing a child DID escape. Supposing there are refugee children in camps where parents or guardians have died, who have not been claimed by other Muslims in the camp (even then, this is the exception, not the rule, since the majority of refugees at the outset are adult men, without families).

The ONLY way that the US can legally help them is through overseas adoption. This is a lengthy process – mostly for the parents. There are many parents here who ARE prepared with homestudies done, and INS paperwork completed or nearly completed.

There have ALWAYS been children around the world in dire straits… and those upon our own shores as well. So people who REALLY have compassion, are already helping, no matter where the children are located (this help may also be rendered through non-profit donations, humanitarian aid organizations, fast offerings, etc, and may be small or great, but is always a personal sacrifice and a personal effort).

Parents who are prepared for this KNOW that children raised in a culture where women are degraded, and children are used for immoral purposes, and where children are taught that people who are not of their beliefs are never to be respected, will be VERY DIFFICULT to normalize within an American family situation. Personally, if I had daughters in the home, I would never bring a boy with that background into my home, unless he was under about the age of 3. It would be foolhardy. If I had no children in the home, I would consider a child up to about the age of 7, but would not consider older children unless I felt like I was instructed personally by God to do so. Because some children over the age of 8 have been trained in behaviors that would present a threat to the mother in the home.

God bless those who feel called to take in these children and love them in spite of the dangers.

If you are NOT ALREADY PREPARING to bring an international child to your home (or directly and PERSONALLY helping someone else do so because you cannot), then SHUT UP about the “poor orphans” whom our government is supposed to rescue. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!

A government CANNOT rescue orphans. FAMILIES have to do that. Put up, or shut up!

Action On Your Part

There is nothing stopping ANYONE who wishes to help the refugees, from helping the refugees. Government involvement IS NOT NEEDED.

  • You may donate money to a charity that is aiding refugees in overseas camps.
  • You may donate money to an organization that facilitates international adoptions.
  • You may donate money to a family that is trying to adopt.
  • You may sponsor a refugee or family yourself.
  • You may prepare to adopt a child.
  • You can do one of any number of other tasks that require your personal attention to offer aid.

Just don’t stand around pointing the finger and saying that other people are mean because they don’t want the government to circumvent immigration law, in order to get out of having to act in a way that costs you personally.

The Government’s Legal Right to Decide

The government has a legal right to decide how many immigrants to allow in.

Unfortunately, so many people are mislead by the misdirection right now, that our government is GOING to decide an issue which there is NO POINT in having them decide, and they will probably throw money where it will be largely wasted, and get us deeper in debt in the process.

If THEY would first FOLLOW law, before trying to change it, there would be no need for them to decide anything other than what they already have the process in place to do!

Your Legal Right to Decide

It is your right to decide HOW YOU PERSONALLY are going to make a difference. You have plenty of options.

But it takes more than words of ridicule pointed at someone who feels that it is NOT the responsibility of the government to be importing refugees. Those words carry no weight, they are hollow, insincere, and recognized for the evasion of integrity that they really are.

I Don’t Do Compost

Growing up, it seemed we always had a compost pile. I remember taking kitchen scraps out to it. I remember the pile of stuff, decomposing from bottom to top. When you had scraps and peelings from the kitchen, that is just where they went. In my childhood, this was the purpose of the compost pile.

I did vaguely understand in the background that compost was supposed to be used. That if things rotted enough, they would no longer be moldy, blackened soggy disgusting things, but something else instead. But I didn’t know what. Because I never saw it. My mother assures me that she used compost on the garden. But she did not do it in my presence. All I ever saw was the compost pile that gradually grew some of the healthiest weeds around, and some volunteer tomato plants that never seemed to bear.

What we did use, is the manure pile that was below the hatch in the wall of the barn. The hatch that you never wanted to be near when someone was shoveling out the barn, because that is where the manure was chucked out into a pile that always seemed to be about 4 ft high and 6 ft wide, no matter how much you had just thrown into it. The pile that produce the BEST worms in the area… And which we scraped off the top layers from so we could get at the bottom, every time my mother said we needed manure for the garden, and which produce black, black composted matter at the bottom of the pile, which we shoveled into the barrow and hauled to break up and scatter on the gardens.

