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Purple mushroom

Sep 30, 2008 -

Our yard was recently a thick stand of manzanita. Now it’s a “masticated” or chipped manzanita open space with a bunch of first year garden beds doing pretty well considering our notoriously poor soils. This week, in an effort to start building soil and some sort of humus in the areas that are not beds, we sowed some cover crop. For us this consisted of picking up a couple of pounds of two different types of clover and trying our hand at using a hand crank seed spreader to broadcast. This was an adventure, because the tendency was to crank a little fast and thus need to keep moving, I mean running.

Afterwards we used a soil rake to scratch the rhizocoated seeds into the manzanita chips. We started with Nitro Persian Clover and later we’re going to continue with Crimson on the other side of the house. The really cool thing to me is the rhizocoat. These seeds are so neat! They’re coated in their own innoculant! Little grey pellets all ready to get broadcast and with really good chances of germination. I’ve read some things about Fukuoka, (sp?) and this reminds me of his technique of clay coating and simply hand broadcasting seed pellets. There’s something really juicy about the whole broadcasting thing, even on the run. Now that the tiny little guys are coming up I can see that the effect worked pretty good. There’s some areas where it’s coming up thicker than others, but it’s everywhere.

This brings me to the real subject: myco. I’m fan of the whole fungus, mushroom and myco world in general. When I transplant anything, I love to innoculate with rootbooster to ensure the health of the plant as well as start little pockets of fungal mat activity. During the right season I love seeing the various mushrooms and puffballs fruiting in the straw under the vegetables. It’s an uderground mafia working miracles and making all the plants “an offer you can’t refuse.”  They actually work to move moisture nutrients and minerals around to help the plants!

So, while I was hand watering the covercrop area, I noticed a curious bump in the chips. When I hit it with my thumb hose sprayer, an even curiouser puff of “dust” flew up into the air. The more spray, the more dust. Until I finally stopped the hose and got down to investigate. Sewing the seedsAfter peeling back an inch of brown dusted there it was: a big ol’ mushroom. It’s purple and gnarly. I quickly grabbed up my “Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada” written and Illustrated by John Muir Laws. I love this book, it’s got allot of plants and critters I come across in the yard and garden, beautifully illustrated. My best guess is this thing is a Purple Cortinarius. The guide mentioned the brown spores that are all over the chips now. Very wild, very exciting. Just one more visitor I didn’t plant happily munching away on the wood chips! I think I’m going to spread the innoculated chips around and help this thing help us build soil and water holding capacity. It’s so beautifully ugly! Just knowing it’s out there in addition to all the other mushrooms, introduced or not? It’s like insurance, or money in the bank. Lovely.

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