"Fungi are the grand recyclers of the planet and the vanguard species in habitat restoration" Paul Stamets
Mushroom foraging is fun for young and old and therefore makes a great family activity!
Being outdoors together,enjoying nature, sharing a common experience and at the same time learning something new, really makes people connect and bond to one another and their natural environment... but offcourse it makes a nice and relaxing solo practice as well.
Mushrooms are very interesting organisms, in fact, they are only the fruits of much larger organisms living under the ground (fungi) and as with the fruits of plants their function is to spread their seeds; spores.
There are many different sorts of mushrooms, some of them look a lot like other mushrooms, a cap resting on a stem, and others look completely different, like for instance coral mushrooms or earthstars.
When you take a closer look at the mushrooms that looked so alike at first sight, you start to notice that there are many differences to identify them by.
There are a lot of different cap shapes, stem sizes and when you look under the cap (where you will find the spore bearing organs of this type of mushroom, the so called hymenophore) you will notice that some mushrooms have gills/lamella and others come with pores or teeth, and even these come in a lot of different varieties.
This pocket sized mushroom determination kit is a handy tool for identifying mushrooms.
The mushroom shaped spatula allows you to carefully(!) lift up the cap of the mushroom a little bit so you can take a peek, with the little mirror you can inspect the hymenophore even better and see how and if they are connected to the stem.
The magnifying glass makes it easier to inspect the structure markings on and/or structure of the fruitbody, in this kit I included a magnifying lens for a camera that I had lying around but have no use for.
In the notebook you can scribble down some important features of the mushroom you want to identify with the help of the pencil.
This set does not allow you to determine instantly which mushroom you are dealing with, but it can aid in charting the mushrooms characteristics, you will need a field guide or mushroom chart (there are charts online with basic mushroom descriptions that you can print out) or even a good app for your phone... (I'm reluctant about this last option because there is a chance that you will be preoccupied with your phone instead of focusing on your environment, which is also your subjects environment and therefore an important part of the determination process, but this is something that everyone has to decide for themselves).
When I go mushroom foraging I never pick any mushrooms, I like to let them be and try not to damage them, the only things that I take are pictures and notes ;) (or in rare cases a mushroom that had already been detached from the fungus).
The bag that I made to contain the tools can be folded and made smaller with the help of the buttons that are attached to the two lower corners of the bag, as you can see on the photo, this makes it easier for the kit to fit into any sort of pocket, also I attached a keychain so you can add the bag to your keyring or let them hang from the beltloops of your jeans.
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Step 1: What I Used
This mushroom determination kit is made with mostly scrap materials, you will probably not have the exact same stuff, it doesn't matter, just substitute it with anything useful that you have lying around.
-an old woolen baby vest
-a metal lemonade bottle
-a cardstock tea bag box
-a beer bottle cap
-a step up magnifying lens for a camera
-a little round mosaic mirror
-felt wool in a variety of colors
-sturdy textile like handmade paper
-a small metalfile
-small saw (for the pencil)
-a felting needle
-a felting sponge
-an embroidery needle
Step 2: Making the Spatula
*I advise wearing protective gear during the cutting and filing of the spatula; a dust mask, protective goggles and protective gloves.
The spatula was cut out of the thin sheet metal of a drink packaging.
First make a hole in the metal with the aid of a hammer and a screwdriver (drive the screwdriver into the metal by striking it with the hammer).
Then cut up the packaging with a goldsmiths scissors and tin snips to make it more workable, cut of the top and bottom and cut it open on the side.
Next draw a mushroom shaped figure on the metal with a marker (make sure it's shape will be suitable for it's purpose), cut this shape out with the goldsmiths scissors and file the edges so they won't be sharp anymore.
The finishing consists of clothing the spatula with wool fabric, this is not just for aesthetic purposes but also so the spatula won't damage the tissue of the mushroom.
Cut a rectangle out of the fabric you chose, lay it on the spatula and cut around it, or trace around the spatula with a pen before you cut the fabric if you like.
The fabric I used is a woolen fabric which got felted in the washing machine, so it won't fray.
Now glue the fabric to the spatula and your first tool is finished!
Step 3: Making the Mirror
Cut a circle out of the fabric which is a little bigger then your bottle cap, then cut it so that it fits exactly into the cap.
Cut out another circle inside this circle which is the same size as the round mosaic mirror, the circle is now donut shaped.
