Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back to School

I decided to take a course on mushroom identification offered by the University of Toronto school of Continuing Studies this fall. There are four in-class sessions and two field trips to a forest. Most of the time, when I want to learn about something, I go about it on my own. I suppose learning to play the squeezebox was an exception, in that I sought out a teacher to help me out.

There are other ways to learn about this. Toronto has a Mycological Society and members do forays out into the woods and then identify the various fungi they found. Perhaps next year I'll join. For this year, I think the course along with weekly trips to the woods will help me get a good grounding.

Mushroom hunting and fly fishing (another activity I've been involved with for many years) have something in common. Both involve learning about relationships in nature. In fly fishing, we observe what bugs the trout are eating and at what stage of their life-cycles. Sometimes, approaching a trout stream, the activity of birds like swallows point to what's going on in the water. Some fly fisherman are even adept at predicting insect emergences based on the plants they see leafing or blooming. Mushroom hunters learn about the relationships between particular trees and mushrooms, and some mushrooms, such as morels, appear seasonally for relatively short periods.

For me, learning about the natural world is really interesting, and there is so much more to learn. I can identify quite a number of trees, for instance, but show me a group of conifers and I'll have a hard time naming them all. The same thing goes for birds. I can identify quite a few common ones, but I've barely scratched the surface. So this year, I'm starting to learn about mushrooms. I've discovered that to do that, I need to be able to identify certain trees, so putting my mind to that too. I have a field guide to Ontario trees in the trunk along with my field guide to North American mushrooms.

Along the way, all this is giving me and my side-kick Memphis a good excuse to go for walks in the woods, and I'm enjoying the exercise as well.

5 comments:

Candy Minx said...

Hey that sounds like fun. Our friend Jill studied tree identification in a similar course a few years ago. You are an inspiration on learning...for me I am a terribly slow learner. Everything I try to study or learn it takes me two or three times longer than most people. I love how quickly you pick things up and how your learning style is so impressive. Of course there is no "correct" one way to learn but ever since I've known you I've been amazed at your way of learning. I even remember how much you were of aware of in art history through high school...well...my high school "education" was so liberal west coast. While you were learning massive amounts of history...I was reading "The Poseiden Adventure" and transcribing rock lyrics for English class ha ha.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your course.

My great-grandmother picked mushrooms and her parents picked mushrooms. It's quite a common past time and way to get food in European countries. My grandmother knew which mushrooms to get and she would take me on lady-like tours just at the edge of the forests. But where I really studied and got familiar with some mushrooms was up by ...oops I can't say in public ha ha! It's like a secret fishing spot ya know? But I got fluent if you will in Ontario...with Martina's mum and her.

Oh I would kill for some Chantereilles!!!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I would think that mushroom identification would be a really good thing to learn from an expert in the area. Rather than by trial and error, that is.

mister anchovy said...

There isn't much margin of error.

nursemyra said...

what a fun idea

tshsmom said...

I've always wanted to pick mushrooms but I'm too chicken.
I'm pretty good at tree identification and I'm really good at birds. Now I'd like to get more proficient at identifying wildflowers. Like you said...any excuse to walk in the woods. ;)