Pet Care

Imagine the instructions I’d need to give a house sitter: Please water the shiitake and mushroom logs twice a day. Feed the worms—chop the kitchen scraps first and don’t give them any meat or dairy. They love melon and don’t care much for citrus.

wrapped shiitake logEnter the well-dressed log. I made it at Mushroom Camp this past weekend in a workshop led by Benjamin Schmid, the cultivation chair of SOMA, Sonoma County Mycological Association. He said to wrap the logs in burlap but I thought dog towels should do the same job–keeping the log damp between rains. And once the rains stop, we are to douse the log twice daily with rainwater or non-chlorinated water. My procrastinated project of collecting rainwater has just been put on a fast track. I hope.

After I wrapped the log, I threw rainwater on it. Then realized the water had some garden soil in it. Not good. The soil microbes might contaminate my new log. Luckily, a downpour just started so the towels and log should get a good soaking. Whether it took me all of 24-hours since the log moved in to wreck it I should know in only about 10 months.

On the right, the moldy-looking bits are, I hope, mycellium sprouting.

On the right, the moldy-looking bits are, I hope, mycelium sprouting.

The oyster mushroom log which we made in another of Benjamin Schmid’s workshops is hiding in a closet. It needs a room temperature of about 70 degrees F to begin fruiting. Hard to achieve around this house. Once it starts doing its thing, I’ll need to find a place to hang it and water it 2x day.

rain gear for worm boxMeanwhile, I inherited a worm composting box from my neighbor. I had a homemade one years ago which worked fine except that it had no valve for siphoning off the worm liquor, a miracle garden fertilizer. We got tired of the brown puddle oozing from the wooden box and eventually threw everything out. Now San Francisco picks up green waste, but having a worm box or your own compost bin means you keep all that organic matter for your own garden.

I read the directions on the box lid (which is not water tight requiring the weather proofing you see here) and discovered that for all those years that I had a box, I had been doing it wrong. I was supposed to be chopping the scraps. Once again Mom was right. Years ago I had given her a Vita Mix and all she used it for was to burr up kitchen scraps for her compost pile! Now I have my own BlendTec blender and could do the same. The blender’s willing but I’m not ready to add composting to its list of chores.

After a weekend of storms, I checked on the worms and they were swimming. I have no idea how all that water got in. I opened the valve and drained off about a half-gallon of water. I’ve added bedding and some more food. The worms do seem to be gaining weight and multiplying. Those are good signs.  And I’ve added a trash bag under the tarp for extra weather-proofing. Between storms this week, I’ll need to keep checking to make sure they are all okay. Another instruction for the house sitter: If it rains, make sure the worms don’t drown.

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I am a veteran cook, but I always avoided making bread. I recently took Penni’s hands-on class for no-knead bread and, in a matter of hours, I produced a beautiful, plump, round loaf that was worthy of display in a bakery. And, it tasted great!

-Robin Wirthlin San Francisco

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

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