Growing Mushrooms for Beginners (The Simple Introduction You Need)

Have you ever been interested in growing mushrooms?

I’ll be totally honest. I’ve thought about learning to identify and forage for mushrooms for quite a while- but I’ve never even considered growing my own. In fact, I found the idea somewhat intimidating.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to keep the blog running!

I was offered a copy of Growing Mushrooms for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms at Home by Sarah Dalziel-Kirchhevel in exchange for my honest review on Amazon. When given the opportunity, I decided to say yes. After all, I might learn a new skill- and, as the author says, “Once you have a skill, no one can take it from you, it’s yours.”

I was so glad I said yes. Really, I was the perfect test subject to read this book, since I have never before attempted to cultivate fungi of any sort. After reading through Sarah’s book, I felt much more confident that I would be able to grow mushrooms at home.

I was not asked or required to write this blog post, but I really enjoyed the book and felt that some of you might benefit from it.

What is covered in Growing Mushrooms for Beginners?

This book is a beautiful, inspiring guide that covers everything you need to know to begin growing mushrooms in almost any imaginable space.

Sarah begins with a step-by-step cultivation guide, explaining everything about the process of growing mushrooms, from choosing the right variety for your circumstances, to harvesting and cooking with your fungal bounty. If you’ve never heard the words “substrate,” “spawn,” “plugs,” or “inoculation,” never fear. Sarah tells you everything you need to know without overwhelming you.

There’s a special section of the book called, “Meet the Mushrooms,” where you can read profiles on several common varieties for growing at home. There, you will learn the characteristics of each mushroom, its beginner friendliness level, the time commitment required for growing, and other details.

From there, the book dives into different growing mediums and fun projects that suit any type of space. Whether you’re growing on a log, in a bag of compost, in a mason jar, or even on a clean roll of toilet paper, Sarah covers what types of mushrooms do well in each environment and walks you through the cultivation and harvesting process.

Finally, the book wraps up with information on processing, cooking, and creating medicinal recipes with the delightful fruit of your labor.

What I loved about the book

I loved that this book was beginner friendly. A few reviews on Amazon from more experienced growers mentioned that the book was not the most extensive out there; however, the book was universally praised as a guide for beginners. That’s exactly what the book claims to be, and exactly what I needed.

I personally found the book inviting, disarming, informative, and very helpful. It introduced me to a new skill without intimidating me- and I call that a win.

I also adored the illustrations throughout the book. Liam O’Farrell’s quaint but accurate representations of mushrooms and growing mediums were just lovely. I kept paging through just to look at the pictures again and again.

What I’m trying based on what I learned in the book

I have decided to try growing oyster mushrooms as a first timer. This is because oysters are known for being beginner-friendly. They’re relatively fast colonizers, typically outgrow other competing fungi, and are easy to find from spore suppliers.

They may be considered the standard newbie choice, but I am okay with that! One success will lead me to trying another growing project, and eventually I might learn to work with different mediums and varieties.

Where to find the author

Sarah Dalziel-Kirchhevel is the founder of Wearing Woad, and is a partner at Joybilee Farms. She is a fiber artist and gardener from rural Canada who loves to help others grow and cook their own food.

You can purchase Growing Mushrooms for Beginners here.


How to Make Delectable Lemon-Violet Shortbread Cookies

Would you like to come over for tea and lemon-violet shortbread cookies?

Guys, I am not fancy. You can put me in a designer gown and put some foreign-named beverage in my hand, but I will most likely slop it down my front by accident. Likewise, if I try to make my food look sophisticated it usually ends up looking like a group of elementary students made it for a class project.

Close up of lemon violet shortbread cookies on top of a cutting board

That being said, these lemon-violet shortbread cookies look fancy. There’s something about delicate little violets pressed into the cookies that just makes you feel like you want to drink your tea with your pinky up. Either that, or you suddenly feel so wild and free that you’ll want to go live in the fields with the faeries. There’s that too.

Regardless of whether you feel a little more prim or a little more untamed after eating these lemon-violet shortbread cookies, rest assured they are delectable and pretty simple to make.

Purple violet flowers growing in the grass.

