Seven years later they are starting to come in! So exciting. Thanks once again for those logs!! :)
This was the email I sent to my father-in-law on October 24, 2016, seven years after he had brought us a pile of 3 foot logs from a freshly cut ash all the way from his woods in Utica, New York (we lived in the Boston area).
After letting my father-in-laws logs rest for the appropriate time (fresh wood is not good for mushrooms), we - Mark and I - had inoculated those logs with shiitake spawn and closed the holes up with beeswax. Our helpers were our young daughters, Charlotte (10) and Josephine (9), and their two cousins, Saitha and Max. Since we had followed the directions for how to inoculate shiitake logs to the letter and had put the logs in a nice shady spot in moist woods, we were sure we that a whole series of delicious and bountiful shiitake harvests were just a year or two away. As those two years went by, we made sure to spray the logs if some weeks of the summer got too dry. After two years, we started to check for shiitake after rainfalls. Nothing came. No worries, we’ll wait another year. Nothing came. And so, it went. Until, having given up all expectation, on that October day, a little flush of shiitake came our way. And that was it.
I have been trying to grow mushrooms for nigh on to a decade and a half, and that time is full of stories like the one above. I would say that my mushroom growing fail rate was around 90 percent for many years. It is possible that I started out my mushroom growing hobby being the least talented mushroom grower in the Universe. On the other hand, I have been implausibly persistent, prolific, and creative in my attempts, and in this way, I have racked up a unique collection of experiences, many of them involving green mold, but some fraction actually producing delicious fungi. It is my intention to share some of these experiences, because frankly, we need balance in the mushroom information world.
Mushrooms are booming. Anyone can get a piece of the action with kits, numerous practical and color-illustrated books, as well as countless YouTube videos all telling you how you too can grow mushrooms, just like we did, if you just do This! Nowhere are there accounts of people who did those things but did not grow anything. Yet, I am sure that growing nothing is the experience of most beginners. People, I am here to tell you that you are not alone nor are you just crooked-handed and clumsy. Growing mushrooms is really not that simple and a lot can go wrong. Here are some stories of failures - and then some of successes.