Friday, April 28, 2017

A Mother-Kid Outing: The Fungus Among Us in Shelburne

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:49 AM

Dillon holding a mushroom - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Dillon holding a mushroom
I love mushrooms. Shitake, portabella, oyster or white button — you name it; I’ll stir-fry it, roast it, toast it and make the most of it when preparing meals for myself.

My children? Not so much, unless you count gathering the toadstools that pop up frequently in our yard. So when I heard about “Responsible Mushroom Foraging & Harvesting,” a free seminar hosted recently at Shelburne’s Pierson Library, I was hungry for more on the spores, envisioning a spring and summer full of 'shrooming around the Green Mountain State.

It took a bit of healthy bribery (Books!) to get Dillon, 10, and Harper, 8, to the library, but once we entered the back conference room, they seemed transfixed by the folding table display of what looked not like the soil-dusted stuff found wrapped in cellophane on the shelves of Hannaford, but gnarled knots of dense, Hobbit-esque growths.

“If you’re here with the intention to harvest mushrooms you can eat,” said presenter Elliott Cluba, a Vermont-based naturalist, herbalist and primitive skills educator, “this is not the class.”

Elliott Cluba - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Elliott Cluba

“We’re talking about medicinal mushrooms,” he continued before launching into a gentle lecture on how we would not, should not and really could not munch one of these medicinal mushrooms. “You’d have to hammer it or take an ax to it," he explained. "The cells are essentially the same as crustaceans. Imagine trying to eat a lobster shell.”

Slightly red with embarrassment at having arrived late to Cluba’s talk, I took notes on the role of chaga mushrooms in Chinese medicine dating back 5,000 years, and its habitat on silver birch trees and old New England fences. Dillon and Harper, meanwhile, passed around samples. “It takes 10 to 20 years to grow, and I want to make sure we don’t take another awesome living organism and wipe it off the planet,” said Cluba.

Still, the half-dozen of us in the audience were curious about the potential poison in these puppies, the “herniated mycelium that had pushed itself out of a tree.”

“When I started doing this in my early 20s — well, I’m happy to be alive, because I was pretty excited,” said Cluba. “Mushrooms! I’m going to eat them! I’m not scared! I know what I’m doing!’ And I didn’t know as well as I should have.”

Dillon and Harper were unfazed — or fazed? I couldn’t tell. Harper sat transfixed with his legs crossed, and Dillon looked earnestly through her owl-like glasses at Cluba.

“I’m glad there are a couple of kids here,” said Cluba with a nod toward my tots, "because kids can see things a lot clearer. It’s about taking a peek and seeing things.”

It was also about learning some nifty new info, such as how drying mushrooms in the sun increases their vitamin D content, and tips for storing the spores. “You never want to put mushrooms in a paper bag — ever,” said Cluba. “They don’t like having their moisture contained.”

Midway through an April staycation, the talk also reminded me of my growing relationship with my kids as we push ourselves into the natural world. “A parasitic mushroom is something that parasitizes something that’s living, and then grows off of its host,” said Cluba, “and a symbiotic mushroom is something that works with an organism and helps it to grow, helps it to be stronger."

Sarah Tuff Dunn writes a monthly blog post on an unusual excursion she's taken with her kids. Read her previous posts on a poetry workshop at the Fletcher Free Library and a visit to the Fleming Museum here and here.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April's Birthday Club Winners

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 9:46 AM

Congratulations to these April Birthday Club winners!

  • Bayley
Bayley lives in Winooski and turns 7 on April 14. She’s a happy-go-lucky girl with a big heart and a love for animals. She enjoys arts and crafts and ice skating.

Bayley wins entry for two to Petra Cliffs’ Friday Night Kids Club.

  • Naomi
Naomi lives in Moretown and turns 9 on April 3. She loves skiing, biking, climbing, swimming and playing sports with her friends. She has a contagious smile that matches her great sense of humor.

  • Corwyn
Corwyn lives in Burlington and turns 6 on April 9. His hobbies include skiing, mountain biking and playing games with friends, especially the board game King of Tokyo. He’s also a huge go-karts and
Star Wars fan.

  • Bryce
Bryce lives in Orwell and turns 4 on April 26. He’s a happy kid who enjoys riding his four wheeler and playing superhero games outside. He also loves his new baby sister, Kayleigh.
Naomi, Corwyn and Bryce each win a day pass to Petra Cliffs.

Join the Birthday Club! Submit your child's information online at

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Congrats to our April Coloring & Writing Contest Winners!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 12:37 PM


"Rainbow Space Duck" by Bronwyn Withers, age 5, South Burlington
  • "Rainbow Space Duck" by Bronwyn Withers, age 5, South Burlington

Nearly 150 creative coloring contest submissions covered our judging tables this month! Eleven-year-old Zoey Copp summed up the spring season with her bright yellow duck surrounded by a storm of rainbow drops. Madeleine Lantman, 5, dressed her waterfowl in a green top hat surrounded my multicolored grass. Lucia Hackerman gave her masterpiece an interactive twist, challenging our judges to find the four-leaf clovers hiding in her green mosaic. At right, find the three winners of annual memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.

"Squeaky Stripes" by Hallie Miller, age 7, Milton
  • "Squeaky Stripes" by Hallie Miller, age 7, Milton
"Lucky Ducky" by Iana Mecca, age 12, South Burlington
  • "Lucky Ducky" by Iana Mecca, age 12, South Burlington


Our two writing contest winners this month impressed us with their thoughtful and powerful entries about a  emale that inspired them, in honor of Women's History   Month in March. They each won $25 gift certificate to the Crow Bookshop in Burlington. Here are their submissions:

Zahrah Muhammad, age 9, Essex
Someone who inspires me is my older sister, Firdaus. She inspires me by being confident about herself. She does this by talking in a loud and clear voice. Another thing she does that inspires me is to persevere and never give up. For example, I take ice skating lessons and there’s on trick that I can’t complete. My sister knew that I was struggling so she helped me learn the trick. I  ppreciate her and I am pleased to call her my sister.

Sam Skolnik, age 9, Middlesex
Seven months ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the night so clearly, me and my sister out on the porch in the crisp, tranquil night air, the tears. The air, the earth and the trees felt so indifferent, blowing around in the late autumn silence. I was shocked. I had no idea, not even the slightest hint that my mom, a healthy, fit, productive woman somehow could even have a risk of getting such a horrible disease. I was still shocked, when months later she ecided to do chemo. And again I was shocked, when the beautiful hair began to ruthlessly but slowly fall off her head. But I was even more amazed at how she handled this horrible process of destroying the monster that was trying to eat her, take her. She stood strong and tall above that monster, beating it back but paying for every inch of it. She still isn’t done beating that horrible monster back, but she’s close. She didn’t flinch, or try to hide. No, not my mom. She took that monster and wrung its neck. She took it and tossed it right out the window, strong and hard. And that is the woman who inspired me, told me through her actions that even when things are hard, you keep fighting, don’t flinch away. Never back down. And I will take that and listen to it. Thank you, mom, for showing this to me.

Find the Kids VT Writing Contest on page 40 and the Coloring Contest on page 41 in our April issue! You have until April 15 to submit your entries.

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