Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – 22 March 2010

Hello Insectamonarca friends,

This morning it was quite chilly with a high wind. 

Woodland with haying field

The land of Robins and woodlands

 First I heard the call of the Opichi, robin in Ojibwe, when I was outside looking at the rising sun in the East.  What a sight, I watched 15 of them fly by on the land I love.  They were headed towards the Staghorn Sumac for a tasty treat of fruit still clinging to the branches from last fall 2009. 

Then I walked down to the level land and saw abut 25 male Opichi who were puffed up and strutting their stuff.  The ladies will be along in about a week and each male robin will make a radius around him that is well-tended, including himself.  It will be up to the ladies to pick out their favorite tuxedo attired male partner.

Beautiful crocus

First bloom of spring.

I noticed the first flower of spring blooming near Pat and Sandy’s house in the afternoon of 22 March and it was this gorgeous crocus.

Be happy Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

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Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – 21 March 2010

Well Insectamonarca friends,

Sadie

Sadie listening to robins sing.

  I am out here in the forest again.  Pat and Sandy flew out to San Francisco on Friday and I am staying with Sadie again at the cabin in the woods.  If I wasn’t so busy with writing a DNR Grant Proposal for Citizen-Based Monitoring Project for monarch butterflies, pollinators, insects and native plants and uses for the two Monarch Butterfly Habitats, I would have perhaps had time for a few other projects re: listen to the wind and write more.

Well the woods I love look completely different in March.  Snow is off the ground.  I was so hoping to find a water source but didn’t when I walked the property yesterday and today.  But there is magic here.  Yesterday I discovered a path on the back of the property that would accommodate cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ATVs and snowmobiles.  It isn’t that big, of  trail distance wise, but perfect for quiet sports re: wild plant gathering, animal and bird watching, snowshoeing, walking and cross-country skiing.

Some of you may know from the February posting Eco Adventure in Wisconsin, that I was anxious to find wild plants and herbs.  Boy oh boy! 

clubmoss

Clubmoss growing in woods.

   Today I found several colonies of Club Moss, a medicinal plant used for muscle pain and it is a diuretic.  Of course I had to bring some back to the cabin to place in an alter setting and I made a very tasty tea using the herb.  I love natural medicines.  If I can prove a plant is of value because of use, I can then recommend it.  This is my own trial.  I was so happy to find it that I put down tobacco and thanked the plant for letting me take its life so that I might try it as a medicinal remedy.

The forest also showed me some pussy willows, mushrooms, Indian pipe and a few other spring flowers (not yet blooming).  I can’t locate an herbal book with photos at the cabin till I get back to Shell Lake sometime next week and look at my herb books.

The songs of the old oak leaves and the wind blowing through the oak forest yesterday brought me back to memories of long ago at my father’s farm in Rock City Falls, New York.  I haven’t had this beloved memory for so many years.  How I missed it.  Nothing has filled the void until I found these special woods that I love.  I feel a familiar sense of healing here.  I don’t want to be separated from these glacial moraines that have found me once again.  Can you imagine being separated from your special earth memories for 25 years?

The sun was warm today and I found perfect place on a hill facing south and just lay down and sun bathed in the 50 degree weather. First I put on sunscreen from the white powder of the birch tree.  I heard a calling going on but I don’t know what species it was.  I did scare up a wild turkey yesterday from far in the bramble and small quaking aspen trees.  Could it have been a male and female turkey calling to each other?

I did find last year’s bracken fern so I am hoping we can gather fiddlehead ferns here this year.  What other treasures lay beneath the oak leafed carpeted forest floor?

It was a glorious day.

Be happy insectamonara friends where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day ten

December 27, 2009 and the last day of my adventure. 

TRACKING A FOX Perhaps 

3256337915_8007059f6e  Possible red fox track. 

Today was really an adventure.  I decided to snowshoe in the 18″ snowfall.  It was rather difficult in places because the snow was so deep.  I was walking the land I am exploring.  The second glacial moraine claimed my attention because I saw tracks and decided to follow.

blackberry bramble

blackberry bushes

  Up the steep hill I went noticing that the brambles were blackberries with frozen fruit still attached.  At least the deer and other animals will find nourishment here.  Once I got to the top, I wondered who and what I was following all alone.

It was so silent.

dnrcougarspooner

DNR confirms cougar in Spooner, WI, copyright DNR.

  Cougar and fox live in the Great North Woods of Wisconsin.  Now I have been near fox and they are shy but a cougar would be another matter.  I didn’t feel a threat and felt the cougar would have larger feet.  Then I saw that the tracks also had a shape of a tail and knowing that the cougar is a large animal, I felt the animal I was tracking must be trotting closer to the ground like a fox.  This photo of a cougar was taken in the summer of 2009 in Burnett County.  There is also reports of cougar in Spooner.  Photo caption should read Burnett County.

That’s it I thought and felt no hesitancy in going further.  I did think, No one knows where you are and what if something happens like a heart attack?    Funny how you  mind runs wild.  I answered my own fear, This is the happiest day of my life and someone will think to follow my snowshoes. 

I could see through the trees to the far horizon (only visible seasonally I suspect) and it was thrilling.  I climbed to the top and said out loud, “Wow!”  I meant it too. 

Skylight

As far as the eye can see.

 I could see for miles and there only forests and silence and the distance to the south.  The sun was lighting the sky in pink and I tell you it was glorious.

3256338133_e31f6b9ce9 Possible red fox tail with tracks

As I followed the tracks down the hill and out into the open field, I saw that the animal was leaving an impression of a tail.  Here is a photo of perhaps a fox. 

For now I bide goodbye to my adventure in the Great North Woods of Wisconsin.  Thanks for keeping me company on my ten-day hiatus alone with a sweet corgi at a cabin in the woods. 

Home is where the heart is

The cabin of our eco adventure.

Stay happy readers where ever you are.  Mary Ellen and Sadie

Source:  Fox photos

http://blog.bolandbol.com/

blog.bolandbol.com/…/3257168134_3ebac43215.jpg

Image at: blog.bolandbol.com/…/

Other photos copyright by Mary Ellen Ryall and DNR.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day nine

It is Saturday and almost time for this eco adventure to end.  One more night and day to go.

Not much news here.  It is still snowing and most likely there is over 18″ of snowfall.  The country road hasn’t been plowed out since December 24.  I remember years ago on the farm and I THOUGHT I WOULD GO MAD not being able to get in or out at times in the winter. 

Unplowed country road

The road less traveled

I think I am going a little star crazy now and will be happy that the owners (Happy Tonics officer/board member, husband and wife team) are coming home tomorrow from Costa Rica.  I don’t know how they’ll be able to drive into the driveway with all the snow.  I tried to shovel a little but it is wet and heavy and will have to wait for stronger arms than mine.

Sadie has been tired today.  Neither of us slept much last night and we are rather tired today.  The tree trunks are completely covered with the snow and the branches are also laden. 

Snow on tree trucks

Snow covered tree trucks.

 I am housebound by choice.  It is just too dark and wet to be out there. 

Instead I made homemade potato soup with organic onions and broccoli and it was good.  I only flavored it with pepper and a bay leaf.  I added Orrington Farms low sodium chicken flavoring and I highly recommend it for chicken stock.

Well readers it is time to nearly say goodbye for this adventure.  I may have one more time tomorrow to jot down a few notes.  I was interested in seeing who would read the blog.  I can see a snow winter adventure did not attract much attention.

Happy Tonics is exploring to see if there is any interest in Eco adventures in Wisconsin.  I am leaning towards something that offers hotels or camping opportunities with an eco volunteer vacation.  We would welcome visitors who want to assist us at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat, in Shell Lake, Wisconsin during the summer of 2010.

The butterfly path through habitat

A wood chip path put down by youth and volunteers.

Stay happy readers where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day eight

Merry Christmas!  December 25, 2009 

The lonesome pine.
A lone Christmas tree greets me on Christmas morning.