Glue the fabric donut and the mosaic mirror to the inside of the bottle cap.
Step 4: The Pencil
Put the pencil in a bankscrew and saw of a small part, sharpen it, you now have a small pencil ;)
Cut out a piece of fabric which will fit around the pencil, wrap the fabric around the pencil and close the seem by stitching it with embroidery thread, wrap the end of the thread around the pencil.
I consciously did not glue the fabric to the pencil so that I can push the cover further down when the pencil needs sharpening and when the pencil needs to be replaced I can easily put the cover around a new pencil.
Step 5: The Notebook
Take a piece of paper and fold it into four equal parts and then down the middle, cut the paper into four strips along the folds, don't cut the horizontal fold, instead stack the strips and fold them in the middle.
I used a sturdy textile like (handmade) paper, this paper will allow me to take notes and then erase them and use the paper again and again, when it does needs to be replaced in the end it will be no problem because the design of this notebook allows one to disassemble it easily, put new paper in and reassemble it.
Cut two pieces of cardstock, the size of the folded stack of paper, out of a box which used to hold teabags (or any other suitable box offcourse).
Then cut two pieces of fabric that are the same size as the pieces you just cut out of the teabag packaging, glue the textile to the cardstock pieces.
Put the pieces of clothed cardstock on either side of the stack of paper, like a sandwich.
Now take your embroidery needle and thread and push the needle through the entire stack, cut the thread and repeat this so that you have two pieces of thread going through the top of the stack with which you can bind the notebook, tie both threads and the notebook is finished.
Step 6: The Bag, Cutting and Felting
The bag is made out of a sleeve of an old wool baby vest.
Cut off the sleeve, get rid of the cuff.
Put the sleeve around a felting sponge, take your felting needle and start punching the wool into the fabric.
I chose the fly agaric because for most people the image of the fly agaric with it's characteristic red cap with white dots is what first springs to mind when they hear the word 'mushroom'...and who can blame them, it's a beautiful mushroom.
Needle felting is really easy, just punch in any design you wish, add a variety of color and it always comes out right, just keep your fingers away from the needle when you're punching.
Step 7: The Bag; Sewing
Start by closing the seem at the bottom by stitching it with embroidery thread, cut of the thread at the ends but leave some hanging on each side,you will need it later.
Now cut of a strip of the vest with a button on it with the same length as the top of the sleeve you're working with.
Make two cuts on the sides at the top of the sleeve, fold back a piece of fabric on the front where you did your needle felting and start sewing the strip of fabric with the button in the middle to the front of the sleeve (which I will from now on solely refer to as 'bag').
Cut of the edges on the top of the bag, the flap (the part you did not fold back), cut of another strip of fabric, now with a buttonhole in the middle and sew it to the flap, attach the edges to the front of the bag so it will fold over the button.
Step 8: Making the Bag Multifunctional.
It's time to finish the bag and increase it's multifunctionality.
Cut two buttons of the vest and attach them to the lower corners of the bag with the ends of the embroidery thread still attached to the bag.
Now you can fold the corners towards the buttonhole and put both the buttons through the hole, the bag will now be able to fit into small and/or narrow pockets more easily.
Attach the keychain to the bags upper corner simply by pushing it in between the stitches of the seam,this makes the bag even more versatile.
Put the tools you made in the bag.
Step 9: All Done!
Your mushroom determination kit is finished, you can now go foraging for mushrooms :)
I do not want to go into mushroom determination much further because the subject is to wide, I advise you to purchase a mushroom field guide and search for information online before you go foraging.
A tip that I can give you is to make a list of short questions regarding the conditions and the characteristics of the mushrooms that you can memorize or write down and take with you.
When you want to identify a mushroom ask yourself for instance:
- Where"? Where does this mushroom grow, does it grow on wood or soil, is the environment humid or dry, does it stand in direct sunlight or shadow? etc.
-When? What time of year is it, what month?
-Hymenophore? Does the mushroom have gills, pores or teeth and (how) are they attached to the stem?
-Shape? What is the shape of the mushroom, does it have a stem and cap or is it shaped differently?
-Cap? What is the shape of the cap, does it have markings?
-Stem? Is the stem long or short?
-Color, structure, smell? What about these?
I hope you will have fun foraging, learning about fungi can change the way you think of the world!