A Fungi Foray

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about nature journalling of late.  Of course I’ve been aware of the concept for a good few years now (along with other approaches that regularly crop up in home ed circles, such as lapbooking and notebooking).  As I’ve written in previous posts, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I approach home ed with my children and how I’m feeling the gentle movement away from some of the things I’ve done in the past back to a more ‘free/autonomous’ approach and working more with what naturally happens around here.
One of the ‘natural’ things is that we like to go out for walks.  I’d like those walks to be every day, but realistically I do have to be careful (as I have a tendency to over-do it and having had a physio appointment recently and been referred for hydro-therapy, I was reminded again by the physio that I have to PACE myself).  
‘Afternoon walks’ is something I grew up with.  My father was a big fan of a Sunday afternoon stroll through the countryside (he also used to really enjoy canoeing and took my brother and I along with him a few times).  He tried to instill a love of walking in us, but I have to admit I was never a massive fan as a child (preferring a good book – I was never what could’ve been described as a ‘sporty’ child, more a bookish, geeky one!)  My mother likes plants, or rather she has an interest in wild plants (not to be confused with liking gardening, because I don’t think of her as a gardener!)  She is an aromatherapist and has an interest in herbalism and used to point out all sorts of plants when I was child – that, and my love of Cicely M Barkers “Flower Fairies” series (link to Amazon) – led to me liking plants too and in more recent years I’ve made more of an effort to acquaint myself with the names of the plants I see around me (although admittedly with an emphasis on what is safe to eat!)

My enjoyment of walking came later as an adult, and quite probably from a bullish decision that I was not going to let the pain that I am often in, beat me, although it took me a while to get to this point and I have a lot to thank John for, for his patient encouragement and willingness to walk with me, even if very slowly and only for a short time, on days when I’m struggling.
One thing that can be seen from some of my previous blog posts is that whilst out walking I like to take photos of flowers, I get rather excited and John has, with some amusement, had to help me up a few times when I’ve been on my knees trying to take a photo (one memorable time is one of the violets on the Solstice post where we went to Sprotbrough Flash – I was heavily pregnant and I just could not get up, at all *blush*)  I may not be a proficient photographer, but I enjoy it and that’s what matters.
I think such enthusiasm is catching, because Nin loves plants too and already, at 8 years old, is able to recognise all sorts of plants.  Ted, well Ted enjoys anything that means he can run and climb and jump and skip and, and, and…  So, nature journalling probably really makes sense and I don’t know why I didn’t introduce them to it before?
I will admit I have done quite a bit of mooning over various websites and supplies and ideas and a quick detour into reading about scrapbooking and smashbooking and – well, you get the picture, I can get a little, “Ooooooh, the shinies!”  However, deciding that there’s no time like the present, I grabbed a couple of empty A4 folders from the cupboard, figuring they’ll do for now, and to give the children a bit of a springboard, printed off a couple of Autumn spotter sheets from Nature Detectives as I thought they’d be useful to give the children some ideas.
My ‘plan’ had been that we would go out looking for different autumn leaves and various fruit/seeds/nuts – things that I’m already pretty good at identifying (well, the berries and nuts I am) as I figured it would be an idea to play to my strengths.
The children had other ideas…
Nin was super-enthusiastic, because when it comes to challenges (like spotting things) then Nin gets really excited (and sometimes rather competitive).  She was straight into it, but not necessarily how one might expect.
The first actual comparitive observation she made was clover (definitely not on the sheets).  Now, nothing particularly special in that, in that she recognises and can name ‘clover’ and has done for a while, BUT, this time she went further, she realised that, the clover plants that were growing side-by-side were, not only different colours (she’s also known that for a while) but were actually different kinds of clover – one have rounded, the other, more elongated leaves.  I still haven’t had a spare moment to properly identify the latter (because we got sidetracked when we got home) but as clover is pretty common and covering the playing fields here, we picked an example of each and brought it home to press and ID properly.
Nin also happily pointed out rosehip, brambles, hawthorn (erm, there is a pattern, they’re all edible, she is her mother’s daughter…)  Ted, who had ambled along, not particularly bothered (save for the few blackberries left on the bramble that he could reach that were pretty tasteless and quickly left) got rather excited.  He’d found toadstools (pictures 1 and 2) and they were different.  These I HAD to see, he insisted, so I came over, gave him the camera and he took photos.  As far as Ted was concerned it was all about the fungi and Nin was quick to catch on to this new interest.

We found them on trees.
All the way up trees.

Nin also insisted I take a photo of the lichen. She made a bark rubbing of this Silver Birch as well and picked a leaf up on the floor and popped it into her folder.

Meanwhile, Ted found the toadstool below in a little hollow and wanted a photo.  Both children then disappeared into the undergrowth where I, with Anna in a sling to my front, couldn’t follow.  Every so often there was an excited shout that they’d found moss, or a stone, or any number of other things (lets just say I had a lot of photos to go through on my camera!)



It was at this point that a couple out walking came along just as the children were bursting out of the bushes, camera and mossy stick (which is now on the seasonal table) held aloft.  They almost crashed into the couple, who found it rather amusing and agreed with them that it was all very exciting (whatever *it* was).  

They then commented to me that it was lovely to see children enjoying the woods and the lady asked if the schools were off today.  When I replied that they were home-educated, they asked a few of the usual questions (such as, “Oh, are you a teacher?”) and then asked the children if they often went out walking (and the children’s reply was an enthusiastic yes and to many places).  The couple then declared to the children that they thought they were, “So very lucky to be home-educated and not be stuck in a classroom all day.”  They said, “How much better it was to be outside learning in nature,” and the lady told us that from what we had told her, she would’ve loved to have been home-educated when she was a girl.  Then the man got down low, to Ted’s level and asked him if he liked insects and when Ted said that he did, the man told him how insects were his ‘most favourite’ animals and he always takes time to watch the very many insects in his garden and in particular the various spiders.  They then said they really had to be on their way, but again said to the children they were so lucky and how jealous they were and to enjoy our day.

It’s always lovely when people are positive about home ed with the children (rather than the more usual confusion and/or disapproval that we quite often come across).

We continued in our hunt.

Ted hunted high…
and low…
and then on another (further) path bordered by ferns, we entered the land of red:
There were (what we thought were) three different species of red fungi – and two were absolutely everywhere – tiny red spores popping out of the leaf litter.  We also saw three Fly Agarics amongst the ferns (that’s one toadstool I can recognise and name!)
We discovered that fungi can really differ in shape – the one above being ‘cup shaped’ and the one below ‘finger-shaped’ (*cough* – I’m rather glad I didn’t have my, sometimes, inappropriate teens with me…)
It was all too much excitement for one little girl, comfy in her sling.
And so it was time to make for home.
A few Autumn spotter sheets for leaves and fruit, seeds and nuts, had led to an adventure in fungi-spotting – something way out of my experience and knowledge (I don’t even have a book on fungi, aside from the few examples in foraging books like “Food For Free” (link to Amazon) – not really what we’re looking for above.)  I think it’s time I invest in one, does anyone have any suggestions?
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11 thoughts on “A Fungi Foray

    • Nikki Wall says:

      Thank you. I do see things that I do think might be edible, but I just wouldn’t take the risk. We went for a guided fungi walk on Sunday (by coincidence I found one locally) and it turns out that one of the species above is likely edible (as we found what we think is the same fungus whilst on the walk and apparently they are common and he thought we were probably right that we’d found the same sort). I still wouldn’t risk it though (without having an expert with me).

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  1. Caroline (Frogmum) says:

    That looks like GREAT fun ~ might just have to get out there one day very soon. There’s sure to be lots around near where we live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different kinds in one afternoon ~ maybe because I’ve never REALLY looked before. It’ll be interesting to see what the children find..!

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    • Nikki Wall says:

      It’s amazing what you can find once you start looking! We went on a guided fungi walk at Hatfield Moors Nature Reserve on Sunday (we took pictures between us but I haven’t got around to blogging about it yet) and there were so very many different species even in the space of a couple of hours! Unfortunately in the morning rush to get out of the door and to the walk for the start of it (because babies really don’t care about timescales) I forgot to bring a notepad *sigh*. I filed away as much as I could in my head (whilst keeping one eye on my enterprising 6 year old who was more interested in chasing grasshoppers, dragonflies and frogs and watching for adders).

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  2. Ariana Mullins says:

    Hi Nikki! I love that you take your kids out for walks like this– I think most children naturally really enjoy nature discoveries, but just aren’t given the chance to take a leisurely exploration like this. I was home-schooled until I was 13, and spent a ton of time outdoors, finding things to eat, sitting in trees, examining caterpillars, etc. A natural curiosity toward the world is one of the best things we can be taught, and it sounds like our moms are similar in that. I loved seeing what you saw on your walk!

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    • Nikki Wall says:

      Fostering a sense of natural curiosity is the key, I believe, to a life-long love of learning. I think as a home-educating parent it is important to have retained that desire to learn, or to re-discover it, something that can be a new lease of life for many a person who learns to love to explore and question through their experiences with home-educating their children.

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