B and M from Rot Glow Farm teach Inmn about how to farm mushrooms in the forest. They talk about their farm and growing set up, as well as the Lobelia Commons project they work with, and the Earthbound Almanac that they help put out.
Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery.
Deadline for submissions is July 31st, 2023.
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: Rot Glow Farm on Forest Farming Mushrooms
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Inmn Neruin, and this week we’re going to be talking about something really fun. And that is fungi. Specifically, we’re going to be talking about how someone can grow mushrooms for food or medicine. And we’re going to be talking with the folks that operate Rot Glow Farm where they grow mushrooms in the forest. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channels Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Doo do do doo doo doooo. [Making noises that sound like singing a melody]
And we’re back. Thanks y’all so much for coming on to the podcast today. Would you like to introduce yourselves with your name, pronouns, and the farm that y’all are both part of and just tell us a little bit about about that project?
Sure. My name is B. My pronouns are they/them. We a part of Rot Glow Farm and are farmers in Mississippi, pretty close to New Orleans, about an hour and a half away.
Yeah, I am M. And he/they. And yeah, we’ve been farming here in southwestern Mississippi for three years.
Cool. Cool. And could y’all tell us a little bit about like, what is Rot Glow Farm and what do y’all do there?
So we’re primarily a mushroom farm and tree nursery. We grow quite a bit of shiitake mushrooms outdoors on logs, which we take to market and most of the sales from the shiitakes goes into basically subsidizing this tree nursery that we have where we grow thousands of trees and give them away in New Orleans and rurally in Mississippi.
Cool, cool. Like how did y’all get involved in doing this?
For me, several years ago, I read that book Mushroom At the End of the World, which was kind of a life changing book for me. And that got me really excited about mushrooms generally and fungi. That first manifested by growing shiitakes in New Orleans as part of a backyard gardening practice. And then, when the pandemic happened, some of us had been part of this project in New Orleans called Lobelia Commons, which is this…We define it as like a network for food autonomy and neighborhood survival. In that project, we started a collaborative mushroom group where we kind of learned together how to produce mushrooms, which would fit into a wider network of ways of producing food in the city. So, the way that first manifested was doing oyster mushrooms, workshops to do oyster mushrooms in buckets at a decent scale. And we then also started doing some production on logs. Then wanting to scale that up a bit, we were interested in growing shiitakes in the forest north of New Orleans. So then we started growing out here in Southern Mississippi. And yeah, that’s how I got here.
B, How did you start to…Like what got you interested in in mushroom farming?
Yeah, so where I was living before, I was involved in mutual aid programs and just living in a place for a while and feeling sort of stagnant and feeling like the work that we were doing was great and impactful. But it…I just….I think my heart wasn’t in it. It felt more like a job, like going to my mutual aid job. And it felt more like charity than it did like actually connecting with people in a way that felt horizontal. And, I had a big life event and had to leave where I was living at and started to get involved with the Gulf South region through hurricane relief after [Hurricane] Ida. And so I was connecting more with people in this area. And I met M a few years prior and M and I were getting closer as friends and starting to meet more people who were doing this work that, to me, felt more aligned with my interests and my value system and also just something I was really fascinated by. And the mushroom farming was an aspect of that. And like M said prior, it helped us subsidize this thing that we do and the nursery growing that what we do and some of these other projects that were involved in. And, it felt sort of like a natural progression for myself because years prior I used to live in central California and had a fair amount of experience just walking through the woods and foraging mushrooms that were wild and talking with budding mycologists. And where I was living before, it was sort of like a casual culture of mushroom interest that people had. And so there’s like a annual fungi fair that happens every year in the area I was living before. And so I guess I had never really considered farming mushrooms. And M was already starting to cultivate that here. And once I was introduced to it, it felt like this really exciting thing, but yeah, it just kind of fell into my lap in this way what was like, "Oh, yeah, of course. That’s what I’m doing now." And yeah, like I said before, it’s not disconnected from anything else that we do. It feels really interconnected. And that’s what also makes it feel regenerative and worthwhile. Does that make sense?
Yeah, totally. Totally. And I guess maybe this is silly question, but like, why…why mushrooms as opposed to like any other food or medicine thing that you could grow?
