Mountain Mycoworks

Ambassadors to the Fifth Kingdom

Myco Month at Broken Ground

We're delighted to be collaborating with Broken Ground and the Radical Mycology Collective to bring the Radical Mycology's North American Tour to Bozeman!  To provide our community with a robust experience, we're organizing a series of mycocentric events around the workshops that Radical Mycology will be presenting.


The month kicks off with a film night at Broken Ground-

Join us on October 7th at Broken Ground from 7-8:30pm to view and discuss a series of short films that delve into the world of fungi.  For more info or to RSVP click here and/or here.

Radical Mycology will be presenting their workshops on the October 21st-

More information can be found on Radical Mycology, Broken Ground, or our website.

Further Exploration-

A follow-up workshop, to be presented by Mountain Mycoworks and hosted by Broken Ground, is in the works.  This workshop will be held October 25th, the Saturday following the Radical Mycology Tour.  It will either be designed to expand upon concepts that the Rad Myco workshop participants want to explore further or to delve into topics not included in the two previous workshops.  Check back soon as we'll be updating the Events page as soon as the plan solidifies.  

It's Been A While

The summer has been busy and time is flying by.  Fall is almost upon us and it's been months since I've posted here!  I thought that I'd share a little bit about what we've been up to since the last post. Below is a photo-journal summarizing some of the highlights of the summer. Don't forget to scroll throughout the photos to see all the action!


 The end of spring/beginning of summer found me managing this greenhouse space outside of Bozeman

The end of spring/beginning of summer found me managing this greenhouse space outside of Bozeman through my new business, Ecoworks LLC.

The greenhouse sits within this terraced crater garden with a small pond in the center.  As time passed, the already time-consuming task of planning, planting, and maintaining the greenhouse expanded into tending the garden, too.  Now, I really have my hands full!

A few progress pics from the greenhouse and crater.  The greenhouse and garden both experience their share of issues.  Working towards solutions to these problems continues to provide me with invaluable lessons.

The place is teaming with life: big bees, little bees, lacewings, every instar of ladybugs, ambush bugs, aphids, pear slugs, more species of plants than you can shake a stick at (boo yellow sweet clover!), and even a handful of fungi!  That's not all; the rest have just escaped the camera for now...

I did find some time to lend a hand to some of our friends over at Rathvinden Farm and Sanctuary for the installation of their new pond. (don't worry, it filled up nicely! These pics were just the beginning!)

My partner has also introduced me to beekeeping.  All of the bees that we're working with are from swarms that we collected.  The first swarm was in the crook of a fence and the second was a ground swarm.  The first one proved to be queen-less so Jona combined them using a paper barrier so that they could acclimate to each others scents as they chewed through it.  They're going strong now!

A couple of other projects included constructing a geodesic dome for some of Jona's soil building and micro-livestock ventures as well as assisting our friend with roofing her tiny house/wagon creation.

Last but most certainly not least, the fungi!  We managed to go on a few forays this summer.  We found a pleasing array of mushrooms at well over 9,000ft in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness.  Even with the snow in August, Amanitas, Suilus, and even a few Boletus were popping up!

We've also been foraging out in the Gallatin range.  Many of these fungi we're familiar with or take the time to ID.  The rest we just admire, photograph, and leave to spread their spores!  Not pictured here is the respectable haul of Lycoperdon perlatum (common or gem-studded puffball) that we took home for dinner!

Our friends at Broken Ground invited us to inoculate their property.  We installed some Hypsizygus ulmarius and Stropharia rugoso-annulata to add to the diversity of their garden installations.  We also found some fungi who already call Broken Ground home including Birds Nest Fungi (Nidulariaceae sp.), Agrocybe praecox, some jelly fungi, and some tiny-little-cute-white-fungi that are so small as to be difficult to ID.


That pretty much brings us up to speed!  Look for our upcoming posts to see what we're getting into this fall.

Macrofungi Collection Consortium

The National Science Foundation is funding an effort called the Macrofungi Collection Consortium.  This is an effort by 35 institutions, including the New York Botanical Garden, to digitize a combined 1.5 million specimens of fungi collected over the last 150 years.  This presents an opportunity for Citizen Scientists to get involved and make a contribution to the mycological field.  In collaboration with notesfromnature.org, a transcription project built to help categorize the estimated 2 billion specimens of plants, animals, and fungi kept around the world, the Macrofungi Collection Consortium hopes to transcribe the labels for the recently digitized specimens.  

 Here's an example of what transcription entails.  There's a prompt at the bottom as to which field needs to be identified.  You "simply" examine the provided labels and enter the requested information.  As you can see, the specimens lacking typed or easily legible tags become a bit of a challenge! 

Here's an example of what transcription entails.  There's a prompt at the bottom as to which field needs to be identified.  You "simply" examine the provided labels and enter the requested information.  As you can see, the specimens lacking typed or easily legible tags become a bit of a challenge! 

They need help in this undertaking.  To get involved, visit the Macrofungi Collection Consortium page on notesfromnature.org, sign up, and begin transcribing samples.  It is, admittedly, not the most glamorous contribution that one can make to science, but it's an important one.  The dried specimens often look little like their living counterparts yet this new digitized record will assist scientists and other mycophiles in their studies by adding more data about locations that certain specimens were found, in what types of environments, and when.  This added context is important to understanding the roles that these organisms play in the ecosystem.  So if you've got some free time, maybe you can't sleep and don't have a book to read, hop on and contribute to science!  While you're there, check out some of the other projects that zooniverse, the web based citizen-scientist organization that runs notesfromnature.org, has going.  You can hunt for new planets, categorize cyclones, or even help find a cure for cancer!

The Voracious Appetites of Fungi

As I'm sure you're all aware, fungi are incredibly diverse in terms of the roles that they play in a variety of systems.  I'd like to take a moment to discuss a few of those roles that I've been learning a little about recently.  The first is thanks to the efforts of the Radical Mycology collective.  They've been conducting experiments to examine the possibilities of fungi being trained to eat cigarette butts.  Cigarette butts are a leading constituent of pollution in the form of litter and are composed of an industrial plastic called cellulose acetate.  Cellulose acetate also happens to be relatively similar to other forms of cellulose that mushrooms utilize as food.  Long story short: they've been having marked success with training mushrooms to consume this overly abundant food source.  I'll spare you the gory details here and let those on the leading edge provide you with a better picture.  Here's a link to the article (with a great video describing the project) on Radical Mycology's site and here's a link to some coverage that the research got from getting to GREENR, a blog supporting sustainability studies and skills.  For anyone in our area who's interested in exploring mycoremediation solutions, please feel free to get in touch with us to toss around some ideas.  We're lucky to have a collaborator with a vested interest in bioremediation, including mycoremediation, and we'd be happy to see what we can do to help.

I've also recently attended a composting workshop hosted by Broken Ground.  The workshop highlighted a few methods for composting that can be carried out in the winter months here in the Gallatin Valley.  The section of the workshop that illustrated an aspect of fungal ecology that many people seem to overlook was the Bokashi talk, given by Kathleen Rauch of Bokashi Lotus.  It seems that, with our association of fungi with their fruiting bodies, we often forget about their unicellular or asexual family members.  

Bokashi is a system for anaerobically processing food waste into a wonderful, soil building compost.  To do this, the waste is first fermented.  Many of us experience fermented goods on a regular basis: sauerkraut, pickled foods, beer, sourdough, and kombucha are all fermented.  In all of these processes, microorganisms are used to alter the structure and chemical properties of the materials being fermented.  

In Bokashi, three groups of microorganisms contribute to the pickling of the waste: lactic acid forming bacteria (usually Lactobacillus sp.), phototrophic proteobacteria (usually Rhodopseudomonas palustris or Rhodobacter spheroides) and yeast (usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a common brewers yeast) Many commercially prepared formulas may contain other organisms as well but these three are the key players.  Of course, from the mycological perspective we're excited about the yeasts but the other organisms are essential to pull off the proper fermentation without putrification.

