“Oliver, are you at home?” came a call from outside, followed by knocking at the door.

Professor Oliver MacCrumb was hunched over his work table, intent on his task, growing irritable at the many distractions this day had brought. Ignoring the visitor he peered through his magnifying glass at his current contraption. Carefully he inserted a tiny cog using tweezers. Immediately the devices wings began to flap and it shot around the table knocking things about and on to the floor. It made quite a racket which prompted the visitor to only call out again, then knock more loudly.

“Drat and darn it all. I did it again.” the Professor mumbled as he snatched the contraption and pulled its winding key, which made it stop its disastrous flopping about. He did learn something though. The new synchronizing gear he just installed was indeed the right size. Now to work on the optics! He was rather enthusiastic as he thought of this, but an even louder knocking issued from the door.

“Oliver! I know you are at home. How rude of you to ignore me.” Mrs. Whiskers called once again.

Now all in the Woodlands knew that Mrs. Whiskers, of all good folk, could hardly be ignored. Sighing with resignation, the Professor shuffled through the mess of his work shop and opened the front door. Without hesitation the little mouse woman barged in. Just as he thought she might begin a tirad she stopped and let out a long sigh.

“It is beautiful.” she exclaimed as she stepped over to a tall antique clock. She ran her fingers over the freshly sanded and polished case. “And it is working.” she continued excitedly, noticing the swinging pendulum and the ‘tic toc’ sound of the devices inner workings.

“Yes of course. How ever it was never broken. Please allow me to explain.” moving over to the clock he opened the cases glass front, stopped the pendulum then pointed out a small lever. “By gently pulling this, it actually unlocks and opens the face of the clock. Like so.” As the face swung out, the devices inners were exposed and Mrs. Whiskers eyes went wide in wonder.

The inside was so complex with pins, coils and many gears of various sizes. It was unimaginable to her how it all possibly worked. To enhance her experience, the Professor sent the pendulum swinging once more. Some gears ticked with each swing, some after several. Then a hairspring went loose and a big gear turned changing the position of the weights. She jumped and giggled in delight at this. Professor MacCrumb loved his work, and moments like this made it all worthwhile.

“As you can see. One must merely set the pendulum into motion.” He concluded in satisfaction as he closed the clock.

“Marvelous. And such a fine job restoring the wood as well.” Mrs. Whiskers replied as she traced the scroll work with her finger. “Can you bring it today?”

“Of course I will.” he said happily. “If you could send some of the boys over to assist I would greatly appreciate it. We would not want to knock it out of alignment in the transport.”

“Certainly. I am assuming that the agreed price will be less, now that it wasn’t actually broken?” Mrs. Whiskers asked in her snooty way as she moved to leave.

“Indeed,” Professor MacCrumb frowned thinking to himself that he should have expected that. He wouldn’t be getting what he sought this time either. “The restoration still took some time ma’dam. What do you say to one watermelon and five pounds of your delicious potatoes?”

“Very well,” The little mouse woman responded and gave a slight curtsy. “I will send my two oldest immediately.” And with that she was off, skipping merrily down the road. She was in fact in a fine mood, as she once again avoided trading the old lamp to the Professor. He had been trying to trade for it, ever since Miss Tittles traded it to Mrs. Whiskers for work she desperately needed done. After a terrible Spring storm, everyone was busy with clean up and repairs. Mrs. Whiskers made the offer and did stop all of her own work to send many of her oldest children to help Miss Tittles. It was a fair barter, nevertheless Miss Tittles always regretted it, and Oliver had been trying to get it back since.


Professor MacCrumb shut the door and looked about his workshop. ‘What a mess,’ he thought to himself. He had much to do today and hoped the Whisker boys hurried to assist him. After delivering the clock he had to get over to Daryl the Wainwright’s home. Today they would apply the Professor’s organic rubber solution to the wooden wheel frames, of the wagon they had been building.

Togather, they had designed the rear axle for easy pulling, so that the wagon could carry larger loads yet not put so much burden on whomever may be pulling. Daryl had designed the perfect wagon, sturdy and accommodating for the heavy loads. Professor MacCrumb had spent much time calculating the gear ratios, and working with the blacksmith, to get the axles just right.

The mess would have to wait. Quickly he darted about getting his tool bags organized. He told himself that he would only need certain tools to complete his task at Daryl’s, but Olivar was after all, Olivar. ‘But what if this?’ he thought and grabbed two more tools. ‘And what of that?’ he thought again grabbing more tools. Now, his tool bags were overflowing and…

Knock, knock, knock, to late. He went to the door and the two oldest Whisker brothers were there. He didn’t expect them this quickly. “Good afternoon boys,” the professor greeted them.

“Young men!” they both retorted in unison. And just like their mother, barged right in and headed for the clock.

The Professor rolled his eyes. Noticing outside, he saw they had brought their own cart. It was a rickety old thing, and he hoped it would hold the weight of the clock. He was skeptical and was about to suggest using his when…

“Pardon us Oliver.” the brothers spoke in unison once more.

The Professor leaped aside as they rushed right out the door with the clock. One had the bottom and the other, the top. They had apparently tilted it back, hosted both ends and decided to just run off with it, most likely not even stopping the pendulum!

Eyes wide and very annoyed he went after them. “That’s Mr. MacCrumb or Professor to you, lads.” They seemed to be ignoring him as they loaded the clock. It was clear they made the motions of carefulness, but hastiness won over the young mice. Bang, scuff, drop!

“There perfect fit,” proclaimed one.  

“I told you it would.” said the other.

The Professor stood staring as they started to pull the cart off. They hadn’t secured it with ties or padded it with anything. With each little rut or rock in the road, the clock would bounce. He wouldn’t even be able to collect his fruit and vegetables without redoing his work now. And probably having an actual, internal repair! He even considered chasing after and trying to make them be more careful, or at the least point out to Mrs. Whiskers that her sons were reckless. Deciding not to add that stress to his life, he went back inside to gather his things. He would just make time tomorrow to go over to Mrs. Whiskers and clean it up.

Once inside, it didn’t take him long. He resolved himself to just the basic tools then loaded his own cart. It was a nice cart, with only straight axles but the large wheel size aided in its ease of pulling. Not only that, Daryl and him also designed a ‘semi-elliptical spring’ suspension system. Daryl used it in all his carts and wagons now. The Whisker brothers did not have one of these newer designs…

Looking over his load one last time, he was satisfied that everything he needed was there. With determination and eagerness, for the next task, he set forth across town towards Daryl’s. He took a brief glance at his garage and smiled. ‘It wouldn’t be long now. No more pulling a cart for me,’ he thought to himself. He had been working on something special for almost three years now. It was a difficult project so he worked on it when he had the time. He called it his, ‘Hydro-Conveyance’, and he was sure it would change the world forever!


Lost in thoughts, and happily eager about all the wonderful things he and his friends were doing, the Professor wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings. His name had been called several times and slowly he snapped out of his daydreams.

“Professor!” a final cry came and Oliver jumped, startled, as he took in his surroundings. “Are you deaf?” A very short hedge hog was standing on his porch not to far away, and did not appear amused.

“Oh. I am so sorry dear Pattis. I was merely lost in thought.” Professor MacCrumb replied apologetically, then moved to greet his friend.

“I know you are on your way somewhere Professor, but would you mind having a look at my oven?” Pattis pleaded.

‘An oven?’ Olivar thought to himself. Well that was hardly his expertise, but perhaps he could be of assistance. Pattis was, after all, the best baker in town so the Professor knew how important the oven was to him. “Of course I will my friend.” he replied and the two of them headed inside to the kitchen.

Pattis had a very large oven. There were three doors on its front side and twelve burners on its top! It also had two chimney vents, which was necessary when the hedgehog was in full swing for festivals or parties. Professor MacCrumb stared at the impressive oven a moment and deduced that its functions and components were still quite basic.

“What is the exact issue?” Olivar said after several moments.

“It keeps smoking up the house, everytime I try to warm it up,” Pattis replied.

“Did you clean it?” Olivar asked. Not sarcastically of course but merely a question to narrow down the possibilities.

“Yes. Several times,” Pattis insisted.

“Humm… and you checked the chimney flues?

“Of coarse, of coarse.”

Olivar was perplexed but determined to aid his friend. He rolled up his sleeves and opened the middle oven door. Looking inside he saw that it was indeed very clean. He then removed the racks and stuck himself inside to look into the flues. He couldn’t tell if they were clean or not as it was to dark.

“Interesting,” He said aloud and thought for a moment. He must have caused some sort of anticipation because Pattis started fidgeting.

“What is interesting, do tell?” he blurted after an impatient moment had passed.

The Professor backed himself out of the oven and despite it being well cleaned, he still had soot upon his hands and jacket. It couldn’t be helped of course. It was, after all, a well and often used oven. Pattis handed him a towel but the cleaning was futile. Unfortunately he did more smearing then cleaning.

