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Views and opinions: Mushroom-hunting sounds spontaneous – but it’s not

There are many things I miss about living on a farm or simply just living in the country. Spring is an especially difficult time to be a town or city dweller.

I miss the sound of peeper frogs. My parents’ home has two small ponds, and in the spring the frogs are so loud you can hardly have a conversation outside. They are the sound from my childhood when the days were finally warm enough to open a window and let in some fresh air in the evening.

Every year I also dread the text I will get from my brother Andy showing me the mushrooms he has found. I miss mushroom hunting more than anything because it is closely bound to memories of my dad.

I could still go mushroom hunting. I only live 2.5 hours away from the land I own with my brothers and on which I mushroom-hunted most of my life. But the problem is not knowing when exactly it will be mushroom-hunting season. For the best results, you need to live close enough that you can just go when the conditions are right.

By the time Andy tells me he is finding mushrooms, I’m usually booked out for weeks with dog-training clients or with my work here at MidCountry Media.

Some of you might call this morel-hunting or hunting for morel mushrooms, but we always just said mushroom-hunting. It is one of those things that seems to be somewhat regional in what people call it. Morels are common throughout much of Farm World’s readership area. They come out in the spring when the topsoil temperature reaches around 57 degrees.

I always go by when I start to see May apples; that is kind of my early-warning system that mushroom season is here or at least close. Because the season is so temperature-focused, it does mean I can’t just predict when the best time to go home will be.

So, I usually end up just keeping up with the season via the information Andy gives me (usually in the form of texted photos of what he is finding).

My first memories of mushroom-hunting are from when I was 5 years old. My mom had zero sense of direction and she took me mushroom-hunting because I had a great sense of direction and could find the way home. But mostly, my memories are of mushroom-hunting with Dad.

He would start by coming in with some mushrooms in a sack and he would say he “saw” them from the tractor while he was plowing. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized Dad was actually getting off the tractor, mushroom-hunting, and then coming home to say he found them while working.

Not only did we go mushroom-hunting multiple times each spring, Dad would also teach me the names of any of the plants he knew, as well as any animals we came across. I learned to spot trillium and jack-in-the-pulpits. I would watch for box turtles and keep a wary eye out for snakes.

For us, it was about more than mushroom-hunting; it was about checking on the pulse of the woods and seeing how things were going and what fascinating things we might find.

Dad would tell me stories about various places we passed as we hunted so I could keep alive the stories for future generations. I have failed miserably at this since I never get home to pass along the stories to my nieces and nephews (or now, my great-nieces and great-nephews).

After Dad died, mushroom-hunting was difficult as the activity was so tied to him. I would find the places we hunted and remember the stories, but after his death I never found mushrooms in nearly the quantity I did when he and I went together. My heart just wasn’t in it to the same extent.

From the photos Andy and several other friends have shared with me this spring, it appears mushroom season, at least in Indiana, was extremely good this year. As I say every spring, maybe next year will be the year I make it home for mushroom-hunting season.