It’s a Shiit(ake) Show Around Here

It was just another day at home when Andy and I, for some reason that now slips my mind, decided we needed to grow mushrooms on our property for four reasons:

  1. We can
  2. We enjoy tasty food
  3. We enjoy growing tasty food
  4. We enjoy growing tasty food that is easy and we don’t have to weed/constantly tend to

After a brief discussion, and for reasons listed in bullets 1-4 above, we settled on shiitakes. I finally bit the purchase-the-spores-bullet when I was walking around the indoor farmers market at Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick and came across North Spore Mushrooms. It seemed like as good of a time as any other to go ahead and buy some shiitake plugs. Then, they sat in the house for about a month before we finally inoculated the logs this weekend.

The guy at North Spore Mushrooms told me to read the website on how to properly inoculate mushroom logs. So, obviously, I didn’t.

I’m normally on top of this type of stuff but not this time. This time I read the general process and off we went. Here is our process. It is, by all accounts, only partially correct. Our best guess is that we’ll still end up with some shiitakes. We’ll probably end up with some other kind of fungus too if we’re being completely honest. Should this go well we will likely do some more logs in different types of mushrooms because you know, we’re wild and crazy.

Shitake Innoculation (2)

Step 1:

Cut down a fresh oak tree that is crooked and being crowded out, thus giving the bigger trees more nutrients and room to grow that are not longer being taken up by the tiny crooked tree. Don’t take any photos of this process because you’re at Target and have no idea the process has started .Pat yourself on the back in hindsight, even though you had nothing to do with it, for supporting sustainable forest management. 

Step 2:

Cut tree into 2-4 foot log segments. Again, do not take any photos because you are now driving home from Target still completely unaware you are about to walk into a mushroom inoculation activity.

Step 3:

Realize you don’t have any beeswax on hand, but hey you’re a soap maker so you must have something you can use. Candelilla wax is a good substitute. Except that it gets super hard, super fast, and will probably just crack off all together in the cold weather. Regardless, melt a bunch of candelilla wax in a double boiler – also known as a cheap pot and a tin can you were going to recycle.

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Remind yourself to purchase cheese wax so you can go back outside and recover all of the plugs. Promptly forget.

Step 4:

Drill a bunch of holes, completely randomly but at least 3 inches apart or so, into the logs to a specific depth and width that you should probably know, but you don’t. In turn, rely on your iPhone and your husbands handy skills to know how to do it based on the size of the mushroom plug.

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Step 5:

Place a plug in each hole and hammer it in. Make sure the plug is flush with the log or even counter-set just a little bit.

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Step 5:

Go in the house and get your wax. Carefully bring it outside while trying not to tip the tin can over and get melted candelilla wax everywhere. Swear to yourself once again to remember to buy cheese wax. Forget within thirty seconds. After your wax is at the site – where it should have been from the beginning – start trying to put wax that is rapidly hardening onto each plug with a paint brush. Give up with the paint brush and start putting it on with your fingers. Try to find all of the plugs before the wax completely hardens, instead of waxing over as each plug went in so you knew exactly where they were. Plugs blend really well with bark as it turns out.

Shitake Innoculation (8)Shitake Innoculation (9)Shitake Innoculation (1)Step 6:

Crib those logs up. Shitake Innoculation (10)

Step 7:

Wait and see what happens. Remind yourself while writing this to buy cheese wax and go fix the issues. Make a mental note not to forget the mental note, but do not proactively actually write it down.

Now, just wait for science to take over. Thank God for nature and it’s processes, because it clearly has it’s shiit(ake) together way more than I do.



How To Be Classy Like Me: DIY Potato Box

Alternate Title: How To Build A Box To Grow Potatoes In, Even Though You Can Buy A Bag of Potatoes  For Really Cheap, So You Might As Well Use These Directions To Build A Compost Bin.

Let’s face it friends, I’m classy. It’s been quite a while though since I’ve put out into the internets a tutorial on how to be classy like me, so lets delve right in.

The first thing you need to know is that anyone who’s anyone calls this online world of ours The Internets. “But wait Heather,” you say, “my grandparents still call it The Internets”. You’re damn right they do. They’re classy. Take a lesson or two.

Secondly, I am fantastic at building, which is what today’s lesson is on. In fact, building things is potentially one of my biggest strengths. You’ll see just how good I am at building by the end of this. I promise you will be impressed. It was part of my classy-lady training in my wee years. So, let me impart on you this wisdom so you too can build a box to grow potatoes in, or a compost box if you want to get fancy you saucy minx.

