Wintonbury Farms LLC shiitake production

Busy Season!

So, turns out one of the challenges of starting this business and trying to keep up the website, on top of keeping up with school, sports and housework (e.g. “life”), is finding time to do all of it! It’s been a month since I wrote even a quick paragraph to the blog. So, a quick update on the farm activities: First, Richard and the boys have been working in the log yard making sure the logs are stacked and spaced, ready to go for production. Richard also put together a very nice, mobile fruiting rack for placing the logs on after soaking. Fortunately we were able to make this from materials we already had in the barn, including some 16-foot lengths of steel pipe from the old dairy operation, and some scraps of pressure-treated wood. We have continued to find lots of ‘volunteer’ shiitakes on the log stacks, so we know conditions are good for growing. Our first set of intentionally soaked logs went into the tank this week, and are now on the rack. It’s a short run, really just a chance to work out any kinks as well as get some sample together for our restaurant buyers. Starting next week, we plan to go into full production. Fingers crossed!!

Early Mushrooms!

As we transition into Spring, we are seeing the usual crazy mix of cool, warm, wet, sunny, and sometimes (like yesterday) outright hot! We aren’t anticipating full production of our shiitakes until perhaps June, but we certainly are seeing a few early ones popping out. They mostly are showing a cracked pattern on the surface, which turns out to be something called ‘flower donko’ and usually happen under cool, windy conditions – definitely a good descriptor for our weather so far! These are often prized by chefs as a top-grade mushroom, but we aren’t waiting around to evaluate – the first few went to this morning’s breakfast omelets. As we move into planned production, we’ll be using fruiting blankets to keep the humidity a little higher on the developing mushrooms, so are likely to see less of the cracking pattern. We are so looking forward to trying out some of the delicious-sounding recipes, whether traditional Asian cuisine or other exciting dishes.

Spring Break?

Spring break this week? Not so much! This is a busy time of year for shiitake production in the North Country. We are trying to get at least one bag of shiitake spawn done each day, which equates to about 26 logs. This can be a fairly tedious task, so we try to find different ways to make it fun, which mostly involve listening to music, or, as we discovered a couple of days ago, listening to Harry Potter audio books. We are presently about halfway through Book 1, hopefully we can get through inoculating by the end of Book 2. When we’re not inoculating, we are busy in the log yard laying out the newly inoculated logs and setting up a fruiting stand for last year’s logs, which will provide this year’s harvest. But, it is break week after all, and the kids have been working hard. So yesterday we went to Watertown for some skate-and-shoot hockey, and maybe we’ll make it to the movies this weekend as a reward for hard work well done.  In the meantime . . . back to the barn!

Spring Peeper Season

It’s spring peeper season, which unofficially signals the end of log harvesting season for this year’s shiitake logs. Richard went out yesterday afternoon and harvested the last few logs that we need for this year. Oak trees typically leaf out a little later than other species, so that buys us a little more time when we are short on logs and time, as we were this year. We now have a large pile of mostly sugar maple logs, and a few oak, sitting in the barn and ready to inoculate. Richard put the inoculation table together yesterday, and once I get our back room organized for wax melting and tool maintenance, we’ll be ready to roll. With both the boys working with us, it takes us about 1.5 to 2 hours to go through one large bag of shiitake spawn. That usually takes care of about 22 logs for us, on average. Last year we learned that we really do not want to move those log around any more than we have to, so we’ve modified our procedure to have all of the logs in one stack next to the inoculation table. Our other modification for this year will be to get the inoculated logs directly to the laying yard in our hemlock grove. We are looking forward to getting started this week, and will look forward even more to getting this done, hopefully by the end of the month! We will also be monitoring our cold-weather shiitake varieties from last year’s inoculation, as the generally warming spring temperatures should trigger those to fruit sometime in the next month. Once temperatures are consistently in the upper 50’s to low 60’s (oF), the real work of forcing production of last year’s primary logs will begin!

Here we go!

My first blog post is going to be short. We are reaching the culmination of a full year of planning and waiting for our first season of shiitake mushroom production, and things are BUSY! Even though we haven’t yet seen our first production, we are already hard at work on the 2018 crop. In the last two weeks we’ve brought in around 3/4 of the new logs needed for this year’s inoculation. The amount of rain we are getting the last couple of days is insane, and we can’t really go after those last few logs as the ground is just too soft. We really need one more good trip to the woods, and we should be all set on new bolts. In the meantime,  we have a refrigerator full of shiitake spawn awaiting inoculation, and a relatively dry barn to work in. It will be a long and tedious few weeks of drilling and plugging, but with good music and refreshments, we’ll get it done. And, between log harvesting and inoculation sessions, I am spending at least a few hours a day on paperwork, learning how to build our website, doing market research, and calling restaurants – my least favorite job – I am not a polished salesperson by any stretch and I am mostly terrified when someone actually picks up the phone! Adventures in cold-calling? That can probably be a blog post all on its own some day. Anyway, with the rain pounding outside, this website is almost ready to go live, and so . . . here we go!