Greenbriar Makes You Run Fast & How to Eat An Oak Tree

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) planted by me, with the house in the distance.
For the last few years during greenbriar shoot season the following conversation has taken place. “Pa, does greenbriar make you fast?” And I answer, “yes, fast as a deer through the woods.”
This is between me and my youngest son. It comes from the fact that I told my oldest son something of that sort when he was 4 or 5 years old. Now he tells his brother. And his brother confirms it with me. In such ways, are all the best legends, myths and wives’ tales propagated.
I’ve no doubt that the tale will be passed on through the generations. Just like I know that when my palm itches it means someone is going to give me something and when I get a pimple on my nose it means someone has a crush on me. I believe all things like this. It is a means of retaining humanity.
So last night at dusk last night I cleared a 4 x 4 foot square in the woods, just off the path to visiting Annabelle the pig and in a spot where it is bound to be taken notice of everyday in the course of chores. I raked the duff aside and dug out a scraggly little spicebush with my shovel. Then in the bare area, I laid down an inch or so of sawdust that I’d picked up from the Amish mill down the road in Freedom. I opened the bag of wine cap (Stropharia rugosa annulata) spawn and broke it a part with my hands, crumbling it evenly across the sawdust bed.  Then I covered it with a few more buckets of sawdust (Our buckets are white 6 gallon ones, much better than the 5 gallon ones they use in Vermont and they don’t blow around, only stay where they’re told) and dumped two wheelbarrows of hardwood mulch on top. I kept a few handfuls of spawn to inoculate the back side our big mulch pile at home too.
In such a fashion do I aim to eat tulip trees and maples, oaks and hickory. By mushrooms the forest giants will be resurrected for my belly.
This idea of feasting on something that only ate logs (or wood chips and sawdust in this case) is an appealing one, something like beef that is grass and sun only somehow better or from a different side of life – the moon side, the dark forest side, the mushroom side. For shouldn’t we have balance and embrace that side of things too? Mushrooms retain a certain mystery and mythic status, especially the ones that flush of their own accord. And we retain our humanity by eating them from the places that they grow or helping them along, inoculating logs and whatnot. We take part in the mystery, only understanding it just so much to know the part we need to play.
I’ll post a 4 min. video in the comments about Stropharia Mushrooms from Cornell University Small Farms Program blog where you can see all the other mushroom (shiitake, oyster, lions mane) production info too.
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3 thoughts on “Greenbriar Makes You Run Fast & How to Eat An Oak Tree”

  1. Oh, great! I wanted to do this, but I was going to drill solid wood. Didn’t get to it this year, but I hope to soon. I ordered Field and Forest Products paper catalog and quite enjoyed it.
    I like your legends and your buckets…

  2. 🙂 Fun read.
    Well, then, may your special Hoosier buckets be full of mushrooms and not roll anywhere, and kids be fast to get the ‘shrooms before critters do, and may your head be full of legends, and your hands be itchy and nose covered in pimples. 🙂

    Mushrooms are truly magical to me (even the not so potent ones), so many good memories. From the very famous Lithuanian children’s book/poem called “Mushroom War”, where mushrooms take on human features, to the last June… when my dad took us to this beautiful place where among rolling country hills they have walking meditation labyrinths all made out of natural things: rocks, plants, flowers: http://energlabirintai.lt/en/home/. So kids and I take off the shoes and walk the mazes (well, some of us run), and pick some currants off the maze walls. My dad suddenly vanishes, saying his legs are too tired to keep up with us. He vanishes in the woods nearby (if there are woods, nothing will keep him away). 20 minutes later, he comes out with a mushroom, bigger than my 5 year old’s head! And not one worm inside of it (if weather is bad and mushrooms grow slower, many forest mushrooms get very wormy). So we had the full pot of mushrooms for dinner from just one mushroom! Now I buy my small handful of shiitakes at Trader Joes for $3 and dirt for a couple tomatoes for $60. If my dad only knew of this obscenity, he’d buy me a ticket to Lithuania, where mushrooms and dirt are as free as wind.

    I just recently saw, that some farmers are participating in the research of mushrooms being beneficial for the bees against the colony collapse (e.g. farmer Troy in Morengo, IL). I have no idea how that works, but sounds interesting. It is neat that mushrooms are so beneficial not just for people, but for little critters, bugs, snails, worms. Worms eat forest mushrooms and then spread the spores back into the dirt. And many critters completely do not care if the mushroom is poisonous (to mammals), they can eat them just fine. 🙂

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