Um, so partially, the land that we inhabit here is a successionary forest, very young. Everything around us is pine plantation, mostly Lob lolly pine. We have a lot of like lob lolly here and a lot of young sweet gums, young oaks. And in…like, in some ways, the only way to farm at all here we would have to clear some woods. So, and on the one hand, it’s practical, because we also would like to grow large amounts of trees. So, we can’t grow trees in the middle of the forest. Well, we could, but it would take a very long time. And it wouldn’t be like really effective towards getting them in the hands of people who want to plant trees. So, we cleared some of the forests to have that nursery and small garden and, you know, meeting some local needs. So, with those trees, the sweet gums and the oaks in particular, we turn them into mushroom bolts is what they’re called, like blogs, basically. But I think beyond that, I think mushrooms are just like an extremely fascinating subject. They’re unlike anything else that you eat. I think they have something that’s kind of like indescribable or like uncanny. And I think when you get into conversations with people–especially like we’re often at farmers markets–there’s a way of finding, especially rurally like who the kinda secret freaks are. And like you know, it’s really hard to find each other out here. And mushrooms, I think is like kind of a little like, "wink wink," in some ways, and I think that that’s been a big asset for us. We met a few people through farmers markets like that.
Like, mushrooms is like, more….Farming mushrooms is more common like, for people that you might feel more like the true freaks or something? Or?
I think not even just farming–I mean definitely farming–but I think, like in a good way and a bad way. There’s definitely some mushroom farmers who are like, maybe not freaks we’d like to hang out with on a lovely Saturday night. But I think the type of people that are drawn to are like going into the woods, getting down, and like looking at the Earth very close and that these super tiny things or sometimes, like really phallic things. Or, you know, like in all the all the forms…[B interrupts]
Yes. Slimy, stinky, like, yeah, voluptuous, like, disgusting. All of the brackets of signifiers. Yeah, and like you said, it takes a certain kind of attention and careful consideration and observation where you’re getting down on your hands and knees and just like you’re…There’s this one particular–I can’t remember what it’s called–but it’s a…there’s this one type of mushroom that grows just on Magnolia stuff, just the cones of magnolia trees. And it’s really teeny tiny. And you would never think to look for it if you didn’t know it was there. And there are just so many species of mushrooms that are hidden. If you just look a little bit closer on the bark of a pine tree, it’s this microscopic guy that just exists like in this one area, or, yeah, there’s just so many numerous species like that, that are fascinating to look at and to think about and so many species that are being discovered all the time. And then also just the queerness of mushrooms is fascinating and really interesting to think about when we’re thinking about the way things are reproducing and sex, of biological sex and how there’s like…What’s the one that the? [M interrupts to answer]
Yeah, Schizophyllum. Has how many different sexes?
The common name is common split gill, and it has, I think it’s like 23,000 different distinct sexes. [Noises of incredulity from Inmn] You’ll see it everywhere, it goes pretty much full sun to like deep shade on all kinds of dead wood.
And the reason why it grows everywhere, right is because of how promiscuous it is and how adaptive it is. And so that’s like, part of its ability to reproduce so successfully is because of the wide diversity of sex that it’s able to inhabit.
Yeah, I think it’s something like any one individual of that fungus can reproduce with like, it’s like 96% or 98% of all total of that species, total individuals of that species. Which so cool.
Yeah, and that’s just, you know, that’s just one particular grouping. When you start to go through them, it’s…I mean, yeah, it’s infinite.
Yeah. That’s, that’s really cool. Um, I’ve heard that in, like, in the southeast that, old growth gets talked about a little bit differently than, like on the West Coast, for example. Where like, like an old growth forest has like more to do with the amount of fungal interactions that are going on than it has to do with like, the size or the age of the trees necessarily. Is that, is that true?
