Mushroom Spagyrics and Commercial Foraging with Michael Weese - Episode 10

Transcript: Intro: Welcome to Mushroom Revivals, Shroom to podcast. Want to learn about the magical world of mushrooms, herbs, medicine, cooking, Fungi, and more? Sit back, tune in, and shroom in, don't forget to follow my shroom revival on Instagram and head over to Alex: Welcome to another episode of the Mushroom Revival Podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to bridging the gap between the wonderful wacky world of fungi, and you, our dedicated beloved listeners. Mushroom Revival is a medicinal mushroom company, based in Western Massachusetts. And our mission is to give people more energy, a clearer mind, a better night's sleep, and a Bulletproof immune system, with medicinal mushrooms. We give back by planting a tree for every product that we sell. So, we revitalize health inside and out with medicinal mushrooms. So, check us out at www dot mushroom dash revival dot com. Check out our social media, sign up for our mailing list, and give us a follow. Don't hesitate to reach out to us, to give us some teacher content ideas or just to say hello. We are super friendly and love to hear from you. So today we have an exciting episode with our dear friend Michael Weese. Madz: Michael Weese is an entrepreneur and founder of Mushroom Life, is a self-taught mycologist and fungal enthusiast, in the mid-Atlantic. A mushroom spagyrics Alchemist, cordyceps geneticist, and commercial mushroom forager. His lifeÕs work involves being a teacher, a guide, a wild food purveyor, product developer, consultant, mushroom cultivator, photographer, permaculturist, ecologist, environmental steward, conservationist, and a friend to nearly all he meets. So, tell us, Michael, how did you get into the wonderful world of mushrooms? Michael: Oh man. Well, it's a long and convoluted story as many are, but I would say it started pretty early because I've always been fascinated with biology and chemistry and all things nature. I barely knew anything about them at all in the mid-90s, when I started growing them. And they showed me an amazing realm that was very vast and bottomless. So, anything thatÕs challenging and detailed, I really take a liking to and just dig into it. I ran into a lot of free time and in 2011 after a separation from my marriage and a couple of injuries climbing. I couldn't climb anymore. I wasn't doing as much massage therapy at the time, so I just dove into the woods, and within a few months, my phone was just completely full of thousands of pictures of these entities and the rest was history.Ê I knew it was my moral obligation to start studying them and I guess to show the other peopleÉshow the masses what all was out there. Just the beauty that was out there for conservation purposes at first, but then it just all unfurled as I went. Alex: That's awesome, and you work with Mushroom Medicine and particularly with spagyrics, so mushroom alchemy, and also with herbs as well. And we had Robert Rogers on our show talking about Mushroom Essences. This is a little bit different, so for most of our listeners who probably have never, ever heard of spagyrics before, can you explain what they are in layman's terms and educate our listeners on what spagyrics are? Michael: Yeah, So I can try. spagyrics is a name that's given to an alchemically prepared herbal extract. I guess it doesn't have to be herbal, it can be mycological or mineral or even metal. ÔSpaÕ means to tear apart and Agio means to collect. So, it's a conjunction of those two words coined by the Swiss scientist Paracelsus. With spagyrics, any item in nature is isolated and purified into one or more of its principles for its specific physical and or energetic attributes. The principles are the salt, the sulfur, and the mercury.Ê The salt is the pure mineral fraction, the sulfur being the oils and waxes, and non-polar fraction, and the mercury being the volatile essences or the alcohol of the associated kingdom. Madz: Yeah, itÕs very intricate. How did you get into spagyrics? Michael: Totally. I got my first chemistry set when I was seven years old. I've always been fascinated with that, transmutations and making potions and the sort. Chemists to me, seem like sorcerers back then, magic was really appealing. I was always curious about the occult and obscure things and uncommon knowledge, so I fit right in there. I would say as early, as 13 years old, I would take my bike and go to the library and just dig into all these witchcraft and black magic and alchemy and occult books and stuff like that.Ê I was really exposed to those concepts early and it really appealed to me for...the practical alchemy side, the external gold. I didn't really so much understand what was going on with the mystical or the internal gold yet, but that fell in line later. Alex: I can just picture eight-year-old you in the library of Alexandria and in Egypt, flipping through all these books. That's awesome. And, for people who don't know what salt is or sulfur, can you give us a basic run-through of how you would make a spagyrics? Michael: Yeah. First of all, the timing is always determined by the stars. When I say that, I mean, the days of the week have a corresponding planet that rules them, a corresponding star.Ê Not only that, but the hours of the day also have a corresponding planet. So if we're going to work with say Reishi, which is our mercury mushroom, because it has a lot of mercurial properties it's always done on the day of mercury, it's begun on the hour of mercury and it's finished on the hour of mercury, to keep it aligned astrologically. There are many ways to make spagyrics and not all of them focus on all three principles. Some want the oils and others want the risence. Some only want the essences, like you were talking about with Robert Rogers stuff. We use all three in ours, but we actually go a little bit further than that because if we use traditional plant alchemy to make all three of our principles, it would not have the immunomodulating beta-glucans in there. So, we also do the dual extract base and add the spagyrics to that. So, we have the best of both worlds. Madz: Is it imperative to use a soft Soxhlet extractor when you're making spagyrics? And why do you use them or why do you like them? Michael: The Soxhlet is not necessary at all. I feel like I use them because I like that it gives you a constant circulation of fresh solvent across the Mark. You want to try and get as close to a one to two or one to three ratios as possible. So, sometimes you're going to have to change out a Sox lid a couple of times to get that same ratio that you would on a pour-over method. However, you get a better saturation because the solvent that comes in contact with your mark is fresh and hungry every time.Ê it's completely renewed and cleaned of all of its solvent or all of its constituents that it's extracting. Alex: Yeah, and for any of our viewers who don't know what a Soxhlet extractor is, please Google it. Madz: It's beautiful. Alex: It's sexy. It's a sexy piece of glassware and I really want one. And we just went on a whole rabbit hole on cannabis extraction and there's just like so many different methods, so many ways that were blowing my mind which could be a whole other podcast or series. Michael: You could sit around for a few years just reading about texts and different machinery without even lifting a finger to do any of the operations. It's completely overwhelming. Alex: Right. And, I feel like alchemy is a whole other universe that is studied for lifetimes and lifetimes and you still wouldn't get even a grain of salt of understanding.Ê I see you sell them in your shop and you have days of the week on them. And your shop is mushroom life dot com and life is spelled L Y F E Michael: It's only L Y F E on Instagram. It's actually just a mushroom life dot com spell with an ``I''. Alex: There you go, making it easy. Are these days of the week... that you recommend the day that people take this spagyrics? Michael: So, not at all, but I'm glad you asked that because this is a really complex question. It's more symbology with alchemy. A lot of things are aligned with the seven classical planets. There's infinite symbology here. These classical planets were the non-fixed astronomical objects visible to the naked eye. So, they were the only things that we could see with our naked eye that moved around in the sky. We a lot of energies and concepts to those classical planets. So, itÕs kind of gives you like facets of meditation to contemplate as you ingest these things.Ê You can ingest them on the day corresponding to, or the hour of corresponding to, and there's even minutes corresponding to if you want to get into that. But for me, it's more contemplating that set of energies in my life and how those things relate to me, and those things relate to that instant. The symbols themselves came from Byzantine codices and they were supposed to represent the sun being male, the moon being female, and the five planets representing the five elements essentially. Alex: That's awesome. I highly recommend everyone go to mushroom life dot com and check out these spagyrics and way more than you have to offer on your website. And you have a coupon code revival, all lower case for 10% off. So, if you're listening to this and you are like, oh my God, I got to get spagyrics, go to his website, use the coupon code, and fill up your goodie bag Michael: Please check it out. Madz: I had the pleasure of trying a spagyrics that you gifted Alex, both Amanita and cordyceps. And they are... Michael: Awesome. What'd you say? Madz: Oh my gosh, I really felt the Amanita one Michael: Totally, the taste alone deepens your relationship with that ingredient. It's like...that facet alone in correlation with considering all of the other meditations with each one, it's a really multifaceted experience. Madz:Ê Yeah, I'm excited to consume more. So, for anyone who wants to know more about spagyrics, what resources do you recommend for them? Michael: Oh man. There's like infinite stuff you could read.Ê Things that come to my mind right off the top of my head would be alchemy lab dot com. The alchemy study forum on Facebook.