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Amazon Shop for: ½ Pint Jars, Autoclave, Laminar Flow Hood, Microscope, Paul Stamets, Pressure Cooker

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OfflinePuma
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Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction)
    #14182642 - 03/25/11 04:54 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Some of you may remember my previous effort at making a large pressure cooker. At the time, I was cutting my teeth at the art of growing mushrooms, and the big PC allowed me to generate all the spawn I could possibly want at the time.

Things have changed, and my current projects require something bigger and easier to load and unload. I considered building a 55-gallon drum system, but finally decided to expand on my experience with transforming propane tanks into autoclaves.

I wanted a vessel capable of holding both pressure and a vacuum, with the benefit of quick runs (90 or 120 minutes @ 15 PSI) and high capacity. I wanted the biggest autoclave that I could build for under $1000 (my budget), and yet small enough to be heated by a simple propane burner, and run by a single unassisted person.

My ears are still ringing from all the grinding and welding. My old neighbor and I built it in 56 hours, start to finish, last weekend. We pressure tested it to over 30 PSI. As soon as I generate enough spawn, I'll give this beast her inaugural run.

I anticipate her total capacity should be around 250 quart jars, or about 110 half-gallon jars.

Here are a few pictures of the process. I won't say much about the construction process, because frankly, there are too many small details that you have to get just right to avoid making something dangerous. I certainly don't intend this as a tek of any sort. That said, I want people to know what's possible.

This first picture shows the tank we used as the raw material, and the finished autoclave. The cost of the tank at a scrap metal yard was $75, but the whole project cost nearly $1000 once I'd paid for all materials and help (including four trips to the scrap metal yard).


Here's another one of the tank, showing the flange of metal we used as a rim, further expanding the capacity of the tank:



Here I am inside the tank, grinding that rim so that it would form a seal with a rubber gasket compressed against it.



Here's a view of the lid. The only thing missing is the pressure gauge, taken off to make way for incoming air. The fitting at the direct centre of the image, mostly obscured in this view, is a spring-loaded 30-psi safety blowout valve. When it blew at around 30 PSI, we realized that yes, it worked, but we should install an elbow to direct steam upward, so that it couldn't deliver a dangerous blast of pressurized steam at eye level. Also note the rubber gasket. It works, but is old and weathered rubber so I've ordered a motorcycle inner tube to replace it.



We found a few leaks during pressure testing, all quickly patched:



When I build my last big PC, RR gave me some advice that I decided to put to practice this time around:



The bottom platform has a metal mesh sheet laid over a rebar support grid, nice and stable, to hold the jars off the round bottom and out of the water.



Once again, here she is, all finished and ready to use. We installed removable handles (two on the back, one on the front and connected to the axle) to allow it to be guided around by two people whenever it needs to be moved.



So, there you have it. This year's installment in my ongoing series of high-pressure sterilizers!


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OfflineCynosure
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14182670 - 03/25/11 05:00 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Wowzers!

That's pretty impressive.. and definitely something I would not be able to do.

How far under/over budget were you?


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OfflineBuckeye Oysters
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14182692 - 03/25/11 05:05 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

I think your estimate on capacity is a little high based on the dimensions I can see but I don't have your measurements of course.  I'd say you get only around 120 total if you can only fit layers of 20 jars.  You got your math work?

Otherwise, thats a pretty impressive project and well worth the $1000 cost.  You consider grain bags instead of 1/2 gal jars?  You'll get a lot more in that way.


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Invisiblevirus1824
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Buckeye Oysters]
    #14182705 - 03/25/11 05:07 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:


Here are a few pictures of the process. I won't say much about the construction process, because frankly, there are too many small details that you have to get just right to avoid making something dangerous. I certainly don't intend this as a tek of any sort. That said, I want people to know what's possible.





shame! although i can understand you don't want novices do undertake this, people with serious intend could benefit allot from those small details. saving them fatal mistakes and perhaps big bucks my friend.

I at least would very much like to see the small things been done, since thats where the experience and wisdom comes around the corner.