It’s, it’s, that might be…I might not be totally qualified to answer to that. But my inclination is that that’s a glass-half-full way of looking at the situation with southeastern forests, which is unfortunately the southeastern long leaf pine forests, which are, you know, amazing and, unfortunately exist only in fractions of fractions of fractions of its former glory like, you know often gets compared, like the type of biodiversity that gets compared to the Amazon rainforest. And I think a lot of that is in the soil, like particularly the Russulaceae, the Russula laurocerasi is extremely diverse in the southeast. And that’s, that’s a mycorrhizal mushroom that you’ll often see it’s like kind of the one that is, has a brittle cap, often red caps, but has quite a diverse array of colors, green, purple, blue, there’s even a yellow. But yeah, and that’s just the one’s that you’ll see quite a lot.
Cool. Cool. To switch a little bit, it seems like maybe it’s like a practical decision since y’all live in a forest, but like, why kind of doing like forest farming? Like as opposed to like…I guess I don’t know how people normally grow mushrooms. But like, yeah, is there something that’s different about forest farming for y’all than like how a lot of people might go about cultivating mushrooms?
So yeah, so, if you’re growing mushrooms outdoors, you could probably have a very elaborate way of creating shade and humidity and the kinds of things that you need in order to grow mushrooms on logs. But, it just makes sense because you’re as a person who’s growing mushrooms on logs, you’re…in some ways, you’re replicating what would be occurring in the wild, and how those mushrooms would be occurring on decomposing wood or logs in the wild. And so it sort of does the work for you of…I mean, you’re already in a forest. So, instead of putting that in an indoor setting, which a lot of people will do this where they’ll they’ll have, you know, a sterile, often sterile environment indoors, they’ll have bags of mushrooms–and I don’t know that much about it because I don’t do it myself–but from what I’ve read about it and talked to people about it, you’re able to really dial in the exact conditions that these mushrooms would need to produce. Whereas, in an outdoor setting, you’re exposed to whatever kinds of temperature increases or decreases and you’re exposed to the seasons and, you know, if there’s a drought that year, or whatever it is, and so the forest is going to help maintain the environment that you’re going to need to be able to grow those mushrooms. Does that sum it up? I don’t know,
I think I would add, like a question that we get asked a lot by, especially by other farmers whether or not they’re mushroom farmers, is that they’ll ask what our acreage is. Which doesn’t matter. You know, like if you have any amount of space and you have a way to make shade, and you’re not just sitting on concrete, you can grow mushrooms outdoors, pretty much. So that one doesn’t matter. But they often ask like, "Why don’t you…I’m sure you can get a grant. Why don’t you put in like an indoor space, or like a warehouse? You know, you’ve got plenty of space to put in a warehouse." And it’s like okay, you have to like just clear cut a bunch of forests where mushrooms are already happening. Fungi are everywhere, you know, raised, you know, in their perfect condition. We already have the perfect condition. It’s just like yeah…And I mean, obviously this comes from farmers are very concerned with yields, and productivity, and stuff, which totally makes sense. Like, obviously that’s like a capitalist mindset. But, we also have to eat, you know. Like, if the mushrooms don’t fruit then we can’t go to market. And, we eat a lot of shiitakes. We also just eat less of that stuff. So, I understand where that comes from. But, I think our wager with forest farming has been that we really need to try and try and try new things. Like, the way things have been running for, you know, 300 years in this area hasn’t hasn’t been working, simply put. So, this is one effort to try something that’s different, that’s maybe not motivated by capitalist economics and colonial mentality. Yeah. And hopefully it works out.
