Mountain Man Rendezvous on Petit Jean Mountain ope…

Mountain Man Rendezvous on Petit Jean Mountain open to the public today! Stop by and say hi to Jen.


(Mostly) Wild Mushrooms

This post has been a long time in the making, mostly due to procrastination. During our year and a half on the homestead, we have found many different types of mushrooms. We only photographed a small portion of them. I’ve decided to post the more interesting ones here. They are interesting to us, maybe common to everyone else. Maybe nobody else even cares about mushrooms.

I am not a mycophille. I don’t know much about mushrooms. The one thing that I am absolutely sure of is that some mushrooms can make you extremely ill. Some can kill. Be careful with mushrooms. Don’t eat any mushroom unless you are absolutely positive that it is safe to do so. The only wild mushroom that I have ever eaten is the coral. I probably won’t do that again.

I welcome any information on the mushrooms listed below.


Most of the mushrooms posted here are wild. The first is the exception. We intentionally grew these oyster mushrooms. We bought a kit from a place called Fungi Perfecti. The kit was basically a plastic bag full of sawdust. All we had to do was cut some holes in the plastic, hang a separate plastic bag (included) over the bag of sawdust, and mist it with water a couple of times per day. The first “flush” of mushrooms was spectacular. The second wasn’t. Sautéed, the oyster mushrooms have the texture and even taste of – you guessed it – oysters. We used some of the mushrooms as a topping on this pesto sauce based pizza. The mushrooms held up well, and gave the pizza a wonderful flavor.


I’m not sure what type of mushroom this is. These pictures are of the same mushroom. As you can see, it was a rather large mushroom. It reminded me of the mushrooms that the Smurfs lived in. It lasted a long time before eventually decomposing into mush.





Jack – O – Lanterns?

These were growing in clumps close to one another. After much researching, I think that these could be Jack-O-Lanterns. These pictures aren’t doing their color justice. They really stood out. I found out a little too late that Jack-O-Lanterns glow a little in the dark. I would have liked to see that.






Deadly Angels?

For some reason, I think that these may be called “Angel of Death.” I am probably wrong. I don’t know much about mushrooms, but I read somewhere that if the stalk has a ring around it, then it is poisonous. Actually, there are so many that are poisonous, that I just assume that most wild ones are poisonous. These were very pretty, and they grew in, what was to me, a very interesting pattern. In the first picture, you can see that there were three of them. Two were close to each other and appeared to be in the same stage of maturity. The third was growing away from the other two, and it appeared to be slightly behind the other two in maturing.


After researching these strange looking mushrooms, I felt confident enough to eat them. I believe that they are called “coral” mushrooms. The look is unique enough that I didn’t see how I could have them confused for anything else. The literature said they weren’t poisonous. I cut them up, sautéed them, and mixed them into scrambled eggs. They were very good, and had a nice, chewy texture. I learned from this experience that soaking a mushroom in salt water helps to remove insects. These had plenty of bugs. I found more and put them in the fridge. Didn’t slow the bugs down. They hatched anyway. It was enough to keep me from eating any more.

Little Brown Mushrooms

These small brown mushrooms were growing on a log behind our camper. I have found these all over the homestead. I’m not sure what kind they are, so of course I didn’t eat them. Some of the research I conducted led me to believe that they are simply called “little brown mushrooms.” The general consensus is not to eat little brown mushrooms, so I didn’t. I didn’t even eat the coral mushrooms growing in the same area.



Turkey Tails?

These mushrooms fruited out of some sticks of wood that I cut for our wood stove. They were tough and dry, almost woodlike. I’m not sure what they were. We see this type of mushroom all over the homestead, like these growing out of a fallen tree.




The Great Unknowns

These were pretty enough, and very large. Again, this is another mushroom that I have yet to identify.









These were perhaps the strangest mushrooms we have found up to this point. I have no idea

what kind they are, but I believe the picture on the left is of the immature form of the mushroom and that the picture on the right is of the mature form. Any ideas?






More Little Brown Mushrooms

Another, as of yet, unidentified mushroom. They were small and far enough off white that they could be called brown. However, they were not the same as the little brown mushrooms a little farther up the page. These were tiny. I’m not sure how large they would have been when fully mature because they were in the driveway. The F350 is not mushroom friendly.

Weird Randomness

This is the first of two posts that are mostly pictures. We took lots of pictures this year but haven’t shared many. Comments are welcome!

We see lots of what we consider weird things on the homestead. Sometimes we are able to take a picture or two of the weirdness. Sometimes we aren’t. We try to have a least one camera between us whenever we are outside.

November Snake

Bear Scratches?

I have no idea what kind of caterpillar this could possibly be.

I have seen this kind of flying insect before. It reminds me of a helicopter.

Weird worm working its way across the driveway.

Joe says he has heard these called “cat grapes”. I don’t know what they are, but they grow on a vine that has leaves like a muscadine. Therefore, we used them to make wine. When in doubt, make wine. That’s our philosophy. They were very tart until just a week or so ago.






Ok, so this isn’t anything weird. It’s just our baby doing his thing down in the clearing by the little cabin. Perfect place to camp if anyone is interested.

