February 23, 2014

Spawning 'Shrooms

Yesterday, I went to a workshop on how to grow your own 'shrooms. Himself was very excited till I had to tell him "no, you dolt, not THOSE  'shrooms."  

THESE 'shrooms...
No, these are not beer nuts. They are "spawn plugs," sold online by Field and Forest.  Spawn plugs? Isn't that something Sigourney Weaver pulled out of her astronaut buddy's chest? And how could anything called "spawn" have such lovely surnames as "West Wind" and "Snow Cap?"

Well, it turns out that these spawn plugs inoculated into the right environment will eventually give rise to a nest of shitake mushrooms.  Our Spawn Daddy was Alex, who took 9 of us on to his back porch and showed us how to do exactly that.
Shitakes love a three-foot segment of red or white oak. And here's the kicker, if you live in the Northeast this winter: you can't use fallen logs. The wood needs to be so alive that you need to go into your woods with a saw within 30 days of Inoculation Day. If not, you run the risk that some other fungi or bacteria gets a toehold and eventually ruins the neighborhood for our poor Spawn.

Luckily for me, Alex actually trekked through the three-foot snow mounds day after day to bring us these oak logs, which, by the way, are really heavy little bastards on a good day and especially heavy since they've not been sitting on a woodpile drying out for a year.
Alex then showed us how to drill an array of 50-60 holes spaced 4 inches apart around the logs and then hammer the little plugs into said holes.  Once our Spawn were all snug in their new homes, we tucked them in with a covering of wax. The logs then go in a shady spot, where they should be kept relatively moist. And then, depending on the strain, 6 to 12 months later, the Spawn spawn and shitake mushrooms cover the log. That's called a "fruiting" and hopefully, it happens several times before the wood rots away and the Spawn are homeless.

This is Alex's sprawling Spawn Condominium Development.

 These are my more modest Spawn Apartment Towers.
They will go into a shady part of the yard as soon as I can find the yard.Which may be soon, according to my Snowman Thaw-O-Meter...
In fact, winter must be nearly over because I have completed my project for Winter Camp, ie, piecing together a Gridlock Quilt for our bed. I threw Billy off and threw it on so I could see how it will be as a blanket instead of wallpaper.

I still have all the handstitching and embroidery stories to tell across the top. And,eventually, some type of border, perhaps of words or more little stories, will take shape. And that will help me name it, I hope. But even at this stage, I am very pleased with it.

First of all, it has all my story cloths in it. They all work together and I am excited about making their stitches travel onto their neighboring blocks.  Second, I made it completely out of fabric that I had here (with the exception of one fat quarter of blue/white dot that I deemed essential but ran out of, so sue me). I even cut apart old blocks that I had bought at flea markets and got lots of 2 1/2 inch squares of shirting fabric from the early 1900s.  That connection...my hands to those of some woman 100 years ago cutting up her husband's shirts...well, I just FEEL woven to her when I look at them.  And finally, I only used fabrics that I LOVE.

I did worry while I was stitching that I would feel protective of this quilt and not let the dogs come up and inoculate it with slobber, shedding fur, yesterday's mud, and whatever spawnlike phenomena come with eight sets of padded toes. But keeping my dogs off the bed would be a complete negation of my lifestyle, which is heavily dependent on warm canine breath in the morning (no, you dolt, not yours).

So using this quilt in my life will no doubt be like stepping out of the house with brand new sneakers...white and clean as a fleeting moment in time.