Mushroom of the Day: Dryad’s Saddle

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A huge, glorious mushroom growing on a dying tree near Fort Ransom, ND.

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I love the texture of the surface.

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Note it has pores, not gills.

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Attachment point.

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First shiitake of the new year!

On April 7th, the snow in the backyard had finally melted, after a first attempt a couple weeks back was derailed by a surprise six inches. I tiptoed through the mud to check on my shiitake logs. Brushing away the protective straw, I found this six-inch monster – on a two inch diameter, two year old log!

Shiitake

As big as my hand!

The top side had a peculiar translucent quality that hinted it had been frozen and thawed before – so this had definitely been growing in March. I can see why Field and Forest calls this strain Snowcap!

I trimmed off the especially squishy bits. The rest was delicious.

A rainy update

So, today was supposed to feature the installation of a “rain garden” of fruit and perennial edibles in my front yard. It’s been raining off and on for a week – with snow at the beginning – so event was cancelled due to mud. The plants did not arrive today as I expected, so I will be potting up the bareroot shrubs till I can arrange a better time. The garlic, chives, strawberry and new baby lettuces and radishes are loving it; it would have been better to have dug the depression a couple weeks ago during the day while I was free so I could have harvested some of this water, but oh well. It rather illustrates the point! I’ve heard someone with two 1500-gallon tanks under their deck has already filled up just from this week of surprise drizzles.

Upcoming:

  • May 2 – Garden rehab eval for my sister
  • Immediate – Canada thistle control
  • May 3 – re-employed!
  • Week of May 3 – try to dig raingarden myself in stages, as all future weekends have been claimed!
  • May 8 – In Sioux Falls teaching mushroom cultivation for the Glacial Lakes Permaculture PDC
  • May 15 – Wool Picking Party in Harvey, ND, and a wedding in Wilton
  • May 17 – Site Assessment exercise for prospective community garden/demo site, 5:30 pm – handouts to be developed
  • May 20 – Mushroom cultivation for Bismarck State College’s Continuing Education program – sign up here! They need a minimum of 8 to run the course, so if you’re interested everyone else already signed up encourages you to check it out!
  • May 25 – Urban Harvest Book Club, “Independence Days” by Sharon Astyk – glorious book! There is so much information here. She covers not just how to put up food, but how to ensure you get it eaten as well – my biggest problem.
  • Early June – plant warm weather garden crops
  • TBD June – Sheet Mulch Installation Demo in Mandan, focusing on strange fruits
  • July 15 – Speaking on composting/vermicompost for Urban Harvest Wellness Hour
  • TBD June or July – tour of Craig Stange’s raingardens and no-till gardens
  • Late August – ND State Horticulture Society Annual Conference in Devil’s Lake
  • Late September – hopefully I can make it out to the North Country Fiber Fair in Watertown, SD again. I’ve missed a lot of the recent fiber fairs due to schedule conflicts.

And of course:

  • Aug 2012 – NAFEX Annual Conference in Saskatchewan!
  • Aug 2012 – NDSHS Annual Conference in Bismarck!

I LOVE having a lot of time to plan.

Mushroom Propagation at Home

You don’t need a dedicated sterile climate-controlled room to propagate mushrooms at home – they’ve been growing themselves in decidedly un-sterile conditions outdoors since the beginning of time, so you can do it too. Just like sourdough cultures and counter-top yogurt, mycelium is easy to keep alive indefinitely by transferring it to new food sources.

Adventitious Mycelium is adventitious

You can’t see this too well here, but I must have left this Grey Dove oyster kit in its dark incubation area for too long because the mycelium tried to make a break for it. Looking for light and air, it grew a tower of material all the way up to the air patch in the top of the bag (twice, as I accidentally broke a column off its shaky moorings to the plastic bag once.) The corally stuff to the left is the remnants of the dash to freedom – the chunk at the top right is the part that actually attached to the air flow.

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This is that chunk – see its structure? It wasn’t spongy either, as this suggests – it was wood-solid. Cooooool!

