Inoculating logs with mushrooms
For Solstice this past year, Shaun gave me some pearl oyster mushroom dowels. We’ve talked about mushrooms but don’t have any experience with them so the dowels are a fun way for us to learn a little bit about mushrooms and hopefully have some delicious mushrooms to eat. Having no experience, I needed a little more information than was provided in the instructions that came with the dowels. I spent a bit of time on mushroom websites and finally felt ready to take the step to actually inoculate a log this weekend.
Kaylee, Jax, and Orion, part of our COVID bubble, came over with a rough idea we’d do some natural egg dying, but instead we took on this mushroom log adventure!
We have a lot of red alders on our property. One that is in the food forest lost its top in a recent windstorm. Jax, Orion, and I measured the trunk of that tree to make sure it was between four and eight inches in diameter for a length of at least four feet.
Once we’d measured and marked the tree, Shaun cut it down for us using the chainsaw our friend Colin gave us last year as a wedding present.
When the tree was nearly ready to fall, Jax and Orion helped Shaun give it the final push to bring it down.
Shaun cut off the large branches with the chainsaw, Jax, Orion, and I took the branches to the burn pile, and then carried the log to the picnic table for our next steps.
Jax used the loppers to take off the smaller branches—with a lot of oversight from me! Then he and I measured and marked to drill the holes. The holes are four inches apart in a row with the neighboring rows offset and about two inches away. I couldn’t find clear enough instructions to feel confident about putting holes all the way around the log or just mostly on the top side. I opted for just along the top to make sure the plugs stay wet. We have some dowels left, so we’ll do a second log in the next couple of weeks.
Then Jax and I put tape on the 3/8” drill bit to mark 1 ¼” depth and drilled the holes. The dowels are 1” long and the extra room is to ensure the dowels are snug enough to touch the tree on all sides, but have air inside the holes. We put the dowels in the holes and used the rubber mallet to make sure they were all the way in.
We left the log outside and went inside to melt our wax to seal the holes. The internet provides widely varying recommendations related to the wax to seal the holes. We opted for beeswax with a small amount of food grade mineral oil to help prevent it from drying out. We melted the wax with the mineral oil in the microwave in one minute intervals, stirring it for about 20 seconds between intervals. The wax stuck to the spoon a little when we stirred it between intervals, but I was able to get most of it back into the measuring cup. It took about three intervals to get the wax fully melted. Once the wax was melted, Orion and I took it outside and used an old (clean) paint brush to brush it onto the holes.
Kaylee, Orion, and I carried to log to an area on the north side of the house that stays shaded all the way through summer, but is not covered so it gets rain. It is right by our fountain, so it will be easy to remember to keep it watered. In a few months—maybe August, we’ll turn the log upright and put it into a small pot where water can pool and the log can wick up the water.
If all goes well, we’ll have oyster mushrooms by late summer or early fall!