Business

Posts related to business, but not marketing.

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.

So my mother ended up buying a smaller freezer, at a higher price, locally. It was delivered when promised. Ironically enough, on a Saturday. Local stores sometimes DO deliver on Saturday. I’m sure they did it just to prove me wrong! She happily began filling it within minutes of delivery.

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.

Don’t Waste Money On Commercial Potting Mix!

I wonder who it was that decided that people could make soil better than Mother Nature, who has been at it for thousands of years by Creationist reckoning, and millions of years by Evolutionist reckoning.

It is sort of like processed foods. All the good stuff is stripped out, and a few essential (though undigestible) nutrients are added back in, and a nice looking but nutritionally deficient and often outright harmful product is released to the public in the name of “good food”, and the manufacturer persuades millions that it is better than what they could cook themselves, mostly because it is convenient.

With potting mix though, it isn’t necessarily any more convenient than the alternative! And it is several times the cost! It is made from various forms of industrial waste, and a few synthetic manufactured items (made in China, principally from petroleum). Oh, and some of the “better” stuff has chemical fertilizers thrown in. A few “organic” types have a wee bit of sterilized manure or fish emulsion (ground up fish guts) thrown in. No wonder it is so difficult to get things to grow in it, and no wonder it is impossible to re-wet if it ever dries out completely!

No more convenient, WORSE performance, and MORE expensive. MORE harmful to the environment, and a pain in the neck to work with under less than ideal conditions. Wow… they’ve really managed to snooker the buying public!

The best thing to grow plants in is…

Drumroll, please, this is a major revelation…

DIRT!!!

Rich, nutrient filled, bacteria and fungus laden, water holding, DIRT!

Topsoil, to be exact.

With some compost on top.

Easy peasy.

Even in pots indoors, DIRT is the best thing to grow plants in. Seriously, folks, how hard a concept is this? The substance that plants EVOLVED to grow in (if you subscribe to that theory), or the substance that GOD PROVIDED for plants to grow in (if this is your belief) is the BEST thing for plants to grow in! (I am still astonished that I have to actually EXPLAIN this to people, and even more shocked that most will hear my instructions and promptly go out and buy another bag of potting mix because someone else told them to or because the picture on the bag was prettier, or worse, because the sales person told them it was better.)

You either have dirt where you want to grow things or you don’t.

If you don’t have dirt, why buy a mixture of industrial waste and manufactured synthetics to plant your plants in?

What you SHOULD buy, if you HAVE to buy some kind of potting medium or soil for your garden, is….

DIRT!

Topsoil to be exact.

Just buy a bag of topsoil instead. It is less than $2 for a bag of topsoil. Compare that to $5 for a comparable size bag of potting mix. You just made out like a bandit! Less than half the price and BETTER!

Buy a bag of compost also. That will cost you another $2 if you live in an area where things cost a lot.

Fill your pots with topsoil, or spread the topsoil over your garden. Then top it with about a 3″ layer of compost.

If you need it to hold water really well, DON’T get anything with those nasty silica beads in it! Avoid those! They cause the soil to LOSE water (they absorb the water, and then the water evaporates directly from them, the plants never get it from the silica, it will cause your soil to dry out FASTER – we’ve done side by side tests with this, it FAILS every time).

The key to getting your soil to hold water is MULCH. Try one of the following:

  • Grass Clippings
  • Leaf Litter
  • Wood Shavings
  • Sawdust
  • Woodchips
  • Straw (you will get some wheat grass sprouts)

You can purchase Aspen shavings, or even use Pine Bedding or Cypress Mulch from the pet section of your local store. Just don’t use Cedar.

A good layer of mulch on top will reduce the amount of water you need by 70%.

And it is EXACTLY how nature does it in the wild. She leaves the last year’s plant debris on the top of the soil to compost down and give you a layer of compost on top of your soil, and then a layer of coarse debris on top of that to protect the compost from washing off, and to keep the moisture in the soil.

You can do this in a container garden, with houseplants, and in the garden, in your landscaping, etc. Wherever you GROW things, you can create this three layer miracle of growth and productivity.

  • Topsoil
  • Compost
  • Mulch

It is that simple.

Potting mix does not come into it ANYWHERE. Mother Nature didn’t invent potting mix. She doesn’t like it! Plants don’t like it!

Get the good stuff. The REAL stuff.

It will save you money, and your plants will grow better.

