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The 9er Tek
Grain, straw, or compost? That is the question. After experimenting with straw, grain seems to work better for closet type growing. The yield of fruit is directly related to the dry weight of the nutritious part of the substrate. When space is a concern, it's nice to have a compact, highly nutritious substrate. Straw is great for beds or large containers but the nutrients are sparse and they are used up quickly. If one is growing in a small area, one probably isn't inclined to try and make 4 cubic yards of compost and purchasing the right kind of compost can be troublesome.
This leaves grain. Now then, ... how to make it cheap and simple. The cheapest and simplest way to get started is to follow the MMGG found at The Shroomery. The following is for those who are willing to get a bit more involved in order to produce much more in the same space.
Primary Equipment RequiredPressure cooker - Any cooker which operates at 15 PSI can be used, but the size that holds 7 Qt jars (or larger) is preferred.
Transfer chamber (Glove box) - This is essential for consistently clean batches.
Incubation chamber - This can be a styrofoam or plastic ice chest. Is is best to use an insulated container because you want to keep the temp inside at 82 deg F. An aquarium heater in a tall, small diameter, glass container (like a vase) works well for heat and humidity in the incubation chamber. A glass container is more efficient than plastic at transferring heat to the air in the chamber.
Fruiting chamber - A 10 or 20 Gallon aquarium, a plastic storage box, or whatever you prefer. In dryer climates some provision for humidifying might be required. For many, misting the casing will be sufficient.
Misc. Items - Syringes (sharp preferred), Mason jars (1 pint, wide mouth, tapered), high quality stainless steel tweezers, Xacto knife, and a blender.
Optional: A HEPA filter is very desirable for the cropping area and the work area. Walmart has a nice quiet little unit (Holmes) which is great for small rooms/closets. It has an ion generator and it's about $45. One can stand it up on end to have the output blow across a work area, too, ... very handy!
** It is a fact that some of the most advanced mushroom growing techniques for hobbyists are being developed by growers involved in the growing of psilocybe mushrooms. While these pages discuss techniques which may apply to some psilocybe species, there are many other species which can be grown with the same procedures. The content of these pages is not intended to encourage anyone to break the law.
Plastic storage box approx. 16" x 24" x 12" deep (Walmart),
Plexiglas cover for box (Home depot),
Computer fan 120V (your old 286 or Radio Shack or Here's a link to "the computer fan outlet store" At the last check, they had some appropriate case fans for $4. One should verify that they are 120V AC before purchasing.)
Screws to fasten the fan to the box (about 1/2" longer than the fan is thick),
A GOOD disposable dust mask or a HEPA replacement filter. (The HEPA filter is $15 minimum)
2 Plastic bags (small lightweight trash bags work well)
If your fan needs a power cord, buy a 99 cent extension cord and cut the end off. It's far cheaper than buying a cord packaged as such. Wire nuts are also very desirable to attach the cord to the wires from the fan. No self respecting DIYer throws away a device with the power cord still attached ;-)
In these photos you can see the dust mask on the outside, the fan on the inside, the "gloves" wrapped together and held with a clothes pin, and this box also features a hinged lid. The small section of plexiglas is taped in place and the door part is attached to the small section with a tape hinge.
GOOD scissors or tin snips, appropriate screw driver, ice pick, and a hair dryer.
That's all you need. Using a HEPA cartridge is better than a dust mask, but the dust mask setup works fine if you're on a tight budget.
Here you can see the fan mounted in the box. If you look hard, you can see through the translucent box, and see the dust mask taped over the intake hole on the outside.
1. Cut holes in the side of the box for your arms. Heating the box with a hair dryer makes the cutting much easier.
2. Drill pilot holes to mount the fan to the inside of the box. A hot ice pick works well as a drill.
3. Cut out a hole inside the four screw holes for the fan to draw through. It should be at least 2" in diameter.
4. Mount the fan inside the box, blowing into the box. Seal with duct tape. Put the dust mask on the outside of the box over the draw hole and seal to the box with duct tape.
