Like Swamps 🟪

Lingering carryover from ENGL6344, a discussion in class eight days ago when I listed 62 quotations onto slides, divvied us into groups, and went about crumb-pathing (what we called zurückverfolgen, or “trace back,” in homage to this set of readings before they were translated into English). Our zurückverfolgen had an emoji-tagging instruction built in, so each trio, in effect, copied-pasted a square next to a line they wished for us to witness together, and every team had five emoji-tags to place.

To demo the zurückverfolgen, I placed a 🟪 next to a line from p. 58, in a section called “The Magic of Things” in Non-Things. It turned out like this: 🟪 “Like swamps the world” (NT, 58). Who among social media users hasn’t waded into the like swamps until the high boot brims were breached?

Han extends like-swamping from Roland Barthes’ studium and what he called its “unary” quality; studium is that quickly reconcilable, in-common field of visual confirmation, sort of obvious in that sense that without too much back and forth, many viewers would nod, yep, I see that, too. Yep, I like that, too. And that. And that. The lukewarm-affirmation symbol, a tiny-handed thumbs-up rises almost to the status of a new letter of every alphabet, iconic, corporeal-ish, cross-culturally nimble, a phatic stamp that with each next usage more dully than before signals, “I was here.”

But likes are not flat, and their seeming flatness betrays conviviality. They withhold any affective topography, absent color-coding to ROYGBIV a many-hued heart. Wednesday’s ten FB likes are Thursday’s seven; Thursday’s three Insta hearts are Friday’s four. It’s that flat-stillness of the swamp that has held on, faintly haunting, perhaps because its only shoreline is behind us, back in 2007 before the muck zucked in, before we were so twitterpated with shiny devices. Without conclusion, it’s one lingering line, noted. But it’s a note with a smooth, small wishstone skipped bip-bip-bip-bip-bip implicitly for another shoreline, an elsewhere not so dully, predictably like swamped.

What’s the Word? 🧮

For a few years, maybe more, I have at times in my teaching practice opened a class session with a round of “What’s the Word.” “What’s the Word” is a segment from ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, a sports talk show featuring broadcast journalists Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, and, when one of the two of them is traveling or vacationing or otherwise unavailable, a substitute counterpart who balances the exchange and the screenspace. For 30 minutes in the 5 o’clock hour out east, the show is led along with a ticker-tape and marked by time intervals; clock-keeping governs the otherwise spirited dialogue. This clip will give you an idea:

It’s a toss-up whether students in classes I teach know the show or have any frame of reference for the premise. We watch the video, and proceed thereafter, usually with some solo word-whatsing, which then gets transferred to a marker board or Google Slide, and after this, we read them, and we talk about our neologisms, puns, and coinages. It’s not as if streamers and confetti fly from overhead, but it’s usually fun to play with words.

“What’s the Word” can with brevity open and span worlds1Similar to Thich Nhat Hanh on mantras, which are magical (or rhetorical) for how they can instantly transform reality., querying how the week is going, how a project (or some dimension of it) is unfolding, or how a reading resonates or fails to resonate, what instigates a click or a eureka. It sits in a single class meeting, so it’s not quite ENGL1999: Writing One Word, which I have (only half) jokingly pitched as a prototype for self-set minimalisms with labor and workload. “What’s the Word” fits into the discursive-unitroscope, which runs from the small to the large, and these measures include the Four Word Funk Review (variation on Four Word Film Review from back-back in the day), Fives, or lists of five what’ve-you-gots that then play into ranking and re-ranking, sharing out, writing rationales, and so on, and Nineties, which are a micro-genre adapted from Berlant & Stewart’s The Hundreds, and which amount to 90-word clips, give or take five words, that can, if they must, jump to the next multiple of 90. In other wordcounts, 85-95 is permissible, but above 95 the writer has to take it to 175-185, and below 85, it’s not a ninety because that’s where the cork edge of the dart board ends and you’ve dinged the drywall. I’m two years along in fairly routinely layering nineties into my teaching practice, and the results have been positive enough to continue, sometimes prompted, sometimes unprompted. I have yet to incorporate the indexing moves that elevate The Hundreds from distinctive and memorable to a book I consider truly one of a kind. Could be that’s what the future is for.

