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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 18, 2017


By Steve Wilson | Oct 24, 2012

HOME — 11/19/2012

Yesterday I scoured the home woods again hunting for Turkey Tail Mushrooms. I had good luck and got a large zip lock bag full of a beautiful variety of colors. On the way home in the afternoon I met Jeff Thomas on the road. He came up behind me so quietly on his bicycle that it was like he fell out of the sky!

Together we shared smiles and hailed the day, indeed what a beautiful November day it was. He asked me what I had in my bag and I showed him the Turkey Tails noting that they give a fella the excuse to hunt mushrooms in November and they are supposed to be good for the immune system. He noted that walking in the woods on such a beautiful day is probably good for the immune system. I had to agree with him there. A bit of a bargain like firewood that heats You twice - once when You cut and split it and then again when You burn it.  

When I got home I put the mushrooms in the food dryer to make them nice and brittle so they chop up better in the blender. The only problem with grinding the dry ones is that they get a bit dusty and I am always a little concerned about inhaling fungus spores. I can't say that I am fond of the idea of mushrooms growing in my lungs. So I cover the top of the blender with paper toweling to help control the dust.

After they are ground up adequately they look a whole lot like the celulose insulation you blow in to insulate your house. I bag this material up and put it in the freezer until I am ready to make a batch of basic tea.

To make a batch of tea I am now using 1 and 1/2 heaping teaspoons of the ground mushrooms per cup of the final tea into a large two cup capacity container with 1 cup of water. At this point that amounts to 7 teaspoons. This is then placed in the microwave and boiled for 15 minutes. Setting the power to maintain a boil without boiling over has been a challenge.

Once the shredded mushroom is cooked I add enough water to fill the two cup container and pour this back into the blender again to blend it for several minutes at high speed until it comes to look like a smooth grey gravy. At that point it is then diluted to effect the desired dose per cup of tea. This tea base is then put in the frig until time to drink it. At that point a cup full is put in the microwave along with a tea bag of say mint or peach or lemon or blueberry or what ever your favorite herb tea might be. As the tea warms up it again thickens to become a warm, full bodied drink that ends up tasting really pretty good. Well, at least it tastes a whole lot better than it does by itself which I would describe as simply moldy.

Is the finished product safe to drink? So far so good. But when gathering medicine from the wilderness You are on your own. It is a bit like holding a wild animal. There is a very reasonable expectation that You might get bit.  

Today I went out again and this time found some of the freshest beautiful Turkey Tails I have found this fall. These were growing on a small maple log with the bark beginning to fall off. Those growing on bare wood were much easier to peal off than those growing on bark but regrettably it seems they prefer to grow on bark.  This batch is in the dryer tonight sitting out on the front step. As they dry they shed spores, no doubt by the millions and therefore the outdoor location. 


11/19/2012 The Magic Window

Joy calls it her Magic Window. This morning as I sat down to type she hazarded a guess framed in her surprise and excitement that there were two hundred Goldfinches on the ground and right at 150 Wood Ducks along the east side of the pond with more no doubt hidden in the cove and still more coming in. Most of the Canada's must still be sitting on the Joy Lake refuge as there are only 15  here as of 7:15.

A good magician does not reveal the trick, so suffice it to say there must be "some magic in" the sunflower seeds and the corn and the duckweed. Of course I know the real secret to the entire production is wrapped up in the shadowy figure of what appears to be an old woman well hidden in her hooded atire who slowly makes her way through the predawn darkness each morning carefully setting the stage for the magic act to follow.

11/14/2012 Human Biome

The above article is a  primer for understanding the ecology of the biological diversity of the human body. The human biome is the complex biotic community characterized by distinctive fungal, bacterial and animal species that are maintained internally and externally under the conditions of the human body. We are learning that having early exposure to microbes as newborns and children is part of the education of a healthy immune system. It turns out that playing in the sewer creek down in the pasture as a child may not have been such a bad idea after all. How to maximize the benefits while avoiding disease producing exposure is the art.

