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Hunting down oaks for shiitakes

Split white oaks

I went out into the woods last weekend looking for tree species on the shiitake-favorites list...and ended up stumbling across not one but two places with white oaks perfect for the cutting! I guess I wrote too soon when I said our farm is too low and wet for oaks.

The great thing about the oaks I found is that they're close to our core homestead and they're double-trunked. The latter factor means that cutting down one trunk is equivalent to pruning the tree, not killing it. In fact, when Mark cut the trunk he's currently working on in the photo above, I could tell that the top part was already starting to die back as the larger trunk took up more and more of the tree's nutrients. Using up the base of the trunk for mushroom logs and the top for firewood won't be taking much out of our forest ecosystem at all (although the woodpeckers may miss the snag for nesting).

Cutting mushroom logs

I had planned to cut one of the double trunks from the tree in the foreground of the first photo as our second tree, but in the end I decided to give that individual another five or ten years to grow. I wouldn't have gotten many mushroom logs out of the trunk as-is, so instead I opted to let Mark cut a single-trunked oak that was just the right diameter. I think this tree will sprout back from the base (since that's how our double-trunked trees arose in the first place), so hopefully we'll have more mushroom logs about forty-five years. (Yes, counting the rings of one of the cut oaks showed it to be just about Mark's age.)

Full cold moon

In Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation (a top-notch book that I'll be reviewing later this month), Tradd Cotter recommends cutting logs about a week before plugging with spawn to give the tree's natural defenses time to dissolve. At the other extreme, you might get away with waiting as long as two months between cutting and plugging for oaks, but sooner is generally better than later since wild mushroom spawn can invade if you wait too long. But don't inoculate if you're going to see prolonged periods below 18 degrees Fahrenheit in the near future --- instead, keep the spawn in the fridge and wait until the weather warms up a bit. Hopefully our weather will cooperate and we'll be able to plug our oak logs week after next.

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Comment by Ron Fri Feb 6 04:54:33 2015
Ron --- Thanks for sharing! That's an excellent resource!
Comment by anna Fri Feb 6 09:56:03 2015

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime