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“Agaricus bisporus” Mushroom box kit looks a bit dry.

8 Jan


Picked up a mushroom kit from Enfield Produce just after the New Year. Have been wanting to try it for a while but got a little stuck thinking I’d try and do it all from scratch i.e. making my own medium etc. These were only $22 for White Button Mushroom or the combination Portobello / white button kit was $24. Reasonably cheap but to make it cost effective I’m going to need more than 2kg of mushrooms – let’s see how that goes.

I opened the box up today to get it started but noticed the compost is still very brown. The instructions suggest it needs to be quite white and spiderwebby as the inoculated mycelium has “run” through the compost. So I’ve boxed it back up as suggested and will check it out in a few more days.

Do you think it looks a little too dry? I’ve sent a note to the manufacturer to see if I should be adding any moisture at this stage. [EDIT] Received a very quick response back and they have said to leave it till it goes white, don’t add water.

Dry mushroom compost

Stay tuned for more pics and updates. Have you grown mushrooms before? I hear they are pretty hit and miss! Any tips?


Hightail Ale

25 Dec

I’ve been pretty slack with my updates. A lot has been happening but will need to leave that for another post. For now though….

I have just put down a home-brew – my 6th. Ive tried some different styles and I’m a big fan of the extra malted ale that coopers call the “Unreal Ale”. I’ve tried the Little Creatures stye (American Pale Ale with cascade hops) so have a bunch of cascade hops left over which made it easy to try this recipe

The big difference in technique with this is that I boiled the wort for 60min and dropped the cascade hops is as per the schedule. Normally it’s just dump the extract and sugars in with some boiling water and top up with cold water.

Specific gravity on day 1 was 1.050 -much higher than 1.037 expected. Not sure if this means it’ll have a higher alcohol content or perhaps a sweeter flavour.

Update on this in 4 weeks or so.

Mountain Goat Hightail Ale 
Style: English Pale Ale/Strong Bitter

Amount Item Type % or IBU
1.00 kg Light Dry Extract (15.8 EBC) Dry Extract 35.09 %
1.70 kg Coopers Kit Real Ale (37.8 EBC) Extract 59.65 %

Hops –
15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (30 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (15 min) Hops 4.8 IBU

15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (Dry Hop 3 days)

I should say that this isn’t my recipe – it was taken from a HomeBrewAndBeer forums.

How things have changed!

18 May

I’ve been thinking about a series of posts over the last few months all about “how life has changed!”. I like to think of myself as a fairly social “young man” and I certainly lived that life but with the introduction of my daughter 2 years ago Life Has Changed. In all reality it was an easy transition but every now and again something clicks and I realised that my life has changed. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s for the better but it’s still fascinating that I reminisce the differences.

Tonight is one such moment. First up I’ve left work early not to goto the pub but to go home and see the kids (and of course help my wife).

I’ve spent the night dancing to Katie Perry, reciting “new words” & admiring finger paintings.

Most telling though is I’ve watched Tinker Bell all the way through for probably the 20th time and I still laugh harder and louder that my 2yo. My favourite line …..”your mouse’s name is Cheese” says Tinka, “it must be because he always comes when we say cheese” says her tinker friend. And that’s just one of many!

While I love being at home with the girls I do however need to maintain some grip on my manlyhood. So Pizza and beer is on the menu while I watch Tinker bell with my lovely girl snuggled beside me. What more could you want?!?

Day 2 – no Microwave.

5 May

Boiling the Bottles by CraftyGoat, on Flickr

Day 2 lacking a microwave has been fairly uneventful as far as the microwave goes. It’s amazing how you just adapt.

  • The usual breakfast of porridge was substituted for weetbix though had I got up a little earlier I would have made it on the stove top! Maybe tomorrow.
  • Lunch was simple tuna and tomato mini-pizza’s. Lunch is usually defrosted left over’s so here’s another example of eating fresher. Though we kinda of cheated somewhat by using the toaster to defrost the bread. 🙂
  • Baby bottles were boiled using my largish sauce pan on the stove. I agree with some of the comments I’ve received that you don’t have to sterilise them but something in me thinks I should.
  • As a facebook friend says she does we bought some diced lamb fresh and marinaded in a souvlaki-ish marinade of 4 squeezed limes, bay leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary and olive oil. Pan fried and served in some left over tortilla wraps with lettuce, tomato and onion.

So all in all we didn’t “need” the microwave. Sorry for the mundane post. 🙂

Tomorrow’s sunday and I love a good Sunday cookup so the original plan was to make a corned beef silverside from the freezer and get it out to defrost overnight but we’ve switched to some freshly bought chuck steak for a slow cooked casserole of sorts – recipe to be decided at time of cooking.

While it’s only day 2 I’m starting to think of other seemingly essential kitchen items as a waste of space. Could I get rid of my kettle? I know I “could” get rid of the dishwasher but that’s just a supplement for me. What else do you have that you could get rid of and free up the space?

Day 1 microwave free!

