The Mushroom People have been chasing various miscreants for input, especially technical reports. As to why I have not submitted anything for a while, perhaps I am just getting old, tired and worn out.
This is quite possible, as I went to the doctor's recently and was disturbed upon reflection to realise that he had been talking quite loudly to me during the appointment and I hadn't gone to see him about anything to do with my hearing.
If I had realised at the time what he was suggesting, I might have sarcastically enquired "Have I had my dinner?" It's probably best that I didn't, he wouldn't have caught on, just put an entry to my notes "signs of senility", whereupon at each subsequent visit I could have received an increasing volume of consultation.
Perhaps it all begins when you start falling out of showers. (See earlier report: http://www.themushroompeople.com/showArticle.asp?id=1433).
I actually went with the Flu, no, not "man flu" but a strain that I am convinced might have something to do with migrating birds and my backyard poultry. Readers should allow some leeway, I did warn of the content with the word "rambler" in the title above. Talking about poultry, as one does, a couple of weeks back my wife and I had some success taking best of breed for Salmon Faverolles (the breed name) at the National Poultry Championship with a good hen.
This gave some consolation for our experience at the Federation of Poultry Show just before Christmas. We had managed to breed and show a cockerel of such quality, nothing of the like had been seen for 50 years.
Although I have won a national award for the quality of my cock on more than one occasion in the past, this was something special and was much admired. We could not wait to breed from it this year. It was photographed for use as a prime example of the breed, to be included into the forthcoming British Poultry Society Book of Standards. We were very proud. It dropped dead of a heart attack the next day.
Moving on, what's been happening in the Mushroom World? Over here growers have either been calling it a day, just hanging on or conversely expanding and refurbishing.
Many of those striving to keep their heads above water in the absence of significant price increases (on sales rather than costs) have pursued the technique of staggered crops and staggered harvesting, thus maximising yields whilst minimising harvesting costs.
Some have been very successful, aided by improvements in environmental control. I have agreed that most important to this control is the ability to control humidity (both up and down) and to avoid the need for extremes of air changes. Pinning for this technique is invariably done high and pins formed on the surface at relatively high humidities. This is opposed to pinning deep, whereupon lower air humidities would be required to achieve the optimum humidity just below the surface but then unfortunately, one would then have less control over what pinned where, due to the wide variations of climate that would exist within this casing surface. Whatever, I would certainly advocate humidification provision and control a worthwhile investment.
On the down side, there certainly seems to have been some composting difficulties about of late. I have seen some surprising differences in the degree of composting that appeared to be particularly related to the straw content. It was interesting to visit a small grower who still makes his own small quantity of compost each week and I commented on the issue. He laughed and showed me the difference between the straw quality in his bales of straw and that in his supply of horse manure, these being normally mixed together.
The manure straw was quite old looking and soft. The baled material was like bamboo, one could have used some straws instead of canes for supporting runner beans. He had been obliged to pre-dip the bales to get them started and then to row-up the straw for several days prior to the normal mix. This fitted in with my suspicions as to the cause of the compost variations seen.
It seems that straw quality from last year came in two types depending on when it was harvested at the end of the summer, before or after the rain that occurred at that time (so I'm told). If this was the case then composters would have great difficulty in two respects a) setting and maintaining a consistent appropriate regime to suit straw quality if that quality was inconsistent week to week and b) obtaining a uniform result if the straw content for any week included the two extremes of straw quality as described above. Such are the problems with businesses where the end product is grown rather than manufactured.
On the up side there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel with some retail customers increasing prices, with this being understood to be due to concerns for their supply base. I'm unsure whether this is true but if it is, these increases are necessary, long overdue, hopefully could be progressive and not temporary, otherwise it would be counter productive and short sighted. CKB.