Sunlight in grass

This entry was posted in american ginseng, Ginseng, Herb Walk in the Ozarks, Madison Woods, author, Musings, Nature, Outdoors, Plants, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal, Writer's Journal on by .
15 Sept 2014 by Madison Woods

Nature and Writer and Photography Journal entry

I’m compiling a photographic journal of ginseng – which will include photos of the plant itself throughout the year, companion plants, habitat and look a-likes. This will be a bigger collection of photos than the previous two books on ginseng. At this time I’m not planning to self-publish it because I’d like to see it in hard-copy form with glossy pages and professional layout. I suppose after a while if I’ve had no luck with the traditional route of seeing this done, I might settle for doing the best I can on my own. (If you’re interested in knowing when this book is available, join our monthly mailing list: .)

Today while sorting and organizing photos I found I didn’t have a good shot of the wild strawberry leaves that look so much like ginseng yearling leaves. Grabbed my hat and a plastic bag for the camera – it had been raining and was only sprinkling by then, but a downpour would really be a bad thing to have to deal with!

Found good ones of both out on the trails beneath the cedars. It just rained a little but the camera was still safe and dry inside the bag. Photos after a shower always makes for really nice color on the leaves!

I’m not going to post the photos from today because I’m afraid at least some of them need to be unpublished entirely if I want a publisher to consider my proposals with the book. Blog posts count as “published” when it comes to stories being submitted to contests and magazines, so I’m assuming the same holds true for photos. And I’ve posted so many of them in the past… I hope it doesn’t affect the odds, but it’s too late to worry over it now. What will be will be.

However, here’s a nice pic of some grass. I’m not just posting grass because it seems unimportant for inclusion in the book, I’m posting it because I liked the way the sunlight was collecting on the seed head:

grass in the light at wild ozark by madison woods

One of my granddaughters was here yesterday. She’s almost 4 and has quite the aptitude for recognizing plants. She came with me to take a few pictures down the driveway (which is when I took the above photo) and once I showed her a dogwood, she showed me plenty more, skipping all the things that were *not* dogwood. So she definitely knew the difference. I sense an herbalist in training here. Or a botanist. Or who knows, but I sure hope she continues to find plants fascinating like me.

Homestead Journal: Shagbark Hickory Syrup

This entry was posted in Homestead Journal, Homesteading, Nature, Plants, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal on by .

Photo of a shagbark hickory tree trunk. The link takes you to Dave’s Cupboard, where this idea for the syrup originated.

Homestead Journal Entry 13 Sept 2014 by Madison Woods

Shagbark HIckory Syrup

My husband comes up with some tasty ideas for things to make here on the Wild Ozark homestead. Last time it was home roasted coffee. That was so successful it’s now one of our homestead standards (except for right now because we’re out of home roast and have to use store bought).

This time the idea was shagbark hickory syrup. It is a syrup made from the bark of the tree. Yes, the bark. Not by tapping, as you might at first think.

Skeptical? I was too. This is how the bark of a shagbark hickory looks. If you click on the pic at the top, it’ll take you to Dave’s Cupboard, which is where we got the recipe. Rob was looking up recipes for hickory pie (like pecan pie but using hickories instead) and he stumbled on this site.

We gathered nuts the other day before the cool front moved in with plans to make things from them when the weather turned all drizzly.

hickory nuts from wild ozark

Fresh hickory nuts. Hard to beat the squirrels to them!

We gathered bark, too, because the idea of making syrup from it sure did intrigue. Yesterday eve Rob made the syrup and, like the coffee, it was so delicious it’s going to become another must-have in our cupboard!

I’d like to get enough made to give away for Christmas gifts and possibly add it to our online store. Here’s the link to the recipe if you want to try making some, too.

The solar flare must have done me in

This entry was posted in Musings, Tech Journal on by .
Tech Journal Entry 11 Sep 2014 by Madison Woods

My husband informed me that the flare won’t reach us (earth) until tomorrow so I’ll have to find something else to blame for the crash. Maybe a terrorist with something against ginseng crashed it ;)

No telling what really caused it, but my website was crashed when I woke this morning.