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Here’s a closer look at that adventitious mycelium, branching off in search of light, air and more nutrients. This chunk of mycelium is actively growing, so it is a perfect candidate to transfer to a new food source a la yogurt starter. If you have an active mushroom bed that hasn’t exhibited this particular behavior, you can use any bit of fully colonized wood chip; if you have a mushroom you picked with a sort of “root cluster” coming off its base, cut off this “stem butt” with the growing area at the base still attached and it will be perfect for this sort of thing. The mycelial chunk at the base is definitely actively growing – it just grew a fruit, after all!

This is the Quick and Easy Corrugated Cardboard spawn method.  Corrugated cardboard is great because it holds moisture and provides shade to the developing spawn, but the corrugations also ensure an air supply and growing space that can’t get cut off by water gluing the layers shut.

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Cut a piece of clean corrugated cardboard to a workable size – no tape or glue – then soak it in water until you can peel one of the plies off.

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Layer your actively growing mycelium pieces onto the corrugated portion of the cardboard part. Break them into smaller chunks if necessary – you want the cardboard to lie relatively flat when you close it back up, while still getting maximum surface contact with the pieces.

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Close up the layers and stack them in some sort of suitable humidity retainer. This is one of those closeable plastic container dealies that isn’t airtight; I could also have used a plastic bag closed 90% of the way if I put it someplace dark where it wouldn’t collect heat, or a cardboard box buried halfway out in the garden, etc etc. The beauty of this technique is that it works with whatever you’ve got on hand and acclimates the mycelium to your local conditions – making it stronger than lab-grown mycelium straight out of a shipping container. 

I closed this container and put it on a shady countertop, opening it daily to spritz with water and letting any excess water drain out before I put it back.

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One week later you can see a beautiful mycelial ring spreading outwards from a coral piece’s contact point with the top ply.

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And the whole ply visible. This is great growth – a few more days and I can use this to inoculate any substrate where a layer of spawn is best suited – a lasagna-style box of woodchips or straw suitable for basement growth of fresh mushrooms in winter; layered inside refrigerator-cookie-dough slices of logs otherwise too heavy or unsuited for shiitake cultivation;  wood chip beds outside; or, rolled up or cut into strips, potentially even more tp rolls or mason jars full of pasteurized grain. I just got a pack of hard foam air filter disks optimized for the mouth of narrow mason jars, so I might go with some grain spawn next (as this year’s straw crop is not quite ready.)

It’s (also) alive!

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I could not wait any longer so I took a peek – my Stropharia bed has survived the winter! Here you can see the white threads of Stropharia rugoso-annulata mycelium colonizing some wood chips (and pine needles). The ridged wood to the top right is one of the pegs of spawn that started the bed.

Shiitake Weekend

I finally was able to take some time to do my shiitake inoculations. Shiitakes are delicious, but oh so picky to grow – they prefer the high-quality hardwoods. In central and western North Dakota, trees are precious. You don’t sacrifice an oak that took ages to grow when it is the only one on the block. I unfortunately don’t have oak – all I have is a huge limb trimmed from my box elder last October – but I realllly want shiitakes so I will try it anyway. If they work, they work, and if not, it’s practice. Either way it will take a year to find out the results, which kinda sucks.

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The basic plan is to drill holes, and fill them with spawn. This is plug spawn, which is easy to use – just hammer it in – but does take longer to fruit than sawdust spawn.

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I was amused at the water emitted as the moist myceliated plugs were forced into a hole their exact diameter – but then I am easily amused.

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Wax over the holes to keep the moisture in.

Sunday’s production:

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The garbage bags are the logs too big in diameter to be easily handled. They are inoculated with Grey Dove and Italian oyster mushroom spawn per the “Totem method” in the Field and Forest catalog – stack spawn, log, spawn, log, etc, tie up in a humidity bag and let to incubate. These would work great for indoor production in the wintertime with constant indoor temperature. This spot right now is the shadiest I have, until the tree leafs out; I have a shade to block this late afternoon sun for now, till everything can move to a position on the garden area (for excess water to be absorbed instead of run off down the concrete.)

I do have a few logs left to go, but they are a bit poorer quality…