While reading a gardener’s book this morning, I came upon a line about Tom Volk. He is a biology professor at University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. I started to read his Blog which is a bit dated, but Volk has been ill. The information here will vastly increase my knowledge of mushrooms.

Here is the link at

You might enjoy learning about mushrooms directly from his URL.I’ll write an article later but for now wanted to share this nugget.


A walk within a forest

Sarah was a child of the woods. Recently, she hadn’t been feeling all that well. The need to go outside and communicate with nature was calling her. Poor Sarah, the tell tale signs of respiratory disease (COPD) were a real concern right now. Sarah’s mind did a memory walk, while venturing down the woodland path. Many years ago, her grandmother told her, “My own sister died of pneumonia when she was 18 years old.” She didn’t mention her sister’s name. Continuing the thought she said, “My sister had beautiful red hair.” Then, dusting her well worn hands against her apron; Sarah’s grandmother asked that they change the subject.

Sarah’s grandmother had reminded her to live in the present and be grateful for today. These thoughts followed Sarah as she ventured out to the habitat. The path was richly carpeted in pine needles, beech and oak leaves.

Once in awhile, Sarah came upon a surprise miniature colony of moss, looking like a tiny forest, interlaced with snow and a loose bed of leaves. Sarah learned intrinsically that leaves protect moss and snow keeps the colony alive with moisture. Sarah loved learning like this.

Our Lady of the Woods
Along the pathway was a small alter to Our Lady of the Woods. Mary, her sister recently told her that the statue was Slovak. A little further along, Sarah noted transplanted rhododendrons that her sister had set out at different points along the trail. After all, it was botanical woodlands.

Upon entering the habitat, Sarah was greeted by a small handmade paper sign that read, “Friends.” To Sarah, friends were birds and wild animals that lived there. Turning her gaze to a dead tree, she noticed the suet hanger, hung a few weeks ago, was empty. In another tree, a metal suet feeder was missing. Sometimes things disappear in the woods. Who carries them off she wondered?

Shrugging, she turned her mind to the millet hung in the trees. She observed that the seed heads are holding up well. What was that sweet sound? Chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Oh little birds are here. Delighted she watched where they landed as they inched towards her.

Sarah wanted to investigate the forsythia that Mary planted this past fall. Her sister had been transplanting bits of shrubbery to brighten the habitat with blossoms some day. Deer have been here, she noted; some tender shoots had been eaten. In that moment, Sarah’s heart was happy remembering Indigenous instructors who taught her so many beautiful things, which she now carried in her heart.

Sarah dumped the contents of compost in a pile, from a stainless steel bowl. Each time she went to the habitat, she tried to bring saved raw coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and vegetable waste. Sarah wanted to create some good compost to work with next spring.

turkey tail
turkey tail
Nearby, a colony of Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) was growing on an old dead tree limb. The tree had lost its life in a blow down years ago. Turkey tail’s medicinal properties have been researched by Paul Stamets, owner of Fungi Perfecta at
The mushroom is believed to have medicinal properties that could treat some forms of cancer. Sarah was interested in medicinal mushrooms for this reason. The National Institutes of Health tested Paul Stamet’s Host Defense Turkey Tail from Fungi Pefecta. Dr. Andrew Weil wrote a knowledgeable article at

After the thrill of seeing the mushroom in her habitat, Sarah spent a few more moments looking at hanging bells she had hung. She hoped the wind would make them jingle.

Before heading home to the farm, she took one last look at a miniature pumpkin decorating a tree stump. Who knows, perhaps habitat visitors enjoyed looking at the Christmas garlands instead of eating them.

Mary Ellen copyright Cindy Dyer
Mary Ellen copyright Cindy Dyer
Happy holidays Butterfly Woman friends where ever you are.

Happy Tonics, Inc. wishes Shell Lake a Happy Holiday in Christmas Lights

Diane Dryden, each Christmas season, takes it upon herself to help decorate the Municipal Park with Christmas Lights for Happy Tonics, Inc. The nonprofit environmental education organization has a Monarch Butterfly Habitat on city land near the lake. It is an entrance to the city, along side of Route 63., a few blocks from downtown.

ImageDiane was a herb seller this year in a Bethlehem scene.

ImageThe Christmas display of cactus waving is a tribute to the monarch butterflies that are now in Mexico. The sign is in Spanish,which reads: Feliz Navidad! The butterflies are now in Mexico.

ImageHappy Tonics officers and board members are grateful to Diane Dryden who has a way of making an event special. Thanks Diane.

Fitchburg’s Winter Farmers Market is a new spin for a Museum

Once a month, the Fitchburg Art Museum is a host site for the Fitchburg Farmers Market, which takes place every first Thursday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., January – June. Local growers and artisans, come to sell local grown or frozen grass fed beef, pork and poultry, eggs and handcrafted products. 

ImageIt was a joy to meet local farmers. I met Vee Lashua, owner of Brookside Family Farm, Westminister MA. Fresh farm eggs, winter crops such as Brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots and frozen grass feed beef and pork chops were purchased. When I returned home I cooked up the Brussels sprouts and devoured them in one sitting.

ImageSilver Oak Farm in Ashby is home to alpacas. Pam Welty, owner, sold me two pairs of Alpaca Survival Socks with a blend of spun alpaca wool. These will be Christmas presents.

ImageI bought hearty fresh baked bread by Hearth Fire Traveling Wood Fired Cuisine. Scott and Kerry Metcalf are the owners. I purchased a loaf of spiced apple cider and raisin bread. On Sunday after church, my sister made us a breakfast at Winter Hill Farm. We enjoyed the bread at that time. 

 Growing Places Garden Project was also there. I had an opportunity to speak with Anna Finstein, an AmeriCorps volunteer. I plan to collaborate with the project to educate children about growing food at school and in city backyard gardens. I will be representing Happy Tonics, headquartered in northwest WI. As a board member of the nonprofit environmental education organization, I look forward sharing garden information with gardeners in my new city.  As a published author, I write about pollinator corridors and monarch butterflies, I look forward to teaching children about monarch butterfly habitat and native plants that are necessary to the butterfly’s survival. It is thrilling to know that I can have my very own garden plot, in the park, in front of The Sundial, the building where I live, thanks to Growing Places Garden Project.

ImageTerry Impostato, owner of Semi Precious Gem Treasures, had an inviting display of fine art jewelry. I asked Terry to repair two necklaces that I had saved for years. One is a pearl necklace from Japan, probably from the 1940s; the other is a cinnabar necklace. She told me that cinnabar was a byproduct and at one time was a toxic waste product. Now it is beautiful carved beads that have separated from the string.

 According to  Cinnabar, also known as Chinese Lacquer, is a famous Chinese handicraft. Traditionally, cinnabar items were created by painting multiple layers of lacquer onto an item, letting the item dry between each coat, and then carving the resulting layers of lacquer into beautiful patterns. Cinnabar gets its name from the toxic red mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) that was once used to give the distinctive red color to the lacquer used in the process. Lynda Ireland, a friend, had given me the broken necklace years ago. It is only now that I am having the necklace repaired, at least 12 years later.

 In the future, I plan to interview other vendors in order for readers to learn about Fitchburg Art Museum and the wonderful programs that are happening there.

Till then, be happy butterfly friends wherever you are.

Night at a museum

Night at a museum

Central Massachusetts Convention  and Visitors Bureau photo Peter Timms

dsc_1102_0December 6, 2012 – The Annual Meeting at the Fitchburg Art Museum took place. It was a farewell event for Peter Timms, Director 1973 – 2012. A film Masterpiece in a Mill Town, directed by Emily Driscoll, Fitchburg native, featured the founding of the museum to present day. Timms had the vision to make the art collection grow from private art collections to museum holdings. The museum also displays visiting and loaned art. Timms was masterful at raising millions of dollars to bring the Fitchburg Art Museum up to its present life.

Peter Timms and Eleanor Norcross (1854 – 1923) had big dreams.Eleanor Norcross Eleanor had the vision of wanting citizens to experience art as she had witnessed in Paris in the 19th Century. She was an exceptional artist and an independent young woman, ahead of her time.