The inoculant is created by culturing these organisms using rice water, milk, and molasses.  The Saccharomyces species is cultured directly from the rice itself.  Wild yeasts are everywhere which is why grapes can be turned directly to wine or grains fermented without the addition of yeast.  The quality of these beverages is affected by the quality of the native strains of yeast in the region which is why vintners and brewers select their yeasts to complement their recipes.   By adding rice to water and allowing it to ferment for 5-7 days, we can culture a strain of yeast that will pickle our food wastes without having purchase or add any yeast.  After the rice has fermented, strain out the solids.  Next, milk is added to the mixture to begin culturing the Lactobacillus bacteria.  Whole, unpasteurized milk is recommended to ensure the presence of the microorganisms that we're after but there have been cases of success reported by using pasteurized milk.  Allow the mixture to sit until the solids have separated out of the milk and then strain out the solids.  A small quantity of molasses is added to provide a food source for the microorganisms.  This mixture should have a shelf life of about a year!  It can also be used to inoculate a carbon source such as wheat bran or coffee grounds which can then be dried to create a shelf stable source of inoculant.  For more specific recipes or for help with anything Bokashi, send Kathleen a message via her Bokashi Lotus Facebook page or contact us to get connected.

So what's the big deal?  Why'd you go to all of the trouble to spend weeks nurturing these microorganisms?  Well, partially because we're friends of the fungi but also because this little concoction is some really incredible stuff!  Basically, anything that you're not supposed to put in your traditional compost pile, you can put into your bokashi bins.  The trick to successful bokashi is maintaining an anaerobic (airtight) environment for the initial pickling stage of roughly 2 weeks (often less if the conditions are optimal).  After that, you have the choice of adding it to an aerobic (oxygen rich) compost system or keeping it anaerobic by burring it directly in the soil.  

Since you're keeping the initial pickling stages in buckets (or other airtight containers), it allows you to maintain a sink for all of the food scraps in your winter routine.  The inoculated buckets can even freeze (like if you store it in your garage or somewhere outside of the roughly 60-80ºF comfort zone of the culture) and it will continue pickling once it warms back up!  Then, when spring rolls around, you've got a bunch of beautifully pickled waste to add to the compost or soil.  

The pickling process itself renders many of the health concerns with putrification and the potential for pathogens by essentially outcompeting pathogenic bacteria and then rendering the final product inhospitable for those same pathogens.  This is largely why the things that aren't supposed to be added to traditional compost can be applied to Bokashi.  The other reason is that the voracity with which these organisms ferment the waste allows them to rather rapidly digest these substances, rendering them readily decomposable when added to the soil or compost.  This characteristic also means that the liquid inoculant has other useful applications such as eating the buildup of organic matter in your drains or acting as a pro-biotic for your septic system!

And remember how excited I was about the ability to maintain Bokashi during the winter?  Well it turns out that some healthy Bokashi can even invigorate your aerobic compost pile throughout the winter by adding it in layers to the pile.  The intense microbial activity in the Bokashi and the influx of new organisms from the pile into the Bokashi releases enough heat to maintain the thermophyllic environment required for the organisms to continue decomposing the materials through the winter.

This is a limited insight into a few of the myriad uses for fungi.  I'll try to post more interesting tidbits from time to time.  As always, let us know if there's anything that we can help you with.  We'd be happy to hear from people with an interest in any aspect of mycology so that we can put together materials tailored to what our community wants to learn.  Until then, maybe give Bokashi a try, if it seems right for you!

Our First Workshop!

I'm super excited to inform you that we've begun preparing for our very first workshop!  We're partnering with Paradise Permaculture to put on a workshop titled "An Introduction to Mycopermaculture: Growing Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms".  The workshop is a one day, hands on introduction to how we can partner with fungi on the home garden or small farm scale.  For more information, check out our newly added Events page.

I hope to see you all there!

Ben

New Additions

For anyone keeping an eye on the progress of the site, we're making some new additions.  In the last couple of days we've added both an Events page as well as a Services page.  The services page is currently in it's infancy and provides you a means with which to contact us to discuss your projects.  We're not really adhering to a rubric when we approach new jobs and clients so feel free to get in touch with with anything from specific design, workshop, and installation needs to simple questions about what first steps you may want to take and how we might be able to help you to make your mushroom project a reality!

