This October, Mara Penfil from the Radical Mycology Collective will be taking part in a 3-day Women’s Mushroom retreat as a part of the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference. This unique event will bring together women from across the country to talk and learn about fungi in an intimate and protected setting. Learn more about the event here and check out the description below.
Silently shaping the soil beneath our feet, fungi are key players in the health of Earth and trajectory of human culture around the globe. Still, we find ourselves in a time where the study of fungi is considered to be a neglected megascience, their mycelium, a mystery. It is our goal to help modern women connect with the roles and wisdom of our female ancestors who always maintained and shared their visceral understanding of the Fungal Queendom.
This weekend-long, women’s retreat will focus on understanding fungi as the Grandmothers of our ecosystems. Workshops will be offered at the beginner through advanced levels, and include topics in wild mushroom skills, fungal ecology, fungi and human health, and ethnomycology. This is a place to share knowledge and get comfortable with using our mycological skills in a supportive, fungal community!
Teachers will include Eugenia Bone, Sue Van Hook, Cornelia Cho, Alanna Burns, Andi Bruce, Olga Tzogas, Erica Gunnison, Danielle Stevenson, Mara Fae Penfil, Nicole McCalpin and more!
Later this month, Peter McCoy will be coming to Geneva, Switzerland to hold several workshops on the Radical Mycology movement, mushroom cultivation, and mycoremediation. The workshops will be hosted by Utopiana, an artist residency and collaboratory exploring the intersections of art and ecology.
February 11th // 14h–17h
Utopiana (Chemin Mestrezat, 1202 Genève)
(FB event here)
This workshop will teach how to install an edible mushroom garden in your home or apartment. We will look at how to integrate mushrooms in a beneficial manner in any context: in a garden, an agricultural setting, in medicine, etc. During the workshop you will learn how to prepare stumps and logs to inject them with Reishi, Oyster, and Pioppino mushrooms, as well as how to install muchroom garden beds. We will explain the functions of mushrooms in the environment and their use in the food systems, waste management, etc., and discuss the fundamental ideas behind mushroom cultivation and growth.
Intro to Mycoremediation
This workshop will teach how mushrooms can decontaminate various substances polluted by toxic hydrocarbons, such as that by cars and other machines. During the workshop you will discover how to cultivate mushrooms on used cigarette filters. We will demonstrate how we can reduce the damage caused by cigarette filters, which are one of the most commonly polluted substances in the world.
With the end of year we wish to say our thanks for the many highlights of the past 12 months. This year was a big one for Radical Mycology. February saw the birth of the book Radical Mycology by Peter McCoy and April followed up with a few videos to help condense key points from the text—two efforts we hope will excel the growth of myco-literacy currently developing around the world. Following on the book’s many positive responses, Peter took the book on tour across the U.S. during the summer and fall, making over 45 stops at a range of independent books stores, non-profits, community gardens, infoshops, galleries, art archives, and festivals.
(Left) Peter at Interference Archive, a Brooklyn-based depository for the art of social movements.
(Right) Installing a mushroom garden in Washington, D.C. as part of a 20-hour
Mushroom Cultivation & Application Course.
As the mushroom season took its turn of the year, October marked our fourth and most successful Radical Mycology Convergence, this time in Wingdale, NY. Despite being the first time the event made its way to the East coast, over 400 people were in attendance, making this year’s RMC the largest to date. As with every prior RMCs, all who came camped together, learned together, worked together, and, in a myriad of ways, fostered a unique space to share their connection to the lands we inhabit as well as to the fifth kingdom that fills their innumerable niches and recesses.
(Left) Volunteers help prepare the land at Fertile Substrate, a pre-RMC work-n-learn party.
(Right) Nance Klehm on Reading the Landscape for patterns of disturbance at the 2016 RMC.