I’m thinking about “What’s The Word” this afternoon because we’re reading the first 28 pages of Han’s Non-Things for Monday evening, a book, which, in itself and in translation blooms a terminological cornucopia. We’ll have just an hour on Zoom for discussing the opening section, before we switch to open review of in-progress blog carnival entries. “What’s the Word” seems to me right-sized for the hour, for sorting out de-fleeification, or digitombed rhetorics, or smart-phoniness, or like-iod addiction.

Notes

  • 1
    Similar to Thich Nhat Hanh on mantras, which are magical (or rhetorical) for how they can instantly transform reality.

A Different Temporal Politics 🔭

Lightly pressed, zig-zagging, and non-confident is the line I want to ever so cautiously draw to distinguish the sort of informatizing that 1) engluts the “inforg” from the sort that 2) revitalizes familial, cultural, and community shards, enshrouding them with metadata and re-siting them for a while maybe longer (if max-accessibly, or openly, all the better). In Non-Things, Han writes “This terrestrial order is today being replaced by the digital order. The digital order de-reifies the world by informatizing it” (1). The short book goes on to deliver on this premise. “Inforg”, according to Han, comes off the bench, subbing in for Dasein. And we humans are changed; for me, Han’s language—his theory made as art—pointilates felt senses, impressions, and hunches that have visited. I want to scrawl that line between 1) and 2) above because the informatizing, as much as it fuels estrangement from the terrestrial realm (Are those kids outside playing soccer I hear? No.), we still have rhetorical non-things (e.g., memories) that may be informatizing while at once mediating many of the human effects Han also values: community, sited culture, and old things. Thus, I am making sense of Non-Things with full acknowledgement that, yes, for the most part, material culture is losing the hold it once held; but, with this, there do seem to be at least a few exceptions (archives, languages, artifacts, recipes, etc.). Perhaps informatizing is nevertheless a seductive postponement, or a kind of rain delay; gones still go gone, but at a slower clip. Not tooooodaaaaay, inforg. Not today.

Time again! On page 7, Han writes, “Everything that stabilizes human life is time-consuming. Faithfulness, bonding, and commitment are time-consuming practices. The decay of stabilizing temporal architectures, including rituals, makes life unstable. The stabilization of life would require a different temporal politics” (7).

I have not yet read Adrian Little’s book, Temporal Politics, though the table of contents has me nodding with curiosity. And that I was re-reading Han for class while Jenni Odell’s Saving Time sat on the couch next to me—a book I’ve only just begun—suggests I have more work to do with fanning out this idea of temporal politics, reading more on the heels of others who have built upon or with this idea. In consideration of first principles, I associate it with a cosmological tension we discussed in ENGL6344: Rhetoric in Digital Environments a couple of weeks ago: Do you conceive of time as a line? A circle? Or both? And it reminds me, too, of the U.S. voter suppression efforts that have shifted from redistricting and gerrymandering as a spatial phenomenon to, in recent years, a temporal phenomenon (i.e., gerrymandering time as yet another push to discourage certain kinds of voting). As a third arrow, I considered who do we know whose temporal politics is already different. Besides yogis and ghosts and chickens, I don’t feel especially sure. Cicadas, black walnuts, crows, earthworms1I pose this casually and playfully but don’t mean for it to be flippant. Here I am not wanting to take nematode politics far, but celebrate these kin whose living burials, growth layers, and durative patterns are refreshingly mysterious.. There are plenty of examples of time figuring into politics (the deeply gray prospect of octogenarian presidential candidates, lifetime appointments for supreme court justices, the dinky leadership terms in low-level orgs like condo associations, boards of supervisors, and higher ed admins, and so on). I mention this not to plant a flag in the matter but instead to wonder aloud, to write, an intransitive verb.

Recast with discplinary prefixtures, the passage from Han also surprises with a dismount of a different, potentially also-heavy, gravity: “Everything that stabilizes [disciplinary] life is time-consuming. Faithfulness, bonding, and commitment are time-consuming practices. The decay of stabilizing temporal [disciplinary] architectures, including rituals, makes [disciplinary] life unstable. The stabilization of [disciplinary] life would require a different temporal politics” (7). List decays. Note gones. This is [disciplinary] living.

I set out, above all, to underscore just how personally appealing is this different temporal politics. I like the idea. I’m already learning how, listening to the seasons, senses halved, senses doubled, groundward and skyward.

Notes

  • 1
    I pose this casually and playfully but don’t mean for it to be flippant. Here I am not wanting to take nematode politics far, but celebrate these kin whose living burials, growth layers, and durative patterns are refreshingly mysterious.

