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Can mushrooms clean my barn out?  RSS feed

 
                            
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I'm lazy. I like to think, explore, but I don't like to do a lot of work. So...
I have my barn and barn yard with the goatie girls and jacob sheep. I use a deep bedding method in the barn which means the goat berries and straw. I feed outside of the barn and the hay remnants and berries pile up alongside of the fence I feed on.

During the late spring (once my native plants have some good growth going on them) I let my goatie girls browse and they have free run of my property. They do come back to the barn every night to sleep and for grain, then leave again in the morning.

I don't have a tractor, so the barn and barnyard get bailed out by hand and wheelbarrow, with everything going to compost pile or garden. BUT.....

I just watched one of paul stamets TED videos again and I'm wondering....

Would it be possible, feasible to simply close the gate to my goatie girls until fall (I have other fenced in areas and could put up a temporary shelter for them) and ... innoculate the berries/straw/compost  with some sort of fungi?

Thinking outloud, I guess that would certainly be possible, but

Would it be possible to innoculate with some sort of fungi, have it break down the barn/barnyard contents in a few months (June to September or October), AND... would there be any possibility of income from this?

Obviously the goat berries/straw is really dense and compacted... also, the stuff inside the barn is dry and the stuff outside tends to dry out in the summer.

I would LOVE to not have to move this stuff.

Thinking creatively here, need input from the pros...

Whaddya think?
 
Franklin Stone
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Commercial Agaricus (white button, Crimini, Portabello) mushroom production is typically achieved using a composted horse manure/straw substrate. Agaricus species are unique in that they don't require light to fruit as other edible mushrooms do.

The hay/horse manure mixture is composted in giant piles-  thermophilic bacteria raise the temperature of the compost to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and this actually kills of competitor molds.

Some growers use artificial pasteurization techniques - gas heaters or steam injectors to raise the temperature of the substrate within the growing chamber to 150-170 F and hold it there for several hours or even days.

The moisture content of the substrate must be carefully balanced during all stages of the process.

After the substrate has been pasteurized, spawn is mixed into it. Exact ratios vary by grower.

The growing mycelium and mushrooms must be maintained at a proper temperature with a certain amount of fresh air being cycled throughout the growing area. Misters provide moisture to make up for evaporative loss.

Once the mushrooms are harvested, the spent substrate must then be removed from the growing area, and new growing medium brought in.

All of the Agaricus growers use large machinery and automation. Smaller, artisan  growers tend to grow fragile specialty species (Pleurotus, Hericium) on wood-based substrates, as they cannot remotely compete against the industrial Agaricus growers on cost.

It would be A LOT more work than simply cleaning the barn out.
 
Abe Connally
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It would be A LOT more work than simply cleaning the barn out.

But there would be some benefits as well, like fresh mushrooms to eat!

Not all artisan mushrooms are fragile.  Oysters can be very aggressive, and they can grow on straw/manure mixes, as long as the manure has been leached a bit.

But to answer the original question, no the fungi won't clean out your barn.  If you want to make this really work, you'll need to haul the manure/straw to a dedicated area for growing mushrooms, where you can maintain the climate and conditions.  You can certainly yield a lot of mushrooms once you get the hang of growing them.
 
Franklin Stone
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Not all artisan mushrooms are fragile.  Oysters can be very aggressive, and they can grow on straw/manure mixes, as long as the manure has been leached a bit.


I meant that the actual mushrooms themselves are quite fragile. (I wasn't very clear.) Oysters are extremely fragile. This is a big bonus for small producers, as it means that the big industrial mushroom companies can't ship them over great distances, as they crumble and fall apart if they are not handled gently. Machine automation requires very tough, solid mushrooms (just as it requires very tough, solid tomatoes).

(Shiitake mushrooms are quite solid and ship well, for example, and as a result the larger growers are flooding the market in some areas of the country with cheap shiitake, making it impossible for small artisan growers to compete on price.)