Couple of pics of the only Praying Mantis that we have seen on the homestead. Well, it’s actually the second. The first was two small and fast to end up on this page.








Weird pink striped worm.

Little brown snake under the lawn mower.

Extremely long spider web. I’m not sure where the upper end was attached.

Weird spider hanging around the dog pen.

I planted these peas after sprouting them for the goats. The goats didn’t like them as sprouts, but loved them as plants. They ate them all while Jennifer was supposed to be watching them.

Paw Paw. Not yours or mine – the kind you eat. Something had already taken a bite out of this one when I found it.

Mars rover? No. Brightly covered walking stick traversing the driveway. We saw hundreds over the course of the summer. Kinda creepy when they fall out of a tree and land on your head.

Little frog perched on a water hose. Not sure why it is covered with sand. We assume it was one of the thousands that hatched in the pond.

Chicken snake being escorted from the cabin. It liked the cabin so much that it came back later that night. Last time I saw it, it was in the wall. Is it a coincidence that we haven’t had a mouse problem this year? We have to check under the covers before climbing into bed, but we prefer the thought of one non-poisonus snake over dozens of pooping mice.

Weird spider on the front porch.

Weird fungus of some sort.

Some sort of poisonus snake that was trying to get into the chicken tractor when I caught it. I relocated and released it.

I don’t like killing animals unless absolutely necessary. I felt that it was necessary in this case. Read Cowboys and Indians for more info on this 4 foot rattlesnake.

Ok, somebody care to tell me how Jen took this picture? LOL. I hope she was stopped. I also hope she wasn’t driving backward. I have seen many deer cross in front of me while I’m driving, but I’ve never looked up in the rearview mirror and seen one crossing – I’m usually more focused on what is going on in front of me. But it’s a cool picture. Notice that neither Jen or the deer seem to be in a hurry?

Some weird bug out by the garden.

A squash bug. Still looking for an environmentally friendly, organic method of removing these little dudes.

A potato bug on a potato plant. Potato bugs decimated our potatoes this year. I will be ready for them next year. So will the chickens.

Every Day Surprises

October 11, 2013, was full of surprises. Too bad it took me so long to actually post this.

The pain in my back was technically not a surprise. It was a surprise yesterday, so I assumed it would still be with me today. On the other hand, I hadn’t really planned on having back pain today, so, I still consider it a surprise.

Second surprise of the day was hearing one of our chickens trying to crow. I guess it’s a difficult thing to do if you’ve never heard it done before. He’s working away at it in the mornings now. Just thought I would share.

Even with the pain, I found out that I could still get around pretty well with a walking stick. Since Jennifer worked last night, my morning chores included letting the goats graze; feeding the chickens and ducks; feeding the cats; letting the dogs out, feeding them, and putting them back up; feeding myself; and then lying back down to rest my back. Sometimes the pain was so bad that I thought I would have to add changing my pants to my list of chores.

After resting for some time, I decided to do some writing. I took my Chromebook out to the truck. I thought that if I reclined the seat far enough that maybe it wouldn’t hurt too bad to sit up. It actually worked. After writing for a couple of hours, I found that my back felt much better than it did before I started writing. So I took the dogs for a very short walk.

On the walk I ran into a couple of surprises. I managed to see this little snake. Since the temp was a little cool, he was moving a little slowly. He remained still long enough for me to take this pic.

A little further up the road, I found the next surprise. I found three or four of these little green things on the road. They were under a vine that had bloomed earlier this summer. When I inquired about the blooms on Facebook at that time, I was told that they were passion fruit. Being a very astute person, I deduced that these must be passion fruit. They looked roughly the same shape as a paw paw, but I knew that they weren’t paw paws. They were not nearly as dense as a paw paw. I opened one up. It had a bunch of seeds inside, each covered with a mostly clear membrane. I snapped a pic, posted it on Facebook, and waited for a response.

While waiting, I trudged on down to the dog pen. Actually, it was just a dog fence. A pen would imply that it was a structure that would keep dogs in. Since it had no gate, it didn’t do a very good job of that. So I hobbled around and managed to get a gate put up. Then I had to put something around the bottom of the entire pen to keep the dogs from digging out. While doing so, I would sometimes get a whiff of something that smelled familiar, but not unpleasant. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that it was the smell of muscadines. I made a note to check it out once I finished the pen.

Finally it was done. I tricked the dogs into walking into the pen. With verbal commands, some fast hobbling, some visual trickery, a dose of baby talk, and with some convincing from my walking sticks, I managed to get out while keeping the dogs in. I closed the gate and set out for the source which had made my olfactory senses curious.

It didn’t take long to track the smell. I knew which way the wind was blowing whenever I smelled it.

I was surprised to find a large patch of muscadines just inside the tree line which surrounds the open area around our cabin. I tried a couple. They are just right. Hobbling around the pond, I found two more patches of the wild grapes. If Jen brings a bucket and a bag of sugar home with her tomorrow, I will start another bucket of wine. That will make three buckets of muscadine wine. Here is a picture of the dog pen and cabin taken from the muscadine patch. It was right in front of us!

