So Saturday I headed down to Louisa, Virginia to the home of Dan Boone (7th Generation from the original guy) who hosted a blacksmithing Hammer In at his home. A Hammer In is a get together for blacksmiths. It's kind of like a meeting of beekeepers except that instead of thousands of stinging insects you play with red-hot metal and shape it with a hammer. I could explain more but if you don't understand the allure of it nothing I can write is probably going to make a difference.
After leaving there I headed over to Cismont, Va to Sharondale Farm. Sharondale is run by mycologist Mark Jones who, among other things, propogates various types of mushrooms and inoculates sterilized sawdust that can be used to grow mushrooms at home. The process is quite simple. I bought several bags of spawn from Mark for shiitake mushrooms. The 'spawn' is nothing more than sterilized sawdust on which the mycelium for a specific strain of mushroom has been started.
Starting with freshly cut (though aged several weeks) hardwood log/branch sections, numerous holes are drilled into the logs with an angle grinder that has been fitted with a special drill bit. Once the hole is drilled, a plunger is 'loaded' with spawn by repeatedly stabbing it into the sawdust until the plunger tube is full. The plunger is positioned over the newly drilled hole and the handle is pressed down firmly ejecting the spawn plug into the hole. The hole is then capped with warm cheese wax to prevent dehydration and then the log begins to sit. It will take the logs 6-9 months to become fully colonized with the filaments of shiitake fungus before the log begins to 'fruit'. The fruit I speak of is what we recognize as a mushroom. Ninety percent of a fungal colony is hidden inside a substrate of some kind. The ground, trees, etc. It's only the fruiting body, the mushroom, that we see. Mushrooms exist to release the billions of spores produced so that the whole process can begin anew at some other location.
The 'Y' strain I purchased from Mark comes with a hearty recommendation. It supposedly produces abundant flushes of delicious mushrooms and is a reliable producer in our area. Time will tell.