First thing I do every morning is check email and website stats – if the coffee is done. If no coffee is done yet, I make coffee. Priorities, you know. Anyway, ordinarily there’s about a 100 overnight visitors at my website, mainly reading about ginseng.

In the middle of the night last night my daughter texted me. I wasn’t sleeping, even though I should have been, so it didn’t wake me. My mind must have awakened me just so I’d be there to receive that text message. My phone doesn’t make a noise, I just happened to notice it notifying me.

Their power had gone out apparently and she wondered if it had anything to do with the solar flare. Our power had blinked, but came right back, but that happens from time to time during stormy weather and it didn’t bother me. I reassured her the world would keep turning and let her know I was going back to sleep. Which I hoped translated to don’t text me again about the power outage until decent hours tomorrow. It was after midnight.

So when I looked at the stats this morning they were flat-lined since 0300, which is highly unusual for my website. Then going to visit the site itself led me to an error page. Perhaps I place a bit more importance on my website functionality than some do, but this site is the lifeline to my book sales and online store. It’s responsible for letting more than 500 people a day know there are books to buy. And it took me quite a bit of work and time to get to this point of reliably being able to reach an audience at all. So I worry when something goes wrong.

Anyway, I could see that the last normal traffic flow happened around 3 am, which is probably when, if the solar flare was going to cause issues on the daylight side of earth, it might have done so. I think the servers that host my website are in Hong Kong. So perhaps the solar flare did get me. At any rate, I was able to restore a backed up version of it so all is well and functional now and stats have returned to normal activity.

How was your night last night? Did the solar flare get you too?

old shed

Nothing to do with solar flares, this is just a pic of our old shed I liked.

Homestead Journal: Wild Plum Jelly

This entry was posted in Homestead Journal, Homesteading on by .

A couple of weeks ago I picked a few cups of wild plums and made a couple of jars of jelly. Only two jars, but it was a worthwhile experiment. The wild plums are so tart they’re pretty much impossible to enjoy as a fresh fruit, and they’re small besides. But that same quality makes them ideal candidates for my favorite jelly substitute.

I love mayhaw jelly most of all. Every time I go south to visit relatives I always try to remember to buy a few jars from the lady who sells them from her house in Livingston, LA. Mayhaws should grow where we live in Arkansas but I just haven’t had time to find out. I know they grow on dry land because I’ve seen huge, fruit-laden trees at Poverty Point. Ordinary hawthorns grow just fine here, too. Not sure how long it takes mayhaws to produce fruit, but they’re on my list of trees to grow one day.

In the meantime, our wild plums will be a tart and tasty substitute.

Eldest son brought a nice bowl full of them the other day and today I finally got around to making the jelly. Next year I’ll know ahead of time how good it is, so I’ll make even more if I can recruit enough pickers to help gather them from the trees.

wild plum jelly from wild ozark

A little cloudy because I squeezed the fruit, but next time I’ll know better. Beautiful color, though!

Nature Journal: Flowers, Fungi & Ginseng

This entry was posted in american ginseng, Nature, Plants, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal on by .
Nature Journal Entry 06 Sept 2014 by Madison Woods
A Post about Flowers, Fungi & Ginseng

I almost didn’t bring my camera with me the other day when we went out to check the game camera. Luckily I second-guessed myself and did run back into the house to grab it before we left.

Cardinal Flowers

I’ve never seen such a stand of cardinal flowers before. Usually I see one or two along the creek side but this is the first large group I’ve witnessed. They are beautiful. The upright photo makes a very nice phone background, btw.

