A Fungus Amongus

I have been working on this post for in my head for over a year. Not that it’s a complex topic, but the final paragraph took way longer than my impatient little self could tolerate.

Once upon a time, on a very rainy day in April 2014, some curious folks set out to grow shiitake mushrooms. At $14+/lb, this mushroom is not often what’s-for-dinner, but I love them almost as much as the elusive morel and want to invite it to my table on a regular basis.

The following is our virgin voyage into the mushroom world. If you’ve successfully grown them, feel free to advise. If you never have, pretend I’m the expert who totally knew what she was doing.

We bought our spores from Fungi Perfecti, a family-run company out of Olympia, WA. Picking a company was a crap shoot, I went with one that had solid reviews. This bag of 1,000 spores was about $30. Pretty cheap considering how much shiitake are:

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We set up operations at my sister’s house. She just loves big messes. She welcomed us with our battle cry: 20140412_131941

About a month prior, we (and when I say “we”, I mean my brother-in-law) cut some oak logs with dimensions recommended by most mushroom growing guidelines. I can’t remember what those dimensions were so you’ll have to look ’em up, but do give them 4-6 weeks to dry.

Oak logs are seriously heavy, so if you have soft arms-of-newt like I do, get yourself a burlier sort to lift them.

Oak logs are seriously heavy, so if you have soft arms-of-newt like I do, get yourself a burly sort to lift them.

Drill holes into the logs where you will plug the spores. We averaged about 70-80 holes per log:

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After pounding the spores in until they are flush with the log, seal them with melted beeswax. I am fortunate to have access to cheap beeswax from my local honey source:

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Make sure it is pissing down rain so you are cold and clammy through the entire process:

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This is the outfit I wear when it is cold and clammy. I have three lumpy layers under that windbreaker.

This is the outfit I wear when I am cold and clammy.

Seal any open gashes in the log so unintended fungi doesn't enter.

Seal any open gashes in the log so unintended fungi stay out. “Unintended fungi” is also a name for a man who wants to crash your party.

Once you drill, pound and seal, stack the logs either “log-cabin” style…

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…or lean them “teepee” style. Get them off the ground so they don’t start to rot at the bottom. This is their final home on our property, under the shade of some invasive buckthorn (f-ing buckthorn) where they still get hit by the sun and rain.

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And then you wait. And wait. And wait. After 14 months, I felt immense joy seeing these fun guys:

These guys are

These guys are “intended guests”. They will party in my belly with some butter and salt.

What would I do differently? Water the logs regularly and pay attention to the type of mushroom I buy. There are cold weather strains that might grow more quickly in my zone (4b).  Keeping the logs wet is also key; I recently read logs need at least 30% moisture at all time for growth, which I didn’t do. Recent rain, much like what was surging down on the day of their inoculation, seems to have triggered some life force.

I did talk to the logs a few times. I told them how much I loved shiitakes and that I was really, REALLY looking forward to their arrival. I’m pretty sure that’s what finally did it.

There you have it…adventures in mushroom farming. Let me know if this inspires you to set forth yourself. Definitely share your story with us.

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5 thoughts on “A Fungus Amongus

  1. Tricia says:

    Very nice Amy, loved your pictures too!i. I am absolute dummy when it comes to growing things and keeping them alive along enough to eat. I do love me some shiitakes however and it was neat to hear how they come to fruition. And I agree, talking to anything helps them grow, if the right words are said…

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