The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 8

Things have happened.

Big things; little things: things.

For example, mushrooms have started growing.

Not the golden oyster mushrooms, which the mf planted earlier in the week to much inner fanfare on dead bamboo leaves wrapped in a one-ply plastic shroud. He has checked beneath the shroud, once, inobtrustively, not to seem in a rush. Be here now. The mf gets it; is appreciate and grateful moment-by-moment. This one little glancing side-peek under the shroud confirmed that it’s early days yet for the golden oyster mushrooms. They still have weeks left of invisible micro-gestating.

The white mushrooms, meanwhile, planted to scant inner fanfare, fife and drum at most, have begun to emerge as slender white punctuation marks and mathematical symbols on the surface of the dirt. Yes, you just cast your white mushroom spawn on the dirt itself near a tree — any tree, specified the directions. White mushrooms are symbiotic with any tree. We can all learn a lot from white mushrooms, and the time to start learning is now.

The white mushrooms take shape as commas, apostrophes, multiplication signs: all in plain view if you get down on your knees and practically dip your nose into the soil, as the mf does eagerly. The process has begun and cannot be undone, as every mad scientist you’ve ever known has cackled.

The process has begun and cannot be undone.

Of course, we know the process actually can be undone, easily. For example, let the chickens out. Of course, the mf has no intention of doing that; however, the mf’s intentions don’t always rule the game.

Often it is hard to find the right transition. Nonetheless, the mf is not at all interested in undoing the white mushroom’s fruiting. On the contrary: the mf wants to dance a mushroom dance. This would involve starting in a kneeling position, potentially even a fetal position, then gradually arising with arms emerging so that once he is standing up straight, his fingertips meeting above his head, with elbows akimbo yet also curved, so as to resemble a mushroom cap.

That would be his modern mushroom dance. He has seen many high schoolers do interpretive dances such as this one, typically involving freedom and disappointment, so he knows how to do it: with utmost concentration.

The mushroom dance celebrates that the mf is who he claims to be: a mushroom farmer. He dang well better celebrate this alignment of his ideal and the real because they don’t come around all that often.

*

Having pranced, the mf promptly follows up on Phase 2 of doing a better job of addressing the problem of hunger in Los Angeles: growing nutritious food for the taking on the median between the sidewalk in front of his house and the street.

It is quite the expanse there, easily 500 square feet, with a date palm in the middle and several baby date palms sprouting up around it, their fronds like so many signs pointing to sister cities: Austin, NYC, Hadley, Minsk, Pinsk.

The mf has already established a fine outcropping of oats in the center of the median, north of the mature date palm. Everything in the mf’s yard points north. That’s how you get equal sun on everything. It is also a nod to climate migrants of the future he sometimes imagines passing through his backyard, although, as with many things, he hasn’t worked out the logistics on that yet.

The oats, however, are already swaying, and dwarf Siberian kale has already sprouted in adamant green in the corner near the borage, Clary sage, and driveway. It is not a brand-new thing, this cultivation of the median; what’s different is that the mf is taking things to a whole new level.

For example, he has amended the soil with four different types of dirt: chickenshit intensive, worm-castings, compost, and peat moss.

Chickenshit intensive dirt comes from the feeding area of the coop, where the mf’s four inquisitive, fluffy, companionable, egg-generous hens focus the brunt of their copious shitting. This dirt is like compost, except with only two ingredients: chickenshit and dirt. It could use a bit of mellowing, and a little goes a long way, so the mf applies it judiciously, like nutmeg, at the bottom of the dirt layer cake he is building.

Ingredients for dirt layer cake

Worm-castings are the magic dirt, full of raw-meat colored squigglies and their plantastic poop. The writhing worms are the Love Train of the soil, promising peace and prosperity where’ere they squiggle.

Compost is the healer of all soils, making clay-y soils more arable, sandy soils more robust. Compost is God insofar as it keeps death flowing back into life.

And peat moss is great for germinating seeds! If you want a seed to grow, plant it on a peat moss pillow and tuck it in under a peat moss blanket. The seed will then grow like a prophetic dream.

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky is the author of The Gift is to the Giver: Chronicles of a 21st Century Decade (Keppie Usage, 2022). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, and Lit Hub. Mark’s essay, “Gritty All Day Long,” is anthologized by Norton and featured in Best American Sports Writing. He has been writing since his emergence as a gigantic music nerd in early-1970’s San Antonio, Texas. Stints as a regular commentator on public radio’s Marketplace and Internet 1.0 exec preceded a 20-year run as a public school teacher. Marko’s favorite writing topics include unorthodox pedagogy, well-intended gardening, and the intersection of baseball and urban bicycling. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he is working on a new book about his quest to play tennis on every free public court in LA.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: