Waiting for my friends to walk on

This Christmas tide has been a time of watchful waiting. It’s been a time of intentional candles and tearful remembrances of two strong women who have been angels surrounding me. About a month ago, I had the undeniable calling to write about one of my elder friends. I felt driven to write as if it were urgent and I had to capture the essence. I had to pay attention.

This friend is a writer. I wanted to talk about our friendship and how her quiet love was like having an angel surrounding me. I had photos of Kay and her land that she shared with me when I visited her home. I knew what inspired her to write about a tree that she loved. Writing comes in the middle of the night now with this post.

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Kay Karras lives in Solon Springs, Wisconsin. We have spent many happy hours together over the years. She is a life long friend and poet with several chat books. Her latest work Bits of Birch, was published in 2008 by Belle Ink, LLC. At the time of publication, she was 90 years old, a remarkably strong spirited woman. Kay was chosen as Poet Laureate of Solon Springs a few years back.Back then, my friend would visit her elderly sister every week, driving at least 80 miles round trip from Solon Springs to Spooner and back. She would stop mid way at my house in Minong on many of these trips. We would sit outside in good weather and I would make her a cup of tea, or we would sit and chat in the house. She is such a loving friend who took the time to visit. Kay made me feel like a chosen one. I often felt she was looking out for me like an angel on your shoulder.I miss her and her wit. Oh Kay has wit. I have never known anyone before who could recite poetry from the top of her head like she can. She has sent me prayer cards and greeting cards over the years with angels as a theme. Kay Karras is an angel to me and I love her very much.

Photo Gallery

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Kay Karras I love poets
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Kay with book cover by Kathy Maas
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Kay’s favorite tree where poem was dedicated
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Kay’s heirloom rose
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Life before on the farm
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A dirt road on property
Always
by Kay Karras
I think of you
When the day is ending
My dreams hold the memory of you
Always.

Wintergreen

by Kay Karras

By Way of the Wintergreen Tree

Your little bare feet brought you to me

A lad so young – so happy, so free

To hunt wintergreens by

the wintergreen tree.

You take me back to the days when I was

A bare foot girl ‘neath an azure sky

Came to hunt in the cooling breeze

The wintergreen berries

and wintergreen leaves

I see in your happy eyes the smile

Making me wonder all the while

As the years fly by and I cease to be

Will you look for me, here?

by the wintergreen tree?

Kay gave so much to so many women. She was a member of the St. Croix Writers Group in Solon Spring, WI. What tribute can I give her, but a response to her love. She was a mantle for many. We can feel the same love now even when she no longer lives here.

Her daughter Maryann sent me a poem that she wrote for her mother. I knew she had one daughter in California. She’s a dark haired beauty of native descent. Kay sent her bear paws years ago that never made it to their destination; she was heartsick about it. She was a woodlands woman familiar with hunting, fishing and gardening. Kay was of the earth and a survivalist. She taught her children well.

My other friend lived in a different world. Dorothy was from the city. Years ago, when I was a young woman, we worked in publishing in Washington, DC. Another strong woman Dorothy Hill befriended me. We worked for a Jewish family who treated their employees well, like family. Our work was investigative and we worked on the Hill. The publishing house dealt with chemicals in food and cosmetics, Food Chemical News and Pesticide and Chemical News.

It was an informative time. It was here I learned that all that came in packages was not well, including food and cosmetics. This was my first exposure to the world  that was not as safe as I once believed. Madison Avenue is effective in what they do. Everything in society is about marketing and selling.

Dorothy came to my wedding at St. Dominic’s Church, in DC in 1985. She was suffering a terrible tooth ache from an abscess tooth and was immediately going to the dentist after the wedding. I knew then that she would do anything to show that she loved me. I trusted her. I didn’t trust my own mother and Dorothy taught me that she loved me unconditionally. What a beautiful friend. We both came from alcoholic families. She was married to a drinker and I was born into a family of alcoholism. I have trust issues when it comes to letting people get close to me. Dorothy broke that shell as did Kay.

