Today’s podcast episode is a real treat. When I started Small Scale Life Podcast, my good friend Mr. Tactical Jay was my initial cohost on the show. We have remained friends for a few years now, and I am pleased that he is our guest on the Small Scale Gardening Podcast! In this episode, Mr. Tactical Jay and I discuss gardening and growing mushrooms in Virginia.

Even though his 2 acre homestead appears to have a lot of space, the property is on the side of a mountain and slopes away from the house.  Mr. Tactical is looking at different approaches to growing food at his homestead. Some of these methods include growing mushrooms, microgreens and a ton of food in his 3 wicking beds. 

It’s all about wellness and sustainability, and Mr. Tactical Jay is looking to improve his skills while using everything his property has to offer: from berries to gardens to mushrooms. My hope is to inspire you to look at your location to find ways to use your resources effectively and grow food.

This was part of a 2 hour interview, and I am breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. We discuss a lot of different topics, books and blogs, so check out the show notes for this podcast!

Who is Mr. Tactical Jay?


Mr. Tactical Jay; Tim Kennedy

Mr. Tactical “Jay” (the guy on the left above; the “other guy” is Tim Kennedy) is no stranger to the Small Scale Life Podcast, he has been on the show a number of times to discuss gardening, developing a healthy lifestyle and starting a homestead. As a paramedic and firefighter, Mr. Tactical wanted to get away from the city to a more quiet location.

 About two years ago, Mr. Tactical and his wife purchased a new house on a 2 acre lot and they moved their condo in a sprawling urban area to a quiet mountain homestead in rural Virginia. He has been working on completing some projects around the house and setting up a homestead on this property since.


Gardening, Wicking Beds

In 2018 and early 2019, Mr. Tactical and I talked a lot about gardening, specifically about Wicking Beds.  We talked about how functional they are and how to construct one.

In 2019, Mr. Tactical went ahead and set up three Wicking Bed systems in his yard.  He tried growing a lot of different plants in his Wicking Beds including broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, kale and peppers.  Unfortunately, he had problems with the heat and humidity last summer.

He also discovered that certain pests LOVE broccoli and cauliflower plants.  He had a pretty serious cabbage looper infestation.  They had a party in his broccoli and cauliflower, and the cabbage loopers devastated his plants. It was unfortunate; he had a strong group of plants growing! This is an aspect of gardening: dealing with pests and blights.  The struggle is real at times!

Mr. Tactical and I discuss his 2020 Gardening Plans, and that includes microgreens.  We will discuss more about microgreens in the future, and I hope to have Mr. Tactical back to discuss his process.

Foraging for Mushrooms

Growing Mushrooms in Virginia; honey mushroom

Mr. Tactical and I discuss growing mushrooms in Virginia. This is an area of gardening, growing and foraging that I have not discussed at Small Scale Life or Small Scale Gardening.  It certainly is a way to grow a lot of nutritious food in a small space!

You can forage for mushrooms on your property and on public property.

CAUTION: you REALLY need to know what you are doing before you pick and eat anything.  You have to be able to identify the different varieties of mushrooms in the wild. While some are good, others are poisonous.  Seriously, you could get very sick or die, so please learn from someone who knows the area and the types of mushrooms growing in your area.

Mr. Tactical and I discussed foraging Chicken of the Woods and Morel Mushrooms.  Morel’s are particularly sought after because they are a springtime mushroom, and other poisonous mushrooms have not sprouted in the woods at that time.  People use morels in cooking, and people will pay a decent price for fresh morels!

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, Chicken of the Woods is a mushroom that grows on oak trees. It grows in “shelves” and has distinctive orange color. These mushrooms can grow quite large in the wild, and they taste really fantastic sautéed in butter with some salt and pepper.  My brother and I hunted Chicken of the Woods mushrooms last year on the backroads of Western Wisconsin, and I found a rather large one near a golf course (go figure)!  It was quite good.

Growing Mushrooms in Virginia

Mr. Tactical talked quite a bit about growing mushrooms in Virginia.  His homestead is blessed with lots of red oak trees on his property (as seen above). These would be ideal for mushroom growing, particularly Chicken of the Woods.  We discuss inoculating some of the trees and fallen trees with mushroom spores.

At the same time, there are a number of commercial mushroom growing kits on the market.  I have seen some of these mushrooms at different farmers markets, and they look fantastic!  Mr. Tactical Jay discussed talking with a company called the North Spore Company. He has ordered some kits from the North Spore Company, and we will see how his mushroom growing progresses.

Mr. Tactical is taking it slow: he plans on eating the mushrooms he grows at first. We’ll see what happens in the future. I know that Mr. Tactical has purchased mushroom kits, and we will be checking in with Mr. Tactical as he begins to grow and harvest mushrooms!


Topics Discussed

Mr. Tactical and I discussed the following topics and links in Gardening and Growing Mushrooms in Virginia:

  • Introduction
  • Who is Mr. Tactical Jay?
  • Living Rural – Lessons Learned “One Project at a Time”
  • Gardening
    • Gardening in Zone 6A and 6B (sometimes Zone 7) 
    • Wicking Beds
    • Composting and Building Soil
    • Grow What You Eat
  • Growing Mushrooms in Virginia
  • Growing Microgreens
  • 2020 Garden Plan – Growing Superfoods
  • Wrap-Up and Next Steps


We discussed the following links and books during this podcast:

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Next Steps

Gardening and Growing Mushrooms in Virginia; chicken of the woods mushroom

I spoke with Mr. Tactical at the time of publication, and he has not yet received his first mushroom kits.  I will keep in contact with Mr. Tactical, and we will have him back on the podcast to show us some homegrown mushrooms.

This isn’t the end of our conversations with Mr. Tactical!  We have over 2 hours of discussions recorded, and while some of it will be on Small Scale Life, there are some discussions about Wicking Beds that are very interesting.  Mr Tactical will discuss some lessons learned and his own experience with Wicking Beds, and I will release that episode in the near future.

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