04/22/2014

Festival Time on Mount Desert Island Maine: Spring 2014

One of the toughest decisions that visitors make is when to plan their visit to Maine. For us local folks, all seasons afford a variety of festivals and events. There are choices of activities all year ’round, but the warmer the weather, the more activities to choose from. Although they change from year to year, this post is going to highlight festivals and events in and around Acadia National Park for April, May and June 2014.  You can also visit the community calendars at Fenceviewer, WERU.org, College of the Atlantic or MPBN.org for current events with contact information any time any year. National park specific events are here.

You may get a kick out of attending some very local events, the sort of things that give you a flavor of the area that few visitors see. Pancake breakfasts, high school and local group plays (drama is big here), jazz concerts, choral groups and lectures at College of the Atlantic are highlights.

On April 23 at 6 PM catch an evening of jazz with Bruce Cassaday and friends at the Ellsworth Public Library.

The Grand in Ellsworth presents Dave Mallett on April 25th at 7:30 PM

The College of the Atlantic has a workshop on fruit tree grafting, slated for 10 AM on Saturday, May 5.

The birding festivals start with Wings, Waves & Woods on nearby Deer Isle on the weekend of May 16-18.

Starting May 23 hop onto one of the Acadia National Park ranger-led cruises. These run all summer long in cooperation with local boat tour operators ($). Hikes too, which are free with a park pass.

Come back to COA on May 26 starting at 10 am for their Earth Day celebration. This year’s theme will be transportation. Take a test drive of an electric vehicle.

Acadia Birding Festival  starts 5/30/14- 6/2/14, 8 AM

on June 1, 2014  The Acadia Half Marathon

5/31/14 – 6/02/14  Vettes of Coastal Maine  For corvette lovers.

5/31 – 6/1 Bar Harbor Working Waterfront Celebration

First Friday Art Walk - Bar Harbor June 6th

Acadia Trad School – June 30th to July 4.  Traditional music school featuring Celtic/Acadian and Cajun musicians.   Concerts on Wed Thursday and Friday nights at the College of the Atlantic.

These are only a few of the many things going on here in the Spring season. C’mon up!

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04/15/2014

Acadia National Park Opens Today

Last year was a bit of a mess. Between the sequester and the Fall government shutdown we lost park time at both ends.

Thunder Hole on Park Loop Road

In October, we had the strange situation of park rangers issuing violation tickets to people who entered the park. This shows the irony of a government shutdown; it’s often more expensive than remaining open, and certainly more frustrating. This year things are back to normal; as of last Thursday, the only thing possibly preventing the opening of the road to Cadillac Mountain is a buildup of snow and ice. And the only reason some trails are closed is because they are near peregrine falcon nests. In other words, this year Mother Nature is calling the shots.

As of today, April 15, the road to Cadillac is officially open, the recent warm weather has helped the snow removal. Park Loop Road is also open.

Carriage roads remain off limits to give them time to settle. They are currently sitting on a layer of mud, and until the frost below the mud melts, the roads will be easily damaged. The same goes for any unpaved roads in the park.

Hulls Cove Visitor Center is open 8:30-4:30 daily, Park Headquarters is open as it is all year but Thompson Island Information Center at the head of the island won’t open until May 15.

Peregrine falcon nests have closed the Precipice Trail, including the mountain sections of the Orange and Black Path, and the Valley Cove Trail north of the Flying Mountain Trail. These trails usually reopen in mid August.

Our fantastic free bus system, the Island Explorer, won’t begin service until June 23.

Blackwoods Campground is open for primitive (hike in) camping year ’round but for happy vacationing try our SeaCat’s Rest right on the ocean here in Lamoine. We still have time available from April through October.

from April 2, 2011

They call April the cruelest month around here. We’re teased with a few warm, sunny days and then dumped with more snow. May can be quite rainy. But right now a huge influx of birds have appeared and the first bulbs are popping up. Very soon grass will get that soft shade of green and winter will be forgotten. The snow is gone and outdoor projects beckon. I’ll take it.

