Mike Kenzie

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since May 27, 2016
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forest garden fungi foraging bike homestead
Gardener, historian, farmer, mycologist.
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Recent posts by Mike Kenzie

After doing several years of deep research on composting worms & then after several years of hands-on experimentation & lots of success, I have come to intimately understand what composting worms like to eat & what they do not like to eat. I created this one-page What To Feed Composting Worms (& what NOT to feed them) document so that my friends, family members, & worm composting clients can print it out & keep it next to their kitchen compost pail so they know what their composting worms will like to eat & what they will not.

The front page includes the "YES! Foods" while the back page includes the "NO! foods" so that the document can be printed out front-and-back on a single page. Some folks like to laminate the page so it lasts longer so that it may also be useful for future guests or new roommates.

Personally, I use two kitchen compost pails: one compost pail for the YES! foods kitchen scraps that go to feeding my worms & the other compost pail for NO! foods kitchen scraps that end up in my other compost systems: keyhole gardens, compost tumblers, bokashi, etc.

Thank you in advance for supporting this work of helping to get more folks composting in my community & around the globe. :-)

Low resolution sample; legible high-resolution download available upon purchase:

PS- This document can also be found in my How-to Build a Worm Bin Design Plans.
5 days ago
Awesome reply Heather! I love Formidable Vegetable Sound System! Yes, I will add music & music videos to the original post.
Those books look great too; I'll definitely check them out. Thanks. :-)
1 week ago
[tongue-in-cheek]In support of the mission and vision of permies for world domination of our expanding permaculture empire, I feel that it is imperative that we indoctrinate the brains of our youth with permaculture ideas and philosophy.[/tongue-in-cheek]

Currently, I have been taking my 1-year-old outside and into our garden and to the farm every chance I get. The only media this little one has had access to during this first year of life are carefully selected books. To my chagrin, that is being slowly and inevitably changing as my 1-year-old is introduced to "screen time" by other family members, friends, and play-date families. Now, I understand that books are also a "technology" with plenty of their own pitfalls and shortcomings. Also, I personally view technology as neutral and totally understand that screen time is inevitable in this day in age. That said I'd like my child to be as connected to nature as much as possible. I also understand that there are times that it's not ideal to be out in nature foraging and gardening and such like on rainy days, holidays, play dates at other peoples' houses, etc. IMO, there are times when media (films, books, TV shows, music & music videos, comics, magazines, online video channels, board games, - dare I even say... video games?, VR?, AR?, etc.) can be appropriate.

From the permacultural paradigm lens, this media "problem" opens up a world of potential solutions, prime among them being the ability for media producers, parents, aunts & uncles, and friends to get permaculture ideas into the brains of the youth!

I have started this thread so that it may be a place of sharing media designed for children (of various ages) that introduce and educate them into the regenerative permaculture paradigm and/or sustainable-green permacultural-ish paradigm.

Present-day modern media are welcome, as are back-in-the-day media as many folks are also adept at finding out-of-print media from libraries and shadow libraries.

Allow me to give an example of the ideal post for this thread which will give 1. the name of the educational object, 2. the appropriate age range for its use, and 3. a description of why it's good for raising permaculture children:

From Bears and Trees to Mushrooms and Bees: A Children's Book by David Marshall with Paul Stamets.
Suitable for readers ages 4–12

I like that the authors focus on the interconnectedness of ecosystems and how we have positive, solutions available to us to make a better world. Paul Stamets, one of the authors, has repeatedly and explicitly promoted permaculture for many years.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest motion picture
G (General Audiences) – All ages admitted (MPAA).

Admittedly, I haven't seen this film in decades, but I seem to remember it having a pretty environmentally conscious message.
1 week ago

Denise Kersting wrote:Looking for anyone that uses waste veggie oil (WVO) for their converted diesel vehicle. I'm love to hear best practices for filtering with the least amount of mess. All benefits and downsides. Feasibility of small-scale operations. Space requirements for storage. I'd love to consider WVO for our diesel van, but space is an issue. We live in an old neighborhood and only have a 1-car garage for storage that was built when model-t's were the rage. TIA!

Hi Denise,
I've been running WVO as well as biodiesel in my two-tank setup successfully since 2015. Thus far I've driven tens of thousands of miles on it, saved tons of money, produced less toxic emissions, kept the carbon within the carbon cycle (the plants used to grow the fuel inhale the carbon dioxide emitted by the exhaust), and have been reaping the benefits for years.

Sourcing is simple: order a meal, be nice, eat, ask for a manager or the head cook, be polite and request some WVO. This has worked for me 100% of the time.

The best practice for filtering and dewatering used cooking oil is to use a centrifuge. Other techniques do not remove sufficient water and the centrifuge will save you from buying too many on-board WVO filters as the centrifuge filters particulates to smaller than the micron rating of on-board filters. The only downside is the up-front cost of the centrifuge.

