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Friday, March 30, 2012

A Little Turtle Love

8:47 AM 1 Comments
Box turtles and morel hunting always seem to hand in hand in the spring woods of southern Illinois. Eyes on the forest floor, the grassy creek banks, the fence rows searching the spongy delicacies open up a whole world of creatures and small plants that live there.

Mushroom season is an excellent time to pay closer attention to the things on ground, up close, all the little  and interesting things we miss when we hike through tress, eyes looking above for squirrels, scanning the early pre dawn tree lines for roosting turkeys,  watching for the whistling wood ducks to hop out of the creek. We outdoor folks do lots of looking up and out, but now is the time to be "looking down."

MOM!!! What are these turtles doing????

 Maybe it's just the labs in my life, but Piper (shown above) who belongs to my best shrooming pal Adam,  Willie, and my friend SILOBob's late Nes  love turtles. Nary a trip to the woods with that crew of dogs wouldn't end up with  a  happy retriever running up to us with mouth full of box turtle. Nes was particularly fond of just carting them around in her mouth like prize. You can bet if there a turtle in ten yard radius, it'll end up up in one of the pups mouths!

Seems that Little Miss Piper found herself a two for one turtle prize! Quizzically she looked and snuffed and tried to figure out why when she picked up one turtle there was another one ...umm.. stuck to it!

I think we're doing this wrong.. could you at least turn around and look at me? 

Not that I have some hidden, dark, prurient and impure interest in  turtle sex, but inquiring minds do want to know, and do want to explore all the wonders of our natural world, so naturally, I had to flatten out, get down on the ground and have little closer look or two at this pair.

C'mon- Let's get out of here.. our privacy is seriously being invaded! Humans - NO MANNERS! 

Lady - Will you get that camera out of my face.. you are aggravating me! Privacy Please! 

Yes, I do need a tissue.. I have allergies... it's Spring...
After a few minutes of watching and wondering exactly what was up with this pair, I discovered that someone had latched on tight. Mr. Needs a Tissue was trapped. The other turtle had snapped it's shell tight and hard on the poor guys hand leg and was not letting go for love or money. The harder one went one direction, the tighter the other held on.

Turn me loose!  I promise, I will too call you in the morning!
Boy this date sure didn't work out like I had planned! 
I felt like I'd probably played my part in wrecking a little afternoon turtle love, so we gathered up our packs, told Piper to drop the turtles and moved along. But keep looking down, keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you might find down there on the forest floor! 

Well, you have to admit, I am a handsome devil!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Weeping By The Water

11:44 PM 20 Comments
It's been a tough week around the Wild Woman's  place. I haven't been walkin"  much, I haven't been outside to speak of. I've been battling a Multiple Sclerosis relapse and dealing with the big  bad steroid treatments. They are no fun. They are icky, they make me crazy, and manic, and weepy.

I wrote about the steroids here some time back.

It's been particularly difficult this go around - the woods are bursting with all the spring beauty they can hold. My well meaning friends, wishing to keep me in loop send text  after text, e mail photos, and call with reports  about freshly caught crappie, the first mushrooms, the turkeys that are strutting and gobbling and I was trapped. on the porch. Guarded by two big dogs who wouldn't let Miss Weebly Wobbly Crazy Pants out of their sight.. It wouldn't have mattered if I wasn't suffering from the steroid crazies, I just could not physically haul my carcass off the porch and out to the field.

The Jailers

I railed. I stomped. I pouted. I whined.. and whined..... and whined..

I fixed my office on the porch, watched the birds build nests, the squirrels fight, and the rest of the world go by enjoying these first fantastic days of spring when our hearts are  gladdened and lightened by the thought that we have made it through another hard winter.  The world was full of promise and I was full steroids and MS. It hardly seemed fair. But, life isn't fair, it's just what you make of it, so I decided to be happy I had a green space around me , could suck up the sunshine, listen to the wrens natter about, and a comfortable porch to work from and relax on while I read voraciously.

My "outside " work space

But today... today.. I simply could not stand it any longer. I loaded up  the car with all the things I would need; walking stick, backpack, Willie's pack, camera, mushroom sack, and of course Willie the Wonder dog. He's  good at keeping me safe and sound and continues to progress as an outstanding service dog for me in the field.

My friends and families well meaning comments were ringing in my ears -  " I don't think this is a good idea, you are going to get hurt, you aren't ready yet, you are going to get lost..."


My Prois Outdoor Sisters didn't even laugh at my Jammies and Attitude! They just cheered me on !

I knew if I didn't get out there soon my head would probably explode in some fit of steroid induced manic rage and I'd probably wipe out half the county.  - So in the essence of safety for my fellow citizens I  struggled out.