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03/04/2014

Maine Lobster Lookback: 2013

Taken from the shore at SeaCat’s Rest

The numbers are in. Maine lobster fishers pulled in 125,953,876 pounds in 2013, just one percent under the 2012 total of 127.2 million pounds. No one asked me how much I, as a recreational five trap guy caught, so that number is shy of the real total. Perhaps someone guesstimates the recreational landings. Once again, these landings numbers blow away the notion that a hundred million pounds is a fluke or an unsustainable harvest. I do strongly suspect however, that Maine lobster fishing is more like free range ranching than fishing from the wild, since the catch depends on 200,000,000+ pounds of bait in our traps. Due to informed practices such as strict size limits and the marking and release of egg-bearing females, most lobster end up getting a free meal rather than ending up on dinner plates. Compare this number with the average harvest in most of the middle of the 20th century, twenty million pounds!

happy haul

Isn’t it funny though, that we seem so ready for bad news that when good news comes along we are totally unprepared? Such is the case for the lobster market: an oversupply of perishable soft shell lobsters depresses the prices to the point that fishing is now a very thin-margin business. For four years in the mid 2000s the boat price for lobsters was over $4/ lb, while diesel was from $2-$3/gallon. Now the prices are reversed: fuel tops $4 and the average price in 2013 paid at the dock was $2.89. This is an improvement over 2012, which was $2.69. In 2012 they were making jokes about lobster being cheaper than bologna. So even though the landings number is 1% less, the increase in price resulted in an extra $23 million to the fishers, in 2013.

This price increase over 2012 seems to be purely accidental, perhaps due to the improving economy. There is sentiment to face this good-news landings situation with a little planning. In other words, what can we do to improve the price situation for Maine’s lobster fishers so that they can afford to fish? One answer could be the new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. Expect to see big bucks spent on promoting Maine lobster in the years ahead. One of the problems is that “Maine lobster” is often used as a generic term for the North American Lobster, Homarus americanus, so we have chain restaurants promoting their “Maine lobsters” from Nova Scotia, etc. (Please don’t write me about how good lobsters from Canada are, I’m not saying they’re not). The new collaborative aims to certify lobsters from Maine so that the public is aware of where their crustacean are from, and reclaim the “Maine lobster” label.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative takes over from Maine Lobster Promotion Council with a bigger budget and more state government involvement. Their slick new website, http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com, has history, info on sustainability, recipes and lots of links to dealers. What it lacks for now are decent videos…I tried to embed one below and all I found were tiny-window versions. Go here to see what I mean.

Another problem is the glut of soft shell lobster in the summer months. They don’t travel well, so we have to eat them here or keep them in pounds until their shells toughen up. However, the vast majority of the catch is processed so that it is available everywhere, year ’round, as frozen meat. Most processing factories are in Canada, but this is changing. In 2012 a shipment of Maine lobsters was stopped at the border by angry Canadian fishers, who saw our cheap prices as undercutting their hard work. The move to establish more Maine processors has accelerated since. At only 10% of the total, Maine lobster processing has room to grow. Time will tell if it will result in higher prices.

I have a feeling that due to our unusually cold winter of 2013/2014 we may see lower landings numbers for 2014. That will raise prices, but will also start the usual chorus of crash prediction, which may undo the new investments. Tune back in a year to see if I’m right!

 

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02/25/2014

Nutty Mainers Censored

Now this is a new thing. I wrote a blog about a local crackpot and got so many angry responses I had to pull it.

You win!

The guy’s been dead 57 years and I couldn’t even write a summary of his life and my opinion of it without eliciting such rage that I started to feel someone could show up at my door with malicious intent. All that because of the 12 people who usually read this blog might get the idea that it was foolish to believe in pseudoscience, and that part of what makes Maine a great tourism destination is our quirky characters.

So anyone who wants to read about this remarkable man and his “inventions” has to go here or here. I promise it’s a good read, but please don’t direct your ire at me. Also, be aware that there’s a group of believers trolling the internet, ready to respond to any negative press about the guy at the drop of a hat. I guess I should be grateful it has doubled my readership.

