Yesterday, I finished inoculating my 20th shiitake mushroom log. Doing this without power means going very slowly, working in tiny sessions of battery powered drilling until the batteries run out. Then, they have to be charged at Pickle’s job, coffee shops, or friends’ homes.
At first it was discouraging, since we also have no way to refrigerate the mushroom spawn yet. I had a timer in my head saying: “we have one week to drill 40 logs or else all the spawn will go bad.” 4 days into that 7 day week, I’d drilled only 8 of them. A friend came by with a lithium ion drill and we knocked out 7 of them in a day – very encouraging. Now, I’m done with 20. The rest of the logs are Oyster and King Stropharia (which needs a chipper, not a drill, to make its substrate of wood chips).
I think about using non-powered hand drills to drill logs. Would this be crazy? It seems like so much more effort, and maybe the way to burn out on doing this. Our plan is to have 500 Watts of solar and soon, so realistically, we will be able to do next year’s mushroom logs with a power drill. This is great because other than cutting and hauling the logs, getting our batteries charged was the only hard part. As many others have discovered before, preparing mushroom logs is easy and satisfying. It is peaceful, tactile work. Soft mild smelling spawn, hot cooling wax, the assuring click of the inoculation tool. Brushing wax like sloppy painting, tucking in spawn, protecting.
Right now we buy our spawn from small businesses I feel OK working with, but I’m still curious about whether this could ever be something that begins and ends right in our little region. Could this be a seed-to-seed (spore-to-spore?) food for us in the same way that maize can be, or does it require a scale larger than this? Or, is the way simply for the shiitakes to naturalize here and begin showing up on their own, unbidden? Future generations, passing through and finding edible mushrooms they have no idea we helped to bring in; I dream of leaving something like this behind, just as acorns, hickories, blueberries, who knows how many others were left for us.
I have a loose goal now to start 10 more logs per year, perhaps focusing on less common edible and medicinal species like Lion’s Mane, Reishii, and others. We couldn’t afford to eat mushrooms every day, nor have as much medicinal mushrooms around as I would like; but working this way, we can have all we’d ever want. It’s another example of why living out here doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to Pickle and me. Living simple can mean eating wild mushrooms every day.