Radical Mycology

I'm pleased to report that Radical Mycology's Indiegogo campaign has reached it's goal and more.  Radical Mycology is a volunteer organization whose mission is to educate the world about all things fungi.  If you aren't familiar with the group, check them out here.  

Excerpt from the Radical Mycology website:

What is Radical Mycology?

Radical Mycology is a movement and social philosophy based on accessibly teaching the importance of mushrooms and other fungi for personal, societal, and ecological health. Radical Mycology differs from classical mycology in that classical mycology generally focuses on taxonomy, identification, mycophagy (eating mushrooms), and the more personal benefits of working with fungi while Radical Mycology is about using fungi for the benefit of larger communities and the world.

As a concept, Radical Mycology is based on the belief that the lifecycles of fungi and their interactions in nature serve as powerful learning tools for how humans can best relate to each other and steward the world they live in.

As an organization, the Radical Mycology project organizes the Radical Mycology Convergences and disseminates free literature and other media on the uses of fungi for food sovereignty, medicine creation, ecological restoration, mycopermaculture, community building, and creating resilient/sustainable lifestyles. The Radical Mycology project started in 2006.

 

On behalf of myself and everyone with a vested interest in fungi (which is pretty much everyone, whether they know it or not) I would like to thank all 291 of you who participated in funding the Radical Mycology Book.  I'm so happy that all of the mycophiles out there have come together to make this happen, now we will all have the opportunity to benefit from this new resource!

Thanks again and keep up the good work!

Ben

Welcome!

Hello!

My name is Ben Shepard, founder of Mountain Mycoworks.  During my pursuit of a degree in Sustainable Foods and Bioenergy Systems at Montana State University, I came across the incredible world of Fungi.  As a scientist and steward of the land, an ecological approach to systems design has persisted as a guiding force in my philosophy surrounding agriculture.  This has lead me to exploring the numerous and varied applications of natural processes to address the many issues present within our current agricultural system.  This is where the Fungi come in.  I am consistently blown away as we continue to realize the astounding capabilities of our chitinous neighbors.  From "simply" driving nutrient cycles through decomposition to bioremediation to the potential to aid in the treatments of certain cancers, there's no doubt that Fungi play an indispensable role in the wellbeing of our planet.  In hopes of assisting these organisms in achieving their full potential while giving us humans an opportunity improve our situation, I'm proud to announce the premiere of Mountain Mycoworks!

Mountain Mycoworks is Montana's newest  myco-centric consulting and educational organization.  Our mission is to connect Human systems with Fungal allies so that both worlds may prosper.  Whether you're looking to cultivate edible or medicinal fungi, increase the diversity and health of your habitat, or learn more about the nearly limitless possibilities of partnering with mushrooms, Mountain Mycoworks is here to help.   We will be offering a diverse array of goods and services including consultations, site specific designs, workshops, farm tours, edible and medicinal mushrooms, spawn, substrates, and a variety of other myco-supplies.  We look forward to contributing our knowledge and passion for healthy and diverse systems to anyone with an interest in broadening their horizons through an alliance with the Fifth Kingdom.

In an effort to develop a public presence and establish our domain name, we've gone ahead and launched the site prior to officially commencing business.  In the following months, this site will begin to develop as we do.  In the mean time, please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments that you may have.  Our contact information can be found on both the Home page as well as the Contact page.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ja Schindler of Fungi for the People.  Ja has been instrumental in taking what was, for me, a budding curiosity and turning it into a real world opportunity.  His love of fungi, promotion of Citizen Scientists, and open source approach to knowledge and information have inspired me to pursue a partnership with Fungi as means to affect change in the world.  Ja's doing some really great things in the realm of mycology.  If you haven't heard of him or his organization, check them out here.

Thanks for checking us out!  We can't wait to see what we can do for you and your future fungal allies!

Ben Shepard