The snow plow came through about 7 p.m. last night.   Before that I was outside dreaming in the country road and listening to the wind in the trees when all of a sudden a blue car silently slipped by me.  I mean I could have been run over by the farm owner’s small vehicle.  The elder and friendly lady stopped a little ways down the hill and rolled down the window.  Upon coming closer to the blue car, she said, “Well that was almost a not so happy Christmas.”

I told her I was having a very happy time day dreaming and didn’t even hear her car.  Oh well, here I am in the middle of nowhere and still a vehicle could have claimed me.  What next!

Sadie  Sadie and her favorite cowboy boot.

Sadie and I got up this Christmas morning to open presents.   Sandy made a surprise for me.  There are 10 gifts wrapped up and I was to open one gift each day.  Today it was a lovely planter with a brass butterfly on the front.  This will be good for starting my winter greens in.  Inside the planter was a pound of fresh harvested wild rice from tribal lands.  I am thrilled for this health giving present because I am almost out of this naturally nutritious grain.

I opened up a fresh box of animal treats for Sadie.  I thought she needed a Christmas present too.  She enjoyed a treat of tuna in juice for a treat and I made lentils and a tuna sandwich.  We made apple juice with clove, orange, all spice and cinnamon spice.  It smells wonderful in our cosy nest and the spiced apple juice tastes like apple cider.

I did manage a short hike on the snowshoes this morning over to the woods across the way.  The wind was howling and I do love the sound of trees talking in the forest. The forest under snow  It reminds me of home.  The snow turned to sleet over night.  My down jacket was getting wet and I decided to return to the cabin and snuggle in.

Be happy readers where ever you are. 

 

Pine tree

On the trail of the lonesome pine.

 

 

 

 

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day seven

It is Thursday. 

Wake me up!  I didn’t realize it was December 24 until five minutes ago and it is 2:31 p.m. in the afternoon.  Days just slip by when you are on retreat in the Great North Woods.

I woke up feeling lethargic.  We are in the middle of a big snow storm.  It has been snowing all day and perhaps last night also.  Snow fall was over my boots this morning and about covered Sadie when we were outside.  I did put out bird seed this morning.

Squirrels eating sunflower seeds

Squirrels eating sunflower seeds.

  The squirrels were totally covered in the snow with only their faces peeking through and their faces were white.  Still they came for the sunflower seed.  It looks like 12 inches so far.  The weather report says it could go to 16″.  No snow plow has come through to plow the country road and mail was not delivered.  Who cares!

I only hope that the electricity, phone and heat stays on.  It is a damp cold today.  Sadie and I are wrapped up in quilts.  I haven’t really ventured out today outside of taking Sadie outside three times a day for her daily constitutional.

No wonder we saw hundreds of birds two days ago.  They knew a storm was coming and they needed to store up on fat stores.  This will help them get through a few days while we are clobbered with the storm. 

Bird house laden with snow

Bird house laden with snow

It is Christmas.  Isn’t that a beautiful thought.  The forest is covered in snow. 

This morning I worked on the newsletter but didn’t feel inspired to write.  I finished a draft on the Harris checkerspot butterfly.  In the afternoon we took to the bedroom where there is a large window that looks out on the woods I am exploring across the road.  It felt so comforting to just watch it snow, snow, snow.  I finished reading Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans.  It was a good Christmas story.

I am getting tired of my soup and salad diet.  Still haven’t lost a pound.  Today I made lentils, onions and carrots and that tasted good.  The organic eggs were boiled before I came to the cabin and the egg salad sandwiches on nut whole grain bread are delicious.  Even the tea spiced with shiitake mushroom and orange and lemon peel tastes good.  I forgot to tell you that my friend owns a dairy and gift shop (My Favorite Things) in downtown Shell Lake.  She gave me some cheese curds that are made from their dairy before I came away on this trip.  Now that is something and I enjoyed every morsel.  Talk about eating local and organic. 

I hope you enjoy a very happy Christmas Eve.

Be happy readers where ever you are.

Clip art source:  paranormal.today.com/…/2008/12/santa-claus.jpg

Other photos copyright by Mary Ellen Ryall.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day six

It’s Wednesday.

