False Morel

false morel

That’s one hefty false morel!

As we headed at a snail’s pace down our county road toward home yesterday, Rob spied what we at first thought was the most gigantic morel mushroom we’d ever seen.

After a closer look we found that it is a “false” morel and unfortunately, not edible. Otherwise this hunk of fungi could have fed the whole family! Here’s a good post with more information about this (sort of) lookalike to the yummy morels we love to eat at this time of year out here in the Ozarks.

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

Nature Journal: Cold Creek Water and Whippoorwills

Nature Journal Entry: 04-11-14

Early-to-Mid April Walkabout

Yesterday after we worked on cutting and clearing fence lines I was so exhausted I could hardly move. A short nap mended all that and I woke in the mood for a walkabout. So I grabbed the camera and went out to see what was blooming.

Our homestead has a micro-climate and everything happens about a week or two later here. I went out hoping to find ginseng beginning to unfurl and I’m always on a quest to capture the perfect bloodroot photo. I have hundreds of bloodroot photos but I can’t seem to stop taking them!

I went on a walkabout to our ginseng test patch. This is an area not too far from the house that’s easy access, but where the habitat is less than ideal. I found the trout lilies are just now coming up and bloodroot is still just beginning to bloom. No leaves on the trees yet so the sunlight is not being filtered on the way to the ground level.

bloodroot is a ginseng companion

Lots of mayapple still unfurling. You can see a young toothwort growing next to it.

mayapple shoot

I saw a buckeye seedling, too. These (and Virginia creepers) are a ginseng look-alike because many people mistakenly identify them as ginseng when they are just learning the differences.

buckeye is a ginseng lookalike

Buckeye seedling

There was one grapefern near the trail. I didn’t want to get far off the trail because before the nap I mentioned earlier, I had taken a shower. After being up in the cedar thickets all morning cutting fence lines, I’d found more than a handful of ticks on me. I didn’t want this little walkabout turning into another tick feast.

grape fern, pointer fern

a grape or rattlesnake fern, also called pointer fern.

The old-timers who hunt ginseng out here call those ferns ‘sang pointers. When it sends a flower stem up, the stem supposedly points in the direction of ginseng in the vicinity.

I did find one unfurling plant I couldn’t identify yet. It could possibly be ginseng. I’ll go back out today and see if it’s opened enough for me to tell what it is yet.

possibly ginseng unfurling

not sure yet, but possibly ginseng unfurling – nope – it is another grape/rattlesnake fern

Then I wanted to go across the creek to the other test plot. We’ve had some heavy rains recently and apparently it washed out all of my stones that made a convenient, and dry, crossing to the other side. So I rolled up my pants legs and took off my shoes. The water was still take-my-breath-away cold! The water in our creek never gets warm or even tepid, but this was COLD!

creek crossing

The trip to the other side was a bust. No ginseng to be found yet there either and not much else either. This test plot is under cedar trees and although ginseng isn’t supposed to grow there, it has been doing okay over the past few years. The plants remain smaller than elsewhere, though, so I won’t be planting any more of it there.

Left from this point and took the 4-wheeler out to the end of the driveway to see about the Giant Solomon’s Seal. I’d noticed it the other day when we came in from going to town.

giant solomon seal shoots

The Giant Solomon’s Seal comes up in early-to-mid April too.

Checked on the black raspberry and saw that it is doing well. Since losing the red raspberry patch this one has become my new favorite. It’s on our own access road so no threat of losing it to herbicide sprays at least. The redbuds were beginning to bloom, too.

redbud

Redbud flowers are really more of a fuschia color, aren’t they?

black raspberry
Black raspberry bramble. Can’t wait for berries!

Found some pretty orange fungi growing on an old piece of wood in a bed of chickweed. Later that night as Rob and I were heading to bed after a long work day, we heard the first whippoorwill of the season. I don’t know why it excites me so much to hear and see these things. Every year the spring peepers call, the first buds emerge, and the same plants bloom, and the whippoorwills begin their songs. Every year I wait and look forward to it with enthusiasm.

orange fungi and chickweed

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

SciFantasy 100 word #flash fiction

Frou-Frou

She hoped no one noticed how she scurried through the patio with scrunched shoulders and ducked head. Explanations would be… difficult. Party frou-frou was meant to instill revelry and fun. Not this. Perhaps she could get through without mishap. Surely those creatures couldn’t exist here. Not in this reality. No one here even knew another reality existed. She hoped against hope that would never change. But the fact was that her passage marked a pathway it could follow. Her passage left an unseen trail dooming the innocents. She would never be free. And the thing that pursued would never rest.