Ê Robert Bartlett's book Real Alchemy, any of Dennis William Hauck videos and stuff on YouTube. And that's how, H A U C K. Google any of the alchemical terms and that will take you down a rabbit hole for each one of them. And I mean, anytime you hear another word on that description, write it down and then Google that and follow that rabbit hole down. And then on each one of these texts and definitions, any name or any book name that you hear, write that down and follow that down the rabbit hole. That's how I fall...that's how I further my knowledge in this, because nobody's really showing me which direction to go with it. I had just had to grab on any piece visible and follow it. Alex: Yeah. And it's so, limitless and is such an in-depth field which has been practiced for thousands of years and it has such a rich history and culture. And there's so much to learn about it and I'm just curious, with your experience with spagyrics, what do you think is the future of spagyrics? Michael: I think the future of spagyrics is probably a lot like the past. The advancements and realizations are being individuals hard at work under long hours, and then thought.Ê I think it's made up of a billion different paths and knowledge of a higher way of being and relating to each other and in turn ourselves. Madz: Beautiful. So, you have a commercial foraging business, and I was hoping you could talk a bit about what that means and what you guys do and you mostly forage for the mushrooms that you use in your spagyrics? Michael: Yes, we definitely forage for 99% of the stuff that we use in our spagyrics with cordyceps being the exception to that because there is really enough biomass out there for us to use wild. So, we get wild strains to the lab, develop amazing cultures for people like you guys to grow lab-grown cordyceps for us to use to extract. As far as all the other stuff we get up to though, it's kind of different every day. It just depends on where we wake up because we're always going to different spots and we've been living somewhere different every six months or so for the past couple of years. There are many factors involved with the logistics to consider. How long will the harvest take? How far away is the patch? What needs to be done once it's gathered to process it and store correctly. where do we have to go to deliver it? Is there a buyer for it all? If we pick all?Ê Because we don't want to waste it.Ê Am I picking it to store or am I picking it bulk in the day and deciding the course of it? Madz: It sounds like a fun time. Alex: So, do you GPS track all your mushroom spots, and do you go back to the same spots year after year? Michael: Yes, sometimes, but not all of them.Ê If it's a small patch or an item that I have to know exactly where it's at, then I'll definitely drop a pin and IÕll store that location. And as the locations build up to an alarming number of them, I'll actually write them down. So, they never get lost. But yeah, we go back to the same spots every year, but nature's not always doing the same thing on July 10th every year. So, timing is everything with it. Alex: Yeah. If you just want to send me those GPS coordinates, that'd be awesome. Michael: Oh yes, IÕll just take a picture of the entire list and send it right over. Alex: Yeah, Thanks. Michael: Maybe post it for everybody. Alex: Yeah, open-source. Watch the stampede from all of us. Madz: So, when you go out to forage, what kind of gear do you take with you? Are there any special tools or maybe you have a guide for trees to look for? Like what kind of tools do you use to hunt? Michael: So, the gear, it's changed a lot over the years as my concerns for the different fines have changed. I would say the most important thing is proper clothing. Lightweight, tough, quick-dry materials, waterproof boots and ankle support, a pair of fresh socks, because it always sucks to have soggy feet for more than an hour. A mosquito net with a mask and hood and stuff, because we spend a lot of time walking around and bogs and swamps, and they're just mosquitoes...bugs period just fighting to get in your eye. I'll always have a backpack with me and in that backpack, I always have fire, a knife, a water, or a water filter, a hand lens for examining fines, reagents for identification. In case anybody doesn't know about that, there's a couple of different simple chemicals that you can drop on the mushrooms to help you identify what they are. We carry both. We carry sets of three of those on the website. If you're interested.Ê Specimen tubes for taking things like cordyceps or a piece of tissue from an interesting vine. So, I can get it back home conserved. We'll keep little desk impedes in those small envelopes for writing details of fines on. A pen, fabric, shopping bags for when you have to be still, and a compartmentalized flat tackle box that I can keep in my backpack to keep all the fines separate and to keep the interesting stuff whole and undamaged when I get home. And I like to carry Tecnu with me because I tend to get poison Ivy almost every time I go outside and lots of snacks because I eat a lot. Madz: Wow. Michael: Camera, camp gear, and dehydrator, if I'm going to be gone for a week. Madz: Wow. You have really delved into every single consideration for foraging. I think you're...this is a foolproof sack of gears. Alex: It's like ghost Ghostbusters for mushrooms, so thatÕs awesome. Madz: Yeah, I'm impressed. Alex: So, do you have a favorite? I know this is probably an extremely hard question and maybe it's pretty easy. Do you have a favorite mushroom to