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.

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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.

Reflections on the Mother Earth Water Walkers

by John Schneider, June 12, 2011

I watched the ceremony on the Lake Superior shore yesterday of the convergence of the Water Walk. Luckily I got there early and had time to run along the beach and soak and meditate in the lake before I ran up the road from the beach and caught up with the group coming down to the lake. I was tuned into the experience from the point of view of the lake, and from years of running daily
in the wilderness and swimming in lakes and rivers. And from the point of view of opposition to the mine that would send runoff and bring bilge spewing pollution from ore freighters on that beach. And level mountaintops (nearly weathered by time to hills) to feed industry, industry that should already feed from recycled metal first, but doesn’t. And be powered by Lake Superior ind/wave
power melting and recycling materials with zero carbon pollution in the atmosphere and no acid rain in the rivers and lakes.

But thanks to a Facebook friend I never met before, and her guide to the ceremony, a young native girl, and several kids swimming and wading in the mother lake. And several moms comments….but especially a 6 year old who was barefoot and remarked as I was putting my running shoes back on after swimming, “Oh I should have brought my shoes down too..” I realized the point of view of
my childhood again, I had camped in that very same area with my family as a kid, and still I think that trip is in my dreams.

Mother Earth Water Walkers Bad River copyright Jennifer

Mother Earth Water Walkers Bad River copyright Jennifer

Dream on… this is looking through their eyes, the children and their mothers and grandmothers hopes for them…And then!! The great moment for me.. a small thing, but I happened to be right there where the boats would land with the Water Walkers.. the grandmothers….A man stepped up and asked if I would help pull the boats up. A great honor.. a few of us pulled together. Wonderful experience I will meditate on for years… Then I went to the North Country Trail at Upson Lake to explore the Penokees where they would be effected by mining run off. These mountains are wonderful. Their waters are beautiful; I meditated
beside a stream on the trail, watching the intricate insect life. I saw butterflies sucking moisture from mud on Upson Lake boat landing, now to explore this whole area via the trail and get others there too. We need to draw inspiration to fight the mine and fight for those precious waters feeding our very lives and the life web we inhabit.

Response to Argumenative Article – Letter to the Editor

Last week the Monarch Butterfly Habitat received bad press from a woman who did not understand the purpose of the habitat. Here is a response from Tabitha Brown, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, Hayward, Wisconsin, USA.

Letter to the Editor, Washburn County Register:

In regards to the letter sent by Laureli Anderson from Cumberland, I would like to say VOLUNTEER. Happy Tonics is run by volunteers. No one is paid and it is run off of donations and grants. If you want to make a difference do something about it that is constructive. Happy Tonics butterfly Garden is a nonprofit run by volunteers and if you want to make changes to it then volunteer time or make a donation. That “nice pergola” you mentioned was a donation, and so were those benches begging to be sat upon. As a volunteer I tried to find local artists to donate artwork to add to the sanctuary. Maybe you would be more successful?

Some of the grants used to run the gardens have strict guidelines. Grants by the DNR or the Forestry service have stipulations where only certain plants can be used at the sanctuary. Why is that you may ask? Because the plants used at the Garden are Indigenous to the area and these plants are what local wildlife need since people destroy their natural habitats by planting “cute little gardens.”

A natural habitat does not look like your manicured garden. It is wild and beautiful in its own way if you take the time to study and appreciate it. I volunteer at the Butterfly sanctuary. I study plants and wildlife at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community college. Prairie habitat has been reduced to 1% of what it once was less than 100 years ago. People mow it down for their gardens, homes, and farms. The wildlife that once called it home is being destroyed. Did you know the habitat of Palos Verdes blue butterfly was reduced to the size of a baseball field? Guess what that town did to the habitat? They turned it into a baseball field. Now that butterfly is extinct in the wild.

Shell Lake is taking huge steps towards environmental awareness. The Organization that supports the Butterfly Garden in Shell Lake also provides festivals, seminars, and education on environmental awareness issues. They promote sustainable living.  So next time you visit the habitat keep that in mind. You can also ask for a guided tour and learn about the plants and maybe once you know what they do you can appreciate them as much as I do.

Sincerely,

Tabitha Brown

Monitoring Native Species at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden – August 2010

AUGUST 2010

 August 12 – Stonelake Garden Club came for a tour of the habitat. There were 33 women from the garden club and they enjoyed learning about forbs and grasses. The tall bluestem grass is over 6 feet tall and it is like walking through a tunnel in some areas where the rain drenched earth produced tall stands in the wettest part of the sandy prairie.

The week of August 9 – 14 so very hot that we didn’t work in the habitat.  The temperature is supposed to cool next week.  Looking forward to placing the sculpture art in the habitat.

August 18 – The sculpture art is still not in. It has been raining quite steadily for at least two weeks now.  I don’t mind. Matter of fact, I do a Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony to bless the tears of the sky.  The habitat is happy with singing crickets. I believe I heard a frog out there this early evening as I walked through area two.