Yeah I mean, I’m right. That’s, that’s it, we’re, I guess, generally…I mean, maybe in the future, we would experiment with doing some indoor space just to try it because I personally, I’ve never done that before. So it would be interesting to see. And I think for folks who are trying to really scale up, there is some sense in doing something indoors, because you can really dial it in and you can maximize the amount of space that you have for the amount of yield that you’re able to get from being able to manipulate your environment in such a way that you’re able to get it. You know, like you can calculate exactly how much you’re gonna get. And, I guess really, the point is just that we’re trying to sort of move away from having this artificial spaces that takes a lot of energy to create, especially where we are. I mean, thinking about climate controlling an indoor space to be able to produce mushrooms in the dead of summer, you know, where it’s like, you know, 100 and get gets up to like 115, sometimes, like 110 degrees. It sort of goes against the path that we’re trying to go down, which is to take ourselves out of that cycle of constant resource extraction and constant, which is like cultivation, or like artificial cultivation to be able to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time. We feel like, yeah, just trying to sort of see it in a different way and show others that it can be done in a different way. And also that like yeah, of course, it’s not going to be as profitable, but I feel like the process in figuring it out and trying it is worth the setbacks. Like for example, recently, this last spring, we didn’t have as much shiitake yields as we thought we would have. And we’re not really totally sure why that is. But, our reishi did really well. And we’re still…We’re still troubleshooting why that happened. And if we were operating a completely indoor space, I think it would be pretty simple to figure out, okay, well, you know, we didn’t have this humidity, or like, our air conditioning unit broke down for this one week or, you know, we tried this one strain that maybe wasn’t as viable as like a different strain. But, I think there’s something about that, that it forces you to really look at your environment and be forced to be more connected to where you’re at and the kinds of species that are growing. And like for example, we’re growing on sweet gums and oaks. And so we’re starting to think "Okay, well, is it…Do the sweet gums maybe not last as long. Do they maybe last two years or three years rather than four years? Are the oaks better to be growing on rather than sweet gums? And that’s all being figured out through trial and error. But, it feels like important long term information to be gathering. Albeit, might be frustrating to be like "What the fuck, why isn’t…why aren’t they fruiting as much as they were last year?" or whatever it is.
Yeah, yeah. It’s wild to me that someone would question why you would grow a thing in the place where it naturally grows. [Said sarcastically and then laughing]
Yeah, and I mean, to be fair, it’s like, you know, shiitakes not from here. Reishi is. But, it [shiitake] does quite well in the in the woods here.
But then you know, we’re going to markets and there are these other growers that are growing indoors and you have a bunch of mushrooms, and they’re selling, you know, they’re selling as much as they possibly can get out into the market. And for us, we’re like, "Oh, shit, we don’t really have that much to offer this Spring," because we’re more at the whim of what’s going on in the world around us than if we were operating in an indoor space, which like, it makes sense that people would choose that because it’s…it’s a lot…It’s something you can count on. And especially if you’re counting on it for your survival or your your livelihood, then like, it does make sense if you have that startup capital that you would decide to do it that way inside.
Yeah, yeah. If y’all didn’t like…Like, if someone were growing, or cultivating shiitake or like reishi logs in the forest where they lived, what can the yields be like, on that? Like, if someone was just growing mushrooms for their own consumption? Like, what would that be like for someone?
So, I think that there’s a really good PDF online from Cornell, that–I think he’s named Steve Gabriel–put out. He’s a professor there with the [undecipherable] there. And it has…Like, if someone is getting involved in growing on logs, specifically, it’s kind of like "the book." It’s like a 40 page PDF, and it has so much good information. But, I think you’ll see there and many other places, a claim that each log per year will produce about a pound of shiitakes. That’s just for shiitake. I think we’ve found that to be fairly accurate. And in some cases, low. But, for instance, reishi, it’s going to be much lower. And Reishi, as you grow it in on the ground, it loves…like it wants like 90% humidity, 95% humidity. The longevity of the log is up for question in terms of like, do you get termites. We get termites here. So, the longevity is up for question. But what we’ve found is, depending on the size of the log, you can get quite large flushes. I’m not sure if we’ve ever actually weighed them because we don’t…we don’t take those to market. We mostly just get them out to friends to make medicine with. But, I would say even with one log…Yeah, without being able to quantify it–and partially not really wanting to mediate everything through like a measurement–it’s absolutely worth it. Even if you only have one reishi log, you can make quite a lot of tincture or tea with what that would produce for one year. You can probably expect a couple of caps minimum. They might be quite large caps. Yeah, I personally haven’t found a rhyme or reason to why they’re bigger or smaller.
Yeah, it’s really fun. Like, even if you’re not interested in growing on a bigger scale or like feeding your family or whatever it is and you just want to try it because you’re simply interested in it. I think that it’s so worth it to invest in the startup costs of getting yourself a drill bit, or something that goes on an angle grinder, and inoculating a couple logs, putting them in the shade and looking at that PDF, and just getting going on it because yeah, it’s just it’s a really interesting thing to take part in. And it’s so fun, and it can be really rewarding. And it might lead you to starting to connect with your local mycological club or connecting with other people that are growing mushrooms. And yeah, it can be really rewarding. So yeah, I just, I’d like to encourage people that maybe they’re listening to this, and they’re like, "Oh, well, I wouldn’t want to do that on like a large scale or maybe it just seems like too complicated." It’s pretty simple.