I miss that old manure pile… We haven’t had sufficient large livestock at one time to generate a manure pile of that magnitude or value.

But everyone now says you have to make compost to enrich your garden soil, and to recycle the organic waste from your kitchen and yard.

The idea of saving scraps, and turning them into soil enhancement is alluring. But it just never seems to work out that way for my family. The bucket in the kitchen does not get emptied daily (no matter how we promise that it will), so it ends up being a breeding place for fruit flies which then end up in the potted plants, sprouts, seed starts, and everywhere else that we don’t want them. I know, put a lid on… but then I have to pry a lid off every time I want to put something in, and that usually means I remember after I have the knife and the mango already in my hand, and the first piece of peel is already off… and there I am with drippy fingers and full hands trying to remove a lid without getting juice on the counter or the outside of the bucket… Sigh. It is just easier to toss it in the trash.

If the refuse makes its way from the bucket to the compost outside, it sits there. If we have a container, it rots in there, making a horrid mess. IT DOES NOT TURN TO DIRT!!! It turns to mucky black stinking stuff. If we poke holes in the bottom, it turns to dry mucky stinking stuff. Oh… you are supposed to turn it, and whatever else. Who remembers? Compost maintenance is just not high on my list of must-do tasks! If it is not convenient and easy, I am not likely to get it done!

So after years of flirting with it, and failing, I don’t do compost. I USE compost. And I recycle scraps. But I don’t have a compost bin, or a compost pile.

Mostly, we feed the scraps to the animals. When the bucket on the counter is FOOD for something that needs to be fed, and when it is a savings of money (because it offsets some purchased feed), or savings in work (because it offsets some feed we’d have to either grow, or gather), then that bucket is an asset that is remembered every time we go to feed the animals. It gets emptied twice a day, because we feed animals twice a day (when feeding fresh foods instead of commercial formulated feeds, the food stays fresher and the animals do better on twice daily feeding).

There is very little that comes out of a kitchen that cannot be fed to some kind of livestock. Some of it they won’t eat, but if you toss it in a pen or field for them, they’ll eat what they want, trample the rest, and it gets reincorporated into the soil with no work on your part. Chickens are great at this, and composting refuse in their pen also provides a lovely breeding ground for all kinds of insect larvae, which the chickens will happily gobble up. Free food from free food. How cool is that? And if you need the end compost for the garden, you just shovel up some of the trampled manury dirt from the pen, and you get the best of everything.

So the majority of our refuse is recycled into meat, eggs, milk or manure. Or guard services rendered by a dog who considers every person walking past the window to be a mortal threat. So far we have seen no correlation between the amount of scraps he consumes, and the amount of barking. He is over-zealous no matter what we feed him, and the only side effect to feeding him lots of scraps is that he dogs your heels any time you go to the kitchen.

Composting can also be done by tucking refuse under mulch in the garden. This is only necessary if you don’t have chickens though, and if the food is too far gone to be fit to feed anything living.

Dry organic debris, such as leaves, grass clippings, woodchips, sawdust, even plants pulled from the garden, are much better used as mulch, where they will compost layer by layer in place, and enrich the soil and save you the work of tilling.

So far I haven’t found anything that would be better off in a bin or pile. All I have found is that if you think that compost is something you have to “make”, then you are creating needless work for yourself, and depriving livestock of additional healthy food sources. Manure, and mulch are more useful for enriching the soil and saving on work!

The lightbulb moment for me was realizing that AVOIDING making compost was actually a more intelligent choice than thinking that if I was going to do it right, that someday I’d have to figure out a way to do it like the “professionals” recommend. The great realization that I DON’T NEED TO FEEL GUILTY for not making more work for myself! That the results were BETTER, and the workload LESS – a combination I am always striving for – when I let the animals and the layers in the garden do the work the way nature intended.

So no matter how nifty those compost tumblers look, and no matter how enthusiastic other gardeners are about teaching me how to “properly” prepare compost, I WON’T DO IT! I simply cannot see the need! I get better results without the hassle!

