In the studio: Mary Ellen Ryall

1 11 2013

Butterfly posterMary Ellen Ryall and I crossed paths more than eight years ago when I purchased milkweed seeds from her through eBay. This connection quickly morphed into a frequent e-mail exchange and a great friendship! I do volunteer design and photography for her environmental education organization, Happy Tonics. For several years, I designed and produced her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her a few years ago. The poster included original photographs by me and my friends Brian K. Loflin (www.bkloflin.wordpress.com) and Jeff Evans (www.evanimagesandart.com).

I had the chance to visit Mary Ellen in her former home base in Minong, Wisconsin, in August 2011. (Sidebar: at the time I was making the three-hour drive from the Minneapolis airport to Minong, I called Michael and learned that I had just missed a big earthquake in the D.C. area; it was enough to scare both him and our cat, ZenaB, and for a vase to fall off a bookcase and break!). While in Shell Lake and Minong, I visited Mary Ellen’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and met many of her friends, most notably Diane Dryden, a published author and feature writer for the Washburn County Register. Diane’s novels, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Ave., are available on Amazon here.

About a year ago, Mary Ellen relocated to Fitchburg, MA, to be closer to her sister. She talked of slowing down, but I knew she wouldn’t—she’s brimming with far too many ideas! An author and truly dedicated environmental educator, Mary Ellen’s first book, My Name is Butterfly, was published by Salt of the Earth Press in 2011. This teaching book about a little girl and a Monarch butterfly was illustrated by Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza and is available here.

TwoBooksEarlier this year, I assisted Mary Ellen with producing The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. Written by Mary Ellen Ryall and illustrated by Moira Christine McCusker, It is available for purchase here. It is published by Mary Ellen’s new company, Butterfly Woman Publishing. Our next project is a plant guidebook, which we hope to debut in 2014. She visited the D.C. area a few weeks ago to attend a three-day conference for the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). She is presently on a task force to design a smart app called S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). This app will allow gardeners around the country to list their habitats on a national map. Mary Ellen blogs about organic gardening and open pollination for diversity on her blog here.

After seeing the portraits I did of her while she was in town, Mary Ellen said, “now I see that I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe!” The outfits she is wearing came from my “modeling rack” as well as my closet. She feels I captured her energy in the shots—and if you’ve ever met her, you know how high-energy this woman is!

P.S. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators after bees. Butterflies as pollinators are in trouble too. The Monarch butterfly population is down to only five percent in 2013. The Monarch and other butterflies need native host plants. We need to plant native wildflowers to bring butterflies home. Milkweed is the only host plant of the Monarch butterfly. If you would like to be part of the solution to stop the decline of Monarch butterflies, plant some milkweed seeds in your garden! Mary Ellen sells seed on her website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MaryEllenHeadShots

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Categories : Butterfly, Flowers, Food, gardening, Insects, nature, Photography, portraits, publishing, Travel

Photo Posse

Conservation and Asters

Ryan Conner proudly stands next to his Conservation Star Home Award sign

Ryan Conner proudly stands next to his Conservation Star Home Award sign.

This past week I had an opportunity to visit Ryan Conner in Hayward. He invited me to see the native habitat he was implementing on his land.  He owns a home and property on Grindstone Lake. Ryan received a Conservation Star Home Award for turning a sandy lawn of mowed grass into a native habitat on the lake. Frankly this is how I found his
house. Ryan had told me he had a rather large colony of asters growing. The asters led me right to his door.

While I was there I saw several species of small native bees. I also learned about species of asters which are not easy to identify. Reason why? There are over 200 species of aster in the United States.

 

Calico aster with pink centers.

Calico aster with pink centers.

Ryan pointed out that calico aster has pink disk florets. The species also has a plumed flower formation. Now I know the name of white heath aster and sky blue aster which were growing in a rather large colony.

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat has upland white aster. There are several other species of asters at the habitat and hopefully I will be better able to identify the different species more easily now. Ryan is a dedicated volunteer at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. He has assisted the nonprofit for nearly four years now during the summer season. He has added many native species to the Shell Lake habitat, which in time will provide more color and interest beyond the summer months. It is interesting to note that one of Ryan’s neighbors has also begun to turn his land into a native habitat for pollinators.

Without native habitat for pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies, bats and moths there most likely would not be the plant and insect biodiversity that exists today. According to Douglas W. Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, “Up to 90 percent of all phytophagous insects are considered specialists because they have evolved in concert with no more
than a few plant lineages” (Bernays & Graham 1988). Native insects have not evolved with alien plants and most likely are unable to eat them. For homeowners who want bees to pollinate fruit trees and gardeners who want to have flowers and vegetables pollinated, it is important to plant native plant species that will invite pollinators to the back yard.

Cindy Dyer’s Delightful Monarch Butterfly Photos and Thoughts

Posted by Cindy Dyer, Dyer Design

My friend Mary Ellen is likely snowed in with 15 inches of snow in a remote town in Wisconsin. To brighten her day, I thought I’d re-post some Monarch photos from my blog. This was originally posted October 15, 2008.

monarchonyellow

monarchonyellow

Yes, more Monarchs. I can’t help myself. They’re everywhere! I learned a technique from my friend Mary Ellen of Happy Tonics at www.happytonics.org  about how to “stalk” Monarchs with a camera. Wait until they have their proboscis inserted into a flower and they become completely distracted by the task at hand—then move in closer, staying as still as possible. They won’t even notice you’re there. This one sure didn’t. I was able to shoot about 50+ images of this Monarch in less than five minutes.

Want to learn more about the senses of a Monarch? Click here.

Here’s a surefire way to attract Monarchs to your garden—plant milkweed!
Mary Ellen sells common milkweed seeds in her eBay store here. Milkweed is the sole food for the Monarch caterpillar. Adult butterflies can feed on other plants such as this butterfly bush, but the caterpillars only eat milkweed.

Monarch Poster 3x5 low rez

Monarch Poster 3x5 low rez

Mary Ellen and I crossed paths a few years ago when I purchased seeds from her through eBay. This led to a frequent e-mail exchange, and now I do volunteer design and photography for her organization, as well as other marketing materials.  I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her this past spring. Note: The poster is available through the eBay store here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos

Holly Day Saturday December 4, 2010 in Shell Lake, WI

Stained glass

Stained glass

Happy Tonics Visitors Center/Store is planning a splash of a day for shoppers and visitors on December 4, 2010. As our readers know the world is suffering in a global recession. Happy Tonics believes in homemade, homegrown, local arts and crafts. We are a nonprofit environmental education organization and public charity. People are generous and donate many items to help our cause including Ojibwa beaded butterfly pins and  framed art and photographs. We have two monarch butterfly habitats in Shell Lake that we implemented and maintain. 

By buying local, customers support their own community. We will offer savings to our guests so everyone can go home with something special to put under the Christmas tree.

Where’s the fun?

23 Fifth Avenue, Shell Lake, WI, Sarona Jewelry and My Favorite Things – Open all day. Retail store with educational toys, jewelry, Fenton glass and clothing. Refreshments to be served.

Meet Mary Ellen

Meet Mary Ellen

25 Fifth Avenue, Shell Lake, WI, Happy Tonics Visitors Center/Store – Kids Disney Movies to be shown 10 am – 2 pm

Refreshments to be served. There is indoor hall that goes between the two stores.

Happy Tonics offers new and gently used home decor, women’s clothing and books, books, books. The store sells new knitted socks, hats, shawls, sweaters both women’s and children. There are mittens, handkerchiefs, fine art, fiber art, quilted wall hangings and fabric bags from Mexico and textile vests and bags from Nepal. Check out the Ayurvedic soap from India and the dozens of butterfly gifts.

Julie Symond (My Favorite Things) and Mary Ellen (Happy Tonics Visitors Center/Store) look forward to seeing you.

Hissy the gardeners friend

Hissy the gardeners friend

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