Quite honestly, I could have doubled down on my research and footnoted every sentence like the well done wikipedia article (which has earned a “good” rating, meaning it is, “written very well, contain factually accurate and verifiable information”) but alas, I’m lazy. If I meet an evolution doubter I don’t care to go through every detail, since someone already has, and I tire of reasoning with the woo-woo crowd. So from now on, no Scientology, QiGong, hollow earthers, or other new age twaddle.

 

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02/19/2014

Fungus Among Us

2/13, first evidence that mushrooms are developing…

On January 20 of this year I announced my intention to start growing oyster mushrooms using a new non-sterile technique I read about in Fungi Magazine. The technique, perfected by Milton R. Tam of the Puget Sound Mycological Society of Seattle, WA, uses newspaper-based kitty litter and guinea pig chow in which to grow the fungal mycelium of the oyster mushroom. My first batch, started on that date is now doing great and is just a few days away from harvest. I will stretch this blog out a few days so I can give a full report including pictures, yield and cost per lb..

Day three, 2/15/2014

For the first few weeks not much was going on besides the relentless growth of the mycelium through the medium. Think of how soybeans are transformed into tempeh and you get the picture. Gradually the kitty litter turns white with fuzzy growth until almost no more is visible. This happened in a dark closet at less than 70 degrees F. After two weeks I brought the bag out and placed it on the kitchen counter. I waited a week and nothing happened. I looked up pictures on the web of “oyster mushroom primordium” to see if I was missing something. As it turned out, what I was missing was a little more light. The mushrooms need the light to trigger the fruiting process. I switched on a kitchen grow-light and set the timer for 12 hours/day, and that did the trick. Within a few days little white domes appeared in the bags near the holes I had cut. In a matter of hours the domes differentiated into pincushions and each “pin” then grew a cap and started to resemble a tiny mushroom. Each grouping now contains 50 or more individual mushrooms and each bag has about 4 of these groups. They are growing so fast I can almost hear them grow!

Day 4.

Milton Tam’s article said that the primordia would form “5-10 days” after the two week mark, and I was about to give up on day 23, exactly two weeks and 9 days after the start, when the buds first appeared. I have been mixing up bags once a week since the beginning, and I will mix more today. The goal is to have a steady supply; the next week’s bag will start to produce as soon as the previous is done. My big unknown at this point is how long the spawn will last. So far it has lasted almost a month in the fridge. I have attempted to inoculate more grain (wheat), hoping it will outlast the original.

Overall the project is worth doing. With less effort than making a loaf of bread I get a pound of premium mushrooms, although it takes 3-4 weeks. Once you get to the one month mark however, the reward is already sitting on the counter.

Oyster mushrooms are not only tasty, they’re suspected of containing anti-tumor chemicals. One study found they “inhibit growth of colon and breast cancer cells without significant effect on normal cells, and have a potential therapeutic/preventive effect on breast and colon cancer.” (International Journal of Oncology). Oyster mushrooms are rich in protein (up to 30 percent by dry weight), plentiful in B vitamins, have no cholesterol, and have significant levels of the cholesterol-lowering molecule lovastatin — up to 2.8 percent by dry weight (Stamets, 2005, Alarcon, 2003). If that’s not enough they’re anti-bacterial too! The first mushroom-derived antibiotic, pleuromutilin was extracted in the 1950s. This info on health benefits were taken from an article by mushroom guru Paul Stamets here. Paul also stresses that all mushrooms, including oysters, should be thoroughly cooked before eating. I couldn’t agree more; fungi are the chemical factories of the natural world and need to be respected for their niche; their nutritional and medicinal value is unlocked by cooking.

Day 6. Time to harvest!