As far as growing oyster on goat manure and straw, yes, it is possible, (I've done it) but it's much easier and less messy to grow them on plain straw- the manure just increases the risk of contamination.
 
Abe Connally
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what species of oyster have you tried on manure/straw?  I've seen decent result with King Oyster, which doesn't do well on straw alone, or I should say, doesn't do as well as other oysters.

I think oysters could be a great homestead hobby/business.  Not only can they provide a very different food for you, but they do it by cycling a waste, which increases your overall efficiency in your nutrient cycles.

Black soldier flies and earthworms would love that bedding, as well.
 
Franklin Stone
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overripe, oversized king oyster mushrooms by frankenstoen, on Flickr

King oysters grew perfectly fine for me on straw, as you can see above. I've grown pearl oyster, blue oyster and an oyster mushroom I cloned off of a stump on straw as well.


cluster of oyster mushrooms by frankenstoen, on Flickr

In my experiments using a manure/straw mixture, I found the process of pasteurizing the substrate a bit messy and unpleasant smelling compared to straw alone. My contamination rates were extremely high - 2 out of 3 straw/manure logs had to be discarded because of contamination. This indicates that one would likely need to pasteurize for longer periods of time or perhaps even attempt sterilizing the substrate. I saw no differences in yields between plain straw and manure/straw mixtures in the straw logs that survived.

My sample size is quite small, and there could have been other factors causing the contamination rates that I found, so this should not be taken to be a definitive or even scientific study! I encourage others to experiment. 
 
Abe Connally
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Those are beautiful!

I've read that King doesn't produce as well on straw alone, and requires some sort of extra supplement.  Some folks use wheat or rice bran, others use manure.

I can see how pasteurization would be messy.  It might be an idea to do some sort of chemical pasteurization, like with lime or peroxide.

Or, grow a different mushrooms, like an Agarius species. From what I've seen, king oyster and other oyster species should be able to work, but figuring out the logistics of pasteurization, etc might take some tweaking.
 
                    
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No matter what kind of mushroom you decide to grow your going to need to pasteurize or sterilize your sub and if its your first time growing mushrooms I would recommend sticking to oysters and avoiding agaricus oysters are fairly forgiving and quick colonizers  while even experienced growers have trouble with agaricus
 
                            
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Those are some gorgeous mushrooms!

Well, so much for my great idea..... snowing here today, about four inches so far. Guess I've got a few more months to TRY to figure out a way to get my barn cleaned out without using a shovel. 
 
Franklin Stone
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I read that (famous permaculturist farmer) Joel Salatin has a unique way of cleaning the cow manure out of his barn - he uses pigs. As the manure and bedding are laid down throughout the winter, Mr. Salatin throws handfuls of corn around the floor. By the time spring comes, the corn has fermented, and the pigs are eager to dig it out.

I don't recall all of the details (Mr. Salatin might have been using wood shavings as bedding), but you can probably find them on the internet.

Goat manure is much drier than cow or horse manure, so there probably isn't enough moisture to ferment the corn. And of course you would need pigs.

But that is a lazy man's creative crazy way to clean a barn out.
 
Abe Connally
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But his method doesn't clean out the manure, it just helps him compost it.  The pigs are the compost turners.
 
                                      
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Location: East Grand Forks, Minnesota
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Yeah, you would still have to clean all the spent substrate from the barn after fruiting is done. Personally, I would be all over this one as a great opportunity to sell at Farmer's Markets. Oysters are a great species to use for bulk like that, especially if there is much more straw than manure.

It really wouldn't be -that- much work. Once you have your gallon jars or bags of spawn done, inoculation would take just a few minutes and watering down all that straw with a hose is simple.

If you are spawning to a great enough volume, especially outside, pasteurization isnt totally necessary. Hydration is key. If you have enough spawn made up of some species that is aggressive in culture, it would rip right through anything you put it in!
 
                            
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Well Darn. The idea (fungi doing my work for me) brought a smile to my face for a while anyway.
 
