To pick or to cut?

The cold and wet of autumn has arrived and although there will be plenty of grumbling from many in the UK who wish for constant sunshine, for many this means that it is time to go hunting for mushrooms. For some people the simple joy of walking through a forest or woodland and observing the diverse range of fungal fruiting bodies popping out of the ground or a piece of wood is their only motivation. For others the object of their search is to find and take away tasty treats for themselves or to sell on to others.

When it comes to harvesting mushrooms there are two methods that people use and arguments why each is better than the other: One method is to pick the whole mushroom including the underground base and the other is to cut it flush to ground level with a knife. The argument for cutting is that this method causes less disruption to the underground mycelium and the argument for picking the whole mushroom is to avoid leaving a stump creating a wound that disease could enter through and infect the underground mycelium.

I was interested to find out if there was any evidence to suggest that one or other of the methods were in fact better for the long term health of the fungi and their mushroom producing capacities. After a little research I stumbled across a long term study that set out to answer this question with very interesting results. The study was conducted from 1977 to 2003 and concludes that neither method decreases the yield of mushrooms. The study also concludes that concerns about overharvesting reducing long term yields of mushrooms appear to be unfounded. However the trampling of the forest floor that occurs when people pick mushrooms does reduce short term yields most probably because the newly emerging primordia (baby mushrooms) are trampled and therefore fail to mature. The underground mycelium appears not to be adversely affected by this action and will produce plenty of mushrooms when trampling pressure is reduced.

The writers of the study do make a very good point in their conclusion that more needs to be learned about how many spores need to be produced and released to maintain long term reproduction of fungi and I would add that leaving plenty of mushrooms behind when harvesting means that other species that use mushrooms for food or habitat can share this resource.

I recommend reading the study and have provided a link below. I also wish to say happy hunting to all those who will be out searching for mushrooms. Enjoy!

Mushroom picking does not impair future harvests – results of a long-term study in Switzerland



Occupy Spirituality

I was deeply inspired by this talk and wanted to share it. I have copied in the description for the talk below:

We are currently feeling the need for a spirituality that no longer hides our contemplatives in comfortable monasteries, but instead recognise that we are all called to be mystics and prophets at once. This new spirituality integrates contemplation with activism and prophetic witness on behalf of justice and compassion, deals with the transformation of the whole-person, integrates spiritual practices from various traditions and emphasises the need for intergenerational collaboration and wisdom.

In this talk with spiritual activist Adam Bucko explores the directions the earth is asking us to embark on today. The talk combines themes from Adam’s new book Occupy Spirituality (co-written with Matthew Fox) and his forthcoming New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto For Contemplative Life In The 21st Century.

For more information, visit:

From Cardboard to Edible Mushrooms…

Last week I popped over to the mushroom bed I had created at Middle Ruckham Farm a couple of months before to see how well the Elm Oyster mycelium was colonising the cardboard I had used as a substrate. On this particular occasion I was presented with the wonderful sight of little baby mushrooms (pins) poking out of the thin soil layer I had covered the cardboard with.

I will briefly explain the process I went through with photos to illustrate my explanations – If you want to try this yourself and would like to ask for some clearer instructions then comment or send a message through my Contact page.

Firstly I soaked some corrugated cardboard in living water from a stream on the farm (tap water can inhibit mycelial growth) and removed one of the flat sides to expose the corrugations. I then used a small 50g bag of Elm Oyster mycelium, growing on grains, sprinkled in between layers of the cardboard like a lasagna. This was left to incubate in a plastic storage container for a few weeks until mycelium was visibly colonising the cardboard layers. I added a little more water during this time to keep it moist, but not swimming in water, and covered the container with a towel to exclude the light.

When the myceliated cardboard was ready I picked a nice lightly shaded spot under a beech tree at the back of the garden area and cut back some vegetation to dig the bed for the cardboard to sit in.

Once the area was prepared and the shallow bed dug out I carefully separated the layers of cardboard and added fresh moist cardboard in between the colonised ones with a couple of fresh sheets in the bottom.

After I had sealed the top of the cardboard layers with a piece of fresh cardboard I added a thin layer of soil – removing larger woody matter – to cover over all the cardboard and kept an eye out for signs of mould or mycelial growth. If there was no rain for a week I would add some collected rainwater but otherwise it sat under the beech tree doing its thing.

Two months after creating this mushroom bed I noticed the first fruiting begin and in just three days the miniture mushrooms I first found (pictured at the start) became large fungal fruiting bodies ready to harvest and cook up with some butter, fresh thyme and homegrown garlic.

With Rosie’s culinary expertise these beautiful gleaming white mushrooms became a tasty little treat for a hungry bunch of WWOOFers and hosts…

The beds should produce more mushrooms from the cardboard and with the addition of some hardwood sawdust and/or woodchip a larger and higher yielding patch could potentially be created. The bag of spawn cost roughly £3-£4 (allowing for postage) and the cardboard boxes were ‘waste’. From small and simple beginnings there is the potential for many mushrooms to be harvested with very little effort or expense.

Interestingly the Elm Oyster has been shown to have a synergistic effect when grown beneath brassica plants by increasing the yield from the plants and providing edible mushrooms from space where nothing else would usually be grown. An experiment for next year perhaps?

Growing Gourmet Mushrooms at Home from Coffee Grounds

This is an interesting article from Adam Sayner of Fungi Futures on how to very simply grow Oyster Mushrooms on used coffee grounds which would otherwise be a waste product from large cafés. Its a great way to experiment with small scale food growing and to watch the mushroom life cycle in action.

I attended a course run by Fungi Futures last year and found it a valuable experience that inspired me to experiment with using cardboard as a substrate for outdoor mushroom cultivation. I have had great success with these experiments and hope to put together a post on the mushroom patch I created at Middle Ruckham Farm that fruited a few days ago. They were tasty mushrooms!

The article can be found here: Growing Gourmet Mushrooms at Home from Coffee Grounds

brown-mushrooms-growing white-mushrooms-growing

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible


Can’t recommend this book more highly – Click on the picture to read it online or buy a copy…




From the website:

“In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? This inspirational and thought-provoking book serves as an empowering antidote to the cynicism, frustration, paralysis, and overwhelm so many of us are feeling, replacing it with a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our small, personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness—called interbeing—we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world.

Throughout the book, Eisenstein relates real-life stories showing how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he shows, has generated the present planetary crisis. He brings to conscious awareness a deep wisdom we all innately know: until we get our selves in order, any action we take—no matter how good our intentions—will ultimately be wrongheaded and wronghearted. Above all, Eisenstein invites us to embrace a radically different understanding of cause and effect, sounding a clarion call to surrender our old worldview of separation, so that we can finally create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

With chapters covering separation, interbeing, despair, hope, pain, pleasure, consciousness, and many more, the book invites us to let the old Story of Separation fall away so that we can stand firmly in a Story of Interbeing.”

4 Ways Hemp Can Help Save The World

Inspired Earth Connection

Photo Credit:  Joe Merrill Photo Credit: Joe Merrill

There are so many solutions out there to save the planet and one of them is hemp.  Yes, you heard that right– hemp.  Not only is hemp a nutritious addition to your diet, but it is chock full of sustainable alternatives to things such as paper made from trees and petroleum fuel.

Hemp, like oppressed people, is an oppressed plant not allowed to flourish in the United States.  It is allowed to be imported, however, which keeps prices higher and does not support local American farmers. Until very recently, it has been treated like a psychoactive drug, even though it cannot get you high like marijuana.

Hemp is technically legal in a very limited capacity in certain states.  Part of the Farm Bill of 2014 addresses hemp.  According to Vote Hemp, the bill “defines industrial hemp as distinct and authorizes institutions of higher education or state departments…

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All quiet on the South-Western front

I was feeling a deep sense of joy and relief when I took this photo as, after 2 weeks of crippling hay fever mixed with a cold for good measure, I was finally feeling human again. The sunshine has been lovely but the sight of this mist and rain cleansing the pollen from the air after the recent hay making was quite literally a sight for sore eyes. I’m certain the veg plants are all celebrating too.

I’ve missed posting things here but hopefully the worst of hay fever is over and I’ll be able to concentrate on this site a little more. It’s very much a work in progress that is constantly evolving – sometimes in fits and starts – so please feel free to pop back every now and again to see what’s on offer.


Featured on WWOOF UK Website

The view from my caravan today

The view from my caravan today.

Yesterday the lovely folk at WWOOF UK featured my blog on their Latest News which I’m really pleased with. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the ‘Fun Guy’ puns started to roll in but I’ve had less flattering nicknames in my time 🙂

Thanks to all at WWOOF UK and welcome to all who find this blog through their link. A number of my recent posts are about my time at Middle Ruckham Farm where I’m currently staying. More of my thoughts on WWOOFing can be found on the About Me page of this website.

To Bee Continued…

After last weeks non-swarm it seems that perhaps we intervened too early in the process because yesterday the same hive decided to go for it again. The mass of bees was much larger and there wasn’t the same hum of bees in flight – Well not until Dave started to brush them off into a bucket anyway.

After relocating the swarm to their new box Dave decided to check on the other hive to see if there was any activity and sure enough there was another swarm gathered in some brambles there too. These bees are a lot more ”feisty” as Dave put it so I didn’t get in so close.

So now we have four hives on the go and are looking forward to lots of tasty honey this year.

Below is a series of photos of Dave transferring the first swarm into a bucket from an apple tree in the orchard that Dave and Rosie planted about 6 years ago. Cutting the tree down wasn’t an option this time!