The cardinal flower is a lobelia. The botanical name is Lobelia cardinalis. I use the seeds another variety of lobelia to make antispasmodic tincture (Lobelia inflata), and it is one of the strongest medicinal herbs I know. The flowers on that one are tiny. It’s a plant wouldn’t ordinarily capture anyone’s eye because it’s just an unremarkable in appearance even in flower. Unfortunately it doesn’t grow in large amounts here and the only places I’ve found it at all are not so easy to get to as these beauties on the creek side.

Tiny Mushrooms

Mushrooms always catch my eye, no matter how tiny. These were about the size of pin heads, the kinds of pins that have the multicolored tiny balls on the head to make them a little easier to hold. The black stems are little thicker than hair.

tiny pinwheel mushrooms photo by madison woods tiny pinwheel mushrooms photo by madison woods

Ginseng Update

Most of the berries have fallen from the ginseng plants now. The leaves on some are beginning to yellow a bit. It may be hard to find them in the woods at all now if the area where you’re looking has been passed over by diggers already (and most have been). Usually someone who plans to return to that area to dig again will take off the leaves of any remaining plants so no one can easily find and dig them.

I’m collecting prices from volunteers around the digging parts. If you have information, please leave it in the comment section over at the 2014 Ginseng Prices post.


Fall is Nearing

Plenty signs that fall will soon arrive! Red leaves on some of the sumac and most of the sourwoods are sure indicators. Goldenrod is beginning to bloom profusely and hopefully the ragweed is nearing the end of it’s pollen season. The angles of the sun’s rays are longer now, and I can see them so I know it’s beginning to affect the plants, cueing them in to begin preparations for the long sleep ahead.

Have you seen any signs where you live? What’s the first signal that the seasons are changing that you notice? For me it’s the light. It’s hard to explain, but the light and shadows look different, even if it’s still very hot outside.

2014 Ginseng Root Prices

This entry was posted in american ginseng, Ginseng, Nature, Outdoors, Plants, wild ginseng, wild-simulated or virtually-wild ginseng on by .
03 Sept 2014 by Madison Woods

What are ginseng root prices this year?

As I lurk around the forums I’m collecting unofficial reports on ginseng root prices this year. If you have information from your neck of the woods to share, please list it in the comment section.

  • Iowa – fresh ginseng root $220/lb
  • Kentucky – dried ginseng root $700/lb (roots legally procured in Arkansas, at least, should not already be dry…)

If you’re a buyer and want to list your contact info in the comments, feel free to do that as well.

ginseng books by madison woods

This photo takes you to my Amazon Author’s page. Come on by and give it a “Like”! You’ll find the “Sustainable Ginseng” and “A DIY Ginseng Habitat” books there, and the “Look Alikes” article there too. All of this and more can also be found at our online store: :)

More Ginseng Posts

Pictures of ginseng roots

Here are a few pics of some incredible roots dug by “Anonymous” in Arkansas on opening day. If you have pics you want to share, please send them via email. I won’t list your name or location but if you’d give me the state, that would be nice info. For pics, my address is ginseng(at)



SEO and WP Web Design – Satisfying Passions

This entry was posted in Business Journal, Writing on by .

Business Journal entry 01 Sep 2014

SEO and WP Web Design a creative form of art, too

I’m an all-around creative soul. I love being in Nature. Being in the forest, even with ticks and snakes, satisfies a part of me nothing else can. When I am in contact with the fertile earth, I’m happy.

sunburst sunset

But there’s another side to me who loves the creativity of working with the internet. I can sit in front of the computer digging deep into graphic design or Google Analytics and never realize hours have gone by.

Web Design has long been a passion and although it’s different and perhaps uses another part of my brain, it’s still a sort of artwork. In order to get more traffic to my site, I got into learning about the statistics of visitors to websites, and how to influence the flow of them by using this thing called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is results-oriented passion satisfaction.

And so that’s how Wild Ozark became all rolled into one entity consisting of Nature, Fantasy, and Tech. When Rob is able to build his shop there’ll be Woodworking added to the mix.