How to Forage for Violets

I got my violets from my yard. In the spring in Pennsylvania, these little beauties are everywhere that hasn’t been mowed or sprayed. They are easy to find and identify.

Wild violet in the grass.

Here are the main identifying features of violets:

  • Purple or blue-ish flowers are most common, though they can sometimes be yellow or white.
  • The flowers have curved petals (usually 5 of them), and they come outward from the center stem with a bit of a white “face” in the center.
  • The leaves are heart-shaped and curl up a bit around the edges.

Curled, heart shaped leaves of the wild violet flower. The heart shaped leaves of the violet flower.

Here’s more information on foraging for wild violets.

NOTE: if you are new to foraging for wild edibles, please read this post on three simple foraging rules to make sure that you are harvesting safely and responsibly.

For this recipe, we will only be picking the flowers themselves, not the stems. The leaves are also edible, though I tend to reserve them for more savory dishes.

Not only do violets look beautiful, they also taste yummy and are rich in vitamin A & C!

Purple violet flowers that have been washed and sitting in a colander.

Lemon-Violet Shortbread Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold butter (2 sticks)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Zest of one lemon
  • About 1 cup of wild violet flowers (more or less is fine), rinsed under cold water.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Cut butter into flour mixture with two knives, forks, or a pastry cutter until dough looks like coarse sand. If you prefer, you can use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed for a couple of minutes to achieve the same result.Small cubes of butter resting in a mixing bowl on top of a mixture of flour, sugar, and salt.
  4. Sprinkle in vanilla and 3 tablespoons of milk and gently press dough together with a spatula.
  5. Continue to press and gently knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together into a slightly sticky ball. Alternatively, use the paddle attachment on your mixer at low speed until dough comes together. If the dough is still slightly dry, add 1 more tablespoon of milk.A slightly sticky ball of cookie dough clumped onto the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.
  6. Split dough in half into two flat rounds. Lightly flour the dough rounds and 2 cookie sheets. Roll out dough into a 1/4″ thickness.
  7. Sprinkle lemon zest evenly over the two rounds of dough.
  8. Sprinkle violets evenly over the two rounds of dough and gently press them with your fingers to help them stick.Violets and lemon zest on top of shortbread cookie dough rolled out to 1/4" thickness.
  9. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until dough is just starting to brown up around the edges.
  10. Use a pizza cutter to cut the baked cookie dough rounds into squares- or whatever rustic looking shape you like.Lemon violet shorbread cookies, baked and cut into bite sized pieces.


Lemon-Violet shortbread cookies is a non-threatening recipe for the foraging newbie, and a delightful treat for the weed-eating professional. I hope you find them as delectable as we did!

Lemon violet shortbread cookies sitting on top of a cutting board.

If you give this recipe a try, please leave a comment and let me know how it came it out- it helps me to improve the recipe for the future!

You may also enjoy Violet Jam and a Recipe Round Up!

How to Make Lemon Violet Shortbread Cookies.


The Goats Get Schooled

Hi, folks.

It has been forever. The last post I wrote was my fourth baby’s birth story, and here we are, well over a year later. I’m sorry for up and leaving and never saying a word.

I have been missing you all dearly, and missing writing. Blogging in particular has such a nice dynamic- It’s so pleasant to share something with you, hear from you, learn from you.

Over the last several months, I’ve been wracking my brain about how to keep my foot in the blog-o-sphere. You see, I love blogging here at the Goats page (capital G because certainly those Goats have earned proper noun status by now), but it’s become clear to me that this blog has outgrown itself. Here’s what I mean.

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Home Birth of Baby W

A quick and lovely natural home birth story. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

My sweet girl. How you were a whirlwind.

The pregnancy was not an easy one for us, and it coincided with major life stresses and decisions to be made. We spent a lot of time worrying about how we were going to manage four kids, and what that would look like practically. (You can read more about that here if you’d like.) But we had made it so far, and we were working hard on preparing our hearts and minds for our little one’s arrival.

We were visiting out of town friends when I first felt the usual prelabor signs. Cramps, low back pain, diarrhea. I was about 36 weeks at the time, and given the fact that I don’t usually have my babies early (a blessing, really), I resigned myself to weeks of prodromal labor.

