The first miracle was that Peter McCoy, one of the founders of Radical Mycology, even made it out to our off grid site with his giant cultivation equipment laden RV. We do suggest high clearance vehicles for the trip down our road. Peter’s RV seemed to be millimeters from the ground, wires dragging in the dirt. But apparently he didn’t scrape the bottom once. This was the first miraculous mushroom occurrence.
It seems Northern New Mexico is bursting at the seams for mushroom cultivation information. We could only fit 30 people for this indoor presentation, so a long waiting list developed and folks who had not registered were bold enough to show up anyway and offer to sit outside the door and strain their ears. The Radical Mycology class was incredible. We desert dwellers learned about things like coffee grain bucket spawn, spore slurry, and growing mycelium over grains as a harvest-able product in itself.
Here in the arid southwest mushrooms don’t jump to mind as an abundant resource. Of course they do exist, micro-climates can be created, and a trip up to the mountains this time of year will reveal the abundance that is available at higher elevations.
It turns out that even here in the desert there is a network of mushroom enthusiasts who remain undercover most of the time. This mushroom cultivation event was a fruiting of this cultural mycelium. Ampersand and Radical Mycology managed to create the right conditions to create a fruiting body. The mycelium is always there, underground and unseen, growing and making connections, redistributing resources throughout the ecosystem. Ampersand made for the fertile ground, a well worn gathering place for exchange. Radical Mycology offered the nourishment of information and experience which acted like a cool moist weather system blowing through. The mushroom lovers emerged, exchanged ideas and disappeared again into the wilds.
We woke up the next morning to actual perfect mushroom conditions. We were surrounded by a cool fog that had descended into our canyon, closer and thicker than we had ever experienced. It was like a message from the mushrooms that they could be happy here, and Peter helped us find a place where they might really thrive- in an overgrown hollow below the plum tree to the North of the strawbale cottage where water pools when the rain catchment tank overflows.
The next day we went into the mountains and experienced the magic of mushrooms in a more direct way: we hunted them. We became initiated into the basic knowledge of mushroom hunting by our friend Lili. She showed us which ones are edible, what to look for, and how to harvest respectfully.
Gleaning from the wilds is so satisfying. Mostly we found Porcini, Hawke’s Wings, Puffballs, and Chanterelles. But on our way down the mountain there was one log, right by the path, with one nicely sized oyster mushroom. The spores from this gift may end up recolonizing under the plum tree.
The mountains nourished our spirits. The mushrooms now fill our bellies and the screens of our solar dehydrator. Hopefully our gratitude and appreciation was felt by the mountain. I think so.
By Amanda Bramble