I collected, filtered, dewatered, and ran on WVO for 3 years as a nomad. I've got the small space situation dialed in!

Small-scale is the way to go. "Scaling up" was sooo 20th century. My vertical filtration setup is about 6 feet tall with a 2 foot square footprint.

One can store dirty vegetable oil in the 5-gallon carboys they originally came in (my preference), plastic drums, or in intermediate bulk containers (IBC). My best practice for space efficiency is to filter the dirty veggie oil from a 5 gallon carboy as soon as I get it and store the resulting clean veggie oil in my vehicle's WVO tank. Much more space efficient this way.

Hope this helps. Happy greasing.
1 week ago

Sebastian Wolff wrote:Thanks Mike for such an in-depth response.
Thats great news and confirmed by Paul Stamets book that few did get some negative effects.
Have you had any experience on growing on the stumps?
Im quite familiar with Eucalyptuses rapid regrowth from stumps.
Could or does it work?


You're welcome Sebastian.
Yes, growing culinary mushrooms on stumps does work.
As far as the re-growth is concerned, I recommend lopping off the shoots with pruners until the tree gives up and dies. As Chicken-of-the-Woods is a parasite-saprophyte, one strategy might be to inoculate the stump with your local Iberian Laetiporus and having its mycelium aid in your battle against the tree's death throes.
It works, the thing to remember though is that there is still a lot of food (woody root mass) underneath the stump that needs to be consumed by the mycelium before it will fruit mushrooms. Depending on the size of the stump and its root mass it may be several years before you see mushrooms fruiting from the inoculated stump. The reward for your patience may be many years - possibly even decades - of mushrooms... :-)
1 month ago
In my experience shiitakes perform best on Eucalyptus.

And... on the other subject that will inevitably be brought up...

I grow culinary mushrooms on Eucalyptus spp and eat 'em. Before I did though, I did some due diligence deep research and this is what I came up with:

The great majority of people who eat properly cooked Chicken-of-the-Woods enjoy the culinary experience. A small minority of people can get an upset stomach from Chicken-of-the-Woods due to the mushroom’s phenylethylamine alkaloids and / or due to undercooking their mushrooms.

Chicken-of-the-Woods is a wood-loving parasite and saprophyte. As it kills a tree and then consumes its decaying remains, it molecularly disassembles the compounds in the tree in an enzymatic process known as lysis.

Chicken-of-the-Woods is often found growing on trees in the genus Eucalyptus.

Living Eucalyptus trees exhibit allelopathic effects which inhibit the growth of nearby plant species. Eucalyptus trees are often a targeted by native plant enthusiasts (outside Australia) due to this tendency.

Eucalyptol (the major portion of eucalyptus oil) is used in cuisine for its pleasant fragrance and taste. Eucalyptus oil is also used as an herbal medicine (including by traditional Aboriginal people). It is enjoyed in food in small doses. In higher doses, eucalyptus additive oil flavorings can sometimes cause gastric upset in some people.

There is no current scientific evidence of Eucalyptus oils making their way into mushroom fruit bodies in quantities large enough to cause gastric upset. In fact, saprophytic fungi (like Chicken-of-the-Woods and shiitake) are known to denature aromatics in their substrates.

There appears to be an inference that exists that claims the allelopathic compounds or oils in Eucalyptus trees may be to blame for for people’s upset stomachs after eating Chicken-of-the-Woods that had been growing on trees in this genus. There is no study yet proving or disproving the inference that either the oils or allelopathic compounds that are inhibiting surrounding plant growth are A. being uptaken by the mushrooms nor B. the cause of the tummy aches in the folks consuming them.

In Australia, native home of the genus Eucalyptus, shiitake mushrooms are grown commercially in large quantities on tree species in this genus. In fact, Field and Forest (a major mushroom spawn supplier in North America) lists that shiitake can be grown on Eucalyptus logs (https://www.fieldforest.net/category/growing-outdoors#logs).

Under-cooked shiitake mushrooms can cause a rash (shiitake flagellate dermatitis) in a minority of people.

In blind taste tests, Australian chefs prefer the flavor and aroma of shiitake mushrooms grown on Eucalyptus wood and offer them to the public all the time. The implication here being that culinary mushrooms are in fact uptaking some of the micronutrients from certain respective wood species. However, Australian chefs - being adept at thoroughly and properly cooking mushrooms - do not complain about upset tummies from eating shiitake mushrooms grown on their preferred wood species: Eucalyptus.

