Homestead Journal: Reaching new levels

Wild Ozark Creek above the fence falls

Wild Ozark Creek uphill from the falls by the fence corner

Homestead Journal: 4-23-14

Over the course of 2014, I’ve had to redefine exhaustion more than once. Total, complete, utter exhaustion. It seems I keep having to redefine what that means. Working the homestead with Rob is causing me to keep surpassing what previously qualified for such a label.

We’re putting up fences for our horses. This land hasn’t had fences in quite some time and the areas we’re working right now are full of cat briars, rose bushes and cedar trees. The clearing of the line was exhausting work and that marked the previous level I thought was complete, utter, and total exhaustion. Surpassed that one today as we pulled barbed wire up and down the mountain and over the creek. However, as a reward for the hard work we can look back and see how much we’ve gotten accomplished.

And as an added bonus, the areas we’re working in this week are absolutely gorgeous with all the dogwoods in bloom. The falls are flowing and it’s cool down by the water. It’s a soothing place to take a rest and hope Rob calls it a day, ha. Today I took a little video to show you how pretty it is. It is as pretty as the work is exhausting.

I’d love to hear from you about your exhausting projects, especially those that were rewarding after you looked back to see what all the hard work accomplished or were carried out in beautiful surroundings. And have you ever worked so hard and then NOT been pleased with the outcome?

Excerpt from Symbiosis ( my sci fantasy novel)

Symbiosis is a scifantasy novel I’m working on. This is from p. 349-350, which is where I am with edits.



The fresh infusion of energy, even if it wasn’t as strong as that from humans, gave a little pep to her return trip up the hill. Little rocks under the soles of her tall boots hurt less and her own energy level was robust. All in all she felt wonderful. Her senses were heightend as they usually were after she’d received glow. She noticed every movement and sound in the forest around her. A breeze rattled the few leaves clinging to the branches of a small beech tree just off the trail. Odd thing about it was that the little beech was the only tree affected. It almost looked as if the leaves were rattling simply to attract her attention. She stopped and listened. Nothing. Not even a bird tweeted. Again the tree rattled, and again it was the only tree moving. Then she realized there really wasn’t a breeze. But the leaves still moved.

What the hell is going on here?

Intent on figuring out what was going on she approached the tree. A figure stepped from behind it just as she reached it.

Selawa!” Ki clutched her chest. “You shouldn’t surprise people like that.”

“She wondered how long it would take you to notice me.” Ki looked around for someone else, but didn’t see anyone. At first she thought it was a girl, and it was a slender little thing, alright, but not a girl at all. Not even close. Whatever she was, she was very old. Her hair was the color of dried beech leaves and it drifted, layered like leaves, in a disconcerting way about her head when she moved. Eyes of the same hue as her hair watched Ki as she came to terms with the idea that this thing wasn’t human.

“What are you?” she asked in a quiet hush.

“Don’t have to be afraid to speak up, no one’s here to listen. Except maybe Madge.” She looked in the trees around us and then returned her gaze to Ki. “Nope, she don’t see her, either.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Ki reminded her, calmed somewhat but puzzled by the creature’s behavior and odd language. It kept referring to herself as “she”, and that kept prompting Ki to look for whomever else she kept referring to.

The creature bent to pick a long stem of grass, and it was then Ki noticed she was clothed only in a few leaves here and there. “She suppose you would think of her as the spokesperson for all Beech. Over the years, her kind has been given a few names. Deva, wood nymph are two, but she think she like ‘spokesperson’ best. Has a nice PR ring to it.”

“I don’t know why I’m surprised to find a nonhuman element here. There were plenty enough at the manor. But you’re first one I’ve encountered out here.”

“Ah, but what about the river driver and the talking crow? She thinks by now you’ve encountered those.”

If you enjoyed this and want to know when it’s finished, be sure to sign up for my mailing list. The general monthly newsletter will let you know, but if you only want to be notified when this book is done then you’ll want to sign up for this specific list:

Nature Journal: Looking for morels and ginseng in spring

I brought the camera when we went out this morning to look for morels. I knew I’d see a bunch of other plants but wasn’t very optimistic about finding any mushrooms. Rob found one earlier this year, but I just can’t see them if they’re there. Maybe there aren’t any there.

But I was right. No mushrooms. Found lots of other plants.

Here’s one of my favorites from today’s little excursion:

dogwood flowers

dogwood trio

There’s more pics of ginseng unfurling from when I went out looking for them day before yesterday. Here’s one from today:

2 days after unfurling ginseng

ginseng 2 days after unfurling

The rest of the photos are below. If you want to see them bigger, click on one and it’ll take you to the photo viewer.

Madison Woods

April 18, 2014

And so did the goldenseal. I’ll have a post with better pics later because I went back out with the real camera. These are with the iPhone:

ginseng unfurling in April

3-prong ginseng unfurling


goldenseal unfurling

Looking for Trouble – SciFantasy MicroFlash

photo prompt for a scifantasy story by madison woods

Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

Looking for Trouble

And she thought a handful of baneberry would keep me at bay. Another one rolled from beneath the pile of cushions where she hid. White ones no less. I reached down and smashed one between thumb and forefinger where she could see it.

A fresh round of muffled sniveling.

“Do you really believe the old-wives’ tales?” Surely not. Not in this day and age. “Come on.”

Not that I expected her to be obedient, but this was getting old. Aconite last time, baneberry this one. What next? Maybe a neck-bag of garlic. At least I could do something with that.


You can click here to see at least 100 other 100-word stories based on the photo at the top of this page:


 White Baneberry/Doll’s Eyes

Wonder what white baneberry looks like in real-life? Click on the photo to see it larger. This plant grows in deep forests in southeastern United States and is a ginseng companion plant. I enjoy pulling herb-lore and Ozark settings into my scifantasy whenever I can.

white baneberry is a ginseng companion plant

White baneberry, aka Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda)

Nature Journal: Mid-April Ginseng Watch (Nothing Yet)

The Ginseng is still sleeping

Every few days I’ve been going out to the woods to check for unfurling ginseng. It should happen any day now! Nothing showing as of yesterday, however I did get some nice pics of a few of the companions. As you can see, the trillium in this spot hasn’t even bloomed yet, so it’s not surprising that the ginseng is still under cover.

Not all of the following photos are of ginseng companion plants. For example, phlox isn’t an indicator although it does grow in the same areas sometimes. Phlox can grow in a much wider range of conditions.

Wild ginger, trillium, and grape ferns are companions and do indicate suitable habitat. The location of this spot is right behind a grove of pawpaw trees and very near an old redbud tree.

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.

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 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

SciFantasy 100 word #flash fiction


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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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!