Keyhole, Threshold, Breach 🗝️

Han’s Hyperculture ends with

The human of the future will most likely not be crossing thresholds, his face contorted in pain. The human of the future will be a tourist, smiling serenely. Should we not welcome that human as homo liber? Or should we rather, following Heidegger or Handke, remain a homo dolores, petrified into a threshold? In his Phantasien der Wiederholung, Handke writes:

When you feel the pain of thresholds, then you are not a tourist; the crossing is possible.

Hyperculture, p. 83

Oh, there in the how-long-from-now human future, these threshold-crossers, their dispositions, their expressions. Are they in pain? Are they joyful? Are they free? Are they sorrowful? Are we them, and they us? Hyperculture, published in German in 2005, then in English in 2022, hints at cultural accelerationism, and I truly have not resolved how I feel about that. Like, it’s going this way, so let us cut out the lollygagging. I admire, and also sympathize with, the sorrowful threshold-crosser more than with the tourist, perhaps because I have known them, or have believed sites harbor something not available in the same ways with the hyper-/siteless. Something elemental.

I suspect I’m not the only one.

And yet. The serenely smiling tourist, being-in-the-whizzing-flatlands-or-whatever, maybe is more carefree-casual than free, per se, liber leaving room for nuances, and maybe the smile, then, is from the prevailing winds at sea combined with flacid risorious muscles. “It looked like a smile.” And, too, smiles have been known from time to time to shield sorrows. I don’t know. I am not looking for trouble. But sitting with the puzzle, Han’s questions, and enjoying the time they take to think through—this puzzlement is its own kind of tourism, I suppose.

With this point about the sorrow known by threshold crossers, Mieville’s The City and Eht Ytic (2009) comes to mind, and especially the contingencies and strangely doubled boundaries of cross-hatched zones (notably not contact zones, despite their co-occupancy and shared coordinates) and the breach, who are able to exist across the dimensions. With cross-hatching and the breach, I am more or less satisfied with these models for a both-and response to Han’s questions: yes, to the tourist smiling serenely, but yes, also, to the sorrowful capacity of the human who still carries a key to a home that is no longer, or whose shoes carry imprints of pebbles underfoot whenever ago. The both-and, liberdolores, the breach, in an indefinitely cross-hatched and continuously redistricted world makes for a more interesting human, and a more openly possible future.

Five-Sixths 🥚

Figure 1. The five eggs delivered and collected on Sunday, September 10. First egg was August 18 (credit to Cinnabon, a cinnamon queen). 🤎🤎🤎🤎🩵

Today’s five eggs confirm that five of the six hens are laying; until today, we had thought the number was four. Egg laying is, given the coop’s nesting box and roost area configurations, a private event, though it is common for one hen to stay in the run, to abide a sisterly and supportive-appearing proximity to the layer for the duration of laying.

The eggs referred us back to the Rural King labeling on the day we purchased the chicks, April 19, because we had thought we purchased two cinnamon queens, two black sex-links, a buff brahma, and a calico princess. As Bitumen and Lightfoot (who now also goes by Lightning, because she is the fastest to exit scene for the deep woods any time a predatory threat presents itself) have matured, their plumage and personalities have distinguished them, especially the brown RBG-like “dissent collar” on Bitumen, and the pearl-hued ears on Lightfootning. We are not entirely sure whether or not Bitumen or Fluffy Foot (the buff brahma) is the last to lay, but we suspect it is Bitumen. And with this comes some genealogical suspense, in that the eggshell hues thus far have suggested Bitumen and Lightfoot are different breeds after all.

Bitumen bears out all of the features and mannerisms of a black sex-link, and particularly the Black Copper Marans rooster she would, if she could, call dad. Bitumen’s ancestor Marans (and contemporary cousins) tend to lay brown-shelled eggs there along the mid-coastline of France. But Lighfoot, on the other wing, lays blue eggs, and this suggests she is a Black Ameraucana whose ancestry is therefore Chilean. Whichever of the other four are laying or not, their qualities map to what the Radford Rural King sign-posted: Cinnabon and Tiny Honey are cinnamon queens who lay nearly every day, Fluffy Foot is a buff brahma, and Big Sweetie, a calico princess. We’ve learned more about this—and care more about these distinctions—than we could have anticipated four months ago. Chickens have been relegated by most to a certain kind of skewed global food mythology as an abundant, homogenous, if largely inobservable (before market), source. This mixed flock is a patient, persistent, and nuanced teacher, affirming every day that our avian imaginary has fallen more toward the consumptive-extractive, less toward sustaining kinship-mutualism, than can (or should) last.