“Well?” asked Pattis, still awaiting a response.

“Well dear friend. I should be able to see a little light within the flue from outside. Do you have a ladder?” Professor MacCrumb responded.

“Of coarse!” Pattis said excitedly and they both hurried outside to the tool shed. Pattis then dragged out an old, wooden extension ladder. “Still good as new!”

“I remember when we made this! It was my first one.” Oliver exclaimed. Many years ago the Professor had come up with this design. It was two ladders laid atop one another and connected in a slide track. Then a pulley was attached to one side and a rope ran through it and tied to the other.

They spent a moment reminiscing over the time spent together making it. It was a lot of fun for them, especially since it was being made for the Spring Festival which marked the day of the vernal equinox. It happened to be the favorite holiday of them both. That year, and every year since, they were able to get very high with the birds and do some very elaborate decorating.

Still laughing they made their way to the back side of Pattis’s home and set up the ladder. Then Professor MacCrumb climbed all the way up to where the top of the vents were located. Using a screwdriver he then removed the flue hoods and peered inside.

“Just as I suspected,” He called down. “I knew I should have been able to see some light from below.” He then reached inside pulling out wads of dough. Gooey, uncooked wads of dough…

“That is impossible,” Pattis cried. “My dough can’t go up the pipe like that.”

The Professor finished his cleaning, reattached the hoods and climbed back down. Giving Pattis a serious look he replied, “I suspect someone has pulled a prank on you.”

“Well that is just very rude. Who would go through so much trouble for a prank?” Pattis seemed very annoyed.

“Did you pick mushrooms at the Faerie Circle, again?” Professor MacCrumb asked.

“No way. I learned my lesson. Yikes!” replied Pattis and they both laughed.

“Well then. I have my suspicions but I suppose we shall never know. You should be good as new, now though.” said the Professor as he lowered the ladder and carried it back to the tool shed.


With thanks and farewells, the two friends parted, and Professor MacCrumb continued on his way to Daryl’s home. He wasn’t far now and he hoped there were no more distractions. There were many more friends about in the village this afternoon. Many waving and wishing him well, with Olivar returning the kind gestures. Professor MacCrumb was passing the Library now and a fox named Emily Rosewood, the librarian, stepped out the front doors.

“Good afternoon, Olivar.” Her silky voice reached his ears. She had a way of speaking that made every syllable an innuendo, and this made most men blush. Professor MacCrumb was no exception. He mumbled something incoherent, lowered his head and picked up his pace. The Professor was easily flustered and was more than a little embarrassed. As he moved off as quickly as he could, he could hear Emily giggling behind him.

Rounding a corner, in the path that ran through the village, he saw a commotion ahead. It was the Whisker brothers and they had broken a wheel on the rickety cart. To their utter dismay, their mother must have been close by. Because there she was, giving a tongue lashing, that only a mother could give. As the Professor drew nearer he began to hear what was being said.

  “And just look at Olivers finish job. There are gouges!” she seemed aghast at the sight of it. Just then she noticed his approach. “And you!” She started in with raised voice and marched straight towards him. “You were supposed to help them.”

“B-b-but…” he stammered.

“There is no way I am paying for any of this until you fix it,” Mrs. Whiskers said stubbornly.

“Well the cart certainly wasn’t the Professors fault,” To the rescue came Daryl the Badger. He and Oliver were about the same height, but Daryl had shoulders twice as wide and a belly twice as plump. Olivar sighed with relief as his friend interrupted the verbal assault. 

“Yes.” Professor MacCrumb said, his courage returning as an idea came to mind.

“How dare you team up on me like that,” Mrs. Whiskers gave them both a glare of loathing.

“What I mean to say is, I will of course fix the clock as agreed,” the Professor continued in a kind and apologetic tone.

“You don’t have to do that,” Daryl scoffed. “And madam, you shouldn’t been so mean to your very fine friends!”

“Now, now…” the Professor started seeing that Daryl could be just as stubborn as Mrs. Whiskers. “As agreed. I will come fix it at your home so we will not need to transport it again.”

“Well that seems just fine,” Mrs. Whiskers responded but kept her gaze fixed upon Daryl. “But just how am I supposed to get it the rest of the way home? We are out of spare wheels, my sons tell me.”

“We will trade for new ones, as per our usual agreement, madam.” Daryl spoke up.

The Professor smiled and stepped forward to Mrs. Whiskers, placing a comforting hand upon her shoulder. “That just won’t do,” he said softly. “That cart has seen it’s final days i’m afraid. You need a new one. A better one.”

“Well I can’t. I just don’t have the time,” she said stubbornly. They all knew it would take a fair amount work to trade for a brand new wagon. The Whisker family had a tendency to run things to their limits, and they were hoarders, so “new” was difficult for them. But to that end the Professor continued.

“I’ll trade you mine.”

“Really?” said Daryl and Mrs. Whiskers, one echoing the other.

“For what?” Mrs. Whiskers asked skeptically. 

“The lamp,” Oliver replied matter of factly. 

Mrs. Whiskers was in a bind now. She knew the Professor would do almost anything to get it back for Mrs. Tittles. The cart was probably the best deal she was going to get for it, and honestly the cart was worth much more, “I accept.”

The biggest smile appeared on Professor MacCrumb’s face. Not only was he very happy that he would finally get the lamp, but Mrs. Whiskers did truly need a new cart. He knew she could be rough around the edges, yet the Whisker family played a very important role in the Woodland community, and the cart would aid in that role for years to come. 

“Well let’s get the cart unloaded,” Daryl the Wainwright said as he moved to pull the Professors cart over to his portico workshop. There they unloaded Olivars tools and buckets of organic rubber solution. Then, carefully, they moved the clock from the rickety broken cart to the new one.

It was easy to tell that Mrs. Whiskers and her sons were excited to have a new, and modernized cart. The boys grabbed hold of the handle and tugged hard to get it started rolling. When it jerked and moved with ease, the two almost fell over. Smiling wide as they both held the handle with one hand, they walked off with the cart easily trailing behind them.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Whiskers said as she turned to Oliver and Daryl. She appeared humbled and gave them a look of gratefulness that neither of them had seen from her before. She glanced to the old cart and spoke directly to Daryl, “Keep that one. Perhaps you can fix it and it will find its way to another in need.”

“Of coarse madam.” Daryl responded softly.

With that she turned, hoisted up her dress from dragging on the ground and hurried after her sons. Oliver and Daryl looked to one another in surprise, then both smiled patting each other on the shoulder. They then turned to the workshop, rubbed their hands together and got to work. 

Applying the solution to the wooden framed wheels was a tedious task. They used jackscrews to lift the wagon off the ground and install the wheels. Then they built molds around the outer edge of the wheels to pour the solution into. While the Professor started pouring he instructed Daryl to turn the wheels slowly. He explained that this would aid in an even application. In the final step they capped the molds and all there was left to do was let it finish drying. 

“For proper set up, we should let it sit for two days,” Professor MacCrumb said.

“Sounds good. I am eager to see this one in action,” Daryl replied. He looked to the Professor thoughtfully then, and waited in silence for the Professor to finish his task and notice.

“What is it, my friend?” asked Olivar.

“So… it is late now. When are you going to retrieve your lamp?” Daryl answered with a not so subtle smirk splayed across his face.

“In the morning,” the Professor blurted. Easily flustered, he barely got the sentence out with coherency. He started fidgeting and his blush got deeper as Daryl continued to stare. Trying to hide the fact, and avoid the Badger, he started picking up the workplace. Daryl started laughing, and poor Professor MacCrumb knew he wouldn’t hear the end of it, until he delivered the lamp to its rightful owner. 

Author: JB Miller



Deep inside the Dark Wood atop the largest hill, stood three trees that were twice as tall as the others. They stretched their limbs as the sun rose over the eastern mountains. Their shadow’s cast far drinking up all the sunlight and all the other trees around them grew weak and hateful. To the South of the forest a lone Silver Maple stood in a grassy field. Perched atop it the Mother of the Woodlands watched as the three trees stole sunlight from those around them.

The sunlight reached her then and her brilliant white feathers shone. A crystal in her crown sparkled and sent flickering prisms of light dancing all about. The three trees seemed to shrink then as if cowering. Shamed by the beauty that offended their arrogance, they let other trees around them bask in the warmth of the sun. For three hours Aveline sat on her perch until the sun had risen high enough in the sky she could do no more. She knew once she left that the three trees would take it out on the others, but they would have anyway, it is there terrible way. They were Aveline’s bane. Her burden and she did all that she could to correct it.

