For the month of November, we focused on mushrooms and moss, both of which are plentiful right now with all of the rain that we have been getting.
One of the projects I decided that I’d like to try was making a spore print. This kind of freaked out Mr. Mo, who was sure that I would bring in a poisonous mushroom and kill us all or that I’d release some sort of mushroom plague on the house and mushrooms would start growing everywhere. Of course, I could not really reassure him, as I really don’t know much about mushrooms, so that didn’t help. At first he didn’t even know I was bringing all sorts of mushrooms into the house, but once he found out, I had to agree to contain my spore experiments to our garage. Therefore, I’d like to note that it is he who is to blame if Dora never becomes a famous scientist.
Firstly, I really have to recommend that one read up on making spore prints before trying it. I didn’t and first I tried pressing mushrooms in our nature journal with a dictionary on top. This resulted in ruining several pages of our nature journal. Then I decided to get hardcore and brought out the leaf press. I squashed those suckers good and a whole bunch of disgusting stuff oozed out the side of the press. Secunda was with me and brilliantly observed, “I don’t think that is supposed to happen.” I had to concur and must confess that those mushrooms are still sitting in our leaf press, as I am a bit afraid to find out what is in there.
Finally, I decided to look up some instructions, which I despise doing. It ends up that to make a mushroom spore print, you just set a “mature” mushroom on top of a piece of paper and let the mushroom do everything (some people suggest adding a drop of water to the mushroom once you’ve set it down). I can tell you, it is much less disgusting than trying to press mushrooms. The first interesting note that I learned about making spore prints is that it is best to try two prints for each mushroom, one on black paper and one on white paper (the prints on black paper looked better in real life, my camera really did not like taking photos of black paper). Also, do not move the mushroom for 12-24 hours and you should ideally cover each mushroom with a cup or something, so that the air currents don’t mess up your print. Finally, this technique does not work for all mushrooms, it all depends on how they “deploy” their spores.
The summary of our month is that Dora was not remotely interested in moss, but did enjoy helping me find mushrooms (for those who would like to know, there were no fairies in this tree stump, which really bummed me out, because it is a totally perfect fairy house). Also, we found some very funky black mushrooms that I thought were dog pooh at first. Their insides were white and kind of reminded me of jellyfish. Were Dora a bit older, I would have bothered to do more research and try to figure out what type of mushroom they were, but I was too busy trying to prevent Dora from pouring all her marbles onto the wood floor for the millionth time (even though every time she did this, she’d later accidentally step on one of the marbles and hurt herself – obviously she does not have the concept of cause and consequence down yet).
The two exciting notes about our nature study this month was that we saw a river otter, while looking for beavers (the otter swam way too fast for me to get a photo of it, so I am kindly including a photo of a duck that we saw instead). We also saw a coyote while walking in our homeschool co-op’s parking lot (please excuse the quality of this photo, it was taken with my phone, from a safe distance). Unlike all the coyotes that I ever saw when I was growing up in San Diego, this coyote was sleek, glossy, and down right cute. In fact, it looked so good, I would not be surprised if you told me that someone took it to the groomers that morning. Why the coyote was walking around the parking lot in the middle of the day, I have no idea, but it was fun to see and was not remotely hostile. What about you? Did you have an exciting nature encounters this month?
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