Those aren’t rocks!
During one of my evening walks the other day, I stumbled across some little white bumps on the ground. I stopped short and squatted down for closer inspection, only to find that they were tiny edible puffball mushrooms.
It got me thinking that we really have a great diversity of fungi here on the farm. I see different types all of the time and want to identify them, but sadly I don’t have my field guide. They are important organisms to pay attention to, because they are very specific in their tolerances and so can tell us a whole lot about whats happening in our soil and with the weather. The added benefit of knowing about fungi is for production. Some produce high quality, valuable, edible mushrooms. Other types of fungi form relationships with plants in the soil to the benefit of both parties. And, sadly, the most common knowledge about these organisms comes from fungal pathogens on our crop plants. However, I am here to say that fungi do much more good for us than we usually realize. The soil fungi that live with plant roots really have it made. They form a sheath around the roots and extend a vast network of mycelium(like tiny roots) to areas of the soil that plants cannot reach. In exchange for sugars from photosynthesis, the fungi give the plant water, phosphorous and trace minerals.
This relationship results in vastly more carbon storage, better plant health and more efficient water usage and can be of great use in organic farming. Growing fungi for the mushrooms themselves is great too. Its a fun activity that anybody can do after a few minutes instruction or reading. We have ordered an oyster mushroom kit and are setting up a full scale production of them.
We are visiting a local coffee shop to get their waste coffee grounds as a carbon source for the mushrooms to grow on. Every week we get 5 gallons of grounds which can turn into up to 10 pounds of mushrooms under the right conditions. When one bucket is spent, we divide and transfer the colony to a few more buckets of grounds and eventually to a permanent, although seasonal, outdoor bed of wood and straw.