4 May

Today I received a call from my wife that our microwave had started “sparking”. She had already called the manufacturer and explained that it’s taken a beating recently due to the seemingly endless 4min cycles of baby bottle sterilization. As expected they claim misuse while we claim faulty unit but at least they’ll supply a loan while they look to repair. But that leaves me with the dilemma of no microwave for 2 and a bit days! I’m sure many of you are probably thinking “Why are you using a microwave anyway” but truth be told I haven’t stopped using it since my pre-gardening / cooking / bachelor days.

Beyond baby bottle sterilization it’s used for defrosting (which is all reality should be called defreeze, the frost isn’t my problem, it’s that it’s frozen!) meat, cooking rice and even steaming vege’s (yes I know this is bad). However despite the inconvenience I’m taking this as an opportunity to move away from the (apparently – still need to research it properly) dreaded microwave.

Which brings me to day 1 – no microwave. What did we have for dinner. Quite simple really and on reflection it makes sense to do this more often:

  • Pan fried pork loin chops – bought today so they weren’t frozen which is probably a good thing.
  • Oven roasted root vege’s and capsicum – always a crowd favourite and we ended up with 2 lots of vegetable delivery from Aussie Farmers Direct (trialling them) and an accidental top up from the grocery store.
  • Steamed broccoli and bok choy.

It’s the steamed vege’s that brings the a-ha moment for me. I pulled out my bamboo steamer and I’m pretty sure that with the help of boiled water from the kettle I had them steamed up in about the same time as a microwave would take. And assuming microwaves aren’t ideal I had the desired outcome without additional effort.

I’m still yet to boil up and sterilise the baby bottles old school like my parents did but it’s certainly an eye opening experiment to go without the microwave.

Do you use a microwave? If you’ve given it up why? and how have you found the transition.

Let’s see how day 2 goes. Stay tuned!

Can there be too much politeness?

28 Mar

We often hear stories about the demise of a polite society as we are rush to achieve our life goals at the expense of others so this post might seem a little out of place but bear with me here.

To put it in context I catch a Sydney Ferry to work and for those people that haven’t experienced this delight let me tell you it’s near on THE best way to go to work. The humdrum of work is a distant thought in the morning and forgotten on the way home. Passengers are nice while waiting for the ferry as they orderly line up and allow bicyclist and older people on/off first. There’s polite quiet as people contemplate the view down Sydney Harbour. And they are even nice as they climb aboard the connecting bus. I have seen a number of things that have made me smile such as the ferry ticket collector drumming up support for the school kids to sell their charity chocolates (the kid had completely sold out before even getting to school) and has been echoed by a bus driver. In that case the driver got up before we departed and announced that she loves that route because everyone is so friendly and it makes a great start to her day.

So it’s better than the soulless bus or train I hear you say, so what? Stop rubbing it in. But is it possible that too much politeness actually becomes tedious and embarrassing? I’d like to think not but as I disembark in the afternoon almost every single passenger thanks the talented crew member who rarely fails to throw the rope around the bollard. It’s almost as if that single act has ensured that work is left behind and we are now “home”. The crew member politley says “thank you”, “have a nice day”, “see you later” etc and I often wonder that after 200 odd people have left the ferry all the way up the river he’s probably over being polite.

I certainly hope not and sincerely hope they get home themselves with a big smile on their face knowing they’ve helped so many people get home!

Sprout me.

21 Sep

This is too good not to share so I’ve returned from the long winter to blog gardening again.

How clever can you get to make a attachment that waters your garden using any old bottle available (any bottle yet to be confirmed).

Get (not alot more) information here! If you are going to order one let me know and I’ll chip in for an extra 1 and shipping!

The communal Botanical Gardens of Sydney!

12 Mar

I took my visiting US relatives to Sydney’s Royal Botanical Garden today. Lovely piece of land championed by Mrs Macquarie (Governor Macquaries wife) due to her love of structured parklands.

A bit of history is that they knocked down a bunch of houses, bakehouses and boat ports to clean it up in 1807. Interestingly it was built alongside Hyde Park because Hyde Park was for walking whereas the Desmene (Domain) was not. Sounds like he wanted a grand lavish park all for himself and his wife!! This argument is furthered by a decree from Gov Macquarie in 1816 that people should stay out of the garden else punishment will be “inflicted on some idle and profligate persons”. Turns out that that warning wasn’t for “proper people”. These day’s the punishment is against the unwitting folk who venture to the Palm Grove cafe for a quick bite to eat. I paid no less than $11.70 for a meat pie and cola!! Highway robbery in the 21st century I say! However, enough lamenting the injustices against the common folk by the rich!

The garden has some great parts that I haven’t visited for a number of years. There are 100+ year old fig’s and some neat feature gardens. Of excitement was the masses of bat’s roosting in the tree’s, a much more “real’ bat experience then our recent trip to the Australia Reptile Park that showcases 8 bats in a small cage, but I digress again..