Having other matters to attend to she took flight. Spreading her wings wide Aveline closed her eyes and went forward into a free fall. She let the wind fill her wings and as she neared the ground she shot out from under the tree flying just above the tall grass. She opened her eyes and let her exuberance run wild. Without a single beat of her wings she rode the wind, dodging this way and that to avoid small trees and tall thistles. The land suddenly dropped out from beneath her as she flew over the edge of a small bluff. Below at the bluffs base was a small pond fed by springs. A creek wound away from the pond to the south and west and she followed it. Ahead a large tree line emerged and the creek was running into it. It was the start of a very large forest that stretched many miles from north to south and ten times that to the west.  This was the Woodlands, this was home.

Darting between the trunks of the trees she greeted each one, all she had known for decades and all she counted as friends. Mother Earth was good to her and those that dwell in the woodland. It was important to Aveline that all that live here know the voice of Mother Earth. Listening to her calls, be they blessing or warning, was the key to peace and love. We are all accountable to one another and anyone choosing to dwell in selfish actions and secrets soon find themselves alone.




Hearing chatter she turned and saw a family of squirrels ahead. They were gathering nuts in the forest, at a small clearing and were all standing around a stump of a long dead tree. The mother was explaining to the children about the importance of not taking too much, leaving some for others and giving back to the land. The father then planted an acorn in the center of the decaying stump. He explained to their young ones how to properly bury the acorn and then went on to tell them how the new tree would use the old one for food to grow strong. Aveline smiled and flew over giving them a gracious nod of her head. The mother and father waved to the Mother of the Woodlands and the children gasped in awe.

With a powerful beat of her wings she lifted to the crowns of the trees, dodging branches and then above them. The feeling was like waking up again as she crested the canopy, where the sun shone brightly. Ahead she saw many others in flight. They were children of many families of the forest. Their differing colors reflected in the sunlight as they whizzed about playing some game. They saw her then and calmed there playing as she came close. No doubt there were chores being neglected. Not wanting the young ones to feel she was prying she turned south.

The land dropped gradually beneath her and she skirted the tree tops until she reached the lake. Across the lake she could see Crescent Hill. A friend lived there but she knew he wasn’t home. It was another she was looking for. Aveline scanned the waters as she flew above the lake following the shoreline east. There she saw what she was looking for. Bubbles were slowly breaking the surface of the water near some trees that had fallen over in the early spring flood. She circled down and landed on a large branch of one of those trees. The tree was loose and it bobbed in the water beneath her.

“Oh my!” she cried aloud. The tree settled then as she flapped for balance and almost flew off. Standing precariously she waited a moment before settling in on her perch. She thought to herself, ‘that should have made enough stir under the water to get her friends attention’. Indeed some bubbles issued forth from the lake in front of her, then a very large head and eyes breached the surface to stare at her.




“Good afternoon Tabitha.”  Her friend smiled in response and rose further out of the water. A very large shell emerged from the water and Tabitha hauled herself onto the bank of the lake to bask in the sun.

“Good afternoon Aveline.” Tabitha replied finally. She spoke slowly and deliberately as was her way.  “What brings you to the Emerald Lake on this fine day?”

“I came to inquire about your meeting Miss Tittles. She was brave to undertake such a journey for her friends. How was she?”

Tabitha closed her eyes and turned facing the sun directly. She seemed to be enjoying the warmth immensely. Aveline knew she was not being ignored and that Tabitha would answer. Finally she responded and spoke with great affection regarding Miss Tittles. “She was well. Her bravery was fueled by her concern for others only. I believe that her thirst for knowledge has now been equaled by a yearning for adventure.”

“You do not think she will be content to stay in the woodland with the others?” Aveline asked with concern?

“She is the most unselfish person I have ever met. If the knowledge she seeks will aid others then she will seek it.”

“I will admit that this worries me. Beyond our lands are great evils both current and ancient. Our spirits come with free will though and Mother Earth has filled herself with choices for us.” Both sat for several minutes in reflection. Both were much older than Miss Tittles and remember things neither of them wished to discuss.

“Perhaps then she will need help? Especially since Gwendol gave her that book.” Tabitha asked breaking the silence.

“I know just the person and he definitely needs to be occupied.” Aveline smiled then and Tabitha gave her a look, wondering what she was up to. They both leaned forward, their foreheads pressed together and Aveline gave a short prayer. Then they parted, Tabitha still basking in the sun and Aveline took to the air once more. “Now where might that rat be?” She asked herself and flew back north and west over the lake.




First she searched the village for fear that he had gotten himself into trouble again, but he had not been seen in many days. Then up to Wilber’s Pond where there was a cave he liked to frequent. Again there was no sign of him. Surely not the Dryads Grove? Giving a stern look of disapproval to no one in particular, she headed in that direction.

She flew above the forest for about a half an hour and it was a most enjoyable trek. Birds of all sorts were popping up out of the canopy and then darting back down. Many squirrels and chipmunks kept poking their heads above the branches, waving hello then disappearing back into the forest below. So many were in the forest away from their homes this day because it was late Spring and Mother Earths natural harvest was bountiful this year. The harsh winter snows had kept the ground perfect for germination of new seed and the early spring floods filled all the creeks, ponds, rivers and lakes. Berries, mushrooms and herbs were abundant. It was remarkable to see all the inhabitants of the forest working so closely together to ensure that only what was needed was taken and that the forest received its share and was being well taken care of. Knowing what she knew, ‘remarkable’ may have been to say the least.

Shaking that notion from her mind and continuing onward, she soon stopped seeing others and the Shagbark Hickory Grove came into view. She did not relish the idea of talking to the Dryads that lived there but they may have seen him. Just then she heard shouting and veered to see what the commotion was.

Diving down into the forest she spotted just who she was looking for. He appeared to be alone and in the throws of some sort of tantrum. He hadn’t noticed her yet and a thought came and she smiled. Circling around a large elm she gave her wings a series of heavy beats that gushed wind all around him and she landed hard. He was so startled that he must have leaped off the ground twice his height and Aveline nearly laughed aloud. But he spun about then and a look of fear was splayed across his face. She suddenly felt very horrible for what she had done for she was one of the few that knew where he came from and what his past was. This didn’t stop the thought that he still might deserve it though.

The look on his face quickly changed to one of anger and he yelled at Aveline, “How dare you! Are you TRYING to give me a heart attack? Of all the ever loving creatures of the forest! What’s the matter with you?”

She let his tirade come to an end, still feeling a little regretful of her action. She decided to inquire about his shouting that had brought her to him. “Frederick, what was all that shouting about?

“Well…”, he started loudly then lowered his voice and seeming more than a little embarrassed, “well I was just trying to gather some nuts when all these youngsters swarmed me. Took all the best ones they did.”

“They are just children Frederick.” Aveline spoke quietly and with a mothers comforting tone.

“Bah!” He snorted at her and began walking off.

“You do like living here, do you not?” Aveline’s tone was still soft yet her question was posed almost accusatory. This stopped Frederick in his tracks. Turning he looked to her. He truly had never had it better. You see he came from a port town far south where the river meets the bay. Unsavory types lived there still clinging to old ways. Now that she had his attention she didn’t want him to feel unwelcome. In fact he had shown bravery in several instances since his coming to the forest and even saved a life. Despite his ill temper he was actually very much wanted here and even liked, by most.

“I have a task for you.” She continued, “And it involves going deeper in the forest where you may find some very old oaks that drop acorns the size of your head.” Smiling to herself she knew he would be interested now.

“What sort of task?” He tried to be nonchalant but Aveline knew that he was going no matter what she asked of him.

“I want you to travel the creek all the way to its source. This place is called Three Springs. It is a rocky region of the forest many miles west.”

“Yeah I heard of it.” He interrupted. “Isn’t that where those swamp things were putting swamp goo in the water and causing all those headaches?”

It was Aveline’s turn to be taken aback. The actual source of the problem and that it was a form of attack on the good woodland folk was not common knowledge. Giving him a thoughtful glance she reevaluated him, and not for the first time. His resourcefulness would indeed come in handy.

“Indeed.” She continued, “There is a fern that grows there and I need a full bushel. It is bright green and its veins are red. Do not fear picking the wrong thing, it is easily identifiable.  Do not pick more than one leaflet per plant.” She said the last as a warning and it surely was. This particular plant would retaliate if anyone were to take more than they should. She did not share this information though and left the particulars to his imagination.

“Ok ok.” He said solemnly as he walked over to a large rock where his pack and walking staff were laying. Quietly he donned his equipment and had the task in mind.

“I will see you in a week.” Was all Aveline said and she flew off as suddenly as she appeared. Looking back before she was out of sight she saw he was already headed in the right direction. No nonsense and reliable. She did truly like Frederick.




“Now, for the other.”  She said to herself as she darted through the trees once more. Weaving this way and that, oh how she loved flying, she could hardly remember the days when… A headache wracked her then and she cursed silently. Things were better now she thought to herself and left it at that. Letting her mind go back to the task at hand the pain subsided.

