Happy Tonics, Inc. wishes Shell Lake a Happy Holiday in Christmas Lights

Diane Dryden, each Christmas season, takes it upon herself to help decorate the Municipal Park with Christmas Lights for Happy Tonics, Inc. The nonprofit environmental education organization has a Monarch Butterfly Habitat on city land near the lake. It is an entrance to the city, along side of Route 63., a few blocks from downtown.

ImageDiane was a herb seller this year in a Bethlehem scene.

ImageThe Christmas display of cactus waving is a tribute to the monarch butterflies that are now in Mexico. The sign is in Spanish,which reads: Feliz Navidad! The butterflies are now in Mexico.

ImageHappy Tonics officers and board members are grateful to Diane Dryden who has a way of making an event special. Thanks Diane.


The mighty oak and other tales

Today I ventured a little farther down the road that goes by my sister’s old farmstead. It is a steep hill; each day I venture a little more down the road. This way I am able to test my breathing and build endurance in hill climbing to return home. The forest was loudly making her presence known today. Acorns were dropping on the forest floor. How mighty the old oak trees are with maple tree companions.

I am always amazed to observe plants along the way. There is lots of poison ivy growing in the ditch area and I saw darling jewel weed growing near the ivy. The sweet flower is the antidote to poison ivy. You rub it on infected areas and it clears up itchy skin patches. How do remedy plants know where to grow where poisonous plants exist? Do plants communicate? I believe they do. Plants release chemicals and essential oils. Trees are known to communicate when they are about to be attacked by predator bugs. They release chemicals that warn a companion tree colony that danger is headed their way. I suspect that all plant colonies have this chemical defense mechanism. How good of the jewel weed to come and grow near the poison ivy.

A few days ago I received a call from Mike Carpenter, caretaker, Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI. We had planted a three sisters garden at the habitat. It was growing profusely when I left WI on July 11. Well, it was growing so well that deer thought we had planted it just for them. Mike mentioned that the deer were coming in a night, making beds and sleeping at the habitat. They didn’t have to go far to forage. Deer have helped themselves to all the squash and baby pumpkins. Hungry critters have also eaten all the beans except a handful.

I think Mike made the gardens extra inviting by feeding the plants with fish juice all summer. He’s a fisherman and doesn’t throw anything out. I never saw our vegetable garden looking so good. Mike said he wants to put up a night hunter’s motion camera so we can see who lives in the habitat at night.

Long view of secret gardens
Aldo Leopold bench
Aldo Leopold bench

Yesterday afternoon I took the mail out to the Aldo Leopold bench which is under a maple tree and near a trail in the woods. This is my own secret garden now. I was content to sit there and read the mail.

Joe Pye Weed

Looking up I could see Joe Pye weed, one of my favorites. I love the story that goes something like this. Long ago a group of people who came over the big water from Europe became ill. A Native American came to their rescue and gave them a tea to drink. The pilgrims got better. One of the sick asked him, what is the name of that plant? The Native American said, “Joe Pye Weed.” You see that was his name. I can just imagine Joe Pye walking away after saying this.

Butterfly Corner

Ryall, M.E. 20 June 2012. Washburn County Register, Butterfly Corner.

ImageJune 9: Amber Nagel, Muncy, PA, reports that her daughter Emilie came across a butterfly on her walk back to the family car after the Memorial Day parade. The butterfly took quite a liking to the youngster and spent about 10 minutes resting on her finger. Emilie was very excited and had a hard time leaving the butterfly behind, once she reached the car (as did he since he kept circling around her before flying off). Emilie has researched to find more information about the red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis a. astyanax) and hopes to see more of them over the summer, around her little butterfly-station she made. Her mother wrote that Emilie is a Girl Scout and has started a butterfly project with her young friends. Every time one of the girls discovers a butterfly, she excitedly calls and reports the findings to Emilie.

