In the spring of 2016 I bought 15 shiitake mushroom logs that had already been inoculated and had previously fruited. I brought them home and successfully force fruited them once in the spring and again in the fall. It was an experiment to see if perhaps I wanted to try my own hand at preparing and growing the mushroom logs. For Christmas of 2016 I asked for mushroom spawn and my ever generous husband bought me a three season kit for shiitake mushrooms and another one for oyster mushrooms. The culture of these varieties requires green logs from live trees which were cut when dormant. The shiitakes prefer hard woods, oaks being their favorite, and oysters prefer soft woods, cottonwood being their favorite. We found and harvested selected trees off our property in the late winter of 2017. In early spring we proceeded to drill holes in the logs, which we then filled with sawdust spawn for the shiitakes and plug spawn for the oysters. The next step for both types is to wax the holes. Then we stapled a tag on the end of each log which identified the type of mushroom and the strain, as well as the date of inoculation. The finished logs were then placed in a stack behind our buck barn in a protected location to allow the spawn to fully colonize the logs. This is called "spawn run". It takes 4 - 6 months for the oyster mushrooms and 9-12 for the shiitakes. We had a wind storm that knocked a maple tree down on our buck barn in March of 2017. We had extra shiitake spawn because we used all the oak logs we had cut. Maple is also an appropriate tree for shiitake, so we harvested some logs from the fallen tree for the rest of the shiitake spawn. We had also accidentally been sent plug spawn for an unusual mushroom (to us) called "comb tooth". This mushroom also likes maple logs, so we were able to use the maple for the spawn for that. We inoculated a total of 62 logs and made two totems with the shiitakes, oysters and comb tooth. I also purchased sawdust spawn for another type of mushroom called the wine cap. This mushroom is grown in wood shavings under garden plants or under trees. I "planted" these mushrooms during early spring planting under some bushes on the east side of the house. We got some oyster mushrooms in late summer 2017. All my spawn and equipment and wonderful advice has come from Field and Forest Products.
drilling a log
inoculating a log
aluminum tag label
pile of logs ready to go to their official stack to rest while the spawn colonizes the logs
PoHu Oyster mushrooms, harvested in August of 2017. This bunch weighed nearly a pound.
Here are some gorgeous Blue Dolphin Oyster mushrooms harvested in late October 2017 from our new logs. On the right, is the same cluster with one, beautiful Snowcap Shiitake mushroom taken the same day. These are all from our new 2017 logs inoculated in March of 2017.
After a nice flush in the fall and early winter of 2017, we had a long lull of mushroom harvesting. When spring came, I didn't have much. I called the company, Field and Forest, which is a terrific company for customer service, I highly recommend them. After some back and forth discussion, we determined that my Golden Oyster spawn must have died before we inoculated our logs because there was too much time between when we bought it and used it. Even though technically that was my fault, they decided to replace my Golden Oyster spawn - at the appropriate time for inoculation - and then use it as a teaching situation for their customer service reps, to wait to ship until a a couple of weeks before appropriate inoculation time, similar to how a seed or plant company ships at planting time for a particular region.
We got busy with the spring and summer farm season and forgot to check our mushroom logs until August 2, 2018. To our surprise we found: YUM!!
The summer of 2018 was quite hot and in early September we are finished up the hot species of Shiitakes - the Night Velvet. Then I found my first Comb Tooth! I had given up on this variety, but after looking at the catalog realized this takes almost two years to colonize the log, so I guess we are in good shape!
For the 2019 season, we ordered the replacement Golden Oyster spawn and with the help of the South Haven Garden club, will be inoculated logs with that spawn on March 9, 2019. Along with the Golden Oyster spawn, I bought more wine cap spawn, which I put in asparagus beds and flower beds in the spring after our last frost date.
In the spring of 2020 we added two more winecap beds. The summer was hot and pretty dry, so we didn't see any action until fall when it started raining again. One of the two beds gave us several nice winecaps, but the other bed did nothing, until one day I found this huge winecap (the jar behind it is a quart jar) with a small one attached. The other is an oyster cluster from one of the logs we inoculated in spring of 2019.
I started winecaps in two more places in the fall of 2020 for spring fruiting. Since I wasn't really ready to give up my mushroom growing for the winter, I bought a three mushroom collection of "table top farms" from Field and Forest. The first was Shiitake, which fruited very nicely and gave us over a pound of delicious mushrooms. The second is the picture on the left, which is Chestnut mushrooms. This one takes longer to fruit, but judging from the looks of it, I will get a lot of mushrooms from it when they are mature. The third is black oyster, which is in the picture on the right. This is its second fruiting. Its first was so large it didn't have room to fully open! We harvested that and turned the block over, and although the directions said it probably wouldn't fruit again, here is a second fruiting beginning. The shiitake block can be fruited again after a rest period. The others depend on variety, but the spent blocks can be put outside in the spring on sawdust, and may possibly fruit again.