Monday, February 28, 2011

Plugging Logs

So Saturday I headed down to Louisa, Virginia to the home of Dan Boone (7th Generation from the original guy) who hosted a blacksmithing Hammer In at his home. A Hammer In is a get together for blacksmiths. It's kind of like a meeting of beekeepers except that instead of thousands of stinging insects you play with red-hot metal and shape it with a hammer. I could explain more but if you don't understand the allure of it nothing I can write is probably going to make a difference.

After leaving there I headed over to Cismont, Va to Sharondale Farm. Sharondale is run by mycologist Mark Jones who, among other things, propogates various types of mushrooms and inoculates sterilized sawdust that can be used to grow mushrooms at home. The process is quite simple. I bought several bags of spawn from Mark for shiitake mushrooms. The 'spawn' is nothing more than sterilized sawdust on which the mycelium for a specific strain of mushroom has been started.

Starting with freshly cut (though aged several weeks) hardwood log/branch sections, numerous holes are drilled into the logs with an angle grinder that has been fitted with a special drill bit. Once the hole is drilled, a plunger is 'loaded' with spawn by repeatedly stabbing it into the sawdust until the plunger tube is full. The plunger is positioned over the newly drilled hole and the handle is pressed down firmly ejecting the spawn plug into the hole. The hole is then capped with warm cheese wax to prevent dehydration and then the log begins to sit. It will take the logs 6-9 months to become fully colonized with the filaments of shiitake fungus before the log begins to 'fruit'. The fruit I speak of is what we recognize as a mushroom. Ninety percent of a fungal colony is hidden inside a substrate of some kind. The ground, trees, etc. It's only the fruiting body, the mushroom, that we see. Mushrooms exist to release the billions of spores produced so that the whole process can begin anew at some other location.

The 'Y' strain I purchased from Mark comes with a hearty recommendation. It supposedly produces abundant flushes of delicious mushrooms and is a reliable producer in our area. Time will tell.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Projects

As spring begins to ramp up I have eagerly bit off more than I can chew, as usual. On Friday I drove out to visit the forge of my new friend, and world-class blacksmith Nol Putnam. He graciously allowed me to watch as he split a piece of iron bar stock for a project he's working on.

Back at the house I'm working slowly, but steadily on a small forge setup of my own. I've decided to locate the forge in a small shed away from what will be the garage/shop/barn for reasons of fire safety. It also means it will be ready more quickly and that I can get going on a few things. I'd like to see if the boys would be interested in hammering a little iron themselves. I know it sounds a little quaint but I think it's important for young men to have 'manly' things to do. We live in a society where opportunities for adolescents to prove themselves evoke images of stupid stunts ending in injury, property damage, or tragedy. Put in a little time in the forge and you might build some muscles, get some energy out, and make something useful.

I checked on the bees on Friday and was pleased to see that to this point we've lost only about 3 over the winter. It's to be expected that you will lose colonies over the winter for a number of reasons. Sometimes you lose them and never know the reason. Check back soon and I'll be posting some pictures of the projects in progress.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Barn Building

I finally secured a dozen old utility poles to use in the building of a small barn here. I bought plans about 5 years ago for a 20x30 barn but I think we'll actually build it 20x32 to make the best use of plywood dimensions, etc. The utility poles are all at least 16' feet long and VERY heavy. Tentative plans for the barn include parking for the cars and tractor, a small workshop, and a FORGE. My good friend and blacksmith Jeff Dunkelberger has piqued my interest in giving it a try. Jeff does some very nice work in his shop and we have several of his pieces here at the house, including an iron cross and a candle holder.

I've warned Jeff repeatedly that my wife is gonna give him an earful if he gets me hooked on another money-losing hobby. Jeff has assured me that there's big money in blacksmithing and that the profits just keep rolling in! Wink!

Check out his blacksmithing shop at

Almost time to plant veggies! Stay tuned.


Battling Elk

A great video of bull elk bugling and battling during the rut. My father and I took a float trip on the Madison River a few years ago but we didn't witness anything like this. We did see and hear a large number of elk in Yellowstone. Very impressive.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pretty Good Group

I found this family group on one of the blogs I follow. Regardless of your religious affiliation you have to appreciate talent. The guy playing the dobro (the guitar played on its back) is really good.

My youngest Jake commented that no one is smiling in the video. I responded that the father (the man playing the guitar in the background) is smiling and Jake asked why. I told him it's a smile of satisfaction....that everything is functioning the way it should all at the same time. It's a rare moment in my life when that happens and would make me smile too!