Friday, June 17, 2016

June "News from the Woods"

News from the Woods

a monthly digest of resources, events, and people

in forestry & agroforestry

June 2016


Welcome to the June edition from Wellspring Forest Farm and School. Each month, we share useful information about methods for improving forest health and increasing productivity and diversity, along with the happenings of our farm and educational programs.

We are excited to announce our short courses for this season – each of these workshops offer a 5-day immersion into the topic and feature hands-on experiential learning on our farm and in a number of incredible forests in the Finger Lakes region of New York

Scroll down to learn more about these offerings:

Forestry & Agroforestry Short Course
       August 12 - 16

Fungi Cultivation & Foraging Short Course       September 16 - 20

For the trees,

Steve & Elizabeth


In the Woods


June begins the season for wild mushrooms, which will show up as the weather warms. Wild mushroom foraging is an wonderful way to get to know the woods, as it requires careful attention to forest ecology, as well as the awareness of the subtleties of the forested landscape where mushrooms find a home.

While it can initially feel overwhelming to learn the proper identification of mushrooms, you don’t need to learn EVERY mushroom you encounter. Most mushrooms you encounter in the woods are neither edible/medicinal nor poisonous. So while there are literally thousands of species out there, to become a competent and safe forage, one has to really only get to know a few dozen species.

Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Start by learning the best edible and medicinal species in your area. A few good ones commonly found in the Northeast US include Morels, Chicken-of-The-Woods, Maitake, Chanterelle’s, Reishi (pictured above), Puffballs, and Oyster. There are others, but this list is a good starting point.

2. Then learn the potential look-alikes that could be harmful.

Some species include the “Death Angel” and other Aminita mushrooms, Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms, and several of the Russula species.

Of the list above, Morels, Chanterelles, and Oysters are the ones you are mostly likely get confused with another species.

3. Pay careful attention to not just “what” you find, but “where”.

Many beginners just grab mushrooms and don’t use their observation skills to capture all the clues needed to properly ID a mushroom. Consider the following when you find a mushroom:

-       Was the mushroom growing on the ground, or in wood?

-       What tree species was it growing on or around?

-       What forest type was it found in?

-       Was it growing by itself or in clusters?

-       What is the color of the cap? Gills? Stem?

-       Does the mushroom have a ring (aka annulus)?

Proper collection, storage, and documentation is important if you want to get a good ID on a mushroom. Read more here:

Use a key like this one from to figure out the possible species:

4. Learn from Others.

Mushroom foraging is not an activity to do alone. Find others who have been learning the language and learn from them.

Several expects around the Northeast offer walks and help you learn how to do proper identification. Some of my favorite folks include:

Catskill Fungi – John is a wonderful guy and knowledgeable forager and leads a lot of walks in the Catskill region of New York:

The Mushroom Forager  – Based in VT, Ari and Jenna offer a wonderful blog and photo library, as well as guided walks around the region. I love their “forage cast” which comes with their blog posts and helps update foragers on the species we are most likely to find in   given time of year.

The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) has many chapters of folks around that get together to find and identity fungi:

Also, see our events page: for several events that include foraging walks, including:

-       Our July 26th “Forest Talks” hike, which will feature a foraging class with Olga Tzogas from Smugtown Mushrooms (

-       The 5-day Fungi Cultivation & Foraging Short Course from September 16 -20 will offer several forays with Steve and Tradd Cotter from Mushroom Mountain .

-       Steve will lead a Fall Fungi Walk with the Finger Lakes Land Trust on September 24:

More can be found about these events at:


Of course, when in doubt – throw it out! Articles, books, and advice are not perfect – you need to be absolutely sure you know what you have before consuming a mushroom!


On the Farm


Shiitake log soaking is underway! A great companion to wild foraging mushrooms as discussed above is to grow your own. Of the mushrooms one can grow, log shiitake has proven to be the most reliable, as one could produce mushrooms weekly from June  - October in the Northeast US. The process that allows for this to occur is known as “shocking” or “forcing” inoculated hardwood logs in order to get them to fruit.

We soak about 120 logs each week and produce anywhere from 20- 40 lbs which we deliver to CSA members and restaurants. Our ability to reliably fruit shiitake on logs is the cornerstone of our forest farm business.

Here is a link for a youtube video more about forcing logs. You’ll notice that the page offers a list of several videos to help you get starting in shiitake growing on your own:


Upcoming Events


We are pleased to announce two short courses for the summer that will enhance your understanding of forest ecology and equip farmers, landowners, and educators with the tools to manage their forested lands for productivity and sustainability.


Sign up for either course by July 8 and receive a free copy of Farming the Woods.

Sign up for both courses anytime and save $150 and receive free camping, and a free copy of Farming the Woods.

Forestry & Agroforestry Short Course

August 12 - 16

Learn forest ecology and management techniques for eastern woodlands from Farming the Woods co-author Steve Gabriel and renowned forester Mike Demunn along with tree propagation and nursery techniques from Sean Dembrosky of Edible Acres.

Visit local old growth and heritage forests and farms and practice tree ID, stand assessment, marking, and felling techniques. Learn about forest medicinals, and visit farms practicing silvopasture and mushroom cultivation.

This course is designed for woodland owners, famers, extension professionals, Permaculturists, and homesteaders who want to gain a better understanding of the intricacies of management in northeastern woodlands and build their skills in forest mapping, stand assessment, tree selection, and removal of trees with minimal damage.

Cost: $550 includes lunch each day, plus $50 if camping onsite

Fungi Cultivation & Foraging Short Course


16 - 20

Explore the wondrous world of fungi and learn how to grow and forage mushrooms with Farming the Woods co-author Steve Gabriel and special guest instructor Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain and author of Organic Mushrooms Farming & Mycoremediation.

During this 5-day intensive course participants will identify wild mushrooms and learn tree ID and forest ecology, inoculate logs, straw, and grain, learn low-tech propagation techniques, build a stormwater biofilter, create a styrofoam substitute, and, of course, cook and eat mushrooms.

Participants will build their skills in mushroom identification, cultivation, and propagation and leave the course with mushrooms to grow at home.

Cost: $600 includes lunch each day and lots of fungi to take home, plus $50 if camping onsite (optional)


Quote of the Month:


“The clearest way into the Universe

is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir


“News from the Woods” is brought to you by:

Wellspring Forest Farm & School

leaving forests in our footsteps

Steve & Elizabeth Gabriel

Mecklenburg, NY


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