Wednesday is chore day.  I went outside only to nearly miss the garbage truck.  Luckily the driver saw me.  I dashed to the shed to get the garbage out for him.  We have to lock garbage up here because creatures from the woods would make a mess of it.

The fellow was friendly.  He asked, “Are you having a good time?”  I said, “I’m having a time of my life snowshoeing and I am so happy.”

Country road

A near miss and a friendly hello.

  The driver responded, “You make me feel like I should be out here doing the same thing.”  We talked about the forest and how it reminded us both of Upper New York State.  He told me, “I drove a truck till 1996.  That is the last time I saw Vermont and Upper New York State.”  I mentioned that I hadn’t been back since 1985. 

I explained that I came out here to be away from crowds and how that part of the country had grown dramatically.  I mentioned that out here, I could raise my own food and the heck with it.  He said, “I know and feel much like you do.”  Then we went our separate ways.

This is the land of self survival and there are more people who have a Pd H degree here and love this country simply because they want to live free.  New Hampshire has a motto “Live free or die.”  That’s how many of us feel in the Great North Woods.  We are self-sufficient and depend on ourselves. 

The wind is howling and it is a bitter cold today.  I did not snowshoe.  Instead I am studying a book MycoMedicinals by Paul Stamets.  Sandy Stein and I met him in 2008 at the Tesuque Pueblo Food Sovereignty Conference in New Mexico where Happy Tonics was invited to exhibit.  He was the keynote speaker.

This is when I seriously started to dive into learning about mushrooms.  I have always been fascinated by them and did an independent study in learning to identifying mushrooms and finding out which ones are edible.  Not having a teacher, I never did learn to properly identify them and knowing how dangerous they can be, I will wait till I have a teacher.

Lichen on oak tree

Lichen on oak tree.

I did notice tree and rock lichen and took some photographs.  Here is a good web reference that will educate about the role of lichen and air at http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/p429lichens.html

This is one of the things I noticed most out in these woods was the fresh air and I think the lichen may have a role in how pure the oxygen is here on this land. 

In the meantime, I order my mushrooms from Paul Stamets Company Fungi Perfectis because he is world-renowned for his knowledge about MycoMedicinals and mycelium.  I even coated some vegetable seed with mycelium last summer because it is reported to make roots stronger.  This summer I plan to scatter mushroom spawn in my straw laden garden.

I now want to grow mushrooms.  Here’s is Paul Stamets You Tube video on how 6 Mushrooms Can Save the World at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5frPV58tY    

This discovery and research is very important.  So few of us understand the mycelium connection in its relationship to the earth and compared to the computer Internet.  We are hi tech now and perhaps because we are we are now able to grasp the importance of mycelium to save the world.

Be happy readers where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day five

It is Tuesday.

Today is the day I am going to the little village of Minong, home to 561 souls.  It is the first day in five that I have seen a person.  My husband came to take me shopping.  I need to buy bread, a new brush for Sadie and eggnog with nutmeg for Christmas morning.  

This morning was truly a winter wonderland.  Sadie and I saw at least a hundred birds on the side of the country road nibbling grass and flower seed and I suspect spotted knapweed seedhead. 

Flower seed incapsulated in down

Flower seed incapsulated in down.

Knapweed seedhead

Spotted knapweed seedhead.

  Knapweed is an invasive species.  Each flower head has 20,000 seeds.  The seeds are eaten by birds and then deposited in another unsuspecting native habitat.

Then while washing dishes, I saw the birds on the slope of the hill where some native grasses were not completely covered with snow.  Again they were feasting.  I put out two handfuls (daily) of sunflower seed.  The migrating sparrows ate from our supplies.  They were close enough to identify from the cabin.  After the sparrows left the chickadee and nut thrash flew in to enjoy a feast too.  By the way I need a bird book out here and I think binoculars would be a great aid too.  Even squirrels get along with the small birds and no one was greedy as they all enjoyed a fresh supply of sunflower seeds.

 I could hardly wait to go out snowshoeing later in the morning.  As I started through the old field I noticed all the plants were covered with a coating of magical snow dusting.  Each and every one glistened.  Even the trees looked like they were kissed with hoarfrost.  The sun hit the branches and they twinkled like stars.  As I walked across the field on my snowshoes the snow sparkled in the sunlight.  This is my favorite time of snow time when the snow and every living plant glistens.

I saw the large boulder yesterday.

Grandfather boulder

Grandfather boulder.

  It was at least three moraines back from the road.  I was anxious to see the boulder and learn if it was on my land.  This is a new interesting leap in faith.  As soon as I ascended the hill, I saw that indeed it was on the property that is for sale.

A halo of oak leaves

A halo of oak leaves.

  Oak leaves on an old growth oak tree started to sing as I neared grandfather boulder.  I felt the tree was happy I was there.  I know I was.

I noticed that a deer or some other creature scrapped the snow from the boulder and had eaten some of the moss.

Moss on large boulder

Moss on large boulder.

  I wish I had a moss book so I could identify the moss.  Is it too a medicinal?  Animals are smart.  They know what to eat.

Birch bark

Birch bark with peeled bark.

  There was a white birch growing nearby and I rubbed my glove over the bark and applied the powder to  my face.  The powder contains a sunblock equivalent to synthetic sunscreen.

My elder Ojibwe friend Soaring Woman told me, “Let nature teach you.”  Believe me, nature is the best teacher.  I decided to wander back beyond the moraine and see what was out there.  In a flat area I found where the deer had slept last night under the moonlight.  The ground was flattened out.  Oak leaves abounded on the surface and the deer bedded down on them.

The plants changed to goldenrod, river birch, and what looks like some kind of bramble.  Again I won’t know till spring.  There is something calling me to this land.  My father owned a gentleman’s farm in Upper New York State, which I loved.  It was 17 acres.  I can feel my father laughing and I am happy on this land in Wisconsin.  It reminds me of our own family land back east which is long gone to an outsider.  The farm had rolling hills and a wooded forest.  This is 15 acres and somehow it feels very familiar to me. 

I hinted to my husband how I felt about the land and my memories of the farm back east.  As we drove to the cabin he said, “The land is for sale.”  I said yes as I bide him goodbye.  First things first.  I need to talk with a forest man in spring and have him walk the land with me and let me know what he thinks about the standing timber.  It may turn out to be an investment in years to come. 

I am singing the land to me.

Be happy readers where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day four

It’s Monday.

At least by naming the days, I will remember what day it is. 

Sadie, the corgi, was barking at something last night.  I couldn’t see a thing in the deep surrounding woods.  When we went out this morning, I did see small tracks coming to nearly the house.  Could it be a feral cat or raccoon?  Hard to tell. 

The sky was dark today with snow showers.  I called the realtor about the property I told you about yesterday.  The parcel is 15 acres of mostly rolling hills.  I put my snow shoes on and went over to the property and climbed the hill to a good look out point.  I can’t wait to find out if these are glacial moraines with kettle holes that are most likely dried up because of the drought.

According to Wikipedia, “Ground moraines are till covered areas with irregular topography and no ridges, often forming gently rolling hills or plains. It is accumulated under the ice by lodgement, but may also be deposited as the glacier retreats. In alpine glaciers ground moraine is located between the two lateral moraines. Ground moraine may be formed into drumlins by the overriding ice.”

Wisconsin has this type of moraine.  We also have drumlins so the next step is to find someone knowledgable in glacial moraines to see if this property is in fact a left over from the glaciers.  That is exciting.  There appears to be small deep ravines between the many moraines.  One can literally walk across the top and look down into the depths of the kettle holes.

Wikipedia states,” If glacial drift is then placed around the ice, a depression on the surface called a kettle hole can be created when the ice melts . Kettle holes are commonly found on moraine and outwash plain deposits. Large kettle holes that reach below the water table can form into lakes.”  Kettle holes can also form swamps, bogs, and marshes.

The snow was coming down as I climbed the hill.  I heard a raven in the far woods on the other side of the old farm.  I could look down on Sandy’s and Pat’s cabin across the way and I felt like I was standing on top of a mountain.  There are lots of flat areas up here and it would be a good place to camp. 

It is absolutely great for snowshoeing.  I went a lot further than I expected.  I wanted so much to keep going but my toes were starting to get cold and I didn’ want to tempt frost bite.  I found one large rock and stopped to honor it.  I feel rocks are the grandfathers as taught by the Ojibwe.  They hold more knowledge than any other living thing.  I put down tobacco to honor the rock’s presence. 

I want to walk deep into these woods.  There were so many tracks there must be a regular menagerie of critters living out here.  Mostly deer tracks were seen.  Perhaps I saw mouse trails because I saw tail shapes in snow.  There appeared to be lots of holes where little critters could take cover.  Some  more snow was pawed away for animals looking for grass to eat. 

As a nonprofit, I am going to look to see if there are any grants for protecting forests.  If so perhaps we could apply for a grant.  It looks like the forest nearest the road was clear-cut.  The older upland forest appears to be old forest.  I won’t know what kind of trees and what percentage are in good shape till next spring when I see the forest green up.  We may be in oak country which would mean the soil is acidic. 

All I know is that I had the loveliest time all by myself in the Great North Woods.  No chance of getting lost, my snowshoes leave a trail.

Stay happy readers where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day three

It’s Sunday.

I didn’t realize it till later in the morning.  One big thing living like this is that you wait on mail delivery and it does become a focal point.  Well, you guessed it!  I’m out of luck today.  On the good side, I did find five envelopes in a kitchen drawer and a sheet of stamps.  That cheered me up.

This morning we made a chicken flavored vegetable soup.  The wild rice came from Nick Vander Puy who hand harvested the Wisconsin food that grows on water.  I am almost out.  Looking in the kitchen cabinets, I found Pat’s wild rice that he hand gathered this year from Wisconsin fresh waters. 

The organic garlic I added I hope will work for high blood pressure.  Red pepper, broccoli, cabbage, celery, onion and barley were added next.   I was disappointed that the ground pepper shaker was empty.  Rember I am out here alone with no access to stores and I brought most of my supplies with me.  Looking in the kitchen cupboard, I found some of Happy Tonics whole peppercorns and I will grind this in the morning.  It is the little things that keep us content.

Sadie and I decided to sleep in Pat and Sandy’s room last night.  It felt so good to stretch out.  I can’t tell you how beautiful it is to sleep being completely surrounded by trees and moonlight.  This morning there was a glimmer of sunrise.  Oak leaves dangled from a tree near the bedroom and the sunlight struck a few leaves and also left a beautiful shadow image on the wooden artist shop nearby.

Then a soft falling snow shower began.  I did some Tai chi as I watched exactly where east is situated at this time of year.  I must tell you I am used to Space Music (Stephan Hill, music program producer in San Francisco) on the radio on Sunday.  You can sign up for the free Sunday broadcast at  http://www.hos.com/  While I type this I am inspired by the program Hymns and Psalms.

When we took our early morning walk I was dazzled by how fresh the air is here.  I mean I would buy property  just for the quiet and smell of fresh air.  I believe this is the freshest air I have inhaled in many years.  It is like being in a cathedral of trees.  I know someone else who feels the same way.  I watched as two squirrels scampered up a dead tree and one went inside an opening.  Hah!  I know where you live.   

Up here in the Great North Woods, it seems like everything is for sale and no one has the money to purchase land or goods.  I run a nonprofit.  If there is an interested party out there who needs a tax break, perhaps you would be interested in helping us buy a piece of land for the nonprofit.  You could write off the investment and we could offer eco adventures on the land.  Folks could come and camp, garden and fish.

Just a thought.  We implement two Monarch Butterfly Habitats in Shell Lake,Wisconsin one is on city land and the other is on DNR land.  Our mission is Sanctuary for the Monarch Butterfly and Food Safety Issues.

It is quite dark out for late afternoon and I expect perhaps we’ll have more snow.  Pat made some delicious cranberry bread before he left.  I mixed cream cheese and fresh frozen strawberries together and what a tasty treat it makes.  Just perfect for a cup of tea and chat with you.

Be happy readers where ever you are.

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