Only You music from The Young Victoria by Sinead O’Connor

I dedicate this beautiful music to my husband who will be leaving me shortly for the other side.

Walk in beauty.

July 4, 2010. I kept vigil every hour on the hour and Will walked on between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.  I was so happy we were able to do it his way “at home” and that his last hours were peaceful. 

 A few hours before he literally passed away, I was out on the back property doing ceremony.  He walked towards me and kept walking to the west. He was happy, healthy and younger. He turned around and smiled at me as if to say “How well and happy I am.”  It really was confirming to me that he is happy now and there is nothing to fear about crossing over the rainbow road because it is so beautiful.
Thank you Hospice for being so extraordinary in your caring for my husband. It has been six months since February 3, 2010 when we learned it was terminal cancer. Hospice was part of Will’s life and leaving from start to finish on July 4. I am so grateful to them. 
Walk in beauty,
Butterfly woman

Kucinich on GMOs

On June 21, 2010, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced he would introduce three bills to comprehensively regulate all genetically engineered products, including a bill that would require all foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled.

Kucinich on GMOs: “Why do we continue to throw precaution to the wind?”

“Today the Supreme Court ruled that when it comes to genetically modified organisms, we as consumers have to wait until the damage is done and obvious before we can act to protect health and the environment, even if that damage could be irreversible.”

“Haven’t we learned from the catastrophe in the Gulf of the dangers of technological arrogance, of proceeding ahead with technologies without worrying about the consequences? Why do we continue to throw precaution to the wind?

“Tomorrow I will introduce three bills that will provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered (GE) plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms. To ensure we can maximize benefits and minimize hazards, Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all GE products. Structured as a common-sense precaution to ensure GE foods do no harm, these bills will ensure that consumers are protected, food safety measures are strengthened, farmers’ rights are better protected and biotech companies are responsible for their products.”

– Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a long-time advocate of family farmers and organic foods, on June 21, 2010, after the Supreme Court voted 7-1 to allow the experimental planting of genetically modified alfalfa seed before an environmental review is completed

Mom I’m Hungry

I have been watching a mother and father robin flying back and forth throughout the day when the babies were still in the nest.  They decided to build a nest on the second floor on one of the resident’s air conditioners.

Baby Robins 3 copyright Cindy Dyer
Baby Robins 3 copyright Cindy Dyer

For the last few days I watched the parents with their two speckled young ones out in the back yard. I can watch them from the window.

 Today took the cake.  Two young robins were crying to their mother, “Feed me, feed me.”  She really was trying to teach them to listen to the ground and to peck for worms.  I saw her weaken and place a delicacy in the youngster’s mouth.  How are these growing babies ever going to learn to stand on their own two feet?

It was a delightful experience in a day in the life.

I hear the robins saying goodnight now at 9:30 p.m.

The young robins are much older than these babies in this photo taken by Cindy Dyer, Dyer Design. 

Be happy Insectamonarch friends where ever you are.

Monitoring Native Plants and Insect Species in May 2010

May 2010

Monitoring Native Plant and Insect Species

Woodchip path through the forest
Woodchip path through the forest

I will post the Monitoring Native Plant and Insect Species by month.  Each day I do research, take photos and write.  It is a complex project to post daily so I will write in .docs and transfer to Blog on a regular basis.  As you will see, I need to go through these observations and add photos which is another project.  One step at a time. 

May 1 –There was a high wind.  I went for a walk in the woods even though I knew better than to go out by myself with a high wind blowing.  My heart was happy to be out there alone and listening to wind and bird song.  I walked the worn wood chip path and started to notice the minute world around me. 

First thing I saw were two spring azule (Celastrina argiolus) butterflies fluttering about. These butterflies are tiny and about 1 ½ – 1/3/4 inch. When landed, their underside wings are a camouflage grey with dots.  Resting the butterfly can look like a rock or twig. They are a beautiful delicate blue almost violet color when flying.

Spring azure butterfly camouflage to look like a rock
Spring azure butterfly camouflage to look like a rock
Balsam forest
Balsam forest

   Just past the Cedar grove to the left, on my way to the DNR and Happy Tonics Monarch Butterfly Habitat, and after the wild elderberry patch and the balsam fir grove, I looked to the right and saw some dead birch trees.

