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The chanterelles were abundant today!

With the kids back in school, this week has been SO QUIET. Sometimes, it’s nice to hear myself think, but mostly, I miss them! It’s been a big transition between having all seven kids at home, down to two. Come Saturday morning, when we usually tidy up the house, I’d already done the bulk of the work on Friday so we could go have fun. And by fun, I mean drag everyone to the middle of a sweltering forest to look for wrinkly, orange mushrooms. It’s chanterelle season!

Chanterelles and false chanterelles are pretty darn close, but between their shape, gill structure, and slightly different color, they are distinguishable.

We’d gone on this particular trail in Brown County with family last year, so we knew there were chanterelles along the way. What we didn’t know was how abundant they’d be. Maybe it’s to make up for our lackluster morel season in spring where we found exactly one morel, and it wasn’t even in our usual spot–it was in the church parking lot, under a pine tree. 🤣

Coral mushrooms!
Fungi are superbly interesting. Fun fact–did you know fungi are more closely related to the animal kingdom than they are the plant kingdom? Weird, huh? They also come in so many varieties. While hunting for chanterelles, we came across lots of false ones, too. The kids quickly became versed in what makes them true chanterelles versus false ones, so we wouldn’t be eating something we shouldn’t. Namely their shape, the way their gills look underneath, their texture… just Google it if you’re really curious how to tell them apart.
Other than false chanterelles, we saw plenty of turkey tails, some oysters, wood ears, corals, and tiny puffballs that shoot spores into the air through a hole when they’re touched. Yes, there’s even interactive fungi! We also saw some that Jack said were “scarily close” to chanterelles, and could be mistaken for them by the untrained eye. If you’re gonna eat mushrooms, make really, really sure you’re eating what you think you’re eating. Nature is so incredible in how diverse it is. So. Many. Mushrooms!
Uhh…don’t eat those ones.
As fun as it is to take the kids on an Easter Egg (er, Mushroom?) hunt, and watch them rove the forest, confidently foraging for mushrooms, for me, I’m always on the lookout for critters we might find.
That chipmunk’s strategy was not to budge, no matter what, which is probably why our cats catch and eat so many. 😬
I didn’t see any salamanders or lizards or snakes this time, but we walked through plenty of spiderwebs, and slapped at a lot of mosquitos. Evelyn spotted a American Giant millipede on a tree, and while she didn’t care to hold it herself, it was passed around to her siblings until we were ready to move on. I also stopped and stared every time the state park trail ride passed to ogle the horses. Obviously.
We weren’t even halfway into the trail when we ran out of space in our mushroom bag because there were so many mushrooms. Seriously, we were dumping out Ziplock bags of snacks to make room for more.
Bet you didn’t know I’m married to Rambo.

Then, Evelyn stepped on a wasp, which indignantly stung her big toe (ouch!), several of the kids had to go to the bathroom RIGHT THEN, despite having gone an hour earlier, and probably realistically being dehydrated from all the sweating we’d done (ugh), and it started thundering and downpouring with a vengeance (awesome), so we took Mother Nature’s hint that it was time to go, and cut up a hill, back to the closest road, and regrouped at the van. I thought I would have had at least a square inch on my back that was dry from carrying Adam, but between me sweating, him sweating, and the deluge of rain, I was soaked. We were all soaked.

Kate and Henry love traipsing around in wet clothes. The rest of us…meh.
By the time we wandered into the nearby lodge to clean up and use the restroom (and pose with the giant, fake black bear), the rain had let up, and it was really steamy. Seriously, the cool rain had hit the pavement, and it was turning right back into steam. HOT.
What could have made everyone grumpy from being tired, stung, covered in spider webs and wearing wet clothes was quickly turned into a positive. How? Simple. Ice cream.
On our way to Brown County, we pass through a quaint artist’s colony that was established in the 1800’s in Nashville. Not the one in Tennessee, the one in Indiana. Never heard of it? We hadn’t either until we moved here. It’s lined with all sorts of unique shops, and one of which is a tasty, if overpriced, ice cream parlor. The flavors are different than anything we’ve found elsewhere, so a splurge once in a while is worth it.
The parlor was busy since everyone else was craving ice cream, although I’m guessing no one else had been dragged through the trenches, and had earned it as much as we had. Once we all had our cones, we wandered over to a quiet spot where we like to play on their somewhat treacherous wood stumps they’ve put up for kids to play on, and ate in the shade.
We did have one casualty when Zoey slipped off a stump, and banged herself up as she rolled to the woodchips below. Her wailing didn’t last too long as Jack kissed her boo boos, and she became more invested in her sister’s game of checkers. We don’t always have a lot of time to sit around, and not do something other than exist, eating delicious ice cream while the world passes by, but it was nice to have twenty minutes to do just that.
We headed back so we’d be able to make it home to make dinner before everyone’s stomachs imploded from hunger. All that walking and adventuring is hard work! I got started on providing the bulk of the food, while Jack focused on the delicacies, because that’s how we tend to cook. I will feed a football stadium full of people that will hit every necessary food group, so everyone is given proper nutrition, but Jack will make something so delicious and time-consuming, only a few special people will get to try it. See? Balance–the key to life and happy relationships.
Of course, the chanterelles were featured in our cuisine–Jack and Claire washed, chopped, fried, and purreed some into a delicious soup that went fantastically with the tray of chicken strips I heated up. 🤣 The rest of the mushrooms will find their way into soups, pizza, pasta sauce, will be shared with friends, and dried for food storage. Big score for us during our mushroom hunt, and so grateful for nature’s bounty in providing such an incredible chanterelle haul.

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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