forage? Michael: Hmm. I think it changes throughout the year. I love being in the middle of whatever season's going on, but cordyceps are super exciting to hunt for me. Alex: Hell yeah. I mean, it's just like alchemy. It's that undiscovered that rare knowledge or some things. Yeah. It makes it super unique and easy. Michael: Totally. I mean, mushroom hunting is like a treasure hunt and like finding something that obscure is like finding a rare artifact, so yeah. Alex: Indiana Jones style. Michael: Totally. Madz: Do you have any tips for people who are beginning to forage or haven't done it much and want to get better at it? Michael: There's probably a million things I could say to that, but above all else, I'd probably say sit back for a few years and just watch what's going on and learn before trying to jump in and make a living on nature. There's a lot of nuances that are invisible to the eyes and mind of a newcomer. And you won't see that stuff until you've really been watching a few years. Whether you do it for a living or not.Ê Don't do this for money because you'll be very let down. It's not a very glamorous way of life. You'll find yourself dirty a lot, wet a lot, covered in bug bites a lot, and coming out empty-handed a lot. So just love what you do.Ê If you love it, then get into it and do it harder than everybody else, no matter what, but don't do it for the money. Alex: That's great advice. Thank you for that. That was done. There's a lot of really cool, innovative technologies that are coming out. I think it's called iNaturalist, which is an app. It could be wrong, it could be called something else, but an app to help you identify mushrooms. There's also a mushroom company based in New Hampshire and the main guy was an engineer and he made this computer program where he can plug in all this algorithm to basically measure elevation, the type of trees, the slope, the weather, all these different data points. And basically, was like, I'm going to fly in black trumpets and plug it in and plug a hole radius and we'll get GPS points of what would be the best spots to maybe look for black trumpets. And he would find them every time. It seems like we're in an age of advancing traditional foraging. What do you think is the future of commercial mushroom foraging? Michael: Totally. And on one hand that is a very exciting advancement. On the other hand, it really resembles the jump from the hatladdle to the rifle.Ê it could lead to a huge snafu where there's a lot of people out there in the populated areas, just taking everything that's available. I also think that the more people that get into this and start making money on it and showing that they can make money on it, will cause the state and the feds to get more involved. And anytime they get heavily involved with something they're like regulating it and taxing it, and they don't even really fully understand how all this stuff works. It's going to take a lot of time to understand all the nuances and whatnot involved with this trade. And I really don't see like officials taking all of that time necessary to fully understand the things and setting the rules and taxations for it.Ê So, I don't know, I hope it goes really well. Those advancements help the people that are and I know that people are just more considerate as I get into it. Alex: Awesome. I hear a dog in the background, do you take your dog out foraging with you? Michael: Oh totally, yeah. Madz: She used to be...even just two years ago, she was a lot more spastic and would run off a lot more, but now she's chilling out, even when she sees a deer or another animal, we can verbally get her to stay near us when we're out picking. We don't have to stand on the lease the whole time. Madz: Does she help you forage at all or is it more of a distraction? Michael: She's not there yet. She is more of a distraction. Alex: No chuckle dog yet? Michael: I'm going hard. I'm normally in the woods at first light and I'm picking until last light. And it's normally when I'm by myself. If I'm going out for a half-day or, a six-hour trip or whatever, then Mandy and the dog can come, but she doesn't like to leave the dog at home and I don't like to slow down if there's a lot of stuff to do out there. It's a blend and balance of that. Madz: That sounds fair. What's the coolest mushroom or fungi that you've found so far? Michael: There have been so many thousands, but looking back on all of them, one of them stands out pretty heavily for me right away. And that was the Tullahoma parasite gum. That was a parasitic entyloma that is none stipitate and its conjugate and shelf-like with radially terminating gills, and I've found it on the hymenium of a smooth chanterelle.... cantitrilishes. Madz: Do you have a visual of this? Michael: I do have a visual of it. Yeah. I think it's on my Instagram. If it's not, I will put it on my Instagram, but if you look up and to entyloma parasitism on Google, it's my image that comes up because I'm the only one that's posted an observation with a picture that good. Madz: I think that's so interesting. Michael: Walt Sturgeon has used that picture before in some of his presentations for NAMA. Alex: I think I've seen the picture. And if you want to send us that we can put it in the show notes, so