Young buckthorn replacing birch grove
Young buckthorn replacing birch grove

 There amidst the bramble of common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) shoots and trees, I noticed the invasive species was taking over the last remnants of a native birch tree forest.  It saddens the heart to see invasive species replacing native woodlands.

Birch polypore mushroom
Birch polypore mushroom

All of a sudden my eyes took in a large birch conk and many smaller ones. These are the Polypore mushrooms: The ancient ones.  The Polymore is shelf or hoof-shaped.  Looking underneath, I saw it had brown pores not gills.  This is a very tough mushroom and can survive overwintering in bitter cold winters.  The texture is wood like on the outside.  I picked a young one from the tree and took it home.  It has a soft felt like texture on the underside.  To honor the thrilling sight of the large shelved mushroom and for taking a smaller specimen, I put down tobacco in thanksgiving, an Ojibwe custom. 

The Ojibwe did not use mushrooms as wild edibles or medicine as far as I know.  Talented Ojibwe artists create art on polypore mushrooms.  In 2003, a young ethnobotany student at Lac Courte Orellies Ojibwe Community College gave me a beautiful etched art mushroom of ducks made from this species.

Prehistoric man teaches us that ancient shamans and people knew about mushrooms.  Otzi, the 5,300-year-old Ice Man, discovered in 1991 on the borders of Austria and Italy, had a conk-like mushroom on him.  The mushroom species was identified as Piptoporus betulinus or birch polypore. Otzi may have been carrying birch polypore as a preventive medicinal cure.  Perhaps the polypore was used to help retard or rid himself of metazoans and mycobacteria from his body. (Stamets, 2002).

According to Stamets, medicinal properties of birch polypore include that it stops bleeding, prevents bacterial infection, is an antimicrobial agent against intestinal parasites and has anti inflamatory effects. The fungus shows antiviral properties that may be of help in times of HIV outbreaks and other biodefense threats. Betulinic acid of this fungus may act on malignant melanoma and other tumor development (Stamets, 2005).  Preparation: Cook by boiling when young.  Thinly slice the polypore, boil and add to soups.  The mushroom only has a shelf life of 2 to 4 days before souring when stored at room temperature and should be used right away.

milkweed in snow in April
milkweed in snow in April

  May 7 –

The weather is turning colder.  I covered as many plants at Lakeland Manor as I could with seed blackest and sheets.  It snowed and lightly hailed throughout the day and the snow continued overnight.  At the habitat I saw a group of milkweed growing together and one solo plant.  I placed a bucket over the milkweed group in the hopes that at least out of ½ acre I could save at least one plant. 

May 8 – It continued to be windy and cold.  The beautiful Royalty crabapple tree in the yard was completely bent over with the weight of the snow.  The plants that are covered looked to be still alive.

May 9 – 5:30 a.m. I woke up to look out the living room window to see the bleeding heart plants completely bent over.  I hope they will spring back to life after the cold spell of 28 degrees Fahrenheit this morning.


Lyndy with Yellow River Nursery Milkweed
Lyndy with Yellow River Nursery Milkweed

  May 22

– Six volunteers transplanted 90 butterfly weed from Yellow River Nursery, Spooner, Wisconsin, USA, to the North Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA.  

May 25 – Heat records broke in many cities of Northwest Wisconsin.  Shell Lake was extremely hot and humid with temperature at 93 degrees according to my thermometer. Tabitha Brown, LCOOCC Environmental Education Intern, watered the milkweed that we transplated on Saturday. 

 May 26 – Wisconsin Public Radio reported that we are in the worse drought in 25 years. Inland lakes are disappearing.  In the 1930s the drought lasted up to six years.  Northwest Wisconsin is in its seventh year.  According to the report droughts cycle every 3-4 years.  Water levels have dropped from 4 – 18”.

My interest in going out to the Happy Tonics and the DNR Wild Monarch Butterfly Habitat was to pick fiddlehead ferns.  Last fall the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation personnel cut down forbs including bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) that were beginning to take over the site.    Fronds can be eaten when young and still tight.

Fiddlehead fern
Fiddlehead fern

  The bracken is easy to identify when fronds start to unfurl because they resemble eagle claws.  An Ojibwe botanist told me that it is safe to eat them as long as large quantities are not consumed because of carcinogenic properties.  The Ojibwe people have gathered fiddlehead ferns throughout history. The fiddleheads were ready to pick all along the trail and in nearby woods.  Again I put down tobacco.  The spirits of the fiddlehead will bless the act of taking them and more fiddleheads will be born again next year if I honored the gift I was being given.  The act itself reminds me to honor all life.  Without nature we cannot live.     

