Snowshoeing makes me happy

Today it warmed; I headed out on my snowshoes this afternoon. Sunshine on my face was so warm and inviting. Recently a General Dollar store opened in Minong. I was looking for the wild asparagus stand but I didn’t find it. Surely I thought the dead heads would be sticking up through the snow. It looks like the builders may have plowed them under while bulldozing the site. I will go back there in early spring to see if perhaps the deep roots survived and new shoots hopefully will brighten my day with nature’s wild edibles.

I did see some trees that look like they may be cherry. I hadn’t discovered them before when I trekked through this land. I will explore more closely this spring. I love where I live. I saw lots of deer tracks and at least one fox trail on the back property. There were some pretty big foot prints on the front property and I think it may have been a wolf.  The field that I normally walk out to had no deer tracks. This is unusual because there are usually deer tracks out there. It was a blessing to be out and about on snowshoes all by myself. I absolutely love to be alone in nature.  It is a walking meditation to me and I am revived when I am outside with wind, sun and snow.


Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day ten

December 27, 2009 and the last day of my adventure. 


3256337915_8007059f6e  Possible red fox track. 

Today was really an adventure.  I decided to snowshoe in the 18″ snowfall.  It was rather difficult in places because the snow was so deep.  I was walking the land I am exploring.  The second glacial moraine claimed my attention because I saw tracks and decided to follow.

blackberry bramble
blackberry bushes

  Up the steep hill I went noticing that the brambles were blackberries with frozen fruit still attached.  At least the deer and other animals will find nourishment here.  Once I got to the top, I wondered who and what I was following all alone.

It was so silent.

DNR confirms cougar in Spooner, WI, copyright DNR.

  Cougar and fox live in the Great North Woods of Wisconsin.  Now I have been near fox and they are shy but a cougar would be another matter.  I didn’t feel a threat and felt the cougar would have larger feet.  Then I saw that the tracks also had a shape of a tail and knowing that the cougar is a large animal, I felt the animal I was tracking must be trotting closer to the ground like a fox.  This photo of a cougar was taken in the summer of 2009 in Burnett County.  There is also reports of cougar in Spooner.  Photo caption should read Burnett County.

That’s it I thought and felt no hesitancy in going further.  I did think, No one knows where you are and what if something happens like a heart attack?    Funny how you  mind runs wild.  I answered my own fear, This is the happiest day of my life and someone will think to follow my snowshoes. 

I could see through the trees to the far horizon (only visible seasonally I suspect) and it was thrilling.  I climbed to the top and said out loud, “Wow!”  I meant it too. 

As far as the eye can see.

 I could see for miles and there only forests and silence and the distance to the south.  The sun was lighting the sky in pink and I tell you it was glorious.

3256338133_e31f6b9ce9 Possible red fox tail with tracks

As I followed the tracks down the hill and out into the open field, I saw that the animal was leaving an impression of a tail.  Here is a photo of perhaps a fox. 

For now I bide goodbye to my adventure in the Great North Woods of Wisconsin.  Thanks for keeping me company on my ten-day hiatus alone with a sweet corgi at a cabin in the woods. 

Home is where the heart is
The cabin of our eco adventure.

Stay happy readers where ever you are.  Mary Ellen and Sadie

Source:  Fox photos…/3257168134_3ebac43215.jpg

Image at:…/

Other photos copyright by Mary Ellen Ryall and DNR.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day eight

Merry Christmas!  December 25, 2009 

The lonesome pine.
A lone Christmas tree greets me on Christmas morning.

The snow plow came through about 7 p.m. last night.   Before that I was outside dreaming in the country road and listening to the wind in the trees when all of a sudden a blue car silently slipped by me.  I mean I could have been run over by the farm owner’s small vehicle.  The elder and friendly lady stopped a little ways down the hill and rolled down the window.  Upon coming closer to the blue car, she said, “Well that was almost a not so happy Christmas.”

I told her I was having a very happy time day dreaming and didn’t even hear her car.  Oh well, here I am in the middle of nowhere and still a vehicle could have claimed me.  What next!

Sadie  Sadie and her favorite cowboy boot.

Sadie and I got up this Christmas morning to open presents.   Sandy made a surprise for me.  There are 10 gifts wrapped up and I was to open one gift each day.  Today it was a lovely planter with a brass butterfly on the front.  This will be good for starting my winter greens in.  Inside the planter was a pound of fresh harvested wild rice from tribal lands.  I am thrilled for this health giving present because I am almost out of this naturally nutritious grain.

I opened up a fresh box of animal treats for Sadie.  I thought she needed a Christmas present too.  She enjoyed a treat of tuna in juice for a treat and I made lentils and a tuna sandwich.  We made apple juice with clove, orange, all spice and cinnamon spice.  It smells wonderful in our cosy nest and the spiced apple juice tastes like apple cider.

I did manage a short hike on the snowshoes this morning over to the woods across the way.  The wind was howling and I do love the sound of trees talking in the forest. The forest under snow  It reminds me of home.  The snow turned to sleet over night.  My down jacket was getting wet and I decided to return to the cabin and snuggle in.

Be happy readers where ever you are. 


Pine tree
On the trail of the lonesome pine.





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.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day four

It’s Monday.

At least by naming the days, I will remember what day it is. 

Sadie, the corgi, was barking at something last night.  I couldn’t see a thing in the deep surrounding woods.  When we went out this morning, I did see small tracks coming to nearly the house.  Could it be a feral cat or raccoon?  Hard to tell. 

The sky was dark today with snow showers.  I called the realtor about the property I told you about yesterday.  The parcel is 15 acres of mostly rolling hills.  I put my snow shoes on and went over to the property and climbed the hill to a good look out point.  I can’t wait to find out if these are glacial moraines with kettle holes that are most likely dried up because of the drought.

According to Wikipedia, “Ground moraines are till covered areas with irregular topography and no ridges, often forming gently rolling hills or plains. It is accumulated under the ice by lodgement, but may also be deposited as the glacier retreats. In alpine glaciers ground moraine is located between the two lateral moraines. Ground moraine may be formed into drumlins by the overriding ice.”

Wisconsin has this type of moraine.  We also have drumlins so the next step is to find someone knowledgable in glacial moraines to see if this property is in fact a left over from the glaciers.  That is exciting.  There appears to be small deep ravines between the many moraines.  One can literally walk across the top and look down into the depths of the kettle holes.

Wikipedia states,” If glacial drift is then placed around the ice, a depression on the surface called a kettle hole can be created when the ice melts . Kettle holes are commonly found on moraine and outwash plain deposits. Large kettle holes that reach below the water table can form into lakes.”  Kettle holes can also form swamps, bogs, and marshes.

The snow was coming down as I climbed the hill.  I heard a raven in the far woods on the other side of the old farm.  I could look down on Sandy’s and Pat’s cabin across the way and I felt like I was standing on top of a mountain.  There are lots of flat areas up here and it would be a good place to camp. 

It is absolutely great for snowshoeing.  I went a lot further than I expected.  I wanted so much to keep going but my toes were starting to get cold and I didn’ want to tempt frost bite.  I found one large rock and stopped to honor it.  I feel rocks are the grandfathers as taught by the Ojibwe.  They hold more knowledge than any other living thing.  I put down tobacco to honor the rock’s presence. 

I want to walk deep into these woods.  There were so many tracks there must be a regular menagerie of critters living out here.  Mostly deer tracks were seen.  Perhaps I saw mouse trails because I saw tail shapes in snow.  There appeared to be lots of holes where little critters could take cover.  Some  more snow was pawed away for animals looking for grass to eat. 

As a nonprofit, I am going to look to see if there are any grants for protecting forests.  If so perhaps we could apply for a grant.  It looks like the forest nearest the road was clear-cut.  The older upland forest appears to be old forest.  I won’t know what kind of trees and what percentage are in good shape till next spring when I see the forest green up.  We may be in oak country which would mean the soil is acidic. 

All I know is that I had the loveliest time all by myself in the Great North Woods.  No chance of getting lost, my snowshoes leave a trail.

Stay happy readers where ever you are.

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – day one by Mary Ellen Ryall

Happy Tonics husband and wife team left today for Costa Rica.  They are staying at Rancho Margot, a self-supporting working ranch in Central America. 

Sadie the corge
Our first walk

 I am staying at their cabin in the woods with Sadie the dog for the next ten days.

Looking out at bird feeders from cabin
Before the storm.

The first thing I notice when I look out the windows is that there are little woodpeckers and chick-a-dees flying to the porch and window boxes.  Then I see the nut-hatch climbing down the tree backwards.  It’s a winter wonderland of little birds.  All of a sudden I am transported into the silence of winter.

A slow cook pot is on.  Within the pot are lentils, organic onions and carrots, potatoes and cabbage.  I added lots of cumin, a medicinal spice used for indigestion and a dash of smart balance for some fat.  A teaspoon of powdered Turkey tail mushroom was added.  It is a medicinal mushroom that has been researched as a  cancer treatment.

After Sadie had her walk and a roll in the fresh snow, we headed back to the cabin for a good brush on the porch.  She is a corgi and in winter Sadie sheds. 

Even with the beauty of winter and being isolated in my retreat setting, there was a sad moment.  Earlier I noticed a sweet little mole in the kitchen.  When I went over to it I saw that it was barely alive.  His little leg was broken.  There appeared to be a few punctures in the little creature’s neck.  I wrapped him up in some cabbage leaves and carried him out to the porch.  I knew the cold temperatures would help end his life more quickly than letting Sadie experiment with her little pet.

When I went out to the porch to check on the little dear, it had already walked on.  I already had my snowshoes on so I gathered oak leaves from the woods and picked him up while I sang him an honor song.  There was a nice wood pile with a sheltered opening and I placed the little mole in a bed of oak leaves.  I put down tobacco leaves to honor his life and to thank him for the gift he was giving me.

He may be preparing me for an experience that will call me into grief at some point.  I felt stronger for knowing that we must all pass through different stages of life and each stage should be honored.

Deer trail through the wooded trail
The road less traveled

  I photographed deer trails that wander along the woodland path.

Blue berries on red stem
Blue berries on red stem.

 I saw blue berries hanging from red stems and cotton soft down covering flower seed that wafts on the wind. 

The sun was setting to the west.  This is a little journal of my days in the woods.  I thought you might enjoy reading about Sadie and my eco adventure in the Great North Woods of Wisconsin.  Talk with you tomorrow afternoon.

Stay happy readers wherever you are.