June 26, 2020

Concrete Mushrooms 101

Mushrooms take a minimum of three days to make.  The first day involves form construction and a light first layer of concrete.  The second day, adhesive and fortifier are applied and a second layer of concrete is added.  The third day is the finishing day.  It is heavy, messy work! 


  • wheelbarrow and hoe to mix cement; water source 
  • plastic buckets for measuring playground sand, Quikcrete commercial
  • acrylic fortifier, concrete bonding adhesive (glue to help the concrete adhere)
  • old paintbrush; wooden paint stir stick
  • table covered in plastic; garbage bags or plastic sheeting to protect table and cover statues
  • tin snips; roll of 1/2 or 1/4 inch metal mesh
  • cardboard tube for stem and recycled plastic lid or cardboard disc to put on top of tube beneath metal mesh
  • twist ties
  • disposable gloves
  • stone stamps to sign your mushroom
Bonding adhesive and acrylic fortifier 

1/2 inch metal mesh, cardboard tube, plastic topper and twist ties
Concrete mix
3 parts playground sand, 1 part Quikcrete (Type S commercial)/ Portland cement, 1/2 part water

Day 1

Mix your cement in a wheelbarrow using a hoe and by dragging the dry ingredients from one side to the other side in rows (by this I mean do not pull it all at once).  Hoe edge to edge three times.  Add the water to the dry mix in three parts, mixing 1/3 of the dry mix in with the water before adding more water.  Slow and steady.   If you see a lot of water pooling at the side of the wheelbarrow, it's too wet and you will have to add additional sand and Quikcrete.  

Put your base on top of the table (keep in mind that once you have added all the concrete to it, it has to be covered with a garbage bag and remain in place to cure for 24 hours).  

Estimate how much metal mesh you will need to wrap around your base, ensuring that there is a minimum one-inch overlap.  Cut your metal mesh by standing on it and being very careful.  It's sharp.    secure the edges with twist ties, using the candy cane method (shape twist tie into a candy cane shape to easily feed it through the mesh).  Place a plastic lid on top and fold over and secure the mesh.

Estimate how much mesh you will need for the cap of your mushroom.  

Count down approximately 8 squares from each side and cut in the same number of squares: 
mesh has been enlarged for a quick drawing
Fold on top and secure with twist ties. Do this for all four corners.  You will shape your mushroom by placing it cap-side down on the ground and stepping inside the corners to soften the edges.  You can also pick it up and roll it inwards to form a smooth shape.  Think of an umbrella.  

You are ready to start applying cement to the stem and then the cap.  Grab a big handful of cement and begin at the base of the stem.  Press it onto the very bottom of the stem, using firm pressure, and drag it upwards toward the top:

Don't drag the cement down as it does not adhere to the base.  Keep doing this - grabbing gobs of cement and dragging upwards - and work your way around the stem.  Don't worry about whether it looks pretty. The idea is to cover the wire as much as you can the first day.  The cement will slide down a bit, making the very bottom of the stem wider.  This is desirable as it looks more natural.  Once the sides are covered, grab another gob and cover the top of the stem.  Cover the base with a garbage bag and allow to cure for a minimum of 24 hours.

Dig a depression in the garden, in mulch if possible.  Line it with a plastic bag.  Place your mushroom cap-side down in the hollow.  Shore up the sides with mulch to form a firm "mold".  

Grab handfuls of cement and toss them into the cap, patting it down to make a layer that measures approximately 1/2 an inch tall.  Cover all of the exposed mesh with the cement.

Cover the cap with a plastic bag and weigh it down with something light (the gloves). If you want to add gills on the underside of the cap (optional), return in 2-3 hours and do so.  Let it cure for a minimum of 24 hours. 

Clean up!  You've finished Day 1.  Rest. :-)

Day 2

The big reveal:

Today is the day to add more cement, but first you have to wet your mushroom pieces with water and apply glue and fortifier.  

Make a slurry with cement powder and acrylic fortifier to the consistency of pancake batter (two cups of cement to a cup of fortifier).  Use a paint stir stick to mix.  

Mix up your cement, but make only half the amount you made on Day 1.  

Spray your mushroom pieces with water.  

Apply the glue to all parts of the mushroom that you intend to cover with additional cement.  You can paint it on quickly, slapdash. Apply the slurry but only where you intend to add additional cement.  Make sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies, and apply more carefully.  Thin it with water if necessary.

Now is the time to add more cement the same way you did on Day 1.  1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.  Today you will be shoring up the sides of the mushroom, covering all of the wire, and refining the base.  The work on the cap is done cap-side down on the table, not on the ground.  Apply "balls" of cement around the top of the underside of the cap.  

Stamping my initials.  This picture also shows the "balls" of cement on the underside of the cap
Let them rest for about 20 minutes and then smooth them out with your fingertips, very gently.  It takes very little pressure.  

Day 3

Today is the day to refine your work. 

This particular mushroom had cured on the ground for a couple of weeks and was quite gnarly-looking.  Irene used a hammer to whack off the undesirable bits.  

