Nature Journal: Ginseng & Sunsets

This entry was posted in american ginseng, Ginseng, Musings, Nature, wild ginseng, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal, wild-simulated or virtually-wild ginseng on by .

Yesterday after the tempest blew through our little Wild Ozark valley, we went to check on the ginseng in our test plot. I knew it had ripe berries on it and wondered if the storm blew them all off.

ripe fruit on a 5-yr old American ginseng plant

ripe fruit on a 5-yr old American ginseng plant

Yep, they were still there. But I saw something else, too. Apparently deer have been browsing the ginseng patch. Here’s a few bare stalks with only the prong and flower stems attached. Please note that although it’s much easier to spot ginseng at this time of year, it’s illegal to dig wild ginseng right now. Legal season here in Arkansas begins Sept. 1 and ends Dec. 1. Here’s Arkansas’s regulations in PDF format.

stalks left after deer predation on american ginseng

deer do like to eat the ginseng tops sometimes


A short time later the mist and fog started filling the valley as the sun set. All was quiet and peaceful in our realm. The storm that came through was very strong and very fast and very windy. So it was a strange feeling to experience the calm that came after. There is the calm before a storm, and the calm after storms. One might bring anxiety, and the other, relief.

foggy sunset in the Wild Ozark valley

foggy sunset in the Wild Ozark valley

Homestead Journal: A Rock Retaining Wall

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

A Rock Retaining Wall - our monumental project

This is the biggest thing we’ve done yet, and we’ve got a long ways yet to go.

Our house is unlevel. Very unlevel. But tackling that is the next phase of this monumental project. The front of the house is on tall piers, on unstable foundation. So that’s what we’ve been working on for the last few weeks. We’re building a retaining wall to stabilize and stop the erosion on the front end of the house. Then we’ll deal with the leveling.

We started on the east corner since that is where the problem manifested worst. The rocks we’re working with are very heavy, probably 200-300 lbs. They’re making the foundation for the wall, the footer.

After getting to the third course on the corner, we backfilled and front-filled, so you don’t see the footer rocks in this pic. You’ll see a pic of one of the hazards of harvesting rocks, too. The snakes love living between the stones of the old root cellar we’re disassembling. I loved the root cellar and hate taking it apart, but we needed the rocks, so it’s being repurposed and repositioned and will be beautiful in the new life it gives.

Then we brought the footer across the front. Each stone is placed in a “bed” hand dug and leveled to the shape of the underneath of the rock so that the topside is level. This doesn’t always, or rarely, works out perfectly at first. What usually happens is that after Rob checks the level and sees it’s off, he lifts the stone with a long bar we call a “rock flipper” and I either add or take out dirt from beneath. Then he sets it back down, jumps on it a bit, and checks the level again.

I’ll post updated pictures again later. The next step is going to use mortar and more rocks but we have to add drainage pipes too. If you don’t see me online much, it’s because I’m too tired at the end of a day to post!

Homestead Journal: Roasting Coffee at Home

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

During winter I wrote about how Rob roasted coffee on our wood stove. Since it’s warmed up now, we had to find a way to roast our coffee without heating up the house.

So now we are roasting coffee at home outside with a popcorn popper.

green coffee beans in popcorn popper

green coffee beans in popcorn popper

Here’s our setup:

wild ozark's setup for roasting coffee at home

And the first batch is done. We usually do enough to fill the old empty coffee container.

fresh roasted beans at wild ozark

In this short video you can see how the air turns the beans and blows out the husks. If you listen closely you can hear a little bit of popping over the sound of the roaster. Once it starts popping, the beans turn brown quickly. It takes about four minutes per batch to roast them to the point of brown-ness we like.

Here’s the variety of coffee we’ve been using this time.

Since we’ve begun roasting our own coffee it’s hard to drink the store brands now, but every once in a while we do find ourselves out of fresh roast and have to resort to our old standby.

Homestead Journal: Using Spring Water

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

18 Jul 2014

We have two springs improved for use. The one at the top of the mountain behind our house feeds water to our house. The one on the bench next door to the house feeds my parents’ camper. It’s not “improved” in the same way the one that feeds our house is, but it is improved over what naturally exists. There are other springs on the property that haven’t been improved for household use. One of them feeds the pond.

My dad is always fighting with his spring getting clogged up and he usually has to drain and flush his lines nearly every time they come up for a vacation. The other day Rob went up to the spring to see why no water was going into the tank and the spring basin was clogged with silt again. This spring is on a steep hillside at the base of a tree. There’s a little basin the former landowners made from concrete and mud to catch the water but the line leading out of it always gets clogged up.

Cleaning the basin involves scooping with a cup or bucket to get all the water out along with any silt and leaves that got in under the sheet of corrogated tin that covers the basin. It’s usually nasty, dirty work. The tin was rusted so Rob replaced that and scooped out the basin and cut some drains around it so the rainwater doesn’t wash into the basin.