Flying through the trees for a little while longer brought her to the main path. There, many were gathered counting nuts and berries. She flew directly over them and many yelled ‘hello’ or waved excitedly. She stuck to the path and was soon at the village. She flew straight through and more greetings were forthcoming. She nodded and pressed on. Just another mile brought her to a large oak, just up a small hill from the creek. There was a burrow beneath its jutting roots with several round windows and a round door. Around the home were many flowers and a large garden along the slope. It appeared that someone had recently erected a small fence around the garden. Arriving at the door she knocked.

“Yes?” A small voice replied from inside. There was a dull thud and then a clanking. The small voice then said something that was muffled by the door.

“It is Aveline dear.”

“Oh my!” There were quick footsteps and the door opened. Standing in the door way was a young rabbit whose cloths were a bit disheveled. Looking past her Aveline saw that the home was clean except several stacks of books and papers. The young lady continued, “So sorry for the mess. I’ve been reading.”

“Tis quite alright Miss Tittles.” Aveline said as she entered the home. New herb racks had been installed in the kitchen and another near the fireplace for faster drying. All were filled with various herbs, flowers and twigs. “Indeed you have been busy.”

Miss Tittles blushed slightly as she closed the door. Motioning for Aveline to have a seat she moved over to the stove where hot water was already prepared. She then poured two cups of tea using some of the dried herbs hanging above her.

Aveline noticed Miss Tittles was quite pleased with herself as she came and sat beside her. She took the hot tea and sipped it carefully. She noticed a hint of cinnamon. Where on earth did Miss Tittles find that, she wondered.

They sat for a while talking, mostly Aveline let Miss Tittles go on about her new found hobby. She was learning a lot and fast it seemed. Aveline listened intently through three cups of tea. It was the most time the two had ever spent together. In fact, they hardly knew each other at all, having only said greetings and farewells a handful of times. Regardless, Aveline quickly liked Miss Tittles very much and also quickly understood Tabitha’s fondness for the young rabbit.

And so Miss Tittles concluded her current repertoire of knowledge and sighed, “…but you probably knew all that.”

“No, in fact I did not. That is quite impressive Miss Tittles.” Aveline answered with sincere admiration for the young lady. “It seems I have come to the right place.”

“Oh yes. How rude of me? Blathering as I was. I am truly sorry. What was the reason for your visit?” Miss Tittles was clearly distraught that she had carried on so, and to the Mother of the Woodlands of all creatures. She was blushing heavily and fidgeting profusely as she apologized.

“It is alright Miss Tittles. To converse and get to know you was precisely the reason for my visit. In fact, now that we know each other better, may I ask a favor of you?”

“Of me? Yes of course.”  Miss Tittles responded quizzically.

“Have you ever been up to the Three Springs?”

The two talked a little longer and of course Miss Tittles accepted the task. Aveline exaggerated a bit of urgency so Miss Tittles began packing at once. Then they politely bid one another adieux, Miss Tittles hiking down to the creek and heading upstream and Aveline took back to the air circling once to wave goodbye.

Aveline rose high above the canopy this time. She could see the lake from here and very much wished to go visit the White Willow and enjoy an evening of serenity. But alas her work was never done; The Dark Forest was ever in need of watching. Flying north instead she headed home. From there she could see much of the vast plain that separated the two forests, and watch for any sinister beings that may come forth to cause trouble. But that was for later. She decided to think of more positive things and turned her thoughts towards supper and a relaxing evening. She did hope that Garnock would have a moment to spare.

The End

J.B. Miller

A late spring storm blew through in the middle of the night leaving the morning wet and foggy. Droplets of rain could be heard across the forest as they fell from high branches. There was a chill to the air and was darker outside than should be for the time. This told me that the sun would not shine this day for the clouds and fog were too thick.

Sipping my morning, coffee, I smiled to myself. I had made the most wonderful sweet carrot creamer. With a sigh, I peered out my kitchen window pondering what I might do on such a day. Just then, a figure emerged in the fog coming from down by the creek. They were headed straight for my garden! In the fog, I feared the mysterious visitor would not see and trample it. And why were they not using the path? Scuttling out of my burrow that was beneath a great oak, I hurried out to the garden.

“Hold! Hold a moment! Dear friend, careful for my garden!” Trying to give warning without seeming unfriendly, I raised my soft voice as much as I could muster. The figure stopped suddenly and just in the nick of time for he almost stepped right into the cabbages!

“Oh pardon, Miss Tittles. I could not see.” He spoke very quickly and in a startled tone. I recognized Wilber, the Beaver’s voice, right away. This explained why the visitor came from the creek. Wilber always came to visit from this direction as his Den was upstream a few miles.

“Quite alright, just come around there. I have fresh, hot coffee if you care to join me. What are you doing about so early?” I ushered him around and we made our way inside before he answered. He began to explain that the storm had raised the water levels beyond the norm and he had been up most of the night securing his dam. This was a good thing for me and anyone else living along the creek downstream from him. His dam was also his den and he chose this location precisely to aid his fellow forest dwellers from flooding. Subsequently, this created what is known as “Wilber’s Pond.” If his dam were to break, not only would he have to rebuild his home but my garden would be under water right now. Silently, I listened and gave thanks for his skill and diligence.

Still speaking in a rushed voice as was his way, “…and so this terrible headache just won’t seem to pass. I came to see if you might have something. Oh and this coffee is quite wonderful. Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome.” I smiled wide as he was very pleased with how my sweet carrot creamer had come out. “I do apologize, though. The whole Robins family was visiting yesterday with the same complaint. I brewed my last bit of peppermint and lavender tea and they drank every last drop. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I do hope it helped.”

“Oh bother… well, I have to get back. Water levels may still rise from the springs upstream. I must monitor carefully, ya’ know. Busy, busy, busy!” We said our farewells and I walked Wilber down to the creek and fetched some fresh water while I was at it. I admired how quickly he moved upstream and even picking up debris along the way. He disappeared into the fog and I began to make my way back up to her home. I was sad that I was unable to help Wilber and hoped he would feel better soon.

As I came up the bank again, I saw a mysterious figure in the fog and once again they were almost upon my garden! Speaking as loudly as my voice would allow, “Be careful, mind you!” Whoever this was must have heard me for they stopped and stood silent and still. I moved as quickly towards the figure as I could. After all, I was hauling a bucket of water. As I approached the figure, it grew larger and larger. My steps began to slow and trepidation began to build. Then I heard a familiar groan. Sighing, as I seemed to be doing a lot this morning, I moved around the garden and could now see Grizzle, the clumsy ‘ol bear. There was apology in his eyes and he took a large step backwards away from the garden.

“Seems it is a busy morning and many are out and about despite the dreariness. How are you today Grizzle?” Now, he was a silent creature. No one had ever heard him speak and most believed that he could not. Not that he was spoken ill of, only brief moments of concern. Mostly when he met someone new. Everyone liked Grizzle. He was very kind and gentle albeit a little lumbering. He answered me in his customary fashion with grunts and groans and then he lay down covering his head with his paws. Puzzled, I began to try and decipher his meaning. With a few more moans and a bit more grumbling, I finally asked.

“Do you have a headache?” With a grunt of confirmation, he leaped up to all fours and stared at me pleadingly.

I explained very apologetically that the whole Robins family had come visiting the day before and had drunken the last of my peppermint and lavender tea. I also told the tale of Wilber’s visit and how I was also unable to aid him. I apologized many times and he nodded in thanks and slowly wondered back into the forest. As I watched him go. it occurred to me that many of my friends were in need. I also found it curious that headaches seem to be in abundance. Well that solves it. I now knew what I must do this day.

It was time to visit The Crow of Crescent Hill.

Actually the trip would take two days. I will need to travel all the way to the lake and then around it to reach Crescent Hill. It was not an ideal day to travel but he would have the answers. I hurried inside and grabbed my travel pack. As I often made ventures into the woods, it was mostly already packed. Grabbing a few snacks and my hood, I was quickly on my way. I had not gotten far, only a half mile or so, when I heard scurrying from the path behind me. Turning, I saw two small figures approaching and quickly! I jumped to the side of the path nearly being run into. The Whisker brothers, I thought to myself and frowned. They skidded to a halt and both began chattering at once. Now I was starting to get a headache. With patience, I calmed them down and asked the little mice boys to please speak one at a time.

“Well…” They both started and I put my hands to my hips giving them an exasperated expression. The older boy nudged the other in annoyance and continued. “It’s our mama. She has a terrible headache that started two days ago. And now this morning, all of our brothers and sisters have one too!”

“ALL…. of them?” I asked skeptically. Mrs. Whiskers did after all have many children.

“Yes, we swear!” They answered in unison with their eyes wide and filled with innocence. This was a practiced response from the brothers as they were often questioned on their activities and tales. But none-the-less, I believed them. This couldn’t be coincidence. Something was definitely amiss. Briefly I explained that I was on my way to the Crow of Crescent Hill for the very same reason and that they should rush home and tell their mother that aid was on the way. With mischievousness in their eyes, they looked to one another and quickly thanked me and then ran off. I doubted they would go straight home.

Again, I was on my way. After several hours, the fog lifted considerably and the day brightened only ever so slightly as the clouds were still heavy. I worried that it may rain again and quickened my step. As I journeyed, I wondered on the state of my garden after such a heavy rain. In an attempt not to worry, I put such thoughts from my mind and tried to keep to the task at hand, which of course brought worry. Why were there so many cases of bad headaches and how? It reminded me of the time, several years back, when children were sent to the task of foraging in the forest. Somehow, some not so good mushrooms got mixed into the food stores. That was an interesting few days, I laughed to myself.

A rustle in the branches above brought me out of my pondering. Looking up, I spotted someone fluttering from branch to branch in an awkward manner. Watching for a moment, I determined that whoever it was must be injured. I also determined that they must not have seen me so I called out yet again. “Hello there. Are you alright?” My voice broke the still silence in a manner that even startled myself. I have been doing a lot of hollering this day, I thought to myself. Something I do not wish to be getting better at. The rustling from above had stopped and I looked up again to see Mrs. Robin circling quickly down to land beside me. When she landed, she stumbled to the side and nearly fell. I rushed to help her balance.

“Thank you so much, my dear.” Mrs. Robin said as she shook her head trying to ward off dizziness.

“What is the matter? Are you hurt?” I was very worried for my dear friend. My already growing concern for the others was turning into desperation. Mrs. Robin told me that after the Robin family had returned home yesterday, the headaches began to return. Then I recounted the tale of the day’s events from Wilber to Grizzle and then my encounter with the Whisker brothers along the road. As it happens, Mrs. Robin had also concluded that something was amiss after speaking to Jay, the Bluebird, who also had a bad headache. She was also attempting to reach the Crow of Crescent Hill but it was obvious  that she was in no shape for such a trip.

“You have traveled bravely and far my dear friend,” I spoke softly and reassuringly, “but you must go back. My home is closer. You are welcome to stay there until I return.” With minimal resistance, Mrs. Robin reluctantly started back. I was now very worried and knew I must hurry. Chiding myself on the daydreams, I did not allow myself to become distracted again. I traveled the rest of the day and even a few hours after dark.

I was beginning to grow very weary and was looking about for a safe place to rest for the night when a dim blinking light appeared ahead on the path. Slowly, I moved towards it and when I moved around the next bend, my eyes widened. Sitting there upon a large exposed root of an old Elm was a fairy! I had seen fairies before as they were quite common in the forest but always briefly and at a distance. Fairies were magical and reclusive beings that only appeared in times of joy and celebration. And to those of good heart, they sometimes would come in times of need. This fairy, however, seemed to be the one in need. She did not notice me and sat there with her head cradled in her arms and knees. She appeared to be weeping!

Slowly, I approached and spoke very softly trying not to startle the Fairy. She only raised her head slowly as a sparkling tear streamed down her cheek. The fairy rose to her feet and then fluttered off directly over me. The last thing I saw was the sparkle of that tear as it landed upon my brow before falling fast asleep.

When I awoke tiny rays of light were beginning to peak through the forest canopy. It was very early yet and I sat up feeling very rested. I looked about and noticed I was nestled against the old elm right in the crook of the exposed root and someone had placed a large Mayflower leaf over me as a blanket. I had a strong sense of positive wellbeing and determination filled me. In moments, I was on my way with a silent thanks to the fairy. Without her, I knew that my night would have been restless and this day long and tiresome.

Snacking as I quickly trekked, it was only a few hours before the land around me began to change. Rocky outcrops began to pop up and the land began to slope ever so gently downward. The path wound to and fro, long ago worn to avoid treacherous footing. Through the trees, I saw sparkles. The land evened out and the forest ended in a line of oaks, walnuts and sycamores that surrounded the lake. The sparkles were that of the sun reflecting off the lakes still surface. Beyond the lake was the Crescent Hill and its perfect reflection in the still waters. “Almost there,” I thought to myself. Just a few more hours and I would have answers.

Quickening my step, I started around the lakes edge. Because of the rains, the lake level had risen and the shore was small and in some places, the water came all the way to the trees. This slowed my travel as there was no path. Usually, the shore was passable and quite a pleasant walk. But now, I avoided mud pits and had to deal with thick underbrush. There were briers in my fur and dress. I snagged on a honey locust branch that I did not notice and my skirt was torn. I looked up and down the lakes shore and realized I had not traveled very far at all. Frustration began sneaking in and I thought there must be a better way! Suddenly there were bubbles on the lakes surface. One , two then three and they were moving closer. I tried to scurry backwards and tripped right into a large mud puddle. Many bubbles were now coming to the surface of the water very near to the lakes edge! The mud was thick and she couldn’t get unstuck fast enough. Something very large began to surface.

“Can… I… help… you?” A deep but kind and very slow ladies voice issued out from the cavernous opening in a huge shell. A very large head then abruptly began to emerge from opening. She was bright green with yellow strips and I thought her quite beautiful. Still startled, she forgot to answer. “Are… you… alright?”

“Um… oh, yes thank you. I am having a bit of trouble as you can see and, um, oh my…” I took careful observation and laughed to myself overcome with a predicament. The lady turtle reached a large paddle foot over to me just then, aiding me to my feet then lifting me over, directing me to climb upon her shell. From there, I was able to wash myself up and clean off my dress and gear. Meanwhile, we both introduced one another and I explained the urgency of my journey. I learned that the lady turtles name was Tabitha and that the lake was her home. Tabitha offered to give me a ride across the lake and off we went. As we crossed, and quite quickly to my surprise, I told Tabitha that I had been to the lake several times and asked why I had never seen her? Tabitha replied slowly and with wise words. “It is a very large lake.”

“Yes of course.” I replied sheepishly.

Once we reached the other side, the lakes shore was much more pleasant. It was a grassy bank at the foot of Crescent Hill with scattered Oaks and no underbrush. I thanked her profusely and to my surprise, Tabitha said she would stay close to aid on the return trip. We parted ways with a great sense of respect and both happy for a new friendship.

Now, I had a renewed sense of determination and I started my march up the grassy slope. Only a few moments later, I passed between  two ancient oaks and beyond them was a grassy flat. In the center of that flat was a long dead tree. It was very tall and its old leafless branches were high and wide. At its lowest and largest branch, I saw a door carved into the trunk. I walked about the tree and found that there was no way up. I was unsure of what to do. I had met the wise Crow of Crescent Hill several times but had never been to his home. Was this even it? I decided to call out. “Dear sir are you at home?” There was no reply so I called out again. Many times did I call out as I examined the tree further. My calls came unanswered so I began looking about the grassy flat and even up to the hills rocky peak protruding skyward another one hundred feet or so.

“I would not go up there if I were you.” A crackling voice broke the silence greatly frightening me.

I spun about and on a branch, perched very close to me was The Crow of Crescent Hill. He had a long scarf draped about his shoulders and a wide brimmed, crooked pointy hat upon his head. But what I noticed most was the staff that he leaned upon. It was a long wooden shaft polished and adorned with colored thread from which many types of herbs hung. At its top a crescent moon also of wood was mounted. On it knot work design was carved as well as runes that I did not understand.

“Well it certainly does not look very inviting.” And neither was my tone for I was not very happy with the wise old crow for sneaking up on me. And must he appear so menacing? “Now, I have come in search of you. There is a problem in the forest and we need your help.”  I paused expecting an immediate response but one was not forthcoming. I grew quite angry as he certainly was not picking up on the urgency. “Good sir,” I began again and much more harshly than I intended. “Did you not hear that there is trouble and your aid is greatly needed?”

“Wha… What?” The crow started as if being shaken awake. “My mind often travels far and wide!” He declared in grandiose manner.

“You fell asleep didn’t you?” I responded dryly.

“Of course not,” Came the gruff response. “Now did you say something about trouble?”

Finally getting to the point I recounted my tale stopping several times to make sure he was listening. He was indeed attentive and very much concerned. The crow asked questions like, ‘how long has this been happening?’ and ‘were there any other symptoms?’ The wide spread ailment seemed to concern him the most. He in return explained that sicknesses often affected individuals differently based on weight and age. This was all very fascinating as I loved to learn new things and was always picking up new hobbies to master. He continued on to say that with the afflicted ranging from small, the Whisker family and to large like old Grizzle. Also from young to old, that it could only mean one thing. He paused reflecting in thought before going on and I was hopping with anticipation and finally he said. “Poison”!

   How could this be, I thought, who would do such a thing and how? Now even more concerned than before I wondered what to do next.

