A Change of Plans: The 6th Grade Farm Trip
When one is planting a garden from seed, there is a host of information on each seed packet. Days to germination, days to maturity, nutrition needs, ideal soil temperature and amount of needed daily sunlight. When growing mushrooms, there are guides for the various varieties. What species of tree is the best host, amount of watering and shade, but the timing of harvest is often unknown.
Students at the Manhattan Country School Farm have been growing edible mushrooms for five years. They’ve inoculated hardwood logs with Shiitake and Lion’s Mane mushroom spores. This involves drilling holes in a log, tapping a wooden peg which already has mycelium in it and covering the peg with wax.
Our current 6th grade class imbued poplar logs when they were in the 9-10’s. This involved sprinkling oyster mushroom spores on the ends of the logs, covering them with dark plastic bags and placing them in the farm basement for several months. The logs were then uncovered and stacked, totem style, in the “moat” next to our dairy barn. The moat provides an ideal environment of cool, damp and shady conditions for mushrooms to thrive. The mushroom logs lived in this spot all through the students 5th grade year. We know that the mycelium was hard at work, spreading through the logs and decomposing the wood fibers. Unfortunately, the mushroom’s never fruited.
During the 6th grade fall Farm trip last week, the logs seemed to be unchanged. Our meal menu was filled with foods made from ingredients grown and raised on the MCS Farm. Dinner planned for Thursday evening was potato soup, made from potatoes dug that morning by the kids, applesauce cooked down from our own apples, a kale salad from the garden and freshly baked biscuits. But wait! While walking the stairs to the hay jump and looking into the moat someone discovered logs bursting with creamy, oyster mushrooms. Change of menu! Cooking class quickly altered their plans to make pizza to carry the mushrooms to hungry mouths. They made dough from scratch, sauce from our own tomatoes, diced onions and peppers from the garden and sprinkled those earthy, sweet mushrooms on top. One of the firm beliefs at the MCS Farm is, “The land is our most significant teacher.” This experience was clearly one of those moments.