Another feature of the Botanical garden and the purpose of this post is the Herb garden . Situated on the south western side not far from the Conservatorium of Music there is a great selection of herbs from Australia and other parts of the world. It’s a treat to walk around and sample so many different kinds of herbs, some of which are for culinary purposes while others are ornamental or simply for fragrance. The Thai Basil took my award for most alluring while the “surprise award” went for the numerous varieties of Lavender (Lavender cotton grass took honors in that category).

A few years back in my pre-gardening days I wandered through the herb garden with my now wife. We were both amazed and shocked that there were a number of people walking through the garden putting more than a sample in their collection bags, presumably for their upcoming dinners. Is this OK? Are the Botanical gardens for the people? When does a showcase garden turn into a communal garden? In my mind I’d say when said pilferers help maintain said garden. But is that the case? Perhaps I should look up Adam Smith’s thoughts on common property, perhaps those pilferers should as well. 🙂

If you have the chance, get down to Sydney’s Royal Botanical gardens. Give yourself a day to wander around, take a packed lunch and enjoy the oldest structured garden in Australia.

Update on carrot seeds.

12 Feb

A while ago I posted that one of my dragon carrots had bolted to seed. I let it go as a bit of experiment, but a few weeks ago I realised that the seed heads where overrun with aphids. This gave me 2 opportunites for blog posts, one to answer the question “what happens to a carrot when it goes to seed” and info on aphids. First up the former!

The carrot stalk ended up about 1.8m tall with approx 6 flower heads of varying sizes. Over time the heads folded up and the seeds started browning up. I cut the first and biggest flower off before the aphids got it and they are now drying in a paper bag (another future post because I’ve used the same technique with coriander). Here’s a close up the flower, unfortunately the camera was on a trip with my wife when they went brown and aphid infested so I no photo’s of that sorry.

Something interesting I noted that I need to research some more is that the other carrots still growing where small and slow growing. I wonder if the carrot that’s gone to seed somehow affects those around it? Survival mechanism perhaps so it’s seed will have somewhere to grow when they dry out and land? Not sure about that.

But what happens to a carrot that goes to seed?

When I first dug it up and washed it off it looked pretty much like a normal carrot. Even where part of the skin seemed to split away it looked like a soft fleshy carrot inside.

However when I touched the inside orange flesh it was hard. My fingernail couldn’t dint it. It had turned very woody.

After a day or so on the kitchen bench it dried up considerably and was quite light for it’s size.  Here’s a few pic’s of when we snapped it take a look inside.
You can see how it snapped like a stick. The edges look sharp but are in fact almost soft. The lightness and texture reminded me a lot of balsa wood but it felt stronger. Might make for a more durable balsa wood airplane. 🙂
This experiment has answered the question that you definitely cannot eat a carrot that’s gone to seed and provided me with a bunch more topics for posts. Hopefully the seeds I’ve harvested sprout and I didn’t let the biggest carrot go to waste.
Stay tuned! 

What’s in a trellis.

10 Jan
I recently borrowed some seeds from a fellow gardening freind, Andy. Among them were purple beans, peas, corn and butterlead lettuce. All have sprouted nicely in my seed raiser but I was stuck with how I was going to grow the climbing beans and peas. I had an option to ask the neighbours if I can run them up the shared fence but I was concerned that all the beans would grow on their sun filled side of the fence. So I decided to build a trellis.

From the ancient Indo-European word “trejes” the word trellis is related to the english word “three”, “trio”, & “tripod” as well as non-english words for three such as tri, drie etc. Trellis actually means something made of “three threads” though these days trellis’ come in all sort of shapes and sizes.

And to keep the three theme I decided to plant my new seeds in the “three sisters” approach. This is a native american style of growing the three staples, beans, maize and squash (though i’m using rockmelon). These three plants form a symbiotic relationship in that the maize provides something for the beans to grow up removing the need for poles. The beans lock the nitrogen in the soil helping all plants. Finally the squash provide a ground cover or natural living mulch to keep the weeds away.

Below are the various styles I found while looking for solutions (my graphic design skills were severly tested!)

Firstly, the traditional 3 pole teepee style (left). This consists of three bamboo poles lashed together at the top and thread (twine, wire etc) run betwen the legs. The lashing on the top doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be solid. A downside to this style is that if you have very bushy plant growing you will struggle to get at the beans on the interior.

Next is the 4 pole teepee style (right). Similar to the 3 pole variation but you can leave one side free of threads allowing you (or the kids / pets) access to the interior to play, pick the interior beans, get out of the sun etc.

The next variation is a little trickier but scales well for large plants or gardens. It’s known as the A Frame. If the poles are tall enough it’s conceivable you could get inside but but the main benefit is that you need more space you just build another A and run beam across the top.

Finally the simplest solution and the one I used is the straight up and down. 3 or more poles hammered into the ground and string run between the legs. This isn’t very stable so the legs need to be hammered in deep. I’ll see how this goes and

report back.

With all the styles plant the seedings around the base of the poles. You might need to loosely tie them to train them towards the string but after that they should find their own way.

Have you built your own trellis? What style? If you have any tips please send them through. Love to hear what worked and what didn’t.