This story was written for the Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Two years ago today she stumbled onto the path (and I’m so happy for it) that would lead her to become the maven queen of the group of writers who call themselves the Friday Fictioneers. You can join too – just write your story and post your link below.

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Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

Nature Journal: Herb Walk- Early spring

ozarks, dutchman's breeches, herbs, herb walk, northwest arkansas

Not found on the trails at Hobb’s, but on my way home down the county road. First time I’ve ever seen pink Dutchman’s Breeches.

Nature Journal Entry 4/5/14

Earlier this week I raced incoming storms to take a few photos down the Sinking Stream trail of Hobb’s State Park (Van Winkle). I always look forward to the first herb walk in early spring to see what’s waking up and blooming. I didn’t get to finish the whole loop because as the skies became darker I became more anxious about the camera if a deluge dropped down on us, so I left. Besides, after departing the trail to look at one of the plants I lost my ink pen and couldn’t take notes, which irritated me to no end and sapped some of the fun out of it for me.

I did manage to get the coordinates for the plants shown in the photos below, though. This will eventually go into a new DIY Herb Walk guide booklet, but as soon as I can figure out how to get them off of the GPS unit, I’ll add the locations to the photo. They should come up every year in about the same location, so you’ll be able to find them later if you like.

Just so you know, though, if ever I find ginseng on any of my hikes I won’t be making that information public. The plant is just on too slippery a slope to announce to the world where they are and the wild strongholds won’t be strong anymore if I did that.

If you’re trying to figure out if a plant you’ve found is ginseng or not, I’ll be happy to take a look at a photo to help with identification. I also have information on that in Sustainable Ginseng and the new DIY Ginseng Habitat & Site Assessment Guide (which is on sale for half price for the rest of April, by the way).

If you click on the photo it should enlarge and show you the captions. I’d love to know what the “unknown” plant is so if you know, please leave me a comment!

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

The Story of the Birth of a Product: DIY Ginseng Habitat Assessment

ginseng companion plants habitat and site assessment guide

Find the best place to grow or look for ginseng and ginseng companion plants with this do-it-yourself ginseng habitat assessment guide from Wild Ozark. Loaded with photos of growing areas and ginseng companion plants.

I’ve written before about how my story ideas are born. This is the story of how a product, Wild Ozark’s Ginseng Companion Plants (a DIY Habitat & Site Assessment Guide, came into being.

A seed is planted

The other day I stumbled across a product for sale on the internet. Well, not quite stumbled. I found it because of a search query that had brought a visitor to our own website. It was a new string and I was curious. Had to do with growing ginseng for profit.

What I found was a very pricey 10-page booklet (> $20) about growing ginseng and making profit from it. That’s a sound concept, true enough, even if long on delayed gratification. But I just couldn’t get over the price for the information and I wondered if many people actually buy it. I’m assuming they do because the site ranked well in the search, and from what I understand sites don’t get good ranking if there aren’t a lot of visitors stopping by. And if many are looking, I assume at least a percentage will buy.

So I studied the page and thought about my own products and my own marketing techniques. I didn’t like the page’s appearance, it just wasn’t appealing to my eyes. I tend to value presentation of something (whether it’s food or information), but that may just be because of my creative and artistic bent. I’ve seen lots of other successful sites that I think are blingy and downright ugly, so my ability to judge effectiveness of a thing like this may be off. But I studied it and thought about it a little while. And then moved on to doing other things and promptly forgot about the whole thing. We had firewood to procure again before the rain came in.