About 39 weeks pregnant.

And so those weeks came. On and off, I would have contractions for a few hours at a time. They weren’t particularly painful. Sometimes crampy, sometimes akin to strong Braxton hicks, sometimes regular, and sometimes sporadic, the only thing I could count on was that they would keep coming back whenever they jolly well pleased.

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Expecting Baby #4, An Almost-Move, & Nesting

Warning: Vulnerable post ahead, written with love. 🙂

We were done having kids. I had been giving away baby essentials to people who I thought needed them. I gave away the crib, the baby clothes, the maternity clothes, and the stretchy wrap. I wiped my eyes quietly and frequently when my youngest quit nursing. We were saying goodbye to the baby stage.

However, saying goodbye to the baby stage also meant saying hello to a whole new world of possibilities. The kids were old enough that we could all go out together without a stroller or diaper bag. My husband and I could pursue our music business and gigs much more easily. I was starting to feel like my body was my own again.

All dressed up for a friend’s wedding last year. 

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The Farm Girl I’m Not

This post was born out of many conversations my husband and I have had over the years. I have always dreamed of a full fledged “farm girl” life, but we’ve found that our reality has turned out to look a little different. 

In south-central Pennsylvania, not far from my grandmother’s house, there’s a sprawling valley filled with Amish and Mennonite farms. They spread out across the land like squares on a patchwork quilt. One home dotted with colorful annuals follows another, many of them with large, well-kempt barns and fields. Even the smaller properties in town have tidy backyard gardens filled with fresh produce.

Ever since I was a small girl riding in the backseat of my grandparents’ car, I watched longingly as we passed the horse-drawn buggies and long lines of color-coded laundry. I wanted a home like this one day: a big, beautiful farmhouse, carefully cared for, surrounded by animals and filled with the smell of fresh baking.

Though I didn’t grow up on a farm, I still feel it’s part of my heritage. The memories of stroking a feisty cat in the yard of my great-aunt’s farm, the time spent lurking in the barn at my old friend Grace’s house, the stories of my great-grandmother making their own way with their backyard  homestead, and even our own kitchen garden at my parents house… it all runs in my blood.

We’ve pursued so many of the skills that I saw in my own family: gardening, canning, drying herbs, tapping syrup, raising or catching animals for meat, keeping a handful of laying chickens… Over the years there has been an ebb and flow to things. Some years we are bursting with homestead projects and responsibilities; some years we struggle with burnout and accomplish very little.

My reality isn’t filled with onions hung up to dry and bushels of potatoes stored for winter. My canning cupboard is rarely full. Our garden rows couldn’t be described as straight and long, and perhaps some of them were never planted at all. We’ve gave up our primary meat source last summer because it didn’t fit with our lifestyle. Our goat became a pet after a year of milking, and for now I buy my milk at the store.

Perhaps when I envisioned myself on a farm, I imagined it would be a much more monastic lifestyle. One in which I could sit and garden and sew and cook in peace, without the multitude of distractions and outside obligations.

To some, this may sound like an oppressed woman’s reality. To me, however, it speaks of the fullness of a rich and hardworking life. It doesn’t seem confining; rather, it is amazingly freeing. Imagine- the chance to live life as it really works. To be close to your food, to manage your home, to know what kind of work and love goes into every part of your daily needs and wants.

Our modern lives are distracted, fractured, and disconnected from how we eat, wash, and find shelter. Our basic needs are met with paper bills given to us by working a job that’s part of the system, rather than by the work of our own two hands. This is what is so appealing to the idea of homesteading to me: the thought that we really could connect to how we live.

And yet, in my real life, I work at three different places outside of the home. I’m a music teacher and singer. When I’m not out, I’m homeschooling my kids or trying to recover the house from it’s daily explosions. In the cracks, I spend much less time in the dirt than I would like to.

My life isn’t monastic. It’s full of people to see, places to be, and things to be done. It may seem from the outside that I am a down-home, all natural, farmy type of girl- and yes, I do love these types of things. However, in my real life I am also a busy mom who begrudgingly drives a Town and Country and stops at Wendy’s when she’s in a pinch.