June 13: Land and Water Conservation Department, Shell Lake, made a visit to Northwood School, Minong. An agency representative met district school administrator Dr. Jean A. Serum and a volunteer parent Shelby Renoos-Ausing. It turns out that the site chosen for a butterfly habitat does receive water that seeps naturally into the ground from the sloped driveway. The land is normally dry, sandy, and a good site for a prairie type setting. There are two ways to implement the habitat. One is to plant a seed base in the fall, before the first snow. Butterfly garden perennials can be added in early summer and purchased through Land and Water Conservation Department. We learned that seed companies may be receptive to donating seed for a school conservation and environmental project. NorthStar Community Charter School has the ability to do soil testing beforehand to provide gardeners with an idea of the soil makeup. There are two AmeriCorps personnel that will assist with the new environmental education project. Visit the website to learn more about going green at Northwood School District at http://www.northwood.k12.wi.us/se3bin/clientschool.cgi?schoolname=school571

ImageJune 16: The Flea Market at the habitat took place from 8 am – 10 am. It was a cloudy day and good for photography. There were many small European skipper butterflies sleeping in the tall grasses. It was a perfect day to do photography because it was overcast. This is one reason the butterflies were not out and fluttering about. There will be no Flea Market on June 23.

June 23: Join us for the National Bee Count at 10 am. Meet at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat at 9:30 am to learn about bumblebees and other native bees. Let’s see who’s buzzing at the habitat. Reports and photographs will be submitted to The Great Sunflower Project and Pollinator Organization at http://pollinator.org/npw_events.htm#wi  Bring along a camera if you have one. Do you have a magnifier? Sometimes it is easier to spot pollen on bee legs and body with a magnifier. Bring a lawn chair. Water will be provided. Register at 715 466-5349.

ImageJuly 4: Happy Tonics is celebrating the holiday. We plan to sell framed small fine art watercolor paintings on July 4, at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat, throughout the day, providing it is not raining. Happy Tonics received a large donation of fine art in 2012. This is an opportunity for the average citizen to take home a real painting. The nonprofit is also hosting its first artist sponsored exhibit on July 4. Joe and Jacki Valdez, Hayward, WI, will be displaying and selling their wooden and colorful butterflies. Butterflies are mounted on posts or can be nailed to a tree or building. The butterfly colors are vibrant and sure to please a crowd. Be sure to stop by. The National Butterfly Count will take place: 10 am to 11 am and 1 pm to 2 pm. Sign up beforehand at 715 466-5349. Happy Tonics will supply materials for recording. Meet us at the habitat at 9:30 am for a short talk and photos on butterfly species. Bring a lawn chair. Water will be provided.

Butterfly Corner “Washburn County Register” 06/13/12

Ryall, M.E. 13 June 2012. Washburn County Register, Butterfly Corner.

Fresh start lending a hand to spruce up the habitat
Fresh start lending a hand to spruce up the habitat

June 7: Fresh Start came to the Monarch Butterfly Habitat to help Happy Tonics with  habitat maintenance. Eleven youth and five supervisors signed up to perform Community Service. Youth worked in teams and pounded in plant ID stakes, eradicated invasive species, dug up and transplanted native plants from the path at the Shoreline Restoration Project, near the Shell Lake Beach. Groups planted and watered transplants of elderberry, black eyed Susan, goldenrod and prairie rose at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden. If you think that is a mouth full, the green team accomplished all of this in 2 ½ hours.

Even if we worked all summer, Happy Tonics with limited volunteers and staff, could have not managed transforming area three in such an efficient way. Youth were attentive, happy, willing to learn about the habitat, and enjoyed learning why we are providing habitat for pollinators.

Chad Olson, staff at Wisconsin Fresh Start Rusk Co., Weyerhaeuser, WI  54865
Chad Olson, staff at Wisconsin Fresh Start Rusk Co., Weyerhaeuser, WI

Chad Olson mentioned that teens usually grumble when asked to do manual labor. Not these youngsters. I think they enjoyed working outside with butterflies, native bees, and learning about native plants that allow pollinators to survive and insure a secure local food supply.

Happy Tonics wishes to thank supervisors Chad Olson and Carly Moline, Weyerhaeuser; Dan Gunderson and Sherri Anderson, Shell Lake; and Mary Schmocker, Hayward, for offering a day of service to the nonprofit. Special thanks go out to Jim VanMoorleham, Happy Tonics volunteer and Joan Quenan, Board Member and Volunteer. I appreciated their efforts in supervising different groups of youngsters and teaching them how to eradicate invasive species and identify native plants.

