sustainability

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It’s no secret that we’ve been trying to establish perennial food sources since we started out three years ago. Fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, herbs, and onions have all been planted and we continue to add more as resources allow.

So when I learned that mushrooms could be a part of a perennial food scape I was more than a little intrigued. I turned to Michael Judd, author of Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist with a few questions to get us started.

Q. You are a big proponent of fungi in your book, Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist. How did you start off with mushrooms and what draws you to them as a perennial food source?

I first saw stacked mushroom logs up at the Bullock’s Homestead on Orcas Island, a premiere permaculture site in Washington state. I was intrigued by the use of a shady area to grow food in and it’s minimal care approach. In five minutes I understood the process and looked up mushroom cultivation sites online for materials and found the very informative and straight shooting Field & Forest Products, who claim to be ‘proud to be part of this rotting world’. Then I just ‘plugged’ away.

PicMonkey Collage

Q.Whenever I’ve come across mushroom-growing kits they are for an indoor growing situation in which you have to continually purchase the kits to produce mushrooms. But you say that mushroom growing outdoors can be an easy perennial. Can you tell us the very basics of how this works?

So, outdoor perennial mushroom growing is usually done on hard wood logs and wood chips, at least for some of my favorite characters such as shiitake, oyster and wine cap mushrooms. For inoculating logs you want to cut healthy wood (trees or limbs) when they are dormant fall through late winter, at an average diameter of 6″ by a meter long. Once cut you drill the logs every six inches all the way around and insert wooden dowels with fungi growing on them, which is then sealed in with wax. The logs are then laid somewhere moist for 6-18 months as the fungi runs through the log.

Once the fungi has colonized the log it will be begin to fruit happily when the temperature and moisture levels are right – generally this is after a warm spring or fall rain. A stout log can produce for up to eight years without any further input other than harvesting tasty mushrooms. This is a simplification of growing mushrooms on logs but my book has the process laid out step by step in easy to follow format, as well as growing mushrooms on wood chips.

6 Waxing Logs

Q. Is mushroom-growing suitable for all climates or would a drier, hotter climate like ours not be conducive?

Mushrooms will thrive where there is sufficient temperature and moisture. There are tricks for dry climates such as partially burying your logs and/or using permeable covers to preserve moisture. I usually just set up a simple sprinkler around my logs and give a 5 minute dowse once or twice and week in hot, dry periods. Being mindful of exposure to wind helps keep the logs moist.

7a Logs under Deck

Q. Could you give us just a couple of resources for getting started – books, sites, etc.?

Obviously my book which has simplified the outdoor mushroom cultivation process and highlights how to use fungi in the landscape to build soil fertility and clean runoff. I would also recommend looking up Field & Forest Products as their site is very informative without being overwhelming. And of course Paul Stamets’ amazing book Mycelium Running.

Thank you, Michael, for this introduction.!

Michael Judd is the founder of Ecologia Design where he designs edible and ecological landscapes that that meld form, function, and productivity seamlessly. He also founded Project Bona Fide which is a 43-acre educational farm on Isla de Ometepe in the southwest of Nicaragua. Project Bona Fide’s goal is to promote food sovereignty locally and regionally. Not just through feeding one’s self and family but nourishing the community and contributing to its local economy. He is also the author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist which you can find on sale right now.

Have you tried your hand at growing mushrooms on your homestead?

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Last week was backhoe week here on the homestead and in the community. It was a busy time and long days for Stewart, but it was a great blessing to watch more water catchment and root cellar action happening in order to further our sustainability.

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There was much watching by little boys on our homestead and others. It was hard to keep these guys focused on school and chores but we always had some time to spare to go check out the latest of Daddy’s digs.

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And all of the children got a turn on the backhoe with Daddy. Annabelle was just a little bit excited when I asked “Who wants to drive the backhoe with Daddy?!” She likes to keep her feelings close to the chest, that one.

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This little project with the pallets was neither a goat shelter nor a tomato shader nor a grape trellis (all great ideas you’ve now given us, though!). I think I’ll let Stewart tell you about this, or at least wait until I fully understand the project. But, I can tell you that the hole that dirt came from is to be a root cellar and storm shelter, Lord willing.

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We watched the weather closely leading up to backhoe week and throughout and prayed that we might get our usual fairly dry weather. Well the rain stayed away… until Friday night not much more than an hour after Stewart finished up on one of our neighbor’s fields.

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These photos are taken on our homestead and we got to see the water being put to use in swales holding water and ponds that may someday supply goats with water.

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It was fun to go on a tour of it all with Daddy and the children, Stewart getting to see the fruit of his labor and the children generally frolicking (and falling) in the mud.

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I often feel like a spectator here on the homestead, nursing baby in tow and camera at the ready. But thinking back on the past three years (our landiversary was last week!) I really see what spectators we all are. Most of what has come to pass over the past few years I could have never have planned for or envisioned. Because it’s so grace-filled, from the shells of newly hatched chicks to the kale taken out by grasshoppers to a storm blowing in at the end of a blessed week such as this.