Yeah, I would, in terms of like investment, I would definitely say that–and we had the experience in New Orleans, specifically, where this worked very well–would be to team up, you know. There’s other people out there, either through a local mycological club. Some regions have like really robust robust ones and might, you know, likely have people who are already growing. So you wouldn’t have to buy any kind of drill or drill bit or the like plunger things. And doing it together, it’s like a really great social activity. We do kind of like a festival of sorts every year when we do the inoculation time, and people kind of look forward to it, and we’re all like working together and not too hard, you know, just like, it’s a…it’s a really fun time. And I would encourage, especially like, building a culture around that can be really rewarding. And if you are just on your own, listening to the podcast, and really want to grow mushrooms, but you don’t know anyone who’s interested in it, that’s…I mean, that’s how I started. Me and my roommate were the only two people I knew that were interested in it. And there’s like…they sell inoculated dowel rods online, which, you just basically just drill into logs, and you hammer into the log. So, it doesn’t…you don’t need like a whole gang of people inoculating, you know? You can absolutely do it on your own as well.
Cool. I know there’s this book/PDF, that y’all reference that lays out the process probably pretty pretty well, but would you mind kind of just breaking down like what the process is like? Like, how would you set up a like a log for growing mushrooms. Just like the kind of like a breakdown of the steps.
So first, you’re sourcing your log. So that could look like a lot of different things. You could be felling the tree your yourself, you could be maybe talking to a tree company that sometimes has extra logs. There could be a storm and you just find a log on the side of the road. Any of those are fine. The recommendation is–and we have found this to be true–that you want the tree to be dormant and already healthy. You wouldn’t want it to be already infected with some other fungal pathogen. Like if it’s living, it already has something some other mycelium running through it. [Interrupted]
Because that would out compete what you’re trying to inoculate it with.
So, you want something healthy. So let’s just go with from felling, which is what we do. Fell the tree. Buck it up, so like cut it into like a manageable size. So, for shiitakes, for instance, we find that somewhere between like, four inch and eight inch diameter [log]. I feel like once it gets wider than that it’s starts to get cumbersome because you have to move them around if you’re forcing them. But, if you’re leaving them just in your backyard and not not ever touching them, you don’t have to worry about that quite as much. But just you don’t want to like, you know, hurt your back when you’re working on them. So, you cut them up into what’s called bolts. Then you let them sit. This is something that’s a kind of debated, some people will tell you that you need to inoculate the next day or as soon as humanly possible from felling. Some people will tell you three to four weeks waiting, to basically let the tree kind of fully die and make it so it’s it’s not going to challenge your mycelium that you’re putting into the log. I tried kind of all of that. And it doesn’t seem to matter in our case, dealing with oak and sweet gums. We’ve inoculated the next day and we’ve inoculated four weeks later. So long as it’s not fully…you’re starting to see like other fungal growth on the log, you’ll be good. And even if you do have a log that has, like, you know, like we were saying, already has fungal pathogen in it, or you fell it and then you wait too long and you see that like on the edge, often you’ll see like where you cut the log start to become black. Even if that’s happening, it will probably be fine. You just might not get as long of a yield because basically after you inoculate them, they’re competing for space inside the log. So, inoculation looks like you basically either produce or order spawn. Likely if you’re listening to this, you’re ordering spawn. There’s a number of good places to order from. We use Field and Forest, for what it’s worth. I don’t necessarily endorse them, but what’s cool about them is on their website, they have a ton of information about each of their strains and how it performs. And…[interrupted]
And like what temperatures it does well in.
Yeah. They’re like, kind of like…The US shiitake industry was kind of built around what they started in the 70s. But, there’s also, if you’re in the South, there’s Mushroom Mountain, run by Tradd. Cotter. But, so you put the spawn into the log by drilling and then plunging in the spawn and then sealing it in.
What is the spawn?
