Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mushrooms and Other Science Experiments

In Julia's science study this year, she's instructed to find mushrooms and examine their spores under the microscope. There's no shortage of mushrooms in our neighbor's yard! He's never home. I think he stays on his fishing boat about 11 1/2 months of the year. So ... we use his yard as our doggies' potty stop. That's a bit embarrassing, so I whispered it. The result is, a banner crop of mushrooms!!
I don't know whether that's true -- that doggie poop yields mushrooms. But it's a fine coincidence if not. Above you see the usual pink/red ones. And below an odd gray one that hugs the ground.

Above, a smooth yellow one, and below a strange brown one with kind of feathered edges.

These round brown ones are common, but below you see one that has a "skirt."

Above are some yellowish, leather-like mushrooms in clumps. And finally a fine beige one with rippled edges.
What about this strange thing?
Julia looked at them all and could find no spores. The mushrooms were mature and open, and had dropped all their spores, I guess. Finally she found a small, new mushroom, and it obliged.
She was also supposed to grow some mold on food, so we did as the textbook said and placed some homemade jam, an apple slice, and some bread on a plate. I supplied a store-bought bread and a homemade, hoping that the homemade, without preservatives, would provide her with some nice mold sooner.
We placed the plate outside with a gauze cover, but that didn't keep the yellow jackets from getting into the jam. She dampened the bread to keep it moist, and we brought the plate in from the rain. It even lived in the garage for a few days. At last I told her just to put the plate in the kitchen, covered with plastic.
But none of it ever grew any mold. Why? In desperation, since she really needed some moldy food, I decided the fastest course of action was simply to open the refrigerator and see what was growing in there. In spite of four -- yes, that's right, four! -- open containers of sour cream, none of them yielded any mold. At last I pulled out some old yogurt with a little flower of black mold in its lid. And then, the piece de resistance:  a jar of homemade ranch dressing that I'd used only the night before. I'd noticed that it was a bit scary. But I'm not much scared by such things. I told her to scrape some gummy brown scum from the inside of the lid and see what she found.

She informed me I should not eat any more of that dressing. It was "alive and wriggling," as Gollum would say.

I guess there's a limit to how much "live food" you should keep around the house, even if you are a green foodie type. But they sure are handy for science experiments!


  1. So strange the bread didn't grow any mold--is it possible it had too many preservatives? Not that preservatives have ever stopped my bread from turning green in the pantry, though it does take a few weeks.

    I love all the mushrooms. My son and I took a mushroom walk in the woods a couple of months ago, and I've been meaning to buy a guide ever since so we can identify the mushrooms in our pictures.


  2. Tell me you lift the poop? Round here that has got to be the single most irate topic of neighbourly issues!

  3. Frances, i was bewildered about the bread too -- and one piece was homemade, so had no preservatives! All I could think is that it became too dry. It needs to be moist, I think, to grow.

    Mags, well that's a good question. The general metropolis (haha!) of Oriental is rather a stickler about scooping poop. There are little boxes all over town full of green bags for picking it up, and signs to instruct doggie walkers to do so.

    However (shame-faced) I admit to not picking up the poop in this backyard next door. Nobody ever goes there -- EVER. A man comes once a month to mow the grass on a huge mower, and that's it. So I don't feel bad about it. And Beau's poop is tiny. I never see his piles later, when I go back. We do gets lots of rain here, and I guess it seeps into the ground. Hence, the mushrooms? We do try to take our doggies into fields and places where their poop won't be any bother to people, or else we pick it up in town.

  4. Tolkien quote? I used a Tolkien quote? And ... I used a Tolkien quote without knowing it? I must really have him thoroughly in the brain :)

  5. Oh all right then. Forgiven xx !

  6. Hello! Trying to appreciate the interest and beauty of the mycellenium (spelling?) study but inwardly screaming! Mushrooms are my arch-nemesis!
    The mould experiment is a good one. You should have wiped the piece of bread on the floor to pick up some germs, that grows really interesting mould! The reason I know this is our Year 6 children did this experiment recently, it was seriously minging- they wiped bread on the floor to compare with just left bread and there were all sorts of interesting mould. Oh and put a banana in a sealable sandwich bag, they produce pretty minging mould! Well done on what you did do, hard if you only have a little bit of time to do it!x

  7. Thanks, Kezzie! Excellent ideas, and we may well try them. I'm wondering: what does "minging" mean? Haven't heard that term. Are you in England? Australia? I love learning new stuff!

  8. Hi! I'm in England, to answer your question. And minging means seriously disgusting! It's a terrible slang word I picked up as a teenager!


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