The land hosting the RMC was also an amazing backdrop to the event. Set on a 120-acre homestead bordering the Appalachian Trail and three hills of mushroom-rich mixed forests, attendees found fungi poppin’ all weekend. Maitake, Chicken of the Woods, and various Laccaria and edible Boletus species were well represented, as were an array of conks, lichens, and resupinate fungi.
Morning circle at the RMC (Credit: Michael Place).
On the info front, this year’s RMC took the myco knowledge offered to a whole other level. As impromptu forays filled the woods, the dense schedule offered some pretty killer workshops and discussions, including many mycoremediation and mushroom cultivation focused talks. In between, new friendships were forged among the many passionate and incredibly knowledgeable mycophiles, as demonstrated at the steadily laughter- and rap-filled talent show on Saturday night. And at night massive bonfires raged late, filling the air with warmth, kinship, and stories of epic fungi recently found or long since gone.
Dinner crew on duty. Philip shares his passion in the Amadou.
On the final day, as with all RMCs, we closed by working to enrich the land with various fungal partnerships and earth repair practices. Erosion-mitigating and nutrient load-reducing plants were planted along sensitive waterways, while various mushroom gardens were installed across the property.
Installing a four-species mushroom garden on the final day of the RMC.
As the year winds down, the Radical Mycology Collective is taking some time to reflect as we proceed into an ever-brighter fungal future. Next year is sure to bring some big changes and new projects to the fore for us. But for now, we wish to give our deepest gratitude to all those who made this year one of our most inspirational yet.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU
A HUGE thank you goes out to everyone that helped organize, show up, throw down, support, donate, cook, serve, share, and grow with us and the Radical Mycology movement this year. A special HUGE HUGE thank you goes to this year’s presenters: Alanna Burns, Zaac Chaves, Cornelia Cho, Willie Crosby, Samuel David, Steve Gabriel, Alexander Jones, Erwin Karl, Fern Katz, Scott Kellogg, Nance Klehm, Elli Mazeres, John Michelotti, Lupo Passero, William Padilla-Brown, Jason Scott, Danielle Stevenson, Olga Tzogas, Chris Wright, Sue Van Hook, Roo Vandegrift, and Marina Zurkow, as well as to the amazing folks in the Seeds of Peace Collective, who did all the cooking at the RMC this year.
In return, and as a belated Solstice gift to everyone, we’ve made a playlist of the workshop videos from the 2014 RMC—a taste of the videos we have in the editing queue from this year’s RMC.
Enjoy and mush love,
The RM Collective
The schedule for the 2016 Radical Mycology Convergence has been announced! This year the Convergence is leveling up in a number of ways. For the first time we are on the East Coast. We are going a full 5 days instead of 4. And on the Saturday night of the Convergence we will be hosting an Myco Art Gallery with international submissions (the Gallery is still open for submissions here).
The confirmed workshops for this year’s RMC are right in line with these evolutionary leaps. There are some incredible myco- and bioremediation talks, a range of ethnomycological presentations, and some amazing fungal ecology talks.
Want to help the RMC?
We rely on support from attendees to make the RMC a success. You can help add to this grassroots effort in a variety of ways. Consider registering to volunteer here. Or join the Pre-RMC work party, Fertile Substrate, here. Or simply bring some food or raffle item donations. Every hyphal addition to our support web helps this event’s network grow deeper and stronger. Whatever you can do to add to this underground effort is greatly appreciated!
Next month, Peter McCoy will be offering two free webinars on many of groundbreaking topics discussed in Radical Mycology, one of the most comprehensive books on fungi and mushroom cultivation ever written. These unique talks will be live streamed with the ability for viewers to chat with Peter directly and ask him questions from anywhere in the world. There will also be free book giveaways and special discounts offered to all viewers. To register for this paradigm-shifting talk, click here.
