Shiitake mushrooms. Meaty texture and flavor. Nutritionally beneficial. Pricey. So, I decided to grow my own on logs. The best time to inoculate is in the spring, therefore on April 23, 2014, I ordered 100 shiitake mushroom mycelium plug spawn. 100 vibrant orange and yellow Chicken of the Woods mushroom plugs, too. From Fungi Perfecti fulfilled through Amazon. Then, life got busy. As the plugs chilled in the fridge to ensure dormancy, the months passed. Tick tock. Tick tock. The final recommended inoculation window "30-45 days before consistently (i.e. 'round the clock) freezing temps set in for the winter" was rapidly approaching. It is now October 24, 2014. Yes, a full 6 months has passed. The urgency that other tasks had held this day, took a backseat to my mushroom project. I got busy.
First, I positioned the four hardwood (oak) logs, that Dick had cut in 3-4 foot lengths several weeks ago, to allow time for the "anti-fungal compounds that trees naturally produce to degrade," in a crosshatch pattern to encourage air flow. One of my Welsummer hens, perched atop one of the logs, observed me curiously as I worked.
Independently gathering plug spawn insertion supplies is an option, but I chose to order a kit that included a 5/16" drill bit with a stop collar, rubber mallet, 1 lb soy-based sealing wax, and a 1" wax application brush. As I began to drill the "2-inch deep holes no more than 4 inches apart, evenly spaced in a diamond pattern along the length and around the full circumference of the logs," the drill bit's stop collar kept slipping, so I subbed a strip of painters' masking tape wrapped around the bit.
After gently pounding a mushroom plug into each drilled opening, I heated the wax over low heat provided by an electric burner set atop a cement block.
According to the Fungi Perfecti website, "Holes can be sealed with cheese wax or beeswax (or the soy-based wax that is included in the company's plug spawn kit) to protect the mycelium from weather and insects while it is growing; although this step can be helpful, it is not absolutely necessary." My decision to seal the holes is, optimistically speaking, my insurance policy against this autumn's sudden cold temperatures. Remember, it is recommended that logs be inoculated 30-45 days before consistent day and night freezing temps set in. "The idea is to allow the mushroom mycelium growing on the plug spawn time to establish itself in its new home before it goes into dormancy over the winter." (Source: www.fungi.com) It is October 25, 2014 as I finish colonizing my logs. The high and low temps here in Brainerd, Minnesota are 57/35. On 10-26, 61/25. 10-27, 50/37. 10-28, 41/35. 10-29, 37/33. 10-30, 39/28. 10-31, 37/21. Are you beginning to see the slippery slope? In ten more days, on November 10, the temps takes a serious dip to 21/19. 11-13, 19/10. 11-14, 19/1. 11-15, 19/-4. 11-20, 14/-5. 11-27, 6/-9. I will provide a mushroom growth success rate update after winter's thaw progresses into spring and summer's warmth. Note: The final photo in this post is a chicken of the woods mushroom that happily made its home on a tree down a wooded trail on our property. It fueled my desire to inoculate logs with this species so that I may cause walks in our woods to be even more beautiful. It is recommended that softwoods (i.e. douglas fir) be used when inoculating chicken of the woods mushrooms, however this species grows wild on oak trees in our woods, therefore I used oak logs. This whole mushroom growing project has turned out to be an experiment. A wait-and-see game. But, isn't that what makes life fun? The here-and-now coupled with the anticipation of what's to come.