There was a time when I lived in a small apartment deep amongst the redwood trees in Northern California. Out the front door were the usual staples of apartment living: a patio, a few deck chairs and a small parking lot that led through the trees to the road into town.
But outside the back door lay an expansive primeval forest of gigantic trees, and below them lay a forest floor that was dark and cool, moist and quiet, with occasional dappled beams of sunlight penetrating from far above. In the morning, thick ocean fog blanketed the trees and made them impossibly invisible. In the evening the sun-filtered haze backlit a silent rain of needles that fell from above.
In a flash of inspiration, towards the end of the long rainy season, I decided to attempt a purely scientific experiment and see if I could successfully grow psychedelic mushrooms in my kitchen. My intentions were the most honorable: I wasn’t doing this for myself (or my buddies who were bugging me to try it) - I was doing this for science, for humankind, for the planet and for the Universe.
Nothing more, nothing less.
I went about gathering together all of the equipment that would be needed: a couple of two-gallon glass jars, special soil, inoculating equipment, Lysol, etc. I built an inoculating chamber out of plywood, plastic and rubber gloves, carefully sterilized all of the glassware, steamed the growth medium, sprayed everything with disinfectant and secured reliable spores from a local expert (the goofy guy who lived a couple doors down). In general, I tried to provide the cleanest and most forgiving environment possible.
After sterilizing everything again I carefully inoculated the growth medium using plastic gloves and then sealed the jar to keep out any uninvited biological invaders. I placed the jars in a cool, dark corner and waited impatiently for the spores to take hold and for nature to work its magic.
After a requisite amount of time, I peeked in on my experiment. Expecting a well-ordered diorama of tiny embryonic mushrooms on jet-black soil, I was instead greeted by a science experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong. My previously antiseptic conditions had turned to a riot of mold, mildew and rot of extraordinary proportions. Stringy, filamentaceous strands of fungi in purple, green, yellow and grey were stretched from one end of the jar to the next. The only things absent were mushrooms. Apparently, everything was growing on my growth medium except the mushrooms for which I had originally intended it.
I gave it another couple of days… maybe the mushrooms were late-bloomers in this particular community. But soon the acidic, ammonia-laden vapors emanating from the jars indicated that nothing but demon spawn was growing in my medium.
In defeat, I threw open the back door, ripped the tops off the jars and tossed their moldering, festering contents out onto the forest floor beneath the big trees. Was this being environmentally sound? Probably not. Was this being a good neighbor? Definitely not. But it did eliminate the immediate problem of disposal and removed the smell of death from my apartment.
A week later, I decided to return to the back yard and clean up my mess. No one had complained, no poodles had been poisoned, but I felt badly for the environment in general, and for the unsightly mess that I had created.
I grabbed a small trowel, some plastic gloves and a garbage bag. I opened the door and went outside. The moist blackish brown soil medium was still scattered out upon the bed of needles on the forest floor but the multi-colored strands of fungus were nowhere to be seen. In their place, scattered about like a large herd of dairy cows, was a battalion of psilocybin mushrooms – as fat and as healthy as you’d ever believe – hundreds of them!
In an instant the complexion of the following summer was changed forever.