Wandering Cherry Meadow

A 3 Acre Homestead Renovation Project

Month: March 2017

Mycology 101: Growing Oyster Mushrooms on Cardboard

So I’m sure you’ve noticed that aside from my initial post, most of my posting hasn’t been related to renovation whatsoever.  You know why?  My roof is leaking again in the same spot we’ve tried repairing multiple times!  Sneaky leaky.  Fortunately, we noticed it right before I painted over the area!  Ah, my ever stalled kitchen, when will I find a roofer I trust?  If you’re in the Seattle area and know someone who likes working with over sized skylights and their flashing, hit me up!

 

If I’m not renovating, I’m homesteading!  Back in the fall, I found some beautiful chanterelles growing outside in my front yard, and since then my mycological interest was peaked.  Maybe it was picking up over $100 worth of mushrooms in a week across multiple weeks as the rains were agreeable just by walking into my front yard, or the fact that local, foraged mushroom prices at the grocery store are ever-growing, or perhaps even that the freshest mushroom I’ll ever get from the market is still far older than the mushroom I picked before cooking.  While I’m sure there are more mushrooms in my yard I can grow given they sprout up all over my lawn and fallen stumps, the only ones I’ve been able to consistently identify are chanterelles.  Knowing I couldn’t clone the mycorrhizal relationship the chanterelle mycelium has with my giant evergreens inside my house, I decided to look for mushrooms I could cultivate and grow at home.

 

After some “light” reading of Paul Stamets’s books Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and the backbreaking The Mushroom Cultivator, I decided all the techniques and options listed were probably fantastic, and found them as a good reference guide for the basics, but realistically they suffered from two main problems.  That is, the idea is you need a substrate such as straw or wood chips to be completely clean from contamination.  Easy enough.  Boil things!  Or pressure cook them.  Both are good.

The problem is, I live in the Pacific Northwest.  Short of a lab environment, trichoderma infests everything it can.  In fact, I even had a bag of mushrooms from a lab that was infested with trichoderma.  So I needed an alternative.

 

After having purchased my mom and friend bags of oysters for their Christmas gifts, and growing some shiitake and lion’s mane myself, I tried to figure out some alternatives.  I found something about growing oysters on coffee grounds from various sources, including someone trying to sell you the information that could be conveyed in 30 minute videos.  The idea is that the coffee is already pasteurized, so as long as you use it the same day, it should be fine.  Maybe.  Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest and need to use more science than that.  During my multiple attempts that ended in moldy glory using the mushroom butts from my mom’s oysters to start colonizing some coffee grounds, I did realize they seemed to be doing just fine on the cardboard I started them on.  I’m sure it’s less nutritious than using coffee grounds, but what I can say for certainty is it didn’t grow mold.  That alone made it a winner in my eyes.

 

So, how to grow oyster mushrooms on cardboard?

 

  1. Get oyster mushroom stem butts (the very base of the mushroom, sometimes has some of its substrate on it still – note, grocery store mushrooms aren’t always the best source here.  If you know someone who grows them, found some in the wild, or have some left overs from a mushroom growing kit, that’s probably the best way to go)
  2. Boil cardboard.  I did it for like an hour after all my previous mold woes, but honestly the mold isn’t going to go hang out on the cardboard, so don’t fret that much.
  3. Tear the cardboard into single layers after cardboard cools enough to touch (don’t have to do this step, but mushrooms grow much more quickly if you do)
  4. Place cardboard in a container – such as a plastic bag or tupperware
  5. Snuggle oyster mushroom butts between two layers

 

While the mycelium is moving into its new home, it does better in slightly dimmer locations, but honestly, oysters are pretty hard to kill unless you invite trichoderma over for a party, so don’t fret it too much!  Photos below!

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There Ain’t No Party like a Seed Starting Party!

IMG_20170304_121248.jpg Homemade kombucha, potstickers, and seeds!  My kind of party.

You know how you get an unreasonable amount of seeds in each little packet?  And you look at the packet and think, “Hmm, yeah, I could have 30 early tomato plants since supposedly you guys are only good for a year, but I really want a bunch of different varieties to grow in succession so I can be rolling in tomatoes in their prime…”  And then you end up with seeds saved for next year, which is fine, but the germination rate is a bit lower, and you still really didn’t want 30 of one variety.

This is where the seed starting party comes in.  My mom, my bestie, my sister, and myself all collaborated this year with our seeds and our niece to have a wider variety of tomatoes, peppers, and mystery vegetables.  While I’m sure I could have had the 150 ground cherry plants all to myself, with deciding to share our seeds we could have 4xs the variety of plants without having to spend 4xs as much on seeds and wasting what we didn’t use.  For my friend who is allergic to cooked tomatoes and thus storing them is very unlikely to go well, this was a particularly good idea.

This week (and, well, the last couple weeks) are when it’s time to start your tomatoes and peppers in the Pacific Northwest indoors.  I’ve never actually started from seed before, though the idea of spending $3 for a packet of seeds instead of $3-5 per tomato plant seemed pretty appealing.  Of course, given I live in the Pacific Northwest and all my windows and skylights in my house face the north (great planning, home designers!  Then again, I guess there’s nothing but giant trees on the south side…), seed starting is a little more complicated than throwing some seeds in the dirt and calling it good.

TL;DR Version: Fungus fuzz sucks, line light better than square light, online had better prices for seed starter trays, plant trays without holes, grow lights and such for starters, local hardware stores (Lowes, Home Depot, McDaniel’s Do-It-Center, etc) had better prices for seed starter mix.

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