Thursday, April 23, 2015

Magic Lakes and Mushrooms

Mushrooms ...

It's been a while since I updated the latest tales from Fox Wood - but never fear - it's not as if nothing has been going on there. In fact, one of the reasons for the lack of updates is that I've been too busy to attend to blogs (which are sadly quite low down on the priority list). So here is a preliminary update of what I have been up to. Alas, there are not too many pictures this time.

Firstly, as you may notice by looking to the right, I have been busy writing and publishing a book. Yes, The Path to Odin's Lake is about a journey I took last summer from Copenhagen to a forest in Sweden. It's not your average travel book - and in fact it wasn't intended to be a book at all until certain things happened to me on that journey that I felt I must record. I travelled for the most part on foot, had almost no money with me, and cut myself off completely from electronic media and gadgets. I ended up at a sacred lake in that Swedish forest and ... well, if you want to find out more you can buy the book :)

Secondly, partly as a result of that journey, I have been focusing my attention on growing mushrooms. Why? Well, Fox Wood is ideally suited to mushroom cultivation. It's damp, it's shady and I have an abundant supply of timber. So far I have begun experimenting with different types of wood (chestnut, oak, sycamore and willow) to ascertain what works best. I'm being quite scientific about it, making careful notes and observations and recording them. I hope to be able to grow a decent crop of edible mushrooms every year (that would be shiitake, oysters, lions mane and chicken of the woods) and sell them locally.

The second reason I am growing mushrooms is because they are awesome. The more I learn about them the more awesome they become. Not only are they a great source of nutrients but more and more research is pointing to the fact that they can be used as a means of bioremediation i.e. healing the Earth. Several species have been found to digest oil spills and chemicals, and there is even a suggestion out there that they could help 'clean up' radiation. They can heal sick bees, restore degraded soils and halt depression. What's not to like? Research in all of these areas is ongoing, but at the forefront of this fungus revolution is the US mycologist Paul Stamets. Check out his short film below.

But anyway, apart from the mushrooms I have been busy selectively coppicing certain areas in the woodland this winter. Alas, I didn't do as much as I had planned due to my chainsaw breaking down, nevertheless I have plenty of hazel, hawthorn and holly cut and drying ready for next winter.

Oh, and I also cut down a huge multi-stemmed sycamore with my friend and tree surgeon Nigel. It was blocking out the light to my neighbour's orchard and the wood will be used for fuel and mushroom cultivation.

The pond is finally finished, save for a few aesthetic details, and a number of newts have taken up residency there. It's looking particularly good for something dug by hand over a period of 18 months - I'm proud of it. I will take some pictures of it on my next visit.

Apart from that, I have planted up another 100 or so trees in what will be a mixed woodland area. These include seven walnut trees, plus a mixture of lime, oak, willow (including a large willow-only coppice area), beech, dogwood, silver birch and hazel.

The orchard has expanded significantly, with 12 new apple trees of different varieties, a couple of pears, a couple of plums and a medlar. The mixed edible forest/orchard is progressing nicely.

Three more rescue hedgehogs were released last week to add to the other two that were released just before winter. As hedgehogs are something of an endangered species it's great to be able to provide them with a safe haven.

Well, that's all the update for now. I will take my camera on the next visit and upload some more photos.


BTW if you are interested in reading my book you can get a free 10% sample sent by email by clicking here.


  1. Hi Jason,

    Mushrooms are awesome. It is going to be very interesting to hear how your mushroom projects continue as you grow in both knowledge and experience with them. All of those timbers are available locally here too so it will be good to hear which species the fungi do best in. They're very low stress once the timber is inoculated. I tried shitake and oyster mushrooms here for about half a year but was unable to give them the attention they deserved over the summer - I almost ran out of water that year and hard savings had to be made, which was a long story in itself...

    Ah, well, Husqvarna would explain that particular situation. Hehe! Sorry, I couldn't help myself. This is very much Stihl country down here and no other brand dare show its face in public. I should do a video on chainsaws one of these days as a few years back I spent two days out in the forest with an old timer timber getter who taught me everything I now know about chainsaws. It was an interesting two days and he spared no detail and there was countless hours practicing how to use them without straining yourself and how to repair them on the go. Generally I'm not a fan of short courses but that one was pure gold.

    Well done with the pond. Do you have to line them with plastic or bentonite clay or some other lining?

    Great to hear that you have some new trees in your orchard too and I hope that you particularly like the medlar which is very hardy and exceptionally tasty.

    Top work! Cheers. Chris

    1. Hi Chris. Mushrooms are exciting but you certainly need some patience growing them! I've got a few different varieties and a business plan. To actually earn a living from them I'll need to have something like 1,000+ logs in constant cultivation and use shocking methods to get them to fruit (i.e. sticking them in water and bashing them). Luckily for me, lack of water and dampness is not something I have to worry about at the moment.

      As for chainsaws - I'm also a man of Stihl. Although it's currently out of order at the moment because I mixed the fuel/oil ratio up and blacked the carburettor. I've never had official training but have worked with those who have and know not to take any risks. That's why I got my mate Nigel to cut down the mighty sycamore.

      The pond has a butyl liner. Not ideal but only what I could afford. Because it's situated on the side of a hill I couldn't really get away with the whole tramping clay thing.

      Cheers - and happy Beltaine (or in your case Samhain)!

  2. Mushrooms! The morels are about to pop, here in Minnesota. No cultivating here of mushrooms yet, but hopefully that starts this summer. Ordered 7 more fruit trees, to go with the 30+, the peach, sour cherry and apricot blooming now :) Spring warmer than usual for most of the last three weeks, very pleasant weather. Thinking about expanding the pond, doubling the size or more. Depends on the liner. I heard concrete is cheap, there being a collapse in demand globally? Not sure about that, all that QE money sloshing around, low interest rate juice, there seems an asset bubble in big dollar crane construction...but I digress. I will probably use an old billboard. :) The greenhouse exceeds expectations, though I may have to present

    1. I'd love to go looking for morels. I've heard you can cultivate them by using biochar - something to look into 'cos that's my other income earner.

      Well done on the fruit trees. I'm a bit worried at present because I saw a deer in the wood last week. They are spreading across this formerly deer-free region having (allegedly) escaped from a film special effects company that brought in loads of them for a horror movie.

      Concrete - why not? As long as it doesn't crack. I might have mentioned before that billboards aren't really an option for me. Luckily they never took off in the UK. There are loads of laws against visual blight - although I confess that you wouldn't know it in some areas.

      Good luck with the greenhouse!

  3. (cont.) myself before a magistrate/judge about it.

    On chpt 2 of your book. Now must get off ethernet to read it.