Chicken (of-the-Woods) Tikka Masala

Wondering what happened to all those mushrooms?  Here you have it!

Tikka Masala.
Tikka Masala.

2 medium onions, peeled and halved
3 medium tomatoes
3 tbsp cashews
4 garlic cloves
1/2 inch ginger, peeled
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp tandoori powder
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tbsp dry fenugreek leaves
1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 cup water (more or less)
4 tbsp cream or milk
3 tbsp butter
2 lbs chicken-of-the-woods mushroom
1 batch homemade paneer
cilantro, chopped (optional)

1) Boil water with a pinch of salt.  Add onions, tomatoes, and cashews.  Boil for 10 minutes, until soft.  Drain the water into a bowl and set aside.  Puree onions, tomatoes, and cashews in a blender.
2) Heat butter on medium heat.  Grind ginger and garlic with mortar and pestle, and cook in butter until aromatic (about 3-5 minutes).  Add the tomato puree to the ginger and garlic. Add the spices (turmeric, chili powder, coriander, garam masala, tandoori).  Add the mushrooms and enough leftover water to make a thick gravy.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until oil floats to the top and sticks to the sides of the pan.
3) Remove pan from heat and stir in the yogurt and salt.  Return to low heat for about 5 minutes, or until bubbling and hot. Stir in fenugreek leaves, paneer, and cream.
5) Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or naan!


Bizarre Growths in the Woods

Earl here,

One thing I took for granted growing up in Toledo, Ohio was Acorn Trees. Well, I went searching for some yesterday in our neck of the woods… and didn’t find any. That being said, what Muelsa did show me was Morgan Hill State Forest. It felt really great walking around in there, it is always refreshing and grounding when you realize just how wonderful home is.

This evening I took myself out in search of an oak, I mean acorn, grove. This time, I found the acorn trees. It is a beautiful old growth forest with oaks over 250 years old. The pleasure was all mine, walking within the grove.

I was in search mushrooms… and mushrooms I did find.


The Findings


I went out looking for Chicken of the Woods, and Hen of the Woods… and I must point out that those are different than our hens in our woods. I digress.

Now, I will first off admit that this is the first time that I have ever hunted for mushrooms… so if I don’t post for a while, you can feel free to worry.

As Leroy know, I pride myself in being a self described Theoretical Biologist (and let me stress “self described”). So, here is my theory:

First off, I found the first small bright orange specimen with a yellow porous underside growing on a downed oak tree. It seems to me that Laetiporus sulphureus fits the bill.


The next find was the white hairy ball, about shoulder height off of the ground growing on a stick. It seemed to me that Hericium americanum was the likely culprit… but it looks like I am not the only one confused about the name! It looked a bit like Hericium erinaceus, but I believe it is just because the specimen I found was young, so the branches were not able to be seen until I performed surgery on said specimen.


The next lucky mushroom was the ol’ Hen… Grifola frondosa. There were other hens out there, but this was the only one that seemed to be of the proper maturity.


After finding these lovely ladies, I happened to walk around a tree which had an impressive burl near the root system. I was inspecting the burl quite closely when I discovered a geo-cache. The last person to write in the geo-cache was in 2013, so I did my duty and wrote a bit in it, and tucked it back in it’s home.

Just when I was on my way out I found a very large (The largest one shown in the first photo) specimen growing in the roots of an oak tree. It is for this reason that I believe it was Laetiporus cincinnatus, which is (apparently) commonly confused with the “real” chicken of the woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, which grows on logs as opposed to roots!

Wow. So, I learned quite a bit today… and at this point I am not sure whether my head hurts from eating those mushrooms or from learning too much.


In any event, one of OUR Hen’s of the Acres laid an unusually large egg, which just so happened to be a double yoker!




The Taj of Earl’s Acres

If you don’t know the history of the Taj Mahal, it’s a story about love.

The Real Taj.
The Real Taj.

Mumtaz Mahal was the most beloved wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who ruled India from 1628 until 1658.  Mumtaz died during the birth of their 13th child.  Filled with grief, Shah Jahan went into secluded mourning for an entire year after her death.  Yet immediately after her burial, Jahan and the imperial court devoted themselves to the planning and design of the mausoleum and funerary garden in Agra, which took more than 22 years to complete.  Mumtaz was Shah Jahan’s constant companion and trusted confidant, and the Taj Mahal stands as the ultimate monument to their love and an homage to her beauty and life.  Read more here.

O.M.G.!!!! This is totally the same story as our chicken coop (well, I mean, it’s really really close, right?)!


Our small flock of six arrived way back in March, at which time we had to start making plans for their home. Having never built any kind of structure ever in our lives, we started sketching out plans on napkins and such, thinking about the easiest possible way to build a completely awesome chicken coop.  What could be harder than building a box and putting some chickens in it, right?

We enthusiastically broke ground in early April, laying the foundation and building the walls for what would eventually be their new home. As the walls came together, we realized that our coop probably wasn’t going to be large enough.  So we threw all of our plans out the window, and instead of taking it all apart (who would do that!?), we just doubled the size of one of the walls by building a second of the same size… (Yes, I can hear you saying that doesn’t make ANY sense.) This would be the first of many spontaneous building “maneuvers” that would lead to more and more makeshift “improvements” in our coop design, as we realized we didn’t think of this or that ahead of time… 

As the summer continued, our chicks grew into chick(hen)s and our flock grew from six to fourteen. They (and their smell) were no longer welcome in the house.  Of course, the coop wasn’t quite complete (or wasn’t even close to complete), and we made a temporary shelter for a place to call “home.”

A temporary home.
A temporary home.

And then, we had our first egg.  In August.  On the ground. Outside of the shelter… Because the coop was still in progress. Uh oh.

As though there wasn’t enough pressure, the race was on to get things completed.  On occasion we would make a comment such as, “After we finish this, we’ll be almost done!”  As those comments start to pile up, you begin to realize how many “little things” there really are to complete before you can say you’re actually done… And so you stop saying that you’re almost done, until you think you’re almost done, and then you realize again that you’re actually not.

Will it ever be done?
Will it ever be done?

Alas, we finally wrapped things up on the last day of August, moving our chickens into their happy, permanent home.  Through the many hurdles and mishaps and plan additions, the coop is absolutely beautiful. We might have done everything 100% backwards, but that’s how things get done around here. We built a chicken coop from scratch, with no plans and having never built anything before… That’s impressive. Like the real Taj Mahal, our coop took a long time to come to completion.  Like our visit to the Taj Mahal (and all things here at Earl’s Acres), building our coop was a grand adventure filled with mystery and laughter, sometimes sweat, blood and tears, and, most importantly, an overwhelmingly ridiculous, outpouring of love.