Research Update — Mushrooms and Deer Hide

Things are moving along this fall. We have a few projects running at the moment, and I have updates on two of them: growing mushrooms and tanning deer hides. Note, I do not have pictures of the deer posted below, but I do show skins being cleaned. If you have an aversion to that sort of thing, please do not scroll to the bottom of the post.


In the last update, I outlined the pickup of horse manure to use as the substrate for growing mushrooms. Since then, the manure has sat in a pile in my garage (other residents of the house are thrilled). I’ve monitored the temperature and turned it over when it started to get hotter than 165°F. I logged the temperatures over time, as you can see in the graph.

mushroomsubstratetemptrackerI also built mushroom beds out of scrap plywood, lining them with plastic sheeting, as the wood would absorb too much moisture. I filled the first bed with composted substrate and packed it down to about 10″ deep. I let the temperature rise and then fall to below 90°F. I then spread out the grains covered with button mushroom spawn and mixed them into the top few inches. I covered them with straw to keep the substrate from drying out. I see growth around the spawned grains and hope the entire substrate will soon be covered. Once this happens, I’ll turn this bed out, bust it up into pieces and spread it into nine other beds to get more bang for my buck.

Deer Hides

My brother and I each got a deer opening day this year, and my brother graciously donated his hide to the project. After field dressing the deer and bringing them home, we skinned them. The hides are covered with fur on the outside and layers of fat and muscle on the inside. The most time-consuming part of the process involved scraping the muscle and fat off of the inside, but this is vital if the hide is to cure properly. In the photo you can see one hide that is already scraped clean and another that is waiting to be done. I put them on sawhorses and used a skinning knife, which I drew across the hide along the corner of the sawhorse. The muscle and fat came off fairly easily, but it still took 45-60 minutes per hide.

After defleshing, the hides were placed on a slanted flat surface; in this case the plywood cover of the woodpile. The hides were covered with salt equal to their weight. I needed to use finer-grained salt but couldn’t find it in a decent quantity, so I had to use rock salt, which is usually a no-no because it has less surface area to contact the hide. To compensate I had to use way more salt than is called for. The salt draws moisture out of the hide and creates a habitat unsuitable for bacterial life. The tipped surface lets the salty juices run off. This preserves the hides until I am able to move on to the next step.

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