Germination of an idea

Somewhere in between the struggle to get a chain around the trunk of a tree on the ground and rushing over to see a neat new fungi Rob had discovered, the idea came to me to offer a simple, nothing but the meat and straight to the point guide for people trying to find suitable habitat to plant their ginseng patches. I get a lot of searches to my site for that query and both of the reviews on my Sustainable Ginseng mention how much the reader liked having the companion plant and landscape information I gave in that book. Some of the new DIY guide is the same information as in the book, but in the guide there’s a few more pictures and the slant is mainly on the companion plants and site assessment. 

black fungi

The neat new fungi – I’ve never seen a black fungi like this, have you?

While Rob sweated and struggled with the tree and I tried to be useful in helping him, the idea for this DIY Guide burned a hole in my brain. By the time we got back to the house I was in full-blown obsession to get it written. I had all the photos already and the information. It just needed to be arranged and formatted. At midnight I quietly celebrated the birth of a new Wild Ozark product and wrapped it in the swaddling of attractive copy in it’s own sales page. You can see it here if you like. It’ll take a little longer to format the print version, but the download allows someone to print it themselves or just leave it on the computer. I’m not going to make a Kindle or e-book version, but I will make one with Createspace and eventually Smashwords for print versions.

Hopefully the seedling grows

And now the task is to optimize the page and present it to all of the search engines and make it visible in all the places on my site that is likely to appeal to persons interested in growing or finding ginseng.

The Price

Oh, and while this guide is pricey compared to what I might ordinarily have set it, I think it’s a fair deal at $10.00. The format is PDF so it can be downloaded, saved, printed, and even shared (although I hope enough people will buy their own copy that I don’t have to feel bad about the sharing). For people who prefer a booklet format, that’s soon going to be available through Amazon.

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

Early Spring Herb Walk – a walkabout at home in the #Ozarks

Nature Journal Entry: March 22, 2014

Colorful centipede

Colorful centipede

Bloodroot isn’t blooming yet, but I did find a few signs that spring is at our doorstep. Aptly named, Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa ) was blooming. This is the first time I’ve managed to catch it in real life – have seen it in photos elsewhere, but never in person. Here’s the page at the USDA plant database if you’re interested to see if it’s located in your county:

http://plants.usda.gov/java/county?state_name=Arkansas&statefips=05&symbol=ERBU.

From that link you can also back out to see if it’s located in your state if you’re not in Arkansas.

harbinger of spring

harbinger of spring

Striated skies this evening brought a gentle rain shower and cooler temperatures. I had a wonderful afternoon in the woods with the camera.

Short notice herb walk

Next week will there will likely be a short-notice walk at the Hobbs State Park (Van Winkle “Sinking Stream” trail. If you want to get notice of that when I’m sure of the day/time I’ll be there, sign up for my newsletter (the link is below this post) and check off the box for short-notice walks. Basically it’s just going to be a scouting trip to see if anything is blooming yet or enough is there to justify a scheduled walk. I take photos of the plants I find and make notes so I can write up handouts for the scheduled walk. On my herb walks I don’t just look at the plants. As you can see from the collection of photos below, I like to look at nature in general although the plants are a large part of what I look for while on a walk.

Click on the pictures to enter the photo viewer where you can see them better:

newsletter graphic

Join 122 other Wild Ozarkians!

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

An Arrowhead, A New Project, A New Product

 

An Arrowhead

Yesterday I grumbled to myself a little bit about not being able to drive right up to our house in the car. The truck is in the shop getting some work done and our driveway is too steep for our car. It could probably make it alright but it’s risky to the tires to spin on rocks on the way up. So we walked from the campers down at the bottom to the house up at the top. Really, it’s good exercise and I should do it more often.

Exercise is only one advantage to walking rather than driving. The driveway scenery is classic Ozark beauty. When I walk I look at the plants and trees and listen to the creek which runs alongside. And I usually do spend a bit of the time just looking at the ground in front of me. Why? Arrowheads, of course. You never know when you might spot one and once one is found it’s hard to look anywhere BUT the ground because there’s always the chance of another. I found one yesterday! All of my internal grumbles dissipated at the first sight of the smooth knapped stone. The drawback is only that now I’ll look at the ground more than the scenery for a while, hoping to spot another.