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OfflinePerun
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: virus1824]
    #14182794 - 03/25/11 07:32 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

virus1824 said:
Quote:


Here are a few pictures of the process. I won't say much about the construction process, because frankly, there are too many small details that you have to get just right to avoid making something dangerous. I certainly don't intend this as a tek of any sort. That said, I want people to know what's possible.





shame! although i can understand you don't want novices do undertake this, people with serious intend could benefit allot from those small details. saving them fatal mistakes and perhaps big bucks my friend.

I at least would very much like to see the small things been done, since thats where the experience and wisdom comes around the corner.




:whathesaid:

And...
:congrats:


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Offlinedoulovebeef
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Perun]
    #14183001 - 03/25/11 08:13 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

well done! that does look a little small but pictures can be deceiving. and a congrats on who ever welded the airtight bead. ive done some welding and those airtight welds are tough!


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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14183086 - 03/25/11 08:25 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

whoa...  :smile:


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OfflineRalafe
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14184761 - 03/26/11 01:32 AM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Puma, your posts on your first homemade pressure cooker inspired me to look into making my own pressure vessel. Thanks for documenting your endeavors!

So hey, if you're not using your old one... Can I have it? :grin:


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OfflinePuma
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Buckeye Oysters]
    #14184774 - 03/26/11 01:35 AM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

Buckeye Oysters said:
I think your estimate on capacity is a little high based on the dimensions I can see but I don't have your measurements of course.  I'd say you get only around 120 total if you can only fit layers of 20 jars.  You got your math work?





Consider that a 41 quart AA PC holds 19 quart jars, and you get a sense of the ratio of jars to overall volume. In this case, the overall volume is around 400 quarts (it's a 100 gallon tank, as noted above), so clearly it's going to hold a fair bit more than 120 quarts. In fact, the distance between the lid and the bottom rack is 42 inches, room enough for six rows. Each of the lower 5 rows will hold 45 jars. The diameter is 29.5 inches -- am I wrong? The uppermost row holds fewer, 27 to be exact. Total: 252. However, there is a temperature probe that takes up a bit of space beneath, so I'd say the final count should be 251. Yes, I've thought about bags, and if ever I feel the need to up my spawn production, I have them as an option.

A couple of you have said that this looks small. Well, it is what it is. Big enough for over 100 half gallon jars -- that's big enough for me.

To the people who said "shame": feel free to ask specific questions. I offered these photos and writeup to be helpful. But the fact of the matter is, every one of these things built will be unique. I purchased the majority of supplies at the scrap metal yard -- my lid, for example, cost $27 at $.5 / lb, as opposed to several hundred dollars for getting it fabricated new with a computerized plasma cutter at the professional machine shop. The point is, everybody will stumble across different materials, some appropriate, some not so good, and will face a unique set of decisions, and a unique process, upon setting out to build a high-volume pressure sterilizer. Process will vary depending on the shop tools at your disposal. But the essential plan is the same: get a propane tank, find a rim that will hold an o-ring in a lathe-cut groove, or use a rubber gasket, and find a lid of sufficient thickness relative to pressure, and devise a way to bolt it down, and install the appropriate gauges.

Anybody who has the skills and tools required to make one of these will not need any further information: they will be able to take a look at what I've done, and devise their own route to replicating the outcome. In fact, it's critically important that they concentrate fully on the conditions of their own project, rather than mine.

I pretty much hit my $1000 budget bang on.


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Edited by Puma (03/26/11 03:13 AM)


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OfflinePuma
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Ralafe]
    #14184776 - 03/26/11 01:36 AM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

Ralafe said:
Puma, your posts on your first homemade pressure cooker inspired me to look into making my own pressure vessel. Thanks for documenting your endeavors!

So hey, if you're not using your old one... Can I have it? :grin:




Ralafe -- awesome!!! I'd love to see what you made!!! And I'm glad you enjoyed the write-ups. Congratulations on making your own, and good luck to you. I wish I could give you my old one, but it's spoken for.


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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14299708 - 04/16/11 08:14 AM (3 years, 3 months ago)

OMG ! Great one :laugh:
Gratz for your efforts and especially for the result. Very impressive.


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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14406596 - 05/05/11 08:11 PM (3 years, 2 months ago)

Thanks for the posting.  I'm going to build one. 

A few questions:

In researching propane tanks, most of them are steel. 
1. Did you make any provisions for your tank rusting from the inside out.
2. Is there a reason you are not laying the tank on its side?...more even steam dispersement??
3. from your pics, it looks like you have to remove all the nuts (bolts are welded in place)to remove the top, as opposed to some type of hinging.  Is this Correct?
4. How do you determime how much water to add to the bottom?
...also would be interested to hear if you are getting even steralization with the autoclave at maximum substrate capacity.

Thanks.  Great Idea!

Wes


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OfflineRogerRabbitM
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: 25wdprice]
    #14406638 - 05/05/11 08:21 PM (3 years, 2 months ago)

I'll take question 1.  The inside of the tank won't rust very much, probably because the heat of the steam kills the chemical reaction.  I use unpainted angle iron inside my 55 gallon drum sterilizer, and nearly 2 years later, there's not a speck of rust them.
RR


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OfflinePuma
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: 25wdprice]
    #14428478 - 05/10/11 08:41 AM (3 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

25wdprice said:
Thanks for the posting.  I'm going to build one. 

A few questions:

In researching propane tanks, most of them are steel. 
1. Did you make any provisions for your tank rusting from the inside out.
2. Is there a reason you are not laying the tank on its side?...more even steam dispersement??
3. from your pics, it looks like you have to remove all the nuts (bolts are welded in place)to remove the top, as opposed to some type of hinging.  Is this Correct?
4. How do you determime how much water to add to the bottom?
...also would be interested to hear if you are getting even steralization with the autoclave at maximum substrate capacity.

Thanks.  Great Idea!

Wes



Hi Wes. Just saw this. Here you go:

1. I think there must be some chemical difference between the steel used in drums and propane tanks, because for some reason it does tend to get rusty quite quickly; in fact, I drain it after each use and burn off excess moisture. I also put on a vintage Russian gas mask and painted the interior with black high-temperature spray-paint. The interior view you see in my signature looks reflective, but that's actually painted black. Before painting, I did a lot of steel-brush grinding to remove old rust (it wasn't too bad, but the tank had been sitting with some moisture, and a wasp nest inside, for many moons).

2. I thought about this long and hard. Until the day of building, I was planning to place it on its side, to better accommodate spawn bags. However, at the last minute I decided to make it vertical to allow the maximum capacity of jars, which I'll also be processing, as cylinders within cylinders load more tightly when oriented on the same axis. My original plan, which was for a horizontal setup with racks, similar to RR's drum system, would have been much easier to load. However, this CAN be loaded and unloaded by one person, like this:


The other reason to opt for the vertical setup was that I didn't have to build a custom burner. Cutting down on things like hinged handles and custom burners, and paring the project down to the bare necessities allowed me and a friend to build it, start to finish, including sourcing all the parts, in only 56 hours.

3. Yes, that's correct. The lid is easy to lift with two people, and I can just barely lift it myself with a bit of grunting. The handles were designed to accommodate a 2x4 slipped underneath to help lifting from either side. As for the nuts, I enjoy the process of fastening them. I get them just about tight enough, then as the autoclave puts on pressure, I snug them down to seal off any leakage at the gasket. This way, I have just enough pressure on the gasket. I don't tighten the lid any more than necessary, to help preserve the gasket.

4. I just keep in mind that when water boils, in becoming vapour it expands by about 9000 times its volume. It's a 100 gallon tank so I expect that even just just a couple of quarts would work to reach 15 PSI. However, I fill it a couple of inches deep, a few gallons. Last time, I filled it to a specific mark and after the run, the water level hadn't appreciably fallen.