Old Rocks 🪨

Multigenerational Geologies
Figure 1. One-Off Non Series #00 “Multigenerational Geologies.”

With a few gravelly thoughts in mind, compiled from the week that was, rather than relay those pebbles and peas, frustrations and disappointments, I’ll instead focus these few blogable words on this notion of multigenerational geologies, or old rocks. I’m not a geologist, and I’m not even all that geologically curious in any deep and sustaining way. Not a reader of geology books. Not someone who stops for long to look extra close at rocks.

I do notice rocks; they’re all around these here Blue Ridge Mountains. Like when I mow, as I did earlier this afternoon. In one spot, on the neighbors’ ten acres, where they cut wood for supplying winter heat, and where I make a couple of passes with the Gravely, today I dinged a rock, scarring its rounded protuberance with a tiny nick, but a nick big enough that I will notice next time and raise the mowing deck manually until it is high enough to clear the rock. The rock is in its right place, after all. In another spot, at the base of the fifth black walnut, mid-hollow, the deck snagged a loose rock just enough to unearth it a little bit. I felt that one and happened to be quick enough to remaneuver so the rock would stay mostly planted and the mower blade would not kiss it, sparklingly. It has always been like this around here, the surfacings of a crumbly surface, rocks old and brittle, shifting right along with the rest of the soil course that is a holler/hollow.

But this drawing, Multigenerational Geologies, is from a different location maybe 30 minutes from here, Giles County, along the well-travelled lower path to Cascades, where I hiked in late June with Is. and M. who were visiting from Michigan. At the Cascades the water course puts rock formations on a better-lit stage; they’re all around and invite notice because they express geologic timescales with exaggerated forms. What I mean is that most of the lawnmower run involves rock formations underfoot or encased in dirt. But these run-off rock formations have settled into a differently observable light; rock-earth relations thus are more private compared to these rock-water relations.

The jut appeared to me to have a face. It’s sort of like face pareidolia, but more along the lines of rockface pareidolia, or possibly even golem-sighting, a brush with a camouflaged earth elemental. Knew I had to attempt to draw it. And slowly began to understand that it would carry valences of memory, acting as a fleeting statuary confirming an understanding I carry with me and consider now and then, about how a principal function of this life, of living, is as a medium, or go-between, who ferries what was (in my particular case) by my mom, Linda, expressed in a multitude of ways (from joy to kindness to to good humoredness to principledness to resolve and so on) to my daughter, especially, who as mixed up timing would have it, missed the opportunity to know my mom. You wouldn’t get this just from looking at the drawing. And that’s okay. I’ve withheld it, as I’m sometimes prone to doing, because it sits at that extra-personal edge of things not readily on offer for public consumption, much less scrutiny. So I suppose this is a nod to those extradiscursive gifts, associations that feed into and through the piece, but then back again, a quiet, inobservable boomerang sent that comes back around, neatly looping, the source of a blend of feeling, parts proud and grateful, parts long-lost and missing, parts calmed and serene for an art practice that allows such hazes to hold.

Pecking Orders 🐓

“Pecking orders” have transcended the barnyard. A well-run metaphor, though not a dead metaphor, exactly, but verging on cliché to the point of let’s call it a palliative metaphor, pecking orders name the hierarchy performed within a flock. Hen one, hen two, hen three, etc.; they behave as though they know who is first, who is not. Something appearing pecking-order-like plays out when the coop door opens in the morning and down the ladder they hop. Similar patterns show up with eating, whether crumble or pellets or treats.

But pecking orders also change (indicating they might be communicable, even rhetorical, though that’s not today’s trajectory). They are more contingent than I think they tend to be credited with, especially when pecking orders are invoked as shorthand explanation for human hierarchic structures, like those one might find in a workplace. I’m relatively new to shepherding chickens, but at least for this Wonder Hollow mixed flock, pecking order is never as strict as a higher ed org chart because the flock is holarchic.

Holons, from the Greek for “whole,” hearken to synecdoche and also to network studies, for they are simultaneously part and whole, these structural-organizational alternatives to isolable, part-parsed groupings. The holarchy has no top and no bottom. Connections are varyingly lateral. With this, rank may be a temporary function of sequencing, but the sequencing is not reinforced by strict, enduring power skews. Rank gives, reshuffles, holding on to repeatable patterns while bending to mood, moment, and context. Holarchy is, in this example, observably friendly. Today Tiny Honey eats first, Lightfoot second. Tomorrow, Bitumen is first, Big Sweetie is next. Etcetera.