April 14 at 6PM Pacific (9PM Eastern)
Fungi are everywhere around us, creating and maintaining whole ecological webs. For many, learning to recognize these relationships is one of the most incredible and inspiring aspects of working with the fungal kingdom. In this presentation, Peter will walk through the critical ecological roles that fungi fulfill from the poles to the oceans and from the forests to the deserts. Along the way, Peter will detail how fungal ecologies have influenced the development human cultures throughout time, including a wealth of incredible evidence that he has uncovered on the importance of fungi in the origins and evolution of life. Whether you are new to mycology or well versed in the topic, this talk will leave you overwhelmed with fascination for the incredible fifth kingdom!
WORKING WITH FUNGI FOR GLOBAL RESILIENCE
April 28 at 6PM Pacific (9PM Eastern)
Mycology is proving itself to be a nearly inexhaustible field for innovation. As new discoveries are constantly being made, there seems to be no end to what fungi can offer humans, their communities, and the environments they touch. In this talk, Peter will explore the wide range of ways to cultivate fungi and integrate them into our lives, homes, and landscapes. Along with detailing some of the most appropriate mycotechniques currently being developed, Peter will also unveil unprecedented protocols for accessibly growing edible and medicinal mushrooms as well as new learning opportunities for advancing the future of human-fungal relations.
After two years in the making, the book Radical Mycology is set to release February 2nd, 2016!
16-page color plate center section
Fungi are found throughout the world, often playing critical roles at the center of all ecological webs. As culturally important foods and medicines, as well as instigators of religious practices, they have been intimately tied to the development and spread of human societies. And yet, despite their numerous influences on the history of the world, fungi are completely disregarded by the majority of people today.
In 2006 Peter McCoy co-founded Radical Mycology, a grassroots organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the many valuable ways to work with fungi for personal, societal, and ecological health. Nearly a decade later, McCoy has written Radical Mycology to share the wide array of skills and insights that have arisen from the organization’s international work to advance the science of appropriately applied mycology. Shattering commonly held beliefs on the value of the Fungal Queendom, Radical Mycology definitively explores the many reasons that fungi should no longer be ignored but instead honored and embraced for the many gifts they offer. The result is the most comprehensive and accessible book on the various aspects of mycology—the science of fungi—ever published.
Interwoven with insights into the incredible traits of fungi, Radial Mycology begins with chapters that explore the uniqueness of fungal biology, the critical ecological roles of micro and macro fungi, how to safely identify mushrooms, the value of lichens as medicines and indicators of environmental quality, and the significant influences that fungi have held on the evolution of human cultures. With this foundation laid, the reader is then equipped to work with the fungi directly. Techniques for making potent fungal medicines, growing fermenting fungi for food, and easily cultivating mushrooms with recycled tools (and yet still achieving lab-quality results) are explored in-depth. Subsequent chapters grow far beyond the limits of other books on mushrooms. Detailed information on the principles and practices of natural mushroom farming—largely influenced by the design system of permaculture—is presented along with extensive information on cultivating mycorrhizal fungi and the science of mycoremediation, the application of fungi to mitigate pollution in the environment and in our homes. The book ends with deeper insights into the social effects that fungi present from the reflection of mycelial networks in the design of whole societies to a rigorous examination of the history of psychoactive fungi.
Written for the beginner as well as the experienced mycologist, Radical Mycology is an invaluable reference book for anyone interested in Do-It-Yourself (or Do-It-Together) homesteading, community organizing, food security, natural medicine, grassroots bioremediation, and the evolution of human-fungal-ecological relations. More than a book on mushrooms, Radical Mycology is a call to ally with the fungi in all efforts to spawn a healthier world. Illustrated by the author and heavily referenced, this unprecedented book will undoubtedly remain a classic for generations to come.
View chapter samples and ordering information now at Chthaeus.com.
The Radical Mycology Convergence (RMC) is a volunteer-run gathering that shares the knowledge and skills of working with fungi for personal, societal, and ecological health. A non-discriminatory and family-friendly event, the RMC welcomes people of all backgrounds to learn about and join the growing fields of sustainable mycology and bioremediation. The RMC teaches the means to work with fungi as a resilient food and medicine source as well a natural ally in efforts to help regenerate, remediate, and renew damaged environments. Emphasizing techniques that are low-cost, the skills and ethos presented at the RMC aim to support a wide range of grassroots efforts advocating for environmental protection, social justice, and local food autonomy.
In the fall of 2014, over 250 people from around the globe gathered at the 3rd Radical Mycology Convergence in Orangeville, IL to gain skills for working with fungi as personal, societal, and ecological medicine. Hosted on the private homestead of bioremediation expert Nance Klehm, the 2014 RMC built on the knowledge base laid at the previous 2 Convergences to further strengthen the emerging fields of community-scale mushroom cultivation and grassroots bioremediation. Hosting over 50 discussions and workshops and 8 edible and experimental remediation installations, this year’s RMC provided new insights into how fungi can help address the increasingly complex challenges of today’s world.
Film by Steve Zieverink
Set up for the RMC began at Fertile Substrate, a 3-day pre-Convergence educational work party where volunteers and organizers prepared piles of substrates, germinated installation inoculum, cleared and designated installation sites, built seating and other infrastructure, and cultured several locally harvested mushroom species such as Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Enoki (Flammulina velutipes), Chicken-Of-The-Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), and Maitake (Grifola frondosa).
Sourcing and preparing substrates
This year’s RMC hosted over 50 original workshops and discussions focused on one of the several major themes of the RMC: Fungal Biology & Ecology, Ethnomycology, Ecological Restoration & Remediation, and Fungal Cultivation. Many of the workshops intentionally covered topics and skills not typically addressed at mycological events such as using mushroom identification skills to help protect threatened habitats, cultivating mushrooms in arid and extreme environments/climates, the realities of running of a small mushroom farm, and teaching mycology to kids. Friday night’s campfire hosted a challenging discussion addressing the idea “dark ecology,” a theory proposed by author Timothy Morton that the pollution and destructive practices of modern living must be fully embraced in order to overcome them and move toward healthier lives and a healthier world. Also unique to the 2014 RMC teaching model was an expressed desire to increase the presence of women and trans mycologists at the Convergence. As a part of this effort, a discussion directly addressing the role and experience of women and trans people in mycological circles was held at the RMC. A summary of this conversation can be read here.
Descriptions of all the 2014 RMC workshops can be viewed here. Videos of the 2014 RMC’s workshops will be made available online for free in the coming months. To see those when they become available, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.
Along with the cultivation workshops and theoretical discussions of the RMC another major component of the Convergence focused on putting theory to practice by facilitating hands-on remediative and regenerative fungal installations during the event. This year’s RMC brought about several novel approaches to working with fungi in landscape to mitigate pollution and renew disturbed habitats.
Determining the sites for remediation work to take place at the RMC was a months-long planning process. Several RMC organizers worked to identify needs, giving preference to issues related to chemical remediation strategies and strengthening local soil and aquatic ecologies. Zones of concern were selected on the property and collaborative planning discussions were held to develop the most effective strategies for addressing these areas. The main issues identified and addressed included the following:
Brush Creek MycoFiltration – Water samples from the property’s creek (Brush Creek) were sent to a local water testing lab prior to the RMC. The water was tested for a range of common chemical and biological contaminants and found to (thankfully) not contain concerning levels of pollutants. However, another concern to the water’s quality had previously been identified: in the rainy spring months heavy rain causes the water table of Brush Creek to rise significantly leading to topsoil erosion and a significant depositing of silt and debris into the creek water. This murky water subsequently reduces available oxygen, choking out aquatic life and reducing the resilience and diversity of riparian communities downstream. To mitigate this issue a series of filters of mushroom mycelium were installed in the creek (in the form of burlap sacks filled with oak wood chips inoculated with Stropharia rugosoannulata [aka SRA]) to capture silt and increase water purity. The upper portion of the property’s creek was scouted to identify sites that had access to shallow, slower moving sections of the water course where mycelium containers could be installed and easily observed, maintained, and replaced as needed. Two sites were identified.
