2016 – The Very Busy Year

I’ve not updated in quite a while. Last year was quite busy. In fact I lost most of my woods time to the day job. I managed about 60 hours a week, possibly fifty – depending who you ask. I still managed to pick Juneberries, Elderflowers, Elderberries, Black Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Aronia Berries, and a few hundred pounds of Hen of the Woods (Maitake), and exactly two morels during a trip (no pun intended) to Starved Rock State Park Lodge.

I got to the woods as often as possible. besides the LaSalle County, Illinois trip we spent many weekends in the Cook County Forest Preserves on short hikes throughout the summers. We covered Chicken of the Woods on old friend’s stump that produces after each rain, oyster mushrooms until the first hard freeze and went down to Brown County and Bloomington, Indiana were our good friend Tom had just moved into his first house.

During that trip we harvested Honey Mushrooms some unidentified boletes, several maitake, a few oysters and as many geodes as I could carry. We also had the great experience building a 1,600 foot pen to house his herd of American Guinea hogs, later to be expanded into 3 runs into the ravine. We also had a great time at Tom’s first hosting of a community fire and dinner, and got caught up in the Brown County Hilly 100 bicycle race.

I’ll miss the “Simply Mushroom, Simply Music Festival” for the second year in a row, unfortunately the massive planning for the music and mushroom fest is too much at the time, but hopefully it’ll be back next year.

In the fall we hosted two forays for a botanical brewery that calls Chicago their home. Over two days, a week apart, in September and in the midst of a drought we brought over 20 people each Tuesday to the woods and taught them responsible foraging, mushroom identification and urban edible pant identification. Everyone managed full bags of fresh mushrooms, and many other left with flowers and greenery from our urban tour.I don’t have explicate permission to share the brewery’s name but if you find yourself on west Chicago Avenue, near a fantastic botanical brewery you should stop in. I recommend the Ginger beer, one of the most refreshing brews I’ve ever had.

We also hosted a smaller foray with Carnivore Oak Park. ten of us braved cooler, but wetter weather. Though was a strange fall we managed drought conditions and succeeded, after the first late rain we still managed to succeed.

The greatest woods to hunt the Hen of the Woods or Maitake, these are my favorite woods. I’ve been going there long before a passion for mushrooms developed. Even after the rain, they had never have produced at such low levels. During the drought the healthy Oak Trees with good root balls produced minimally, the dying or dead trees didn’t until the first insignificant rain.

One morning I had a friend pick me up at 5:30 am, we hit the woods before first light, it had rained mildly but it was in late October. Rosalyn picked me up, and just before first light my friend Jeremy met us. It was strange, barely light, I with with two chefs who didn’t know trees or woodways or have a flashligh we were stumbling and bumbling in the woods. It was lovely!

My big find was a case of Budweiser in cans, the cardboard rotted away. I lost faith at that point, even though they both found bags of mushrooms. I didn’t bother with the woods again, getting busy at work, hungry to get back out. The hairs on my neck occasionally standing straight after a rain. I knew I should.

I’m proud to say, this was the first time in many years that I’ve left more mushrooms in the woods than I could carry.

Pictures coming soon.





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