When Manure is the Highlight of Your Day

The neighbor has a pasture, which he faithfully mows with a lawnmower every week, and waters to keep it green. Seemed kind of silly to us, we’d stick some lambs or goats in there and let THEM do the job, if we were going to all that work to make the grass grow!

Come the end of summer though, we woke one morning to find that there were horses in the pasture. And where horses eat, horses leave piles of manure. Road apples. Hocky pucks…

We cornered the neighbor and asked if we could scavenge some of the manure. He said sure… take all we wanted!

When you grow mushrooms, manure is a treasure. Horse manure especially, because it has a high percentage of undigested organic matter, which is great for many types of mushrooms.

So, a few days later when the horses vacated (his son had brought them up for the weekend, so they could take the horses into the mountains here), we headed next door with a poop rake and a garbage bag (we had no buckets nor barrow). I held the top of the sack, and Kevin scooped the poop into the bag.

We hauled it back and put it on the back porch where we promptly forgot about it. We don’t use the back porch much.

A few months later, after the manure had composted some in the bag, I dug it out and put it on top of the containers for my wild Portobello, and my Wine Cap mushrooms. I’d meant to do it for several days, and finally got it done, so I felt a little satisfaction at the completion of the task.

I haven’t had a lot to blog about lately. I haven’t had much to FaceBook either. In a conversation with a friend, on the day I shoveled the horse manure onto the mushroom containers, I admitted that shoveling a little manure had been the highlight of my day – purely because it was an accomplishment that was a little out of the ordinary.

The day we gathered the manure it was also the singular accomplishment of the day. Yeah, we milked the goat, we answered customer emails, we worked on our websites, we made product, packed boxes, made labels, etc. But those things are routine, hum-drum, and rarely interrupted by anything worthy of commentary.

Shoveling manure isn’t worthy of commentary either. It isn’t the kind of thing you blog about and have your friends and family just waiting to read THAT.

Perhaps this is why the farmer has sunk so much in society’s estimation. After all, the day to day routine leaves little to blog about that the average person can relate to, or enjoy, unless you happen to be one of those people who sees humor in every corner and also possesses the rare gift of being able to relate it, in a way that people who DON’T see it, will understand!

Having been skipped over when that particular talent was handed out, I have to make do with relating more prosaic items of interest. Manure usually does not qualify.

Often the highlight of my day is mushrooms. Finding one I’ve been looking for, in the wild. Finding an edible I did not know existed. Figuring out how to grow one that is hard to grow, in a way that is easy. Not always sharable, since most of my acquaintances don’t share my enthusiasm for mycological discoveries.

Occasionally the highlight of my day is finishing a project that is significant. A new book finally ready to publish. A website completed enough to launch. A few articles done that have been waiting a while. But even those things are usually pretty low key, and appreciated only by a few of my associates.

The general tenor of the day means the most significant thing is that I got the wheat milled, or tried a new recipe, explored a new area of the region, or caught up on something I was behind in that is terribly boring. Kevin takes pictures of where we go and what we do, and sometimes posts them. I forget about the photographs, and try to paint the pictures with words instead. When I remember. And when it seems worth sharing.

But much of the time, the highlight of my day is like manure. Valuable, useful, but not something you really discuss with enthusiasm in public!

Sunday Morning on the Farm

Today began just like every other day. I got up, put on pants and a shirt, and went upstairs to grab a glass of juice. Then gathered up the carry sacks, which were loaded up with a jar of wash water, a washrag, a dry cloth, a stainless steel container, and a clean mason jar. Then I headed off to milk the goat.

Usually Kevin and I do this together. But he is gone for a few days, and will be back this afternoon. Usually he milks the goats, and I strip them out. He lets them in and out of the pen, and I get the feed ready and take care of the milk while he is putting the goats back in. We usually walk hand in hand from the house to the goat pen. A morning ritual that has been carried out for months.

Last week, there were two. Today there is one. The older goat died early last week. A combination of circumstances that her old body could no longer compensate for. We did all we could. But the choices weren’t all ours to make.

But this morning, I milked the goat alone. She was cooperative. Sometimes she isn’t. I milked her out, put the milk into the clean jar (we used to need more than one jar, but she is declining in production now). Then I put her back in her pen, stowed the feed bowl, and tossed hay in to the doe and the two younger kids that share the pen with her. I gathered up the equipment and stuck it back into the two bags that it goes in (made by my mother, for just this purpose), and headed back for the house.

