Thursday, August 16, 2012

When helping out a friend becomes...

... the best big problem you have ever had.

I have not posted much about the mushroom business.  We have been working away at it slowly and methodically.  We have gotten to a point where our harvests are abundant, continuous and predictable.  This makes marketing easier and when we fill our customers needs, sell at the local farmers market and still have a bit left over to share with friends, I feel like we have done a good job.

Last Sunday a friend of a friend took a picture of me and posted it on Facebook.  The FOAF tagged my friend (also a mushroom cultivator in Iowa)  and asked if he knew who I was.  The response was an enthusiastic "Yes!" 

Later in the morning I got a call from the friend in Iowa.  He was heading to Telluride for the annual mushroom conference and asked if I had any mushrooms that I would be willing to sell/donate or whatever to the cause.  He was assisting the coordination of a cooking demonstration.  I gave him 7 lbs and the use of the cooler to transport.

Honestly I am hoping that he is able to spread my business card around and everyone can enjoy the fungus.  If he comes back with some dried culinary fungus to share that would make my day.

Last night I get a call my Iowa friend...  "Fred, do you have a business logo on a website that we can use?"

"We are in the process of creating one that will reflect our organic certification.  Why, what happened?"

"The chef putting on the demonstration wants to put it on a banner for the cooking demonstration." 

"Oh, sweet!  Let me see what I can dig up."

"You may want to hurry up on this."


"Because the cooking demonstration is going to be showcased on Food Network in a month or so!"

There is a saying that "What goes around, comes around."  That seems to work for the good as well as the bad.

A helluva problem to have.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

White Bean Hummus

... or a disaster of epic proportions!

I like hummus.  Generally the chick pea (aka: garbanzo beans) variety but I get tired of the same texture and flavor combinations in the traditional varieties.

By my thinking you can make a hummus from any type of bean (except for green beans.)  With that in mind I decided that I needed to investigate what my possibilities might be.

My experience with beans is a bit limited.  I like all kinds but each has a specific use in my mind.  For example, navy beans are Boston Baked beans, pinto beans are refried beans, chick peas are hummus, etc.  So the idea of using a different bean for a different purpose requires a bit of mold breaking in my head.

One way this happened was quite by accident.  QUARTER/quarter is a small but elegant restaurant in Harmony, Minnesota.  The chef, Stephen Larson, is quite talented and will create something outside the box that is quite delicious, playful and unique.

A standard item on his Summer menu is the White Bean and Pork Pate'.   It is served with a sliced baguette, brown mustard/mayo and pickles.  It has become a favorite of mine and cracked the idea that I don't need to color within the culinary lines. 

So I went to a Bill's Imported Foods and grabbed a bag of white beans.  Bill's is the worst kept secret in Minneapolis.  They have a fairly good variety of food stuffs, mostly Mediterranean in nature.  There are several varieties of Feta cheese available and gallons of olive oil.  I source my olive pomace oil there for making soap.  It is cheap and I don't feel bad dropping $13 on a gallon of it.  They also have olives.  The best thing at Bill's is the spices.  Big packages, small price.  Go there and you will be surprised.

Next thing, get a recipe.  This was the one that I based my process on.  Since I was going for quantity I needed to eyeball the amounts of everything to try to come close.

I found several that would suffice but the gist that I got was you need beans, lemon, tahini, garlic, salt and cumin.  Actually the cumin seems optional for many of the recipes that I found but I like cumin so in it goes.  Tahini, on the other hand, is some expensive shit.  I decided that any nut butter would suffice and I happen to have cashew nut butter on hand so I used that.  Garlic appeared to be limited to the taste of the preparer.  In my world, there is never enough garlic.  I also like to add parsley. 

Now, consider that a one pound bag of white beans needs to be soaked then cooked.  What I ended up with was about 4 lbs of  beans.  Fortunately I purchased more than I would ever need of the other ingredients so as not to worry.

What I ended up with was a lovely soft and creamy white bean hummus that tasted awesome.

I also smoked the blender in the process and pretty much trashed the kitchen.

So much for trying to cram cooking into an afternoon/evening of being late for work, grocery shopping, getting the kidlet from her program, riding bikes to get dinner and riding back and making a smoothie for the kidlet before venturing into this little disaster.  I would like to say it was worth it but only time will tell.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mushrooms Bitches!!