Pornography – The Wildfire Outside Your Door

Burning trash was legal, and there was a burn pit in the yard, beside the house. So I carted the burnables out, and lit a fire. It burned for about an hour, while I watched it, going back and forth to the house to make sure nothing got out of the rock enclosure. I had been taught as a child to not leave a fire unattended unless I was sure of the safety of the enclosure.

A month later, I headed out to use the burn pit again. The ground was drier and it was a warmer day. I had a bit more trash this time, but not that much more. I tossed it in, and lit it. The performance seemed to be repeating itself, so I ran inside to do something quick indoors.

When I came back out, not more than a moment or two later, a small patch of grass was burning outside the pit. I ran over and started stomping, just in time to see another patch light up beside it. The slightly drier ground and the slightly hotter fire had heated the rocks, and the grass that was in the nooks and crannies around the rocks caught fire. I stomped out the first and ran frantically to the second one just as the first popped to life again, and a third began on the opposite side of the pit.

I still thought I could stop it myself, and ran for the kitchen to fill a bucket. When I came back, the fire was twice the size in each patch, and another little patch was sparking to life. The bucket of water squashed two patches! I was going to get this under control, and no one would know, and I’d be able to just go on and never have to confess my embarrassment.

I ran for another bucket. When I got back, the two bits I had squashed were burning merrily again, and the other two sections had grown again, and were spreading toward the houses – mine, and a neighbor. I realized at that point that it was not going to concede to my wishes of not involving anyone else.

I ran for the neighbors, who stuck their heads out and said, “Well, what do you want US to do?”. I ran for the bucket again, hollering, “Call the fire department! And grab a bucket!”. They grumbled, and wandered around outside, mumbling something about where to find a bucket. I tossed one at them and ran back inside. Two more neighbors came to help, while I called the fire department myself. We got a hose going, and managed to keep the fire away from the houses, but by the time the fire department arrived, it had consumed most of the yard, and was about 5 feet from our house on one side, had reached the road on another side, and was a few feet from the property line on the other. The firemen pulled out a hose, sprayed fire retardant on the flames, and they died a sizzling death as though on command.

They did in 5 minutes what I had been gasping with for far longer, and which I could not vanquish even with the help of several neighbors – of course, they had good protective gear, and the right equipment to fight it. The firemen stayed for a while to watch the ground to ensure that no sparks relit in areas that may not have been sufficiently quenched. I heard sizzling sounds in the lawn for many hours afterward, and kept looking out to see whisps of smoke trailing up from under this or that charred bush.

It occurs to me that Pornography is much like that fire. Only bigger. One little bit, nothing serious. But it spreads. And it pops up where you do not expect it to. The addiction can consume a home before someone is aware that it is the culprit, it may spread from one home to another. And neighbors may just be content to let your home burn – even the help of well-meaning friends may not be enough. Neighbors may even be content to let the fire go until it consumes their own home, oblivious to the danger even as it engulfs them! Once the right actions are taken, you need to be watchful to make sure it does not spark to life again.

This was a small yard fire. The flames of Pornography are more like a wildfire, out of control, creating a wind and a roar, and sweeping everything in its path. Inviting it into your home is the equivalent of building a bonfire in your livingroom just because you got bored, and hoping that the fire you started with not do more than warm your toes or let you roast some marshmallows.

Pornography, like the fire in my yard, or like a forest fire, will grow if left unchecked, until it has consumed every life in its path. It will not get tired and just wear itself out in an individual. It will grow and grow until all the good in a person is destroyed. This is what it does. There are no exceptions. It always gets worse if it is not first stopped, and then held at bay.

The progression is inevitable – it is important that this is understood. It may progress slowly, or quickly, but it WILL progress, and it always ends with the same horrors. In earlier eras when it was harder to access and there was less social acceptance of it, the progression took far longer, but in this day when it is on every street corner, accessible in every private cubby, and considered by so many to be nothing shameful, it gallops through a person’s life at an astonishing speed. Generally the further the progression, the less likely a person is to recover, and the more damage they will do to other people around them. Pornography never stays confined to a single person, it spills over and pulls in young people who see the example of the addict, and poisons marriages, families, and friendships as the addict gives to the addiction what they should be giving to real people.

Porn may be assessed on a scale of 1-5 for severity. A person may progress from one phase to another in as little as six months (far less in certain environments), or they may take years – but in our day, it is uncommon for it to take more than two years to progress from one stage to the next.