The rag got rinsed and hung to dry (it gets laundered twice a week), and the dry cloth was also hung. The milk was strained into a clean jar, capped, and put in the fridge. This requires a complete rearranging of all the jars in the fridge – usually there are 3-4 jars of milk from the previous days, and the newest has to go at the back, oldest at the front. Then the milking container has to be rinsed, and the milk jar, and the strainer also.

Once these things are done, I am free to shower and dress for church. When we have chickens, rabbits, or other animals, the Sunday Morning chores are more. But for the moment, it is just the goat. Soon, it will also be quail, as we adjust our farming to our location, and to the ups and downs of life right now.

Sunday Morning is like every other morning – except that other mornings, I shower before I dress for the day, and I don’t need to change clothes.

The rest of the day is different. We do different things on Sunday. A lot of things we do not do. We do what is necessary in daily maintenance, and no more. We do not conduct business – though sometimes I slip and read a business email, because I am an impatient woman and always struggle with that.

But the animals must be cared for. A milking animal cannot wait just because it is Sunday. They still need milked and fed. The eggs still require gathering on Sunday, and the lambs, and calves, and kids, and chicks must be fed and tended.

The pens do not need cleaned, and the garden does not need to be weeded, the compost does not need turned, and the mushrooms do not need to be sown in. The hay does not need stacked, the feed does not need to be bought, and the cages do not need to be built today. These are chores for another day.

Sunday only starts like every other day. Then it becomes a day of rest. I used to puzzle over that. Especially since Mormons tend to fill Sunday pretty full, and sometimes it is anything BUT restful.

Then I realized that when you are sleeping, you are not doing nothing. You are recharging. Rest gives your body time to repair, and time to rebuild strength. And that is what we do on Sunday, though it is spiritual, not physical. We set aside all the daily demands that can be set aside, and give ourselves wholly to the work of the Lord for that one day.

It used to be a day when I COULD NOT. And now it is a day when I DO NOT HAVE TO. So rather than grumbling that I am behind in work for our business, and worrying that I cannot answer those emails or pack those boxes, I now relax and know that I don’t have to worry about being behind for this one day. I can ignore all the feeling of being overtaxed or behind or of never being enough, and today, on Sunday, I am enough, and all of that can wait until tomorrow.

I have learned that when I let it go for one day, trying my best to obey the law of the Sabbath, I am blessed. I catch up faster on what I was behind with. We have more orders on weeks where we get it right than we do on weeks when we give in and take care of things that could have waited. I have more energy, and more creative thought processes which lead to more productive writing and business management. When I give that one day to the Lord, He gives me back a better week.

The farm animals have no agency, and no conviction that would compel them to obey the same law of the Sabbath that we choose to obey. They have not the ability TO choose such a thing, and they cannot care for themselves. So they still require feeding and some tending. So Sunday morning seems just like every other day when it begins.

But everything else can wait. And the farm can rest, for just one day.

Sears, Sears… How the Mighty Have Fallen

The king of mail order. At one time they shipped entire HOUSES, and just about everything else you could order and have shipped to your home. The mighty giant that should have known how to make the transition to the internet better than any other company in the world.

Apparently they slipped a gear somewhere, because they are in serious trouble. After dealing with them to try to get the freezer my mother ordered, actually delivered, I can see why.

This is a rough sequence of events:

Ordered freezer online. Price agreed to when credit card info is entered, is $530. Price on receipt is $530. Delivery date listed as 4 days after order date.

Delivery date comes and goes. We look up the order online. Price billed is listed as $561 (and change). Tax was not calculated during checkout, but has been added later. NOT GOOD!

Delivery is listed as scheduled for the day before. Ummmm Yeah. Delivery is scheduled for YESTERDAY.

We call the number listed on the website for deliveries of online orders. They tell us the delivery is scheduled and will be received when scheduled. The foreign speaking rep assures us that there is nothing wrong, and that the delivery is on schedule. We point out that the date was YESTERDAY, and they grudgingly admit that they need to look into it, and assure us that someone will call back.