Repeat all of the steps that you did on Day 2, but today pay special attention to smoothing out the cap and base. 

Once you have finished smoothing and refining your mushroom, wait for 20 - 30 minutes before covering (plastic bags can leave marks).  Wait for a minimum of 24 hours.


Watch your hands as the cut metal mesh is sharp
Use recycled materials like plastic jugs or stacks of plant pots as bases.
Form your twist tie in the shape of a candy cane to easily feed it through the mesh
Make the mushrooms in the months of May - September.  Temperature must be above 10 degrees
Once you have opened a bag of concrete, store the bag in a tied plastic bag to keep out humidity

A great book!

Looking forward to trying this next!  


September 28, 2019

Climate Change is Sexy and Fun!

Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan's new environment minister, wants his coal-dependent country's youth to see the fight against climate change as "sexy" and "fun".  Maybe he thinks it can be something like this:

I didn't attend the fun and sexy Climate Change protest in London yesterday, but I was heartened to see the number of young people who marched.  My excuse for non-participation is that I am still ill and I tire easily, I am practically deaf in my left ear, I was drinking a beer with three of my neighbours (important) and I decided to write a blog post instead.  I am an avid recycler and I really do try to minimize my carbon footprint.  I bike or walk when I can, and I am interested in purchasing an electric vehicle.  If I could convince my neighbours to co-operatively purchase such a vehicle, I would be really happy! Especially if it could be parked in my driveway.

The climate change / destroying the Earth issue can be overwhelming for people.  Bureaucrats move slowly, the people in charge don't care enough to actually do anything and we are all busy.  I do think that everyone can make small changes to try to improve our dire situation.  Here is a list of some of the things that I have done or currently do to minimize my carbon footprint.  And before you get annoyed with me, let me tell you that I am no saint:  I have two vehicles, I live in a big house, I drive frequently and I have a pool.  No air con though.  I do what I can to feel better about the way I live.  Here's my list of easy things that you can do to feel better about the way you live:

COMPOST.  I have three composters and a green cone.  They were all purchased at the City of London's Recycling Depot.  I use the compost that I produce in my gardens, and I yell at my kids and husband when they chuck things in the garbage instead of the compost.  I did not have a garden this summer because I went briefly insane (another story), but I did enjoy the fruits of my neighbour's labour (Hi Dave!).

The Green Cone is a recycler's dream.  EVERYTHING can go into it.  It is really disgusting and I love it.

I also have (scratch that - HAD) a dog shiz composter.  I don't need one any longer because all the dog waste can go in the green cone.  It was really easy to make:   cut the bottom half or third off a plastic garbage can, dig a hole as deep as your can, put the bin in the hole and fill around it until the top of the bin is level with the ground.  Add some septic starter.  Kapow! You're in business.  Take that, dog crap!

I have composted my food waste since my early twenties.  I did not grow up in a household that composted but once I became aware of this easy, waste-minimizing activity, I was on board.  Here's what my compost looks like at the time of this writing:

Let's see what delicacies are hiding in the can:  orange peel, pomelo skin, espresso grounds and some dried leaves (found on the kitchen floor because our back door is always open so that the dogs can come and go, and because of this there's often garden waste in the house.  And yesterday Gwen caught a squirrel in the dining room!  Another story for another day).  There are also yam skins in the bottom.  Please don't bitch at me for not eating local - my daughter begged for the pomelo and I caved.  See, I'm only human.  Oh and there's a nectarine pit in there now too because I had to take a sustenance break.

I am amazed at the number of friends of mine who do not compost.  Why the fuck not?  They say that the composters will attract animals (they're right, they do, but who cares?); they complain about foul odours (not an issue if you empty it frequently) or they are just lazy (no excuse).   Here is a list of some of the surprising things that you can put in your composter besides the usual kitchen scraps:  dryer fluff (start hanging your clothes to dry, people, and then you won't have that lint problem), tea bags and coffee grounds, old bread and pasta, hair (because everyone cuts their own hair, right?), newsprint, printer paper, cardboard, and vegetarian animal waste (because who doesn't love them a guinea pig?).  Things that should not go into your compost:  dog poo (green cone), human poo (lol), meat and oil (green cone) and noxious weeds.
Get thee a composter, peeps!

We briefly had a worm bin in our basement but that was my husband's domain (man cave).  I am not sure what went on down there, but I know we are no longer vermiculturists.

Last but not least, the city of London plans to implement a green bin program in 2020.  About time, I say:  Green Bins in London.  I am not sure why it has taken council so freaking long to make up their minds about this.  

People hate it when I talk about my period.  You know who you are and you know what, I don't care.  I bleed, if you're a woman of childbearing age you bleed, and if you're a man, your Mom and sisters and girlfriends and wives bleed.  If you're one of those new people who are neither man nor woman, you might bleed too.  To the bleeders, I say, get out your trusty sewing machine and make some pads.  If you're not handy, ask a friend (not me) to make them for you.  Or buy them.  I bought my daughter some made in Canada period underwear and she loves them.  You should also invest in this:

It's a Diva Cup / keeper / menstrual cup.  Made in Canada, it is a total life-changer! You can wear it all day long, you don't feel it and IT ROCKS! And ladies, you know how when you have your stupid period and you want to swim because you're one of those women who say "eff you period, you're not cramping my style", and you put in a tampon and you swim, and then when you get out of the water you know that you have a limited amount of time before the blood will leech down your tampon string and cause an embarrassing accident? Well that doesn't happen with the Diva Cup!  Another no-brainer.

A shit-hot topic for all.  I used MOTHER-EASE (made in Canada) diapers for my kids.  I saved tons of money, and I resold them for approximately 70% of what we I paid after they had been used by BOTH kids.

Did you know that toilet paper could be doing more damage to the environment than driving a large, gas-guzzling SUV?  I bet you didn't know that.  Read this article:  toilet paper is crappy.  I keep meaning to force my family to use old facecloths that I have cut up to wipe, but I haven't gotten around to it.  I am going to start though.  They are going to be mad / disgusted, but they'll get over it.  If they want to feel the cotton-y softness of Cottonelle they can use their own money to buy their own tissue.
As for the issue of "number 2", I don't want to deal with people's poo cloths - even my own family's! - so this is what I have come up with:

1) Use newsprint / sheets of paper from a catalogue  - hahahahahahhh! Damn.  Where's the Christmas Wish Book when I need it?

2) Everyone in the family is responsible for washing their own shit tickets.  Right.  That will never happen in this lifetime.

3) Bidet purchase- hmmmn.  I will investigate.  Okay, I just did some investigation and this is what I found:

A bidet attachment that is under $50 and one that people actually like and use (read the reviews):  Brondell bidet.  I am going to buy it and will report back.

I really do want to reduce our toilet tissue usage.  I am going to implement the washcloth strategy discussed above, and that combined with my new Brondell should save me some money and the earth some trees.  If you are my friend and you visit me and need to use my loo, don't fret, I promise that I will have some "guest tissue" just for you!

I DESPISE TOOTHBRUSHES as much as I hate SINGLE USE PLASTIC CUTLERY (get yourself a little pouch and shove a knife, fork  and/or spork in it.  If you are one of those people who insist on using straws, then get a metal one of those too).
Sure, I like to brush my teeth once in a while and I love that minty-fresh feeling in my mouth but what the hell is up with the idiots who produce those rock-hard plastic tooth scrubbers?  That plastic will never break down.  How could it?  It makes my head hurt when I think of it.  My darling daughter bought me some bamboo toothbrushes for Christmas last year and I love them.  They are recyclable, although the instructions on the side of the box that they came in were a bit much.  You have to pull out the bristles with a pair of pliers, discard them, and only then you can recycle the brush.  Better than plastic though.

We don't buy saran wrap any longer and you know what, we don't miss it.  I did catch myself reaching for it in the beginning, but I got used to not using it.  What we do:  stick your leftovers in a bowl and put a plate on top.  Bam!  You can also use pyrex with glass lids like they did in the "olden days".  I get a lot of these at the Goodwill, and they are usually priced at $2 - $4.

The modern version of this product has plastic lids instead of glass.  I find that the lids break easily and so when I can I try to use the vintage products, like the one above:

I know what you're thinking. If you are bringing a casserole to someone's house, what are you to do? I tend to transport it au naturel.  Nothing happens, I promise.  It won't become contaminated, bugs won't eat it.  It will be okay.  If this is TOO MUCH for you, cover your food with a clean dishtowel.  Or buy one of those 9 by 13 glass baking dishes that come with a lid.  

Okay, this blog post is getting lengthy and you are probably tired of reading it.  The rest of my good things are going to go in a list with little or no elaboration.  If you have questions, ask away.
  • Shop consignment and thrift stores.  The Goodwill is my favourite store. 
  • Try to fix things that are broken
  • Don't buy bottled water.  
  • When grocery shopping, byob (bring your own bag or use cardboard boxes).  Why are so few stores offering free cardboard boxes for customers to use?  Jeez.  Don't use those small plastic produce bags that the stores provide.  Make some reusable ones.
  • Ditch your air con.  Plant some trees around your house.  Shut the drapes during the day.  Invest in ceiling fans.
  • Refuse to buy things that are wrapped in plastic
Okay enough from me.  I have more things to add here but I am tired of writing this. I have been at it for an hour and a half.  

If you enjoyed this post, you might like this one that I wrote a couple of years ago: 

To end, this is a poster that I made when I was a kid.  Lord knows why I saved it, but it makes me laugh.  Especially the stylish beer cap jewellery and car part cutlery.  

I usually end on a musical note with a Youtube video.  Let me just tell you all that Raffi has written a new song called Young People Marching with references to Greta Thunberg.  I am not a fan of said tune so here's some Tom Petty instead: