Mary Ellen Ryall, naturalist and environmental educator, has written two children’s books on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. An article, Bringing Butterflies Home, was published in the spring issue of Celebrate HOME Magazine.Come learn about the habitat, life cycle of the monarch and more at this Open the Public Free Event..
August 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm (Environment, Frogs, Dragonflies, Nature, Turtle, Ojibwa, Native plants)
Tags: Environment, Wisconsin, Native Plants, Dragonflies, dog, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, nature, Turtle, Tribal College Journal, Massachusetts, Frogs, Ojibwa, Vernal ponds, Box turtle, Tia, Dragonfly, Skimmers, Twelve-spotted skimmer, Yellow-legged meadwhawk, Wood frog, Cucumber plant, Running cedar, Lady slipper
Amelia, my niece was overhead saying to her brother and sister as they looked out the front door facing the expansive gardens and lawn, “It’s a dragonfly forest.” There were hundreds of dragonflies dive bombing mosquitoes and it did look like a dragonfly habitat. We often see them by the masses at sunset around the pool area when we have our dinner out at the picnic table. Honestly, there are no mosquitoes because of the dragonfly patrol. No need to spray here. I did get a photo of the red or rust yellow-legged meadowhawk (Sympetrum olcinum). We saw a twelve-spotted skimmer (Libfellua pulchella). The skimmer has a white abdomen and several spaces on the wings that are clear, with darker accented markings. It is rather large and noticeable.
Looking in a field guide for vernal ponds, I learned that the eastern box turtle is of special concern in Massachusetts. I feel fortunate to have a shell that my dog Tia and I discovered near the pond that was on the back side of our property in Lusby, MD. In December 2000, I carried the shell with me when I moved to Wisconsin. Once I was there, I learned that the turtle was a significant part of Ojibwa culture in the Great Lakes region. There is no such thing as coincidence, seeing as I had moved to Indian Country and would be studying with the Ojibwa at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC). I graduated from LCOOCC in 2003. You can read about my journey to the Midwest online at http://www.tribalcollegejournal.org/archives/8298
I was granted a Creative Writing Award from Tribal College Journal where the article was published along with other tribal college authors. I am thrilled that the prestigious Journal published the issue online for prosperity.
Continuing our woodland walk, Amelia and I saw many frogs. I saw a wood frog that wears a black mask across its eyes and has a yellow line that distinguishes this particular frog species. Frogs were not all we saw. There was cucumber root . My sister Ronnie told me what it was. Here is a photo of the plant. The upper set of leaves were growing through the beautiful ferns that exist within the woodlands.
The plant is unique because it as two separate sets of leave with berries within the top array of leaves that form a circle around the plant stalk. Ronnie also pointed out running cedar that grows near the far boundary of the property near the frog pond. . I have to jog my memory re: medicinal plants and look up both running cedar and princess pine. Something is nagging me about one of them being a medicinal plant.
On the walk down Ashby West Road yesterday, I came across lady slipper leaves visibly growing near one of my favorite grandfather boulders. I was really taken aback. There are at least eight sets of visible plants growing along the side of the road. I drove down the hill yesterday and Ronnie was able to be my eyes as we passed the large glacier boulder. Ronnie, being a plant expert herself, was able to spot the lady slippers. I love them because they are part of the orchid family and hardy enough to grow in our northern climate.
August 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm (Aldo Leopold, Environment, Meditation Walk, Plants, Sustainability, Trees)
Tags: Aldo Leopold, aldo leopold bench, Antidote to poison ivy Plant communication, Bugs, Companion trees, Environment, Fish, Fish joice, Fisherman, Fitchburg MA, Jew weed, Joe Pye weed, Maple trees, Meditation walk, Mike Carpenter, Monarch Butterfly Habitat, Native American, oak trees, Plant chemicals, Plant communication, Plant essential oils, Poison ivy, Shell Lake WI, Squash Baby pumpkins, Sustainability
Today I ventured a little farther down the road that goes by my sister’s old farmstead. It is a steep hill; each day I venture a little more down the road. This way I am able to test my breathing and build endurance in hill climbing to return home. The forest was loudly making her presence known today. Acorns were dropping on the forest floor. How mighty the old oak trees are with maple tree companions.
I am always amazed to observe plants along the way. There is lots of poison ivy growing in the ditch area and I saw darling jewel weed growing near the ivy. The sweet flower is the antidote to poison ivy. You rub it on infected areas and it clears up itchy skin patches. How do remedy plants know where to grow where poisonous plants exist? Do plants communicate? I believe they do. Plants release chemicals and essential oils. Trees are known to communicate when they are about to be attacked by predator bugs. They release chemicals that warn a companion tree colony that danger is headed their way. I suspect that all plant colonies have this chemical defense mechanism. How good of the jewel weed to come and grow near the poison ivy.
A few days ago I received a call from Mike Carpenter, caretaker, Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI. We had planted a three sisters garden at the habitat. It was growing profusely when I left WI on July 11. Well, it was growing so well that deer thought we had planted it just for them. Mike mentioned that the deer were coming in a night, making beds and sleeping at the habitat. They didn’t have to go far to forage. Deer have helped themselves to all the squash and baby pumpkins. Hungry critters have also eaten all the beans except a handful.
I think Mike made the gardens extra inviting by feeding the plants with fish juice all summer. He’s a fisherman and doesn’t throw anything out. I never saw our vegetable garden looking so good. Mike said he wants to put up a night hunter’s motion camera so we can see who lives in the habitat at night.
Yesterday afternoon I took the mail out to the Aldo Leopold bench which is under a maple tree and near a trail in the woods. This is my own secret garden now. I was content to sit there and read the mail.
Looking up I could see Joe Pye weed, one of my favorites. I love the story that goes something like this. Long ago a group of people who came over the big water from Europe became ill. A Native American came to their rescue and gave them a tea to drink. The pilgrims got better. One of the sick asked him, what is the name of that plant? The Native American said, “Joe Pye Weed.” You see that was his name. I can just imagine Joe Pye walking away after saying this.
August 12, 2012 at 10:03 am (Animal healing, Butterfly, Cats, Environment, Healing, Transformation)
Tags: Animal healing, Cat, Cats, Environment, Forest, Healing, Monarch caterpillar, nature, Plants, Pupa, Science, Tomato plants, Transformation
China, an 11 year old cat and I are healing together. She was injured on July 21. We think she was attacked by a feral cat. Her left shoulder was dislocated. For the past three weeks we have been recuperating together.Yesterday I felt like I was being called to come to the woods; I stated to walk out to the forest on a weathered trail. I didn’t walk very far before I heard a meow. I turned around and saw that China was following me. This is the first day that she has been outside and already she was going way beyond a safe zone. China is still limping and wouldn’t be able to fend off another predator in this condition. Naturally I turned around and we walked home together.
It is interesting that we have been recuperating together. China on three legs and I slowly building endurance after a medical crisis with respirator exasperation and other issues that caused a perfect storm. I have learned patience from China and I am still learning. Both of us need to pay attention and not go beyond our limits. She had no business being out in the woods. Perhaps I too am pushing it. My goal is to walk out to see the old Boy Scout camp. It is here where a wild butterfly habitat exists now. I want to see what shape it is in. In the meantime, there is a butterfly story that follows.
My brother-in-law Jack wanted to show me something in the garden. Growing among tomato plants there was a milkweed plant; a large monarch caterpillar was munching away on milkweed leaves several days ago. Yesterday Jack again wanted to show me something.
A monarch caterpillar was hanging upside down on a tomato stalk. The creature was in the classic J shape that indicates that it is going into the pupa stage. This is where it splits its skeletal skin for the last time and changes into the next stage of its life cycle. The day was cloudy and rainy. The caterpillar didn’t transform itself. When I was taking a photo I accidentally bumped into the plant and the caterpillar balled itself up in a protective mode. I questioned, does the caterpillar need sun to warm its body in order to allow the caterpillar to have the energy to change? Later in the day, the heavy rains came. I hope it didn’t get dislodged from its hiding place among the tomato plants. It does have some protection from surrounding tomato leaves. For now I will observe development. There is no such thing as coincidence. All thee of us are changing, China, the caterpillar and I. Each of us is coming into new life after being injured, ill or simply transforming.
Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.
This county story starts under a plant – Spooner Advocate: Arts & Crafts: spooner advocate, monarch, mary ellen ryall, shell lake, washburn county
For those looking for a Christmas gift inspired by a Washburn
County story, one idea is My Name is Butterfly, a book written by
Mary Ellen Rya…
February 10, 2012 at 9:46 pm (Butterflies, Insects, Photographers, Plants, Pollinators, Seeds)
Tags: Alexandria, Arizona, Butterflies, California, Cindy Dyer, Environment, Field Guide - Monarch Butterfly Habitat, Florida, Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio, garden photography tips, Green Spring Gardens, Happy Tonics, Horticulture Center, Large scale restoration project, milkweed seed, Minong Wisconsin, Monarch Butterfly Habitat, Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Monarch Joint Venture, Nevada, New Mexico, Pollinators, Shell Lake, Texas, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, Virginia., Wisconsin, Xerces Society
Published in Washburn County Register, February 8, 2012
News from Xerces Society, “In 2010, with support from the Monarch Joint Venture and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, Xerces Society initiated a multi-state project to increase the availability of milkweed seed for large-scale restoration efforts in California, Nevada, Arizona, New México, Texas and Florida. Xerces is working with native seed producers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Material Program to increase the production of local ecotype native milkweed seed.” The reason for the collaborative milkweed seed project is because pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, are besieged with a threatened migration phenomenon.
Prior to Xerces Society milkweed initiative, Happy Tonics has been selling common milkweed seed since 1999. Milkweed is the only host plant of the monarch butterfly. The seed is offered in the Visitors Center/Store in downtown Shell Lake. The store reopens on Memorial Day Weekend. Out of season, milkweed seed is sold online through eBay. Several seed buyers from around the country are now donors of Happy Tonics nonprofit public charity. Some buyers have gone on to build butterfly gardens at schools and monarch butterfly habitats on their own property. It is good to know that monarch butterfly conservation is an ongoing environmental education act that brings positive results to help the monarch butterfly.
Cindy Dyer, VP Marketing, Happy Tonics, will have a one woman art show at the Horticulture Center, Green Spring Gardens, in Alexandria, Virginia. The exhibit, “Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio,” will run February 28 – April 29, 2012. If you wish to take a sneak preview of Cindy’s extraordinary floral and insect photography visit http://www.gardenmuseshow.com Her garden photography was also honored by Nikon camera in 2011. Here is a link to their Web page featuring Cindy’s garden photography tips at http://www.nikonusa.com/Learn-And-Explore/Photography-Techniques/gr35ffdt/all/How-To-Grow-Your-Garden-Photography-Skills.html
In summer 2011, Cindy photographed butterflies and native plants while visiting the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. We are working on a Field Guide – Monarch Butterfly Habitat. The publication will highlight the symbiotic relationship between native plants and pollinators including the monarch butterfly, birds and small animals.
Scientific American: When it comes to fracking, “All these states are flying blind.” | Amy Mall’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC
When it comes to protecting the environment, first one must learn about clear and present dangers. The lastest threat is fracking. Start learning about the move to extract natural gas/oil from the land. Oil and gas companies are moving into Wisconsin to extract silica sand used in this operation. The people are being caught unaware of the risks of this procedure. I too am learning about it. Hopefully we can get ahead of the threat before it is too late.
September 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm (Monarch butterfly, Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Shell Lake, Wisconsin)
Tags: biodiversity, Eco adventure, Environment, Happy Tonics, Mary Ellen Ryall, Monarch butterfly, Monarch Butterfly Habitat, Native Bees, Shell Lake, Wisconsin
Want to read the news about the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI? This where it all began a few years ago which seems like long, long time ago to the volunteers who made it possible. Enjoy the read at
August 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm (Ambassador, Artesian well, Climate change, Common Milkweed, Environment, Grandmother Tonya Whitedeeer, Grandmother Tonya Whitedeer, Happy Tonics, Hospitality House, Mary Ellen Ryall, My Name is Butterfly, Native Habitat, Natural News, Nibi Wabo, Sisterhood of the Planetary Water Rites, Water Blessings, Water Ceremony, Water conservation, Water Meditation, Water Organization, Water Spirits)
Tags: Cape Town, Climate change, drought, Earth's Great Cleansing, Environment, Fear, Grandmother Tonya Whitedeer, Happy Tonics, Hospitality House, Medicine bag, Minong Wisconsin, Mother Earth, Nibi Wabo, Northwest Wisconsin, Pollinators, Rainbow, Roy Eckberg, Sandy Stein, Shelley Ruth Wyndham, Sisterhood of Planetary Water Rites, South Africa, Violent storms, Water Ceremony, Water sisters, Water teachers, Water Walkers, Weather, Wisconsin, Worth Cooley-Prost
Saturday, July 30- There were thunderstorms surrounding the valley in late afternoon. Water sisters arrived at the Hospitality House in Minong. We began by dressing up in skirts. Sandy Stein mentioned that when women wear a shawl and skirt it represents mountains and being close to Mother Earth. A skirt worn in ceremony is respectful and helps women remember that we are feminine energy and connected to Mother Earth. We put our sacred items together to carry them out to the sand dunes. I had on my glass water pendent that Worth Cooley-Prost had made for me. Sandy wore her medicine bag. It is good for women to have their very own medicine bag. We have several small beaded butterfly medicine bags made by an elder Marilyn Vig, Rice Lake, WI. I will exhibit and offer them for sale in September at our online store at http://stores.ebay.com/happytonics
While still at the house we witnessed a rainbow. This was a beautiful sign.
