Dandelion Greets the Spring

Hobomok moth.jpgPhoto: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Hobomok skipper (Poanes habomok)

The flower is a sunny composite with bright yellow bloom, which is made up of many petals in a tight cluster. The bumblebee is one of the first insects to seek out its sweet nectar. Photo is of a tiny skipper butterfly sipping dandelion nectar.  The early plant of spring is a delight in salads. When dandelions grow in a field, I trust no weedkiller has poisoned the earth. Otherwise, only grass grows. The cold and wet days of April are long this year. It was the last week of April before I could venture out into the woods in search of a spring tonic such as dandelion.

Wild foraging always keeps me connected to the earth beneath my feet. I am communing when I am outside and scouting wild edibles. Before I take anything, I make a little ceremony of honoring the plant and ask permission to gather something to use for myself. I put down an offering of a sacred plant which is ground up, and smudge with white sage. Both are healing, and I feel a sense of peacefulness in making an offering. Nature is a gift, and I need to honor and remember the sacrifice on the part of a plant’s life. Who am I to grab something without asking? The flowers and leaves are nourishment to wild creatures or pollinators.

There among the woodlands, clumps of dandelion grew. I picked leaves and brought them back, washed them, and put in a salad. Dandelion is rich in iron, potassium, and magnesium. Iron promotes the healthy production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. I feel sluggish after the long hard winter. After eating several leaves in a salad, I feel a slight surge of energy. Potassium is good for the heart, kidneys, and other organs to work properly. I try to aim to eat a banana or a potato a day to ensure that I am getting enough potassium. Magnesium is necessary to transport calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes. The process is imperative to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. The three of these minerals seem to go hand and hand, and all for the asking are readily available in dandelion.

I could go to the health food store and purchase dandelion leaves as a tea or dried herb, but the plant parts would be dead to me, and I am not confident that a plant in a store has the same value as the fresh herb itself. As an herbalist, I feel this is true, at least for me.


The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants





The Void is Always Filled

by Mary Ellen Ryall

Lepidoptera Tithorea butterfly chrysalis copyright Alex Wild Copyright Alex Wild

I received a birthday card for my 28th birthday, on April 30, 1970, from my beloved Aunt Ellen. I have always loved the words.

What shall we wish thee,
what can be said
Bringing the sunshine
all the year round?
Where is the treasure lasting and dear
That shall ensure thee
all through the year?

Faith that increaseth
walking in the light
Hope that aboundeth
happy and bright.

Love that is perfect
casting out fear
These shall ensure thee
a happy year.

As Patrick Tayor, the Irish storyteller would say, and this is what it was. When I was a child, I used to pick Lily-of-the-Valley and give posies to my grandmother. I remember, in junior high, gram worked as a live-in domestic for Miss Margaret and Josephine Sullivan, retired school teachers. A previous essay titled Memories Submerged in a Poem, about that time, is available at https://insectamonarca.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/memories-submerged-in-a-poem/

In 1964, a year after graduating from St. Peter’s Academy, I was stranded at the family farm in Rock City Falls with no opportunities whatsoever, when providence stepped in. I saw an article in Seventeen Magazine recruiting youth of America to come and work at the World’s Fair, in New York City, for the summer, and I applied. A businesswoman Barbara James had an apartment to share for the World’s Fair season. I wrote about the experience in Born Under a Lucky Star. Learn more at https://wordpress.com/post/insectamonarca.wordpress.com/27603

Photo: World’s Fair Post CardNew_York_Worlds_Fair_1964-1965_Postcards copyright Joschik

After working at the World’s Fair for the summer, I knew the season would end, and I was desperate to stay in the City, and not return to the farm and a nothingness existence. Barbara had a literary career working with an editor, at Time and Life Magazine. What a beautiful office she had on Fifth Avenue, on an upper floor overlooked the Hudson River. My roommate arranged an interview for a position at Time and Life, under the pseudo name of Betty Brown, in the subscription department. Thanks to Barbara, my adult life could begin in earnest. It was my first real break into the world of publishing. It was unwittingly because I never dreamed I would become an author. Everyone else thought I was a writer, but I was a late bloomer as gram would say. To celebrate, I bought my grandmother, Ann O’Grady Sullivan Cunningham (July 7, 1892 – November 25, 1979) a china teacup and saucer set, by Royal Albert, Bone China England, decorated with the beloved Lily-of-the-Valley.

lily of the valley tea cup

PHOTO: teacup

Recently, I have been thinking about Aunt Ellen’s and Gram’s heirlooms. The question begged, who will carry the memories forward after I am gone?

A butterfly cup has its story. I was 33 in 1978 when I moved to Venezuela for six months. I assisted Dr. Jorge Armand with cataloging books for the Archeological Museum, at the University of the Andes, in Merida, an Andean Town at 7,000 feet altitude.

Merida Veneuela copyright venzolannosPhoto: Merida Venezuela

History of Dr. Armand’s work follows: “In the year of 1972, the anthropologist Jorge Armand founded the Archaeological Museum assigned to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology of the School of History of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, with headquarters in the same Department. Due to the growth that the Museum had, it was achieved in the year 75, although without receiving official recognition from the University Council. At this stage, the museum consisted of two research areas: Archeology, coordinated by Professor Armand and Ethnology coordinated by Professor Jacqueline Clarac de Briceño.” Source: http://vereda.ula.ve/patrimonio/?page_id=7 When Dr. Armand returned to India to complete a Ph.D. in Anthropology, I returned to the United States.

Back home again between assignments, I was just in time to take a position at Skidmore College, Alumni and Publications Department. I lived at the Annandale Mansion, 245 Clinton Street, Saratoga Springs, New York. My great uncle Owen James Reynolds (June 5, 1852 – September 23, 1920) was an Irish immigrant and stonemason. He and a team of craftsmen built the Annandale Mansion.


Photo: The Annandale 1880’s

I never entertained visitors at my resident. I was surprised one evening when I heard a knock on the door, and it was Aunt Ellen. I invited her in, and being Irish; we settled down to a nice cup of tea. While delicately arranging dried petals on paper, my Aunt Ellen silently watched and asked about the blossoms, especially Venezuelan orchids that grow wild in the Andes Mountains. I learned about native plants and butterflies while stationed in Peru, Venezuela, and later Colombia, and Ecuador, between 1974 to 1980. Sometime after this encounter, the butterfly cup came to me. Aunt Ellen knew about synchronic moments.

butterfly cup

Photo Butterfly Cup

After Gram passed away (July 7, 1892 – November 25, 1979), Aunt Ellen returned the tea set. I am grateful that the china will go to Kara. Who else would keep the ancestry stories alive, but Aunt Ellen’s beloved granddaughter?


Photo: Misahualli – Number 88 butterflies and Chrysalis

I was out of the country, in Misahualli, Ecuador, at the time of Gram’s passing, (November 25, 1979) and without contact with the outside world because I was in the Jungle along the Napo and Misahualli Rivers. Note: Douglas Clark was a personal friend of mine in the 1970s, a famous butterfly collector and jungle tour guide in Misahualli. Following butterflies became a passion in South America, and Misahualli was my first exposure in the world of Lepidoptera, the study of butterflies.

San Agustin copyright Lonely Planet

Photo: Archeology site

I didn’t receive a telegram about Gram’s death until I returned to San Agustin, Colombia, in January 1980. There was a telegram office in the Andean village with a famous archeology site, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Preserve in 1995. Learn more at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/744  At the time, my friend Ann Fry and I rented a house in San Agustin. It was a great adventure.

My beloved Aunt Ellen walked on February 27, 1982. To attend the funeral, I flew in from San Francisco, California, where I worked for the St. Mark’s Historic Lutheran Church, which survived the Fires of San Francisco in 1906. Learn more at http://www.stmarks-sf.org/historical-timeline/

St. Mark's Luthern Church

Photo: St. Mark’s Church

At the funeral home in Ballston Spa and while standing in front of the casket, I noticed a card with a poem and dried pressed flowers. I was touched that my cousin Kathy thought about what the blossoms and writing meant to her mother. Kathy wrote, on April 3, 1982, “Thanks so much for being here and for your lovely note and kind thoughts.” She continued, “Hope you’ll call or drop in when you’re in Saratoga – Mom always loved your surprise visits from the far corners of the globe – our many happy memories sustain us. She dearly loved you – carry her thoughts with you always.”

southwest-waterfront-00 Madison Marquette

Photo: DC

In the early 1990s, Kathy occasionally visited me in Washington, DC. We enjoyed time in the penthouse overlooking the SW waterfront, with views of the Tidal Basin, Lincoln’s Memorial, and The War College in south-west DC. Kathy loved culture and art as much as I did. Both of us were artistic, creative, and a bit eccentric. We could spend the whole day at the Smithsonian Museums, which were within walking distance from the penthouse. Then the season passed as they always do, and we went our separate ways. In 1994, my husband Will DeJong and I moved to Southern Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, and Kathy settled into life in Upstate New York. We didn’t keep up with each other during her married years because I traveled and worked afar.

After retiring, Kathy lived with her daughter because she needed extra help. Cousin Ellie told me that Kathy had developed Alzheimer’s Disease. I felt a loss knowing that this is one disease that can’t be put back together again. Kara was doing family research on the Internet, she looked for connections to her past, and discovered the essay, “Born Under a Lucky Star,” about Aunt Ellen, her grandmother, and she sent a message. Learn more at https://insectamonarca.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/born-under-a-lucky-star/

Again, it was as if Aunt Ellen had a hand in this serendipitous moment. Now I realize the butterfly cup and a few other small pieces of China are intended for Kara. Kara’s Great-Grandmother handed down an antique English serving platter decorated with roses made by L. Straus & Sons, in Carlsbad, Austria. Now, this is an heirloom for Kara.

Straus and Sons platter

Photo: Straus Platter

NOTE: In 1865 Lazarus and Isidor Straus formed the whole importing firm of L. Straus & Sons. They were importers of Crockery, China, and Glassware. The three sons of Lazarus and Sara Straus were Nathan, Oscar, and Isidor. Courtesy of the Straus Historical Society Source: Historical Society at http://www.brilliantglass.com/straus/craig-carlson-write-up/l-straus-sons-and-its-history/

There are always stories, and today I remember I just flutter by, after all my name is Memengwaaikwe, in Ojibwe, which means Butterfly woman. I am grateful to have these stories and treasures to pass into the future. God Bless You, Aunt Ellen. Thank you for bringing Kara into my life. She is helping to ease my heart with the loss of Kathy to a devastating disease, and hopefully, I can bring some comfort also.


There are over 1,000 North American species of solitary hunting wasps. All of them prey on arthropods, which the female stings and paralyzes (but doesn’t kill so that they don’t begin to decompose immediately). Most solitary wasps specialize on a single type of prey, and many build highly characteristic burrow nests. Once the prey is […]

via Thread-waisted Wasps Provisioning Nests — Naturally Curious with Mary Holland

Cannabis sativa

Hemp  The following hopefully will clear up any confusion about Cannabis sativa from Hemp and its medical uses. I am an herbalist and not a medically trained person. I am speaking from my own experience and truth.

Cannabis sativa from Hemp is not to be confused with Cannabis sativa from Marijuana. The Cannabis sativa from the hemp plant contains cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis sativa from Marijuana also has the same molecular compounds. CBD from Hemp is a natural pain reliever and legal to use. In February 2014, President Obama signed the Farm Bill which has a special amendment to legalize the production of Industrial Hemp in the United States. Learn more at http://www.votehemp.com/PR/2014-02-07-vh_farm_bill_signed.html

The US Government rushed to patent Hemp (Patent # 6,630,507).
According to the Patent Office at http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6630507.PN.&OS=PN/6630507&RS=PN/6630507

Marijuana proponents allege that the U.S. government is exhibiting hypocrisy by owning a cannabis-related patent while also denying marijuana’s rescheduling. (Denver Post file)

Abstract: Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties [and neuroprotectants], unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH.sub.3, and COCH.sub.3. ##STR1##

Other sources such as Edens Garden state that Cannabis sativa helps relieve fibromyalgia, joint pain, and other ailments.

According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabinoids activate specific receptors throughout the body to produce a drug-like effect, specifically in the nervous and immune systems. Although more research is needed to conclude the effects of CBD, it may relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without the psychotropic effects of THC, as reported by the National Cancer Institute.

Currently, the institute is studying the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids for the relief of nausea, pain, anxiety, and loss of appetite. Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by blocking cell growth. Other possible effects of cannabinoids include antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity, and relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis. But despite promising results, more research is needed to verify the possibilities.


Cannabis Essential Oil: To be diluted into a carrier oil, Cannabis Essential Oil is produced by the steam distillation of the cannabis flower. The active components are myrcene and beta-caryophyllene, which are packed with anti-inflammatory properties.

CBD: Extracted from the Hemp Plant, Cannabidiol is a potent phytocannabinoid that is non-psychoactive.

Hemp Seed Carrier Oil: Rich in vitamins and antioxidant properties, Hemp Seed Oil is produced through a cold pressed method. The oil is pale to golden yellow at https://www.edensgarden.com/blogs/news/what-is-cannabis-essential-oil-and-how-it-differs-cbd-hemp-oil-and-cannabis-co2

Benefits+of+Hemp I mixed a bottle of Edens Garden Cannabis sativa essential oil (5 ml) at https://www.edensgarden.com/collections/single-oils with a bottle of Hemp Carrier Oil (100 ml) and used topically. This enriched oil is rubbed on sore hips, knees, and pain centered locations. It takes the edge off and at least helps me to sleep without pain. I hope this will help you too.

  The Creator put all the plants on the planet. Each has their own use.
Natural medicine is better than side-effecting prescription drugs, and I believe that the plants were put on this Earth for us to use, “Physician heal thyself.”


Early morning
the sun is out
the field is fresh green after a rain
are there dandelion flowers?
did the bunny eat the leaves?
a young bunny is ever so still
I became still also
I start to quietly chant
in love with the little creature.





Interview with Author Leona Casey Signor

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a retired registered nurse and a widow living in upstate New York.

2017-01-04 12.02.01 Author Leona Casey Signor

Please share something about your book How Did He Find Me?

When I was young, I became pregnant and had to face my family. I realized what a scandal I created for my Catholic family. Because of the family background, I received little help with my “situation.” After finding out how difficult it was to care for my infant son, I finally gave up the struggle and placed my 10-month-old baby up for adoption.

What happened when your son grew up?

My son grew up and tried to find his birth mother. We embarked on a journey together to discover each other, resulting in a new and loving relationship.

Why did you write the book?

This memoir was written as a catharsis and in the hope of helping other girls facing an unwanted pregnancy.

Book is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=How+Did+He+Find+Me

Rainy Day Tales

It was a humid, rain-soaked summer morning. My dog Tia and I went for a walk on a dirt road near our home in the village of Minong, Wisconsin. No one used the road, and we had the woodlands and prairie all to ourselves, just the way we liked it. Problems disappeared when we were out in nature. The sun glistened, and occasionally small agate stones smiled back from the steamy earth. I stooped to pick one up and pocketed the tiny red gem.

Tia decided to go adventuring. Looking into a prairie, I saw my dog’s white-tipped tail waving in tall native grasses kissed by dewdrops.  She looked up as if checking on me. After seeing me, Tia went back to frolicking. After awhile, she returned to my side. We heard the sweet song of chick-a-dees in Jack pine trees. The birds were enjoying tree nuts and insects. We heard their Thanksgiving song. I knew that milkweed grew in a nearby field, and we went over to investigate and to see if any life was astir after the rain.

23rain - Copy  Bending down, I look on the underside of the milkweed leaves and saw a monarch caterpillar sleeping under the protection of the soft green roof. Rainbow-colored water drops dripped from its back, and still, the caterpillar slumbered. Did it dream that soon this part of its life would end? Soon the caterpillar would change into a pupa, and then a beautiful monarch butterfly. Did the butterfly come to tell us that we too would be transformed and emerge into a new form?

Sadly, Tia passed away in the fall, and my life changed dramatically and forever. I became an executive director of a nonprofit public charity, Happy Tonics, that implemented sanctuary for the monarch butterfly. My name was given to me by Dr. John “Little Bird” Anderson. In Ojibwe, I am called Memengwaaikwe, which means Butterfly Woman. Looking back on this rain-drenched morning, I know my life was transformed forever, just as the tiny messenger foretold.

NOTE: Notice of John “Little Bird” Anderson’s obituary is at http://www.pineviewfuneralservice.com/home/obituary/3808530

Photos: Tia and Dr. John “Little Bird” Anderson


Dr. John (Little Bird) Anderson

The Sanctuary

by Audrey Scharmen

Published in Potomac Review, Fall/Winter 2001-02.

In the aftermath of lighting,  thunder and a heavy downpour with the horizon streaking rose, and mauve, tall silhouettes of trees encircle a dooryard garden where the cardinal flower stands amid a bed of her offspring. She is regal and rainswept, unbowed by the storm, each scarlet spike of florets beaded with diamond droplets aglitter in the fading light.

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis,  older than time, the symbol of hope and continuity in an era when both are precarious, has chosen this garden of a herbalist and healer as a sanctuary. Here are boneset, lion’s foot and agrimony. Argiope spins silver among cats claw and zebra grasses where winged Luna and Promethea linger to meditate and metamorphose. Here is a strident chorus of tree frogs and birdsong, the fecund scent of a generous season, and the subtle fragrance of white sage burned in an ancient ritual of welcome.

Lobelia cardinals,  older than time, the symbol of hope and continuity in an era when both are precarious, has chosen this garden of a herbalist and healer as a sanctuary. Here are boneset, lion’s foot and agrimony. Argiope spins silver among cats claw and zebra grasses where winged Luna and Promethea linger to meditate and metamorphose. Here is a strident chorus of tree frogs and birdsong, the fecund scent of a generous season, and the subtle fragrance of white sage burned in an ancient ritual of welcome.
The gardener, who presides with the blessings of the natural world, describes an entourage of daddy longlegs spiders that came to spread a net about the cardinal’s buds when predators threatened. The spiders quietly retreated when the first flowers opened, and the plant remains flawless. She tells of hummingbirds who came to pollinate-among the few winged creatures able to penetrate the deep nectar of the florets-and of a fat bumblebee who sleeps nightly amid the blossoms.

