Yes, I do mean cow dung and no, I haven’t told the rest of the family yet. You see, it was one of my Christmas presents. Well, part of a Christmas present, and it is possible that I am mistaken.

I was given a mushroom growing kit but did not get round to setting it up until some time in mid-January. The instructions seemed straight-forward at first glance until I read the details. I had imagined you simply put soil and mushroom seed/spores/powder into a box, put the lid on and forgot about it until the mushrooms were ready to pick. It turns out not to be so simple.

There were two sorts of soil/mud: one with the mushroom stuff in and then “casing” which went on top several days later. It was only after I had squidged and squashed the brown stuff into the bottom of the mushroom box that it occurred to me that it looked remarkable like cow dung. Unfortunately, we had already decided that the best spot to grow the mushrooms (away from food and also the right general temperature) was a corner in the living room. Well, I made the best of it and, until now, I have kept my suspicions to myself. In the meantime the mixture has to be kept moist (not overly wet nor allowed to dry out) and we have had a small plague of fruit fly (another clue to what the brown stuff might be).

I was right about the mushrooms needing to be kept in the dark – the lid of the box has taken care of that. As for myself, I prefer the light (unless I’m trying to sleep).

I have really enjoyed having bright sunny mornings this week here – it really lifts my spirits. Light makes things seem so much more cheerful – so it may seem strange that I would like the idea of turning off the lights this evening. Thanks to an advert in the Radio Times and a C of E news headline, we have had Earth Hour brought to our attention. There’s more on the WWF website and it is not just about light pollution and the convenience of astronomers (much as I may be sympathetic to them). There are the effects on wildlife whose natural daily and nightly rhythms are affected. Plus there is the issue of so much wasted energy. I understand why people want to light up their garden for a greater sense of security but I don’t need my garden illuminated by the lights of a business which is a mile away. There has got to be a more energy-efficient way of doing things.

We are not mushrooms but we do need the right balance of light and darkness in our lives. I’ve already mentioned Earth Hour (starting 8.30 a.m. GMT) to the rest of the family. I may leave the cow pat question till after we’ve harvested a few more mushrooms.