Step One

Decide how large you would like your potato box to be. Generally they are between 2 and 4 square feet. I decided to make mine approximately 3 square feet. Why? Because that’s the classy amount, and because 3 feet happened to be the size of the majority of lumber we had. I mean, bought. We absolutely did not build this entire thing out of scrap lumber. I would never do that. It’s just not…classy. To that tune, let’s move onto step two.

Step Two

Acquire the finest, and most currently in style, lumber known to man. Money is no object. Except that it’s literally an object, but that is neither here nor there at this moment. Don’t get caught up in the semantics. To acquire the lumber for my potato box, I visited a local high-end barn which specialized in reclaimed beat up pine. They even store it outside under a piece of corrugated roofing and plywood, how classy.

PotatoBox (34)Some of the lumber is already painted with nail holes in it. Some of it’s ripped apart and missing entire sections. It’s the newest thing in lumber. Don’t question the fact it’s what some might consider “low-grade” lumber. If you listen to me you’ll realize you are ahead of the trend and then when you’re friends catch on, you’ll be all, “I’ve been doing that for years already”. Even hipsters don’t know yet that this is so uncool it’s cool.

PotatoBox (2)Step Three

Take your awesome saw and cut through each piece so they are all the same length. Once you figure out your height you would like, cut it down by two feet. Why? Because you realized you really only have enough lumber to make it about a foot shorter. That’s fine, you really only wanted it this height anyway.

PotatoBox (3)Step Four

To assemble you’ll need a screw driver, a bucket of the finest screws, and a square. Make sure your bucket of screws is only of the highest quality.  One must always have a golden screw. Ignore your significant other who is humoring you by staying out of the way and letting you do this all by yourself, while looking on with an amused and yet skeptical eye. Do I want a level? No I do not want a level. I do not need a level. Leveling is for those who are not confident in their exceptional building skills.

PotatoBox (4) PotatoBox (5)Step Five

Square your boards up on each edge and screw as you go. We do not level, but we do square up. We are making a box, not a rhombus. Be classy and know your shapes.

PotatoBox (6) PotatoBox (7) PotatoBox (8)Step Six

Take the boards you found that were slightly shorter than you hoped for and attach them to your non-rhombus frame you just built to act as the posts. Make sure the posts are more or less flush with the bottom of the frame. Again, you do not need a level, just feel it out. You need these posts so you can add further boards as your potatoes grow and you add more soil. Do not under any circumstance accidentally trip over your frame and almost take a face first digger. You are classy. You do not take diggers.

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Step Seven

Build up a few more courses of boards on the sides by screwing directly into the posts. Do not take into account the weight of this structure and how far you will have to move it before you do this. Classy people realize this issue but then convince themselves they will be totally fine and able to muscle it into place.

PotatoBox (19)If you have a tractor with forks that can move the finished structure you may be okay. However, be prepared to have a significant other on the tractor laugh at you and remind you that you wanted to do this all yourself. Telling them to get off the tractor so you can move it then results in them laughing and continuing to move logs. This leaves you to your own devices since you made it clear earlier on this was your project and your project alone. Classy people also then come to their senses and realize they really do need to move the box into place before they build it any further, lest they want to have multiple visits to the chiropractor. As you may have deduced already, classy people do not go to the chiropractor. They are perfect and never need a doctor of any kind. Most definitely not a team of people to keep their back in line at least once a month.

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Step Eight

Now that you’ve decided to move your base over with only a couple coarses of boards you must keep one thing in mind: Absolutely under no circumstances are you to be caught swearing while carrying it across your yard. Classy ladies do not say things like, “Bleeping bleep bleeper”.  You get it put perfectly into place in the garden and make no mention of how you perhaps should have leveled it first. Thankfully it’s perfect because you’re perfect, and you do not have to press it into the soil more on one side and back fill it so it sits level-ish. That definitely didn’t happen.

PotatoBox (21)Step Nine

Now that you have your box in place which was perfect the second you put it down, take your gardening fork and turn over the soil. I will hear none of the fact it would have been easier to till the soil pre-putting the  box down. You know good and well it is much easier to till the soil when you have four sides of wood blocking your fork when you pull back on it. Do not contemplate moving the potato box so you can till the soil properly, classy people do not second guess their decisions no matter how poor they were. Then again, classy people never have poor decisions.

Step Ten

The final step is to continue to screw the rest of the boards into place pre-planting if you would like, but leave a couple boards off the front so it’s easier to plant. The other option is to leave as is, plant, and then add boards as your potato plants get higher and you add more soil.

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That’s it! You have either just made the best damn potato box or the best damn compost bin in history. This is a fact. Do not Google it. Classy people don’t Google to realize a blog writer is full of shit.

Crap. Classy girls don’t say shit. Or crap.