Nobody does.

We call again. They go through the same routine. Nobody calls back.

We call again. They tell us that we have the wrong number for this kind of thing, and that we should have called somebody else. We tell them this is the number for online order deliveries that is posted on the website. They assure us it is not (it is), and then give us a different number to call. It is local. For a Sears store here.

We call, no answer. The Sears store is no longer in operation. There will never be an answer at that number.

We call customer service back. They tell us again it is the wrong number, but they have no other number to give us. Then they tell us they will look up the order, and that they do not know where the freezer is. The tell us they will call us back. We say no. Give us to a supervisor.

After some runaround, they do. Or at least, he says he is a supervisor. His English is a little more clear, not much. He tells us that the delivery is rescheduled, and that we will get a call the night before it is delivered.

We don’t. It does not come.

(At this point, we have informed them TWICE, that the store they keep telling us to call no longer exists. They are not interested in this information, and assure us they can fix whatever problem it is that is getting in the way, which they admit they cannot identify.)

We call back. The rep cannot speak English well enough to be understood. By this time, we have no patience with her. We tell her we cannot understand her. We KEEP telling her we cannot understand her, and that we need to speak with a supervisor. She keeps refusing, and keeps babbling on the other end of the phone. Finally she passes us to a supervisor.

He informs us that they are having trouble getting the freezer from the manufacturer, but it is scheduled to leave the factory on Wednesday night, and that they will call us when it does, and we will get it the next day.

Now, I’m no dummy. I know that there is no Kenmore factory anywhere near. Overnight deliveries DO NOT HAPPEN on appliances. NEVER. I inform him of this. He assures me I am wrong, and that it will happen just as he says, and gives us no other option but to take his word for it.

No call, no freezer.

We call back.

The rep tells us that the order has been put on hold. Then she says that she can schedule it for delivery the next day. The next day is Saturday. NOBODY DELIVERS APPLIANCES ON SATURDAY! We KNOW this! I tell her this. She says WELL if we do not want it on Saturday she can schedule it for another time! I try to tell her that she is incorrect, or that her order tracking system is incorrect, that it CANNOT be delivered on a Saturday because the stores and delivery companies do not deliver on Saturdays! She is not getting this. She is not even IN the US, so she has no clue what I am talking about. I ask for a Supervisor. She tells me she needs to check some more, and I tell her that it is obvious she cannot help me, and to pass me to a supervisor. She hangs up on me.

I call back. The next rep tells me the same thing. I ask for a supervisor, and she puts me off until I insist. Then she tells me there are no supervisors available and runs me around on the “it will be delivered tomorrow” (Saturday) thing. She does not know what happened to the order, she does not know who has the freezer, she does not know whether it is even in stock, yet she assures me that it will be delivered on a Saturday when Saturday deliveries do not happen! I ask for a supervisor again, and she hangs up on me.

I look up the local Sears store numbers and start calling, hoping SOMEBODY in the US can actually help us.

We are now waiting for a local store to call us back. At least they speak English.

This is why Sears is failing.

They did not outsource their Call Center.

They outsourced their Customer Service. They outsourced their reputation to someone who will say anything to avoid dealing with customers, and who will NEVER pass problems up the chain where they can be solved.

They outsourced their reputation to someone who does not guard it.

They deserve to fail.

Which is sad, because Kenmore appliances really are fairly good appliances.

If you can get them.

UPDATE: We finally know what happened to the freezer.

Online orders are assigned to the nearest Sears store for fulfillment. The local store near us closed, but apparently nobody in the delivery department has realized this (in spite of the fact that we informed them at least four times, and in spite of the fact that the two LOCAL stores KNEW that this IS AN ONGOING problem!).

The computers in one area don’t know what is happening in other areas, and customer service cannot see beyond their computers (and they do not want to, since that requires effort). So the delivery is scheduled, but there is no one on the other end of the delivery order to pick it up and ship it out. They promise it will be delivered, and it never is. Nobody in the Delivery department has the brains to actually look and see why, or to try to call the assigned store and see where the problem is, or to call the regional manager and see why the freezer is hung up.

This problem would have been SO EASY to solve… Not just temporarily for us, but permanently so it did not happen to anyone else! But horrendously incompetent customer service stopped that from happening, and is now perpetrating this kind of stupidity upon other hapless customers.

The left hand knoweth not that the right hand has been cut off.

SECOND UPDATE: So, here it is, three weeks and many phone calls later. For a few days it actually looked like there was hope of getting the freezer.

The Regional Center called us a week ago (after we left messages in two different local stores), and told us that the delivery was scheduled for the following Tuesday (Monday being a Holiday). Sure enough, Sunday night, the recorded call comes in, telling us the freezer will be delivered on Tuesday (the first time the call came in when promised).

Tuesday comes and goes – the freezer does not follow the call. We call back to the local store, they take a message and say they will contact the Regional manager and that he will call us back. He does not.

24 hours later, we call back, and are informed that the local Sears can do nothing, it has been too long since the order was placed, and the only people who can help us is the people who REFUSE to help us.

In fact, those are almost exactly the words of the associate who called us back with the message from the Regional Manager: “I’m sorry, but the Manager said that the only people who can help you is the people who won’t help you.”

Good call, Sears! Put the satisfaction of customers in the hands of an offshore company that does not give a rip whether your company sinks. Put it in the hands of people, whom, when there is a problem they do not understand, start hanging up on customers. Put it in the hands of people who will not actually even look to see that the system has broken down, or see where it is broke. You might as well hire your competitors to handle your customer service, because they are getting your business either way!

Today a dispute on the payment for the freezer is being filed. The payment cleared a day or two after the order was place, because their system was informed that the freezer was being delivered, even though it was not, and could not be, because those instructed to do so were laid off when the store was closed.

Sorry Sears. You had your chances… More than enough of them.

We shall mourn your passing when the company is belly up. With customer experiences like this, it is inevitable.

On the other hand, if you’d like to save your business, I offer business consulting services which could turn your ship around and head it back into the wind… Because when we consult with a company, we pay attention to the customer experience!

Summer Mushroom Adventures

It seems that once people know you are interested in mycology, they take an interest in sharing their finds with you. This has provided some interesting experiences in the last few weeks.

First, a Giant Puffball walked in the front door, in the hands of a little boy who had been in the Primary class I had substituted for a few Sundays previous. A mushroom that has been requested by my customers, so I was very pleased to receive it! It was set to cure in the basement, where it emitted an unpleasant odor for about a week before it finally stopped stinking. But it is curing well, so it was worth the smell.

Next, some Aspen Boletes made their way here, along with some lovely mature King Boletes. Easy to tell them apart – the Aspens bruise dark, and the spore tubes go dark gray with age, whereas the Kings do not bruise, and the tubes turn an olive green shade. Both were riddled with maggots, which is not a problem since they drop out as soon as we start to dry the mushrooms. Disappointing to me though, because the maggots drop out onto the drying trays (we have screens, over trays, so there is a catch pan under each screen), and we have no chickens right now to enjoy the benefits of those maggoty mushrooms!

Some Aspen Oysters wandered in one day, and were promptly set to dry for spawn, and some were used to sow a box of aspen shavings so we can grow more. Oyster mushrooms are easy to grow, and Aspen Oysters have the distinction of being able to grow on Alder.

A few days ago I was given two mushrooms that were old and degraded. They appeared to be a polypore of some kind – not that there was any spore surface left, but I’d seen a polypore before that had degraded in the same way, with the same kind of pattern on the underside when the spore surface had been eaten away by bugs. They were waterlogged, soggy, and maggoty (more so than the boletes). The stems were falling off, and the caps were hardly holding together. I chose NOT to bring them into the house!

The lady who gave them to me said as an afterthought, “They were growing from the same stem.”. I promptly forgot that she said that.

Later, when trying to ID them, I could see the texture and color of the caps, and combined with my assumption of a polypore was a good start. But I could not get an ID for anything, there are just too many stemmed polypores of similar color.

Finally went back outside to look at them again, and paid attention to the stems. I could see where they had broken apart, and they had a common base… and a ROOT! They had a sturdy black root that descended from one of the stems, that I had not noticed before.

I knew that was the identifying feature, because roots like that on mushrooms are uncommon. Turns out that there is only one rooted polypore, and it is known by that name.