Part of me mourns this current reality. I want to live quietly and happily with the weather in my face and earth on my dress. I want to be home more. I don’t want to be running from place to place.

But, as my husband reminded me, the life that we have isn’t bad. It’s just different. My days are good. Our “farmish” adventures are far from full-fledged, but I’m learning to take joy in the adventures we can have right now.

Things don’t have to be all or nothing.

Am I a farm girl? No, not really. But do I have to be? No!

In fact, I often have to remind myself that one of the secrets of happiness is to be content right where you are.


Free Ways to Organize Your Stuff

This post from the archives is meant to encourage us ALL to find free ways to organize our stuff. It’s something I am still working on, and I have the feeling I’ll constantly be working on it throughout my life- especially my life with young kids! If you are anything like me, read on. Perhaps we can help each other.

The stuff monster lives at my house.

The stuff monster likes to scatter itself all over my living room floor and pile itself behind cabinets. It likes to stack up high on top of desks and counter tops. It has a sweet way of convincing me that no, I don’t need to put it in its proper place right now. It can always wait til tomorrow… or the next day… or the next…

Anyone else have this problem?Free Ways to Organize Your Stuff

Honestly, I don’t CARE all that much about having a perfect house. However, what bothers me is how much stress the clutter creates and how much time I devote to dealing with it. I have animals & kids to feed, homeschool to accomplish, and music to practice. Ain’t nobody got time to wade through piles of junk all day long.

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Sourdough Morning Glory Muffins

I wrote this recipe for sourdough morning glory muffins years ago. While the recipe is old, the taste is balanced and delicious. Let me know how they come out for you!

I was going to make a smoothie, but then my food processor went kaputz. (We think maybe the motor is overheating?) So there I was with 2 cups of almost chopped up carrots. Not being one to waste food, I began rummaging through any recipes that used grated carrots.

Morning glory muffins came to mind rather quickly- I wanted them, but I didn’t want all the sugar. But you know me, I can’t leave well enough alone. I ended up adapting a regular morning glory muffin recipe to be made with sourdough and no refined sugar.


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The Fox is on the Town-O (Or, How to Get Rid of a Fox)

Two weeks ago, I heard a squabbling from the direction of the chicken coop as I took the garbage cans up the hill. The roosters must be having a fight, I thought. But the noise increased and a chicken scream carried out across the yard.

Into the house I ran, slippers off, muckboots on, and back out I scurried. Then I saw him.

A red fox was standing down behind the mud oven in the backyard. A hen’s neck and head were dangling from his mouth. We stared at one another for a moment.

“HEY!” I shouted. He dropped the head in the snow.  “GET OUTTA HERE! THESE AREN’T YOUR CHICKENS!!!”

how to get rid of a fox

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How to Make Your Own Maple Syrup at Home

So, you want to make your own maple syrup.

And I can understand why: The golden-amber, sticky-sweet pancake topper is romantically delicious. Maple syrup is the perfect start to a snowy day and a divine dessert flavor. It’s the stuff of children’s stories, of breakfasts out with friends, and of picturesque homestead portraits.

You may want to try your hand at making maple syrup to save money. Store-bought syrup is delightful, but it’s also rather pricey. In 2017, the average cost of maple syrup in the United States was $35/gallon.

Or perhaps you want to make your own syrup simply because you love homemade food and the DIY process. Maple sugaring certainly won’t disappoint: the process of tapping trees, collecting the sap and processing it, then finally canning and enjoying fresh homemade syrup is a unique, seasonal experience that you’ll come to look forward to every year.

Can you make maple syrup at home?

Absolutely! While it may seem daunting at first, the process of making syrup is actually quite simple. It just takes some maple trees, time and patience, and a few supplies.

Today, I am hoping to give you a brief overview of how to make maple syrup, or, as it’s often called, “sugaring.” It takes a bit to fall into a rhythm that fits with the rest of your life schedule, but the sticky, sweet, delicious results are well worth the effort.

Making Maple Syrup(Color and flavor variation in homemade syrup is quite normal! We actually prefer the darker, stronger stuff.)

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