I have personally spoken with many people who have enjoyed their experience eating culinary mushrooms grown on Eucalyptus wood and I have (anecdotally) never met a person who has claimed to have gotten an upset tummy from eating any Chicken-of-the-Woods or shiitake mushroom or any other culinary mushroom (eg. oysters) growing on Eucalyptus. Not that these upset tummies aren’t out there, they just appear to be in a small minority and the exact cause of the upset has yet to be pinpointed (Undercooking? Personal allergy to a particular mushroom species? Eucalyptus oil or compound?). One local mushroom forager and cultivator I spoke with who eats lots of culinary mushrooms, including plenty from Eucalyptus, reports no ill effects from eating Chicken-of-the-Woods or shiitake mushrooms growing from these trees and recommends to those concerned that this might be the cause of their upset tummies to “throw the first flush of the mushrooms on the inoculated Eucalyptus out as the first flush often contains the highest concentration of the wood’s compounds. Then test out the second flush – with a well-cooked, small quantity – and see how your body handles it.”

After all this deep research and numerous personal very tasty, happy tummy meals from culinary mushrooms grown on Eucalyptus I therefore concluded that:

Most people who eat properly cooked Chicken-of-the-Woods, shiitakes, and other culinary mushrooms grown on Eucalyptus wood have a delectably positive experience and Australian chefs seek these Eucalyptus-grown culinary mushrooms out for their superior flavors and aromas.

Some people get upset tummies or rashes eating certain culinary mushrooms that a majority of people do not have issues metabolizing, likely because the offending mushrooms were undercooked. Best practice: if it’s your first time eating a new-to-you culinary mushroom species, be sure to thoroughly cook it and just eat a small quantity first and see how your body reacts before eating more.

Not only is there no scientific evidence that the oils or alellopathic compounds of Eucalyptus trees are the cause of people’s upset tummies after having eaten a culinary mushroom growing from one these woods, it’s more likely that these saprophytic mushroom’s enzymatic process of lysis is actually converting these compounds into scrumptious flavors and aromas and that some folks are either not thoroughly cooking their mushrooms or are possibly allergic to a certain mushroom species.

Below is a photo of shiitakes fruiting on a Eucalyptus totem from a log inoculation workshop I held last February. A participant took this inoculated bolt home and just sent me this photo a couple of weeks ago. He and his whole family harvested, properly cooked and ate the shiitakes from the growing from the Eucalyptus we inoculated. They enjoyed the flavor of the Eucalyptus-grown shiitake mushrooms and did not report any tummy aches.
1 month ago
Marine Fungi

Wikipedia wrote:Marine fungi are species of fungi that live in marine or estuarine environments. They are not a taxonomic group, but share a common habitat. Obligate marine fungi grow exclusively in the marine habitat while wholly or sporadically submerged in sea water. Facultative marine fungi normally occupy terrestrial or freshwater habitats, but are capable of living or even sporulating in a marine habitat. About 444 species of marine fungi have been described, including seven genera and ten species of basidiomycetes, and 177 genera and 360 species of ascomycetes. The remainder of the marine fungi are chytrids and mitosporic or asexual fungi. Many species of marine fungi are known only from spores and it is likely a large number of species have yet to be discovered. In fact, it is thought that less than 1% of all marine fungal species have been described, due to difficulty in targeting marine fungal DNA and difficulties that arise in attempting to grow cultures of marine fungi. It is impracticable to culture many of these fungi, but their nature can be investigated by examining seawater samples and undertaking rDNA analysis of the fungal material found.

Different marine habitats support very different fungal communities. Fungi can be found in niches ranging from ocean depths and coastal waters to mangrove swamps and estuaries with low salinity levels. Marine fungi can be saprobic or parasitic on animals, saprobic or parasitic on algae, saprobic on plants or saprobic on dead wood.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_fungi
1 month ago
Pre-Columbian earth-builders settled along the entire southern rim of the Amazon

Gregorio de Souza, et al. wrote:The discovery of large geometrical earthworks in interfluvial settings of southern Amazonia has challenged the idea that Pre-Columbian populations were concentrated along the major floodplains. However, a spatial gap in the archaeological record of the Amazon has limited the assessment of the territorial extent of earth-builders. Here, we report the discovery of Pre-Columbian ditched enclosures in the Tapajós headwaters. The results show that an 1800 km stretch of southern Amazonia was occupied by earth-building cultures living in fortified villages ~Cal AD 1250–1500. We model earthwork distribution in this broad region using recorded sites, with environmental and terrain variables as predictors, estimating that earthworks will be found over ~400,000 km2 of southern Amazonia. We conclude that the interfluves and minor tributaries of southern Amazonia sustained high population densities, calling for a re-evaluation of the role of this region for Pre-Columbian cultural developments and environmental impact.

Source: Pre-Columbian earth-builders settled along the entire southern rim of the Amazon by Gregorio de Souza et al.
1 month ago
I have been a successful commercial worm farmer for several years now.