I knew just where there should mushrooms, fat yellow ones, on mostly flat ground that wouldn't be much hard walking. I knew there was a favorite piece of running clean creek there. I knew I HAD to go.

It wasn't easy.. I was exhausted, and stumbled, and I bumbled, but I was also revitalized. As I slid down the deer path off the rise into the creek bottom, the air was thick with he sweet scent of mock orange, sweet violets, autumn olive berry, leaf mold, and damp. It smelled like the spring woods. It smelled like mushrooms. A pile  young jakes went scurrying across the trail spooked out by Willie's snorting and snuffling.. their heads turning bright red in alarm and high stepping it into the thicket.

OH Crap! There's a big snorty dog coming our way!

Violets, Sweet William, all manners of wildflowers dotted the forest floor as if Mother Nature had thrown living confetti out at a party just for me.

It was good here. It was healing. It was right.

Thank You Mother Nature..for all you give to me

I wandered along the creek bank, eyes peeled for the morels that I knew would be there, ambling slowly, eyes down. Fighting with visual difficulties from the MS, I still was confident.I could smell the morels, I knew they were there.

Willie grabbed my pant leg and tugged. That's  his signal to me in the woods when he can tell I'm pushing to hard, I need to rest. He tugged a little harder as if to say, "Damn it, sit down before you fall down"

You site here.. I'll swim while you rest. Oh there's a mushroom there blind woman... hrrrmph

So I sat. Seems Willie is smarter fellow than I gave him credit  for. He sat me down right next to 4 big morels. I sit.. he bounds off to the creek to play, ever watchful.

It was cool, green, shady..sweet smelling and then, the  weeping began.

I wept not because I have MS.

I wept because I am blessed to be able to find peace  and health and happiness  just by sitting in the wildflowers near a creek.

I wept because the woods are beautiful and awe inspiring, and bring me such joy.

I wept because I have been loved and supported by all my outdoor sisters during this crazy relapse, because they make laugh, and understand how vital my time afield is to  my health and well being. It's who I am. It's how I cope. It is my best medicine.

I wept because the end of this relapse is near and I have survived one more round and will be back afield with a vengeance soon.

I wept because Willie loves me and cares for me and is simply the best dog that I have ever owned.

Rest Period is NOT over. You sit. I swim.

I wept because I am still in bit of a steroid psychosis, and the sheer experience of lying in the cool grass, my head nestled in the sweet violets was so very comforting.

My resting spot

But mostly I wept out of sheer gratitude for all that Mother Nature, the fates and my friends have blessed me with.

Soon Willie roused me,  I put his pack back on him, and we slowly left our little piece of heaven. Stronger, calmer, and knowing that the coming days will only be better and better as spring unfolds, the mushrooms pop, and the turkey's gobble!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dogs and Kids - The Best Combination!

8:36 AM 4 Comments

One of the things that I enjoy most about being part of Retrievers Unlimited, HRC and the Hunting Retriever Club is the overwhelming sense of family and that family matters. Training days, hunt tests, banquets and events all encourage FAMILY participation.

I've featured many of the fine folks from HRC  in other posts such as this one here   and again here

My wonderful dog friends know - get those kids outside, get them involved in the the  outdoor sports. Step away from the TV's and video games and provide them support , education, and a home where all the adults are in their corner, cheering them on,mentoring them, and building fine young adults.


Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives. - Thomas Berry

For the love of the dogs.....

For the love of their families.....

For the love of the sport.......

Here's to the King Family! John, Brenda, Madison, Mackenzie and but of course - Casey and Hershey!
Please enjoy the look at a typical training day session for the family as they ready the dogs for Spring Hunt Test Season!

Kids and dogs.. how you can not like 'em?

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Arrives Early!

6:08 AM 2 Comments

Seems that the odd weather patterns form this past winter have carried over into Spring. We  didn't have much of a winter to speak of here in Southern Illinois. It was  unseasonable warm all through the winter, and that same odd weather pattern has carried through to spring.

I'm always on the hunt for those first morels earlier than most, and looking through my field journals there have indeed been a few other years where my first finds were early or mid March, but those have been few and far between. April is generally considered peak mushroom season here. April, mushrooms and turkey season. In Illinois, during spring turkey season, much to the consternation of many a morel hunter,  mushroom hunting is prohibited until 1PM in state parks, wildlife areas,etc. Illinois says it's just not safe to have turkey hunters and mushroom hunters plundering about in the same woods.

Early last week the first reports of the morels appearing in the southernmost regions began to appear, a photo here, a text message there, and the occasional excited phone call. Season was by no means in full swing, but it was beginning. Because I have this obsession with all things fungi, I romped off to the forest to see what the daily storms and rains had left behind for us. Alas, my usual haunts were only producing the red "False Morels" and no true ones yet.  My hope is that today will be the first morel day. Even if it's not, the spring woods is full of beauty and wonder. C'mon along and have a look at some of the Spring woodland treasures out there. 

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook

Monday, March 12, 2012

Multiple Sclerosis Equals.....

9:09 AM 1 Comments
It's MS Awareness Week. It's MS Awareness Month. Rest assured that after the last few busy weeks I am very aware.

I visited the National MS Society's Web Site, The National MS Foundation's Web Site, and I think about 300 other MS related websites looking for images to post, banners, widgets etc. The MS Society had a boatload, but as well designed and great looking as they were, they just didn't fit my experience with MS.

There was not much that directly related to the outdoors; and for me the outdoors plays a huge part in living with MS. The outdoors is part of my therapy and medicine chest. It's where I live, what I do, and what makes me... ..well, me.

So taking a bit of creative license with the MS Equals campaign from the National MS Society, here's my view of what MS Equals

Living with MS can not only be a daily adventure, sometimes it's a moment by moment adventure. One never knows exactly what MS will spit out at you at any given time. MS is is sneaky that way,  wake up feeling great, and by lunch a leg is dragging;  go to sleep feeling great, wake up and be unable to get out of bed. It's unpredictable, it's insidious, and MS seems to delight in those unexpected bites in the butt and the brain. That unpredictability makes it necessary to  do a little extra planning when  heading out for a day(s) afield. I have to factor in the possibility that there may be an "issue" pop up. MS may decide to bite me in the brain.  And in my case, that bite always comes when I am the farthest from the car, carrying the heaviest pack, or smack dab in the middle of a great and fun adventure, bringing things to an abrupt halt. So, I just add in a few safety nets to my outdoor adventures, such as always taking a cell phone, using Willie the Wonderdog to carry the heavy stuff,  and not heading to the remote places alone anymore.

Thanks to the aforementioned unpredictable nature of MS I've learned to wing it - So I had full week planned, packed to the gills and the SNAP! A bite in the brain... give up the control, reschedule the meetings and get over it. Oh my - that seems so easy, but with my Waaaaay Type A personality, that's proven to be the hardest task. However, taking a lesson from the creatures in my outdoor world, I've learned to adapt. Water dries up, droughts happen, weather changes, food sources change, and I've yet to see any of my creature friends wail over the change in schedule, nary a goose has poured over it's day planner and honked "I do not have time for this cold front! "   The animals back up, punt, and motor on. I'm trying that approach this year!

MS creates soooooo, soooooo, many laughable moments, from the face plants in the mud, forgetting one's ducks and letting them freeze to the top of the car, getting lost in a 1 acre tract of woods, putting the laundry detergent in the fridge, and the milk in the laundry room; to missing appointments, scrambling up sentences and words, and often displaying an appearance that screams stumbling, bumbling drunk.. one simply has to laugh. Really - it's funny. Admit it, laugh it, craft a funny tale and get on with it. Crying and wailing sure doesn't make it any better, doesn't get the mud off your face, and won't magically transfer the detergent and milk to their appropriate homes. Might as well just laugh.... a good laugh is good medicine!

MS is a giant leap of faith, for those who have the disease, for those who love us, for those who work with us, for hose who spend time with us.
I must have faith in my physicians and therapists, in my companions, and they in turn must have faith in me. Faith that MS is a manageable disease, faith that the progression can be slowed, faith that life as I know it will not vaporize into thin air after a bite in the brain.  My family has to have faith that I will try to stay healthy and curtail some of the more risky activities. My colleagues have to have faith that I will find solutions to work related problems that can crop up when those bites in the brain occur, and my companions have to have faith that I will someday learn to ask for help when I need it and will stop being a mulish stubborn ass, and just let them lend a hand.

Most importantly, MS means lots of wondering what the future holds. Should I plan that trip for a big hunt in a remote area? Who knows what the darned MS will be doing to me in six months? Will my disease progress to the point that I am always chair or bed bound? Will I ever get my memory to work again? MS  means some adjustments in long term planning, but because of it's unpredictable nature, and the fact that affects every single person who is diagnosed in a different way, some times the best I can do is just sit and wonder and ponder. Will there be a cure in my life time? Will there be better therapies in my life time? Will I fall in the mud again today?

If you are now wondering about Multiple Sclerosis as well, please visit

The National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation 


The National MS Society

Oh and give your friends with MS an extra hug this month! They'll appreciate it!