The flock as super-organism is more important. This, I suppose, is a lot like faculty shared governance. Cup an ear to all voices. Let mutualism guide. What is best is not dictated executively by a top bird who has not (whether not ever, or not yet) listened. Granted, I am fusing frames and playing a bit; chickens are not administrators, nor faculty. But the point is that the phrase “pecking orders” does not bear fidelity when lifted from the gallusphere and plunked into non-avian organizational structures, except when those organizational structures are guided by mutualism and cooperation of a larger magnitude. “Pecking order” strains against hierarchy because the flock’s well-being is paramount.

Being-before-a-window 🪟

“Being-before-a-window,” another unshakeable phrase, albeit in German-made-English translation, from Byung-Chul Han’s Hyperculture: Culture and Globalization, a 2005 book recirculated in English in 2022. Han discusses windowing as a semi-stable in-between, a kind of high perch that gives the exhilaration of looking upon so much all at once, while also being isolated and closed off. “Windowing is thus the hypertextual mode of experience” (44), he writes. In the multimonitorium, tabs abound.

We read the first three chapters of Hyperculture for last evening’s class session in ENGL6344: Rhetoric in Digital Environments, but we didn’t read through to this point in the book about how “windowing […] can produce monads with windows whose Being-in-the-world turns out to be a Being-before-a-window” (45).

This was on my mind and even on my tongue! late this morning after we stopped at Virginia Tech’s Parking Services building there along the midslope of Chicken Hill, immediately adjacent to those noticeably dilapidated and windowless “poultry research houses.” We agreed, how unusual is it that those stinky sheds linger right there at the edge of the football stadium parking lot. But then as we drove along Beamer Way, pedestrian after pedestrian was walking, along the sidewalk and sometimes without warning veering into the street (many obstackled was the driving course), but walking with a cell phone up, with a cell phone appearing to hold each walker’s weighted focus. Being-windowed, being-windowless, it’s a close close call, which is living better and which is living least.

As a driver of a car with a glass windshield, I, too, was a being-before-a-window, in a sense, but the device-held walkers were beings-before-a-window in an even more conspicuous way. How is this anything new? It’s not, not really. Han was onto this in 2005. Beings-before-a-window have proliferated cellular multiplicative ever since. What I noticed today was that, with the fresh, unquittable phrase, Being-before-a-window, I felt a certain some kind of way about our evidently become yet more glassboxed, homo fenestra ogling panes and light meanderingly if bumpily. That some kind of way is faintly longing but not quite sad, blue-hued, sort of wishing Being-in-the-world was still in the lead. I know better because I know the changeover and the fight, because I know too what it is to walk about as a being-before-a-window. Han draws a parallel between Leibniz’s (possibly soulless) monad and this being-before-a-window, though the shift is from one kind of closed-offness to a slightly different state of existence, the window open to the world, and the window sealing off from the world.

Are the Artificials Expressive? 🐂

Stepping into AI discussions since November 2022 has felt to me like stepping into a mixed gravity bounce house, enthusiasts bounding miles-high right next to cautionaries clinging clutch-knuckled to whatever handles avail themselves of the seeming-eternal humanistic basics.

Me, I’m just doing what I can to check the conversations, keep walk-jog sideline pace, or possibly bounce high enough for an occasional dunk-thought, sort of like those tenth grade lunch breaks when the gymnastics spring boards were theatrically repurposed so that everyone who wanted one could have an attempt at reaching the rim. Just a touch! I hope that’s not too much mixing, from bounce house to springboard-boosted basketball, considering I am over here trying to make a point about artificial intelligence, large language model “writing,” and the scoops of words masquerading as discourse from ChatGPT.

I was listening to a podcast—Ezra Klein, I think—while driving to Virginia from Michigan on August 2, and although the podcast wasn’t about AI, per se, the discussion of First Amendment law and free speech got me puzzling through a question about whether AI-generated prose is legally expressive. I am not the first; I am also not a lawyer. But. To illustrate, consider this: a local politician is running for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Not being much of a speech writer, they tap GPT4 on its non-shoulder, prompting it to return for them an applause raising statement about democratic values. The AI returns a lukewarm soup of a statement, and it just so happens to include in it a damaging and slanderous falsehood about another local official. Litigious gloves are off. Legal teams are enlisted. And the candidate mea culpas with the grandest of agentic shifts: “GPT4 made me say it!”