From mixing up the first bag until harvest took 30 days and yielded one pound. Since each bag took $3.92 in materials, that’s $3.92/lb. I fried up some this morning and had them in an omlet, it was great. Oysters are “al dente” mushrooms, similar to shiitake, not soft and supple like button mushrooms. There is a possibility that the bags will produce a second flush, so I’m leaving them around for a while. I harvested the second bag too but got only 10 ounces. I think this second bag was a little dry, so I’m planning on adding water to all future bags before they bud.

We just had another several inches of snow and spring seems far off, but the kitchen garden is going strong!

 

 

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02/02/2014

Come run through a painting: Running in Acadia National Park

Maine has plenty of attractions for runners.   We have great running weather, and races are run all year round.  Here’s a link to the race schedule for 2014.   Lots of interesting names for the winter races like: Longfellow frostbite race, and the frozen 5K.

Lamoine starts out the race season each year with the Flattop 5K race at the end of March each year.

In May there is the Tour D’Acadia Race in Bar Harbor to benefit the American Diabetes Assoc, 207-288-5103.

In the spring in Bar Harbor is the second race sponsored by the Mount Desert Island YMCA 5K in June and then there is the Big race in fall/October 14th for 2014, the MDI Marathon.

Rated the 6th best national park for runners, Acadia National Park in Maine has 45 miles of car-free road running in the interior of the park. Built for horse and carriage, these gravel roads are just right for runners, bikers and walkers. The gentle slopes and curving hills provide plenty of beautiful peaceful running.

In addition, you can run, walk and hike on the fire roads on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island.   Here is a list of those from the Southwest Harbor Chamber of Commerce (click here for their map from 2013).

The USA Track and Field Association  has an interesting list of measured courses for running in and around MDI: Here is their link

For runners in the fall there is the magnificent Mount Desert Island Marathon run on October 14th, 2014.. A qualifying race for the Boston Marathon and an official sanctioned race, this is a serious race with folks attending from all 50 states.

Here is a great documentary on the 2010 race…..Thanks to crowathletics

 

Here is a description of the course by Skip Cleaver of coolrunning.com
Our certified 26.2-mile foot race begins in downtown Bar Harbor, where the first mile out is slightly downhill, which will allow runners to warm up before the first hill; a 150-foot climb from mile one to mile three. This incline will carry runners over the ridge between Champlain and Dorr Mountains. Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the immediate Atlantic Coast at 1,532 feet, will cast its shadow on the early miles of the course.

Route 3 then gives back a downhill sweep from mile three to six where runners meet the sea, and those famous ragged cliffs and headlands at the southeast tip of the Island. The small hill from mile six to seven will not be noticeable because runners will enjoy spectacular scenery along the Hunters Beach Trail.

There is a long, gradual downhill from mile seven to mile nine, then a series of rolling, curving vistas which overlook Seal Harbor, and Cranberry Isles. At mile 10 rolling hills reveal unparalleled scenes, and the village of Northeast Harbor is visible across the ocean. Runners will enter Northeast Harbor, one of six villages along the course –quaint and attractive all– and reach the halfway mark just beyond the town.

The halfway is also near the mouth of the only true fjord on the Atlantic Coast, lined with the pink granite that makes up most of the area, Somes Sound nearly bisects the entire Island. The second half of the race is literally on the edge of this remarkable topographical marvel.

The low point on the course, will come at mile 16 along the eastern shore of Somes Sound. This is followed by a slight rise to mile 17, and then a sharp incline from 17 to 18, heading up to the cliffs of the interior end of the fjord. Running hills makes for powerful camaraderie. Mile 19 is a giveback downhill, and then the gradual ascent from mile 20 to 25 begins in Somesville, the quintessential New England village.

Mile 25 will be the high point of the course, literally and figuratively, and affording great views. And it will be all downhill from there. The final 1.2 miles to the finish line in charming Southwest Harbor descends; yes, that last 2,000 meters will be all down. But what a sky-high feeling of accomplishment it will bring.

Adapted from: ‘The MDI Marathon — Extraordinary Natural Beauty Gives You the Most Scenic Distance Run in the USA’ by Skip Cleaver, coolrunning.com The island is so beautiful, it’s like running through a painting.