It reminds me of walking in the forested bottomland along Big Creek in my youth. I quickly learned that long sleeves and long pants were essential to avoid the painful welts of stinging nettles. I later learned that boiled nettle sprouts in the spring are a good source of vitamins and minerals. It is a good idea to not jump to conclusions about the value of the various plants in the forest and the various fungi and bacteria in the human gut.

Too often antibiotics work like spaying a forest from an airplane with a broad spectrum herbicide to rid it of poison ivy. Yeah you get rid of the ivy but the oaks and the bellworts may be lost as well with a devasting cascade of effects to follow. The environment left behind may then become even more hostile and certainly less productive. As with the ecology of the forest, so too the ecology of the human body is a dynamic work in the art of life.


While walking down the river on the sand bars this afternoon I noticed an unusual concentration of Bald Eagles for this early in the season. Then at the end of the sand bar I saw what at first appeared to be a dead deer but the closer I got the more it looked like just a skeleton. I figured it was an old one but when I came to stand next to it I could see that the deer had died recently since the water, in what remained of the rib cage, was still stained red with blood. It is amazing how quickly the scavengers clean up. There was still fat on the ribs but very little if any meat. The front leg under the rib cage and the head and neck were still pretty much intact. Coyote tracks in the sand bore testimony to their contribution in getting things started.

A healthy deer died suddenly falling into the water as it did. My first thought was a hunter but then I remembered hearing about sick deer dying quickly of a virus, known as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) close to or in sources of drinking water.

I reported the situation to the DNR. Bill Ohde said it is a bit late in the season but...?

"The mode of transmission of EHD in nature is via a Culicoides biting fly or midge. Culicoides variipennis is the most commonly incriminated vector in North America.

All documented outbreaks of EHD have occurred during late summer and early fall (August-October) and have ceased abruptly with the onset of frost."

With the sudden onset of cold weather the question remains, was it a broadhead, a bullet or a microbe carried by a biting mite? What ever the answer the Eagles are quickly destroying the evidence and at this late date the DNR will add it to the list of possible but not confirmed cases of EHD.



Update: According to  data compiled by the state of California there were more than 1,700 reported cases of mushroom ingestion in California in 2009 and 2010. They included 10 cases of serious poisoning and two deaths.

That sounds pretty spooky huh? Now let's add some perspective.

"According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments:

America's healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer."

The wilderness is obviously not the only dangerous place.

I have just finished a fresh cup of my new blend of Turkey Tail Mushroom tea. I am have been paying close attention to what my body has been telling me as I have slowly sipped the tea. This is a good idea with any new food, drink or medicine.  To enhance the flavor I mixed it with Green Tea. Being aware of the stimulating effects of green tea I decided to check out what other effects the green tea might have. According to the link below and considering my swollen prostate, I will no longer be using green tea with Turkey Tail.

The main thing is to pay attention to the dangers of your environment and to know that You are unique and one person's medicine may be your poison and what saves the lives of Others may put your life at risk.

Update on mushroom ID and treatment. " Dr. Todd Mitchell, a Santa Cruz, Calif., doctor who is investigating an antidote to toxic mushroom poisoning, told NBC News that he is consulting on treatment of one of the patients sickened by amatoxin poison. A common cause of that poisoning is the Amanita phalloides -- death cap -- mushroom, which produces amatoxins that shut down liver function.

The woman, who is in her 90s, is being treated with the so-called "Santa Cruz protocol" that includes use of the investigational drug Legalon, an intravenous form of silibinin, which is the extract of seeds from the milk-thistle plant."

Did You get that? Being treated with an extract of the seed of the milk thistle plant! Another point for bio-diversity.  However take note, this is not a native thistle. It is considered a noxious weed in some states. Still....

If the mushroom was indeed an amanita, well, that genus contains species at the top of the list of the most poisonous mushrooms. Until You are familiar with that genus it might be a very good idea to keep reading the mushroom books, but don't pick and eat any.