“Now I bet your wondering who would do such a thing, and the why and the how of it”. He spoke very seriously to me. “Do not fret over it for that is not your task. Yours is to return to the sick with an antidote.”

“That is all good and well but if we do not find the source will we not continue to see the sickness?” I asked very proud of my line of logic.

“Indeed. Such matters could be dangerous as I suspect foul play. For this I will seek Aveline.” His proclamation gave me a sense of awe for he was speaking of the Mother of the Woodlands. This also told me that he was taking this matter very seriously. However this was not making me feel safe. Questions were racing through my mind that I knew only time would answer.

I straightened myself and adjusted my skirts. Determination set in and resolutely I asked, “What must I do?”

“You will need bark from the White Willow. I have a little here which you and I will now use as a precaution. But for the others you will need to gather a large quantity. This will not be easy for the Willow only gives what is needed. You will have to convince him.” More emotions flooded me. Fear at the need to take precautions. Wonder and at the mention of both Aveline and the White Willow, the latter of which I had never even heard of and it was a ‘him’?

Motioning for me to follow I now saw a ladder leading up to the large low hanging branch where the door was carved into the trunk. Where did that come from I wondered. Climbing it he opened the door for me and we entered. I immediately stopped in amazement for the room was much larger than the tree was wide. How could that be I thought as I gazed around. There was a nest on the right that looked quite cozy. To the left a table with all manner of potions and salves, and on the far side was kitchen area. Hanging from the ceiling and walls were hundreds of herbs. Leaf and root, twig and thistle, most of which were things I had never seen. The Crow of Crescent Hill closed the door and moved over to the kitchen area where water was already set. He reached up and pulled down a jar from the mantle. From it he pulled forth a thin curled piece of bark that was grey on one side and white on the other. It was very smooth and appeared brittle as he crumpled it into the hot water. Stirring for a few moments he then added something else and a very pleasant aroma filled the home. A few more minutes later he poured the contents into some tea cups and he served one to me. We sat sipping the hot tea for some time in silence giving me time to reflect on the events of the past few days.

The Crow of Crescent Hill broke the silence, “You will need to travel to the far east side of the lake to the falls where the river begins. That is where the White Willow rests. He can be stubborn and does not give his bark so easily but I am sure once you explain the situation he will be more than helpful.” Giving me a knowing glance he continued. “You should stay here for the night for even with Tabitha’s assistance you will not make it across the lake before nightfall and waking the White Willow will not make him inclined to be friendly.”

I understood and agreed and we spent the evening in conversation. Seeing as nothing could be done right this moment I let myself drift into curiosities and asked many questions about herbs and there properties. He was reluctant at first especially when I pointed out a long hanging stem with bright green leaves and beautiful purple flowers.

“This looks magical.” I said with a youthful exuberance, “what is this one?”

“A weed.” He replied dryly. “It smells good.”

“Oh…” I said sheepishly. Not letting that deter me, I kept on and he eventually loosened up and started going into great detail. I was amazed how much there was to know and what we discussed that evening was only a fraction of what was in the home. I learned that some plants and trees that were of the same family may have completely different uses and that many different parts of the same plant could also have different uses. I also learned that preparation was very important. For example some things must be ingested while others work best when prepared as a salve. Some things were medicinal while others were cosmetic like the lavender perfume Professor McCrumb had given me at last Winter’s Feast. There was just so much I could not possibly remember it all.

It was getting late and the Crow of Crescent Hill could see that I was serious in my thirst for knowledge. He went over to a shelf next to his nest and pulled down a small book then handed it to me. Curiously I flipped open the first few pages and with excitement quickly scanned many more. The book was filled with illustrations of plants and trees each with a list of uses, directions for preparation and some even with cautions. I was speechless and looked to him with great thanks reflected in my expression. He only smiled and directed me to a cot where I could sleep for the evening. He then nestled himself into his nest and was quickly breathing heavily in slumber.

The light from the fireplace had gone dim and the hour was late. Thoughts and emotions were racing through my mind and I wondered how could I possibly sleep. Fluffing the pillow I laid down and covered myself. I was asleep in moments with thoughts turning to dreams of the forest and learning what part all living things play.

I awoke feeling very rested once again. I had cradled the book in my arms all night and leaped from bed excitedly. Looking about I could see that the fire had been stoked and a pleasant smelling broth was cooking. The table was set with bread and cheese and a single bowl had been placed. The Crow of Crescent Hill was nowhere to be seen. I sat giving thanks then ate while pondering what must next be done.

After breakfast I went out and climbed down the ladder which abruptly disappeared once I reached the bottom.  Smiling, I rubbed my hand across the now smooth trunk of the tree. Heading down the grassy slope back to the lake I did not hurry. Despite the danger I had a sense of peace and well-being with a knowing that things would be alright. Armed now with knowledge I also knew I would be better prepared for anything that may occur in the future.

Approaching the lake I saw Tabitha waiting and waved excitedly. Tabitha lifted a webbed foot and waved in return, slowly. “Good morning!” I exclaimed happy to see my new friend. “You are a woman of your word and now I must ask another favor of you. We must travel to see The White Willow.” Tabitha gladly accepted the task and already knew exactly where to go. The lake was her home after all.

I climbed aboard and we set out to the West watching the sun climb on the horizon. Many hours passed and I recounted the evening’s events. Many times Tabitha slowed inadvertently as she was so intent on the tale. It wasn’t until I realized we were sinking, and panicked, that Tabitha quickly continued. Finally just passed midday we saw the rocky west shore ahead and soon after the roar of the falls could be heard. The lake narrowed considerably at this point with jutting rock to either side. A current picked up as the water moved towards this narrow spot and went over the edge. This made me slightly nervous but Tabitha’s powerful strokes easily carried them to the shore. Ahead a small path disappeared into a not very inviting narrow ravine.

I climbed down onto the rocky flat and we embraced warmly. Tabitha explained that she couldn’t sit in the current here and wait but would return early in the morning should she be needed again. I admitted that I did not know what was to come and thanked her profusely for all she had done. With that we bid one another farewell and Tabitha turned, diving into the depths of the lake. I turned to face the unknown and took a deep breath of resolution then into the ravine I marched.

The ravine was indeed narrow and wound this way and that, so one could not possibly see what was very far ahead at any given time. Sounds however seem to easily reverberate off the stone walls as each scrape of my foot and every tiny fallen stone echoed loudly to my ears. There also was a strong breeze that blew through the ravine that brought a strange scent. Soon I began to hear a faint clicking or tapping. The smell grew stronger but not unpleasant and the sound grew louder but still gentle. I then turned the last bend and a small valley opened up before me. A tiny creek emerged from the rocks on the left and wound its way across the valley to disappear back into the rocks to the right. Along the creek patches of a hardy grass grew and simple single blossom flowers grew with them. At the small valleys center the creek ran directly at the foot of a large willow tree. The fragrance was that of the tree and the gentle clacking was that of its long narrow leaves tapping against one another in the wind. The willows branches stretched wide and draped heavily all about it so that I could not see the trees trunk. I approached the tree and parted its branches like a curtain and walked beneath.

Beneath the tree it was an open space and the suns light passed through the branches with an illuminating glow. The trickle of the small creek was soothing and there was a soft patch of grass along it. I could have sworn I saw little specks of light dart around the tree as if hiding. I believed them to be fairies. Ever elusive beings, I wondered what they may be doing here? A lone butterfly fluttered by with its wings being blue on top and yellow on bottom so it appeared to change color as it flew by. It landed not far away where it stayed examining a flower quite intently. I moved forward onto the grassy patch and examined the tree closely. The Crow of Crescent Hill had called it a ‘he’.  

“Good sir. I beg your pardon but might I have a word?” I spoke very softly for I did not want the abrupt sound of my voice to startle him. I waited a few moments yet there was no reply so I paced back and forth along the grassy patch and examined the tree. Its surface was pale white and was completely smooth. Well, I thought to myself, there is no bark at all! My gaze followed the branches out and where the smooth, white ended were the long draping reeds that were all about. They were green with the narrow leaves densely growing upon them, shuddering and gently taping in the breeze. Fresh spring growth I surmised. I also came to the conclusion that this place was indeed magical and the tree was quite marvelous but I feared it was the wrong tree. So I decided to look about the small valley.

I turned to walk out from beneath the tree when I felt a gentle pull on my shoulder. Turning I saw one of the long draping branches tenderly grasping me and urging me back. Fascinated I turned back towards the tree and the branch let go. Then another one swept across the grassy patch and bits of shinny dust fell along its path. I thought a brief moment and smiled. The tree couldn’t talk, I determined, just like Grizzle. I was sure it was inviting me back and perhaps to have a seat on the welcoming grassy patch.

“How very polite,” I said aloud then moved over and sat upon the grass. I adjusted my skirts and made myself comfortable as I thought about what to say next. I decided that politeness was best returned with politeness.

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Miss Tittles.”

“I am Mr. White Willow.” I responded for him in a deeper tone and a bob of my head. Seeing no response I continued in the deeper tone. “Allow me to get you some tea. I have…”

Interrupting me, there was a small root from the tree extended into the stream and it started splashing the water lightly. I pondered the meaning for a moment, “Oh yes of course”.

I started again trying to sound gruff, “Allow me to fetch you some water.” The tree suddenly shook and sparkling specks drifted down all about. Briefly I was puzzled. Did the White Willow just laugh? I was sure I was on the right track and feeling proud of myself I kept on in the deeper tone. “I am afraid I have no fresh bread that we might share but the soil is quite rich if you care to join me?”

The tree shook again, this time for a few seconds and more sparkles fell from the branches. Smiling I kept going, “Oh and do mind the rocks they are a bit lumpy and if you don’t care for worms you can just pick those out.” And the tree shook heavily then for several moments and I could not contain my laughter. This only seemed to spur the White Willow on as it only shook harder. Laughing together for a moment we finally calmed and I did indeed take a sip from the stream.

Still with a delighted tone I spoke in my normal voice, “It truly is an honor to meet you sir. We do how ever have some business to attend. There seems to be an ailment and I have come in search of your aid?” I then recounted the entire tale beginning with the arrival of the Robins family at my front door and ending with this very moment expressing her delight at meeting his acquaintance. The White Willow stood still the entire time and I could only guess that he was doing what trees do best; being patient and listening intently of course.

“As you can see, or hear rather, the matter is dire. If you could spare enough for the good folk of the forest I am sure it will not be long before the source of the matter is dealt with. And I do regret not knowing just how much enough may be.” I was silent then, having said all there was to say I sat upon the grassy patch waiting for a response. It was some time later, half an hour perhaps, when I was beginning to think the White Willow would not, or could not, help. I rose to my feet and then a single sparkling speck fell just in front of me. The area around me seemed to get brighter and I looked up to see thousands of specks drifting ever so slowly down. He heaved slowly then as if taking in a large breath of air and his smooth surface began to crack and peel. Then he made a motion of exhaling and all the cracks and peels curled, and as high as I could reach there was bark to be picked. Shocked I just stood for a moment considering what had just happened. I was sure that the White Willow was not only helping but giving all that he had to give.

Tears welled up at his generosity and I stepped across the creek to start picking. Slowly I started putting bits of bark in my bag. I was speechless at his graciousness and went about my task gently. With each piece I examined the trunk to make sure I had not pulled to hard or caused any other sort of damage. It was always important to me, to only take what one needed from the forest. Never take too much and always leave some for others.

The task was tedious but I remained humble until its completion. When finished I thanked the White Willow and hugged him tightly. I was now very hungry and noticed it was getting dark.  In silence I sat upon the grassy patch and ate a piece of carrot cake that I had brought. As the sun went down the white willow kept a soft glow. The ambiance was beautiful and it reminded me of sitting in my chair at home in the evenings with a reading candle lit and a good book in my hands. A tale of my youth then flittered through my thoughts and I broke the silence telling the story in great detail to the White Willow. He never responded but I knew he was listening.


Once again on this journey I knew I had made a dear friend. I finished my story and the White Willow seemed to visibly relax. The glow dimmed even further and draping branches moved in close. The air around me seemed to become warmer and was very comfortable. I felt safe here so I curled up upon the grassy patch and closed my eyes to get some sleep.

Morning seemed to come fast and I was eager to get home and serve my friends some Willow Bark Tea. The urgency was returning as I thought about them dealing with the dreadful headaches for all these days I had been away. I desperately hoped it was not getting worse. Gathering my things I spoke to the White Willow briefly of my worries then I bid him farewell. As I parted the long, draping branches many of them wrapped themselves about my arms and waist. It was a tight squeeze but very brief and then he released me.

“Goodbye my friend.” I said again as I gently ran my fingers across his branches.

Resolutely I put one foot in front of the other and headed towards the lake. Moving along the ravine the pleasant aromas of the small valley followed me and I walked with a chipper step. Twisting through the few last curves a foul smell chased away the pleasantness and I slowed cautiously. I went around the last corner on to the rocky flat and Tabitha waited. Tabitha had crawled out of the lake and was sitting on the rocks watching up the shore to the north and west. She was so much larger out of water than I had expected and it startled me.

Tabitha turned her head to acknowledge that she knew I was there but said nothing. Feeling the need to whisper I asked, “What is it dear friend?”

“Swamp Dwellers,” Tabitha replied simply and in her slow manner. “We must go.”

And with that I was aboard promptly. Setting off Tabitha headed straight out to the depths of the lake. Movement off to the west, near the shore caught my eye. I could have sworn there were multiple sets of large bulbous eyes that suddenly dropped beneath the surface of the water. Admittedly I was scared but Tabitha was strong and fast in the water. After a moment had passed I asked. “What are Swamp Dwellers?”

“Servants of the Swamp Queen and they are up to no good I assure you.” Tabitha’s tone was very stern and she continually kept an eye to the western bank.

“Are we in danger?” I didn’t want to ask this question for fear of the answer but I needed to know.

“No. There is someone living in the depths of this lake much larger than I and much more fierce. They do not dare travel out here in the deeper waters.” Tabitha replied coldly. I suspected that there was a story to be told but I did not ask. My friend would share her thoughts with me when the time was right. Besides I had other thoughts running through my mind at that moment. Were those things the reason for our current troubles? And I was dreadfully concerned about my friends as it had been many days.

Soon we far out in the center of the lake and the western shore disappeared behind us. The rank smell had gone away and I could feel Tabitha relax beneath me. Still we traveled on, each to our own thoughts. A shadow crossed our path and I looked up to see someone flying high above heading north. I could not tell who it was as they were much too high and they traveled quickly out of sight. It wasn’t long and we were pulling up to a muddy shore. The old worn path that wound up the hill and to home was before us. We kept our goodbye brief as both the urgency for the task at hand tugged at us both and also, looking into one another’s eyes I could tell that her thoughts reflected my own. We were dear friends now and we did not want to part ways. I promised I would visit as soon as I could and with that she smiled back at me and dove into the depths.

With the final stretch home at hand and my pack full of the White Willows bark I did not dwell on missing her. Marching along the path as fast as I could I was determined to make some ground before nightfall. Also I didn’t want to be anywhere near the lake when I stopped to rest for fear of those things! Traveling a few hours brought me well into the forest and nearing more familiar ground. It would be dark soon so I started looking for a good place to rest. Still with trepidation hounding me I thought it prudent to take cover. There was an old oak that had long ago been struck by lightning and its center was hollow at the base. After making sure it was not already someone else’s place to rest I nestled in for the night. It was hard to fall asleep and I am unsure how much time had passed before I did. The night was dark and quiet. I heard no sound from those who traveled in the night. No breeze was forth coming to sway the branches and rattle the leaves. The moon was new so its protective radiance was absent.

Morning came and the silence persisted. It was warm though, inviting me to travel without delay. The day remained a silent one as I approached home. I had expected to start seeing my neighbors out and about by noon but I saw no one. I had even passed a few homes and stopped to tell them that I had some medicine. Yet no one was there. Where was everyone? I decided to take a short cut and went through Jay’s Cedar Grove. Just passed the grove was a ridge that followed the creek. I followed that until the land flattened out and then I knew I was almost home. Just a few minutes later I saw the great bows of my oak and a great feeling of relief overcame me. But still, where was everyone?

As I approached my home I immediately noticed the small fence that was now built around my garden. Suspiciously I creeped slowly forward up the hill. I saw my friends moving about all over my home! A series of hurried chirps came from above. I looked up to see many of my flying friends dashing to and fro and my tree looked nicely pruned!

“What is going on here?” I said loudly. Many of my friends, both above and below, turned and yelled.


I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Mrs. Robin came forward and took my arm and began to show me about. My tree had been well taken care of, a task that was long overdue I might add. My garden was in excellent shape and the ground for late spring planting already tilled. And now there was a protective fence around it. And it didn’t stop there. My gardening shed had been repaired and given a new roof. My house was clean and the extra shelves I’ve needed, were installed.

“But how can this be?” I stammered. While being shown about everyone was smiling and happy, pointing out tasks that were done and praising which ever individual had performed that work. It was all very humbling and yet something amiss. “What about your headaches?”

Everyone hushed then and Mrs. Robin said, “It was all Professor McCrumbs doing.”

The Professor stepped forward holding a small box and there was a faint humming emanating from it. “This is a neuro disrupter,” he explained. “I discovered quite by accident that the frequency this is making disrupted whatever is causing the headaches.”

“That’s not all he did.” Mrs. Robin said giving me a knowing look and a sly smile.

“Indeed,” Wilber stepped forward then. “All this was his idea so you didn’t have to worry when you returned.”