Stage 1Bikini/Underwear shots progressing to nudity. At this stage, confession (to spouse, parents, and anyone harmed by the addict), and help from family (and clergy where available) may be sufficient to help an individual gain control, and revise the standards and behaviors in their life. The individual viewing porn will begin to detach from close relationships, and will generally become more irritable and prone to fault-finding, or temper tantrums.

Stage 2Porn involving Straight and Gay Sex (with or without a progression from one to the other), with progression from couples to groups. This stage may begin with straight sex only, but always ends with both categories, and the progression may follow one of several patterns. This stage may include either visual or auditory media, and text only books. If drug abuse is not already a factor, it generally begins well into this stage also (the link between drug addictions and pornography addictions is inseparable – generally the drug abuse does not actually involve the porn, rather it is used as a coping mechanism for a life that is going up in flames). At this stage outside help is more likely to be needed, and confession to someone outside the home is essential (clergy or a counselor who is supportive of recovery are most appropriate).  A 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program is recommended for recovery for this stage and all subsequent stages.

Recovery is dependent upon the support and aid of those close to them, especially the spouse [or parents for youth], AND upon the efforts of the addict [until they start to try, nothing is effective]. If the spouse is NOT supportive, recovery likelihood is LESS than 20% by the middle of Stage 2.

If the spouse (or parents) IS supportive and helpful, with a commitment and expression of love toward the addict, AND the addict makes a sincere effort, the likelihood of recovery is approximately 85% through the middle of stage 2.

Stage 3 Sex combined with Violence. This is one of the critical barriers – when a person crosses it, things begin to pick up speed. When sex alone ceases to provide a thrill, this is the next step. Porn encourages an individual to view sex as a purely selfish thing, and when that tendency is magnified, it grows into the intentional desire to harm, and not just the desire to selfishly exploit. The fire is OUT OF CONTROL – it CANNOT be handled quietly inside the privacy of a marriage, or by parents alone attempting to help a child. There may be legal concerns developing through this stage.

Somewhere in this stage, the chance that a person will ever rehabilitate drops to less than 1%, regardless of spousal support of the effort, abuse toward the spouse escalates dramatically, and physical abuse of children may begin if it was not previously present (sexual abuse of the children by the addict is still out of bounds for them – that barrier has not yet been eroded sufficiently).

Stage 4Sexual aberrations (Bestiality, Pedophilia, Extreme Drug Enhancement of sexual experience, extreme violence, torture, and other indescribable horrors). The addict has sated themselves, and is now desperate for any variation that will provide the fix.

At this point, a family is NOT safe with the person in the house – abuse further escalates, and typically children in the home WILL become sexual abuse victims.

Stage 5Sex combined with Murder (First they view, then they do.) This stage begins with Snuff films, and ends with acting them out. When asked how he came to be a mass murderer, Ted Bundy is reported to have said that he found a porn magazine in his stepfather’s closet as a child. Left unchecked, porn leads to murder, in a trail of progression that is known to every prison psychiatrist.

 

This is not an exaggeration, nor an attempt to scare people away from porn. It is just exactly this dangerous. I am calm, confident, and absolutely dead serious as I list these phases and the progression of porn. The harm simply cannot be overstated.

So now we know… DON’T IGNORE IT THINKING IT WILL JUST GO AWAY!

To survive in this modern environment where it Porn is EVERYWHERE, one must wear good protective gear, and build good firebreaks, just as one would in fighting a wildfire.

 

Protective Gear

Protective gear for Pornography is one way to keep it from consuming an individual. Eye protection is especially important, but ear protection can also really help!

So what kinds of protective gear can you don that will help you to keep the harm of Pornography out of yourself, as an individual?

  • The company of like-minded people. Hang out with people who have the same goal of avoiding it. Befriend those with good ideals, who understand WHY you want to avoid it. Choose dates who get it, and respect the goals. Life sometimes requires you to be around people who will bring this into your world. You may not be able to escape them – but if you choose good companions when you DO have the choice, it is easier to be strong when you DON’T have the choice. Online, associate with good people, block those who would introduce this harm into your life.
  • Create a set of personal standards, and stick to it. This would include things like avoiding entertainment with nudity and sexual content, avoiding music and audio tracks that refer to the same, making sure you maintain good moral standards for yourself, being at home by a reasonable hour in the evening, and avoiding situations where you might be overly tempted to lower your standards. It also includes ACTING on intentions to make a hasty retreat, when things are occurring which are not in line with your standards. It is easy to say you will leave if the movie gets raunchy, but much harder to stand up in the middle of a group of people, and draw attention to yourself as you walk out. But every time you do it, it gets easier.
  • Engage in wholesome and uplifting activities. Every GOOD thing you do, from helping a neighbor to attending a clean alcohol-free party, increases your personal strength and helps you build good patterns for living. Every time you laugh at a clean joke, get chills from an absolutely amazing song, or view entertainment that leaves you feeling lifted up and wanting to be better, you build strength. Every time you do something unselfish, choose to do what is right even when it is hard, or bite your tongue and refrain from being cruel, you strengthen that part of yourself that has the power to resist Pornography – because porn is all about selfishness.
  • Increase the spiritual activities in your life. These are things that affect you positively, both by helping you WANT to be better, and by exposing you to the influence of Good, and it has far more power than the average person realizes. This is especially helpful for teens – it is perhaps the EASIEST way to become a kinder and morally stronger person. Just be there – where things are all about good, and let it work its magic on you.
  • Keep an emergency song on hand. Good and evil cannot exist in the same space at the same time. A song with good lyrics will drive bad thoughts or images out of your head. This strategy can be used to avoid temptation, to get disturbing images out of your head (after accidental exposure), and to keep your thoughts from drifting into areas where they would better not go.
  • Don’t go there. Not even once. Never let curiosity overcome your better judgment in this regard. Just once DOES HURT. Every addict started with “Just Once”.

 

Firebreaks

One of the time honored methods for stopping a wildfire is to create a firebreak. It is a barrier, such as a path of bare earth where there is no fuel for the fire, or a moat filled with water, or some other surface that the fire cannot cross. A firebreak must be sufficiently wide to stop the fire under the current circumstances – this means that when there is no wind, with a small fire, a small firebreak will do. When the fire is large and raging, and driven by a wind, the firebreak must be far wider.

In our day, the fire is monstrous, and raging with immense intensity. It is driven by hard winds and whipped up by ignorant people who stand on the sidelines encouraging you to feel the heat and look at the pretty flames.

To survive this, we must create firebreaks in our lives. They may need to be constructed at home, and at work or at school. They are one of the ways in which parents can help children avoid Pornography and teach them skills to choose to avoid it for themselves.

These firebreaks may involve changing our environment, or they may involve rules or standards for safety. Typically they involve groups of people or environments, and extend outside of the individual. They can include strategies such as:

  • A home where computers are only used in public rooms in the home, when other people are home.
  • Requiring children and teens to “check out” a computer or cell phone when needed, and check it back in either at night, or when the need has passed. For example, a phone might be checked out for an outing, and checked back in afterward. In either case, keeping computers and cell phones checked in at night helps ensure that kids are not online or texting inappropriately after parents are in bed (this is the number one time at home, when kids will access porn in a home where it is forbidden).
  • Eating dinner with the family each night, at the table. This is an immense tool for strengthening a family, and helps develop stronger parent-child relationships.
  • Engage in religious observances together with others in your home (family or otherwise). This helps all work together to create a harmonious environment. People who worship together are more likely to support one another in choosing good.
  • Strengthen your family in any way you can. This article on the LDS.org site, called The Family: A Proclamation to the World, gives great descriptions to help a family become stronger. It sets a VERY high standard. Don’t worry if you don’t meet the standard. Just pick a thing to work on and build strength in your family. And don’t worry if you are (for example) a single parent, or if other circumstances do not meet the ideal. Just work on what YOU can control. These are also the things a parent can do to help teens have the desire to make good choices – because teens with a strong family support network make better choices.

You may feel safe and think that this all has nothing to do with you. I promise you, you are wrong. It has everything to do with you, and it will sneak in and work its devastation upon some facet of your life at least once – whether it be the divorce of someone close to you, the abuse of someone you love, or the anger and storms of your own teenager, or within your own marriage.

No one is immune. The only ones who are to any degree safe from it are those who make it a thoughtful daily practice to be safe, and to stay safe.

For more resources for combatting pornography, you may visit overcomingpornography.org, or the PornographyHarms Group on FaceBook.