Then it started to lightly rain again as we walked to the sand dunes. Sandy Stein said, “Rain is good.” I responded, “After all we are praying for the water.” We felt blessed as we entered Sacred Space and the rain began to lighten up and then stop.
Sandy, Deborah and Godavari met the sweet fern for the first time that is now growing over the dune and into the site. I love this fern, years ago I put my intentions on the fern and wished that the fern would climb the dunes from the other side. Each of them smelled the plant and were joyous when they smelled the sweet fragrance having never smelled anything like it before. I reminded water sisters that we needed to be silent as we entered Sacred Space.
We put our individual sacred items on the blanket alter in the sand. Before we began the Nibi Wabo (Water Song) each of us added our pure water to the water bowl to marry the waters. We tried to smudge but couldn’t get a match to light the sacred sage; it was too damp. We each took a pinch of tobacco in our left hand. In turn each spoke their intentions of remembrance before beginning ceremony and added a pinch of tobacco to the basswood Two Headed Bear Dream Bowl handmade by Frank Galli. The bowl was made especially for Water Ceremony offerings. Then I gave a short talk on the observations of water to the sisters.
Message: Grandmother Tonya Whitedeer is one of the Ambassadors of the White Buffalo Family in Oregon. She is with them now and doing ceremony as we stand in circle. Worth Cooley-Prost is traveling from Arlington, VA to the Carolinas. Worth is standing with us in ceremony at the same hour where ever she is. I remembered Shelley Ruth Wyndham, Cape Town, South Africa, who asked that she be remembered each time we stand in Water Ceremony. She is with us in ceremony. Mother Earth is going through a Great Cleansing and weather is and will become more violent. We are to stand firmly grounded to the earth and hold any fear in our feet which is solidly planted in communication with Mother Earth. We are not to let fear rise up through our bodies. We are not to be afraid when great and turbulent changes occur around us. We are to know that Mother Earth is protecting us. We are the Water Walkers, water sisters and water teachers.As women we are called to protect water. We are not alone. We are here to grow in healing energy work as we band together all over the world. Each of us in our own environment is here to teach others not to be afraid and to help people cross over the rainbow road after a storm. We are here at this moment to personally adapt to Climate Change and its consequences. We need to learn what our agricultural plant growing zone is and may be in the predicted future. We need to plant appropriately while we look towards the future. Current plant zoning is changing. In Northwest Wisconsin instead of planting the same species of downed trees ( Birch, Red Pine and Jack Pine) of the last storm in Minong on July 1, we need to look at a zone or two further south and plant accordingly. We need to personally adapt and teach others to adapt. There is no sense in old programming of being alarmed when our immediate world is changing and negatively lamenting the changes. If we survive I believe this is sufficient enough to be grateful. The solution: Think positive because we are still here doing our work. Adapt! This is the message.
Then we sang to the four direction, using our birch bark clapping sticks. The clouds were getting black and thunder clouds came closer. After concluding the Water Song we ended ceremony sooner, packed up our ceremonial objects and headed back to the Hospitality House. Before we left the sand dunes, Sandy put down the sacred items she brought to the ceremony. These were a shell and rock. I left a tear drop shell in a special place also which was significant because we were blessed by rain during ceremony.
One of the observations I have noticed since I started working on water issues and Water Ceremony, with the Sisterhood of the Planetary Water Rites, is that I am forever thirsty. Northwest Wisconsin experienced a seven-year drought . I am conscious of having a dry mouth and wanting to drink water.
NOTE: Parts of this state’s North Woods and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan are the only areas in the continental USA experiencing “extreme” drought. It’s the region’s most severe drought since the 1930s and its longest dry period since the 1950s, says Roy Eckberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Green Bay, Wis. Learn more at http://www.usatoday.com/weather/drought/2010-06-24-drought_N.htm
I am grateful for all the rain in 2011 even though we have had to deal with strange, unpredictable and more frequent violent storms. Even the clouds have changed to forms I have never seen before. Now I keep a weather radio on.