5. I loaded it up with 90 jars the other day, and will be making a full run (+/- 240 quart jars) within a few days. I used a sterilizer strip during the first run, in a jar in the centre of the top level (with 90 jars, the vessel was still almost 2/3 empty). It got up to pressure within about half an hour, and sterilized in two hours. I use two gauges to indicate pressure and temperature, one which senses temperature and the other, like a standard AA dial, sensing pressure. By checking both I can be sure getting a true reading, which I will only get if I vent all the air inside until it's blowing steam before sealing the weighted valve. The point is that the air inside is such a large insulating mass that for this thing to work, it's critical to vent that air.

On another note, I have settled on a neoprene gasket. I had to shell out about $30 but it holds a seal, and by using lots of teflon tape on all the valve fittings, the autoclave even holds a vacuum! When I finally crack open the air intake valve after cooling, and allow filtered air to enter, it takes a good 20 minutes to reach atmospheric pressure. I was thrilled that I was able to achieve a vacuum, as neither one of my AA's can do this. Given that I can't set this beast in front of a flow hood to cool, I was concerned about sucking in outdoor air, but it turns out that with a neoprene gasket this isn't a problem.

I'll use sterilization indicator strips when I run the full-to-capacity load within the week, so I'll be able to give you a definitive answer then. I don't foresee a problem, but I'll do a 3-hr run in any case. Propane consumption isn't really an issue, because I turn the burner down to absolute minimum after it reaches pressure. I just have to be careful that the flame doesn't go out! The bulk and insulation give it a lot of thermal inertia.

Haven't tried it with Unicorn bags yet but will report when I do.

Post your project when you get it built, Wes! This one was brewing in mind for over a year before I finally got the chance to build it, but I'm glad I did. What a work-horse it is!

; )


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Edited by Puma (05/10/11 02:22 PM)


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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14429303 - 05/10/11 01:09 PM (3 years, 2 months ago)

bravo. well done.


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InvisibleCarl Sagan
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14429823 - 05/10/11 03:17 PM (3 years, 2 months ago)

Wow nice job! Projects like this are awesome!  Thats amazing you can hold a vacuum,  i guess this allows you to work in winter conditions.  Did you have problems operating your old frankenstein PC in temps below 30f?  Would it suck air during the cooling period and crack jars? 

I cant tell from the pics,  but is there a drain valve at the bottom.  I was just thinking that if there was a screen with a valve how easy it would be to simmer 50lbs of grain.  There are tons of possibilities, my mind is racing with ideas! If you could get the vacuum low enough could you boil water at 80f ?

Im thinking about those 2 old 100 gallon propane tanks out back.  I think they are too tall and skinny. 

Great build.  I have been looking for a good excuse as to why i need to spend the money on a plasma cutter.  This may be the justification I was looking for! THX

Nice job. Very inspiring :congrats:


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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Carl Sagan]
    #14429999 - 05/10/11 04:05 PM (3 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

Carl Sagan said:
Wow nice job! Projects like this are awesome!  Thats amazing you can hold a vacuum,  i guess this allows you to work in winter conditions.  Did you have problems operating your old frankenstein PC in temps below 30f?  Would it suck air during the cooling period and crack jars? 

I cant tell from the pics,  but is there a drain valve at the bottom.  I was just thinking that if there was a screen with a valve how easy it would be to simmer 50lbs of grain.  There are tons of possibilities, my mind is racing with ideas! If you could get the vacuum low enough could you boil water at 80f ?

Im thinking about those 2 old 100 gallon propane tanks out back.  I think they are too tall and skinny. 

Great build.  I have been looking for a good excuse as to why i need to spend the money on a plasma cutter.  This may be the justification I was looking for! THX

Nice job. Very inspiring :congrats:




Thanks!

I haven't tried this yet in winter conditions, just built it this spring. The big bonus for it being able to hold a vacuum is that, according to Stamets, when the pressure drops from positive to negative pressure (say 15 PSI to negative 15 PSI, when the unit cools with all the valves closed -- although until I install a vacuum gauge I won't know the precise vacuum present), this kills contaminants that might have survived the high-pressure heat stage. Ever seen "Total Recall" where Shwartzenneger's character goes into the low-pressure Martian atmosphere, near the end,and almost explodes? Must be something like that on a microscopic level. The other benefit for holding a vacuum is that I can control the inflow of air, because, of course, I have to get the unit to atmospheric pressure to get the lid off, and I run this thing outdoors, so if I wasn't able to control the inflow of air, which I run through an ethanol-soaked polyfil filter, I'd run the risk of having contaminants sucked into the jars, because the lids are on loose inside. If there are other benefits to it holding a vacuum, I'm not sure what they are, for my application, which is sterilizing grain and substrates.