After finding all of those muscadines, I set out to make my dinner. I cooked rice and something out of a pouch that was pretty close to Chana Masala. I also had a yellow tomato and a black bell pepper from the garden to round out the meal.

While waiting for dinner to finish, I fed the dogs, the birds, and the cats. I also checked on the wine. Both buckets were bubbling surprisingly fast. One has been going for a couple of weeks. The other has been going for only a few days. Too bad we have to wait so long for the wine to be ready. Luckily we have enough blackberry wine to get us through until then.

Dinner was surprisingly good. So was the beer. The yellow tomato was very sweet and very juicy. It’s odd to bite into a yellow tomato. One would expect a yellow tomato to taste funny, but it tasted just like a red tomato. The black bell pepper was small. It was black on the outside, but just as green on the inside as any other bell pepper. The difference between it and a store bought pepper, other than the color, was the taste. It had a very strong flavor, and was sweet but a little spicy as well. I would rate it as excellent.

Meanwhile, I received a reply to my query about the green fruit I found. It was passion fruit after all. The last surprise of the night came when I tried one. It was very good. I went back up the hill to see if I could find some still on the vine. In the fading light, I found only one. I’m told that they are better after they turn yellow. I hope it stays on the vine until it turns yellow. I would be surprised if it does.

Hunting for Breakfast

Jennifer and I were hunting grasshoppers this morning. We weren’t alone.

I catch grasshoppers and throw them to the chickens and ducks. The birds like to eat them. They know what I am going to do as I approach their enclosure. I’m not really sure how they know, unless they watch me and understand what I am doing. That seems like a lot of brainwork for an animal with such a small brain, but I’m not sure how else they would know.

Anyway, I run around like a crazy man trying to catch the insects. They are fast in the summer. They are fast in the fall. They aren’t quite as fast in November. Cold mornings make them move slowly. Yesterday’s extremely warm temperature woke them up. This morning’s cold slowed them down. They were still hard for me to catch.

I did manage to catch a few. The bigger ones were the slowest. I would catch one, and throw it in the enclosure. One of the chickens would catch it. All of the birds would start screaming and running after the one who had caught it. This is the kind of thing that passes for excitement on the homestead – for the birds anyway.

We did get a little excitement during the exercise. I found a little garter snake. I guess yesterday’s warm weather woke him up as well. He was so well camouflaged that I almost stepped on him before I saw him.

I took a few pictures of him. I was able to get very close. I mistakenly assumed that he was mostly immobile due to the cold weather. I was wrong.

When he was tired of posing for me, he took off as quickly as any snake I have ever seen. He quickly hid himself among the leaves.

I guess Jen and I weren’t the only ones hunting for grasshoppers this morning. I guess our birds weren’t the only ones hoping for a grasshopper breakfast.

Moral Bearings

Bear season is well under way in Arkansas. It opened on October 1, 2013 and will continue until November 30 or until the quota of bears have been legally reported as killed – whichever comes first. Due to the limit, bear season may already be over.

We were worried that someone would get “our” bears. We saw some tracks back in the spring which indicated that there are possibly two bears who call our homestead home. But, we are encouraged by the tracks that I found last week.

The people who have a deer camp across from us bait bear, and the people across the creek from us also appear to be bear hunters. Therefore, we know that “our” bears might not make it through the season.

I’m not sure why anyone would want to intentionally set out to kill a bear – at least not a black bear in Arkansas. Black bears are mostly vegetarian, reclusive, and generally good neighbors. As a rule, they don’t kill livestock, pets, or people. The only time they appear outwardly aggressive is when they are protecting their cubs against perceived threats. There seems to be no reason that a person should desire to kill a black bear unless it is being overly aggressive. But that’s just how I see it.

However, since I have a very libertarian philosophy on life, I will not attempt to impose my morals on others. If a person feels that it is moral to kill a black bear, even for sport, then that is their prerogative. I will not help them do so, and I won’t allow it on my property – that is my prerogative. Everyone has their own set of morals. Morals are funny – none are “right” and none are “wrong”. Morals are subjective. Just like beauty, morals are in the eye of the beholder.

We hope “our” bears make it. We have never seen them. We have only seen their tracks and an occasional claw mark. We just feel a little better knowing that they are here.

So Much for Self Sufficiency, a Farm Under Fire

As a disclaimer, we are vegetarian and therefore don’t participate in farming animals for meat. However, we believe that small farms are much more humane and ethical than intensive farming operations, as factory farms like to be called.


I don’t know Mark Baker, but I have met someone who does.  I am saddened that our government is sticking it to the small farmer.  I don’t know if they are working with Big Pork to eliminate competition from small farms who are able to fill a niche market, but no matter what the letter of declaration describing the types of pigs that are considered feral would encompass almost all types of pigs.  I would however guess that it was written so that pork grown at large industrial feed lots are exempt.  I don’t think, at least I hope that those at the Michigan DNR who are enforcing this are bad people or acting maliciously, but whoever approved this prohibition is either in cahoots with Big Pork or is poorly advised.  As someone who would like to have a small hobby farm, and be able to raise my own food…

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