Mushroom logs

I’ve been experimenting with growing various kinds of mushrooms on hardwood logs. I started in September of 2016 when I inoculated a handful of logs with “plug spawn”, that is, short dowels that have specific mushroom mycelium growing on them. Mycelium is the part of the mushroom that is hidden inside the wood (or ground if it is the kind that grows in the ground). I chose the following kinds:

1. Turkey Tail on oak log
2. Lion’s Mane on oak log
3. Chicken of the Woods on oak log
4. Reishi on oak log
5. Shiitake on maple log
6. Nameko (or so I thought. More on that later…) on maple log. This plug spawn looked oddly blank, or just like plain damp wood.

kits

I purchased spawn from 100thmonkeymushrooms.com, MushroomMountain.com, and Fungi.com. I also purchased beeswax to seal the holes and help retain moisture and keep out competing fungi.

The downside of using logs is that you often have to wait at least a year, maybe two or three before you see any visible mushrooms.

shroomlogs2

2016 gave us a particularly early, cold, and long frozen winter in the Vancouver, Washington area. I wasn’t sure if my mushrooms had survived or not. When June 2017 rolled around, I decided to double up and inoculate the same logs a 2nd time, just in case. I also had a couple of Douglas Fir stumps in which I put Phoenix Oyster plug spawn.

Through the hot summer, I kept watering the logs, and even gave them a soak in a small kiddie pool. Soaking all of them together turned out to be a mistake, which I’ll go into later.

By August I started seeing visible growth of mycelium happening on the Turkey Tail log, and a bit on a couple of others. By late September, the Turkey Tails mushrooms were about the width of a quarter-dollar. By mid-October I realized that all of the oak logs were growing Turkey Tail mushrooms. I knew I had purchased a variety, so chalked it up to soaking them all together, and Turkey Tail being a particularly aggressive mushroom.

Turkey Tail mycelium 8-9-2017 B
(First obvious mycelium growth on the Turkey Tail log)

TT-FB_9-26-17
(Turkey Tail mushrooms on an oak log. Snap them off and collect them, dice them up or use heavy scissors. Too tough to eat, these are used to make a broth and extract.)

I never did see any of the other kinds of mushrooms produce at all. The maple logs aren’t even growing Turkey Tails. I read that Nameko can take years to show up. I bought some more plug spawn from the same company, and was again wondering about it being so entirely free of obvious mycelium growth. This is the stuff that is supposed to carry the mushroom spawn into the log, and it if has no mushroom spawn, I am wasting time and money buying it. I took a picture of the package of damp dowels alongside a bag of another company’s bag of plug spawn and sent it to the vendor Mushroom Mountain asking what was up with the blank plugs.

no mycelium

No response at all from Mushroom Mountain. It has been months and still no response. I am certain they twice sold me blank wood with no mycelium. I gave them a bad review on Google and discontinued business with them. I hope the other spawn I ordered from them that had mycelium is actually the varieties I ordered. I even kept the little bag of dowels until this week, and no mycelium ever showed.

In October 2017 I was able to take several plum wood logs. This wood is very dense! The logs are 2 to 3 times as heavy as other logs I’ve used. I inoculated them with Blue oyster, Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane. Around Halloween, I ordered a bag of Nameko sawdust spawn (spawn grown on sawdust instead of dowels) from Field and Forest Products, along with the tools needed to do the inoculating. I inoculated 4 logs with Nameko and sealed the holes with wax. I also chose to put some into one of the Douglas Fir stumps I had. I also put some in the old log from 2016 in which I thought I had put Nameko previously. Sawdust spawn carries more mycelium into the log than plug spawn. The holes are larger, and the mycelium amount is greater.

few logs
(This out of focus shot shows the plum logs inoculated and waxed)

sawdust in holes
(This shows a plum log drilled and inoculated with Nameko sawdust spawn)

tool and bag
(This shows the bag of Nameko sawdust spawn white with mycelium, and the tool used to insert a measured amount of the sawdust into drilled holes in logs)

NOTE: I switched to using cheese wax instead of bee’s wax because I found that hornets and maybe bees have been stealing the wax and leaving my plug spawn exposed. I had never read that they do that, but I witnessed it, so made the change. So far, the cheese wax has been ignored.

The weather has become freezing as it is almost Christmas, but the logs have had two months of mild temperatures for the mycelium to become established, so if the mycelium likes plum wood, I should start seeing some obvious mycelium growth around Fall of 2018. I figure that Japanese varieties should do well in plum.

The Turkey Tails are still growing on the oak logs I have from before. I harvested some of them and made a tasty broth (hot water extraction) by chopping them up finely and boiling in a pot of water for about 4 hours. I also did an alcohol extraction of them by placing them in a mason jar and filling it with vodka and sealing it for 2 months, shaking it daily. The broth and the extract are said to contain substances helpful for fighting diseases and boosting the immune system. I figure they can’t hurt, so I’ll try them. At least the broth is tasty! I also bought a large Maitake mushroom from an organic store and am doing the same broth and alcohol process with it.

 

UPDATE: 8/31/18 After babying these logs for nearly a year, lots of mild weather and rain at the beginning, there are no signs at all of mycelium growth. The hot weather we had recently cracked a few of the logs and there is no growth on the inside either. So I’m calling this experiment a failure. The only ones that grew were the Turkey Tails. I still have some alcohol extraction of those with some purchased maitake. If I decide to grow any in the future, I’ll stick with sawdust bags since those seem to work fine.

Sounding Good Despite Incompetent Sound Techs And Well-Meaning Band Members

I sing as a hobby, and usually get to tweak the sound board to make my voice sound good for whatever venue I play. However, occasionally there are actual sound techs for the house and that person will set up the board and adjust it during the concert (if I’m lucky). However, I’ve had a couple that simply did a simple sound check at the beginning with a fancy iPad out in the audience seats, and then sat there the rest of the show listening to tunes on an iPhone. SMITE!!

If you are going to do the job, do the damn job. Know what the knobs are for and what effect they have when changed. Then pay attention to the band during the performance. When the crowd shows up, the audio dynamic changes due to sound absorption. I’m not sure why, but I almost invariably am given way too much bass and my voice sounds muddy compared with my band mates who have higher registers. A good sound tech is such a wonderful asset!

Even on gigs where I set up my own sound board, I’ve had to argue with one person who had a one-size-fits-all EQ form for the sliders, the classic “smile” shape. No, it really doesn’t fit all, and you have no business changing the settings if you don’t know what you are doing. I don’t care if “you’ve done it that way for years because it’s the right way and everyone knows that”. You’re wrong, and get away from my mixer. At one gig, an expert set us up, and within minutes a band member was over there changing things. There is only so much you can do if you want to stay together as a band. Choose your battles.

At one gig, I set up my mic did a few singing tests to make sure I sounded good for the venue, and walked away for a few minutes while the instrumentalists set up. I came back and did another test just to have confidence, and I sounded MUDDY AS HELL. I looked at the board and someone had turned my mid range down to 0, the treble to negative 10, and the bass up! WTF!!! I set it back to how I had it and tested my mic again, and sounded good again. I had to assume that one of them thought he or she was adjusting their own levels and changed mine. Glad I caught it before the show.

Start the EQ flat with everything at middle. If you can move out to where the audience will be for your vocal test, do it. Or if the sound tech is adjusting things, he/she/other should be experienced enough to set your vocals to be crisp and clear with good warmth. My mic has a larger diaphragm than most, so it picks up sound (and bass) more easily than other mics. That typically means I need to boost my treble and slightly lower the bass. I always use a high-pass filter (also called a low-cut filter) to cut mic handling noise and a boomy/muddy sound. When outside or under a fan, I use the much hated “clown nose” foam cover to mitigate wind noise in the microphone.

I did an article months ago on Mic Shaming that describes how to try out and select a microphone at a store, assuming they will let you. If they won’t, go somewhere else. Sometimes musicians will have a selection and will let you try some if you know them. Some will try to sell you on the kind they use, but you really should try out a few without a preconceived notion hanging over you. But remember, when using someone else’s microphones, PLEASE BE CAREFUL! Don’t drop it ever. Don’t swing it by the cord. Don’t pull it off the cord while the mic is live, unless you push in the release button gently and remove gently. If it is a mic that uses Phantom Power, turn the speakers down before removing the mic from the cord or you will cause a loud POP which is bad for the speakers and the ears of those around you. Treat the speakers with great care also, they tend to cost a lot of money.

I currently use a Heil PR35 handheld mic, a Mackie ProFX8v2 mixer board, and a QSC KW122 powered speaker. I also have a Heil Fin stand mic, but rarely use it. I’m fine using other equipment as well. I chose my setup by comparing what other singers in my area use, and then balancing those choices with my own voice and budget. I am the one most responsible for how I sound at a show, so as much as possible, I want the components to be under my control. Unless there is a known competent sound tech at the board, adjust the settings to where you sound good, NOT just where you think they should be. Test it, if at all possible, or you are setting yourself up for problems.

The first two gigs I did with a band, my voice was muddy (way too much bass). The sound equipment in some venues is genuinely lousy, has been there for 40 years, and should have been retired a long time ago. But venues don’t make money by paying for new equipment and they are in it for the money. If possible, bring your own stuff and use it instead of the venue equipment. Do a real mic test after you set up and SING a song so You Know That You Know That You Know you sound good in that venue. A venue with lots of cloth on the walls, carpet, and people in the audience wearing clothing, will absorb sound. Try singing in a closet full of clothing and your voice almost disappears. Conversely, a venue with little cloth and a lot of hard surfaces will bounce the sound a LOT, perhaps too much to be viable. Tweak the volume and EQ to make your voice sound good in that particular venue.

Read about other people’s experiences online and then try it over and over again. You can learn a lot from other’s mistakes and tips, but in the end you have to actually go do it repeatedly to learn your equipment (and learn to recognize when it is failing). I had a sound board start losing a channel right before a gig, so had to switch. Happily I had an open channel left of the mixer. One gig I tried three mixers before one actually worked normally. That was a nervous set-up.

All in all, get yourself gear that you have tested and like, and get used to how it works. Learn what all the knobs and sliders do. Talk with other singers and instrumentalists. Then go do your best. Some days it just won’t go your way and you have to make the best of it. Some days, you don’t get to change the mixer because a control freak is in charge. Some days an incompetent tech will ignore your band through the show. Some days you have to use 3rd hand ancient crap equipment and end up sounding awful. Which is why, as much as you can, be in charge of how you sound and know how to sound good.