our viewers or listeners can view it. So, you've been talking about cordyceps, how it's really fun to go foraging for and you clone it in your lab. How did you get into cordyceps and specifically quite militarist? Michael: Well, I studied ecology and field biology in school, and I was obsessed with the most bizarre nature shows or lessons or phenomenon that I could find, really. I remember, I think it was Nat geoÉ. national geographic, or one of the nature channels doing a special on cordyceps when I was little. And I was just utterly captivated, glued to the television point-blank to hear any details I could about these magnificently odd parasites. The fascination for them always stuck and it didn't really get further fed because nobody really knew that much about them unless they were like going deep into the rainforest to seek them out. But two or three years into mushroom hunting, I would say it was 2013 I started finding wild specimens. That was right around the same year. I got all the parts to my flow hood and got it put together as well. So, cloning them the year after that was pretty much natural progression. Alex: Funny that you brought up the cordyceps video or episode onÉI think it's on national geographic or, or it's BBC that did a special on it. Or... planet earth. And I actually just showed one of our new employees that video about 30 minutes before this call and it.... if anyone has not seen that video, please go on YouTube type in Planet Earth BBC cordyceps. It will blow your mind, literally. Michael: I don't think that one was out when I was younger, but they did have some footage of someoneÕs on caterpillars and ants and stuff like that. Alex: Oh, more OG video. I saw this one. That's awesome. Michael: I mean, this was in the 80s probably.Ê Late 80s, early 90s. Alex: They were with it. They knew what was up. Madz: Good job 80s or the 90s. When you are getting new genetics for cordyceps, what genes are you looking for exactly? Michael: Well the ones that we can find are always a plus. Sometimes they don't like to reveal themselves at all. You have to crawl around on the swamp for days and not find anything. But when we do get stuff, if it prints for us and I go from the score, then I'm looking for fast growth, dense growth, and highly pigmented growth. If I'm looking at the traits on the wild specimens themselves, it's an odd or desirable trait, like multiple stromata or a new host or odd temperatures that I've found it in, or stuff like that. Anything with good bio efficiency, if it's got a bunch of stromata hanging off of it, then you know, it's going to be good at turning rice into weight. Madz: Yeah. That's good advice. So, you provided a lot of us cultivators with cordyzilla, which was a strain that rips and, oh my gosh, we probably inoculated 13,000 jars with cortisol, and that's not including the bins or the other random experiments. Alex: And double O 3 before that. So that was the original one before cordyzilla.Ê You've been an awesome supplier for the Western world for cordyceps genetics. Michael: Thanks, guys. Madz: cordyzilla is in our veins. So, I'm curious about cordyzillaÕs story. Where you found this mushroom and how you knew that it was going to be a star? Michael: So Cordyzilla was actually found by Mandy. She was much better on the eyes that day. She found the several specimens that I just walked right past, but I knew it was going to be special because it had more stroma coming off of it than any one specimen I'd ever found. It had 10 stroma heads on it. Anything that was like that prolific at making that much ascocarp weight was just really of interest to me. And it was found in Virginia, not too far outside of Culpepper. Madz: Thanks, Mandy. Alex: Nice, yeah. We have to go back. That sounds like a good place. And what are your thoughts on...especially doing this isolation work on the difference between multi-spores versus colony isolation as a form of inoculant? Michael: Yeah, so the multi-spores is always going to display a wider array of phenotypical and chemo typical forms. It's for selecting behavior traits that you want really. And the other way you can really hone in on exactly what it is you want or hone in on just more bio efficiency. Madz: So, when would you want to use a multi-spore? Michael: Like I said, I like to use the multi-spore when I want to give the cultivator a broader selection of characteristics and the fruit bodies that they're growing for future strain development. If I sold a multi-spore culture, I would tell them it was a multi-spout so that they could make that decision themselves because you don't really want to run a multi-spore out on bulk because it's going to do a bunch of different things. It's not going to; how should I say it? It's not going toÉ Alex: Be consistent. Michael: Yeah, behave consistently in one direction. The monoculture is meant for max performance in a desired direction. Alex: Yeah. And this is really important because cordyceps senses really quickly and they put her out. So, getting those different genetic varieties is really important for us growers of figuring out, selecting, the genetics that we really want. And you've been in the cordyceps industry...especially the cordyceps militaries industry for a while now and changing the game in the Western world in terms of supplying cultivators everywhere in the Western world with prime genetics. What do you think is the future of the cordyceps Militaries industry? Michael: Yeah. A Couple of things come to mind right away and the senescence being one of them.