Site A was a preexisting natural dam built of fallen logs and branches. This area was an easy candidate for installation as it would readily retain the bags to be installed. In the coming months the landowner will observe the bags’ health and determine whether they are getting “plugged” with debris, at which point they will need to be replaced.
Site A of Brush Creek’s MycoFiltration installation
Site B was an overflow side channel in the water’s course that is contained in a short, shallow trench. This shady area is above the water table for most of the year, only filling with water in the rainy season. A series of SRA bags were installed in this channel and secured with branches and stakes of various sizes. In the coming months the bags and surrounding soil will become infused with this mushroom’s mycelium creating a productive mushroom bed. When the water raises next year, overflow from the creek will pass through this mushroom bed, filtering silt and debris as the mycelium is being hydrated (ultimately helping the bed produce more mushrooms). Another function of this mushroom bed is that it will serve to digest much of the property’s Reed Canary Grass. The landowner can simply throw this plant into Site B’s trench, feeding this edible mushroom to increase production while mitigating a common weed.
Post-Ag Field Regeneration – The land that hosted to 2014 RMC was a 20 acre parcel that had been heavily cultivated for 70 years with GM corn. While some portions of the property had been left to return to a prairie for 20 years, much of the property had only been out of production for 4 years. Due to years of heavy tillage and chemical input, the diversity in the soil communities of these areas were significantly depressed. These “post-ag” portions of the property were covered in a small number of dominant weeds, a sign of poor soil quality. Our goal was to begin repopulating the soil in these areas by inoculating test plots with beneficial microbes and fungi, thereby kickstarting the natural soil web cycles and eventually leading to greater soil health and increased nutrient availability.
Eight 2’x6′ plots were cleared and inoculated with various combinations of mycorrhizal fungi, compost tea, and biochar. The biochar was produced on-site and inoculated with fresh compost tea that followed standard and biodynamic compost tea practices. Compost tea breeds large quantities of beneficial aerobic microbes. The biochar performs several remediative functions while also serving as a “microbe hotel” where mycorrhizal fungi and other microbes can live. One bed was cleared but not inoculated to serve as a control.
On the myco end of this installation, several plots were inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi that will help support the soil’s health in numerous ways. The ideal practice for this portion of the experiment would have been to harvest locally-adapted mycorrhizal spores from on-site and culture them in association with plants over a season to amplify their spore load for inoculation. As this would have needed to been done a year in advance, we settled on using a commercial product containing various ecto and endomycorrhizal species. All plots were seeded with a commercial cover crop blend.
Prior to treatment the plots hosted various combinations of the following species (spontaneous vegetation):
In the coming years, the landowner will observe the plots to determine which regenerates the most effectively to host a larger variety of plant species. It is our hypothesis that the plot inoculated with biochar, compost tea, and mycorrhizae will perform the best. Time will tell.
Automobile Engine Point Source Remediation – Not all means of integrating fungi for pollution mitigation need to be complicated or large-scale. For example, a simple “point-source” remediation installation initiated at the RMC involved placing a Pearl Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) woodchip bed below the landowner’s parking site. As the mycelium of this well-known remediative species myceliates the wood-based substrate in the coming months, it will also likely absorb and digest the oil and chemicals dripping off the car’s engine. This simple method of treating a common source of household pollution can be effectively installed in driveways around the world as this species and its relatives are quite common in most continents. Mushrooms that fruit from this bed should not be eaten however as they may harbor toxic elements.
Human Waste Disposal – The human “waste” stream produced over the course of the RMC was treated as a valuable resource. Several composting toilets (The Shiitakers) were installed around the property and the fecal and urine matter collected at these sites was placed in The Pilobolus Pile, a slow compost pile that will eventually turn this common “waste” stream into healthy compost. This pile was constructed with an abundance of sawdust to eliminate smell and the risk of disease.
