The Mushroom Farmer, Book 4, Chapter 9

The MF has been eating his body weight in kasha for the past 48 hours.

If you are wondering, “Is that b/c he found wine cap mushrooms growing in his secret garden, behind the Matilija poppies?”

then you are really vibing

with the MF!

These wine caps contain a multitude: ribs, veils, tooth rings. In color, they range exactly as described by experienced mycologists — from wine red to dark purple-brown — or else a leathery tan.

The first time the MF ever sensed that he himself was actually growing wine caps — he was who-knows-whatting around in his backyard.

Perhaps he was looking for a whiffle ball?

Possibly tasting a cherry?

He might have been nurturing sunflowers. Let’s think of him that way, as the MF did often nurture sunflowers.

Fish fertilizer!

Humic acid!!

Not trampling them.

They were nevertheless a bit stunted. Knee high at their apex. We can’t help wondering if the MF has inadvertently poisoned the soil. The unfortunate episode of the epsom salts still haunts us, although a recent soil analysis came back reporting nothing especially lethal. Could use a bit more nitrogen. He’s been adding more greens to the compost lately.

Point being, there he was meandering about amid the Matilijas when

kerplow

he comes face to face with these saucer-shaped discs of lightly shimmering baseball-glove colored fungi.

Criss-crossed with bits of straw.

And there

it was.

Self-actualization,

with mush-

room.

Wine cap mushrooms in straw

2

The MF had planted Wine Cap mushroom spores back in OCTOBER OF LAST YEAR.

That’s right. Around his wedding anniversary.

Writer's desk, featuring the laptop upon which he's discussing instruction for growing Wine Cap mushrooms or mycelium.

<—————-

He followed very precise directions, which I have literally right here at my left hand. There was fermented straw involved. The fermenting of the straw had been a low-key gala, involving hosing down a bale of straw over the course of a couple of days. Since you vibe so harmonically with the MF, you know how much he savors hosing things down.

So there he was, hosing to his heart’s delight over the course of several days, in the middle of autumn, notwithstanding the severe drought, which would not impact his gardening until, well, it has only begun to do that very recently and we should talk about that as soon as we’re done talking about last year’s World Series. Who’d’a thunk the the Braves, right? When Ronald Acuña, Jr. got hurt last summer, didn’t we all think that was that? Sad to see him in outfield pain; lamenting his torn ACL and his team’s hopes for the season — BUT NO.

Instead of fading, the Braves came together as a team, growing stronger after losing their best player, unlike the MF’s beloved Mets, who collapsed as soon as their ace pitcher Jacob DeGrom said, “My shoulder feels a little funny but it’s probably nothing.” Cut to Braves winning the NL East, bulldogging the Dodgers and buzzsawing the Astros who until that point had been buzzsawing everyone else — to win the Series, right around the time the MF was fermenting his straw.

Hats off to them. No one had picked Atlanta. And now here on the last day of the first month of an extremely promising (to break your heart) Mets season… the MF sees Wine Caps, big as home plate.

3

I really hope the MF is not overheated.

I see he has a glass gallon of tap water right next to his computer.

That would be good, if he drinks it.

Ahh. So refreshing.

Such a privilege to have access to fresh, clean-tasting tap water.

Treating water as precious: one of the MF’s goals.

He has bathwater waiting to be sump-pumped out of his bathtub.

That is a task he can attend to after this little siesta, which he has earned after three hot hours in the May 1 sun.

Take it a little bit easy for a moment, MF. Tell us what you have been up to.

4

Oh well really I was just clearing out between the rows. Preparing to plant vegetables good for making vegetable stock: chard, marjoram, parsley, tarragon.

Crookneck squash.

Eggplant and tomatoes. I don’t love eggplant and tomatoes but this is for the stock. Tomatoes also 4 sauce. Eggplant = baba ganoush.

Green beans. All of my backyard was a lima bean field 110 years ago.

Va a estar una tierra llena de maravillas.

We’re going to have a Land of Marvels.

Thank you for understanding my Joy Spanish.

I am cooling off nicely with my precious, clean-tasting, refreshing water, which I am drinking from a glass gallon milk container. I feel myself cooling off and re-entering my temperate self.

Hot out there.

How hot? Not really very hot. 66 degrees.

Temperate. This compared to India and Pakistan where they are enduring or not enduring heat that tests the limits of human survival. It reminds me of the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future where the only way to survive the heat is to submerge yourself into a lake and unfortunately an entire city of millions has the same idea.

I got mulch around the driest parts of the garden. Those patches were clogged with leaning-over and rapidly-browning borage, which finished in a hurry. Now it is time for nigella or Love-in-a-Mist. As intensely blue-flowered as it has been with the borage and also lavender, it is about to get even more piercingly blue-flowered with the nigella.