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01/24/2014

Biking in Acadia National Park


You’ll take a step back in time when you walk, hike or bike the carriage roads of Mount Desert Island. Go by horse and carriage, the way John D. Rockefeller, Jr. intended when he built the 45 miles of crushed stone roads between 1913 and 1940. Some would say a visit to Acadia isn’t complete without a visit to the trails.

Though sometimes called carriage trails, the word trail is truly a misnomer. The roads are 16 feet wide with generous crowns that keep them well drained. Considered the best example of broken stone roads in the United States, they are, indeed, an engineering wonder. They swoop up the Mountains of Acadia gradually in one direction, then swing down the hill fast in the other direction.

The well-marked roads wander through Acadia National Park, covering long, shady stretches of woodland, views of peaceful lakes and ponds, circling mountain elevations, and showcasing breathtaking views of the Atlantic and nearby islands.
It was more than 60 years ago that Rockefeller donated 11,000 acres to Acadia National Park, complete with the road system he planned, funded, and constructed. The roads are lined with large granite boulders quarried right from the island. Today both visitors and locals enjoy the quiet beauty of Acadia’s beautiful carriage roads.

You will have a choice of bringing your own bike (recommended) or renting a mountain bike at one of three island bicycle shops. There is a bike shop in Southwest Harbor and two shops in Bar Harbor itself. Bicycle rental range between $22- $30 per day. All types and sizes are available. You can even rent bike racks and other accessories. Here is a link to all the shops.

Acadia Bike 48 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor Maine. One block from the Island Explorer Bus Shuttle at the Village Green. Also rents kayaks.
800-526-8615

Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. 141 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207-288-3886 At the far end of Cottage Street, closest to the bridge entrance to the carriage trails. Open all year, they have a variety of types of bikes to rent.

Southwest Cycle 370 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 Located on the west side of the Island. Open all year.
207-244-5856

Groups with small children are encouraged to consider renting either trail-a-bike or a tag-along.  Both are  attached to the back of a bicycle for those ages 4-7 or  rent an actual bike trailer that attaches behind a bike for kids from 1 year to 4 or 5. Customize your solution for your particular child.

There are a variety of routes for beginners, families, moderately fit and the most fit bikers.     The carriage road have slow and fast climbs.   Study the topography to choose the fast side of hills (best to climb on bicycles)  as  you swing around the “mountains” of Mount Desert Island.    The highest elevation you will climb is about 1,000 foot and the average is about 500 foot.  Walking up hills is always an option.  Be sure to bring water as there is only one spot on all the trails with water (Jordan Pond House).   There are rest rooms in three places, Eagle lake parking lot, Parkman mountain lower  and upper parking lots and Jordon Pond house.     This map is from SouthwestCycle’s website:

Here is a lovely video of a bike ride around the island from hipeaks2.   I really do not recommend going hands free – this fellow was a very experienced rider who has done a lot of biking.

Watch this

For beginners  (and rides with multiple ages)  the Eagle Lake Loop is a great first ride.   There are two hills to climb on this loop and a 500 foot elevation change.   Go counter clockwise around eagle lake for the fast rise uphill, and slower downhill.   Clockwise for slow climb up and fast ride down.     The Island Explorer has a special bike shuttle to take you to the small parking lot at Eagle lake.   It leaves from the village green in the center of Bar Harbor.  Do not bike the paved road from Bar Harbor to Eagle Lake.  It is much too busy and has extra hills.    Ask for an alternative internal route either from your bike shop or ask your hotel/ rental for some better routes.

For intermediate bikers, start with the Parkman Mountain trail. The parking lot for this trail is located on the road to Northeast Harbor. Go clockwise for the best experience.

For experienced bikers, the whole carriage trail system can be done in one day, a lovely and tiring day though. Plan to stop for a food/water and restroom break mid-island at the Jordan Pond House. Situated right in the middle of the park.   There is a warning for bikers to not plan on getting their bicycles on the shuttle from the Jordan Pond Bus stop.   There is limited room for bicycles, and that is often filled up at the Northeast Harbor beginning of the bus route.

The Acadia bus system Island Explorer has a bicycle shuttle on every bus, and special bike shuttles to Eagle Lake Parking lot. Transportation is free on the bus system (Thanks to LL Bean). That way, if you have larger plans than your legs can manage, you can grab one of the buses for a ride back to your car.

For bike riders wanting a unique experience, come to the park in May for this ride: Mount Desert Island Westside Ride.  Competitive bike riders can come in August for the Mount Desert Island time trial sponsored by www.bikemaine.org.

From the Mountain Bike Trails in Maine website: The Acadia National Park Carriage Roads can be accessed at the following entrances:

Eagle Lake: This is one of the most popular starting points. The parking area, located east of Bar Harbor on the north side of Rt. 233 often overflows during peak season in July and August. Start your ride early, if possible. Eagle Lake, at 425 acres, is the largest fresh water lake in Acadia National Park. From the lot, there is easy access to the carriage roads that lead toward half Moon Pond, the Breakneck Ponds and Witch Hole Pond. You can also ride the carriage roads around Eagle Lake for a challenging 6.1 mile loop ride that includes a few steep ascents and descents. Expect some rough patches. There are incredible views overlooking the lake.

Paradise Hill: Enter at the northwest end of the Hills Cove Visitor Center parking lot. The 0.5 mile trail that connects to the Paradise Hill carriage road is narrow, step and surfaced with loose gravel. Slippery. Consider walking your bike up and down.

Upper Haddock Pond: The parking area is located just north of the Brown Mountain Gatehouse on the eastern side of Rt. 198.

Lower Haddock Pond: The parking area is located on the eastern side of Rt. 198 south of Upper Haddock. We like to park here as we usually find it quiet and uncrowded. It provides access to most of the major carriage trails, however the access requires some long climbs.

Parkman Mountain: Parking is 2.3 miles south from the intersection of Rt. 198 and Rt. 233 on the eastern side of 198.

Jordan Pond: Jordan Pond parking area (not the restaurant parking lot). The carriage road crosses the Park Loop Road south of the Jordan Pond Gatehouse. Do not park in front of the gates on the carriage road. Jordan Pond is a hub for several major carriage roads and hiking trails as well as the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. The carriage road follows along Jordan Pond’s western edge. There are several rocky sections.

Make reservations at the restaurant in advance (at least the day before your ride), and plan your bike tour of the carriage trails so you end up there just in time for a traditional cup of tea and crumpets on the lawn.

Bubble Pond: Parking is on the Park Loop Road. The carriage trail that travels along the west side of Bubble Pond is easily accessed from the parking area. Nestled between North and South Bubble mountains, just northeast of Jordan Pond is an easy ride with lots of places to stop and admire the views of the “bubble like” mountains.

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01/22/2014

Mushroom Growing Update #1

Here’s a little update on the progress of the fungal network I have induced to grow in my mix of kitty litter and guinea pig food. I have this thing sitting in a cardboard box at room temperature (currently about 68 degrees). The box is to keep light out. It’s been 2 days and I want to see if the oyster mushroom spawn “blazes any substrate like pac man eating dots and ghosts” as one spawn seller has written. My evidence is photographic. Here’s the picture of the bag just after I began.

And here it is today:Note the vigorous growth of the white mycelium. This indicates a successful colonization by the oyster mushroom fungus, since the wrong fuzz would be gray or blue/green. Also, note the condensation of moisture on the top of the bag. This means the process is generating heat. The active breakdown of cellulose is happening, and the reaction is generating heat, moisture and eventually we hope, edible mushrooms! Stay tuned.

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01/20/2014

Growing Mushrooms in Maine

Foraging for food is one of my passions. I take to it like others take to hunting or fishing, there’s just something about finding one’s own food that is deeply satisfying. So cultivating mushrooms is a little different; it involves taking found food to the next level. But it’s still fun to produce your own food, especially when that food is….a little strange.

from http://mushroomobserver.org

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.) are considered the “weeds” of the mycological world. They grow vigorously on a variety of media and are even used to mitigate pollution events. One company sells bags of oyster mushroom spawn for the sole purpose of soaking up and converting spilled oil. I don’t think I’d want to eat those mushrooms. The logical place to start then, is with a mushroom species which is super easy to grow and likely to compete with their prices at the grocery store, if you can find them.

The ubiquitous button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, and maybe the shiitake are often the only fresh mushrooms available at the grocery store. The Agaricus masquerades in several forms: white button, crimini and portabello, but they’re all the same species. Some other species are available dried, but they’re expensive and often come from eastern Europe, where they’re picked from the woods. We hope they don’t misidentify.  Oysters are just as good and I’m going to find out if I can easily and cheaply grow them at home.

About two years ago my daughter gave me an oyster growing kit and I decided to take the next step. I started out by ordering a bunch of growing bags. These are sterile plastic bags with breather patches to let air, but not other spores in. But I was put off by the methodology involving sterilizing a huge amount of straw. In the third world they do this by adding a chemical, which I didn’t want to do. The other option is to boil or steam the straw, which seemed daunting. I imagined dumping a bale of straw into an old drum and boiling it over a campfire. Then there was the preparation of agar petri dishes, building a sterile hood and all the other bother associated with sterile technique. I had better things to do.

This month my Fungi Magazine came to the rescue. In it was an article by Milton Tam describing in detail how to grow oyster mushrooms without sterile technique. At last I had an easy option! The key to this approach is to use easily available growing materials which are already (reasonably) sterile. The process takes advantage of the rapid growth of the Pleurotus mycelia (underground “roots”) to get ahead of any other colonizers. The growth medium is a combination of newspaper-based kitty litter (no, not used!) and vitamin-enriched alfalfa-based guinea pig food. Both these products, from the pet store, are packaged in sealed plastic bags and are, we assume, reasonably sterile. The kitty litter (the brand mentioned was Purina’s Yesterday’s News, but I got another brand) serves as the cellulose base and the guinea pig food provides a nitrogen source. The procedure is to mix up 4 cups of the newspaper-based kitty litter with 4 cups of dechlorinated tap water and let it sit for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed. Then add 1/3 cup of the guinea pig food and  1/2 to 3/4 cup of mushroom grain spawn and mix well. More on getting the spawn in a minute. The mixture is stuffed into a plastic bag. Cut some small (3/4″) slits in the bag for air and place in a dark, cool area (under 70 degrees if possible) and leave for two weeks. This time of year it’s too cold in the basement but as it warms up that will be the place to grow in.

left to right, growing bag, mixing pot, kitty litter, guinea pig food, grain spawn

After two weeks the mycelium should be visible as a network of fine fibers in the mix, sort of like tempeh. At this point the bag needs to come into the (indirect) light and warmth where it will soon pop out mushrooms from the slits you cut. Some sources say that fruiting is encouraged by placing the bag in the fridge for a day (a “cold shock”), so if I don’t see primordia–the tissue growth that precedes mushrooms–I’ll do that. The expected yield is 8-11 ounces. There will probably be a “second flush” of a few more ounces 10 days after the first. Keep the emerging ‘shrooms moist by spraying with water mist.

All the ingredients mixed up. Now the waiting!

Economics: This is of course a fun hobby, so we shouldn’t think of it as a way to avoid grocery bills, but let’s see the numbers anyway. I spent about $33 on kitty litter and guinea pig food. The grain spawn came from Northwest Mycological Consultants in Corvallis, OR (503.753.8198) and cost $35 delivered to Maine. I got 7 lbs, and if you check around, this is a very good price. They don’t have a website, so you have to call them, and they often don’t answer their phones, so you have to leave your name and hang around for them to call back. So that total so far is $68. The grow bags were about 60 cents each. Check back in a few weeks to see what kind of yield I get so I can translate that $68 into pounds of mushrooms. This first batch, which is a double recipe because my bag is so big, ended up costing $3.86 for the ingredients and the bag. A quick scan of fresh oyster prices on line returned from $7.67 to $20/lb, so if I can get a pound out of this batch I’ll be happy as a mushroom in the rain.

