Sunday, February 20, 2011

Getting back to my roots

I love Rooting DC. It gets me all kinds of worked up. No, in a good way. Heck, I left the urban composting demonstration at the 2009 event with a bee in my bonnet that was buzzing nonstop until I got myself an Oscar the Grouch trashcan to set up my own backyard bin. Once again, the speakers and presenters helped demystify all kinds of projects I'd been hoping for some time to tackle myself, things ranging from small-space gardening to growing shiitakes on logs. I was just as fired up this year, leaving the Coolidge High School auditorium with all the seed packets I could stuff into my handbag and a conviction that the time had come to grow my own mushrooms.

I sat mesmerized as Nazirahk, who runs Purple Mountain Organics in nearby Takoma Park, talked the group of us through how to set up our very own shiitake logs. (Finally, some perk to having a mostly shaded back yard! Not that I don't love my little garden plot, but the tomatoes last summer were a bit put out by the lack of sunlight.) I learned about different types of spawn, application techniques, and even what varieties of logs to seek as host sites for my future motherlode of mushrooms. I was right up in the front row as our workshop leader broke out the high-powered drill and started showing us how to prepare our logs. Wood chips were flying everywhere, even into my hair, but I wouldn't've traded that seat for the world as I scribbled down notes on how to start cultivating my own mycelium. I couldn't stop thinking about fungus during the bike ride back home. I must get myself a decent maple or oak log and inoculate it asap with some wide-range shiitake spawn. Unless I come across some poplar and want to try my hand at oyster mushrooms. Or maybe I can do both. Now, where to find myself a free log....

A few hours later, while out salsa dancing with friends, I met a guy who happened to mention he had been hauling around fallen tree limbs earlier in the day. I wish he'd told me about the 5"-diameter, 3'-long oak logs that are PERFECT for growing shiitakes before I'd given him a fake phone number. Darn. Well, hopefully we'll run into each other again and laugh about it. I mean, seriously, I thought he'd get the 80s reference....

So, step 1 is to get myself a log. Step 2 is to find a few folks to go in on a bag of sawdust and mushroom spawn with me. (It appears that the $25 bags will seed a good 20 logs or so and I can hardly talk my way into 20 free logs. Though I could probably eat 20 logs' worth of shiitakes.) Step 3 is to borrow a high-powered drill....

At present, I have no log nor spores nor equipment, but I've got shrooms on the brain. I couldn't resist picking up this little bunch at the Dupont market earlier today. Apparently others who attended yesterday's workshop had beaten me to the mushroom stand, as they were fresh out of shiitakes. Hmmm.

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