The story above is a tragic example of why a person gathering mushrooms in the wilderness must learn how to read the "labels". You would not think to start popping pills at a pharmacy without reading the labels (I hope). And still, some times, things go very wrong. It will be interesting to learn what mushroom was involved. It is also worth noting that new species and confusion on just where the line falls between species can be very real concerns. That means significant chemical varibility may exist within a species. As every doctor knows, powerful medicines come with significant risks. The guy serving up this mushroom to others needed to test it carefully on himself first while also realizing that each new user also needs to follow a similar protocol.

I gathered another batch of Turkey Tail yesterday from a log supporting a beautiful collection of various color schemes. I dried them over night and I will chop them today and then carefully sample the new blend.

Getting involved in politics and testing wild mushrooms are both activities perhaps best left to old age. It might be a good idea to wait until You have got the good out of life before daring to see what can be done to make it better. Seems to me "wise" old men instead of passionate young boys are the ones who need to be going off to war as the "need" arises. Yes, I understand nature is inclined to do a sort before reproduction but under current conditions who believes the nature of war today is such that it is an effective tool for natural selection among humans? Besides, my guess is sending the gray heads off to war would significantly reduce the frequency of wars especially if the rich and powerful were taking the hits on the front lines. The bluster of Bush going into Iraq needed to accompany him personally being placed in harms way. He needed to be the point man. We need the Davids of the world to bear the brunt of human folly and not the Uriahs.

Any way, there is powerful medicine in the woods and that implies significant, even life threatening risks. Own the question of Why take them?


You may remember I have been "taking" hericium coralloides for memory enhancement but then I developed some stomach sensitivity so I have stopped using the alcohol tincture and have gone to using a died powder I made in the blender and keep in the freezer. Currently I am boiling a bit of it for 15 minutes in a tea bag with green tea. I am also adding shredded Turkey Tail Mushroom to the mix since it has been found to have some immune system enhancing properties. I have some prostrate swelling and some stomach issues that the Turkey Tail might be able to help alleviate. Joy has recently found that she has a tumor in her colon and is therefore testing my tea as well. It may be esp. beneficial following surgery and as an adjunct to chemo.

I have found several logs sprouting Turkey Tail in the river bottom and I will be collecting more today.

By the way,  I scored 91.5 on my Nov. memory test. That's up from 75 in Sept. and 84.75 in Oct. I still figure the improvement has as much to do with better test taking skills as with memory improvement but there would be an obvious relationship between the two that might also be associated with the hericium mushroom. Its fun to play with and if  I can keep it up, well it sure beats forgetting the names of loved ones.

I think I might add some other personal stuff to the test, stuff I do not want to forget before I say good by.  

Note: I always take my time playing with mushrooms. I start with several guide books and then take a nibble and then go from there. There is medicine in the woods and deadly poison too (which at just the right dose may be medicine as well). Go to the wilderness searching for medicine for body and soul at your own risk.

One of the advantages of losing my health insurance and my job is searching the woods for my medicine. It is becoming a sport, and like all sports it has some inherent dangers that contribute to the excitement. Keep in mind I would just as soon die in the woods of mushroom poisoning as in the hospital or in a nursing home; esp, in a patch of Blue Bells.

The value of biodiversity in the intestines, as well as in the woods, is gaining greater appreciation by the day. As people become more aware of the health benefits of biodiversity at the personal level perhaps they will come to better appreciate it at the ecosystem level of forest, prairie and wetlands as well.

Antibiotics that wipe out all intestinal flora are creating serious health problems. The value of having a healthy donor to prime one's system following the use of antibiotics is growing rapidly and it can be life saving no less than a Turkey Tail mushroom growing on a log. Remember penicillin is a fungus that has "saved" millions of lives world wide but too remember some, like me are deathly allergic to it.  

If your life is too tame, then perhaps You are ready to take a walk on the wild side and learn what is growing in the woods.