                                      
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Location: East Grand Forks, Minnesota
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They would be worth it still. You would have a MUCH smaller volume to shovel out your barn after all the fruiting is done. On top of that, the amount of food or cash you get out of it would be well worth the wait.

Some types of roughage that would normally not even be fit for animal consumption can be made nutritious by colonizing with some type of mycelium. Oyster mushrooms for one have a very sweet smelling mycelium that smells good enough to eat in my opinion.
 
                            
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I, obviously, don't know anything about fungi. But the more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that fungi barn cleaning has some potential. Ok, here's my ignorant day dream......It could be one would need a specially designed barn, or series of  barns (a summer barn and a winter barn?).

One of the issues as I understand it is contamination with an undesired species of fungi. IF, starting with a well cleaned out barn, down to the dirt, an innoculent of "good stuff" was put down, and then maybe as the contents of the barn increased through the contributions of livestock a periodic re-innoculation of "good stuff" was done, would there be enough "good stuff" that it would quickly take over and fill in the niches where the undesired fungi might develop? Basically, overwhelm the undesirable species?

The barn contents aren't went, under the top fluffy layer of bedding, the contents are dry and hard as a brick,extending to the walls. IF a "trench" was dug (once the goats were moved out for the season), all the way around the walls, it would result in a free standing compact "brick" or raised bed type situation. This raised bed could then be wet down and covered entirely with plastic for moisture retention and humidity.

Hopefully, the mushrooms would do their thing, and at least reduce the size of the "brick" to be removed. Would they break the "brick" apart, or loosen it to aid in easier removal?

If the mushrooms fruited successfully, then there is the bonus of mushrooms.

If an undesirable species of mushrooms took over, wouldn't they still reduce the size of the brick?

If a desirable species of mushroom grew, upon harvesting and cleaning out the barn, could a portion of the "brick" be left behind as an innoculent for the next years fungi project?

Good thing there's still snow on the ground so I have an excuse to just think about cleaning out the barn... instead of having to do it


 
Franklin Stone
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Here's a way to think about it - if it was so easy, wouldn't it naturally just happen on its own?

What's the natural course of events in the barn now? In my experience, the manure and straw pack down into a dense material resembling particle board. Sometimes there is a lot of white mycelium growing throughout, but overall the material is fairly dry. I've never seen any mushrooms sprouting up.

Outdoors, straw and manure can build up into a deep layer of wet, stinky, anaerobic muck. Very little composting occurs because the material is too wet, the moisture becomes trapped, and no oxygen can get in.

Now, if the barnyard muck and the barn are cleaned up, and the contents are placed in a big pile with plenty of aeration and the right amount of moisture, we get thermophilic composting. The manure will heat up to 150 degrees, or even up to the point where it will spontaneously combust. Along the cooler surface, a few small mushrooms such as Coprinus species (inky caps) might eventually sprout.

(If you are determined to grow mushrooms with manure, Coprinus comatus is large and delicious and may be well worth a try. Another species to try might be Stropharia rugoso-annulata. Both of these are typically cultivated outdoors, though.)

The thing is, the straw and manure are already well colonized by bacteria and fungi (like green mold) that are well adapted to breaking them down. Any spawn that you add must compete (or co-operate) with these organisms on their own terms. The trick to growing edible mushrooms is tipping the balance to choose for the species you are trying to grow. Sterilization/pasteurization is the obvious, high-energy way- you simply kill as many of the competing organisms as you can. Getting the proper airflow/moisture/humidity/light/etc. ratios is another.

One of the great difficulties I have run into in my attempts at growing mushrooms is maintaining the proper humidity. Most gourmet mushroom species require a 90% RH. When the humidity is this high, it is like a perpetual dew. Water condenses on all surfaces. If the structure housing the mushrooms is made of wood, the wood will swell with moisture, and fungi will begin to eat the wood. A wooden structure being used to intensively grow mushrooms may be short lived!
 
Franklin Stone
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Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Manes) and Stropharia rugoso-annulata (Winecaps) are interesting in that it is very difficult to fruit these species indoors on sterile media. They do much better outdoors. It is believed that they may actually need other symbiotic organisms (bacteria, probably) to fruit.
 
