A walk within a forest

Sarah was a child of the woods. Recently, she hadn’t been feeling all that well. The need to go outside and communicate with nature was calling her. Poor Sarah, the tell tale signs of respiratory disease (COPD) were a real concern right now. Sarah’s mind did a memory walk, while venturing down the woodland path. Many years ago, her grandmother told her, “My own sister died of pneumonia when she was 18 years old.” She didn’t mention her sister’s name. Continuing the thought she said, “My sister had beautiful red hair.” Then, dusting her well worn hands against her apron; Sarah’s grandmother asked that they change the subject.

Sarah’s grandmother had reminded her to live in the present and be grateful for today. These thoughts followed Sarah as she ventured out to the habitat. The path was richly carpeted in pine needles, beech and oak leaves.

Once in awhile, Sarah came upon a surprise miniature colony of moss, looking like a tiny forest, interlaced with snow and a loose bed of leaves. Sarah learned intrinsically that leaves protect moss and snow keeps the colony alive with moisture. Sarah loved learning like this.

Our Lady of the Woods
Along the pathway was a small alter to Our Lady of the Woods. Mary, her sister recently told her that the statue was Slovak. A little further along, Sarah noted transplanted rhododendrons that her sister had set out at different points along the trail. After all, it was botanical woodlands.

Upon entering the habitat, Sarah was greeted by a small handmade paper sign that read, “Friends.” To Sarah, friends were birds and wild animals that lived there. Turning her gaze to a dead tree, she noticed the suet hanger, hung a few weeks ago, was empty. In another tree, a metal suet feeder was missing. Sometimes things disappear in the woods. Who carries them off she wondered?

Shrugging, she turned her mind to the millet hung in the trees. She observed that the seed heads are holding up well. What was that sweet sound? Chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Oh little birds are here. Delighted she watched where they landed as they inched towards her.

Sarah wanted to investigate the forsythia that Mary planted this past fall. Her sister had been transplanting bits of shrubbery to brighten the habitat with blossoms some day. Deer have been here, she noted; some tender shoots had been eaten. In that moment, Sarah’s heart was happy remembering Indigenous instructors who taught her so many beautiful things, which she now carried in her heart.

Sarah dumped the contents of compost in a pile, from a stainless steel bowl. Each time she went to the habitat, she tried to bring saved raw coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and vegetable waste. Sarah wanted to create some good compost to work with next spring.

turkey tail
turkey tail
Nearby, a colony of Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) was growing on an old dead tree limb. The tree had lost its life in a blow down years ago. Turkey tail’s medicinal properties have been researched by Paul Stamets, owner of Fungi Perfecta at http://www.fungi.com/
The mushroom is believed to have medicinal properties that could treat some forms of cancer. Sarah was interested in medicinal mushrooms for this reason. The National Institutes of Health tested Paul Stamet’s Host Defense Turkey Tail from Fungi Pefecta. Dr. Andrew Weil wrote a knowledgeable article at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400904/Turkey-Tail-Mushrooms-for-Cancer-Treatment.html

After the thrill of seeing the mushroom in her habitat, Sarah spent a few more moments looking at hanging bells she had hung. She hoped the wind would make them jingle.

Before heading home to the farm, she took one last look at a miniature pumpkin decorating a tree stump. Who knows, perhaps habitat visitors enjoyed looking at the Christmas garlands instead of eating them.

Mary Ellen copyright Cindy Dyer
Mary Ellen copyright Cindy Dyer
Happy holidays Butterfly Woman friends where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day five

It is Tuesday.

Today is the day I am going to the little village of Minong, home to 561 souls.  It is the first day in five that I have seen a person.  My husband came to take me shopping.  I need to buy bread, a new brush for Sadie and eggnog with nutmeg for Christmas morning.  

This morning was truly a winter wonderland.  Sadie and I saw at least a hundred birds on the side of the country road nibbling grass and flower seed and I suspect spotted knapweed seedhead. 

Flower seed incapsulated in down
Flower seed incapsulated in down.
Knapweed seedhead
Spotted knapweed seedhead.

  Knapweed is an invasive species.  Each flower head has 20,000 seeds.  The seeds are eaten by birds and then deposited in another unsuspecting native habitat.

Then while washing dishes, I saw the birds on the slope of the hill where some native grasses were not completely covered with snow.  Again they were feasting.  I put out two handfuls (daily) of sunflower seed.  The migrating sparrows ate from our supplies.  They were close enough to identify from the cabin.  After the sparrows left the chickadee and nut thrash flew in to enjoy a feast too.  By the way I need a bird book out here and I think binoculars would be a great aid too.  Even squirrels get along with the small birds and no one was greedy as they all enjoyed a fresh supply of sunflower seeds.

 I could hardly wait to go out snowshoeing later in the morning.  As I started through the old field I noticed all the plants were covered with a coating of magical snow dusting.  Each and every one glistened.  Even the trees looked like they were kissed with hoarfrost.  The sun hit the branches and they twinkled like stars.  As I walked across the field on my snowshoes the snow sparkled in the sunlight.  This is my favorite time of snow time when the snow and every living plant glistens.

I saw the large boulder yesterday.

Grandfather boulder
Grandfather boulder.

  It was at least three moraines back from the road.  I was anxious to see the boulder and learn if it was on my land.  This is a new interesting leap in faith.  As soon as I ascended the hill, I saw that indeed it was on the property that is for sale.

A halo of oak leaves
A halo of oak leaves.

  Oak leaves on an old growth oak tree started to sing as I neared grandfather boulder.  I felt the tree was happy I was there.  I know I was.

I noticed that a deer or some other creature scrapped the snow from the boulder and had eaten some of the moss.

Moss on large boulder
Moss on large boulder.

  I wish I had a moss book so I could identify the moss.  Is it too a medicinal?  Animals are smart.  They know what to eat.

Birch bark
Birch bark with peeled bark.

  There was a white birch growing nearby and I rubbed my glove over the bark and applied the powder to  my face.  The powder contains a sunblock equivalent to synthetic sunscreen.

My elder Ojibwe friend Soaring Woman told me, “Let nature teach you.”  Believe me, nature is the best teacher.  I decided to wander back beyond the moraine and see what was out there.  In a flat area I found where the deer had slept last night under the moonlight.  The ground was flattened out.  Oak leaves abounded on the surface and the deer bedded down on them.

The plants changed to goldenrod, river birch, and what looks like some kind of bramble.  Again I won’t know till spring.  There is something calling me to this land.  My father owned a gentleman’s farm in Upper New York State, which I loved.  It was 17 acres.  I can feel my father laughing and I am happy on this land in Wisconsin.  It reminds me of our own family land back east which is long gone to an outsider.  The farm had rolling hills and a wooded forest.  This is 15 acres and somehow it feels very familiar to me. 

I hinted to my husband how I felt about the land and my memories of the farm back east.  As we drove to the cabin he said, “The land is for sale.”  I said yes as I bide him goodbye.  First things first.  I need to talk with a forest man in spring and have him walk the land with me and let me know what he thinks about the standing timber.  It may turn out to be an investment in years to come. 

I am singing the land to me.

Be happy readers where ever you are.