December 10th, 2012


Back in the spring/summer of 2010, With the help of Interns and with a large amount of live-cut oak from forest fire-prevention thinning, Lindsay made a push to innoculate a large batch of logs with Shiitake.

No notes were writtend at the time, but we have plenty of pictures and so here is a recap.

Innoculating Oak Logs with Shiitake in 2010

During March and April when the sap was running strong in the trees, we cut down live oak trees with approximately a 5 inch diameter. The logs were allowed to sit for a few weeks to let the tree die, and for its sap to loose the natural anti-fungal properties.

(It is amazing how long it takes a tree to "die" once cut down. I have seen felled oaks that still leafed out strong for up to a week before noticeable signs of dying occur. A perspective which gives me that much more reverence for their slow and ancient ways.)

The trees were cut into ~3ft long sections, so that they are easily transportable by one person.

The logs were placed on a tarp (to avoid further contact with the ground and other fungi) and staged for the innoculating process. The oak trees here commonly have a layer of lichens, mosses and fungi growing on the bark. Since we want to reduce the level of competition for the Shiitake, we scraped off the outer layer covering the logs, prior to innoculation.

We then used a drill press to drill 3/8" holes in the logs. The holes were spaced ~6"-8" apart around the whole log.

The holes further enable the spawn to reach the heart of the log, so the Shiitake myceilum can go to work colonizing it before anything else gets a chance to.

The holes were immediately packed with inoculated wood-shavings purchased from Fungi Perfecti, a global leader in mushroom cultivation, information distribution, biodiversity conservation, myco-remediation, and much more. They do good work, check them out!

The spawn-packed holes were then covered with melted beeswax to seal in moisture and prevent contamination.

Here are the finished logs, and the basic tools we used to pack and wax the holes.

The Log Structure I like to call the "Shiitake Castle"

This is a picture of the stacked logs two years after inoculating. Notice the ~6" distance between the logs to give the mushrooms space to grow.

We chose a level site that is in almost complete shade most of the day, throughout most of the year. In the summer months, it is particularly important for the logs to have afternoon shade (the hottest part of the day). This means the canopy under which we placed the logs is tall and full to the west, northwest and southwest of the mushrooms.

Management Practices for the Shiitake 2010- Castles

One can expect to wait anywhere from 6-18 months for the mycellium to begin to bear fruit.

For the 12-18 months the shiitake logs were left to their own devices. They got no supplemental water at any point in 2010. There is little doubt they would be doing better today if they had more water.

(While there is a peace of me that regrets not putting more intention into the care of the shiitake, there is another part of me that echoes the sentiment of Masanobu Fukuoka, that my primary work should be to do as little unnecessary work as possible. That, if these mushrooms are going to grow here, they need to grow here! Without a lot of coddling. I feel the same way towards everything we do. If, it doesn't work, it isn't worth the time to try and make an unworkable system a little bit more workeable. It is better to design well from the get-go, than to just put more work into something. I feel the need to elaborate more on this, because it is ever more real to me that there are only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year.)

We saw no substantial fruiting in 2010. In the spring/summer of 2011 we had an mushroom enthusiast, Ryan Kerrick, apprentice with us. He gave a lot of TLC to the mushrooms, and we helped him set up an irrigation system to provide them with water over the summer. The shiitake castle received about 150 gallons of water through July and August. This bore some fruit, but not out of most of the logs.

It was not until this very wet and rather warm fall that we saw significant fruiting. More on that below.

Shiitake Harvest Gallery, 2012

At the end of November, I harvested ~12LBS of fresh shiitake. Primarily from the top logs of the stacks. ? I have no idea why.

I cooked a few as a part of lunch the next day, and the rest were promptly dried.