Common Disappointing Finds for Mushroom Hunters

When you head out for Chanterelles and find only Blewits, many mushroom hunters are disappointed. When you go out hoping to find anything edible at all, and there are only broad patches of Sropharia Ambigua, other mushroom hunters are disgusted (even though they have never actually tried them). And of course, when you go out and find nothing, that is the biggest disappointment of all.

Around the common disappointing finds though, there are a host of proliferating species which no one ever actually names. They are frequently encountered by mushroom hunters, as well as hikers and campers, and may even be seen in suburbia, or in downtown urban areas.

So I am taking the time to create this easy reference for many of those finds which deceive the eye until you are right on top of them. It is my hope that this reference will allow you to accurately identify these common, but lesser known species.

  1. Aquafinis plasticus. A broad transparent stipe, topped with a very small blue cap (or sometimes white cap). This species has only become noticed in the last two decades, and is now considered an invasive species in many areas. It is a very loosely rooted species unless it is well aged, in which case it may be several inches deep in soil, and may have toppled to one side. We recommend removal of the fruiting bodies, which may be discarded in the nearest trash can. It will not stop the random proliferation of the species, but it does help keep other hunters from experiencing the same misdirection.
  2. Aluminatus canicus. Found less often that it was before the proliferation of Aquafinis plasticus, this species thrives and springs up around warm campfires and is often found along trails in the woods. It is a cylindrical form, which generally has touches of metallic silver. It makes a robust crunching sound when you step on it, which helps you clinch the ID. Removal and disposal is also recommended for this species, for the same reasons as for Aquafinis plasticus.
  3. Avianacea Fecealus. This species is usually found on other items – often on leaves, fence posts, tree branches, and downed limbs, but may also be found on the ground, and occasionally appears suddenly without notice upon the clothing of unsuspecting mushroom hunters and hikers. It is predominantly white, with touches of gray or gray-brown, and may be either flat and elongated, or it may appear in raised lumps. We do not recommend removal, unless this species has fruited on your personal belongings.
  4. Arboreatus Autumnal Dropiloides. Known as “The Great Deceiver”. Probably the most prevalent of all disappointing finds, AAD is a species that is extremely rare in the spring, but begins to show toward the end of summer, and increases in frequency through the beginning of winter. Occurring in various shades of orange, red, yellow, pale green, brown, or gray brown, or even a blackish brown, and having a wide variety of sizes and shapes (most of them flat and ovoid), some possessing neatly organized patterns of ribbing, this species is probably responsible for more false raised hopes than any other disappointing species. It may mimic virtually ANY mushroom species. This species is too numerous to control, and with practice, one learns to better distinguish it from legitimate finds, though some fruiting bodies of this species will always look deceptively like Blewits, Chanterelles, Porcini, and even Horse Mushrooms from a distance, and there is just no way to avoid that step closer before you realize you’ve been deceived.
  5. Golferina Ballinus. First discovered in Scotland, this small white puffball-like species has a consistent size of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, is evenly spherical, and has evenly spaced depressions covering the surface. It is a very loosely rooted species, and will roll easily if kicked, or hit with a stick. More solid than the average fungus, they can travel long distances when firmly whacked with a solid object. They appear more frequently on lawns, and rarely in the woods, and cluster at the bottom of ponds in some areas. Hitting this species and attempting to knock it into a hole in the ground is apparently such fun that many sporting goods stores sell a specially made long handled mallet just for this purpose.
  6. Granitus rockii. Prevalent in many regions in fields and forests, this species may appear in a wide range of colors, and may even be more than one color. Often masquerades as small mushrooms, but can also appear from a distance to be a Giant Puffball. Responsible for more stubbed toes than any other species.
  7. Paperatus kleenexica. Commonly found on roadsides, and near campgrounds, and increasingly found on mountain trails. We have even encountered this one in cow pastures. We consider this to be a particularly disgusting find. Appears in lumps, crumples, or even strung out over several feet, usually white, disintegrates easily in rain but re-solidifies as it dries.

These species account for untold dashed hopes, and no doubt for a fair amount of cursing from dedicated or even casual mushroom hunters. They may also be disappointing for other wildcrafters and harvesters.

So I challenge you to identify these species the next time you are on the trail, or off the trail, or even randomly in surburbia or downtown urban areas.

I Know What Truffles Smell Like

A truffle crossed my path yesterday. A ripe White Oregon Truffle. Perhaps an overripe one… Maybe an underripe one (though the color was developed as it is supposed to be). I do not know at this point. I am not a lover of fungus and had never seen, much less smelled a truffle, before yesterday. But as the question of describing the smell of truffles is one that is asked over and over, I thought I’d have a go at describing the odor, for anyone who wonders what a truffle smells like.

I cannot speak for ALL truffles, of course. But this is an approximation of the smell of this one.

Take 1 pair of old gym socks which have been worn by a teenager who has been wearing his shoes without socks for at least three weeks and then decided to put on a pair of socks and sweat in them for four days.

 

Dip the toe in vodka.

 

Wrap it around a piece of meat that has been left out to age until it is overripe and then halfway roasted.

 

Put it in your fridge and close the door for at least 4 hours.

 

Open the fridge door again, and breathe deeply.

This is what this truffle smelled like.

Sharply revolting.

Fortunately, after smelling this one, I had the opportunity to smell a fresh ripe truffle. Two, actually – one black, one white (lest one esteem us to be racist, we are fair in our sampling!).

It smells somewhat of chocolate – the same kind of sweet, mellow and rich odor, only not entirely so.

VERY STRONGLY SCENTED!!

I put them in the fridge to ripen, just as instructed. I knew when they were ripe. The whole kitchen smelled of truffle. Opening the fridge released it into the entire house.

I now have truffle butter, and the butter never even came out of the wrapper, and did not contact the truffle at all. Seriously.

I don’t think I’m a real fan of truffles, but they do smell nice when they are not overripe and fermenting, as the first one was.

The overpowering smell of them does enlighten me as to why truffles are used sparingly.  They simply overwhelm everything they get near.

Of course, I am NOT a lover of mushrooms. So my opinion on the matter may be completely irrelevant. I have discovered a few mushrooms that I can tolerate, and one or two that I actually LIKE as far as flavor is concerned. The texture still grosses me out. But the smell of a fermenting truffle was a new level of revolting for me. Underneath all those nasty smells, lurks an odor that holds the promise of having associated with something NOT revolting, at least briefly (and the fresh ripe truffles did prove this).

Historically, female pigs were used to find truffles. The truffle, it is said, has an odor that is reminiscent of male pig pheromones, which makes the female pig hone in on it, dig it up, and consume it with delight. Not so sure what that says about how a sow treats a boar… But anyway, I think it says a lot about the odor of a truffle, and if the boar smells like he rolled in chocolate I’m not sure I can blame her for her delight about it, but I suspect he does not! A boar in rut just isn’t likely to be the most pleasant smelling thing in the world, and I suspect he smells more like the first truffle than the successors. After smelling that truffle, I am thinking the boar in rut is something akin to the smell of that coyote that rolled under the car after I hit it on Highway 30 in Wyoming… RANKLY OFFENSIVE. If you stuff a rotting truffle up inside the venting of someone’s car, that would prove a good practical joke – they’d be at the mechanic demanding that he find whatever died in there!

Learning about so many mushrooms (we now have more than 100 species of mushroom spawn for sale) has been interesting. And truffles have been one of the most unpleasant, and one of the more pleasant (though overpowering) of mushroom scents in all that we have collected.

A Mormon Making Fermenting Products

Mormons don’t drink alcohol. At least, they all know they aren’t SUPPOSED to (doing so is considered to be fairly serious). The word “ferment” for a Mormon typically has only ONE meaning – that of making alcoholic drinks (intentionally, or unintentionally). And yet, I sell fermenting products, and fully believe that the products we sell were inspired of the Lord.

In the trendy world of the foodies, the word “ferment” is often preceded by the prefix “lacto-“. But when foodies get lazy, they drop the prefix and go with “fermenting”, and assume that everyone they are talking to knows what they are discussing. “Lacto-fermenting” refers to any process of fermentation which produces lactobacillus – a healthy form of bacteria. And there are several forms of fermenting which produce this kind of bacteria – alcoholic beverage production is only one form.

Most avid lacto-fermenters are not terribly concerned about the alcohol content. Oh, every once in a while someone will question it, with specific fermented items, but everyone else is quick to shut them up with reassurances that while no one has actually MEASURED it accurately, they are all CERTAIN that it is safe, and to go ahead and consume it as a health drink, give it to your kids, etc. This is in spite of a vast body of anecdotal evidence that clearly shows that SOME lacto-fermented foods ARE in fact alcoholic – with enough alcohol content to intoxicate (as in, raise the blood alcohol level as measured by blood tests). As a rule, pretty much ANY food with sugar (including tomatoes) will go ALCOHOLIC when fermented. This includes water kefir, soda pops, sweet teas, and many others. If it has sugar, has been fermented, and tastes bubbly, the alcohol content is questionable at best.