I am secure in knowing that there is pure water at the artesian well in the woods where sweet water flows to the surface from deep within Mother Earth. What a happy woodlands it is that surrounds the artesian well. Even though the trip is long and I need to drive 60 miles round trip from Minong to Shell Lake and back, I am happiest when I am drinking this precious pure water.
After the Water Ceremony Godavari wrote, “Thanks so much, so very much, for having us at your place, especially right after the trauma of the storms, when it must have been hard for you to get ready. I like that it rained on our ceremony. In Siddha Yoga rain is auspicious (highly beneficial, a good omen) because it is a blessing upon the earth and its people. As you said, it is life itself. After our ceremony, I began drinking water with much gratitude, knowing we are blessed to have clean water on this part of the earth. And inside, I feel a purification beginning, which the water ceremony seemed to launch. Purifying me of anger and resentment, making space for greater love. So in a personal way too, I am grateful to you for leading us in honoring water, in honoring Mother Earth.
Note: Godavari means goddess of a holy river, and there is a River Godavari, as they call it there, near the Siddha Yoga ashram in India.
Worth Cooley-Prost says, “My part of Water Ceremony was brief and on the move, but held my Heart and I hope added something Good to the whole. My old (85 now!) friend Dot, who co-founded the Light Group in Kinston NC in the early 1970s, brought me a little container of water from there. (It used to be artesian well water, now it’s a mix of that and water from the Neuse River… anyway, Water from close-to-me Ancestors’ home since 1841 or so.) And our car smelled so wonderful with sage lit!
Mary Ellen Ryall is a Council Guide of the Sisterhood of the Planetary Water Rites and Executive Director of Happy Tonics, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental education organization and public charity. Ryall is the author of My Name is Butterfly published in 2011 by Salt of the Earth Press. The book will be available on Amazon shortly.
The fully illustrated children’s book gives testimony of why native plants are important for pollinators. The charming book teaches about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and its only host plant milkweed. Over the last eight years Ryall has planted milkweed at the sand dunes. Monarch butterflies flitted about the day of the Water Ceremony. This is another good sign that the monarch butterfly abounds in Minong in and near the sand dunes.
July 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm (Climate change, Happy Tonics, Minong WI, Northwest Wisconsin, Pollinators, USA, Washburn County, Wisconsin)
Tags: Butterflies, Butterflies of North America, Climate change, El nino, Environment, Happy Tonics, International Butterfly Count, La Nina, Mary Ellen Ryall, Nottingham England, Wisconsin
Today Happy Tonics is coordinating a National butterfly count on Facebook which has been upgraded to an International Butterfly Count. We have confirmed butterfly friends as far away as Nottingham, England. Butterfly enthusiasts in several states in North America are participating also.
I had planned to orchastrate the count from our two habitats in Shell Lake, Wisconsin (WI), USA. However a powerful tornado (documented in Solan Springs – 20 miles from Minong on Hwy. 53) literally came crashing through the village of Minong, WI on July 1. It took down all the old red pine and hardwood trees on the property. I am in the middle of a natural disaster on my 1/2 acre that once stood proud with aged trees of red pine and Chinese elms.
The good news is the butterflies were not harmed. They have been fluttering around the property for days now. Today I will honor the butterfly count from the property where I live. This is a healing therapy for me to think about what survives in Climate Change. I speak about violent storms because I believe they are a proven perdiction of scientists. One has to adapt. I feel as en envirmental educator I am walking the talk. I am drafting the start of this blog later and you will be able to read it as I process my own personal experience.
On July 2, one day after the storm I started looking on the milkweed to see if there was monarch life. Take a look at this! I felt so elated to know the the next generation of monarchs were alive and well and eating milkweed leaves. I should name this caterpillar “Survivor.” How did they withstand 90 mph winds? It boggles the mind.
For now, take the day off if you are celebrating America’s Independance Day. The butterfly count will confirm how pollinators do in severe weather conditions at least from this part of the country. I heard on the radio this morning that el nino or la nina seasons can bring severe weather also.
Mary Ellen Ryall reporting from Minong, WI, USA – National Butterfly Count.
Weather: 84.7 degrees F, winds 5.8 mph. Day is sunny and clear.
Be well insectamonarca friends where ever you are.