Ê Most strains can only tolerate anywhere from two to eight sectors before they lose their compatible mating type and they won't fruit anymore. Or if they do fruit, they only make sterile fruit bodies and you can't really get spores off of those to make new generations. So, I think genetic manipulation for many different purposes for physical traits, as far as colors and the weight and stuff like that first. But later on, for chemotypes, as people stop their obsession with just the Cordy seaplane alone, they're going to realize there are other dozens and dozens of beneficial compounds in this mushroom that they can be extracting. And all the chemotypes that arise from all those breeding is going to favor different profiles of these compounds in there. Which strain makes the most of this terpene or that enzyme complex. Designing tougher strains compatible with good fruiting at 80 or 90 degrees is another interest, because there's a lot of people in third world countries that don't have air conditioning. And even if they do, they can't really afford to run it all the time. So, finding the heat strains is definitely part of the future of it and biological engineering of tools useful in things like forest management for different insects, pests as well as agriculture and stuff like that. Madz: So impressive, yeah. I look forward to the development. Alex: And I wholeheartedly agree, with all points you just said. And we just did an interview with Ryan Paul Gates about genetics and you both are on the same level and are leading this industry in a very cool way because there are not many people working with fungal genetics. And again, we're talking about extraction methods in the cannabis industry. Genetics are huge and just looking at how they work with genetics and also some of the downfalls of sharing genetics and people patenting genetics and all these things. It's important for us to follow in their footsteps and do it in a good way. And also, with THC crates and it's like, well, it's not just cordyceps, there are tons of molecules in there. And of course, we're going to have a star child molecule or compound that people are going to follow and love, but it goes way fuller spectrum, which I really admire what you're doing with spagyrics. It's even more beyond the physical realm. You're getting into the spiritual, the whole celestial realms that most people are not there yet, but I think you're far beyond where most people are at. And that's really cool and thanks for the work that you're doing, it's awesome to have you on the show. Michael: Thanks kindly. Madz: So, you run Mushroom Life with Mandy, who is your life partner, and we wanted to know how it is working with each other in your business and how you complement each other? Michael: Yeah. So, it's unfolding very interestingly, you learn a lot about yourself through others, especially living and working with them. Mushroom Life was around for years before the partnership, but things looked very different without all the stuff that she brings to the table. We're capable of doing a lot more working together for sure. I'd say that I hold a lot of like the fire and motive for the business and she acts with like direction and organization. Alex: That's a really good balance. That's awesome and yeah, we have the's so sad, the final question and this is a question we ask all our...people that we have on the show. And this is also open for anyone listening to this podcast, please, we would love to hear your answer as well. So please shoot us an email or give us a call or shoot us a text or a message, with your response. So, the question is, if mushrooms could have the mic and could give a sentence or two to the whole human race, what would they say? Michael: Wow. well, it seems like we are handing them the mic lately with all of the attention we are giving them and the observation we are giving them. What they all seem to be teaching or saying is get over yourself and transmute. Unbiasedly make the base ingredients of life into your gold. Take the everyday ingredients and transmute that into the useful. Alex: Awesome, yeah. And everyone again, please check out Michael Weese online, all of his social media, his website, And if you're looking to buy anything from reagents that he was talking about for foraging any of the spagyrics, any of the cultures or anything else.Ê I know you have some herbs that you're selling on there as well. Use the coupon code revival, all lower case for 10% off, and follow Michael's work is he's doing awesome stuff. And as always subscribe to our channel, check us out at mushroom revival dot com and follow all of our social media shared around tell your friends. Share this podcast with your grandma and tell her about the wonderful wacky world of mushrooms and geek out with all your friends and spread the word, spread the spores. As always, we'd love your feedback, answer that last question. And if you have any more guests that you want us to bring on