The spawn is either sawdust or grain that the company, in this case Field and Forest or Mushroom Mountain, has inoculated with a strain of a fungus.
So ,it comes in a bag. And they’re plastic bags. And they…they sort of they seal them. But Okay, start that one over. They come in these bags, these plastic bags, and you just…It looks sort of like a brick, like a fuzzy, creamy brick. That’s all of the mycelium that’s colonized that sawdust or brand or whatever it is. Grain. And so you just open up your bag, and you take a handful of it, and you break it up so that it’s sort of mixed up, and then you’ll take your plunger, which is just…it’s like a handheld…it looks like a short dowel, and you plunge it and it captures the spawn in a compartment that is at the base of the plunger, and then pull it up–It’s sort of like the way a syringe works or something–so you pull it up, and then you put it on your hole that you’ve drilled out of your log, and then you plunge it into the hole. And then once you’ve plunged it into that hole, it fills up the whole hole. And you’ll sort of like tap the top of it to make sure that it’s all the way full because sometimes your plunger might not capture all of the amount of space that’s like the compartment at the end of the plunger. And so it might be kind of loose at the top. So, you just kind of like tap it to make sure it’s all the way full. And then what we do is we heat up golf wax in a crock pot and we use these little foam applicator brushes, you know, like the kids arts and crafts ones. We have found that those are the best to seal plugs because they capture a lot of wax that we’re going to be using to seal the hole. And, you can just kind of dab it and then the wax comes out really well. And, you want to make sure the wax that you’re using is hot enough. We use golf wax. But, it’s hot enough that it’s clear when you’re applying it to your hole to seal it up. Because if it’s not clear, it’ll it will be opaque. And it just means that it’s not hard enough. And so it sometimes works. But, often what happens is you put it on opaque and it kind of seems like it’s done the job, but then you wait a few hours or a couple of days and that whole piece that you sealed up will just kind of crack and pop off. So, you just want to make sure it’s hot enough that it penetrates that hole and makes a good seal. And you just kind of dab on your little applicator and then seal it up.
Okay, and what is the wax? Like? What is it keeping in? Like what’s happening inside that hole?
So, it protects the spawn from drying out is probably the primary thing that it’s doing. And, it protects from fungal competitors. So, one that we often are concerned with is Trichoderma which is like a blue green mold. And also, it will to some extent protect from getting predated on by birds and rodents. But, I think that they eventually will get through it. The goal is to basically…You’re giving your team, you know, your your fungus, the best chance at it digesting the log, or what a lot of people called colonizing the log. Basically, as soon as you put the spawn into the log, it’s going to start moving through the wood and digesting wood. And, once it has completely taken up the wood, or, again, fully colonized the wood, that’s when it’s ready to start fruiting.
Okay, so it’s like…And, you know–maybe everyone who’s listening knows this–but it’s like the fruiting body or like the piece that we eat is like very…Like, what is the the body of the fungus? Like, like, what’s it like? What’s it like inside there?
Yes, so it’s, it’s mycelium. People are probably familiar with this. I think oftentimes people assume that mycelium is just like in the forest floor like the mycorrhizal network. But, it’s also the body of the fungus that…In this case, we grow what’s called saprobic mushrooms or saprobic fungi. They eat dead stuff. And they also are made up of mycelium. And then you’re right, the mushroom is the fruiting body, the sexual organ, and what produces the spores, which will then go on to germinate on whatever surface that species requires.
Yeah, and so, when you’re getting those bags in the mail, you know, and you’re breaking up the spawn to inoculate with your plunger, that’s the body. That’s…You’re breaking up the body, basically, and you’re putting it in the log, and then it’s doing the same thing that it did to the sawdust or the grain where it’s moving through the log. And so, I guess to be able to picture it, you’ll see it sort of when you get it. If you get it in that bag form, you can sort of see how it moves through and clumps in that particular strain anyway.
That is very weird and freaky.
Yeah, you should, if you’re interested, I highly recommend trying to, or getting some and, you know, breaking it up with your your fingers is a really interesting sensation. It’s sort of like cool and smooth but also has a lot of texture to it. And the way it breaks apart is sort of fibrous,
Cool. Yeah, that sounds that sounds like a freaky texture experience. I want to try it. Cool. And so then like once the logs are fully colonized, they start producing these fruiting bodies. What like…What…Or I feel like I always ask funny leading questions because I like vaguely know the answers, but like what kind of conditions do they then need to produce fruiting bodies? Like, I imagine a lot of moisture. Or do you have to water them? Or?
Yeah, so it depends on your climate. But you have to keep a certain level of shade and humidity in the fruiting yard. And so for us, we’ve had to experiment with shade cloth and trying to grow up certain trees to make more shade or less shade. And so that’s something that folks who are listening would have to figure out based on where they’re at and their particular climate and situation. But, if you want, for us, before we’re about to go to a market, about 10 days prior to wanting a fully formed mushroom to take to market, we do what we call force fruiting. Also we call it dunking. So, we have a cattle trough, and we put–we have what we call groups–so every year we’ll label group one, group two, group three, and it will help keep organized to know which groups that we’ve brought in or which ones we haven’t. And so let’s say we have group one. So, let’s say it’s 12 logs. And so we put all of our logs that we’ve stacked in like log cabin style stacks…Is that we you call it? [M makes an affirmative noise] And so that’s just to maintain aeration and make it so that they don’t get too crowded out. And so we’ll take each one of those, put them in our cattle trough that’s filled up with water. And then we sort of weigh it down because once the mycelium moves through them, the logs start to get more pithy because the mycelium are eating through that wood. And so the logs will get lighter and lighter weight as you go on. But also wood floats in general, so we just have to weigh those down. And then we keep them in overnight, usually around 24 hours. And they have to be–they don’t have to be like totally fully submerged–but generally, yes, like submerge them. And then we take the weight off. And some people will do it and really like cute ways where they have like…What does that guy do where he puts them in some…. [Interrupted]
There’s a few places where they’re like super picturesque, you know. Yeah, they’ll put them in a creek and they’ll have a little section, roped off or whatever. And it’s just like it…which is actually, you know, if you have that, that is the perfect place because if you think about how shiitake evolved, you know, that we’re basically mimicking like a cool spring flood or rain, you know, a heavy rain event. Like actually one of the heaviest fruitings we’ve had was, like, the week after Hurricane Ida because it was such a disturbance event. And that’s basically what we’re trying to mimic. So, you have these these people that have these gorgeous farms, they put them in the creek or a pond or something sometimes, yeah.
But so, we’ll take them out 24 hours later. And then we lean them up against sort of a makeshift shelf type thing and make it so that there’s enough space between each of them so they’re not fruiting into each other. And we just wait about 10 days and sometimes the individual mushrooms will go at different timescales, but generally they’ll all fruit around the same time and they’ll all be developed around the same time. And then we harvest and go to market and then we put in the next group.
Cool that..I mean, that whole process sounds kind of like wacky and ridiculous but in you know, like a really fun way. Like, I could grow them like inside where I live, but I live in a desert so we we…It’d be pretty hard to. Although, we do… So, it’s wild. We do have these like during the monsoons, if you go hiking up in like really rocky mountains the like, all of the dried lichen, because there is dried lichen, and it will like flesh out and get like carpet-y and like poofy for like a day or two and then it like dries up again. It’s weird. [Everyone goes "Whoa."]
Yeah. Also, I was just thinking of your cave…I feel like I’ve heard of these caves in Tucson. Yeah. Okay, good. Yeah.
Cool. So, the other thing that I wanted to have y’all talk about is y’all put out an Almanac, right?
Yeah, so we’re part of the group Lobelia Commons, which puts out…or, some members of that group put out the Earthbound Farmers Almanac. And we are going into our fourth year doing that.
Cool, what like…What kind of Almanac is it? Like, does it have specialized information? Or like what information is in this?
So, it’s primarily land-based knowledge would be kind of like what it specializes in. It’s like not necessarily focused on farming, per se, but more skills and thoughts around being on land and what that means in our current climate. And I think pulling on a urge to build new cultures of being land. Kind of like, obviously there’s a legacy of radicals getting back to–of course with the 60s with Back To the Land–but trying to forge something that grapples with the world we’re in today. Of course of climate change, trying to sharpen a anticolonial…While also simultaneously trying to build this culture that would sort of fill a void in some ways because there’s been so much damage done by genocide and just colonization and settler shit. So, people might not have something like a knowledge base to pull from, whether or not they’re indigenous, settler, Black, or what have you, living on Turtle Island. We are, unfortunately fairly dispossessed in a fairly general way from ecological knowledge that is really critical for the world we’re entering.
