Yule Log

Before I left to see my family on the east cost for the Christmas holiday, Joel and I had gone wood hunting at a couple of the local green waste management facilities.  Climbing upon huge towering piles of mostly cedar and eucalyptus wood scraps, branches, and stumps, we culled a couple of logs that looked like appropriate hardwoods (again, hardwoods are what we need for mushroom cultivation).  The facilities managers all were invariably friendly, eccentric, and happy to let us free climb dangerously unstable piles of scrap.  In spite of the fact that my tree identification is poor at best, I evidently seem to be able to successfully sniff out hardwoods from a nebula of various aromatic pine and cedar.  I only know this because, still unsure of my gleanings, Jessie and I traveled to the headquarters of some SF tree removal specialists in the midst of a holiday barbecue to get an ID on the species of log we had gotten.  According to them it was Poplar; a fact to which we sunk our heads to upon hearing.  Poplar they said is “…about as soft as you can get”.  “It’s only good for toothpicks and Camembert boxes. You’re holding a couple million tooth picks right there.”  Though discouraged, we didn’t stop there.  A little more research was in order.

After doing a bit more research we found out that Poplar IS actually a hardwood, commonly called Cottonwood.  Perfect!  Cottonwood just happens to be an ideal species for shiitake cultivation!  My sixth sense for hardwood location was verified.  I had unknowingly picked a very ideal couple logs.  It was time to start plugging away.  
I started by drilling the holes in a diamond pattern about two inches apart.  Immediately I was glad that we only were starting with two logs.  I can imagine it being a really back-breaking job to do 200 or so logs (what we’d most likely do if we had a commercial mushroom operation).  After I had drilled holes for the better part of an hour I started with the plugging.  The dowels are soft enough that they need to be pounded in with a rubber hammer.  Once the plug spawn bag is open you have to use them all.  Once exposed to the elements, the plugs can’t be saved.  So pound away I did for another hour or so.  In the end I was able to get in about 170 plugs.  Following getting the plugs in, I heated up about 1/2 lb. of beeswax.  This all natural wax is recommended to seal the fresh plugs that you’ve just labored to put in.  Evidently the wax will give the shiitake spawn the best fighting chance of inoculating the log by not letting in competitor fungi or disease.  After drilling, plugging, and waxing all exposed wood I was finished.  All in all the process maybe took 2 and 1/2 hours.  Now the logs will sit for 4 to 6 months until it is time to induce fruiting.  “Fruiting” has a couple different methods that encourage the fruiting bodies (the mushroom itself) of the mycelium to emerge.  But, more on that later.  Much later.  
Link of the Week:

You may have noticed by now that my links of the week are all over the map.  One week were talking local and the next were promoting Incorporated and global.  In an Internet column, I think that it is a duty to diversify ones sources and influences, from the grass roots to the corporate level.  The Internet being the Internet, the vast and sprawling matrix of information it is, it holds for us the keys to drive contagious information all over the planet.  I feel it encourages the destruction of barriers to conscious changing information and wisdom no longer confined by physical location or hours of operation.  This of course means we are faced with the responsibility of honing our own skills of discernment and critical thought.  One’s challenge is to glean valuable bits of good information despite its maybe suspect context.  In other words, our challenge is to recognize a good thing when we see it.  In the last few years, the New York Times has tuned an ear to the low but growing rumble of the food movement.  The NYT magazine has been highlighting young farmers and their efforts to reclaim this human right that Amyitis attempts to exercise.  A couple weeks ago they posted a slide show and feature on young farmers.  While I don’t often feel that large corporate media enterprises need my help in spreading their journalistic wares, I commend them for their part in helping to spread this grass roots food movement.  You can visit the slide show here, as well as gain access to more of the stories about the farmers featured there.  
Happy reading, 

2 responses to “Yule Log

  1. “It’s only good for toothpicks and Camembert boxes. You’re holding a couple million tooth picks right there.”

    I happen to think Poplar makes a pretty good guitar.

  2. Paul! Why you knockin' the NYT? That's a fine and decent newspaper, you hippie! Just as poplar is a fine & dandy hardwood. They grow all over the place up here. Do you want to throw a few logs in the truck before we head down?

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