"You give them something to eat" – Jesus of Nazareth
Thursday, September 21
If any of you know Patrick Kruse, who has served as an intern and volunteer at the farm for over two years, you know he’s a real fun guy! During the past few weeks he’s been showing up at the farm and heading directly for a shady part of our lot, where a number of oak logs are stacked… He’ll rummage around for a few minutes and then come back with handfuls of shiitake mushrooms!
Fall is fungus season, where fungi in the world around us start putting out their fruiting bodies, and is the best season to be foraging for edible mushrooms. The mushrooms we have growing at 5 Loaves farm are all varieties that Patrick inoculated into growing media around the farm over the past two years, and we are now reaping the rewards of his work.
We give our interns at 5 Loaves Farm a chance to do a “legacy project”, to create or add something on the farm that will have a lasting impact beyond their involvement in the farm. Patrick is a quite the unique guy, and wanted to add something different and unique to the growing systems at the farm. So he did the research, ordered supplies, and got our mushroom cultivation areas up and running.
Last May we started by finding fresh cut oak and maple logs, drilling holes in an even pattern around the logs, stuffing sawdust inoculated with shiitake mushroom spawn into the holes, and then sealing them up with melted beeswax. We spent a whole afternoon doing this on a couple dozen logs, as well as taking a few specific oak logs and inoculating them with maitake mushrooms. These mushrooms are known as chicken of the woods, and will only fruit on dead oak wood that is underground (i.e.; oak stumps), so we had to then partially bury these logs and will have to wait up to three years before they produce fruiting bodies, or mushrooms.
A couple weeks later Patrick took wine cap mushroom spawn and mixed it in with the wood chip mulch that we had on some of our permiculture beds, where we were growing Brussels’ sprouts. Wine caps fruit in early fall, but need partial shade to give them just the right moisture, light, and temperature conditions. This year we grew them under our zucchini plants and with all the rain we had this year they have been fruiting like crazy!
We continued to expand our mushroom cultivation this year, as mentioned in an earlier post, by inoculating the compost in our melon beds with almond portabella mushrooms. They too need shade and started fruiting under the big cantaloupe leaves a bit early this year as we had cooler than normal temperatures this summer.
Cultivating mushrooms has allowed us to add diversity, value, and uniqueness to our CSA farm shares, while also better utilizing our growing space by growing them along with other crops, or in shady margins of our property that wouldn’t otherwise be yielding crops.
Like so many things in farming, cultivating mushrooms also helps us make connections between our lives, the natural world, and the greater forces at work within and around us. They do teach patience, as it was almost a year and a half ago that Patrick begun growing these mushrooms, and they are just now coming into peak production. There is an inspiring synergism that takes place as they utilize and even feed back into the health of the growing systems they are a part of. The fruiting bodies, or mushrooms, that we pick are connected to a much larger, and unseen, system growing all throughout the compost, wood chips, or logs where we find them. And the message of redemption is on full display as fungi take that which was dead and wasted, and turn it into new life, producing interesting, healthy, and even beautiful things for us to enjoy.
Thanks again to Patrick for all the ways he has left his unique, interesting, and beautiful fingerprints all over farm; for the ways he’s been a part of the synergism that exists on our team of staff and volunteers; for the ways he’s taught us all patience; for the ways he’s pointed us toward much larger and often unseen realities in our world… A legacy is truly what he has created and shared with us here at 5 Loaves Farm!