One of my favorite activities in the fall is taking long walks through the woods. I love to hear the leaves crunching underfoot and see the brilliant-colored leaves as they turn from green to fiery autumn colors of orange, red and yellow.
In Northeast Ohio, we are blessed with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, many Metro Parks and the restored Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, where canal boats moved people and goods through the region almost 200 years ago. The canalway is one of only 37 designated National Heritage Areas in the country.
During your walk, you may notice some strange looking, umbrella-shaped plants growing out of the soil. While you may not even recognize them as true plants because they aren't green, mushrooms are fungi and get their color from the living and decaying plants around them on the moist forest floor.
There are about 3,000 species of mushrooms that grow in the United States and Canada.
The mushroom is made up of two main parts, but the umbrella-shaped fruiting body is what most people consider to be the mushroom. The other part, the mycelium, grows just under the soil. The fruiting body lives only a few days, but during that time, it produces the tiny spores from which new mushrooms grow.
The fungi vary in size and color and may be only one-quarter inch to 18 inches in diameter and grow up to 15 inches tall. They range in color from white to yellow oranges, reds and various shades of brown, blue, violet, green or black.
Not all mushrooms are safe to eat. If you aren't sure, it's best to stick to the store-bought kind. Mushrooms that are poisonous or have a bad taste are sometimes called toadstools.
These mushrooms won't give you a bellyache and are a neat craft to make when it is too wet to hike Towpath Trail.
I saw a photo of a similar project on the Web and wrote these directions. You will need help from an adult to cut a wooden dowel into small sections and to cut the plastic foam balls in half.
Supplies you will need:
• 13/4-inch wood dowel.
• 11/2-inch plastic foam balls.
• 7 mm wiggle eyes.
• Red and beige acrylic paint and brush.
• White Scribbles three-dimensional paint.
• Red beads.
• Black marking pen.
Cut your dowel into small sections, such as 11/2 to 2 inches for each mushroom.
Cut the balls in half with a serrated knife.
Paint the ball halves red and the wood pieces tan.
Set aside to dry.
Glue eyes and nose on the mushroom ''stem'' and draw a mouth with a black marker.
Glue the red mushroom ''cap'' onto the stem. Allow time to dry and dot the top of the cap with a white Scribbles.
Kathy Antoniotti writes a craft column for the Beacon Journal. If you have a craft idea or question, contact Kathy Antoniotti, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron OH 44309-0640; 330-996-3565; or firstname.lastname@example.org.