My spawn strain is #497, Pleurotus columbinus, a pearl blue-gray oyster. I plan on mixing up a batch once a week so the mushrooms will be in constant supply. Anyway, that’s the plan! I fear that my spawn supply will outlast my rate of use, i.e., spoil, so stay tuned for the exciting updates.

Beware that some spawn companies specialize in mushrooms which are…shall we say, consciousness altering, (usually sold as mushrooms for “microscopic study”) while others cater strictly to customers interested in edible varieties. Some sell both types, but I feel more comfortable ordering from the edible-only folks.

 

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01/11/2014

Thoughts on Privacy

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World

With my modest vacation rental sideline, SeaCat’sRest, I am frequently confronted by privacy issues. I’ve already ranted about facebook.  The latest privacy news on the national scene is all about the NSA and how they read our emails and tap into our phone conversations. I’m honestly not that worried about NSA, since I know several federal employees, and they assure me by their example as well as directly, that the government is not capable of inflicting the kind of dystopia some are worried about. Call it incompetence, inefficiency, lack of resources or motivation, it is just not like the government to succeed at such a massive task. Need I mention the Affordable Care Act website?

What I find worrisome is the “surveillance economy”. This is a term I found in an article by Martin Hirst in Australia’s New Philosopher:

Surveillance is “big data” and big data is big business. The surveillance economy puts information transactions at its core and when the bottom is dropping out of the market for real goods and services, capitalism will adapt. The latest systemic adaptation is to embrace new ways of surveilling customers and then turning the collected data into something that someone else is willing to buy.

The value of big data has been compared to the oil boom or “panning for gold” in terms of potential profitability. The numbers are staggering: 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by the end of this decade; so much available data to be mined that it doesn’t yet have a number to describe it. So many connections are available to be tapped, correlated, combed, combined and sold that any attempt to visualise the connections would look like a spaghetti junction map of the universe with every planet, star and comet connected to every other object. The value of this market is currently estimated at over A$39 billion annually and growing at around 9% per year according to analysts IDC.

In other words, inject a little profit motive into the activity of eavesdropping, and it’s Brave New World.

I have become suspicious of anything on the internet I sign up for, since I know the site I want to access might sell my info. Even those mysterious cold calls from “Heather at credit card services” is using the fact that I answered my phone as a source of profit. Heather gets her number added to my list of screened numbers at my landline company. And then there’s the infuriating ads at the side of just about every website. They promise to reveal one weird trick or tell us the warning signs of dementia (no doubt targeting me, because of my age group), all for filling out a little info about ourselves.

So how about our affordableacadia.com and your privacy when you contact me about my spot on the coast of Maine? First of all, I use Homeaway/VRBO as a way to get most of my customers. My reason for starting this website was to make them unnecessary, but that hasn’t happened yet. One of the things I have opted out of is going through Homeaway/VRBO after you make your initial inquiry. I really don’t want their corporation looking over our shoulders while we negotiate, or handling the money at the end. Imagine how valuable your personal info is once you prove you have enough money for a stay. They can’t have it! I’m not suggesting that Homeaway sells your info, I just don’t want to take the time to find out. The info you do provide me goes onto a spreadsheet and stays on my computer. None of your info is ever released or sold to anyone.

I just read an article about how gmail is further attempting to monetize its service by making it possible for their new facebook clone, google+, members to send you an email. The article includes 5 steps to reclaim a modicum of anonymity in your gmail account, including opting out of google +. I recommend taking the steps.

I embrace new technology and realize the benefits of the information revolution. I am not a “prepper” or paranoid nutcase. But I hope the excesses of the surveillance economy will soon be remedied. In the meantime I am trying to not become part of it!

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