I don’t know why I get so excited finding artifacts like this. But it does, it excites me so much. They’re fairly useless for any practical thing. It’s just that this rock was handled and shaped by another human long long ago, and it was a very practical thing to that person. Just knowing that is the reason for my love of it, I guess.
arrowhead

A New Project

Cover art for my new collection of microflash inspired by the Ozarks. Coming soon!

Cover art for my new collection of microflash inspired by the Ozarks. Coming soon!

If you follow me on Google or FB, you might have already seen me post about this. I’m working on compiling 50 of my favorite photos and 100-word flash fiction stories that go with them. I’ll give a little of the story behind the story when the photo is particularly meaningful to me aside from having prompted the story.

A New Product

The ginseng woods in early April

The ginseng woods in early April

Wild Ozark now offers Ginseng Habitat Consultations by email. Inquiries about doing on-site consultations in areas too far to make it feasible for us to drive there is what prompted this idea. If a person takes detailed photos (and I give specifics about what exactly I need to see in the download you get with the purchase), then I can help to identify possible companion plants, trees, and habitat for ginseng. If you’ve purchased the paperback version of Sustainable Ginseng, or buy it after ordering, you’ll get a $15 discount on the consultation (either online or onsite).

Stay Notified

With the way FB has begun making it nearly impossible to assume followers are seeing page updates, that’s no longer a reliable way to spread the word about things going on here at Wild Ozark. Google+ is better, but not too many people are using that platform yet. And many don’t get online and read blog posts regularly so a lot can slip by. Each month I send out a newsletter to summarize what went on the month before. I tell you about new product releases and projects and also about any upcoming herb walks scheduled. Sign up for that list below.

newsletter graphic

Join 122 other Wild Ozarkians!

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

Ginseng in Early Spring

Every year I look forward to watching the unfurling ginseng in early spring. Although I start checking right about now, it usually doesn’t begin until early to mid- April around here (northwest Arkansas).

I’ll add more photos to this post later as I get them, but for now here are a few from the archives of ginseng in early growth stages.

Here’s a journal entry from April 18, 2007:

The ginseng is beginning to unfurl in my woods! After all the late freezes and frosts we’ve had, I was worried they might have been nipped and sent back into hibernation. The bloodroot flowers are gone, as are the dutchman’s breeches and most of the phlox, but the woods are recovering from their shocks and beginning to come back alive.

This year I’ve yet to see the bloodroot flowers or Dutchman’s Breeches, or the phlox. Should start soon!

ginseng seedling

This is a first year seedling on 4/18 (a few years ago).

Ginseng in late April

Ginseng in late April

And this is how the woods are usually looking in early April. This is from several years ago. The fields are not so green but will be in the next few days, I think. Right now the elm leaves are just beginning to unfurl.

The ginseng woods in early April

The ginseng woods in early April

 

 

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

Surreal in the valley today

So surreal to hear the redbird’s song during a blizzard.

Yesterday we were outdoors enjoying the sunshine and warmth. It rained all night and morning before turning to sleet and then snow. The creeks are roaring and over the bridges. Today we are flooded in and staying inside. Even the redbird retreated to cover.

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!

 

Stories – Settings, About, or Influenced By the Ozarks

You might have noticed a new category of links on the side bar of this blog, “Influenced by the Ozarks”.

Many, if not most, of my stories are either set in the Ozarks or have been influenced by things I’ve observed or have been inspired by living here in these ancient hills called the Ozark Mountains. Almost all of my non-fiction articles are about living here or other things that live here, such as the ginseng and medicinal herbs I love so much.

There are other authors who have been influenced in the same way by the Ozarks. I’d like to start collecting the links to these authors, so if you know of one let me in on the secret so I can add their link to my category. Here’s what I have so far:

  • CD Mitchell - his Healing Waters is a story about ginseng and the healing waters of a hot spring
  • Rolland Love - writes stories in a style reminiscent of Mark Twain
  • myself - Ozarks Fantasy & non-fiction about Nature, Ginseng, Herbs

Add Yours!

Who else can we add to the list? See the comment section below to find others and add your own! When you leave a comment with your link, I’ll add you to the category on the sidebar as well. In your comment feel free to tell us a little about what you write and where your work appears, because all I have room for in the sidebar is a very brief tag.

Homeward

Homeward

Go forth and enjoy the Wilds wherever you are!