We have had a lot of rain fall in the last few weeks, and the mushrooms love it, especially the shiitake and nameko. I have harvested a two or three dozen pounds of shiitake, while my few logs of Nameko are also doing well, and oysters have fruited a bit too, though its a bit too cold for them still. In general I’m appreciating the rain.
this is a gray oyster that grows reliably throughout the season
and here are some Nameko fruiting on Cherry wood. The slimy texture doesn’t endear my wife to these mushrooms, but the slime goes away when you cook them, and they have a firm texture and a delicious cashew-like flavor.
These are recently-inoculated shiitake logs that I have laid out in a wooded area at Grow! Twin Cities. The logs are close to the ground so that they don’t dry out too much and so that woodland plants will grow up around them, but are held off the ground with freshly cut saplings so that the logs are less likely to pick up competing fungi and molds. I decided to try this laying technique (which you use only for the first year) after seeing this done at Field and Forest Products in Wisconsin.
These are all inoculated with cold-weather strains of shiitake that fruit well in cold weather and produce the highest quality mushrooms, but you can do very little to control when they fruit. These logs will more or less stay where they are for their productive life, so I chose my largest diameter logs for these cold weather strains.
Things are going alright so far, except that the local woodpeckers have taken a liking to the mushroom spawn or the wax that covers it. I’ll soon have bird netting up to deter them, or else there’ll be no spawn left to colonize these logs!
This wasn’t exactly a barn raising, but it was done with similar speed. It is true that I have prepped the site since last fall – to put in ground anchors and post anchors, prep posts and hook up cabling, but prompted by our summer weather in late winter, we raised the shade structure last Thursday. After putting in the center posts and stringing the last cables, my volunteer and I tightened every cable clamp and then the turnbuckles. When one ground anchor pulled up we put two in its place – and in better spots. Then we pulled hundreds of lbs. of shade fabric up onto the structure, pulling a few feet up at a time at each bay again and again until the leading edge met the ground on the other side!
The result is a sublimely open shade structure. With clips at the perimeter to hold the shade fabric, we will be able to open the walls partially or completely for ventilation. You will see lots of open space; if I can get all my logs inoculated, this unused area will be filled with freshly inoculated logs. Speaking of that, I need to get back to work!
This is a photo of what things look like out at the farm these days. Not prepossessing at all. The shade structure is down, and I work on it from time to time, since it is being improved and expanded for next year.
Still, the most remarkable thing to me as I walk around there is that these inert looking logs that haven’t done anything for six months will actually produce mushrooms in a couple of months. I have a few years of experience by now, seeing the first seemingly inert logs produce their first spring mushrooms, but I still have moments of incredulity that they will do this. At this point, it’s a matter of trusting and waiting.
This is a stack of logs in the side yard of our 1/8 acre Minneapolis home – before I moved the stack out to the farm on Monday. This is the second of several such stacks to accumulate there after being inoculated.
By the time these logs are moved to the farm, I may have moved them from where they are felled to a friend’s garage, from that garage to the inoculation workshop, from the workshop to the side yard nearby, and from the side yard to the Maplewood farm.
When I have spent a couple of hours moving logs, I find myself fantasizing about a much simpler trip from a wood lot on one part of a property (where trees are felled) to another part (where logs are inoculated) to a last part of the same property (to a “laying yard” where logs are rested and fruited).
There is one thing I might miss with less log moving: when would I get the time to fantasize or contemplate? Yes, there are some good things about urban farming after all!
We have been moving logs into the Minneapolis workshop and other nearby space, but we have also been moving them out again in droves. And this has been possible only with the help of volunteers, who have been putting in hours cleaning logs, plunging spawn into logs, and sealing up these spots with cheese wax. I have also gotten a some help moving logs after a pick-up from my loggers. Thank you intrepid volunteers!
This is a photo of inoculations, from the drilling station in the foreground to the application of spawn in the middle ground, to the waxing station in the background. Then the logs rest nearby until I get a chance to move them out to the farm. We have inoculated over 200 logs so far this season, and we are now inoculating about 20+ per day.
We get a lot done, but we’ve also had some good discussions about mushrooms, farming, food, and some life stories. Let me know if you’d be interested in volunteering, now or later in the season. See the volunteer tab for more details.
This morning I took a large truck an hour and a half or two hours north of the Twin Cities to pick up about 250 white oak logs. This photo is taken at the cabin at one of my loggers (to the right in the photo). They were a bit short, so they cut down a couple more trees to fill out the load.
Here is the truck again, but back at the inoculation workshop in Minneapolis. I spent a couple of hours unloading the logs. They are now stacked in the workshop, so I can start inoculations tomorrow. And I have another week of inoculations before making another log pick-up!
A couple of years ago I built a dry root cellar in our basement in order to keep vegetables and fruits over the winter. I framed in a corner of our basement, put in a door and used a window to give the room access to the cool air from outside. Last year I acquired a half dozen refrigerators in order to store spawn and fresh mushrooms. I decided a walk-in cooler would be more efficient and convenient, so I decided to make our root cellar also work as a walk-in cooler.
The walk-in cooler is essentially complete now, after working on it on-and-off for a couple of months. This just in time for my first order of spawn that came in yesterday – about 100 lbs. of shiitake sawdust spawn.
I started the work in December by papering (can that word be used here?) the walls of the root cellar with rigid insulation, enough to give the room an R-value of at least 20. I didn’t screw the insulation into the walls behind. Rather I just cut the pieces tight enough so that they would stay put.
This photo was taken just outside the root cellar/walk-in cooler. While I used pink insulation for the bulk of the insulating value, I finished it off with the yellow insulation with a foil face, since this surface will shed the condensation that occurs in this type of environment. I also taped all the seams with foil tape and spray-foamed around the receptacles. Unfortunately the yellow insulation in particular is not an environmentally friendly product, but I couldn’t think of a good alternative. Please comment if you have any thoughts about this.
I put insulation on the floor and I used self-tapping screws with a rubber gasket to attach the insulation to the ceiling. Here is a photo of the wood threshold I put in that shows how much I built up the floor. After putting in the threshold I put down some painted plywood sheets in order to protect the floor insulation.
Finally to the fun part! I put in the air conditioning unit that will work in the warmer months and the vents that will bring cool air inside in the winter to cool the space.
Finally, I insulated around the window and hooked up the coolbot, a device that tricks the a/c unit into staying on to cool below the temps it would usually go. My thermostat is currently set at 38 degrees, or about what a refrigerator runs at. So far it is staying at that temp, or a bit cooler.
Welcome to the website and blog for Cherry Tree House Mushrooms. I hope you find it interesting and entertaining in the way that I find all things farming and homesteading entertaining. It is no accident that this is my first post – since this is the off season for outdoor mushroom cultivation. It is the off season for cultivation, but not for running a farm, or building a community of mushroom cultivators and farmers generally.
Besides working on this site, I have been updating my records so that they are easier to update and understand later. Not exciting stuff, but I can get pretty excited about spending less time in the future inputting harvest, income or expense information. I have also been preparing for log inoculations, including arrangements for getting logs, purchasing spawn and other inoculations supplies. Oh, and my inoculation workshop has been used for a lot of other things since last spring, so I still need to tidy it up before we deposit hundreds of logs in there, a 12 foot inoculation table and a few volunteer inoculators.
Another winter project has been to convert our root cellar into a root cellar/walk-in cooler, so that we can keep large quantities of spawn and mushrooms in the summer, as well as potatoes, carrots and onions in the winter. I hope to post about that soon.