Once the water leaves the basin it goes to a silt dropout tank. This tank needs to be flushed periodically, too. After the dropout tank it goes downhill a little more to a 500 gallon tank. It also needs to be cleaned and flushed periodically.

Nature Journal: Odd clouds and weird weather

This entry was posted in Musings, Nature, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal on by .

16 Jul 2014 Wednesday

It’s the middle of July. Yet it feels like the beginning of autumn. This morning was near 50*F, a temperature much cooler than normal for this time of year. Yesterday was a cool day and today is even a bit cooler with highs not quite reaching 80*F here in this little Ozark valley.

The clouds at sunset yesterday were gorgeous, but they were interesting all day long with cirrus and other odd for this time of year formations.

Denso Spark Plugs

This entry was posted in Musings, Uncategorized on by .

Spark plugs are a little outside my usual range of topics, I know.

I usually write about nature, ginseng, homesteading and scifantasy fiction.

But my husband said I need to post this picture with a great big kudos to the maker of these plugs. He’s never seen any in such bad condition yet STILL performing after 230,000 miles.

As you might have surmised, keeping to auto maintenance schedules is also outside my usual skill set, ha. So I never had the plugs changed on my car. That’s because it never gave me any reason to change them. Until it did. 230,000 miles down the road. I think that’s pretty damn good performance from a set of plugs and so did Rob.

So if any of you need to buy spark plugs, look for Denso.

denso spark plugs

Badly abused, still firing (most of the time) somehow…

Homestead Journal: Garden Update

This entry was posted in Gardening in the Ozarks, Homestead Journal, Nature, Organic Gardening, Permaculture, Plants, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal on by .

10 Jul 2014 Thursday

Things are not progressing so quickly with the third terrace on the garden because I’ve gotten side-tracked with other projects. But today I’ll hopefully get back out there to continue working on the last wall. The third terrace will be a bit larger than the other two. After that’s done and planted I’ll begin working on my path stones and the space outside the three terraces as it gets close to the house. I’m undecided about whether I want to pave it all with flat rocks and decorate with potted herbs and flowers, or plant some things in the ground and pave just a little of it.

potager at Wild Ozark

Under construction, working on last wall now.

In the first two terraces the plants are coming along nicely. We’ve been eating cherry tomatoes and raspberries. These hybrid raspberries are large and sweet, but nothing like the sticky little wild ones I love so much. If I could only choose to have one variety, it would be the wild. Hopefully the wild one we planted last week will love its new home and be prolific next year.

potager at wild ozark

The snap beans are twining and we should have flowers on them soon! Tomatoes are tasty, basil, sage and parsley (on back row) are doing great and the tarragon too.

After yesterday’s excursion I’ve added some wild blueberries to the snap bean row, though, so until I decide where to permanently plant those I hope they get along with beans and squash.

wild blueberries at wild ozark

Wild blueberries – or huckleberries – from up the mountain.

And here’s my favorite photo from the excursion to see what plants were blooming or fruiting. Another fungi with nice lighting.

photography by madison woods at wild ozark

Love the lighting, the moss, and the color of the fungi.

Wand of Ash – the Proving

This entry was posted in Fantasy, Genre, Madison Woods, author, Published fiction, science fiction, SciFi/Fantasy, Wild Ozark Products, Writing on by .

Wand of Ash – the Proving, a novelette (long short story) I had published a couple of years ago with Buzzy Science Fiction & Fantasy magazine is now self-published and for sale in our online store. Kindle and PDF files are available. It’s also available through Amazon for Kindle and through Smashwords in multiple formats.

Here’s the cover:

scifantasy story wand of ash by madison woods

A 10,000 word post-apocalyptic scifantasy tale by Madison Woods

Le Raspberry est mort, Vive le Raspberry!

This entry was posted in Herb Walk in the Ozarks, Nature, Outdoors, Plants, Wild Ozark's Nature Journal on by .

7 Jul 2014 Monday

A while back I made a post about the death of a raspberry bush, along with several other plants I loved. They once grew along the side of our county road. For that post, see Requiem for a Lost Ecosystem). Today I spied ripe raspberries on new bushes revived in the old dead patch!

My phone was all I had with me, so the photos aren’t high quality.

photo 1 photo 2


I am so happy to see the return of some of my favorite plants to a favorite spot. It’s been a few years since I last saw them and I’ve missed sampling the sweet sticky berries on my way in or out of home. This time, though, I’ll transfer some rooting or cuttings to our own property so I know they won’t fall to another round of herbicide. We’ve already moved one of the raspberry bushes.

Next will be seeds from this Joe-Pye weed that also returned from the dead zone. Here’s a great article about it I found online. Like so many other plants these days, its name was changed. It went from “Eupatorium purpureum” to “Eutrochium purpureum”, so it might seem confusing if you’re looking at the latin binomials (which is VERY important to do when discussing plants so you know the person you’re speaking to is thinking of the same plant.

joe pye weed by madison woods at wild ozark

Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) aka Gravel Root