 The ferns have a brownish fuzzy covering which is their winter blanket.  Preparation: Soak the ferns in cold water to remove the tiny ants that love them and the fuzz.  Boil the ferns for a few minutes to remove any debris.  The cooked ferns can be frozen.  I enjoy sautéed fiddleheads with a little butter and garlic.  Add parboiled ferns to fresh salads.  Try making a creamy asparagus tasting soup as a tonic in the first few weeks of May when the fiddleheads first emerge.  

Popple (Quaking aspen) starting to take over habitat
Popple (Quaking aspen) starting to take over habitat

 When approaching the butterfly habitat, I noticed that the DNR workers also cut back popple trees that were also starting to take over.  The species is the quaking aspen (Polulus tremuloides) that I love but too much of a good thing in field succession can take over native habitat.

 I did not hear any spring peepers while I was out at this habitat which is not that far from the lake. There is an eagle’s nest in the distance to the left down the trail a bit.  I want to monitor activity here more often.


Chapter 1: 

Stamets, P. (2002). MycoMedicinals. Olympia, WA: MycoMedia Productions. (p. 11).      

Stamets, P. (2005) Mycelium Running. Berkley, CA: Ten Speed Press. (pp. 276-277).



Put down tobacco:  This is an Ojibwe cultural and spiritual practice of honoring life beings before you take their lives.  When I take something from nature or see something beautiful, I take out a pinch of tobacco from a small bag designed for this purpose and give thanks to the Creator.  It is good to remember all life forms be it bee, tree, mushroom or edible fern bless humans with food, shelter, medicine and comfort.  

This work is produced by Mary Ellen Ryall and protected by copyright. You can read  this project but do not have permission to publish without permission from copyright holder.  Thank you for your professional courtesy. This is a work in progress.

A SONG TO LIFT YOUR HEART – Dance with the fireflies

I just listened to a song by Owl City and the song is Fireflies and you can sing to the lyrics.  Its catchy and environmental so I thought I would share with you at]

If I could figure out how to load YouTube I would have done it but se la ve!

I Kissed a Monarch Butterfly Today

Monarch on valerian
Monarch on valerian


  I was in Minong, Wisconsin (a village of 561 souls) today when I saw a female monarch enjoy sipping nectar from a Valerian flower in my gardens.  Now valerian is a root medicine used as a sedative for sleeping.  I have often wondered if the butterfly was taking medicine when it took up nutrients from this plant.  The monarch was practically tame as it sipped, being sedated I suspected, and I just drew closer and closer until I kissed her wings.  Then she fluttered so fast I felt her wings against my cheek.  This didn’t scare her off either.  Back she came for more Valerian.  I had at least 5 minutes of solitude with this female butterfly as she flitted around me several times and then landed on the Valerian.  Valerian smells like old socks and yet it is beautiful and attractive to both human and butterfly. 

Earlier I was in the back acreage and saw a bluebird of happiness.  I was singing the One Song Project OmMa Ka Om and the little bird came closer and closer and flew into a tree nearby.  It was great fun spending a few minutes with winged friends in a day in the life. 

I believe that we can draw close to nature and sometimes natures draws close to us because she knows we love her and all things respond to love.  

Happy thoughts Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

World Prayer Wave for Gulf Oil Spill Each Day at 12 Noon

for the Gulf of Mexico
The Global Prayer Wave has been set up to help create a global presence and focus on the oil spill that is occurring in the Gulf Of Mexico.The Prayer Wave occurs daily at 12PM your local time and calls people to focus their love, intentions & prayers daily on creating sustainable solutions and healing for the Oil Spill that has & is occuring, for the Ocean, for Mother Earth and for all of life affected. The One Song Project is grateful to unite with The Global Prayer Wave for this years One Song!Join us and send your love and prayers to assist and heal our Living Planet!

