April 20-21– return of the oyster

A few months ago, I found a short log covered with oyster mushrooms.  After harvesting the mushrooms, I carried the log home and set it in a shady corner of my yard, the idea being that when another flush of oysters formed on the log then it would be time to search for more in the woods.  On Saturday afternoon, my 4-year old son noticed a mushroom on the log (and correctly identified it!), so this morning I set out to look for some more (and maybe even spot some morels if I was lucky).Image

I started off looking on a stump just behind ZK where I had encountered lots of oysters in the fall, and sure enough they were right where I expected them to be, although I decided to let this clump of ‘shrooms grow a bit larger before harvesting it.Image

Higher up on the same stump was a batch of cute little tiny oysters just beginning to grow.  This photo shows them at about twice the size they actually were.  Image

Setting off into the woods to look for more, I crossed a low boggy area near the creek that was a lovely garden of bright green fiddleheads.Image


Another part of my plan for the day was to look for recently downed trees, and seed them with oyster mushroom spawn.  To that end, I brought the drill, the bags of mycelium-crusted dowels, and a hammer.  It wasn’t long before I started encountering promising blowdowns like the one below, and I got to work.Image

Here are the dowels, just before I hammered them into the holes I had drilled.Image

In places where the forestry crew had harvested the main trunk of the tree over the winter, I inoculated the logs along the cut edge.  In this way, I ‘seeded’ about a dozen trees this morning before the drill ran out of batteries.  It will be at least a year before I can tell whether the inoculation was successful, but hell, it’s worth a try!Image

In another wet area between two branches of the creek, I came across this log surrounded by these black cup fungi, which I can’t recall ever seeing before.Image

A bit of internet research has led me to believe it is Urnula craterium, the black tulip fungus (http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/may2005.html).Image

Crossing yet another swampy area, I came across lots of shallow puddles absolutely teeming with tadpoles.  There’s gonna be a lot of frogs here in a month or two!Image

Eventually, I made it to one of my “sure fire” mushroom spots, where I have almost never failed to find something edible.  Sure enough, there was a pretty nice flush of oysters.  All in all, I found a decent but not spectacular quantity of mushrooms this afternoon, although I found them only in places where I had previously seen them, didn’t make any ‘new’ finds.  I’m hypothesizing that certain mycelial strains prefer cooler weather, so that the last ones to grow in the fall are also the first ones to flush out in the spring, and that when it becomes more consistently warm I will find flushes of oysters from mycelial strains that are more active in hotter weather.  At least that’s my theory– mostly, I’m just happy  that there are ‘shrooms to find again.Image

I hadn’t been to this swampy bit of forest near the river since mid-winter.  Sure looks different in late April! Lots of poison ivy growing everywhere, but it was mostly low enough that I could step carefully and only make contact with it on the bottom of my boots (or so I hope).Image

Climbing up to higher, dryer ground, I came across a series of large holes in the ground, entrances to some animal’s burrow?  They seemed awful large and well-used, I wonder what lives down there.Image


Yet another massive blowdown that I filled with dowel spawn until my drill ran out of batteries.  This is in an area where forestry is pretty active, so I assume that the trunks of these trees will eventually be harvested for sawlogs or firewood.  I inserted a ring of dowels around the base of the tree, which will presumably be left behind after the trunk is cut and dragged away.  With a bit of luck, these woods will be a mushroom hunter’s paradise in a few years!Image


4 responses to “April 20-21– return of the oyster

  1. Your new nickname is “Johnny Mushroomspore.” Your Spring photos make me want to plan a visit for Spring Break next year. We finally just now have a few open daffodils here in Wisconsin!

  2. Love it–I’ll take that nickname. And I still have about half the dowels left, I’m all thinking “damn what am I going to do with all of these?!?” I guess I’ll keep plugging them into trees until I run out.

  3. That idea with the dowels is neat. I hope it works for you! Is that your idea or is it done that way? And how do you get the spores on the dowels?

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