11/9/2012 Another flush of Gadwalls on Joy Lake along with 150 Canada Geese and maybe 50 Coots. There were probably 25 Mallards and 5 Pie-billed Grebes as well.   


Update: Five Buffleheads on Joy Lake. First of fall season.

Greg Moeller asked me if I thought Henry County needs more parks. I have built on my response to him below.

I have come to accept that park land is not safe in Henry County and that the Henry County Conservation Board and the Board of Supervisors are focused of human amenities rather than on biological diversity, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, water quality etc..  I will welcome with open arms anyone contesting these observations.

I have also observed that private land owners dedicated to conservation on their private property often take better care of that property (fences, boundaries, 4wheeler control etc.) and the attendant natural resources and biological diversity than does the conservation department. (Hunting limited to the resource, planting of food plots and winter feeding.)

Private landowners are also better positioned to pay special attention to sensitive conservation areas in large tracts of agricultural land. Private landowners generally do a better job of policing the activities on their properties. However there too is room to improve and expand on the conservation practices of the tax paying private landowners who enjoy caring for the earth.

Therefore I recommend that Henry County sell all the county parks, except for the south shore of Oakland Mills.  Attaching conservation easments to those park properties prior to their sale would allow persons who want to buy and enjoy the rights of ownership while managing the property according to the stipulations of the attached conservation easement the opportunity to do so. You (the land owner) end up with your own private hunting, forest, wetland preserve or wildlife refuge.

 (Easement property is taxable but forested acres may be tax exempt. Special consideration should be given to the development of old growth forest characteristics coupled with best management practices.)

I would also recommend that a significant portion of the Conservation Department's budget and time be earmarked for the creation, expansion and  monitoring of such easements.

The assistance of state foresters, state biologists, current landowners, the NRCS, a resurrected REAP Committee, conservation groups and interested members of the public should all be involved in the selection of properties and the conditions of the conservation easements to be held and monitored/enforced by the county.

The REAP committee, gathering together conservations groups and members of the public, could well play a central role in scouting out opportunities and identifying some appropriate targets and terms of the easements.

The idea is to create a stable, cost effective, broad based, on the ground, CONSERVATION program in Henry County on privately owned acres and to limit park land with its maintenance issues and costs to the immediate vacinity of the office, nature center and shop of the conservation department. Limiting park land to the south side would also do away with the need for the conservation department to maintain the bridge. It could also cut down on transportation costs making it unnecessary for the staff to leave the hilltop facilities on most days.

The point is to optimize the return on conservation dollars by implementing stable conservation practices on privately held land.  


11/7/2012 Update: First of the fall season - Female Hooded Merganser on the home pond. Pileated Woodpecker north of the pond has become a regular again the last few days.

The flock of Woodies on the home pond appears to be less than half of what it has been. Maybe Amy the Goose and I can get a count tonight when they fly out to go to roost. Yesterday there was a small raft of Ring-necks on Joy Lake along with some coots and mallards and 4 grebes. The Gadwalls seem to come and go in waves. Something like 60 Canada Geese are still making short work of the daily ration of the 12 gallons of duckweed I carry down from the wetland. Making the delivery in the pre-dawn darkness wearing a LED head lamp allows me to get close to the bright eyes of the raccoons, possum and the deer than hang out in the timber north of the pond.


Joy called me to the window just now to see a flock of 15 Pine Siskins feeding on the ground mixed in with the Goldfinches. At first glance they look just a bit like the female finches however they have streaks on both their bellies and their capes and a splash of yellow on the wing primaries. (click on link below) This is a new addition to the life list for both of us and a new addition to the Henry County Bird List on the Iowa Ornithologist Union web site.  Strange both the Pine Siskins and the Red-Breasted Nuthatch would both show up the same year? Rumor has it the pines did not have a good seed crop in the north this year.




Joy has observed a Red-breasted Nuthatch at our feeders a couple of times over the last several days. This is a lifer for her and would have been for me too.

The Goldfinches took a break for few weeks but are now back in force. We have over 100 Canada Geese on the home pond now on a regular basis. We also enjoyed a family flock of Ring-necked Ducks on the home pond. They were obviously active migrators since as soon as they hit the water and did a quick safety survey they all tucked in and went to sleep for several hours. There were 10 Green-winged Teal on the hilltop wetland where I have gathering duck weed. I gather duckweed in the afternoons and then turn the buckets upside down to drain over night. However, since the nights have been getting so cold that the duckweed is freezing to the sides of the buckets I have been hauling duckweed any time after 2:00 AM. The longer I can leave it draining the lighter it gets but this morning it was sticking to the bucket at 3:00 AM.

10/27/2012 Measuring our Wealth

"If our primary concern is with increasing the financial assets of the rich, then financial indicators are the appropriate measure.

If, however, we believe that the purpose of the economy is to enhance human and natural health and well-being, then we properly evaluate economic performance against indicators of what we really want: healthy and happy children, healthy and creative people, strong families, caring communities, and flourishing natural systems.

In general, money metrics serve poorly as indicators of life values. Rather than continuing to manage our economies to grow GDP, we should be converting to the use of indicators of the state of health of people, communities, and natural systems as the basis for assessing economic performance at all levels from the local to the global."

This makes sense to me.

10/25/2012 Even More Room

Remember back to the post where I shared that star gazers now see 174 BILLION galaxies? Well, today I read there are 84 Million stars located at the center of our one Milky Way Galaxie. The magnitude of the "many rooms" Jesus referred to is indeed overwhelming.  

Well today a "scientist" reports back on his trip to Heaven.

I will leave it to You to decide where he went, but the important thing is, where ever it was, to him it was heavenly. He noted that in this heavenly state there was no opportunity for him to do anything wrong. I can't quite get my head around that. But one thing that struck me was that this scientist experienced a heavenly visit to a verdant valley of blooming flowers as part of his heavenly experience. (As a beekeeper adrift on butterfly wings, I am sure I would have noticed the honeybees working those heavenly blossoms.) That he went to a valley of flowers and not to a scientific laboratory or to a shopping mall impressed me.

Remember last spring when Jack-in-the-Pulpit was singing How Great Thou Art to the Bluebells and the Bellworts and the Wild Ginger that were blooming on the bluff between Faukner's Access and Oakland Mills? Well, I felt then, and still do now, that We have flushes of Heaven cascading across the forest floor every spring. You do not have to die to go to Heaven, You have to live and love and I would add to that, make some mistakes and learn a lot from them. After all, where there are creative decisions to be made, the capacity to make mistakes frees us from being imprisoned in the mistakes We make. It is part of Heaven's open door policy.

The scientist said on his trip to Heaven that he forgot everything about the earth, but it seems he did not forget the flowers but only his mistakes. So next spring make sure You do not make the mistake of missing out on just how heavenly a trip down the Oakland Mills River Road with someone You love can be. Catch it just when the Bluebells and Yellow Bellworts are cascading in a flood down over the limestone bluff. Taking the time to look for Heaven here and now is a great way to be on your way to finding it forever more.

Could it be that our parks are a patches of Heaven in a world gone mad with greed? Take a trip among the wild flowers with someone You love and see where it leads.


10/24/2012 WOW! Look at the Ducks!

Ok, so maybe a couple hundred were Coots and 4 or 5 were Pie-billed Grebes and 4 were Canada Geese, but there were also 100 Gadwalls working the pond weeds with the Coots and there were at least a dozen Shovelers and several divers, (Ring-necks) and a pair of Green-winged Teal and 18 Pintails and 20 Mallards 2 pair of Baldpates.

There are over 100 Woodies on the home pond along with something close to sixty Canada Geese.

Make my day and what a beeeuuuteefulll day it is.

To date our greatest success story is the Woodies. We offer them both loafing and roosting areas with ample duckweed. The effluent from the treatment plant supplies just the right amount of nutrients to keep the swans, deer, ducks and geese all in greens.




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