April 12– seeding the woods

Last night, I looked at a national weather map; there was a line of thunderstorms stretching across the country from Canada to Mexico.  The storm hit here sometime in the wee hours of the night, I awoke briefly to the crash of thunder, rain pounding on the window.  Shortly after dawn, I had the unpleasant task of letting out the chickens; as sheets of rain poured down and the newly leafed trees writhed in the wind, the chickens stared out the open door of the coop, like “surely you don’t expect us to go out into that?!?”

As soon as I got back inside, the rain slacked off (of course), leaving us with close to an inch in just a few hours, and the early-morning view out my back door shows all of the leafy growth of the past 48 hours.  Image

The back yard, fresh with all that rain, was greener than ever.  Today was not quite as hot as the past few days, but still felt more like summer than early spring, humid and sweaty.Image

A few observations from today, in no particular order:  the peach trees in Morningstar orchard, which have been blooming so brightly this past, have exchanged their pink petals for tiny green leaves.Image

In the morning, my son Sami found one of the first edible mushrooms I’ve seen in more than a month.  He led me over in the early afternoon to check it out, and indeed it was an edible honey mushroom (which we immediately took home and cooked up).  In the past year, he’s learned to identify about half a dozen edible mushrooms; soon he’ll be quite the expert!Image

Just after picking the mushroom, we saw this ferocious looking (but probably mostly harmless) beetle.Image

The largest part of my outdoor activities today, by far, involved “seeding the woods” with mycelium.  Last fall, I picked a bunch of wood blewits, and rolled their butt ends into a ‘burrito’ of moistened cardboard.  After letting them sit for 6 months, the cardboard was all colonized with blewit mycelium (see photos below).  The boys and I cut the bits of cardboard up, and “planted” them under piles of leaf litter in various parts of the woods near the house.  Hopefully they will grow into a big ol’ flush of blewits this fall.Image

Lookit all that mycelium!Image

Later in the afternoon, I took on an even bigger job– seeding a bunch of stumps with oyster spawn.  Last week, I bought a bunch of dowels all inoculated with oyster mushroom mycelium, and waited for the right combination of warmth and moisture– today was the day!  Last winter I asked the forestry crew, when they were selectively cutting some large hardwoods near the house to preserve the solar clearing, to leave waist-high stumps, rather than cutting flush with the ground.  This afternoon, I gathered up my tools to start some ‘shrooms growing.Image

The following set of photos shows one of these stumps at various stages:  before I’ve done anything to it, next with the holes drilled all around the edge (the outer wood apparently has more sugars, providing better nutriment for the mycelium), then with the dowel spawn pounded into place, and finally with the melted wax poured on top to  seal the opening from competing mushroom spores.  Inoculating large stumps this way provides delayed gratification; it can take as long as two years for big stumps to start producing mushrooms, but once the mycelium is established, they can continue to grow on the same stump for over 10 years.  Wait and see, I guess…Image

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In this way, I was able to fill up eight large stumps with dowel spawn, both across the cut edge on top and also lower down along the side of the stumps, before the drill ran out of batteries.Image

As I was working on the logs, I looked up to see this beautiful beech tree with its leaf buds all bursting open.  As in previous days this week, the transition from wintry gray to verdant springtime color has continued today at a dizzying pace; while I was mostly occupied with drilling holes in stumps, I still noticed multiple flowers and delicate annual plants bursting forth that I’m quite sure weren’t there a day or two ago.  So much to see every day!Image

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