And we should very soon have all the fixin’s for vegetable stock planted!

So that’s big news, but it’s not even the biggest news. The biggest news is so big it needs its own number.

5

Wine Cap mushrooms!

Yes. We are doubling back.

The MF brought a wine cap mushroom to his friend Mr. Inner, who beat him in tennis! Good job, Mr. Inner. It is true that the MF immediately went up 3-0 and Mr. Inner said, “It’s looking like it’s going to be a short game.”

The MF did not want to trounce his friend so he let up on the throttle, which Mr. Inner immediately suspected. He said, “I sense something fishy” when he won the next game, and the game after that. But what’s it gonna be, Mr. Inner? Short set or let’s all have fun and walk away better friends?

Also, once you let up on the throttle it is devilish hard to put the hammer back down. Let’s not over-dwell on the winning versus not winning, that is not always such a rewarding dichotomy. Another important truth is that Mr. Inner has no quit in him and also has a very nice touch.

Meanwhile the MF, as reported elsewhere, continues to have a Problem tippy-tapping soft-serve glop-lobs that barely go a yard beyond the net

only to get

SMASHED.

The MF loses a LOT of points that way.

These soft-serve lobs are a source of much interior harangue to the MF. Once again we must recognize the blessing of having these as problems.

A weak lob.

Yes. That is the MF’s main problem when he plays tennis, and since we have started talking about it, let’s just be clear that he is determined to start hitting Forceful Forehands, akin to his Massive First Serve.

“When you hit that hard first serve, it has an skip and a jump to it that we don’t see in your forehand,” observed Mr. Inner, who as we were saying was the recipient today of a wine cap mushroom.

This led Mr. Inner to a discourse on other topics mushroom-related, to which we will return anon. In the meantime, let’s give it up again for Mr. Inner, showing no quit and having a nice touch. Also in line for a shout-out here is our very own MF, who did a good job following up with Mr. Inner on their proposed Sunday morning tennis date, which I believe has cemented their friendship.

Let’s put that notion to the test: is Mr. Inner a good enough friend now to the point where the MF can tell him about conserving water?

6

Dear Mr. Inner —

I am jotting you this note to tell you about conserving water; specifically, bath water.

I do like a nice warm bath to ease my knobby knees and also my occasionally recalcitrant shoulder after a diligent day’s exertion. However, I am aware that taking a bath wastes a lot of water and I don’t want to be a water-waster.

So I got a sump pump and some buckets and a length of garden hose I cut to size with rusty pruning hooks. The hose works just fine in terms of length. In terms of water-tightness, well, this whole water conservation thing is a work in progress. I will admit to you, however, that the night after we played tennis, I took the second of two weekend baths.

Thus, I was out of bathtubs and had to either pump out both tubs or Not Live Up To My Ideal Self. Ugh! It is bad enough not to live up to my ideal self unconsciously, but to do so deliberately as in saying fu*kit — in my experience, that is a slippery slope. It can lead to despond.

So I gathered up my buckets and also a watering can and set about recycling that bathwater, which was just water with the odd skin cell, no soap. No Epsom Salts. It worked pretty well except that later I discovered the o-ring had come out of the connecting socket, yup, and that explained why water was spraying everywhere.

As if I had cut an artery in the bathtub.

As if it was an abattoir with water instead of blood.

Previously, when I have attempted bathwater-recycling, water has dripped here or there. I have told my wife, on such occasions, “Water is what we use to clean things up.” This mollified her slightly. I am lucky that she is out of town, however, because if she had witnessed the splatter it would have been the end.

But no. It is not the end. I have figured out a better way to do this next time. First of all, the o-ring. That will really make a difference in keeping the spurting down. And secondly, instead of filling buckets that I trundle out to the wheelbarrow, which is just going to rust if I keep using it as a cistern, instead I intend to…

Fill a big ol’ water cooler. Yes! Water cooler on a dolly! YES!!! Roll it right up to the tub, fill it using a hose with a tight o-ring connection, and then trundle the cooler on the dolly out to the garden and water the kale and friends straight out of the spigot.

Yes.

The spigot.

That’s what it’s there for.

To let water out in a controlled way.

So that is what is up with me and water conservation, Mr. Inner.

I thank you for listening and for being my friend.

L,

MF

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.

One thought on “The Mushroom Farmer, Book 4, Chapter 9

  1. So much.
    So plentiful.
    Winecaps! #5!
    Shout out to the Ministry for the Future.
    Shout out to a good start to the long season for the Mets.
    I imagine the gallon jug of water on your desk is half full.

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