5. Stick your hand into the bottom corner of a trash bag. Now stick your arm thru the arm hole as far into the glove box as you are likely to need to reach. Trim off the excess bag and use duct tape to attach the "glove" to the outside of the box around the arm hole. Repeat for the other arm hole.
To keep the gloves from billowing out like balloons when you turn on the fan, you can sort of wrap them around each other and hold with a clothes pin. You'll discover one of the nicer aspects to the design is that with the fan running, the pressure presses the "glove" against one's hands. This keeps the excess plastic from being a hassle. (This type of "cheapo" glove doesn't work if you suck air out of the box instead of the positive pressure design, but the best reason to use positive pressure in the glovebox is that leaks in the system are harmless. Filtered air pours out of them instead of unfiltered air being sucked in through them.)
To use: Wipe down (or spray) the inside of the box and the under side of the plexiglas top with Lysol. Spray one glove heavily, then rub your hands (in the gloves) together to clean and sterilize the gloves. Place your materials in the box, lay the top in place, and turn on the fan. Allow it to run for a while (15 minutes is probably overkill). The positive pressure in the box means that filtered air is pouring out of every opening. The dust mask filter can be sprayed with Lysol as an extra precaution.
CAUTION: Using a knife to try to cut the plastic is very dangerous. The polypropylene that these boxes are made of is very tough and will crack without warning if you're using a lot of pressure with a knife. I ruined the first box and could have lost fingers the first time I built one of these. I tried to use a razor knife with a new blade and it did not work. Use a hair dryer and good, heavy duty scissors or tin snips. If you are not experienced with taking power supplies apart and general tinkering, please get someone who is to help with the wiring up of the fan.Culture source:
Either acquire a spore syringe or get started from a fresh fruit body. Spores can be injected into the whole grain recipe or the MMGG recipe. It /seems/ that spores work better in the MMGG recipe, but more tests need to be made. After getting a strain started, you can farm it for a long time with the procedure below.
Take a healthy mushroom for cloning around the time that the veil breaks. You want one that is still growing vigorously, not an abort. Place it in the transfer chamber. Avoid fruit with brown streaks on the stem. Use a sterilized Xacto knife and tweezers to extract a clean chunk of stem to add to sterile water in a mason jar.
This is done by holding the freshly picked shroom near the cap, and using the sterile knife to cut a ring around the stem about 2" from the bottom. Only cut a little way into the stem.
Use sterile tweezers to grab and peel the surface layer back toward the base of the stem until it resembles a peeled banana.
Then cut the stem just above the peels. Once you've removed the Al foil from the sterilized blade assembly and mason jar, You have a sterile table to work on for cutting off the stub.
Then slice off the clean chunk and let it fall into a mason jar (8 oz regular mouth) 2/3 full of sterilized water. The jar is prepared by covering with the metal blade assembly and seal from the blender and that is covered with Al foil and sterilized. The transfer is done in the glove box. For more details see the "Blender Usage" page.
It turns out that a regular mouth mason jar has the same size and thread as the plastic blender container part from an Osterizer blender (probably other brands as well), so after dropping in the piece of stem, remove the jar from the chamber, then screw on the base of the blender and proceed to blend for about 3 or 4 seconds at the fastest speed. Allow to stop, then repeat. Be sure to hold the jar while blending. When done, remove the blender base, put the jar (w/seal and blades) in the chamber, remove the blades and seal, then immediately cover with a new baggie (in the transfer chamber). Then draw syringes of the inoculant water by piercing the plastic bag. This procedure has proved to be very effective.
For pictures of the details of the blender parts and mason jar assembly go to the Blender usage page.
1) It is best to use a rubber band around the shroom water jar/baggie to keep out contaminants.
2) If one cuts the peeled chunk of stem almost all the way thru', then one can lift the blender parts just enough to stick the stem thru and finish severing the sterile chunk from the rest of the stem with the edge of the jar and the blender blade assy.
3) The shroom water has been stored for 1 week with no harm and it's gone bad in 2 days. I have no idea how long it can remain viable. It is MUCH better to make up the shroom water and use it immediately. The growth rates are incredible when the shroom water is fresh. One pint cakes (rice only) have been birthed 10 days after inoculation. 14 to 21 days is more common.
4) The knife and tweezers are sterilized in Al foil sheaths in the pressure cooker.
5) Eventually the cloned strain will lose stamina and stop producing and growing vigorously. It is a good idea to take a spore print and start a new culture every year or so (at least.) See the spore print procedure.
The left jar is 5 days after inoculation. (shroom water) The right one is 8. See the helpful products page for info on the filter tops.
Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package except for reducing the water to 1 1/2 cup water to 1 cup grain and leaving out the margarine/salt. Try a bite to see if it's fully cooked and tender. Then fluff and stir the grain, and spoon it into jars until full. Tap the jars to work the grain down. Don't over compact the jars. If it makes a mush in the bottom with hardly any air spaces, you should empty it out and re-fluff with a fork. Leave the usual 1/2" space for the vermiculite in the top. Wipe the top of the jars and add the vermiculite per MMGG. Use your favorite lid arrangement to close the jars and pressure cook for 30 min. at 15 PSI. The grain has already been cooked and if you work quickly, it'll still be quite hot when it goes in the cooker.
This makes a very nicely aerated substrate and solves the biggest problems with using whole grain for cakes: uneven water content and aeration. If one inoculates with shroom water, the growth rate can be incredible. 100% colonization in 2 -3 weeks (average) for pt jars. Some in as little as 10 days. Another advantage is that it takes less inoculant to flow all the way through the grain because of the open structure of the substrate. Inject enough shroom water to wet down to the bottom in 4 or 5 places around the jar for fastest colonization. This works nicely with Rye grain also. If you're sure the grain is too wet after it is fully cooked, you can add some dry vermiculite to the grain to soak up excess water during the sterilizing process or (preferred) fluff the steaming rice with a fork for an extra minute or two and let it evaporate off the excess moisture. The picture below shows the proper texture for the substrate.
The point of all this is to remedy the problems with cooking and sterilizing the grain at the same time in the jars. For many people, this has always lead to dry grain in the top of the jar and a soggy mass in the bottom with almost no air spaces. It is also difficult to use the prophylactic vermiculite layer (MMGG's masterpiece) on uncooked grain due to expansion of the grain. While this is not the end of the world, the above procedure improves the substrate tremendously and allows one to fill the jars to the top and apply the vermiculite layer per MMGG.
A Convenient Recipe
Here's a convenient recipe. It makes a little more than 7 pint jars. For many pressure cookers this is the best batch size. The excess is just enough for a tasty treat.
Use a whole 2 lb. bag brown rice (Lundberg's nutrifarmed is great.) with 6.5 cups water in a big pan. Be sure to turn the heat way down (almost off) for simmering. If it scorches it won't work as well. You may want to experiment with additives. Several tablespoons of flax seed meal (health food stores) is a favorite. Delicious and nutritious for us and the mushrooms.
Here's some photos of the kind of flushes this substrate (and entire process) yield:
One good casing recipe is: equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and crushed oyster shell with enough water to moisten. It seems that pasteurizing at 160 - 170 deg F for an hour or so is the best treatment for casing. This can be done in a big bowl in the pressure cooker. Don't close the lid or put the jiggler on. Just lay the lid in place and turn the heat on low (or very low) and measure the temp of the casing with an appropriate thermometer occasionally. When the casing temp gets to 170 deg, turn off the heat and allow to cool slowly. Don't remove from the burner until cool.
Take an empty distilled water jug (1 Gal.) and cut off the top to leave a container about 3 in. deep. Pull out enough Al foil to go from one top edge around the bottom and up the other side. Fold about 1/4 in. over the top edges of the container. If you must use tape to hold the Al foil in place, don't use masking tape and keep the tape outside of the container. Plastic based tape will not encourage mildew/mold/bacteria growth like the paper based masking tape. The idea here is to block the sides from the light so all the fruit grows on the top.
Put in enough casing to make a flat bottom, then you can put in 2 one pint cakes lying on their sides (or 3 or 4 1/2 pt. MMGG cakes.)
Spoon casing around the cakes. Shake gently to settle the casing. Pull out on the sides to work the casing in until the container is sort of rounded and the cakes are covered with about 1/2" of casing.