We have been friends for what seems like forever. Now she is no longer here, but ascended to where love abides blissfully and showers us here the Earth. I am not alone even though I have said goodbye to many things. I am amused of course and dedicated to my work, but my own family of a husband, Tia the dog, and three cats don’t live here anymore. I don’t live on the land anymore that I loved in northwest Wisconsin. I had to leave my northern retreat for health reasons. Now I live on the east coast near family. This is a new chapter in my life. I have been gallivanting around the world for most of my adult life. Now I am spending these precious days with family as I age.

God Bless you all who have walked with me through these writings. May you know the value of family and friends surrounding you.

Be well Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging Butterfly Populations, Study Shows | Truthout

Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging Butterfly Populations, Study Shows | Truthout.

Roundup kills milkweed, the only host plant of the monarch butterfly. Citizen scientists have known for a few years now that the decline of milkweed is due to pesticide use which has depleted monarch populations in the Midwest where most of GMO corn and soy crop is planted now. What was once a diverse pollinator corridor has been reduced to remnant tallgrass prairie. Prairie has gone down by 90 percent in the USA.

Happy Tonics created a restored native tallgrass prairie, as a Monarch Butterfly Habitat, in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. We must do more. Gardeners need to plant milkweed to enable the monarch butterfly to rebound.

Wild Edibles Club First Excursion

The weather in northwest Wisconsin is below average and I am still heating my home in Minong. It is a wet and rainy season this spring and impossible to start a garden under these circumstances.

Debora with gathered leek greens.

 My friend Debora and I went out to the Washburn County forest at 5 p.m. last evening to a favorite haunt  between Hayward and Minong in search of leeks also known as ramps. There were large colonies of leeks and yellow trout lily. The lily bulbs were quite small and we decided not to gather them outside of a few that came along with the leeks when we dug in the deep, composted and compacted forest soil. I tried a few yellow trout lily bulbs and they tasted like raw potatoes.

Yellow trout lily

 I never saw as many trout lilies in my life.

Yellow trout lily in bud

 This was certainly a bountiful colony stretching across the forest floor in the near and far away woods.

closeup of leek plants

closeup of leek plants

The leeks are difficult to dig when growing in large clumps among other woodland plants. One needs to separate them out after digging. Leek leaves and bulb are both edible. Yellow trout lily on the other hand only provides an edible bulb. The fun is in the gathering.

Cleaning leek bulbs for freezing

Cleaning leek bulbs for freezing

I have learned over the years that it takes three times the work to clean, sort, cut roots and save leaves after gathering. 

Drying leek leaves

Drying leek leaves

Leek leaves need to be dried by using paper towels and placing single leaves in a tray, separated by layers of paper towel sheets between each row of leaves. Place the leaves  in the freezer for a few minutes to start the freezing process.

Then remove the trays from the freezer and transfer leek leaves with paper sheets intact to a ziplock freezer bag. Be sure to mark the bag in order to identify what you have preserved. Believe me, after a while, most foods will look the same after they have been in the freezer for any period of time.

Debora noticed something else in the woods and went to explore what it was.  She discovered emerging what we thought were ostrich ferns. 

Cinnemon or interrupted fern

Cinnemon or interrupted fern

  It was only later I learned that the fern was cinnamon (Osmunda cinnemomea) or interrupted fern (O. claytonia). I have gathered fiddlehead ferns before and I enjoy bracken fern as fiddleheads. Now I know why I prefer them.

For one the ferns left a stain on the plastic bag we were using. I should have been alerted then that something was wrong. Then I tried to eat one that I blanched and it tasted terrible. Even an experienced gatherer like myself can get confused. Always research before gathering. We should have carried the Forager’s Harvest or Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer to the gathering site and verified the species before picking. I had left the books in the van. Live and learn!

Fiddlehead ferns of cinnamon and interrupted fern have a hairy covering and simply are  not worth taking a risk. Don’t ever use either one. Seek true ostrich or bracken ferns for wild edibles. They are delicious and you will be well pleased.

Another group of wild edible gatherers are going to another forest where Happy Tonics has a wild butterfly habitat with land use for the habitat from the DNR. I know we have bracken fern out there in the clearing and I hope the ferns are ready to gather on Monday. I will let you know next week how this turns out.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

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