Daily 12PM – Your local time – where ever you are!
Pray | Meditate | Intend

For more information about GPW:

Thank you for taking a moment to read this newsletter.
From all of us in the OSP Circle, we are deeply grateful for your
participation & Presence in this years One Song Project.
We look forward to Singing with you on June 19th, 20th & 21st.In Gratitude & One Song

The One Song Circle
 (Listen to chant here)


Giant Silkworm Moth (Cecropia) wows a photographer

Cecropia moth sleeping
Cecropia moth sleeping

Here we are again in the land of natural resources.  I walked outside to look at an herb garden I planted several years ago when a resident pointed out a sleeping moth nearby.  Wow, it was a giant silkworm moth.  The beautiful Cecropia moth. (Hyalophora cecropia) was sound asleep and didn’t even know I was there.

The colorful rusty legs, feathery antennae and patterned body with bull’s eye markings are enough to dazzle a viewer. This particular Cecropia is taking up residence in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.  I wish I knew more about this beautiful species. 

According to Wikipedia, differentiating between genders of this species is very easy. The most obvious difference is the plumrose antennae. Males possess a very bushy antenna while females will have  a moderately less bushy antenna. Females appear slightly larger in the abdomen due to the bulk of its many eggs. The abdomen of males appear more angular than that of the more rounded female abdomen.

Cecropia side view
Cecropia side view

Now the question is, is this moth male or female?  Look at this feathery antennae and yet the moth has a bulky abdomen.  I am guessing it is a female. 


Caterpillar photo from Wikipedia.

 Be happy Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Northwest Wisconsin Sustainable Living Fair

You are invited to attend a day long event at the Rusk County Fairgronds in Ladysmith, Wisconsin on July 10, 2010. Mary Ellen Ryall will speak at 10 a.m. on the Plight of the Monarch Butterfly.

Flight of the Monarch by Mary Bergin, Wisconsin Trails, March/April 2010

Wisconsin Trails, Madison, WI. Flight of the Monarch, pg. 28-29. March/April 2010.

Butterfly barameter reveals much about our planet’s health

Split-rail fencing, prairie grass, benches, footpaths: Most people see little else on a half-acre patch of city-owned land in downtown Shell Lake in Washburn County. Mary Ellen Ryall, a master gardener, notices much more. She sees the natural world at work to foster the health and bolster the population of one species: the Monarch butterfly. No other butterfly in the world travels farther for its annual migration, up to 3,000 miles, typically between Canada and Mexico.

The flight literally represents the journey of a lifetime. The winged beauties rarely live more than nine months, and environmental factors threaten that lifespan. “The population appears to be declining and habitat loss is suspected as having a role in the decline,” says Monarch Watch, a nonprofit network devoted to the pretty insect. Global warming also may be a factor.

Although not an endangered species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1983 classified the Monarch’s migration as “an endangered biological phenomenon.” Ann Swengel of Baraboo, a butterfly researcher and surveyor, is among those who have documented the Monarch’s habits and vulnerabilities.

Millions of these butterflies winter in Oyamel fir forests, west of Mexico City, but increased logging threatens their well-being. Fewer trees mean less protection from weather extremes. Throughout the migratory route, pesticides contaminate the butterfly’s water and food – especially milkweed, classified in some areas as a weed that can be eradicated. The milkweed is vital to the Monarch at all stages of its life: the females lay their eggs on the underside of milkwood leaves, the caterpillars eat the plant’s leaves and the adult butterfly feeds on milkweed nectar.

So Ryall and others in Happy Tonics, a conservation group, have put together an outdoor classroom – a Monarch-friendly habitat within a restored prairie in Shell Lake. After getting the city to lift its ban on milkweed, Happy Tonics began selling milkweed seeds so that people could grow their own Monarch habitats. The efforts of the group have earned praise from Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin. “Local people took what used to be an industrial, railroad area and beautified it,” notes Charley Weeth, CSW executive director. “It was little more than sand and weeds.”

“We have created an environment of sustainability,” Ryall says. Another Monarch habitat is in the works on state-owned property on the south side of Shell Lake. “We see the big picture and this butterfly is teaching us,” she explains. “A great majority of Monarchs are near agricultural areas – poison the land with pesticides, and you poison the Monarchs.” Too much fuss about one creature? Hardly, she says, because of the web of interdependence between species.

“Biodiversity attracts lots of species including deer, ducks and an occasional bear” to the habitat, Ryall explains. “Can you imagine? Right there next to Highway 63.”

Mary Bergin is a freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin