The Mushroom Farmer, Book 4, Chapter 1

The mf has reached a new plateau and this time I’m not kidding.

Listen! Back home in Los Angeles, he has a wheelbarrow admittedly not full of oak logs impregnated with shiitake mushroom spawn; however, there are eight such logs, and why cannot we not focus on the positive?

Would it kill us to focus on the positive?

Eight logs!!!!!!!!

And all right, they are not the ideal size girth-wise, but seriously: nag, nag, nag; complain, complain and so forth. Where does that come from?

One might want to look at that. Personally, I would rather look using my mind’s eye at the eight modest-sized logs pocked with 5/16″ holes drilled in semi-diamond patterns, filled with hammered-in bolts of mushroom spawn and smeared with cheesewax as sealant.

Only by playing every Neil Diamond hit song all at once, including the modest hits like “Cherry Cherry” and “Holly Holy,” could you create the cacophony of joy the mf feels in his innermost core about this time having actually followed reputable-sounding mushroom-growing instructions the best he possibly could.

Let’s talk about this “best he possibly could.” It involved climbing an oak tree with a reciprocal saw in one hand and a sturdy tree limb in the other hand, oh you bet — the mf is now 60 years old and he is not climbing trees willy-nilly anymore.

Indeed tree-climbing is the very outermost of recklessness the mf is willing to contemplate within the realm of day-to-day activity. Or, it may be tied with urban cycling, and also setting foot in the surf here on Fire Island on purple flag days.

Purple flags mean shark sightings. The lifeguards assured him that only one shark was sighted, in Kismet, two communities east. Kismet is a fun place to watch a Mets game at a bar and an easy bike-ride away; the mf doesn’t imagine a shark getting on a bike but could easily imagine one or more sharks swimming along the nearly pristine coastline and taking a chomp of human protein.

But he did a little boogie-boarding anyway because he had to do something, he’s been on this island for over a week and write, read, nap; write, read, nap; write, read — well, you get the picture, apparently now he’s complaining about relaxing too much on vacation. I wonder about the mf’s thankfulness even though he goes on and on about how grateful and blessed he feels.

People say things.

All right.

What were we even talking about? Logs! Cut down from oak trees the mf had espied on a visit to his wife’s investment property in Eagle Rock, a little house on a woodsy hillside where a couple of the trees are most definitely oak, one of the seven kinds of wood you can use to raise shiitake mushrooms, the others being birch, beech, sugar maple, ironwood and hop hornbeam, in the order of the mf being able to recognize them. One of his new life goals is to be able to identify hop hornbeam and ironwood. Since they are such fun words, imagine what they must be like as trees — and did you know, you can use their logs to grow shiitake mushrooms?

You did?

Amazing!

The mf climbed up the oak tree to saw down a branch it looked like the tree wouldn’t miss. His saw is lime green plastic with a tree pruning blade and a lithium battery the size of half a brick. It gave out mid-limb. Yes. There is the mf, up a tree, hanging on for dear life, sawing away, his right shoulder vibrating like a command module plunging back to earth through the upper atmosphere, and… kaput.

So he has to climb back down, plug the battery in to the charger and wait, staring up at the tree, feeling thankful for it, or so he claims. Then back up the tree to finish the job, thinking all the while about the trajectory of the fall — the limb’s fall, not his. The mf is determined not to fall out of this tree and damage his body so close to his 60th birthday.

Wait? What’s that? Imagine me a TV news reporter pressing his earbud further into his ear canal, the universal gesture of “Can I really believe that which I am hearing?” And yes, it’s true, this oak tree harvesting was in fact the mf’s single-most ardent choice of activity on his actual 60th birthday. Yes! We are coming to you live in retrospect from the mf’s birthday. Happy birthday, mf. Our birthday wish for you is actual gratitude.

Which — hey, that was easy! — he does indeed feel for having the bottom of a decommissioned wheelbarrow lined with small oak logs impregnated with mushroom spawn as outlined above. Now all they need is a year for the spawn to work its mycorrhizal genius by flowing intuitively throughout the logs circulatory system, the xylem and phloem that for the mf are among the only friends he still knows from elementary school.

There’s a lot of language that is frankly not very celebratory about fungal transformation of logs. I’m thinking colonization, zombification and things of that nature. Transformation is good, though. Honestly, these were not the main limbs, they were offshoots. The mf does feel satisfied in his soul that he is making genuine progress in mushroom farming. He is on the road.

Furthermore, the mf intends to come back with his chainsaw-on-a-stick before school and cut down some seriously big mama logs. That’s gonna have to wait another couple of weeks while he is chasing sandpipers up and down the nearly pristine beech on his fat tire bike, pretty much the only exercise you can get around here except to play softball in Seaview on the weekends, speaking of which it’s almost time for!

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky has been writing stories and essays since he was a music snob prodigy in early-1970's San Antonio, Texas. Since then he has written about not only music but also baseball, gardening, teaching, parenting, cycling and the... glory of love. Lit Hub and The Sun have published his work, and so has the Austin Chronicle. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he teaches English to some of the nicest kids in the world at an arts-themed public high school downtown.

2 thoughts on “The Mushroom Farmer, Book 4, Chapter 1

  1. So many images.
    Wheelbarrows, Purple Flags, Oak Logs, Mets, Bicycle Rides, Softball, Cheese wax Sealant, Xylem, Phloem, Hop Hornbeam, Shiitake, and Lithium Batteries.
    All in one “blink”.
    The take home…
    ” The mf does feel satisfied in his soul that he is making genuine progress in mushroom farming. He is on the road.”
    May you build a ladder to the stars.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: