A walk within a forest

Woods

Woods

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.

moss

moss

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.

Slovak

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.

Friends

Friends

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?

millet

Millet

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.

forsysthia

forsysthia

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.

compost

compost

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

bells

bells

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.

pumpkin

pumpkin

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.

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.

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.

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