Up to 3 of these containers can be placed in a standard 10 gal. aquarium, but 2 allows for easy maneuvering and picking. Sometimes it's difficult to keep the humidity up with only 2 containers/aquarium, so go for whatever seems to work best for you. The casing should be misted 2 or 3 times per day. No further humidification is necessary (except in very dry climates.) In fact, when the pinheads appear, it is best to open the top some. About 1/4 in. wide and the length of the aquarium works well.
When the mycelium becomes visible at the top of the casing, it won't be long before pinning starts. At this point, one should stop misting the casing directly. Direct moisture will damage the pins. The pinning means you've done your job well and the mycelium has decided there is ample moisture for fruiting. If you do decide to mist the casing around the growing fruit, be careful. Too much water can cause the flush to abort.
Notice the condensation on the walls in the picture below. That was with the lid open 1/4" and misting only for humidification.
It really helps to keep the temperature around 75 deg F in the fruiting chamber. It's much easier to keep the humidity up. The fruit will grow slower than at higher temperatures, but they'll be of higher quality.
It is very easy to over humidify a cropping chamber if you use perlite with cased cakes. The evaporation from the casing is important to the growth of the fruit. If the walls of the aquarium are totally covered in condensation, the humidity is too high for cased cakes (it's great for uncased cakes) and you may see bacterial blotch on the fruit. This causes slimy black lesions and pits on the fruit. If the humidity is not corrected, the fruit will be wiped out. Some of these bacteria are harmful to humans, so be careful to wash well after removing contaminated fruit. Lowering the humidity will almost always clear up the problem and allow proper growth to resume. The upper limit on humidity for cased substrate is 92% (per Stamets) (The picture above reflects a slightly too high humidity.)Prepare a 1/2 pint (wide mouth) mason jar by making a mushroom cap holder in the top.
Use wire to make a cradle that hangs on the top edge of the jar. Insulated solid copper wire (18 ga or so) is great for this as it won't corrode from the sterilizing.
The mushroom cap should sit down in the top of the jar so the jar can be covered. Fill the jar about 2/3 full of distilled water, put the cradle in place, put a piece of cloth or filter material over the top, then a piece of Al foil over that. Lay another piece of Al foil fairly loosely over the first one. Pressure cook for 20 - 30 minutes at 15 PSI. (The reason for the 2 layers of foil is that one can remove the top layer to expose a sterile surface on which to lay the cap while the air in the transfer box turns over a few times.)
When cool, put it in the transfer chamber. Select the mushroom you want to use and wait until it starts to drop spores before cutting the cap off with a sterile knife. You can use a fish hook to hold and carry the cap. Remove the loose Al foil and place the cap on the newly exposed sterile foil top (in the chamber,) put on the chamber lid and turn on the fan.
After a few minutes, pick up the cap, lift the foil and cloth top, and place the cap on the wire support.
Cover with the filter material only and put in a draft free, dry area for a couple days. A rubber band helps to hold the cover in place.
You'll see the spores on the surface of the water. A gentle swirl will wet them.
Remove the cloth cover, mushroom cap, and wire support all at once (in the chamber.) Open a new baggie and put it over the jar. Put a rubber band around the jar to seal, then draw syringes of the spore water by piercing the plastic bag.
The reasons this procedure is preferred over the dry tek are:
1) the spores don't have to be scraped loose from the bottom of the jar.
2) the unsterile mushroom cap never touches the jar.
Both these things help reduce the possibility of contamination.This is what happens when one tries to sterilize a regular ol' acrylic blender jar. This can lead to spousal disenchantment with your creativity. It was at this point that it was "discovered" that the size and thread of a regular mouth mason jar match the blender parts. ( This didn't impress her either since she's known that since high school Home Ec class.)
Remove the base, seal, and blade assembly from the blender container. Put the seal and blade assy. on the 8 oz mason jar ( 2/3 full of H2O) and cover with Al foil, then sterilize. The tab sticking out to the side is just to make it easier to remove the foil in the glove box.
The base doesn't come into use until after performing the shroom water procedure. The base part doesn't need to be sterile. Just clean with lysol occasionally for general cleanliness. Be sure everything is tight and seated properly, then put the assembly pictured below on the blender and blend on the highest speed for 3 or 4 seconds, allow to stop and repeat for another 3 or 4 seconds. Next remove the base and leave the blade assembly and seal in place. Place it back in the chamber to have the blade removed and to be covered with the baggie for drawing syringes.
What a luscious picnic for 4. Average wet wt = 23g each (cleaned)
These are part of the second flush from the container below.
The picture below is the 1st flush.
Here is a fairly common mutation, ... interesting none the less:
And a few classic beauties:
Tips for Rye Grain
If you try rye grain and it gives you contamination trouble, the problem is most likely encysted spores.
Soak your grain for 24 hrs before sterilizing. This will "hatch" the encased spores so that they'll be susceptible to sterilizing. Be sure to get a good brand of organic rye grain from a health food store or co-op. Arrowhead is very good and doesn't always require soaking, but it's a good practice anyway.
45 min. to 1 hr. at 15 PSI works well for sterilizing Rye grain.
As occasionally happens, a jar will stall with only a little bit of substrate uncolonized. It may be that there is some yeast or bacteria (usually "wet spot") preventing the growth or the air ran out or it's too wet or dry or ?
Instead of throwing them out, some experiments were tried:
A regular case knife was wrapped with Al foil, boiled for 15 minutes, and placed (still wrapped) into the transfer chamber. The stalled jar is sprayed with lysol, wiped down and put in the chamber. A box of Saran wrap is also sprayed, wiped, and put in the chamber. After the air in the chamber has turned over a few times, the jar is inverted and the cake is birthed. The case knife is drawn from the Al foil sheath and used to cut away most of the uncolonized substrate. Then a length of Saran wrap is pulled from the roll and immediately placed on the exposed substrate. Press the plastic wrap down gently to contact the cake. Place the cake in a reasonably clean environment to finish colonizing. Typically the cake puts on a burst of growth and colonizes the remaining substrate under the plastic wrap in just a few days. This process has worked 3 times in a row now, so it wasn't just some lucky fluke. A transfer box with filtered air was used and is probably necessary for this tek to succeed.
P.S. This process has worked well many times since the above was written. The yields are somewhat less than a perfect run, but that's to be expected. This technique has also worked well when performed in front of the output from a HEPA filter. In the case of "wet spot" bacteria or yeast, the contaminants are mostly cut away and the rest die out (apparently) because of the change in environment. These are the only 2 contaminants that I've seen that will halt the growth, but not over run the existing mycelium. They will co-exist for a long time. Some Helpful Products
There are some filters made for floor register vents (available at Walmart) which make great tops for the jars. They greatly improve the air exchange and cut down (or eliminate) stalled jars. The ones tested are "AmericanAirFilter". They are a non-woven material like a very fine Scotchbrite "scrubbie."
Just cut into pieces to fit the jars and screw the band on over them. One or two layers work well. It is recommended that you cover the top loosely with Al foil during sterilization and incubation.
This is an alcohol based emollient clear gel that sterilizes, then needs no rinsing or drying. Gentle on hands and dries clean. (also at Walmart)
Drying & Storage
Here's one easy way to dry the fruit. The fan is a small 4" fan from Walmart. For really cracker dry results, a desiccator of some kind is called for.
This setup works well for pre drying. Then one can use a desiccator to make them cracker dry. This setup also works fairly well without a desiccator, but they have the consistency of stale crackers. If left in the pan for about 36 hours, they get pretty darn dry. (except in very humid environments.) For storage, put them in plastic bags or mason jars, fill with CO2 and then put them into the freezer.
One can make the CO2 by putting several Tbsps of baking soda in an empty dist. water jug, then pouring in a slosh of vinegar. The jug fills with CO2 which can be poured into the plastic bags with the dried fruit. Do this in a draft free area and just imagine that you are pouring honey. ( Be careful not to pour any of the vinegar/baking soda in) To test, light a match and put it down into the open bag, mason jar, or distilled water jug to see if it's full of CO2 . It should go out as soon as it enters the bag. CO2 is heavier than air and it will displace the air in the bag as you pour it in.