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The Great Timothy Hay Cob Cubensis Method

An interesting new method using hay as the growth medium.

  1. First, you must obtain a pure culture of psilocybe cubensis. I don't see any reason why multi-spore inoculation wouldn't work (presuming they'll germinate on hay) or why one couldn't use a multi-strain grain culture, but I used a pure culture I'd previously isolated. (Note: Don't be afraid! Agar work is much easier than you might think!)

  2. Grow out some grain spawn. I use 'organic' whole rye grain steeped in near-boiling distilled water for an hour or so (as suggested by Stamets, produces uniform water content grain and minimized contaminants). Just before the grain is ready add some gypsum to the pot and stir well (I use about a gram for every quart jar's worth of rye grain, but I don't know how important precision is...doens't seem to matter much...). The gypsum helps keep the rye from sticking together post sterilization. Sticking frequently results in bacterial contamination. So use the gypsum (Try health food/herb co-ops), Drain the grain, scoop into mason jars and sterilize at 15 lbs for 1 hour. I use autoclavable filter disks (from Fungi Perfecti and others) in lids with holes cut through, but I'm sure loosened jar lids would work fine. I inoculate the sterilized, cooled-down grain with mycelial solution. Shake once after three days or so and perhaps once more several days later if needed, but the grain should be fully colonized within 10 days at most if liquid inoculum is used.

  3. Get an "LM" brand "Timothy Hay Cob" from a pet store. Should cost $3-$4 for a package like a big bread loaf. (Note: I ended up cutting up the hay AFTER pasteurization, but you'll probably want to do this beforehand. Try and keep the pieces no longer than 4 inches or so. But don't worry about some bits being longer)

  4. Place as much of 'cob' as possible in a large pot. Fill with distilled water (actually, I think I used a 50-50 mix of distilled and tap and it worked fine). You must be able to submerge the hay completely with a weight or a weighted lid.

  5. Bring the water to a near boil and reduce heat to keep temp more or less stable. Pasteurize for one hour.

  6. Drain hay in a colander. Shake well.

  7. Place hay in an "oven bag". These are special plastic bags used for cooking turkeys and so forth. They are heat resistant.

  8. Hold bag with hay upside down with bag open. Shake and squeeze to get rid of remaining excess water.

  9. Let hay cool in bag until it fully reaches room temperature.

  10. Take fully colonized jar of grain spawn. Wash hands and rinse with rubbing alcohol. Air dry. These were the ONLY sterile precautions I used, but you may want to observe some more. Break up grain spawn and mix thoroughly with hay in bag. I used most of a quart spawn jar (figure one pint of spawn). Liquid mycelial inoculation would definitely work at least as well, spore inoculation is a possibility.

  11. Let hay sit in bag for three-four days. The bag should be twisted loosely closed but not sealed or tied. You want to allow some respiration while retaining most of the moisture.

  12. After 3-4 days the mycelium should be growing out vigorously onto the hay. Handling the hay through the outside of the bag, knead and pull at it between shakings. You want to break up the bigger mycelial mats and redistribute them throughout the hay. You can also open the bag and work it like a bellows to help exchange the air. You may find that the hay punctures numerous small holes in the bag. This is okay, and may help respiration.

  13. I gave the hay a couple of squirts of distilled mist at some point fearing that it might dry out. But I doubt this was necessary, despite the very dry climate.

  14. Every few days, repeat the breaking, mixing, and aerating procedure.

  15. DON'T worry about contamination. If you pasteurized the hay properly, you should have a couple of weeks before anything else really has a chance to compete with the mycelium.

  16. When the hay looks like there's mycelium within an inch of any given spot of hay, leave it alone to complete colonization. The whole process should take a bit less than 14 days.

  17. When there is at least wispy mycelium across all the hay (and if you've been mixing well, throughout it), it is ready to be laid out. You can use whatever terrarium setup you used for PF cakes, or use this low tech setup:

    1. Get a big Rubbermaid storage container, a plastic drop cloth, and some chicken wire. Melt a hole in one of the bottom corners of the container. Wash it out well.

    2. Cut a piece of chicken wire and fold over the ends and sides to make a platform that will stand at least an inch above the bottom of the container. Fit this down into the container. Spray the insides of the setup with lysol or the like and let completely dry.

    3. Break up the colonized hay and lay it out on the chicken wire. It should be more or less evenly spread but don't go crazy breaking up the hay. Make it at least two inches deep. Don't know what the maximum depth would be...

    4. Unfold plastic drop cloth and drape over container. It will not make anything like a sealed environment BUT IT DOESN'T SEEM TO MATTER. Your mileage may vary so if you feel the need be more precise with environmental controls.

    5. Let hay recuperate for a couple of days.

    6. Twice per day, take off plastic tarp. Use lid of container to vigorously fan hay to exchange air. Replace tarp and lifting up one end stick spray bottle beneath and spray distilled water with the finest possible spray into the air. Experiment. I used only a few spritzes at first and more and more as the mushrooms grew. The lack of a drip shield doesn't seem to matter, though when I'd redrape the tarp I'd arrange it so that a piece without major condensation or water drops was above the hay. Redrape plastic. If necessary, tilt setup to allow excess water to drain out hole. Leave setup in a temperate place (mid to upper seventies to allow pinhead formation) with some light exposure. Any light is probably fine, a little natural light probably best. Don't overdue light. Very little is required.

    7. In one to two weeks, the texture of the hay should begin to change dramatically, you may not realize that this is pinning, as it should appear that the entire service of the hay is turning to pins.

    8. Keep up the fanning, spraying routine as the pins turn to primordia, and the primordia to carpophores. Enjoy the sight of dozens of large mushrooms springing forward.

    9. Pick them just after or as the veil is breaking. While you won't have to clean off any vermiculite, you will want to pull off as much hay as possible. Some hay will be inside the stems. Don't worry about it.

    10. Dry or eat fresh. Enjoy!!
Hope this helps and encourages people to experiment!

Keep on Cultivating! And spread the word!!

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