A Guide to Buying Mushroom Logs

Buying mushroom logs is a very simple process made even simpler with a little forethought and planning. In the time I have been selling these logs I have met all forms of buyers from first-timers to experienced farmers. I’d like to provide some of that gained knowledge in helping you find and get logs that will give you the best chance of success. So before you begin your hunt, please give thoughtful consideration to the following points. Having this clear in your head before that first phone call or email will give you a leg up. Also note, these apply whether you are buying or harvesting your own logs except for the points regarding payment and delivery.

You want it WHEN?:
Seriously, give some thought to lead time. Every supplier has a different way of harvesting logs. They all take time. Logs are not kept on the shelf. If you want to inoculate your logs this weekend, you should have ordered them 3 weeks ago at least, or at least had an agreement with the seller by then. Mushroom logs are not a full time business for anyone, they are done as opportunity allows and trees are available. Find out how your supplier works and try to work within that framework to avoid issues. In my case, I store logs ‘on the stump’. That means they are stored as trees, left to grow. These trees are marked for removal for other reasons and when I get an order, I cut the trees needed for that order. What this translates to is working within my other workloads and especially the weather. Felling trees can be dangerous, and I work alone. I don’t cut during heavy rain, or wind, or snow storms. Deep snow presents a challenge getting the logs out of the woods. All these factors affect when you can get your order. Further, there are cutting seasons for Mushroom logs. Winter cut is very desirable and also the most work. Once the trees start leafing out in early spring (late March sometimes) all cutting stops until the trees are in full ‘leaf out’ and the sap run is stable. This is about the end of June or beginning of July. Cutting can then begin again, but the bark is much more delicate and handling is much slower to avoid damage. So, find your supplier or source early and have a plan. Ordering logs in December for delivery in late March is not a bad idea at all. Build a relationship with your supplier to understand how they work, and your work will get a lot easier.

Species of Logs:
This is critical. There are reference charts all over that will help you decide what species of tree will work with the species of Mushroom you intend to grow. Don’t just look for what’s ‘the best’, also look for what will work. Trees become available in a random fashion and being flexible to species will help you take advantage of that. Be careful with what you read on the internet. Some experts are ‘Self-proclaimed’ and really just telling what they know, which is not always backed by science and sometimes based on mistakes or poor practice. Log suppliers usually get logs by opportunity and take what can be used. It’s not Amazon, they don’t ‘stock logs’ and wait for buyers. Logs have a short shelf life (except winter cut). Cutting is ‘by order’ in almost all cases. In tough times, you can alter your plans and get a different species of mushrooms to grow which suits the logs you can get. So consider that option. Some species can be hard to find, such as White Oak. Sugar Maple is widely available to many, but I rarely get any myself.

Size matters:
Every supplier will have their own ‘standard size’ and you should know what that is. Some, like me, will offer to cut to sizes you request (to a point), but they need specifics. Cutting healthy green trees for logs means that everything possible should be used. Trees do not grow in 5″ diameter for their entire length. Some will be bigger and some will be smaller. You need to think about what you need ahead of time and that has to include a range of sizes. This is where I spend a lot of time talking with newer growers. Many folks want small logs for easy handling, but they forget that smaller logs have less mass and less of the sugars and nutrients that support the Mycelium growth/ Therefore smaller logs will not last as long or give as many flushes as a larger log. Some folks go the other way and buy larger logs, up to 12″ and plant them standing up after inoculation. They force flushes by watering the log in place. Perhaps this may work for you? For reference, I cut my ‘standard logs’ at 40″ long and 4-8″ diameter.

It’s a Heavy Subject:
Just about every single first time buyer who picks up logs from me neglects to consider the weight of these logs. Either just for handling purposes or the combined weight for transportation. If you buy just a few logs, it is of little consequence, but for quantities, you need to consider that load weight. Here are some numbers: a Red Oak Log, ^” diameter and 40″ long weighs 53 pounds. For a 20 log order that is over 1,000 pounds. (Yes, this is an average size and it may be lower weight given some smaller logs of course.) 60 logs is over 3,000 pounds. 100 logs is 5,300 pounds. An average pickup truck is rated 1/2 ton or 1,000 pounds. You can’t expect to pick up a 60 log order with a pickup truck in one trip. It’s not the bulk of the logs so much as it is the weight. Consider this carefully in your plan and be safe on the road. (A good seller should be able to give you a ball park weight for your order, this data is readily available in calculators for various wood species.)

Delivered or Pickup?
Some (many?) suppliers will offer delivery options. Be aware that this is, of course, an added optional cost. These days with fuel costs it can be considerable. There are two sides to this coin and you should consider them before you order. First if you want them delivered you need to find out up front what the cost is. When I started I quickly gave up on the flat fee delivery. Between my time, fuel, and mileage, it was a lesson learned the hard way. I charged $1.00/mile (each way) for as long as I could, but with skyrocketing fuel costs that keeps going up and sometimes changes weekly. I don’t like this anymore than my clients do, and frankly I really don’t want to deliver logs because I never make up the time lost. A quick local delivery still eats up a half day for me which I never make back. Including the hidden time, loading the trailer, strapping the load and hooking up is even more time lost. But I will continue to offer it. Please though, when you order from any seller, find out how they are bringing the logs, make sure you have room for that vehicle to safely and quickly unload it, and have help available to do that. Let me put that a different way: If you order logs from me and have them delivered, unloading is your responsibility. If they need to be carried some distance to the stacking point, have a plan for that. Most logs weigh between 25 and 50 pounds, totem logs can weigh in at 200 pounds. Think about that.
Picking up logs can provide and advantage to the buyer. First, you can leverage your resources to borrow a vehicle(s) at low cost, or rent something, or find out who your friends really are. A 60 log load may be too much for one pickup but can usually fit pretty well in just two. I routinely run 40 logs in my 1/2 ton pickup without a thought. Bigger loads get the trailer and maybe you have access to one also? Small utility trailers are generally rated around 3,500 pounds (less trailer weight, so 2,000 pounds). Picking up your logs gives you the advantage of seeing what else may be available from your supplier and perhaps provide an opportunity for some additional knowledge. I have had buyers come for logs only, but leave with large bags of hardwood chips for mushroom beds, or pieces of furniture I have made, or even one of the log inoculation benches I build. I also get a lot of questions about ideas growers are learning about or what others are doing, or more options. I often get folks who come to pick up paricular logs and wind up leaving with something completely different, such as much larger logs than they requested. I usually have a variety of sizes to pick through so there is some adjustment you can make as you load your logs. I can’t do that when I deliver an order. You get what you asked for (plus a few extras). This would be missed with a delivery. It’s something to consider at any rate.

What’s the deal?:
This is of course, a simple transaction, but it can save a lot of grief to be clear up front what the terms are. How much and what payment forms are due, as well as when they are due. Log prices will vary by seller and the price is usually the price. You will do yourself a favor to just get this clear up front. It’s just proper business. For instance, my terms (for now) are $5.00/log for standard logs and $10.00/log for totems, picked up, due at the time of pickup. Payment can be Venmo, cash or check. Delivery is extra and quoted at the time of order. The buyer is expected to load their own logs and is responsible for the load in their vehicle. I will help load as I can, but somebody needs to count them. It’s simple, just get it clear up front and avoid any issues.

Summing it up:
It’s a simple process, as I said up top. In fact you might wonder why I need to create this writing, but yet, I see folks making it hard on themselves or disappointed because some of these fundamental points were unknown. Just do your homework, explore your options, call around, and give yourself plenty of time. Know what you want, but keep your mind open to learning new things. Mushrooms are fascinating organisms and there is still much we don’t know about them. Try to understand what the supplier has to do to get logs to you and work within that. As was said above, nobody supply’s logs as a full time business. It is always a ‘fill-in’. For myself, I do it because it ‘crosses the seasons’ and provides an opportunity to get into the woods for good healthy work and sweat. I also like making folks smile when I provide something they need. This is certainly not a ‘money making venture’ coming in at just over breaking even on good days. But I enjoy it. It’s not ‘competitive’ for me either. You can buy my logs or not. I will even refer you to another supplier if they have what I don’t and I am happy to do it. Your growing experience should be the same, enjoy yourself and your labors. Best of luck!