At noon, we all went to the Lion’s Shelter for a cookout. A few youth from Shell Lake stayed at the shelter while we worked at the habitat. They prepared a delicious cook out for us. Youth did mention that the assignment was fun and offered to come again, perhaps next season. Bravo green team! We love youth to participate. After all, it is their world which they will inherit some day.

June 8: Monarch survival statistics are in from Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, University of MN. Since the butterfly was first recorded in 1993- 1994, monarchs have been in decline in Mexico (overwintering site). 2011-2012 was the lowest on record. The average habitat over the past 19 years has been 7 hectares (1 hectare equals 2.5 acres). Last winter the monarchs occupied only 2.9 hectares.  There is great concern about the Endangered Migration Phenomena.

Fortunately, a few interacting weather patterns this year have been in favor of the monarchs rebounding in a single generation. The Texas drought is finally over. This means there was lots of healthy milkweed to lay eggs on. Just when the new generation was born, along came a string of warm days with southerly winds. The winds pushed the monarchs northward in record numbers and much earlier than we have seen in many years.

New Ventures Garden Seminar


I was delighted that two of my young apprentices helped with Happy Tonics exhibit at the Northwood School, Minong, Wisconsin. This was the eighth annual New Ventures Garden Seminar and it was very well attended.

Cassie Thompson was the model for my book, “My Name is Butterfly.” She has been a butterfly advocate since a young girl. Cassie lives in Minong, WI. Dakota Robinsin, Shell Lake, WI, won a Girls Scout Silver Medal for her project to educate about the monarch butterfly migration. Dakota made a story board that she uses to educate others about the Endangered Migration Phenomena. She made a petition to stop roadside mowing. So far she has 91 signatures. Her goal is to reach 100 signatures before she sends the results to Senator Jauch and other legislators.

Also in the collage is Marlene Darmanin of Sidney, Australia. Marlene started a project to build a school library on remote Viwa Island, Fiji. Marlene’s story to follow shortly on this Blog. All thee of them are heroes in my book. Each of them stepped outside of their comfort zone to implement change for good.

Exciting Findings Monarch Survival: An Amazing Feat

Source: News from Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) – University of Minneapolis.

Butterfly followers may find this article of interest considering that Karen Oberhauser, Director of Monarch in the Classroom, wrote. Karen is a leading scientist and teacher in the field of monarch biology and migration. She wrote, “Mary Ellen Ryall from Shell Lake, WI, has established and dedicated a native remnant tall grass prairie as monarch habitat on 1/2 acre of city land. After a tremendous storm, she has shared an amazing story of monarch survival.”

On July 1, 2011 a straight line wind at 100 mph struck Minong, WI. It blew down 11 red pine trees on my property in the village. In the process of storm cleanup, the trees were cut and taken to the local saw mill to be turned into board foot. There was an Aldo Leopold Bench that was crushed beneath one tree. The logger brought his big equipment in and lifted the tree so that his son could save the bench.

Chrysalis after the storm. On underside of Aldo Leopold bench copyright Mary Ellen Ryall
Chrysalis after the storm. On underside of Aldo Leopold bench copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Lo and behold a monarch chrysalis was on the bench. I thought about how the butterfly was a form of transformation and knew it would adapt to the landscape changes.  I marveled that I saw a few monarch butterflies flying about the day after the storm. How could winds of 100 mph wreck such havoc in the village and yet allow the butterflies to survive? How did the same wind that caused birds in maple trees to lose their lives allow a butterfly, the weight of a single maple leaf, to survive? It is a beautiful wonder.

“While monarchs have amazing tenacity, many individuals are not as lucky as those in Mary Ellen’s habitat. MLMP volunteer Diane Rock captured some incredible photos of monarch predation last summer…[monarch butterfly faces threats], especially as eggs and larvae, but also as adults. Several studies have shown that only 5-10% of monarchs survive to adulthood in the wild. In strong winds and other extreme climate conditions, individual monarchs stand a fighting chance, but they are often no match for the spiders, ants, stink bugs, wasps and other invertebrates that attack monarch larvae on milkweed plants. Black-beaked orioles and black-headed grosbeaks are common predators of adult monarchs in their overwintering sites, and in their breeding grounds, the adults may fall prey to spiders.