Typically, we worm farmers prefer epigeal worm species - worms that eat the freshly fallen leaves and decaying organic that dwell on the surface of the soil in a natural ecosystem. As our decaying kitchen scraps are most similar to this uppermost soil layer in nature, these are the worm species that preform the best in worm farming operations. Worms that live deeper down in the soil - endogeal worms - consume matter that has already been broken down by the top-dwelling, epigeal worms and also consume more "dirt" (sand, silt and clay). Generally speaking, these endogeal worms are found when you use a shovel and dig down below the surface layer of the soil. They tend to be larger and more muscular as they have be able to move in those deeper soil strata with all the weight of the upper-most soil stratum mass on top of them.

There are a handful (seven if memory serves me right) of topsoil-dwelling, epigeal worm species that are used for home-scale and farm-scale worm farming. One of the most well known and most-often used in my region is definitely the red wiggler (Eisenia fetida), though there are others that are successfully used as well.

Being permaculturists, my worm farmer friends and I have experimented with creating the proper conditions for multiple worm species (including several epigeal worm species and endogeal worm species) to thrive while having them co-exist together in custom-designed, multi-worm species worm bins. Our experiments so far have been successful. An internet search I conducted recently shows that other people around the world are also experimenting with this worm polyculture method with anecdotal success. It may be a while until we have mainstream universities and large-scale monoculture worm farmers running trials to prove the success of our anecdotes.

The polyculture tricks we've learned thus far include mimicking all the layers of nature's soil strata in our worm bins as well as adding more than one specimen of each species so that there exist several "mating pairs" of each worm species in the worm bin.

Over the years, the tricks that I have learned to be a successful worm farmer are: give the worms plenty of bedding, add minerals to their diet, add plenty of carbon, have plenty of aeration, have proper leachate drainage, monitor the temperature of their environment daily, and give them the right kinds of food that they like eating while avoiding what they don't like eating.

You can find more precise details about all this in my Worm Bin Design Plans here in the permies Digital Market.
2 months ago
Hi Trace,
Thanks for your questions.

Trace wrote:May I ask what your bin is made of? Is it wood or made from a plastic bin or?

I use the plastic heavy duty storage totes from the hardware store to make my worm bins.

I would love to make one out of wood, however I do not have enough experience with wood working nor the necessary tools. Though a wood worker could easily use all of the main design principles in these Worm Bin Design Plans that I have made (proper aeration, proper drainage, horizontal flow partitions) to create a wooden worm bin. I would recommend using a highly rot resistant species of wood for a worm bin as this is a composting process which has the potential to compost the compostable materials of the composter in question. Especially since there are typically saprophytic fungi present in a worm bin ecosystem. Even with rot resistant wood, the wooden worm bin would not last near as long as a plastic one. However, maybe that's a good thing for multiple reasons.

Trace wrote:I'm just trying to get an idea of the size, if it's scalable, if it would fit in the area I have available, that type of thing.

As for size, I have built worm bins with the heavy duty storage totes in the following sizes for the following applications and yes I have built scaled-up systems for clients as well:

   • 5 gallon: KIDS educational size worm bin

   • 12 gallon: ONE-person household size bin.
       ◦ Exterior dimensions (at top of bin) 21.88 in. L x 16.3 in. W x 12.5 in. H
       ◦ Interior dimensions (at bottom of bin) 15.75 in. L x 11.25 in. W x 11 in. H

   • 17 gallon TWO-person household size bin.
       ◦ Exterior dimensions (at top of tote) 26.88 in. L x 18 in. W x 12.5 in. H
   • Interior dimensions (at bottom of tote) 22.25 in. L x 13.5 in. W x 11 in. H

   • 27 gallon THREE-person household size bin.
       ◦ Exterior dimensions (at top of tote) 28.55 in. L x 19.61 in. W x 15.27 in. H
   • Interior dimensions (at bottom of tote) 23.5 in. L x 14.5 in. W x 13 in. H

   • 40 gallon FOUR-person household size bin.
       ◦ Depth (Inches) 38.19 x Width (Inches) 21.88 x Height (Inches) 16.94

   • 55 gallon LARGE FAMILY size bin.
       ◦ Exterior dimensions (at top of tote) 45.43 in. L x 21.13 in. W x 19.52 in. H
       ◦ Interior dimensions (at bottom of tote) 39 in. L x 14.75 in. W x 17.25 in. H

   • 70 gallon FAMILY FARM size bin.
       ◦ Exterior dimensions (at top of tote): 45 in. L x 23.92 in. W x 22.28 in. H
   • Interior dimensions (at bottom of tote): 34.91 in. L x 18.1 in. W x 16.72 in. H

Thanks. :-)
3 months ago