by Shirley McClelland
by Andrea Moore
15 Years ago, I left my urban life and began cultivating a more sustainable and self-reliant way of living. My version of this lifestyle includes living without debt, working with nature instead of trying to suppress or control it, and using permaculture and biodynamic gardening methods, as well as foraging, to provide my family with food and medicine.
Observing the rhythms of nature, conducting basic home maintenance, failures and victories in the garden, and even a short walk in the woods, will teach a person rather quickly the necessity for, and the dominance of, fungi. That said, I will leave those topics to be explored at your own level of interest. This article will share with you a few of my personal practices, along with observations I’ve made along the way.
Our property came with a neglected orchard. We realized we would need to remove some trees in order to save others. Wanting to be good stewards, we cut the tulip poplars leaving a 2’ stump. The thought being that, insects would soon be boring into the stump and pileated woodpeckers could sit on it while feasting on the bugs and their larva. The bonus to this method is that tulip poplar quickly colonizes with Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus complex,) and will continue fruiting for several years while breaking down the stump! Another mushroom that regularly fruits on this decaying wood is the beautiful Winter Mushroom (Flammulina velutipes.) As the stump is nearly used up, it is commonly covered with rosettes of Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor.) All of this done by nature, with no interference by me!
The next tree we wanted to save was an American Plum. The problem was an oak tree leaning over it and blocking the sun. We really did not want to cut the oak, and ended up only removing part of it. It did, however, provide enough wood to inoculate a new batch of shiitake logs. There is nothing quite like the first frittata of the spring made with your own freshly fruited shiitake mushrooms, baby greens, and eggs produced by your own hens! I look forward to this every year!
When February rolls around, it’s time to tap the maple trees. We’ve been producing our own syrup for 10 years or so. Last summer, though, I noticed that several maple trees had succumbed to Armillaria mellea. Of course there were large, beautiful clusters of honey mushrooms all around the bases of these trees, but the trees themselves were dying. I had always thought the rhizomorphs went up under the bark from root or soil level, but now I am wondering if spores introduced into the wounds of the trees when installing or removing the taps, or when plugging afterward, could actually be the culprit. It seems as though it would at the very least make them more susceptible. This summer I will observe whether there are as many of the untapped trees infected as ones that have been tapped. I will also do some research into the matter.
The last thing I’d like to share is the success I’ve had improving the soil in my garden with the help of Wine Caps (Stropharia rugosa annulata.) Every winter, I pile the garden with used bedding from my chickens and goats. By spring it is ready to feed my plants. This year, I added Wine Cap spawn to the mix! Most plants thrive when their fungal partners speed up the breakdown of organic matter and mine otherwise inaccessible nutrients and moisture. I dug a trench for a new patch of asparagus and put 1 year old roots in with lots of rotted manure and compost. I then covered everything with wood chips and inoculated it with the Wine Cap spawn. Last, I scattered a layer of straw on the bed. By mid-summer, I had the most enormous 1st year asparagus ferns I had ever seen! As the season progressed, numerous wine caps began popping up right where the stems were coming up from the ground. I pulled the soil back and could see that the roots were completely colonized with strands of the mycelium. A victory!!
If you are interested in learning more about how nearly every living thing is intricately connected to something else, please begin by reading “Life in the Soil” by James B. Nardi. Happy mushrooming!
by Jack Sedlak
It’s not even been a year since Christine Craycroft and I became OMS members but what a year it has been!
Actually it was about August of 2013 that I met Chris while trying to become a park volunteer. During the “interview” and then months later during our courtship we both discovered our love for mushrooms. Some of the first texts we exchanged were photos of Chris’s oyster mushrooms growing on coffee grounds, and my carved-wood landscape mushrooms. We both had well over a dozen books on fungi and foraging, and as we cultivated our mushroom love we just plain became spore addicts!
We eventually turned our love of mushrooms into starting a business venture. In April and May I had a tree harvest on my tree farm, and my neighbor had the same Amish logger select-cut her 5 acres. We just couldn’t resist the opportunity to use the leftover branches, so we got some books, built an inoculation table, had a few parties with friends and family, and inoculated about 600 logs and stumps with shiitake, chicken of the woods, lion’s mane and oyster spawn. Phew!
Little did we know that the logs would almost ‘explode’ with mushrooms upon returning from our long September camping/canoeing trip (including the ‘must-visit’ Porcupine Mountains in UP of Michigan—black trumpets so numerous in areas you almost couldn’t avoid stepping on them!). After reading up on various food regulations, (who knew that mushrooms were not automatically considered an “approved food”??), our Forest Fungi Farm was inspected and got the official blessing of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to sell cultivated mushrooms to restaurants and grocers.
And what a fabulous year for wild mushrooming! The OMS forays exposed us to dozens of new species. In our neck of the woods we found an unbelievable specimen of Hypomyces hyalinus infecting an Amanita, photos of which elicit a jaw dropping OMG! Close to 100 pounds of Golden Chanterelles were growing in the woods around the house, well into October. A special treat was finding a 27- pound Hen of the Woods on the old oak tree at the house where Chris grew up. Between us we added 22 new species of edible mushrooms to our life list.
Funny though, as thorough as we were in our ID process, there is still the occasional doubt, as during a summer hike when we found a floodplain absolutely loaded with Friendship Mushrooms, Armillaria tabescens. We did our due diligence by making a spore print and keying them from multiple books, and with confidence cooked some up for breakfast. Pretty enjoyable too–until Chris decided to continue reading about them hours later, along with a poisonous look-alike, the Deadly Galerina. Here’s what she read from Tom Volk’s page that prompted her somewhat frantic call to me, then mine to poison control:
“Here’s the scenario: Sometimes you’re lucky (or skilled) and find lots of these edible Armillaria and Flammulina. You find so many that picking them becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. You stop paying attention to every mushroom you place in your basket. You accidentally cut off a Galerina or two or more and place them in with the edible mushrooms. You’re so tired and hungry when you get home that you just dump your mushrooms into a skillet and fry them up. You accidentally eat some Galerina. Two or three days later you die.”
Luckily, we didn’t accidentally scoop up any Galerinas along with our Armillarias, and we’re still here to write a thank you for all the helpful and warm OMS members, great pot lucks, and expectations of future forays and gatherings!