Welcome to my passion!

Fungus cultivation is something that I have done on and off for nearly 2 decades.  In the last year several things have happened that have allowed me to begin to farm these little critters and build a business that turns shit into cash (literally and figuratively speaking!)

How does Carolyn feel about this?  Well, she is a foodie and an organic foodie on top of that.  Her folks?  Well her brother refuses to eat anything that is labeled "organic."  He feels that organic cultivators are "snooty, stuck up bitches who look down upon conventional farmers."  Thomas is a conventional bean and corn farmer.  

The last 6 months have been filled with discussing the techniques, establishing a protocol for growing, and proof of concept.  The above photo is the initial proof of concept result.

I acquired a strain from a local grocery store and cultured it.  I expanded the culture to the point where it became viable enough to inoculate some pasteurized straw  and stuff it into a bag.  Poke some holes in it and ignore it in a well ventilated area.  Chill for a few days and you get mushrooms!

This fungus, along with all the others that I grew from this "stolen" strain have been given away or consumed by myself and my family.

Since then I have been building a culturing lab, establishing a culture strain or two that I received from Penn State and building a pasteurizing/inoculating/bagging station in the barn adjacent to the lab and some fruiting rooms!

We also came up with a name for the business.

Don't believe me?  Check this out! 

I wanted to name it after Thomas but then I would have to fist fight him every time we had a family gathering and I would lose because I would start laughing so hard that I would be unable to defend myself. 

That's right!  Incorporated and everything!

Now we are shooting for organic certification and we have a marketing plan in place to roll out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When the News is Good...

...make sure you are around to enjoy it.

Concepts in reality are an exercise that I do regularly.  Vast quantities of alcohol followed by a 3 week stay in a rehab facility have made me understand several important points. 

Live for today, as yesterday is done and gone and tomorrow won't be here until tomorrow...

Regret and resentments are worthless.  I gave them up and leave them  in the bottle that I no longer open.

Take responsibility for my own life and only my life.  Offer direction and assistance as I chose to and don't feel obligated to assist others.*

When the news is good be present to enjoy it.  When the news is not so good be present anyway.

Yesterday, the news was good.  My step mother has been struggling with cancer.  Her particular variety is a mean nasty bastard that is pretty much lethal.

Yesterday she got another 8 week MRI and assessment from her doctor.  No sign of the cancer/tumor growth.  She is continuing her Chemo treatments as a precaution.  But she is good to go all the way around.

Today is a pretty good day.  I may go do something unexpected just to see what the results are going to be.

*My child is exempt from this rule.  I have to be a parent first and foremost.  Until she is old enough to endure the consequences of a bad decision I must fulfill this parenting requirement.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reap What You Sow...

Having watched the past carefully and lived in the present I am careful to predict the future with a bit of accuracy.  Not so much exact accuracy but I can pretty much predict the level of happiness a person might experience.

Case in point.  My parents have been divorced for the last 20 years or so.  My mother is very pushy and demanding regarding how things should be.  In my youth she was not content with our family dynamic and we were forced to endure years of "family therapy" with a therapist who eventually had his license revoked because he was a complete schlub in the field of family counseling and therapy.

Mom eventually filed for divorce because my father was unable to live up to the standards that she expected.  The process of the divorce was long and Mom continually demanded more than she was allowed by law to receive.  Dad relented on some points but it left bad juju for any sort of compromise in the future for anything.  At my wedding they did not greet each other much less spend any time catching up.  There was an uncomfortable tension between the two of them.  I decided to not let that get in the way of having a good time.

Dad is a very accomplished lawyer (I have come to find out that he is highly respected in the state for his ethics and abilities,) and also just plugs along doing the best that he can.  He has since remarried to a wonderful woman.  They are both very much in love and even through trials and tribulations they are committed to each other.

Mom, on the other hand has no work experience save for some time working in an overpriced junk shop and for a large furniture retailer.  She has had at least one long term relationship that crashed and burned since the divorce. She sets high expectations for others but is willing to let her own shortcomings become the excuse for poor behavior.

This is the dynamic that I grew up with from an early age.  It was the basis of my own rage and addictions that I have since come to grips with and will continue to work on over the duration of my life.

Last night I get a call from Mom.  Because of her refusal to listen to me or my brothers she has buried herself into a mountain of debt that has resulted in her receiving a summons from a credit card company to appear in court to settle the debt.  She has no money and is in a panic.  Mom wanted to speak to my father before going to a lawyer.  On behalf of my mother I (reluctantly) emailed my father and asked him if he was willing to at least talk to Mom.  His response was simple, "Don't expect a timely response."

I could see this coming.  I think everybody could.  One of my older brother's is making plans to have Mom move in with them as a back up plan, "just in case."

This relates to my current relationship with my ex-wife.  She is much like my mother.  Demanding of others but willing to let her own shortcomings take her off the hook for bad behavior.

The other day Jen decided that it was time to take my inventory because I had come up short on stuff that needed to be done to get the house up for sale.  Since I have to pay half of the mortgage and second mortgage on top of my own rent and expenses and still pay child support I think I deserve a little slack as I have to work 3 jobs to make it happen.

Rather than just tell me what needed to be done she began to berate me for those things not being done from last year. I decided not to engage on her level and shut her down.  "Don't take my inventory. It pisses me off and you are not allowed to do such things.  If it continues I will not only leave this situation but I will forgo paying half of the mortgage and just pay you full child support and you can figure out how to pay for it." 

I was not joking and she knew it.  In matters of emotion and responsibility I do not fuck around. 

I cannot tell what Jen's future is going to look like in terms of relationships.  But if I had to go on what I see from the past, she is going to end up broke, alone and scared.

I am not sure if my response will be timely either...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nostalgic Views of days gone by...

I saw a picture of Bob Dylan sitting with a child at a lunch table with what appeared to be a punch top beer can.  My earliest recollections of  beer in cans was of my dad opening a can of beer with a can punch.  For those not familiar with this it was an opener with a bottle opener on one end and a can punch on the other.  You may see these used to open large cans of pineapple juice.

Anyway, this brought me back to a time when you needed tools to enjoy the beverages you desire and Coke came in a glass bottle not the plastics we so love these days.  You needed a bottle opener and every shop and house had a bottle opener mounted just under the kitchen counter.  My favorites were the original coke opener but I also liked the Orange Crush opener.

Orange pop as a kid was the real treat.  A bottle of Orange Crush was given to me to calm me down after a car accident.  A large semi truck was turning out of a gas station that my grandmother was pulling into.  The side of the tractor clipped the bumper of the car and the trailer fell over on top of the car trapping me in the back seat.  I was unharmed but covered in glass and not at all happy about it.  The station attendant opened the pop pop machine and I got my own bottle to enjoy while my grandmother had it out with the driver of the truck.

Punch tops and glass bottles... That is what the world is missing!

New Duds

I hate clothes shopping.  

Always have.

So when I find something I like (in terms of clothes) I will wear it threadbare then use duct tape (or whatever means possible) to extend the life of said item.

I was a devotee of Dickie's brand jeans.  They were cheap and I could find my size at Kaplan Brothers in Minneapolis.  The quality was somewhat questionable but I could wear them out and get another pair quickly and easily.

Enter Duluth Trading Company.  Well before their advertising blitz of "Ballroom Jeans" and "Longtail T-shirts" to cover plumbers butt I was ordering from them.

The first item I purchased from them was a pair of overalls.  They were durable and solved the plumbers butt issue without adding additional length to anything.  There are more than enough pockets to carry everything a guy needs.

My favorite pair of pants that they sell are the Logging Pants.  The extra layer of denim over the front legs makes for a pair of pants that will never wear through.  I have two pair of these and they are what I wear exclusively.  They are worn threadbare but with no holes in knees, pockets or crotches.

However, the denim variety that they had no longer exists.  They do have a "Firehose" version of the pants and I will be getting two pair of these pants to see how I like them and a single pair of the "Ballroom Jeans" to try but nothing beats the Logging Denim Jeans.

As a fact, I have short legs.  For being six feet tall, my legs are 28 inches long.  My 5'6" wife has longer legs.  Therefore the following endorsement is key to making my life easier.

Their Long Tail T-shirts are easily the best shirts I have ever worn.  They are made of a heavier cotton blend and are long enough to cover my butt crack much to the enjoyment of all those dear to me.

I still hate clothes shopping.

Quality clothes makes the task of doing so few and far between.