Wednesday, April 15, 2015

When life gives you treefall - make mushrooms.

They say when life gives you lemons - make lemonade.  But when life drops a spruce tree on your garden, make mushrooms.  Specifically, Chicken of the Woods, which thrives on newly fallen spruce.

I mail ordered some "plug spawn" from an outfit called Fungi Perfecti.  For $12-15 you get a hundred little dowels infused with the mycelium of a variety of edible or medicinal fungi.

If you have cut green wood or a fresh stump you can culture it by drilling a series of 5/16ths inch holes and tapping in the dowels with a rubber mallet.  In 9 months or so, once the mycelium has thoroughly colonized the wood, you should get a bloom of mushrooms to harvest.

I don't have a stump so much as a fallen tree, half uprooted.  I left the bottom dozen feet in place and divided the dowels up between the trunk and several 4-foot sections, cut and trimmed of branches.

I also had a maple with plenty of dead and dying sections, which I'd been meaning to cut.  It was only a matter of time until it dropped a limb onto one of our cars.

Only the center top was healthy, so I let it stand and trimmed out the rest.

The downed logs I'll inoculate with shiitake and pearl oyster mushrooms and roll them under the maple tree to rot and flourish.  The "stumps" I'll culture with blue oyster mushrooms, though if I were following proper protocol I would have cut the whole thing down to prevent it from fighting off the fungi.

In a few months I'll let you know how it went . . .

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The bees re-emerge.

The first three winters of my beekeeping career I failed utterly to coax a hive into over-wintering.  They all absconded, starved or otherwise expired before the spring nectar flow.  (0 for 7, I think.)

Part of that comes from my general approach to these kinds of things - which is to see how little I can get away with doing, before I start following all of the complicated edicts from the experts.

But my two colonies have successfully survived the winter and are currently finding nectar and pollen somewhere.  All I see around me are crocuses, snowdrops and the odd periwinkle blossom, but I suspect they are off to the swamp visiting the skunk cabbage.  They are already putting up nectar.

The smaller of the colonies I've written off as dead at least three times - first, last April when I accidentally uncaged the new queen directly into the hive - second when I checked back a few weeks later and found no brood at all - and third when I peeked in during the winter and found the too-light hive quiet and apparently empty.  (I only looked in the top - but in the other hive bee activity was high in the hive and obvious.)  I've never been able to spot this zombie queen that seems to keep bringing things back to life.

To myself I call that hive Corinth and the bigger, more vigorous hive Athens.

Last summer the nectar flow failed and not only did I harvest no honey, but in the fall I fed the two colonies something like 75 pounds of sugar just to give them some winter stores.  And yet this is the first lot of mine to survive.  Go figure.