What a Load of Shiitake

Posted by Nick  | 19 Sep 2015  | 2 comments

Right from the start our dream of homesteading was nourished by the simple yet exciting prospect of growing and making things. Years of flatting and renting in Auckland saw minimal yard spaces fully occupied by veggie gardens and potted trees, compost heaps and worm farms. Kitchens became laboratories for home-made soaps, cheeses, and even hard candies. One thing we always had on our agenda to try, but for some reason never did, was cultivating mushrooms.

Mushroom spawn is easy to come by – you can order it online. We’ve actually had a bunch in our fridge for a couple of months, but other tasks have taken priority since upgrading to this high-maintenance forty-two acre “back yard”. Last weekend we finally found a bit of time to inoculate some logs. The spores are impregnated in these little wooden dowels:

The idea is to find some hardwood logs (softwoods usually contain too much resin which retards fungal growth). We used branches from our plum trees which we pruned last autumn. Ideally you want thicker logs between ten and thirty centimetres. Ours were on the skinnier side.

Scraping the lichen from the logs prevents species competition.

A drill bit matching the size of the dowels ensures a snug fit. A strip of duct tape wrapped around the drill bit at the length of the dowel prevents you from drilling too deep.

We drilled four holes in a ring around the circumference of the logs five centimetres from one end, then drilled consecutive rings every ten centimetres. Each log swallowed about forty to fifty dowels.

We got two varieties of mushroom. I took care of the shiitake and Char handled the oyster.

We penned “S” for shiitake or “O” for oyster on the ends of each respective log for reference.

The most satisfying part of this was hammering in the dowels. They were so snug and flush.

After all two hundred holes were plugged, we lit a candle as an offering to the deity of fungus.

Actually, the candle was for sealing the holes with wax. This is to keep insects out and to encourage the mycelium (fungal threads) to spread through the matrix of the wood.

This was kind of painstaking because we were exposed to the wind, and only had a rotten tree stump for shelter.

Stacked and ready to bloom! Well, in nine to eighteen months, that is. Yeah, they take a while. But! When they do start fruiting, they’ll continue to do so for six to eight years.

This lot is stacked on the south side of the barn, so they’ll always be in the shade and hopefully stay moist.

Bring on the mushroom bonanza!

2 comments Leave a comment

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Fascinating! Look forward to seeing how this one progresses!

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Hey guys I’ve really enjoyed reading through your blog! actually a couple of times now to see how things are progressing and how you’ve pioneered your own place , I’m sure you have plenty of spare time but it would be nice to see how some areas have progressed like the orchard and the mushies.
We hope to get our own place in the future but love reading about yours

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