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Lightning mushrooms!

It's ironic that last Monday I was telling you all about the abundance of the mushroom harvest of the prior week. Little did we know that was NOTHING compared to what was coming!

Overnight on July 24 we had quite a large storm. The lightning was so intense and constant, Jeremy was able to walk up to the shade structure at 3:00 in the morning without a flashlight! (He had to go close the side walls so a gust of wind wouldn't blow the building down.) For many years we've seen a bump in production after a thunder and lightning storm so we thought we might see some extra mushrooms pop up in the shade structure. The storm came with lots of rain and then it was quite warm for several days after.

On Wednesday evening we went to check out the shade structure and there were suddenly a LOT of mushrooms! Where had they all come from!? We began picking, and picking, and picking. It was getting dark and a new storm was moving in. We ended up picking by the light of headlamps in an absolute downpour of rain with lots more thunder and lightning! But we wanted to get as many of those mushrooms as possible, before they got too wet or too over-mature. When the severe weather siren went off, we decided we'd better stop and get inside! We had picked just over 30 pounds of mushrooms.

The next day was clear and sunny and our employee Craig spent all day picking. As soon as he got through all the rows in the shade structure, and then the high tunnel, he went back to the beginning and started over again. The mushrooms were growing that fast! When he left for the day, he exhaustedly proclaimed, "I have picked every mushroom there is to pick on this farm!" I'm sure he went home to collapse in bed! I waited an hour or so, then went back out to the shade structure and picked another three totes of shiitake! We picked almost 200 pounds on that day alone! (Remember, that's how much we picked over four days the week before. Ha!)

And there were another 75 pounds to pick on Friday, adding up to a lightning storm total of just over 320 pounds of shiitake! It was a marathon few days of picking and I've never seen such a huge response to lightning before!

It's actually part of Japanese farming folklore that lightning increases the production of mushrooms. About 10 years ago a university in Japan did a study on this and found artificial lightning doubled shiitake production. The best explanation for why this happens is that it is a response to danger. The mushroom organism, mycelium, isn't sure if this lightning storm is going to strike the log where its living and kill the log. So it responds with a reproductive boost, growing mushrooms as fast as possible - because that's how mushrooms reproduce. When the mushrooms mature they release spores to make more mushrooms.

So many words and so few pictures. We didn't have much time for picture taking! I did get a picture of our first Almond Agaricus of the year to pop up!

After the Wednesday night storm, the three Almond beds joined the fun and produced several pounds of Almonds!

And our log kits got in on it and made a bunch of shiitake as well:

We are looking forward to a more normal picking week this week - and, very likely, completing the new fruiting chamber!


Spore followed us around Thursday morning as we picked mushrooms. He keeps all the critters at bay who might think about nibbling on mushrooms.


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