It is the month of May and that means that is bathtime for the shii-take logs. The outdoor temperature is warm enough for the mycelium to continue its journey through the log, breaking down cell walls to get at the sugars it needs to survive. The air temperature in the morning and evening is intermittently low leading to the formation of a mushroom. Misty mornings and spring rainshowers ensure that there is enough moisture in the air for the development of a fleshy mushroom….. but…. most of the logs, especially the young logs, do not react to their surroundings and need a helping hand…or rather a bath.
Mushrooms are the “fruiting bodies” (almost equivalent to flowers) of the fungus. It reacts to unfavorable conditions by forming a clump of cells that eventually evolve into a mushroom. The sole function of a mushroom is to produce spores as a part of their survival strategy. Compatible spores merge together and depending on where they fall, will produce a new fungus entity. Unfavorable conditions are commonly a sudden change of temperature (warm to cold) and that can be simulated by immersing shii-take logs in cold water. The dry logs soak up the water and the easy availability of water lead to the elongation of the cells of the developing mushroom; sometimes they seem to get bigger by the hour.
This week I had help from a friend (also a “wood woman”) and her daughter for the first log soaking of the season. The weather was unseasonably warm and dry and it was not hard to convince the little girl to help out with filling the log bath with cold water.
She jumped in and was quite enamoured with the stream of water that came out of the thick yellow hose. One thing lead to another and before we knew the bath was full of logs slowly soaking up the water with the little girl triumphantly sitting on top of the logs also soaking up the water. Once the bath was full, the rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying a well earned cup of tea at the edge of the forest overlooking a meadow full of spring flowers, soaking up the sun and just not doing anything useful at all.