Franklin Stone
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Mushrooms are much harder to grow than plants. Why not sow seeds in the goat manure? Replace the roof with translucent fiberglass panels? Same amount of work, much higher chance of success.
 
Abe Connally
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I think this could be made to work, but you probably still have to shovel manure.

My manure piles don't become like a brick, but I use very rough cit straw and corn stover, so it stay fairly fluffy. BUT, it tends to stay dry, so that keeps fungus from growing.

Now, when I clean out the area, I put everything in a big compost pile and wet it down. Sometimes I tarp it to help retain moisture, and lots of times, I get tons of mycelium and mushrooms growing in there naturally.  I don't know enough to eat any of those wild ones, but I could see that if I seeded the pile with spawn, I could probably get a harvest.  Note that the fungi usually takes over AFTER the thermophilic microorganisms, so once the pile has cooled down (usually a week)

Another alternative is earthworms.  They'll love something like this and keep it aerated, but you'll have to watch the moisture levels with them, as well.
 
Jack Shawburn
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while on the subject of Barn Cleaning...

I'm not from "snow country" but I was thinking about those snow shovels with wheels.
Anyone ever tried one of those for pushing bedding around?
I guess you'd need a fairly level hard surface...
Just thinking wheels always make for lighter work if you dont have machines.
 
Franklin Stone
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I was thinking about those snow shovels with wheels.


I'd really like to try one of those "snow wovels" out on some snow (and other tasks).

Perhaps a wheeled pitchfork for the barn?

 
                            
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frankenstoen wrote:
Here's a way to think about it - if it was so easy, wouldn't it naturally just happen on its own?


Right now it can't happen very well because it is so dry and also because the goats would step on, pulvierize and/or eat anything that grows. Some white mycelium are in the "brick".


What's the natural course of events in the barn now? In my experience, the manure and straw pack down into a dense material resembling particle board. Sometimes there is a lot of white mycelium growing throughout, but overall the material is fairly dry. I've never seen any mushrooms sprouting up.

That's what happens in my barn too. So why don't those mycelium sprout?


Outdoors, straw and manure can build up into a deep layer of wet, stinky, anaerobic muck. Very little composting occurs because the material is too wet, the moisture becomes trapped, and no oxygen can get in.


That's what happens in front of my barn door.


Now, if the barnyard muck and the barn are cleaned up, and the contents are placed in a big pile with plenty of aeration and the right amount of moisture, we get thermophilic composting. The manure will heat up to 150 degrees, or even up to the point where it will spontaneously combust. Along the cooler surface, a few small mushrooms such as Coprinus species (inky caps) might eventually sprout.


Yup, that's what happens in my compost pile where I have been putting the barn cleanings each year.


(If you are determined to grow mushrooms with manure, Coprinus comatus is large and delicious and may be well worth a try. Another species to try might be Stropharia rugoso-annulata. Both of these are typically cultivated outdoors, though.)

I may end up not doing anything with mushrooms/manure, but am keep thinking that there may be a bit of potential here for this idea. I appreciate the suggestions. If I do try something with the brick this year, it already has some sort of mycelium established. I'll go with what's already there. The initial idea was simply to see if I could reduce my workload as to the barn cleaning.

The thing is, the straw and manure are already well colonized by bacteria and fungi (like green mold) that are well adapted to breaking them down. Any spawn that you add must compete (or co-operate) with these organisms on their own terms. The trick to growing edible mushrooms is tipping the balance to choose for the species you are trying to grow. Sterilization/pasteurization is the obvious, high-energy way- you simply kill as many of the competing organisms as you can. Getting the proper airflow/moisture/humidity/light/etc. ratios is another.

Which is why I'm wondering... if I did this in future years, after this years brick has been removed, if I could periodically "seed" the new pile with spore of whatever mushroom (s) I was hoping to grow... if that would help tip the chances of the brick producing something edible.


One of the great difficulties I have run into in my attempts at growing mushrooms is maintaining the proper humidity. Most gourmet mushroom species require a 90% RH. When the humidity is this high, it is like a perpetual dew. Water condenses on all surfaces. If the structure housing the mushrooms is made of wood, the wood will swell with moisture, and fungi will begin to eat the wood. A wooden structure being used to intensively grow mushrooms may be short lived!

By digging down around the sides of the brick, making it into a raised bed, with none of the sides closer to the barn wall than a foot or 18 inches AND covering the brick with plastic, I was hoping to have some humidity control as well as some restraint over the mycelium growth to protect the barn wood.  This whole thought process starting because I was watching that Paul Stamets TED video again and I decided that if mushrooms were capable of saving the world they should be capable of starting by cleaning out my barn
 
                            
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frankenstoen wrote:
I'd really like to try one of those "snow wovels" out on some snow (and other tasks).

Perhaps a wheeled pitchfork for the barn?




During the winter, I make great use of one of those hard plastic ice fishing sleds (otter type)... not very permaculturish... but it works like a charm.  I've also used it when moving things over sand during the summer. I definately use it more than I use my wheel barrow, although that could be because we have snow here more than we have bare ground.
 
Franklin Stone
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That's what happens in my barn too. So why don't those mycelium sprout?


a. The mycelium may be of a species of fungi that doesn't produce mushrooms.

b. Conditions are not right for fruiting. The conditions required for spawning/colonization of the substrate can be far different than those required for fruiting. We have no idea what a lot of species need for their fruiting requirements. Some mushrooms grow when it is wet and rainy because the mycelium needs that extra moisture to produce the fruiting bodies. Some may be fruiting when it rains because that's when their spores will have the greatest chance of germinating. Some species are triggered into fruiting by temperature, or day length, or levels/ratios of carbon dioxide and oxygen in their environments. Or the mycelium might need a competing/symbiotic organism to trigger fruiting. Some species won't fruit until they have exhausted their substrate and have nowhere else left to grow. Forest fires seem to trigger certain species of morel mushrooms to fruit.

I have found with many species that growing the mycelium is easy but actually getting it to fruit is quite difficult.
 
Franklin Stone
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Which is why I'm wondering... if I did this in future years, after this years brick has been removed, if I could periodically "seed" the new pile with spore of whatever mushroom (s) I was hoping to grow... if that would help tip the chances of the brick producing something edible.


That's a very interesting idea, and worth experimenting with.

I have noticed with cow and horse manure that there will be specific mushroom species sprouting up from the patties in the fields. (I have never noticed this with goat manure - perhaps because the "goat berries" are so much smaller and are broadcast over a wider area.) The larger cow and horse plops are almost a complete ecosystem unto themselves, giving a fungi everything it needs - moisture, food, a home. Where do the fungi come from, though? Spores in the air that land on the patty? Spores that the animal eats, and that survive the digestive process? Mycelium living in the ground, that sense the manure patty above?
 
Emerson White
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Perhaps I missed it, but what is the barn made out of? If it's wood growing fungi inside would also leave you with one fewer barns in rather short order.
 
Lacia Lynne Bailey
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So how did this turn out this summer?  Did you try any of the ideas this year?

I'm in a similar situation, except that I use wood chips for the bedding instead of straw.  So I'd love to know if any one experimented this summer?
 
                            
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i would also adwise growing coprinus comatus, they can grow on any manure, ever from carnivorous animals. and very high quality mushroom (if picked while still white). but im not sure how to make them grow there...
 
Kris Hoffman
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Hey- did you ever try anything with mushrooms to clean out your barn? Ive been thinking along these same lines as we consider enlarging our organic livestock production. We would like to put up a knee wall hoophouse to house animals (pigs and chickens) over winter in Wisconsin. I am always looking for ways to 'stack' things together and am looking at all that bedding and manure as a resource not 'waste'. I would love to use mycelium to help me create organic compost (actual edible fruiting would only be a bonus) turn poo into a little income stream for the farm!
 
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