You're right, there is a drain, and that's a real asset. It's there, because this is a propane tank turned upside down, so the old top valves are present on the bottom. It's a lifesaver, because otherwise I'd have to pump or siphon out the water. You're right, you could simmer grain in this thing, and you could pasteurize subsrates as well. However, I have a 300 litre aluminum stock pot that works fine. And you know, using quart jars, I can process over 100 pounds of grain at a time. I used a full 20 kg (44lb) bag the other day, and it was only about a third full!

When you say the 100 gallon tanks are too tall and skinny, you're right, except you mean this 100-lb tanks. This one is referred to as a 420-lb tank. Nice number. But I just call it a 100 gallon tank for simplicity, although I've actually expanded the capacity by a few gallons during the construction process (the old bottom stand is now the rim below the lid, and we carved out the bottom).

When you ask about my old Frankenstein PC, do you mean this one?. Minus 30 F, what's that, about 0 celcius? I never ran it that cold. But I always brought it into room temperature and clean air by sliding it on cardboard, full and warm, across my house's hardwood floor and into my lab, and stood it in front of a flow hood as it cooled. With that old one, I couldn't achieve a vacuum because the weighted pressure-relief valve didn't have a gate on it, and the valve itself was just a steel cone in a hole, so no seal there.

The benefit with the tall skinny propane tanks is that it's easy to find a lid and a rim for it to sit on, because the opening is only about 8.5 inches across. You can find a metal ring to weld in place beneath the lid, and lathe-cut a groove in it to take an o-ring. My friend's metal shop lathe is big enough to fabricate a grooved ring right in his trailer. With the big 420-lb autocalve, if I'd wanted to use an O-ring on a wide, solid rim, I would have had to pay professional shop prices to have such a thing plasma-cut and lathed for me, plus pay the price of new metal, so using a conventional O-ring wasn't an option without doubling the price of the unit. We had to find another untested way to make the seal.

That meant finding the right thick rubber gasket that would form a seal, without being punched out like a cookie cutter on the narrow ring built into these 420-lb tanks -- the old bottom stand, flipped upside down. So until I tested it, I wasn't sure if I'd get a vacuum, but luckily on my third tested gasket, it worked. The first was an old, thin piece of rubber, which melted. The second a motorcycle tire, which didn't lie flat. The third, neoprene, which works, and should last a while if I'm careful not to crank down the lid any tighter than necessary.

: )


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InvisibleCarl Sagan
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Puma]
    #14430390 - 05/10/11 05:30 PM (3 years, 2 months ago)

Yes I was referring to your previous build. Thanks for the link:smile: Thats about the size of my tanks. It looks like your old build is probably a place for me to start.  After I tear down and rebuild my three story front porch:laugh2:  Priorities :tongue:

Im still fascinated with the idea of boiling water in a vacuum.  If you create enough negative

pressure water will boil at a much lower temp.  A friend showed me this a few years ago.

If you take a syringe with 1-2ml of water in it, put on the cap, then pull the plunger; you

can actually create enough negative pressure inside the syringe that the water will boil at

room temp.  That is about the extent of my knowledge (which is not much), but im sure

the ratios and formulas are out there.  Any way thanks for sharing :sun:


--------------------
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Re: Home-made 100 Gallon Autoclave / Pressure Cooker (with Pics of construction) [Re: Carl Sagan]
    #14571588 - 06/06/11 11:15 PM (3 years, 1 month ago)

:rockon:


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Amazon Shop for: ½ Pint Jars, Autoclave, Laminar Flow Hood, Microscope, Paul Stamets, Pressure Cooker

Mushrooms, Mycology and Psychedelics >> Mushroom Cultivation

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