And she tells of the cardinal’s coming. To this thickly wooded acreage that she has long tended in the watershed of a great estuary, where precious fossils of an inland sea abound, and where relics of Piscataway Indians who once hunted here lie all about, have come uncommon botanicals,  seeking refuge from the constant threat of progress. But her garden lacked a cardinal flower, an elusive plant she coveted.

It is a stunning survivor of the warm period that preceded the glacial epoch-its flowers so intense a hue the leaves often are stained with it. It is said that no color due to sustained sunlight could have originated in our temperate zone. Thus its birth has been traced to the Age of Flowers, to a sudden explosion that changed the face of Earth. The cardinal indeed may have been present at the creation.

The gardener’s efforts to transplant such a flower had been futile, and she had gone in search of it in a woodland beside the bed of a brook in a nearby glen protected by dense undergrowth and tall trees. Stalks of summer things spoke of a secret garden, and she thought it an ideal place for the Cardinal, a wetland plant with an aura of the rain forest, which craves a secluded habitat where it may keep its feet wet and its head crowned with sunlight. Hidden beneath a residue of autumn past were infant seedlings resembling those of the cardinal-flat green rosettes of leaves with baby fuzz still intact. But she was uncertain so she would return later when jewelweed and goldenrod bloom, in the time of the cardinal.

Fate intervened. A few weeks later four young people died instantly in a head-on collision beside the road that borders the woodland, steps away from a trail that leads down to a haven of seedlings. An entire community mourned, and the crash site became a shrine. Candlelight vigils were held there, and paper roses bloomed beside a white cross with photos of four smiling faces forever sixteen. The gardener considered the glen a temporary haven for the transitory souls of the children and so she did not return.

Autumn faded; winter turned quickly cruel, and the wilted roses shed red on new fallen snow. Spring came early with clouds of dogwood to grace the shrine. Chaste stars of Bethlehem shone on the hillside, and burgeoning foliage hid the path beyond from the eyes of passerby. Summer followed long and sweltering. No rain fell and the wetlands withered.

With late summer came rain, the heat subsided, Virginia creeper and sumac bled scarlet beside the road, and white blossoms of autumn clematis covered the carnage of drought. A semblance of peace came to the shrine, and the gardener returned to the glen. But the Cardinal hadn’t come. Black-eyed Susans bloomedin its place.
In early September it appeared in her garden-rising from tall stalks of feverfew and ferns beside the porch, undetected until a bright beacon of buds reviewed the presence. A rare albino deer had come, as well, to linger briefly at the woods edge, pale and ghostly in the blue twilight. Hummingbirds returned-none had been seen all that summer.

There is no explanation. Perhaps a single seed, dormant for centuries nurtured by one of many springs known to lie deep beneath the unique woodland, suddenly had awakened. It was the cardinal’s time.

Saratoga Lake

Saratoga Lake Pontoon (8) Photo shows mowing down to water. Sure indication of possible future erosion.

To the Editor, The Saratogian and Saratoga Today

by Sid Gordon

If Saratoga Lake could talk, it would cry and say help save my life. My main body of water is a little over four miles long. I have been a good lake for Saratoga County and surrounding area. I have tried to take care of all the fish that make me their home and all the swimmers that enjoy my good water for swimming. I have been faithful to the people that use me. I now ask for help as I am dying a slow, but sure death.

I am too small for the number of boats that now use me, along with other things [invasive species, herbicides, pesticides, oil on water, prescription waste disposal, and fertilizers] going into me. The handwriting is on the wall. Can’t anyone see what is taking place with me? For those that know, please care about me. For others that don’t know and don’t care I say, turn around and do something while there is a little life left in me.

I love serving the people in this area. There is nothing worse than when a body of water dies. What good is a dead lake when all the fun is gone? Let those that can do something do so, now before it is too late. Sign up as a volunteer with Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District (SLPID) to promote stewardship of Saratoga Lake at http://slpid.org

Attached is the score card: 2015 Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program for Saratoga Lake at


Article inspired by Mary Ellen Ryall

NOTE: eColi forced the closing of Brown’s Beach on July 16. Raw sewage was discharged into Saratoga Lake.

This article was published by The Saratogian and Saratoga Today week of 18 July 2016



Strugglgling or Looking to Sell Your Own Book Someday…? Here’ What Can Turn It Into a Best Seller (For Book, Food & Writing Bloggers)

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