I don’t make those foods. Ok, so I once made a batch of salsa, which after fermentation was so boozy I had to heat it in the skillet to evaporate the alcohol before using it! We gave up on water kefir, because it smelled boozy.

I refuse to take chances. I KNOW what alcohol smells like, and if that smell is there, it is not something I am willing to take a chance with, for myself or my family. I just won’t go there. Because I am a Mormon… and I not only LIVE it, I BELIEVE it. I have seen enough evidence in my personal life for the efficacy and wisdom of the Word Of Wisdom (the guideline for what we eat and drink that forbids “strong drink”, meaning alcoholic beverages), that I do not need to be further persuaded. I simply will not argue the guideline into a lesser observance. I know too much to even try. I will walk on the safe side. I have no desire to do otherwise.

So why do I sell products for “fermenting”? Because of all the OTHER stuff that you can do with them!

They are good for pickles, salsa without tomatoes, condiments, sourdough, kraut, and other good wholesome foods. These foods do not have significant sugar, and do not develop the alcohol that sugary foods develop. They do develop a lot of tasty probiotic microbes though. Good living food that helps the body compensate for the chemical exposure of modern life. And these products are created through a process of fermentation, without the resulting alcohol that many people associate with the word.

Do some people use my products to make things that I would disapprove of? Undoubtedly! But my God is a God of Agency – granting the choice for good or evil to each person. I sell products and provide information for making healthy foods. If people use my products for unhealthy things, that is their choice, and I am not responsible for that. No more than if I sold televisions or computers and they chose to use them to view harmful media.

The process of developing this business persuades me that it was indeed inspired. I am not creative enough on my own to have conceived of our airlock jar caps, nor the even more complex process of creating the prototype, developing a mold for it, and then a process for making more molds. I haven’t that kind of brilliance in me, and some of the aspects to it all are truly brilliant.

But it does put me in an awkward position sometimes… I no longer introduce my business by the name (FermentaCap) to other Mormons. Instead, I just say that I make a lid for making Old Fashioned Brined Pickles. Most nod, with that look on their face which clearly says, “I have NO idea what you are talking about!”. A few hear “pickles” and wonder what in the world would make you need a special lid for THAT. Still fewer nod enthusiastically and ask for my website URL – but they are the ones who understand that “fermenting” does not just mean alcohol.

Nothing tastes as fresh and flavorful as old fashioned brined foods. Kraut that has not been canned has a complex flavor and crunchy texture – it is not limp and sulfurous (my husband, a confirmed kraut hater, will even eat it mixed in tuna salad). Dill pickles are firm, dilly, and garlicky, with a pleasant bite of vinegary flavor (even though they have no vinegar in them). Salsa is pickly and spicy. Good food, that is still alive and bursting with nutrition.

And THAT is why I, a diehard Mormon, manufacture and sell fermenting products.

Cottage Industry and Manufacturing Consulting

Is there a limit to what a sole proprietor can earn through cottage industry? Can a cottage product or service business realize the potential of unlimited earnings?

Firelight Heritage Farm is launching a new service which answers these questions, and which offers a full range of services to guide businesses, large or small, through the process of starting or converting to a home based business.

This can be done with many types of businesses – a good number of them are businesses which people do not think CAN be converted to home based. They can be operated in the home, on the farm, or in a shop at home. It offers so many financial benefits, in reducing operational costs, keeping profits with the manufacturer instead of being spread across a supply and distribution chain, and of reducing regulatory and tax burdens to the least possible requirements. It makes possible Point of Production Distribution, which increases profits dramatically. And business does not get greener than this! Equipment is small and energy efficient, factories are eliminated, transport pollution is dramatically reduced, and each producer is free to act on their own convictions for stewardship of our environment instead of being bound by the rules of an employer.

In case you don’t realize, Firelight Heritage Farm is owned by the Frumpy Haus Frau herself, Laura, and her husband, Kevin. We developed a business model for cottage industry, including cottage manufacturing, which allows almost unlimited growth and income potentials, with NO employees. The model includes methods and policies for expanding through a network of subcontractors, and includes logical process controls and a range of choices for controls over proprietary information or designs.

