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Mike's Blog - Day 23

Something a bit different again today.

These logs are a little bit off the beaten track but are in the garden, in a small fenced off area behind the bird hide. It’s a small area earmarked for any research academics want to do. It has mainly been used by the Archaeology department. They have experimental burning plots, and have built a Neolithic shelter and fish smoker, as well as a Roman pottery kiln.

These logs are an experiment by the BioSci department to see if they can grow Birch polypore, that’s a fungus you often see on birch trees, it’s very common. The logs have been drilled and fitted with wooden pellets impregnated with birch polypore. This is a classic way to grow edible mushrooms such as Shiitake mushrooms, you can by those plugs on ‘tinternet.

The experiment is to see if it can be done easily and if it could be a technique used by Scandinavian foresters to try and increase the numbers of this fungus as it might make an emergency food source for Reindeer. Reindeer normally forage on a lichen, “Reindeer moss”, which is abundant on the forest floors. Reindeer can usually break through the snow or thin layers of ice that might develop in winter, but climate change is sometimes making that difficult. What’s happening is milder spells of weather are giving rain and melting, then when temperatures return back to normal, i.e. -40c, there is a much thicker layer of ice, too thick for the reindeer to smash through. This has been quite devastating in some years:


If birch polypore can be cultivated to grow on birch stumps just above snow level it might a valuable food source in times of desperation.

The second picture is one I took on a holiday to Finland a few years ago, it’s a typical forest floor and shows one of the types of “Reindeer moss”. It’s often sold in floristry shops in the UK.