Making marshmallows!

Picked up a wonderful book at the library: A Kid’s Herb Book for children of all ages. Delightfully written, it has stimulated a new interest for me. On page 27, we discovered that we could make our own root beer using sarsaparilla! How fun! We set out on a quest to several different natural food stores to find this root. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any of it; however on the same page we saw that we could make our own marshmallows if we found some marshmallow root powder. Yah! Only one store carried it and it was not root powder, but the root itself. So borrowing a mortar and pestle from our friend (thanks Robyn!) we crushed and ground the root up in order to make our marshmallow root powder.

Today we mixed the ingredients and baked the ‘marshmallows’ for an hour at a low temperature. The marshmallows were basically little meringues. The marshmallow root added  … well… a unique flavour, shall we say. My husband described it as a cross between a “moldy” and “the smell of an old person’s home” kind of flavour.  The verdict? We will not be making our own marshmallows anytime soon, however we are glad to have had the opportunity to try it!

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For the birds

Another cold day. Another winter hike! 🙂   We headed out of town a little way to a hiking trail nearby, with our friend from Brazil. Look at the little friends we found! They were pretty hungry so we had lots of visitors to our seed-filled mittened hands. Feeling their little feet on our hands was amazing and their feathers were so delicate and beautiful.

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Winter Walk and an unexpected find

P1060109The winter sun shone weakly through the clouds. The temperature hovered just below 0. While our van was getting oil sprayed we took advantage of a nearby path P1060110to explore some nature. We saw tracks (mostly dog, some cat, some bunny… did I mention this path is in the middle of the city?). One person whined about being thirsty. Another decided his legs were too tired to walk any further.

But as we rounded another corner, we came across such a strange sight that all complaints and whining ceased immediately.

We followed a trail, clearly made by an animal. But I had never seen a trail such as this – circles?

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We finally came across the source of the curlicue trail.

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The poor striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) had clearly seen better days. I felt sad to see his demise clearly portrayed across the snow. He had staggered in circles, fallen, gotten up and staggered around some more before his final resting place. At first I wondered if he had been scared to death by dogs, but the only tracks there were his own. After a bit of research online it looks to me as if the poor striped skunk suffered from either rabies or distemper.  Both of these diseases attack the neurological centers, causing, in the final stages, disorientation, stumbling, clumsiness, staggering, and finally, seizures and death.

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Here are a couple of links to articles about diseases causing death in wild skunks:

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Rabies/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_166324.html

http://www.wildskunkrescue.com/rabies.htm

Still, it was quite the interesting find. I had never before seen a skunk so close up before!