Our business experience has been varied, and broad, and has developed over the course of almost thirty years. This line of services brings together all of that experience to provide a service for anyone from a work at home mom or dad, to a corporation needing to find affordable and sustainable ways to grow in a challenging economy.

We will also be offering a full range of product potential assessment, product development, manufacturing process development, instructional literature writing, and marketing and small business consulting services. Cottage industries can be reproduced in a way that looks similar to, but is distinctly different than the Direct Sales or Multi-Level Marketing model, and we will be able to guide business owners through the creation of a sustainable multi-business expansion.

If cottage industry is in your future, chances are, you don’t know what you don’t know!

Cottage industry is as old as the earth, but must be adapted to our contemporary world. We will be launching a new website in a few days which will feature the services available for starting a cottage industry, growing a cottage industry, creating and selling cottage industry packages, and for converting a corporation to a subcontractor based cottage industry.

Move past the limits!

Cottage industry is the answer for the future.

Check out our new Cottage Industry Consulting and Development services at CottageIndustrialRevolution.com.

The Difference Between guru and Guru

Waxing nostalgic today, remembering the early days of learning to use a computer, and eventually developing expertise at it.

When our Math teacher in high school had us working with TRS-80 computers for about 2 weeks, I failed miserably. Made no sense, and I just could not understand what he was telling us to do, or why it had to be so difficult just to get text to scroll across a screen. Or why I’d want to spend 10 minutes writing an instruction to make it do that. Confusing. Pointless.

Then about 10 years later, my father-in-law gave us his used Mac Classic. I read Macs for Dummies. Then More Macs for Dummies. Then Mac Secrets. Within two years I could quote the statistics for every Mac ever made up to that point. I could do that for about five years. Until the iMac, when models and specs were no longer synonymous.

Somewhere early on, I started rebuilding Macs and Mac Laptops. I did a lot of online support for them, helping people troubleshoot issues. Even though I was in the middle of nowhere, the internet opened up the ability for me to develop that expertise anywhere.

One day, a guy contacted me. Said that he had pretty good Mac skills, but considered himself to be more of a “Mac guru-small g” type expert, and he was looking for a “Mac Guru-big-g” level expert to go to when he could not figure things out, and that is why he had called me.

Considering that up until that point I had considered myself to not even BE a “Mac guru” yet, I was really flattered. I’d just been having fun learning this stuff and figuring things out!

I kind of thought it was normal for Mac enthusiasts to be able to quote specs off the top of their head at the mention of a model number (I still know that the Quadra held the most RAM of any pre-PowerMac, and what the initials RISC stand for – and if you know what that means, you are really geeky). Geeky doesn’t begin to cover that… I know. But I didn’t realize that when I was answering emails off the top of my head, the other guys were looking it up before they answered. I had also failed to notice the number of times I jumped into a forum thread and gave some simple answer that everyone else had overlooked, and I happened to get it right on the first try.

It dawned on me… He thought I could be his…. DAVID POGUE!!! Only a girl.

I soon realized that he was not the only one who thought that. I found references to my skills increasingly by other people when they could not solve the problem themselves in public forums. In fact, even four years after I owned my last Mac, people on one forum were still referring to me as the Mac expert.

It really changed how I felt about my skills at that time. Gave me the courage to go on and do some other things I might not have otherwise.

But it was a different day then. Becoming an expert was easier when there were fewer of them (and fewer people pretending to be them). The internet was different. Less crowded. Easier to find a quiet corner and get to know people.

I went on to develop outstanding expertise in other fields – Joomla, SEO, Small Business Website Automation, and some other oddball areas. And I’m off again in a new field again (sometimes literally), in the area of small ag, mushroom foraging and cultivation, and small scale manufacturing. But I never again really felt like I achieved an uncontested status of Guru.

It is harder now. You can still rise to the ranks of “Guru-big-g”, but it tends to be within a certain online or offline circle. It is far harder to do on a global, or even national basis.

It still feels perfectly normal to quote specs off the top of my head, but today it is animal breeds, fish species, plant growing parameters, the latin names of edible mushrooms, and digestive system biology. Maybe, someday, someone will need me to be their “Guru-big-g” for something I’m learning now. But if not, I’ll keep learning, because no matter what anyone else thinks, the learning is still a lot of fun!

 

**For those of you who do not know, David Pogue was the “Mac Guru to the Stars”, with a list of Hollywood clients that read like People Magazine’s top 100 list.**

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.