Yeah, cool. What would be kind of like a sample of like information that, or like kinds of information that might might be in there?
So, something to note is that we’re…we just put out our 2023 Almanac. And we can like link in the show notes, where to get that. Emergent Goods is distributing it for us. But we also are putting a call out for submissions for 2024. And, I feel like this is a good moment to sort of list the kinds of submissions that we’re looking for. And it also summarizes past editions and the kind of content that is in there. So, anticolonial histories and features, critical agri-ecology, recipes from the land, stories from your neighbors, climate change noticings, traditions to uplift or destroy, farm notes, and just I mean, really whatever you feel like is relevant and close to you in this time and what would ring true for others and inspire and uplift others In the moment that we’re in.
Oh, yeah, but the entire first three, and for the future, everyone we put out in the feature, can be found at Earthbound.farm. A lovely collected member just made this site today. You can just look at them online and get tons of examples. If people are listening to this because they’re interested in mushrooms, particularly, they might be curious to check out the 2021 issue which has some, like a detailed how to grow mushrooms using coffee grounds, growing oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds. And this is something that the person who wrote this, who also is the person who made that lovely website, actually, they were growing quite a lot of oyster mushrooms. She has coffee grounds that they were keeping from their coffee habit. And there’s also in that one a nice introduction to foraging to try and kind of abate the general mycophobia that exists in our culture. But there’s all kinds of stuff. There’s recipes. Like, I think that one has like a recipe for a fig cake, which I’ve never had but sounds really really good. There’s cool like almanac-y information like, you know. For those outside of the Gulf Coast, New Orleans area, some of the almanac information isn’t quite as pertinent, but I think it’s maybe an inspiration for people to start noticing those types of things in their life on that almanac, those almanac pages, the monthly kind of like phase of the moon, day length, that types of things. Also we include each year, farm notes from a different farm or nursery projects or what have you. The most recent one, I’m a big fan of, it’s someone who doesn’t have…He doesn’t like own land, doesn’t have like a cool urban farm, but is really just like in love with the world and loves noticing birds and, you know, goes hunting and so is, you know, following elk and, you know, is trying to grow things and moves all over. It’s like a dispossessed person that just rents, you know, where they can. And there’s there’s a piece in the 2023 Almanac about basically how to develop this type of practice. And it’s very witty, and I just really love that piece that came in at like, the 11th hour. And yeah, really appreciate these. Recommend.
Cool. Yeah, that sounds great. I’m definitely going to check out the old Earthbound Almanacs. Cool. Well, that brings us about to our time for the day. Is there any anything else you want to plug before we go? Or any last minute thoughts on on things that we didn’t cover that you’d love to mention?
No, yeah, I think I would just, once again, encourage people, if you’re a writer, or like, don’t fashion yourself a writer, but might have some thoughts about growing or whatever. Just like really, really, really feel free to send us a pitch. Doesn’t have to be very long. Just give us like an idea of what you want to write. You know, worst case we’re like can you flesh this out a little bit more and tell us what you’re thinking. But you can email us LobeliaCommons@protonmail.com. And if you’re not inclined to write or anything like that, but maybe you’re a photographer, or illustrator, send us some examples that, you know, we would love to include. We like always need illustrations and photos. And none of the above, but you are really interested in it as project, we send copies of the almanac, like entire boxes, to groups, all over the place. And we just ask that people cover the shipping and the cost of the printing. And then in good faith, we let people sell it for, you know, to benefit, whatever cause that they are like locally interested in supporting. So, this oftentimes is like a local food autonomy project, maybe like a pipeline resistance, the campaign to Stop Cop City. Can be all kinds of stuff.
Cool. Great. Well, we will we’ll link to all those things in the show notes. And thanks, y’all so much for coming on and teaching us about mushroom farming.
Thanks for having us.
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