I looked to the Professor and he had backed away shyly and was looking at his feet. “So the headaches are gone?” I asked quizzically?

“Not exactly,” the Professor perked up once more, “You see it only works precisely in a one hundred and fifty two foot radius. So those I could find and were willing to help have been staying here, errrm… We do hope you approve?” He finished looking to his feet once more.

“Do I approve?” Speaking a little louder than intended and still quite shocked I looked about to all my friends and to the few to large to enter that were huddled at the door and windows. I do not think my home had ever been so full. Tears welled up in my eyes and Mrs. Robin hugged me close. I blubbered a bit and continued. “You are all so dear to me. Thank You.”

With thanks and your welcomes, handshakes, nods of approval and other well done’s and well do’s, we all spent a little longer visiting. Then it was down to business. We couldn’t all have Professor McCrumb’s invention; we needed to take the cure. Everyone settled in as comfortably as possible in my little burrow and I told the tale of my adventure as Mrs. Robin and Mrs. Whiskers started making White Willow Bark Tea!


J.B. Miller

If any plant deserves a standing ovation, it is oregano but most notably the many oregano oil uses. A potent antioxidant and antibacterial agent, this succulent herb is a gift to mankind as a valuable herbal remedy to assist in many pesky ailments. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans used it for medicinal purposes.  All parts of the herb can be used in treating various health issues but this old bird will focus on the oil.

It is worth noting that not all oregano oils are equal. Don’t be fooled by labels that read “Oil of Oregano” or “Oregano Oil.” These are imposters and not suitable in your arsenal of medicinal herbs. Rather, you want the best and it so happens, it is “Oil of WILD Oregano” with no less than 75% Carvacrol and harvested in the Mediterranean. For those of us who are not privy to live nearby, it is important to make sure no pesticides were used. Organic is the way to go!

A few of my experiences with Oregano Oil Uses:

  • Crapola! A sinus infection, you say? 3-4 drops of oil in a 00 capsule twice a day for 7 days with a glass of water with food. By the 2nd day, I noticed the pain began to fade away.
  • An infection from a skin wound? 1 drop of oil in a tsp of olive or coconut oil. Healed within a few days.
  • A sore throat? 3 drops of oil in a glass of water. The next day, no more aching throat.
  • Oh nooo, a toenail infection! 4 drops of oil (3 times a day) on infected toe. Pain disappeared within a few hours, infection vanished after a few days.

Need I say more?  It’s no wonder that this herb has become a favorite remedy for its many oregano oil uses. It is my number one choice to combat colds, viruses and infections. I keep it in my satchel during my travels through the woodlands. But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try and save yourself the dreaded doctor’s visit.

The Great Discovery

The other day in steampunk watchmy workshop, something peculiar caught my eye that I had not remembered placing on my worktable. It was quite ornate in its design and appeared to have been intended for a special lady friend. I can only assume this beautifully crafted steampunk watch must have fallen through a rusted out hole in one of the small metal crates I had retrieved from my last excursion into the junkyard.

Examining the delicate pocket watch in my hand, a most brilliant idea popped in my head. Genius, really. Isn’t it funny how something so inconsequential can spark your imagination or the next great idea?

I immediately set to work drafting a blueprint design for my next masterpiece!  I must have been slightly parched when the idea struck me. Thoughts of the delicious aroma of chamomile ginger tea spoke to me in such earnest that I felt tea time deserved a little more, how do you say, pizazz?

steampunk watch

No more fiddling with brewing fresh tea. Not when you have a marvelous invention to do the work for you!

It wasn’t hardly any trouble finding and assembling the needed supplies, not when a plethora of eager mice to offer helping hands. After a few trial runs that resulted in 2 cracked teacups, a very wet mouse being mistaken for a sugar cube and a few other minor mishaps, it is amazing how the discovery of a steampunk watch can result in this fine specimen of innovation and imagination!

Why Should You Drink Tea?

I’m not talking about that frivolous imposter tea that you humans seem to enjoy consuming stored in plastic bottles.  Ghastly, if you ask me! I am referring to prim and proper cups of tea that require a little effort on your part.

I must say, my invention spurred by a steampunk watch has performed exceedingly well. So much so that besides the inconvenience of visiting the tall bush frequently throughout the day, I have experienced a few nice benefits.

  1. Less tummy trouble. For those who suffer from nausea or easily irritated stomachs, chamomile leaves or ginger may do just the trick. These herbs are a staple in my kitchen.
  2. Your ticket to a guilt free delicacy. No need to be concerned with calories if you are on a mission to drop a few stones. Bottom’s up!
  3. Your body needs the extra arsenal. Green tea is most ideal to build up your immune system. Just this year, my dearest great aunt had a scare with the 6 lettered “C” word. Naturally, she increased her intake of this wonderful herb and within 6 months, not a single abnormality was detected in her body. It revved up her body’s natural defense to do what it is supposed to do.
  4. Brain candy to boost your concentration and relaxation. This, I cannot stress enough. There is something to be said about increased productivity while sipping a cup of “brain boosting” tea. If you think about it, as your body is being nourished within by such herbs as ginkgo biloba, periwinkle and rosemary – your ability to retrieve facts, critically think and be a smartie pants (in a good sort of way) takes on a life of its own. Before you know it, you will stumble across your own steampunk watch that will lead you to your next invention!

Prof. MacCrumb

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zombie outbreakA zombie outbreak does have its perks. Don’t get me wrong. Living a normal life is so much better than walking around as a piece of reanimated, decaying flesh. As they say, when life throws you a lemon…. Meh, who cares? It’s not like I can taste it anyway.

I’m one of the millions infected with the Apocalyptic outbreak. We never stood a chance. I can’t even remember how it happened.

Righteous Bonus

The plus side is that all crime stopped. That is, when the brunt of the zombie outbreak ended and normal people went into hiding. The streets have never been more peaceful. Occasionally, one of us will bump into a car or activate a house alarm. You would think it’s a Bruce Springsteen concert by the numbers that flock to noise.  It usually ends in disappointment.

No more baths or concerns about body odor. All of us look like we are suffering from varying degrees of ultimate hangovers. The perpetual bad hair day doesn’t help our looks either.

This may even be too creepy for zombies.

We pretty much run the city. Heck, the world for all I know.  No one around to harp at you to get a job, brush your teeth or go to bed. You can stay out all night for days and days. And sleep is a thing of the past.

I could do without the flies. If there is one downfall to a zombie outbreak, it’s the sheer number of those pests flying about, laying eggs in our carcass and being a real nuisance. A perpetual hell of always being too stiff and too slow to make a dent in the population.

It probably serves us right. After all, we are largely responsible for the annihilation of the human race. We are the 4 billion horsemen that brought about the zombie outbreak. I think that may have been a typo in religious scripture.

Time to go walk aimlessly around the city. Catch you later. Well, I can only hope.

Peace out.
zombie outbreak
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vegetable gardenWait. What?

If memories of your last vegetable garden make you cringe in frustration from the beastly bugs that devoured your hard work, there may be more than what meets the eye! Like many gardeners, you have scoured through countless articles searching in vain for ways to keep your plants in tip top shape without the use of pesticides. Alas, your annoyance grows when it seems like your efforts backfire and you are the laughing stock of the arthropods. Mehrr!

Let me share with you a little secret that only a few humans know about. Indeed, a garden does attract a few pests now and then but if you find your vegetable garden the center of a war zone, there stands a good chance that a Soil Specter has staked a claim on your green oasis.

Vegetable Garden
A quick sketch of this foul pest that I briefly spotted at my favorite park. I assume looking for his next target to spread garden mischief!

These are nasty little buggers that seem to take special delight in being a pain in the rumpus to humans. Their scent attracts the likes of slugs, spider mites, caterpillars and practically any vegetable bug in search of a good meal. I’m not talking about a few nuisances. Times that by a gazillion and you have real problems on your hands.

Oh, and no use looking for these shadowy villains either. They will only show themselves if they want to.

Before you throw your arms up in despair and march off to grab a bucket of chemicals to douse on your precious food, there is a solution that will give these Soil Specters a taste of their own medicine!

Specters. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Before you plant your first seed in your vegetable garden, consider dedicating a small patch to these beauties:

  • Pansies
  • Peony
  • Poppies
  • Thyme
  • Rose
  • Heather
  • Snapdragons
  • Tulips

A few sprouting buds will most definitely lure 2-3 fairies into your vegetable garden. Take it a step further and add a fairy themed garden statue or a fairy house will surely make word spread amongst the winged folk. Before long, you will have an invisible party of fae folk fluttering about.

“And exactly how will this help ward off the Soil Specters?” you ask.

It turns out that fairies absolutely LOVE to devour this nemesis.  They are a delicacy to dine on. And they tell me that it tastes similar to what humans call “soy sauce.” Hmm. Who’d have thunk it?

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