I was happy to see monarch caterpillars on several milkweeds throughout the habitat today. I feel we have an incubator this year because the adult females have found that the habitat is for them.  I love to see the waving and pollinating grasses dressed in dripping gold and yellows dangling from the flower heads waving in the breeze.  There is nothing quite like it as I pause to gaze at ground covering purple Prairie dropseed, what might be a little bluestem and one beauty I still haven’t identified. 

The plant ID plaques are nearly all in place. The hand-made large standing bird house is looking good in area three. Brennan Harrington placed a wooded stand under it so it now stands a little taller than the split rail fence.

 August 23 – I agree with Corey Bradshaw, Conservation Biologist in Australia. Limited monitoring of species does not give the big picture to show any pattern of species biodiversity, one needs to look at the long and broad view. Please read his article at http://conservationbytes.com/2010/08/24/long-deep-broad/

None the less, we are making minute monitoring observations at least. I felt it was important to document what we are seeing as an environmental education organization. I wanted to show and tell what is happening to biodiversity of animals and plant species in the Restored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie which is a Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA.

Adapting to Climate Change

Please take a minute to REGISTER AND VOTE at http://brighterplanet.com/project_fund_projects/100

Happy Tonics needs your VOTE to help us do our work.  Officers and Board Members give of their time to educate and implement programs to adapt to Climate Change by promoting Sustainability of Native Plants, Monarch Butterfly and other pollinator habitat.  Our mission is:  Sanctuary for the Monarch Butterfly and Food Safety Issues.

Bumble bee

Native bumble bee on autumn sedum

beauty she gives

small square foot garden

We are a small grassroots nonprofit that needs your help to WIN our Climate Change Native Habitat and Community Garden Shell Lake grant proposal.

This is not Happy Tonics first attempt to bring Adapting to Climate Change into national awareness.

We were honored to participate in the Green Effect grant process with National Geographic sponsored by Sun Chips in 2009.  Although other worthy causes won, we believe that each of us must do our part to bring the message of adapting to climate change home.  (National Geographic, Green Effect Winning Ideas for a Better World, November 2009, insert after pg. 6.)

Native pollinator plants

Plant native wildflowers for drought conditions

Won’t you help us now?  Please SIGN UP AND VOTE at http://brighterplanet.com/project_fund_projects/100

Thank you.

Brighter Planet Selects Happy Tonics Grant Proposal for February Voting

Brighter Planet

Brighter Planet Logo

The week of 18 January 2010, Matt Vaughan, of Brighter Planet, in Middlebury, Vermont, called to let Happy Tonics know that our grant proposal for Climate Change Native Habitat and Community Garden in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, was selected by Brighter Planet as a project for funding via the social media nonprofit organization.  We are honored that our project is being sponsored.

We need your VOTES in order to win a grant of $999.  Register at http://brighterplanet.com/ to VOTE on Climate Change Native Habitat and Community Garden Shell Lake grant proposal between February 1 – 15.  There are not that many days before the VOTING begins.  Please get ready now.  We will remind you again starting next week. 

Conservation begins with action.  Thank you for playing a part in helping species besides ourselves survive in a world that is changing because of Climate Change. 

sign at Monarch Butterfly Habitat

Art work by Elaine DeAnn Brevitz Brown

Happy Tonics, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental education organization and public charity in Shell lake, Wisconsin.   We ask that you tell all your friends to VOTE for us too.

United we can do anything from the Grass Roots movement upward.

Bee on liatris

Bumble bee on blazing star copyright Cindy Dyer

  Let’s make this world sustainabile from the earth up in the midst of climate change.  Future generations of people, plants, animals and pollinating insects will thank us.  Yes, even the bees can buzz their affection.

Thank you for your help.

Lakeland Manor Hosts 1st Environmental Film of 2010

Happy Tonics, Inc. is sponsoring the II Annual Winter Environmental Film Festival in Washburn and Sawyer County, Wisconsin. USA.

Viewing insect world

Life is a mystery in the understory.

The first host site was Lakeland Manor.  The senior housing residence showed MicroCosmos a film produced in France.  The movie shows the little seen world of insects in the USA and the rain forests of Latin America.  Beautiful closeup photography.  Event took place on 15 January 2010.

St. Richelle, guests and Gretal

Darling Gretal goes to the movies

We had a good turn out of residents and guests.  Oh yes, our little pets enjoy being with us during film viewings especially when cookies are served.

I want some cookies

Buddy was more interested in the cookies that were served.Little Gretal goes to the movie

EVENTS – II Annual Winter Environmental Film Festival January 2010

II Annual Winter Environmental Film Festival – JANUARY 2010

January 28 – Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, 13346 Trepania Road, Hayward.  Local fresh caught fish to be served at NOON day meal.  Speaker from Red Cliff Reservation will share update on toxic waste dumping in Lake Superior at 12:10 p.m.  Gladyce Nahbenayash speaks at 12:30 and film at 1 p.m.   Environmental film Flow to be shown. Film addresses global Indigenous water rights, water purity, privatization and pollution.  College students plan to go ice fishing on January 22 to catch the main course.  American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) will cook the fish for the pot luck meal.  Guest speaker Gladyce Nahbenayash will speak on the sacredness of water.   FREE.   Open to the public.

Silver Lake

Silver Lake

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