Monthly Archives: July 2009

My Shiitakes are fruiting!

I have always said that I never met a mushroom I didn’t like.  I guess I don’t like the ones that could kill me, but aside from that, I really dig mushrooms.  In some ways, I suppose I feel a certain kinship with mushrooms.  I am usually in the dark and they keep feeding me bull…well, you get the idea.

A friend of mine is a mushroom enthusiast and helped me inoculate several white oak logs with shiitake spores last summer.  Shiitakes have apparently only been grown outside of East Asia since 1982 so I am not too far behind the curve…I was at least alive in 1982!  Anyhow, the mushroom spores came mixed in a damp sawdust filled container.  We used a 1/2 inch spade bit to drill inch and a half deep holes all over the log and packed the spores into the holes.  I melted beeswax and covered the inoculated holes to seal in the mushroomy goodness.  I pitched the logs out behind my shed and waited.  Just this weekend, they started fruiting!

We used white oak logs because their bark apparently is best at remaining tight on the logs for a longer time than other tree varieties.  Over the past year, as the log decayed, the spores began to run through the log and finally fruit as they have taken hold.  The logs I inoculated are 4-8 inches in diameter and 2-4 feet long.  I expect that they will fruit for 2-10 years depending on how things go.  We’ve had such a wet spring and summer that I suppose they will fruit a lot this summer!  We’ll eat a bunch fresh but I will probably dry some for use over the winter.  For this kind of payoff, I can handle being in the dark a little!

Anyone else grow mushrooms?


We have a secret spot where we go to pick blackberries.  Of course, blackberries have thorns so our screams probably make our location a little less secret than it otherwise would have been.  Still, we go blackberry picking every 2-3 days while they are in season.  Last night was our first venture to the patch.

Emily and I are coming up on our 15th wedding anniversary and we’ve known each other almost 20 years.  I have known her parents about the same length of time.  Last night was the first time we have taken them along with us.  It was hard to decide whether I knew them well enough to trust them with my secret location.  Finally I broke down and we all went picking.

Last year we went so much that we were overrun with berries.  Don’t tell Emily but I am hoping for the exact same problem this year.  With the first batch, Emily made a blackberry pie last night.  I have breakfast lined up for the next few days for sure!

I plan to make some blackberry cobbler and some blackberry wine as well.  My dandelion wine is looking great so I am going to try my hand at blackberry too.  It’s funny to be making wine since neither of us drinks, but it’s the adventure that I enjoy!

Anyhow, blackberries are in season in WV and I have the stained and scratched up hands and arms to prove it!  Are you getting berries where you are?

Swarm in Kanawha City

The kids headed off with Momaw and Granddad last night so Emily and I planned to grab a bite to eat and then go pick blackberries.  Literally, as we were walking out the door, the metro emergency center called and said there was a swarm of bees up in a tree in Kanawha City, a section of Charleston near where I work.  I looked at Emily and she rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.  “Fine, go get your bees.”  Obviously, she wasn’t thrilled but she agreed to ride along.  She’s never been on a swarm call with me before so this was sure to be fun!

We drove to Kanawha City and found the home owner out in her yard looking up in a tree.  I knew we had the right spot right away.  We chatted for a bit about how her Dad had bees.  It’s interesting but it seems like almost everyone over the age of 60 once had a family member who had bees.  It’s such a shame that there are so very few beekeepers left and even fewer under the age of 65.  Anyhow, there was indeed a small swarm of bees about 8 feet up in the oak tree in her front yard.

I brought a ladder and I always carry pruners on these calls.  I donned my suit for proper protection (note the crocs on my feet!) and headed up the tree.  Swarms that are close to the ground often can be brushed into a hive box with a gentle hand (or shook into the box with a rough hand).  Swarms in trees are a little different.  When possible, I like to trim the branch on which they hang and bring them down to a manageable height, i.e. the ground.  I clipped the branch with the bees and gently laid the small branch into the hive (I removed 4 frames to make room) once back on the ground.  Sometimes I shake them into the hive so I don’t need to add the branch but this one seemed to fit without shaking.

I just stop up the entry to the hive and put a strap around the hive to travel.  As I mentioned, Emily was with me and not too keen on riding in the van with bees.  I don’t officially recommend this to anyone, but I have found that riding with bees in the car is actually a little easier than riding with kids.  The kids fight and yell and can’t do anything but stare at each other making menacing faces.  Bees, on the other hand, don’t care a lick about me but prefer to hang around the back windows hoping to find an escape.  I have never been stung while carrying bees in the van.  But, don’t try it at home…

The swarm was pretty small and will not likely be worth much alone.  I have a few hives that are very full of bees so I will add a few frames of bees from those hives to the new swarm to make a good, strong colony.  With any luck, they will grow into a stronger colony, ready for the honey flow next spring!

Other swarms

This is criminal

I mentioned awhile back that our house is older and has all sorts of issues.  Slowly, I have been working my way through it remodeling as I go.  We’ve had a sag in the floor between our bedroom and the master bathroom.  I was planning to remodel the master bath but decided I needed to address the sag before I did anything else.

As a part of that, I planned to opened the cieling and install a new lintel and window near where I had everything opened.  This weekend was the moment of truth.  Since I was so anxious to get started, I woke up early on Saturday and took the family out to eat.  We messed around and went shoopping (I hate shopping) and did all sorts of other stuff.  Finally, I could put it off no longer.  After lunch, I opened the cieling…and cried.

The master bathroom had been remodeled sometime in the mid-1980s we think (based on the decor).  They added a gawd-awful garden tub and a stand-up shower.  Whatever genius did the work directly caused the sag when they added the new drains during the remodel.  My floor joists are comprised of 2×10 boards that run between load bearing walls.  The genius who installed the drain pipe cut 5 inch notches in at least 7 of those boards to run the drain pipe (there may be more…I have to open more cieling).  So, the original builder figured that the house needed 2×10 boards for support but the remodeling genius decided it was overkill and cut that in half to install the pipe.  The original builder was right.

So I got the lintel and window installed but now I (probably) have to remove the drain pipe and install new 2×10 boards to properly support the house.  I’ll have to jack a large portion of the floor to undo the sag as well.  I’d like to find the guy who originally did the remodel.  I think what he/she did was criminal.  At the very least, I’d like to swat the genius right on the nose with a newspaper…or a 2×10!

Local Art

There is a great artists’ community in Charleston.  A week or two ago, the city celebrated Festivall where “a city becomes a work of art”.  It really is a tremendous display and a ton of fun.

Although we love to see local/original art, we can’t always afford to buy pieces we see.  We found a new source though, that suits my needs and interests perfectly.  We have started framing art by the kids and of the kids.

This father’s day, Emily and the kids had one of Abigail’s pieces framed.  It’s one of my favorite pieces of art in the house.  We hung it in the bedroom so I could see it every day.  I’ll always hang drawings with bees!

While at Festivall this year, we ran across a caricature artist and had him draw the kids.  I am not sure that they exactly look like my kids, but they look like kids I have seen somewhere.  Anyhow, we still like them a lot too.  The most important part of those drawings is that the kids each sat still for 15 minutes while the artist did his work.  I think that time might be in record territory!

Do you hang “local art” in your place?

The beginning of the end

The tooth fairy visited our house.  If you are a kid and still stay up trying to catch her, please do not read beyond this point.  This is your official spoiler alert.

So, Isaac lost his 9th tooth yesterday.  He is 9 and thinks it is just amazing to average one tooth a year.  Anyhow, he was chomping a chocolate muffin when it just popped out.  The cool thing about it is that it is one of his back teeth so he doesn’t have the toothless look.  He’s starting to care about his appearance.  I thought I taught him better. Anyhow, he retrieved the tooth from a mouthful of spit and half chewed Otis Spunkmeyer chololate muffin.  We told him to rinse it off and put it in his tooth fairy pillow (that’s actually a pouch that he hangs on his door knob…we have a smart tooth fairy).  He got a goofy smirk on his face and said, “Dad, I know you put that money in there at night”.  My heart dropped.  I knew the time was coming.  In fact, it might have come a long time ago I suppose but it sort of crushed me a little to hear him admit that he knew I was the tooth fairy.

I still didn’t admit anything to him but I sort of feel obligated to tell him everything so that he doesn’t go to school and talk about Santa, the tooth fairy and other supernatural creatures only to get teased.  Still, it breaks my heart a little to see my son (who is going into the 4th grade) lose a little of the innocence of childhood.  Like I said, I htink he has known for awhile but to make it official is pretty tough for me.

A co-worker of mine says that his kids (who are much older) still receive visits from Santa, et al. as long as they play along.  I think we’ll arrange that deal so that Abigail will still have the magic and my illusion of innocence will be maintained.  At least he doesn’t care where babies come from yet…

The necessities

Ok…I am almost done with the beach posts…just a little more. We always rent a house when we go to the beach and we spend most of the time right on the beach. I like to bake in the sun. Well, actually, I like to bake in the heat, but not so much the sun. I spent a lot of time in the sun when I was younger and I am beginning to reap some of that as I get older.

This year, I lathered up with sunscreen the first day but I forgot how hot the sun is at the beach. After swimming in the ocean and baking in the heat, the sunscreen doesn’t last too long. I got a lovely burn on my shoulders and knew right away I had to do something to keep from getting burned again.

We bought one of those cool party tents that people typically use when tailgating. It sets up super quickly. We anchor it in the sand and it provides a great place to escape the sun. I can’t really swim under it though so its protection only goes so far.

I wear a hat that covers my bald head. The kids wear hats to protect their scalps and that protects our delicate noggins but we needed more body protection. Emily had read about Rash Guard shirts before heading to the beach so we went shopping at the end of day 2.

Rash Guard shirts don’t allow sunlight through like a regular shirt does (I got burned through a regular shirt this time too).  It provides spf 50 protection over whatever it covers.  The ones we found at the beach were all skin tight so not everyone might feel comfortable with that but there are many styles to accommodate anyone.

The kids and I got shirts and wore them the rest of the week.  We were well protected and didn’t have to worry about missing spots on our backs or remembering to reapply sunscreen every hour.  We were very well protected between our hats, our shirts and the tent.  We now count those three items as beach necessities…

What are beach (or vacation in general) necessities for your family?