Beyond the restorative installations, several functional mushroom beds were installed around the property as well:
Stacking the Funk-tions: Elm Oysters on Reed Canary Grass – Two things were abundant on the property that piqued our cultivation function stacking interests. The edible and remediative Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius) mushroom was found growing prodigiously on the property as was the common weed known as Reed Canary Grass (RCG), which we found dominating the old pasture on site. We decided to make use of the RCG (seeing it as an abundant local substrate) by inoculating it with the Elm Oyster, a vigorous species known for its ability to consume a wide variety of substrates. We harvested a basket of these local mushrooms and collected their spores to make a simple “spore slurry” inoculum. Simultaneously, the RCG was harvested and prepared for inoculation by means of fermentation. Once the grass was prepared, the spore slurry was applied by packing the straw in plastic containers and pouring the spore slurry evenly throughout the packing process. In the coming weeks, the mushroom spores will germinate and fuse, forming numerous distinct genetic strains that will develop into diverse mycelial networks to digest the RCG. As these numerous strains grow out, some will stand out in the vigor and tenacity. The strains that fruit most heavily can then be isolated by the landowner. Repeating this spore slurry process with these superior strains in subsequent trials will essentially “speed up evolution” leading to the development of a “super-strain” of the Elm Oyster that will fruit exceptionally well on this locally abundant substrate.
The Oak Leaf – A simple, symbolic King Stropharia mushroom bed was installed in a depression in the land downhill from a culvert. Designed in the shape of an oak leaf, this bed was created to honor the dominant tree species on the land and to reflect the value of this wood type in mushroom cultivation. (The density and richness of oak has long been noted to be a superior wood for cultivation of several species such as Shiitake).
Spawning Mycelial Networks
While workshops and installations are the central feature of the Radical Mycology Convergences, there is another, perhaps even more important theme that runs throughout the weekend as well: community building. Knowing the difficulty that can come with studying mycology and mushroom cultivation, the RMC organizers worked intentionally throughout the weekend to help encourage the development of friendships and alliances amongst attendees that will extend beyond the 5 days of the gathering. By camping, cooking, eating, learning, and engaging in discussions together, participants were readily able to meet future cohorts and know that others shared their excitement (and confusion) around working with the fungal kingdom.
On the Sunday of the RMC, a break out discussion was held where participants gathered by region to brainstorm how the skills they learned at the RMC could be applied in their communities. By the end of the discussions, several new Radical Mycology groups had formed to take the skills of grassroots mycology back to their home towns and bioregions. Spawning mycelial networks of collaboration amongst attendees, the 3rd Radical Mycology Convergence has helped increase awareness around the fact that anyone can grow mushrooms for food, medicine, and the benefit of environmental resilience. And there is no better time to join this movement than now.
A big thank you goes out to everyone who presented, supported, sponsored, volunteered, threw down, or otherwise helped co-create this year’s Radical Mycology Convergence. This year’s RMC would not have been such a success without all of your input and collaboration. Thank you to Shawndra Miller for writing up two great reviews of the RMC (here and here) and to Jessie Robertson for his write up here.
See you all at the next RMC!
Mush love getting served up in the Kit-Chanterelle Sunday night’s barn dance
Radical Mycology member Peter McCoy was recently featured on Permaculture Voices, a podcast that highlights voices in the global permaculture community. In this interview, Peter goes deep into the reasons why anyone with the means and spare time should be actively cultivating fungi and how the world of mycology is currently evolving to match the needs of an increasingly complex world. You can hear the interview by clicking the image below and consider donating to Permaculture Voices to support their great work.
Peter McCoy of Radical Mycology was recently featured in a short documentary on the current rise in mycological culture in the west. As it happens, this film, just like the Radical Mycology Book, was also funded by a crowdfunding campaign. Oh, what a wonderful mycelial internet(work).
For more on the film maker, Madison McClintock, check out her website by clicking here.