Peter Timms carried on the vision of wanting the museum to come alive through education. He learned of one school that experienced an average of 50 percent dropout in the mid grades. With fortitude, he carved the idea of teaching children through art at the museum. Students learned about Egyptian art. Through this medium they learned science, math, geography, and other important subjects that make young minds excel. Through educational programs, many once absentee students became engaged in learning at the museum. The school was the former home of Eleanor Norcross. It was heartbreak to Timms when the school closed.

To spur growth through education, the museum opens its door the first Thursday of each month. The museum invites citizens to come and enjoy the museum free of charge.

Need help to raise money for fire victims in Fitchburg, MA

Fire, 113 Mechanic Street, Fitchburg, MA. December 1, 2012

 Robert R. Parks, 24, a guitarist and graphic arts student who also works in sales and marketing and at Market Basket in Leominster on Saturdays

According to article in Sentinel & Enterprise, December 1, 2012. Displaced homeless tenants went to live with families. Red Cross gave food and clothing.

I spoke with Robert R. Parks, on December 3, 2012.  He lost his Mac Pro (used 2009 model) computer in fire. He’s a student at Mount Wachusetts Community College at

He is studying to be a Graphic Artist. Robert works for a Sales and Marketing Company and wants to learn how to market himself as a Graphic Artist. He also works one day a week at Market Basket in Leominster, to make ends meet.

Robert was the only person injured, burns on left arm, when he jumped from third floor apartment. His immediate need is to replace a used or restored Mac Pro. He needs a Mac Pro computer for his college work and career as a Graphic Artist.

He said that he is meeting with Insurance Company on Tuesday and will see if he can obtain other tenants address. There are two children in one family. Mr. Jose and Tali Nareo have two children:  Michael Nareo 5 and Matthew Nareo 9. Both will need Christmas presents. Children’s clothes may make a good donation also. Hopefully, I will have this information (if possible) shortly.

The children’s uncle Miguel Hermandez lived with his girlfriend in the building also.

In the meantime, Robert R. Parks address is: 89 Dorset Road, Athol, MA 01331. He is staying with a friend. He is borrowing clothes from his friend who wears the same size.  I am mailing him a $20 check today. He is a humble and non demanding young man.  I feel certain that he would appreciate donations. Then he could buy some new clothes and obtain needed lost items.

Thank you for your kind consideration in this request.

You can make a donation directly to Robert at above address, Or Make PayPal donations to Mary Ellen Ryall. Please indicate donation is for fire victims. I will take responsibility for distributing funds and presents to fire victim children. You can also mail a donation to Mary Ellen Ryall, PO Box 533, Fitchburg, MA 01420. Be sure to mark envelope FIRE VICTIMS. I will send you receipt for your donations as a tax deductible donation.

What makes the season bright is remembering those less fortunate.




Witnessing faith in action Teen Challenge

Last night my sister and I went on a bus tour to The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, MA. The multi- dimensional Christmas lights were spectacular. I was impressed by the multitude of inter-generational families that were there. It was heartfelt to witness new immigrant families who are now the New America. Many spoke other languages. They were all drawn to Our Blessed Lady by faith.

For awhile I have been wondering what would happen to Churches when people stopped attending. I don’t see many children at the church I attend. At least there aren’t many families at the 4:15 PM mass that elders mostly attend. Now I know the Church is alive with children masses, of which I don’t attend. I feel at least there is a foundation to go forward into the future even when churches are closing.

In this economic time, many churches are consolidating. I feel saddened to see old churches close, one by one, because the demographics of a city have changed. Churches of the 1800s require lots of money to repair and keep up. They are works of art. I lament that they are closing.

I attended the Teen Challenge New England Choir at the Shrine. I literally witnessed Redeeming Grace that each of the choir members experienced. Faith alone keeps them away from alcohol, drugs, jail and prison. The program is truly worth supporting. Pray for recovering alcoholics and drug attacks that they remain strong. So many things led to their downfall. It wasn’t self medicating that is at issue, it was social disorders, family dysfunction and abuses that addicts endured at earlier times in their life that leads them to these devastating addictions.

With recovery they are experiencing self esteem perhaps for the very first time in their lives. Think how shaky this might feel. May each of their hearts be blessed with healing. God knows many of us came from dysfunctional homes where we too by the Grace of God go now.

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