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.



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.

Mushroom trails and other stories

One can hope that the moist forest has lots of different mushroom species. A few days ago I discovered mossy maze polypore (Cerrena unicolor). I am looking for Turkey tail mushroom. The algae-covered mushroom feels hairy in sections, then smooth in others. It is strongly zoned which gives it a false appearance of turkey tail. Mossy maze polypore grows on live deciduous trees or conifers.The polypore was growing on a live apple tree. Flesh has white with grayish zone separating it from a hairy cap surface. Spore print is white. I need to find colored paper for testing spores that are white. I tried getting a spore match on a white paper plate and of course I couldn’t see the print. Turkey tail grows on dead deciduous trees or in wounds. Mossy maze polypore grows throughout N. North America. Source: Field Guide to Mushroom by National Audubon Society. Not all species live on trees.

NOTE:  A few day later my eight year old great-niece Amelia and I went mushroom hunting. We found a few more species. I still am unsure of species, but want to add photos and any notations that I have that may help with identification. Along the way, we stopped at the wild butterfly habitat for me to check it out.

Amelia and Toby
Amelia and Toby

It wasn’t long before I saw Amelia kneeling down by a white cross where Toby, the dog, was buried in the butterfly habitat in the nearby woods. I was surprised to find her there quietly visiting the deceased dog whom Amelia and the family loved. To see her innocence and love for one of the Creator’s creatures was a heartrending sight. She said she wished she could pull the rocks away so she could see Toby once again. I knew how she felt. I told her my own story of wanting to dig up my dog Tia just too see her again too. I explained that we had to let our loved ones go when they walked on. It was respectful to them. Amelia understood. It wasn’t long before we were hiking on the trail once again.

Mossy maze polypore

Mossy maze polypore (Cerrena unicolor) Leathery , stalkless, grayish. Hairy, often algae-covered caps. Smoky pores. Spore print white. On deciduous trees mostly, overlapping. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms, 2004.

NOTE: More mushroom photos follow.

Mystery mushroom
Mystery mushroom
Red mushroom growing in wet forest area
Red mushroom growing in wet forest area

I finally see where the mourning dove lives. For weeks I have been watching the mourning dove in his/her favorite roost perched on the barn roof. Yesterday I saw him fly to my father’s nearby Norway spruce tree. My sister Ronnie confirmed that this is where mourning doves live. I find it interesting that the bird likes to watch the family when they are in the pool area. It is here we have garden fresh casual suppers, sitting around a umbrella covered picnic table. The cooing bird also likes to watch human activity in the front gardens. Often I am out there smelling flowers or taking photos of pollinating insects on flowers.

Gills and spore side
Gills and spore side
Grasshopper carries pollen on its feet

Yesterday I caught a green grasshopper with hollyhock pollen on his/her legs. Now I know that even a grasshopper can be a pollinator. My sister and I love old fashioned hollyhocks. Ronnie has a scattered collection of near black, maroon and pink. We both planted a brilliant dark pink hollyhock last year and new first year leaves have been spotted both in our gardens in WI and MA. I collected seeds from the plant in an alley in WI. It is by far the prettiest color I have seen.

Let’s hear it for the pollinators! Without them there wouldn’t be a bio-diverse world nor the wonderful variety of vegetables and fruits that we often take for granted. We celebrate a thanksgiving each time we remember to thank and protect pollinators.

After the thunder

Over  the last few days I have witnessed the moon go from full moon glow to cloud cover to thunder storms with crashing thunder overhead. One night in particular I saw my father’s hydrangea lit up where Ronnie has a grotto to our Blessed Mother. It was pure white blossoms that pulsated in light.  Jack Hohos, brother-in-law, loves hummingbirds. I heard him ask Ronnie, my sister, if she had seen any hummers? It was then I started to pay attention and witnessing when I did see hummers. Then I told Jack where I saw the bird and what plant, shrub, or tree it was around.

I have been hearing little tree frogs. There was even a frog species that I didn’t recognize by voice. I have entered a more Zen way of Being. I love starting the morning off with ceremony. I find this slower pace restorative and contemplative. Recently while walking down a trail by the barn, I spotted a flat boulder on top of a stone wall fence. I was reminded that a similar setting could be found that I could claim as an outside alter for my rocks that I will now move from WI. Before this discovery, I wondered what I would do with beloved rocks from Great Lakes glacial bedrock, near Duluth, MN; sacred small rocks from Bear Butte near Lakota tribe; Pipestone from a sacred Ojibwa site on Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, Great Lakes tribe in Hayward, WI. Jerry Smith, traditional medicine man, graciously permitted me to go along on a day bus trip with tribal youth group. Jerry teaches many about sacred Ojibwa culture. Again while on the trail coming back up the hill, I noticed what I believe to be Turkey tail mushrooms growing on a tree on front property. They did have a white bottom. I will need to look more closely to properly ID this mushroom species. Reason I am looking for it is that it is a cancer treatment. Learn about Paul Stamets, mycologist, Fungi Perfecta at We were both speakers at Tesuque Pueblo in few years ago. You can learn more about the pueblo people at,_New_Mexico

I am amazed by the delicious taste of garden fresh fruits and vegetables, in forested central MA, near Fitchburg. As close as I can presently research, a theory is starting to evolve. I am not a scientist; rather I am a citizen scientist and researcher in my own chosen field, which is monarch butterfly and food safety issues. Central MA has a heavy canopy of luscious extended forest, with  giant glacial boulders that have lots of lichen on them. The lichen helps  desolve minerals in boulders, which then slowly leach into the earth; add compost of decaying tree leaves, and you have very rich nutritional soil. I am almost finished reading Patrick Moore’s forestry book Green Spirit Trees are the Answer. Moore’s book is outstanding. I am understanding forestry better because of his expertise and ability to write to the average citizen. Sandy soil in northwest WI, Washburn County, does not have the ability to offer much flavor simply because sandy soil does not hold water or nutrients. Of course, I compost and have added aged manure through the years, but still there is a definite difference between the taste of garden fresh vegetables and fruits. Massachusetts wins hand over in flavor.

Another passion I have is to publish monarch butterfly books. Visit to see published books. Sure wish I knew how to make the link active. If someone out there knows how, please send comment. Thanks!

Another difference between MA and my beloved independent WI life is Massachusetts has banned smoking. I wish I could say the same for WI. There,  I am exposed to second hand smoke. A bar is next to the Visitors Center on Main Street in Shell Lake. Bars have built three walled shelters to their buildings. Smokers can bring their drinks out there and smoke their brains out. Unfortunately I have COPD and I smoked once. I know it is hard to give up, this addiction is harder to break than heroin. At Winter Hill Farm, where my sister created a botanical paradise, the air is fragrant from herbs, woods and flowers. I haven’t smelled such sweet air since the 1980s, when I lived on East Coast and could travel to MA or Upper New York State.

The continuing saga of journeying in the natural world.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.