Monarch survival is an amazing feat, considering all the dangers that they face throughout the course of their lives. They appeal to all of us because of the astounding things they are able to accomplish. Research and monitoring through MLMP help us to understand the hardship that monarchs face, and areas where improvements can help support monarch populations.”

Monarch tasting my fingers and walks across to Valerian flower for nectar
Monarch tasting my fingers and walks across to Valerian flower for nectar

Source: After the Storm by Mary Ellen Ryall


Here come the videos for Earth Day Event in Shell Lake, WI 2011

Monarch caterpillar two days after 100 mph storm
Monarch caterpillar two days after 100 mph storm

Jennifer Barton, environmental specialist, sent me two videos today that she was able to create on YouTube. I am learning more technical skills daily. I wish I had a way to add email addesses from my computer to any of the sites I am Blogging on but my computer was set up to do no such thing. I can’t share my contacts outside of my own system. This makes it difficult to add friends to new sites. Perhaps someday!

Shell Lake, WI

 This is an announcement about my book My Name is Butterfly getting published with Cassie and her mother Tanya Thompson as live models at


Now listen to the New Editions Band who played voluntarily at the event. We are grateful to our many friends.


The Earth is a better place because of all of you. It is a transformation in process when one learns that it is not about one’s self. It is about the collective subconscience and how we all work together in an ancient hive of sustainability and collaboration.

Purchase the books Monarch of the Butterflies and My Name is Butterfly on Amazon.

Source: Jennifer Barton is an Environmental Specialist with Northwest Regional Planning, Recycling Department.

Amaranth leaves are better tasting than spinach

Yesterday Joan Quenan, Deborah Healy and I pulled weeds at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake.  I pointed out red root pigweed or amaranth as I know the plant. We decided to pick wild edibles and so I loaded up a bag with this tasty wild edible. Meanwhile Deborah picked purslane and lambs quarter.

Amaranth plant with young tasty leaves
Amaranth plant with young tasty leaves

I am here to tell you that young amaranth leaves taste better than spinach. I sautéed them in a little olive oil and water and steamed the tender leaves. Then I scrambled two organic brown eggs into the mix. Upon completion I sat down and eat one of the best meals I have ever prepared. I noticed my brain started to spark like little lights going off. It was as if my cells were lighting up and thanking me for REAL FOOD.  Is this called a natural high? It was to me. I have been eating more wild edibles all the time and I am starting to notice an internal chemical reaction to and in relationship with my food.

Amaranth with young leaves and starting to go to seed
Amaranth with young leaves and starting to go to seed

Update: Lots of Amaranth is growing in my garden and I do not pull it as a weed. Rather, I am picking it and starting to freeze small bags of it. Also, I will use with basil and garlic when I make pesto.

July 30 – Last night at the Water Ceremony held at the Hospitality House in Minong, I served a dish of steamed leaves and the water sisters enjoyed a taste on the wild side.

Nutritional value of Amaranth: 90 % Vitamin C, 73% Vitamin A and 28% calcium. Want to learn more about Amaranth leaf nutrition? Visit http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2304/2

There is another side to this story which is Amaranth seed. I haven’t ventured this far yet. It is all in the seasonal timing.

Walking the walk: Mother Earth Water Walkers raise awareness of water

Walking the walk: Mother Earth Water Walkers raise awareness of water – MinotDailyNews.com | News, sports, business, jobs – Minot Daily News

Vulnerable White Trillium Lily

This year’s Water Four Directions Mother Earth Water Walkers is imperative as we realize we must honor water which is sacred and a gift to all living species. Please support the many who are walking and will converge at Bad River Reservation on June 12. A council guide from the Sisterhood of Planetary Water Rites plans to attend. We hope that several women from the Water Ceremony group of Minong, WI, will attend also.

The vulnerable white trillium lily of early spring grows in the sweet woods. The sounds of happy gurgling water and singing birds gladdens the heart. Sweet watercress grows in the stream where the water spills out into a pure stream. Watercress will not grow in unpure water.

We must protect our local drinking water sources. After seeing Blue Gold, I am going to ask my village where the water source is and where the sewage goes. The film suggests we do this to be informed about our own community water supply.