It reads to me as one of the most ground floor conditions, a lower order stases: Is AI expressive? Is ChatGPT responsible, legally or otherwise, for its so-called writing?

If no, then follows a corresponding set of questions about what writing qua “content generation” actually boils down to. Humans are, arguably and correspondingly, small(er) language models (SLMs). Certainly this doesn’t mean that an SLM can’t every so often augment their repertoire of inventional, compositional, and interpretive range with a sidekick LLM, a backdrop behemoth spitting possibly everything ever. But my hunch is that the SLM should be cautious about surrendering its language to this other phenomenon overmuch, or all-out ventriloquizing the LLM as though its expressions will be satisfactory, sufficient, or both, just because it is big.

Writing, as a verb, doesn’t shield itself especially well from contending, sometimes mismatched, activities. In fact, three decades of writing studies scholarly activity has worked mightily to expand writing, sparing writing its alphabetic-linear reduction, and pluralizing it loftily with overtures of multimodality. Much of this has been good and necessary and warranted, but there has been a trade-off. The trade-off is the you can fit a whole lot of yes-that-too under the baggiest of umbrellas, and then along came the LLMs. I wouldn’t argue that anyone should revert to exclusive or narrow-banded definitions of writing, tempting as it might be (e.g., only a pencil-holding activity, or a thing that happens when a human hand makes a keystroke). But I would say that the lines have blurred between “content generation” and “writing” in ways that are not always helpful for demarcating reasonably distinctive activities and in ways that risk promoting shortcut mindsets when writing is presumed to be ready-made, extractive, and infinitely/generically scoopable from an allegedly ever-improving LLM.

Collin recently referred me to Alan Jacobs’ recent entry, “on technologies and trust,” which aptly sketches the position that we wouldn’t ever think of enticing prospective students to cooking school only to tell them that everything they learn will be derived from HelloFresh boxes. A similar logic extends to graphic designers from templated fallbacks. While the masticated options might be appealing to the uninitiated, they are not quite the same as learning by practicing when that practice entails selection, decision, trial and error, and so on.

I am not convinced that LLMs are expressive, and I want to work on making evaluative sense of AI more forwardly in these terms.

A final illustration: In April an HVAC technician visited the house for routine maintenance on the heat pump leading into the air conditioning season. Before leaving, he started to tell me about how he used to manage a big game preserve in Tennessee, though it closed, and so he changed careers. He then went on to tell me about his daughter who was taking an interest in cattle AI because she had a friend who was working with ranchers in Texas; the friend was finding cattle AI quite lucrative, he explained.

It took me a while to figure out that large-scale livestock procreation, too, has an artificial alternative; that’s “cattle AI,” for us non-ranchers. I think about this often as a checkpoint in conversations about AI and content generation. Might be, cattle AI is for cows what ChatGPT is for writing–artificial, expedient, not to be mistaken for the other embodied, developmentally-dependent, organic-contextual (more than mechanistic) act.

Toward Fruitbody 🍄

It has been three weeks since we attended the mushroom propagation workshop hosted by Gnomestead Hollow Farm and Forage, a three hour event followed by Driftwood Catering’s wild mushroom fungi-to-table dinner, an all-in-all rhizomatic and friendly time, with attendees from neighboring counties and as far away as Tennessee and North Carolina. We stuffed four bags with blends of straw, millet, and sawdust, along with crumbled cultivars (busted up blocks) of a couple of different kinds of mushrooms. They sat in a cooler in the well house for the past three weeks; two of the bags are ready for slitting, but the other two didn’t turn out. One principally straw-based bag molded; another underfilled millet bag held too much moisture and, as such, appeared underdeveloped and questionable.

Figure 1. Two successful (so far) propagation attempts, Italian oyster mushrooms in a millet+straw substrate.

For the two good bags, the slits are set—two per bag, about 1.5 inches each, one set in the shape of an I and the other in the shape of a plus sign, because we’re learning. Each slit now gets a few mists of water 3-4 times per day, and this is supposed to prompt fruiting, what we hope will become yields of enough oyster mushrooms to enjoy for a meal or two. And all of this is precursor to a longer-projected attempt at more routinely propagating mushrooms so these home cultivated varieties can be a regular feature in evening meals.