First impressions of Fitchburg

In coming full circle, I landed in Massachusetts, home of my sister and birthplace of my mother. I didn’t dream that life could change for me like a “New York Minute,” as Don Henley would say. I am back in the heart beat of a city. In relocating to Fitchburg, I can feel that the pulse is different. It is a multi-cultural city. There is a blend of social culture here that I find hopeful.

street art
street art

Youth took part in a art exhibit to beautify downtown. Instead of the blight of inner city manifestation, a mural art wall was put up and painted by youth, artists and others. What gives me hope is the fact that I perceive positive messages while I am engaged in looking at the small 12 inch by 12 inch drawings. I see multilingual messages. Some have hearts drawn, others have Asian messages, some are bi-lingual with words like love and peace.


Some squares have paintings of birds, trees and attest to the idea that nature is important. Each of the the display is unique. Take a look at the following article published by

PRIDE’S Building Blocks Community Project

As a city-wide public art & urban revitalization project, Building Blocks involves over 1000 artists, youth, and community members transforming a 160-foot long chain-link fence on Main Street into an innovative, dynamic, and collaborative community-building project. The large-scale project will consists of four major components including an educational temporary painted plywoodmosaic wall; a musical sculptural work activated by the wind; a scheduled series of performances, workshops, and other community events; and finally a permanent public art fence integrating a poetic range of materials and themes.

Building Blocks was conceived to inspire public participation in the arts, urban revitalization, and the beautification of downtown Fitchburg. It will highlight how collaborative public art can positively transform the lives of countless numbers of individuals.  Art has always had the ability to educate, entertain, comfort, challenge, and heal.  Building Blocks will become a catalyst for personal and communal pride, urban and economic renewal, and the creation of high quality artworks that will assist to create safe and meaningful urban spaces and environments for the betterment of the City of Fitchburg.

Building Blocks project goals include: 

  •  Cultivating strategic partnerships between civic, educational, cultural social and business leaders.
  • Developing collaborative urban design projects, exhibitions, public artworks, and special events.
  • Create opportunities for artists, youth, and community members by sharing their talents with a large public.
  • Promoting downtown Fitchburg through publicity, outreach, marketing, and fundraising initiatives.
  • Assisting the City to become a more unified through art, creativity, and community celebration.
  • Encouraging cultural diversity and awareness by incorporating the underlying themes of the appreciation of different cultures.
  • Highlighting the role of the arts in civic dialogue, economic development, and creative economy initiatives.

Click Here for more In-Process Pictures



Possible chicken mushroom remains
Possible chicken mushroom remains

Last week while walking down a country lane, I spotted an old white oak tree with a strange pattern. It appeared that mushrooms had been harvested from the tree. Later that day I contacted Martha’s Mushrooms (on Facebook) to see if either Tavis or she could identify the remains. I did not hear from them. I took a mushroom class with him in Cumberland, WI, two weeks before I moved to Fitchburg, MA. You’ve got it. I delayed the move by one week so I could take the mushroom class. Believe me, I have been trying to learn about mushrooms both culinary and medicinal for a few years now. I must admit that this was the best mushroom class I have taken thus far. Tavis teaches the importance of learning about the trees first that are host to mushrooms. I was going about it all wrong before. I was just looking at the ground or trees to see if I saw any mushrooms. No, this method is the best one. Learn to identify aged trees first.

In the meantime, I went on the Internet to learn more about the species (Laetiporus sulphures). Steve Brill, New York City, has an educational video on shelf polypore (Poly means more than one or many; pore means the species has pores instead of teeth or gills). As the decaying mushroom displays, it is a shelf mushroom and there were many. But was it a chicken mushroom also known as sulphur mushroom because of its bright orange color and yellow bottom? Only finding another mushroom cluster on a similar tree (white oak) could possible identify the mushroom.

Three days ago I went out to the forest on a trail that is a protected watershed area. It wasn’t long before I spotted something bright orange peeking out from the backside of a rotting limb. Could it be a chicken mushroom? Steve Brill jokes that it is called chicken because sometimes the mushroom will  hide and grow on the back side of a tree.  I went over to investigate. Looking up into the ancient tree that was already breaking down, I did see that is was a still living white oak tree. Drats! I didn’t bring a camera  this weekend. Thus no photos. Again I went online at to explore further the possibly that it was indeed a chicken mushroom. Mind you, there is no look-alike to this mushroom so it is considered to be one of six mushrooms that are safe to eat.

Still I had to test it for 24 hours with a spore test. It has a white spore. Regrettably, I didn’t have black paper. Half the mushroom was placed on white paper and other half on green paper. Poor choice, but at least it didn’t give a black or purple spore print. It is important to place a glass over the mushroom being tested. This  insures that the spores don’t go into the air but onto the paper.

Tavis suggested that all mushrooms be cooked. One should never eat raw mushrooms. They may contain chemicals that are harmful but when cooked, the process takes away any danger.

Yesterday I went back to the site and with a sharp knife cut away at the mushroom similar to what I saw with the already harvested mushroom. I came home and weighted 6 pounds of mushrooms, cleaned, cut and cooked them for at least 10 minutes.

Recipe: Saute mushrooms in olive oil with fresh chopped parsley, garlic and onion. Afterwards the mushrooms were cooled and packaged in snack sized zip lock bags. I will bring them home today and put in the freezer. Chicken mushroom is reported as having a chicken flavor and can be used instead of chicken. I did try two tablespoons which is suggested when testing a mushroom. If one were to be poisoned, one would realize it very soon if one has a stomach upset. It is advised by Tavis to always keep a raw sample of the mushroom just in case one does eat a poisonous mushroom. At least with poisoning, infectious disease control could verify the poisoning if one needed treatment.

I regret that I will need to wait till next week before I hope to return to Winter Hill Farm with the camera. I hope there is some evidence of the mushroom in a young stage to photograph. Chicken mushrooms are known to give several flushes over a few years. I will check on both trees this spring, summer and next fall. Till then, happy mushrooming.

Be well insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Looking for a home

705 B Street, Minong, WI 54859

Look no further. I found this home 12 years ago in Minong, WI. Minong (means it’s a good place in Ojibwe) is also called Pleasant Valley by locals. The house was built in 1956, when materials were real. The house is redwood. The garage is cedar. I absolutely loved it.  Home to prairie, red and white pine, aspen, maple and birch. Native trees, shrubs and vines grow here. Native wildflowers grow here too. Wildlife is everywhere. From the house I have seen fox, deer, bear, coyote and wolf stroll through the back yard and field next to house. The birds are too numerous to count. Folks here like to feed them too.

If you are looking for a great get away in retirement, this could be it. Check out the listing at

The bathroom has been remodeled to incorporate a handicap shower and gentle rain door, new hi rise toilet and sink. This room boasts a window that no one can see in. A warm color was chosen to accent the bathroom and hallway.

New bathroom
New bathroom

All the woodwork inside was done by Bob Kuehn. He is a master woodworker, artist, craftsman, and handy man. Rodney Wilcox, prepared the wood into board feet at his sawmill in Minong. It was a pleasure to work with both of them. One bedroom has been redone with all wood floors and walls. Minong experienced a blow down with winds over 100 mpg in 2011. The very trees that fell are now inside the house. I was in the house when the flash storm hit. I can tell you, this older home stood up well in the storm. I felt completely safe within.

Knotty pine bedroom with red pine walls and floor
Knotty pine bedroom with red pine walls and floor
Built in cabinets and new knotty pine accent wall and red pine plank floors.
Built in cabinets and new knotty pine accent wall and red pine plank floors.

Check out the porch on the front of the house. Someone could enjoy sitting on the front porch with its knotty pine ceiling. The view overlooks the whole south side to the hills in the distance that surround the valley.

The kitchen is a good size with lots of cabinets. Both the kitchen and pantry have new floors. The pantry is a bedroom if new owner chooses.

Bedroom used as pantry
Bedroom used as pantry
Kitchen with new floor
Kitchen with new floor
Front porch. Knotty pine ceiling. Ramp on one side and steps on the other.
Front porch. Knotty pine ceiling. Ramp on one side and steps on the other.

There are lots of gardens here with native shrubs, fruit trees and grape arbor.

Rest awhile in the wood gazebo, hand-built in 2012. I had planned to grow wild grapes up the sides.  There are vegetable gardens front and south side of house. Two outdoor water outlets on house. I used rain barrels to water the gardens.

Grape arbor gazebo
Grape arbor gazebo

The Minong Senior Center is next door. Tai chi class on Monday. Sheila is the cook and she is a great cook. No need to cook main meal if you don’t want to.

ATV and snowmobile trail within two blocks. Folks live casually out here. They love to garden, gather wild edibles and mushrooms, hunt and fish.  You can ride an ATV or snowmobile from house to trail. Minong Trails Club within a few blocks.

If you like dogs, you can let your dog off the leash 1/2 block from the house. This used to be the old industrial park nearby. It is pretty quiet there these days. There is a dirt road that your animal can go venturing on. No need to worry, there is a fence to keep your buddy close enough.

From the front of house you can see the predawn rise up over the hills.

Nowhere as beautiful in photo as in life
Nowhere as beautiful in photo as in life

Sunsets are too beautiful to describe in words. There is a magnificent rose light that touches the back yard trees and this unique light hits the pine trees across the street when the sun sets. It is absolutely the most radiant light I have ever seen. After it rains, often when the sun comes out there is a rainbow to the south-east of front of house. Who ever said there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow must have meant this home and property. It was my husband’s and my retirement home. I was left alone after my husband’s death in 2010. It really is time for me to move back to East Coast, closer to family and life long friends.

If you know of someone who is looking for that great escape, please tell them about this dreamscape. The house and 1/2 acre property deserves someone special. After all, she is filled with love and more.

New England Weather

ImageOctober morn, rain drops on window panes. Mist paints air.

Burnt orange and brown oak leaves cling to trees.

Green grass smothered in yellow and brown leaves.

It is a New England morning I wake up to.

Sister in rocking chair, in silent dining room, reading prayer book.

Coffee scents kitchen with toasty flavor.

Icebox hums to ticking of clock.

Fogged window panes tell me I’m here, at home, in New England where my ancestors once roamed.

I am the ancestors. They are part of my DNA. Through me they live. The joy I feel is their joy.

I remember.