Saturday, June 30, 2018

Expanding Mushroom Production

It's been awhile since I've made a blog entry: nothing much new to write about - I've harvested the same crops, split and put away the same size wood for burning in our stove and cared for critters through the long winter, bubbling the pond to keep fish alive. Maple sugaring went the same as other years.

Gathering wood, though, this year was different: a pinched nerve in my leg prevents me from carrying logs out of the woods so we got a delivery of logs, eight cords worth. It's been more than a decade since I've had to order logs so I wasn't prepared for the volume of chainsaw shavings in one place!
Log delivery
The largest logs are four feet in diameter!

Working through the pile reduced about 3% to chainsaw chips.

What to do with up to 4 inches of chips? Mulch? Or Something else?

To fit 8 cords into the space reserved for it, firewood had to be stacked higher than ever: to 16 feet and touching the roof!
I started using the chainsaw chips to mulch garlic but received an ad from our mushroom spawn supplier that Wine Cap mushrooms grow well in wood chips. I ordered two 5.5 pound packages of 
spawn in sawdust that would populate a cubic yard of wood chips. During a rare rain I spread the chainsaw shavings under an apple tree in a ten by ten foot square area, five inches deep. After sprinkling 11 pounds of Wine Cap mushroom spawn over this, I raked it deep into the chip bed and added another few inches of fresh chips. This bed I covered with a few inches of fresh hay to keep it moist. Luckily we received another quarter inch of rain that night to keep the bed watered. I'll have to water it whenever we don't get an inch of rain per week. This has been the driest spring in memory and the water table is quite low compared to other years.

I also ordered 11 pounds of Almond Agaricus mushroom spawn that grows in compost. Over a few decades we've been piling many, many wheelie bins of weeds and discarded flower trimmings in a pile that has grown four feet high and a few hundred square feet in area. Though the top is covered in vines, the rest has been reduced to fine compost that only has to be sifted through a quarter inch mesh to eliminate stones and sticks. Last fall we also collected a few cubic yards of composted horse manure form our neighbor that we also sifted and added to the "weed" compost in case it wasn't rich enough for mushrooms, since it has had Virginia creeper continuously growing on it for years. Because this mushroom variety is cold sensitive, in the greenhouse I built a 52 by 36 inch stainless steel tray (13 square feet), six inches deep, to keep it intact and free from varmints. The materials came from very old solar collector prototypes that I reworked into a rodent-proof tray.

Sheet metal tray before adding sifted compost

Five inches deep sifted mulch with holes punched at six inch spacing to receive 11 pounds of Almond Agaricus mushroom spawn
The compost had to be made very moist (so drops of water came out when squeezed in a fist). After covering the spawn with compost, I covered it with a few inches of grass mulch and sprayed water to keep it moist. I'll have to do this every day or two to help the spawn thrive. It's possible to grow a crop in this tray while the mushrooms develop and I'll probably add an array of fancy lettuce that also requires lots of water and will shade the bed.

If all goes well, in September we'll have two new kinds of mushrooms to harvest!

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