If I had not had the stems, and had not seen that root, I could not have ID’d that mushroom. Having the root made the ID EASY because there is nothing else like it – orange cap, and black root, confirmed the polypore ID.

When you receive mushrooms from other people, they may or may not have the entire stem intact. It is always more helpful for identifying if you have the entire mushroom with the stem base, and a description of the habitat where it was growing, because those things can help to confirm an ID, and in some cases, they can be the ONLY clue to a certain ID.

A lot of people have been sending me photos of mushrooms to ID. 9 out of 10 of those images are Little Brown Mushrooms, and an ID is fairly hopeless. I generally only bother with edibles, if they are not edible, or medicinal in some cases, I could care less what they are called.

There is a rule about edible mushrooms. Generally they are the more substantial mushrooms. There are a few LBMs (Little Brown Mushrooms), or LWMs (Little White Mushrooms), or LGMs (Little Gray Mushrooms) which are edible and grow in troops, but overall, the good edibles will be large, and have distinctive features. The smaller ones are too difficult to differentiate, there are just too many like them, and they are generally not worth identifying anyway, since they would take too many to be worth the effort to pick. Consequently, many have never been identified, and most mushroom hunters ignore them because they are too tricky to get right, and not worth the bother anyway.

Today I felt impressed to go to an abandoned chicken coop that is on the property we are renting. It has rained daily for the last several days, so today was a good day to look for mushrooms. But I had not thought to look in there before – the roof leaks, and it has a good layer of old rotted sawdust and chicken manure in it. It occurred to me that something might come up in there because of the rains.

As soon as I came inside the door, I laughed. There was a mushroom, about 3″ across, right in the middle of the floor! Not just any mushroom…. Agaricus Bisporus. Brown Bisporus.

A few old nearly dried mushrooms lurked in the corners, and some new buttons peeked up here and there. Clearly the composting litter was well colonized with Agaricus Bisporus mycellium.

The MOST COMMON commercial mushroom. Nothing special. Nothing exotic.

But this is a fine thing for me, because I was unable to find a strain of Agaricus Bisporus with which I felt satisfied, because it has mostly been crossed with Agaricus Brunnescens, and the distinction has been lost with many commercial strains. I have a really excellent strain of true Brunnescens, but my strain of Bisporus was not as good as I wanted. This new find is a BETTER strain – it has the distinctive differences that set it apart from Brunnescens (slightly thinner cap, less reddening when cut or bruised, and gills that are less pink and turn brown sooner in the maturation process). So now I have a new strain of Bisporus… which I have named “Chicken Run”. What would otherwise be no big deal has been a delightful find for me!

The same people who gave me the old rotting mushroom to ID also gave me another unidentified mushroom which keys out as Albatrellus. I have been wanting a specimen of one of the edible Albatrellus species for many months, ever since I found an old, soggy, and stinky specimen in the woods one day. Completely inedible due to its age and condition, not even usable as spawn, but identifiable due to the stem position and  the fact that it is a large stemmed polypore and there are not many of those. So receiving an Albatrellus specimen was a real gift.

I am unsure of the species exactly – the genus of Albatrellus is certain, but there are a dozen or so species within the genus, many very alike. I only know it is edible because the family that gave it to us have been eating it. Narrows it to Ovinus, Confluens, or Citrinus (based on other features, but they are VERY similar). Started a box of it today, to see if I can get it to grow. I am going to have to find a way to purchase a microscope to be certain of the species though.

It has been a lot of fun having mushrooms walk in the door. I never know what is coming in next. The most amazing thing has been the number of mushrooms that I have on my “needed specimens” list that have been either handed to me personally, or shipped to me from somewhere in the US. Often the person sending them isn’t sure what they are, other times they know for certain. But in both cases, I have been brought some really amazing finds, which have added to our inventory, and are blessing our lives, and the lives of our customers.

I’ve been drawing mushroom images for our website, for the mushrooms that I do not have pics for. Some of them turned out well. Worth a look if that kind of thing interests you, they are on our Mushroom Store website – just click the link on the left for Mushrooms that can be grown indoors, and the other links below that one.

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