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Brian and I had been so excited about him finally having a day off from working on the farm. We had the whole day planned: we would wake up in the morning, just our little family, have a nice big breakfast of hot coffee, sausage, eggs, farm-fresh melon, and buttered toast. Then we would bundle up and head out into the woods to hunt some delicious mushrooms which we would then eat for lunch.
Well, none of that happened just like that.
We did wake up together. We did have a nice, though somewhat chaotic breakfast- despite my having to deal with a cranky toddler, an un-caffeinated husband, and a cold, outdoor kitchen meant for warmer weather. After breakfast, we drove a little ways down the road to a trail where a friend had told us we would find chanterelles.
Our journey into the woods started out fine. Athena seemed to enjoy the fresh air and Brian and I always love going for nature hikes. At first, we didn't see any mushrooms, though we were looking attentively.
I had been chanterelle-hunting only one other time with a friend who really knew what she was doing. Without her there, I was feeling as if perhaps I didn't have the skills it took to be a mushroom hunter.
And then I saw it. My first, very own, found-all-by-myself chanterelle. It was hiding amongst the twigs and pine needles.
My very own gold of the woods. It was very small, but it was mine.
I am sure anyone who has foraged before can relate to the joy I felt at that moment. It's a wonderful feeling that can't be compared.
After finding my tiny mushroom, we continued our hunt with some additional success on the mushroom end, but unbeknownst to us Athena had decided she was done for the day. She refused to walk on her own two feet at all and insisted on being carried. And by insist I mean if we tried to put her down she would bring her feet up to her head and hold them there (a pose I call the "clamshell"), rather then let her feet touch the ground which she found so offensive.
In addition, she enjoyed actually finding the mushrooms just as much as Brian or I, but the concept of having to put them in the basket... that was like highway robbery in her book.
She had also recently discovered slugs and thought every single little twig on the ground was one. And she seemed to believe these "slugs" wanted to eat her. Yes, our child who has spend half her life playing in dirt on a farm, is afraid of pine needles and twigs. Because she thinks they're slugs...
Our happy little family time quickly turned into a stressful, not-so-fun time of trying to minimize her crankiness, without completely loosing our cool.
So we decided to leave the woods. We hadn't harvested anywhere near an amount of mushrooms to make anything worthwhile for lunch. But, we realized that our plans needed to change. For her sake, and therefore for ours. Brian hiked her back to the car, and I carried our measly looking basket of mushrooms and tried to take a few deep breaths.
There will always be more mushrooms to hunt next year.
Looking for books on Mushroom Hunting?
These are two we use and love: All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms. Written by David Arora, this book is perfect for taking along with you on your forest hikes. It fits right into a large pocket or small bag and contains helpful and quick referencing information on lots of mushrooms. Mushrooms Demystified, also written by David Arora, is a much larger book that contains TONS of information. Too large to take with you on a hike, it is perfect for keeping at home and using as a reference guide.