The Wild Ozark tech business (SEO and WP Web Design) is called Listen. Why? Because a website is a form of communication. To communicate effectively a person first has to listen. I “listen” by keeping track of what brings users to my site and then I give them what they’re searching for. I “listen” by observing statistics like “organic search results”, “bounce rate” and “visitor paths” and make changes to the site that raises and lowers the rates and varies the paths. By listening to the keyword phrases people use to find my site I can better serve my customers and communicate myself better.

organic referral rate at

617 Unique visits today. Decent for a very small business like ours. And nice organic referral rates!

Wild Ozark can Help

I can help you do this too. If you want to learn to do it yourself, I can teach you what I’ve learned. And if you just want me to listen for you and make the changes to your website, I can do that too.

Listen is geared toward helping the very small businesses and authors of our local community but I’m open to going farther afield to help if you live outside of the Huntsville, Arkansas area. The initial consultations are free to those in the local area but will necessarily cost something to travel unless you want to handle it all over the internet via email.

If your business doesn’t have a website or you want a new and improved one, I work with the WordPress platform exclusively and can build your site or teach you to build your own.

More Information

The Listen website is I’d love to see you there!

listen's logo for wild ozark's seo and web design business

Logo for the tech side of Wild Ozark

Spikenard, wild ginseng and Virginia snakeroot

This entry was posted in american ginseng, Herb Walk in the Ozarks, Nature, Outdoors, Plants, wild ginseng, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal on by .
28 Aug 2014

Nature Journal: Spikenard, wild ginseng and Virginia snakeroot

My intentions today were to pot up some of the spikenard berries I’d found the other day. Rob and I had gone up the mountain on the south side to put out his game camera. I knew of one spikenard plant in that area, but was pleasantly surprised to find several right there where he hung the camera! Here’s a link to a very thorough PDF write-up on spikenard, by Michael Moore of Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.

I collected some berries and was going to plant them today in the nursery so I’d have seedlings to sell next year, but the horses ran off and I had to go retrieve them instead. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get to do it, or later this evening.

While out hanging the camera I made another exciting find. Virginia snakeroot!

Here’s the USDA database that shows lots of other pictures of Virginia snakeroot. It’s threatened in several states, but Arkansas isn’t listed as one of them. And right after noticing the Virginia snakeroot I saw a ginseng with berries not even a foot away. I was so busy focusing the camera on the ginseng that I didn’t notice the young ones all around until Rob pointed them out.

Although I didn’t get to plant the spikenard as planned, I did get to enjoy some beautiful forest scenery. Well, I enjoyed it when I wasn’t lost between logging roads trying to make a shortcut through the brush. At one point I had the 4-wheeler so pinned in with trees I thought I was going to have to leave it there and bring back help to get it out. So I took off on foot and then lost the 4-wheeler. Decided I’d better not leave it if I couldn’t even find it after walking a few hundred feet away from it, so found it again and worked at it until I got it out and back onto the logging road.

Eventually I did find a path that led between the roads through the denser trees, but it took me a while on foot scouting around until I found it. By the time I got home today I was too tired to worry about the spikenard.

Here’s a couple of pics from this morning when I first started out looking for the horses. The first one is right by the house but the sunbeams were so pretty I tried to get them on camera.

sunbeams by the house

And this one in the forest with Badger once I’d gone up the back way to look for the horses had sunbeams too:

Sunbeams in the forest with Badger

Sunbeams in the forest with Badger

My Writing Process – Q & A of The Writing Process Blog Tour

This entry was posted in Musings on by .
27 Aug 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Joseph E. Lerner invited me to blog about my writing process as part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. Four questions are posed: 1) What am I working on? 2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 3) Why do I write what I do? and 4) How does my writing process work?

1) What am I working on?

I write both fiction and non-fiction and swing between one and the other as the mood strikes. Right now on the fiction front what I’m working on is finding an agent for a fantasy novel I just finished (Symbiosis). I have one short story in submission and if it is rejected, I’ll be submitting it to other magazines on my list. I have another novel to begin, too. The ideas are there and the first 8,000 words or so are down. I find it hard swinging between fiction and non if there’s something on the non-fiction side unfinished. Like it is at the moment. On the non-fiction front there’s always my blog. I write articles for the blog and to publish to Amazon and our online store. But the thing I’m working on that keeps my mind in this realm is a collection of Companion Plant cards. Here’s one of them: Bloodroot.

bloodroot collage by madison woods available as 4 x 6 prints or postcard from Wild Ozark

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the voice of my writing? I sure hope readers can tell me apart and want to hear my unique voice if that’s what it is. I have a very strong relationship to the earth around me, to Nature, and I hope that’s what sets my writing apart from others. Going forward my fiction will include more herb and nature lore, and more influence of the hills surrounding me in real life.

foggy sunset in the Wild Ozark valley

foggy sunset in the Wild Ozark valley

3) Why do I write what I do?

What I write is what’s in my heart to be written. I’d find it very difficult to write on demand for any other reason than that there’s an idea I want to explore and express. I write fiction because I can fully explore my imagination. There’s another, more honest reason, though. There’s magic in nature, I’m sure of it, and if I try to write about it outside of fiction I just sound insane. That’s the real reason I write fiction. I write non-fiction because I want to share the beauty and as much of the magic of these Ozark mountains with others as I can.

stormy skies at wild ozark

Storm coming in from northeast

4) How does my writing process work?

I don’t have a regular schedule to write. Whenever I have spare time, I’m usually writing. Writing usually takes precedence over housework … until the dishes and clothes piling up begins to bother me too much, or I start to feel guilty for being a terrible wife. My husband and I joke about my lack of domestic leanings and we both wish we had a domestic goddess to come do those things for us. I consider designing our online store and website writing. Well, it’s more “marketing”, but without it the writing doesn’t reach much audience. I also consider my blog posts and definitely the articles I post to the blog to be part of my writing. When an article seems particularly good, I’ll usually put that one up for sale at the blog rather than giving it away free, although the ones I give away free are good ones too. I get ideas and then become obsessed with making them real. This happens with both fiction and non-fiction. Right now on the home front we’re pretty busy working on homestead infrastructure projects so my time to write is more limited than it will be when we get caught up with these things. Maybe then I’ll have some sort of a schedule, but for now I write whenever I can.

when a writer isn't writing


Click here to view Joseph E. Lerner’s answers, published last week. For next week (Sept. 3 2014), I’ve invited three more writers to participate:  Alice White (, Velda Brotherton (, Joanna Gawn of Lazuli Portals ( Joanna mentioned she might be a bit delayed getting to her questionnaire but I’ll be looking forward to what all three of them have to write.

Little River – a book by James L’Etoile

This entry was posted in Genre, thriller on by .

The few weeks ago I won a book in a contest sponsored by the author. He’d gotten a few copies of his print books that were less than perfect, so he decided to “make lemonade from the lemons”. A duty of winners of this contest was to take a pic with the book and make a post about it… and that took me a little while because lately my dress code has been “homestead work mode” and I wasn’t about to post a photo of myself in that garb!

I’m looking forward to reading this book. Human trafficking is an issue we should all be concerned with and probably happens far more often than we like to consider.

me with book

About the Book

The back-of-the-book blurb:

“A college fling on an exotic Caribbean island usually leaves little more than a sunburn and a hangover as souvenirs. This time, the vacation takes a dark and deadly turn. When two girls disappear from a Jamaican resort, local officials and police are more concerned about the impact of a scandal on the tourist trade than in searching for them. It happens all too often in the Caribbean, where fun and sun hide the sinister secret of human trafficking.

What would you do if your daughter disappeared?”

About the Author

James L’Etoile is an author whose crime fiction work has been recognized by the Creative World Awards, and Acclaim Film. Little River is his debut novel and he’s currently working on his seventh novel. Additional information about the author and his twenty years of experience in criminal justice operations can be found at the author’s website: