Friday, October 21, 2016

Wine Cap-aholic

Last year, I was introduced to Stropharia rugosa-annulata, or what many folks might refer to as the Wine Cap mushroom.  Mary had brought along one of these burgundy colored mushrooms to our Transition meeting and talked about how the good folks at the Garden Farme in Ramsey had been growing these beauties in the wood-chip mulch they use around their gardens.  She also shared how the spawn for these tastee and beautiful fungi could be obtained from Field and Forest Products and that they would be great additions to many gardens. 

Well I was hooked, so towards the end of June, I ordered a 5.5 pound bag for about $30 and spread the sawdust/spawn mixture to some simple cardboard and wood chip sheet mulching projects I had been doing around my yard, covered it with wood chips, watered, and then waited.  By the end of August, I was harvesting my first Wine Caps. 

This year I purchased another bag of spawn to add to a new sheet mulching project I did on my side yard and repeated the process.  This batch was also started in the early summer and again by early fall I was harvesting more mushrooms from both my old and new beds.  It is worth noting that the production from the older beds also produced a good harvest of mushrooms in the spring and early summer, along with a second harvest later in the summer and through the fall. 

I have been experimenting with preserving the harvests by drying in my solar dryer, pressure canning, and freezing.  And in between the preservation processing, I have been enjoying cooking and eating the fresh ones.  To harvest the mushrooms I use a knife to cut off the exposed portion of the fruits, wash off the dirt, cut them up into smaller pieces and then either dry, can, cook, or sometimes just eat them raw. 

This fall I have been making a mushroom/bean/ squash or potato stew with them.  I pan fry the mushrooms, add onions and garlic or chives, tomatoes, and kale or broccoli.  I add a can of beans (spicy blacks have been a nice addition).  Then I season with season salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.  I then cook up a squash or a few potatoes and add this to my stewing mixtures.  I look forward to cooking up more of this concoction with the preserved shrooms in the coming months when my Wine Caps rest up over the winter. 

So if you’re looking for a way to covert some of your lawn into food, throw down some cardboard, cover with wood-chips, add some Wine Cap spawn, and start eating instead of mowing.  And to expand your eating pleasures plant some other plants in between.  Probably harder than it sounds, but the work you put in will be worth the effort, I do believe.   

Monday October 24, 2016 Gathering - Ecological Economics

This Monday October 24th we will be meeting at my house located at 866 113th Lane NE in Blaine from 6:30 to around 8:30 p.m..  (See map here:,+Blaine,+mn&rlz=1C1GGGE_enUS459US465&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjf98fBrezPAhUFOCYKHR_3CGIQ_AUICCgB )

Sharon has arranged for Ken Pentel of the Ecological Democracy Network to join us and share some of his thoughts regarding creation of an ecology based economy and ideas on what we might need to do to get there, including the need for proportional representation in government and getting corporate money out of politics.

From the Ecological Democracy Network website (
"We aim for transition from a human-centered to an ecology-centered view of the world. From this altered perspective, as part of the bioregion of Minnesota, each economic exchange, be it barter or a traditional money transaction, inherently restores the water, air, soil, and habitats to health and sustainability. Or, to put it another way, a balance would be established by making Minnesota's economic health dependent on the health of our natural resources."

See the Ecological Democracy Website above for more on former MN candidate for Governor Ken Pentel and his organization. 

Hope to see you Monday.  

Tom Jablonski


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sacred Gardener on Permaculture Podcast


This was a very wonderful podcast I listened to twice the other weekend. There were many ideas that seemed to resonate with me and some things I think you will appreciate as well. Give it a listen to while you work.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Reciprocity for the pollinators

Even this hoverfly needs a winter home. Yup! That's not a bee.
Insect pollinators can spend the winter in a variety of life stages and this varies, depending on the species. Some have eaten a lot to make it through the winter; others wait in suspense as larvae, pupae or eggs. Most native bees spend the winter in their nest cells as pupae, emerging as adults the following spring or summer, so it is critical to protect nesting areas from disturbance all year long, not just during the nesting season.  Old bark, cane, leaves and especially undisturbed soil are the winter homes of pollinators.
Bumble Bee in my garden!

One exception is bumble bees, which do not overwinter in their nests. Bumble bees are unusual in that they can still forage in very cold temperatures due to internal thermoregulation. But in fall, all the males die off and the new queen searches for a log, tree root, leaf litter, loose soil or other niche where she waits, already mated and fertilized, to emerge and begin a new colony when the weather warms.

Another bee that seeks out logs for winter is the bright green sweat bee, which prefers to nest under peeling bark. Dead logs are particularly attractive locales. Like her cousin the bumble bee, it’s only the female that overwinters, and she must quickly rebound to raise a brood in spring.

Some native bees snuggle into hollow twigs or the pathways dug by beetle larvae in trees. Mason and leaf-cutter bees count on these sources, as well as clumps of dried grasses or hollow canes from brambles or other woody plants, to provide shelter during the winter.

The majority of native bees nest in the ground, finding a sunny spot that won’t flood. It may be a few inches of bare soil with one nest, or a colony occupying several feet. You may have mistaken them for anthills or spider holes. Usually, the mother bee dies at the end of the warm season, leaving her babies to emerge in spring.

Cecropia moth found at a gas station this summer.. Not a lot of habitat at a gas station.

Butterflies and moths also overwinter in a variety of stages (egg, larva, pupa, adult) and use plant matter to insulate themselves for the winter.

While the monarch flies south to overwinter in Mexico, most other butterflies stay put and take shelter somewhere dry and safe until spring. Some butterflies, like the mourning cloak, comma, question mark, and Milbert’s tortoise shell, overwinter as adults. They nestle into rock fissures, under tree bark, or in leaf litter until the days grow longer again and spring arrives. Butterflies that overwinter in a chrysalis include the swallowtail family, the cabbage whites and the sulphurs. Many of these chrysalises can be found either hanging from dead plant stems or tucked into the soil or leaf litter.

Tiger Swallowtail found on one of my hikes this past summer.

Tiger swallowtails that hatch in the summer feed and molt five times, then pupate and hatch in as little as 15 days. But when the caterpillar pupates in the fall, the chrysalis is brown instead of green to match the woody brush where it hangs, and the butterfly won’t emerge until spring. 

And still other butterfly species, such as the red-spotted purple, the viceroy, and the meadow fritillary, spend the winter as a caterpillar rolled into a fallen leaf or inside the seed pod of a host plant.

Pollinators need sheltered areas in which to spend the winter. To provide these safe havens, set aside undisturbed patches of habitat allowing leaf litter, standing dead twigs or stems, and other ground cover to remain. Do not till soil where there might be ground nests. Some other pollinators spend the winter in tall grass, bushes, trees, piles of leaves or sticks, or on man-made objects. In general, the best way to protect pollinators in the winter is to leave them alone.  If you need to manage your pollinator meadows by mowing or burning, try to do so in the late summer or fall while the insects are still active and can get away. 
It's worth leaving some overgrown, weedy spots, designated pollinator areas, to give these important insects a winter home. 
Bumblebees buzzy about in the flowers
These are the insects you will gladly welcome come spring and summer in your garden, so why not give them a winter home in return for their pollination of your garden?