An End of Year Post: Things going on at Wild Ozark

It’s been a busy past few months at Wild Ozark. I haven’t posted as often as I normally do, and when the blog goes silent, it’s usually because there’s just too many other things on my plate. Just in case I don’t get a chance to make another post to commemorate the end of the year, I figured I’d better get one in today while I have a little time.

For the months of October and most of November I wore the Burnt Kettle hat. Rob’s sister Valerie came up to give me hand at the War Eagle fair in mid-October. Thank goodness she was here, because that was the first large event I’ve ever done and it was hard! There’s no way I could have done it on my own. And then Rob came home for a break from the desert, but half of that was spent also spent selling more syrup at a different festival in Texas.

New (to us) Truck

The first few days he was home we did a lot of driving around looking for the best deal on a new (used) truck. We ended up buying one in Oklahoma City. As it turned out, the first truck we looked at was the one we ended up getting.

Our end of year gift to ourselves. Very comfy and lots of room inside! 2016 Ford F150.
Very comfy and lots of room inside!

Paleo Paints

Since mid-November I’ve been busy busy working on wearing the artist’s hat. I’ve made a few new collections of Paleo Paints. You can read more about the latest collection at the art website (PaleoPaints.com) but here’s the cover images for all three so you can get an idea of the colors in each. No. 3 is at the Walton Arts Center’s little Holiday Market shop until Dec. 16. No. 4 still has one color not yet dry enough to ship so I bring it with me to sell in person but it should soon be ready to go up on Etsy, too. Collection No. 5 is listed at Etsy now, but there’s only two of those sets left.

All of them have similar shades, but there’s some differences in tone. I used purple sandstone in the last two and in the third collection several of the shades are from pink sandstone. I hope to have some more collections finished before end of year.

Right now I’m working on a Twisted Tree painting and I’m using mostly colors from Collection No. 5, but resorted to a wee bit of wood char that hasn’t made it into a collection since the Collection No. 1. I’ll need to make more of that one and include it in the next set. Here’s Twisted Tree No. 1, still in progress.

Twisted Tree No. 1. Still working on roots. Will move up to the limbs next.
Still working on roots. Will move up to the limbs next. Follow me on Instagram if you like to see the things I’m working on in real time.

These Twisted Trees are obviously fantasy trees. I have no photo to go on, and when I first start a new painting of this sort I have no idea what will emerge. The farther along I get with it, though, the clearer the image becomes in my mind and the better I know how to go forward. This one is a very masculine looking tree to me, wouldn’t you say?

Paleo Paint Plans

Soon I want to try making a set of oil colors. There’s a goshawk painting I want to do using them. It’ll be the first time working with oils, so I’m curious how that will turn out.

End of Year Celebrations

I hope you’re all having a good Christmas season. The entire holiday season always feels too rushed to me and I find by now I’m really looking forward to the start of the new year. Solstice is the date it seems like the new year should begin, though, so that’s the day I privately celebrate the end of year here at Wild Ozark. I look forward to the nights becoming shorter and the daylight lingering a little longer each day as the seasons build toward mid-summer.

Yay! Wild Ozark is back online!

After 3 days of being in website purgatory, the site is finally back to the light of day.

Just thought I’d make a little post to shout out about that. You guys have no idea how much grief I’ve gone through trying to get it here, lol, unless you’re also of the geeky persuasion.

I’ve crashed websites often over the years as I’ve learned how to run them, but this time I did it in a particularly crafty way and it took me a while to figure out how to get it back. It turned out, as it so often does, the fix was simple. Had I known the simple route existed, I would have taken it first, but even tech support didn’t offer that option. Tech support didn’t help much at all. So just a word of warning, if you intend to use VPS and self-host, prepare to learn to do things on your own if you go with Dreamhost. I used ICDSoft for many years for regular hosting, and still do for some client sites, but they didn’t have a VPS option. Their tech support is awesome, any time of day or night there’s someone to help online to answer emails. I never even got a response to my tickets submitted at Dreamhost, and chat wasn’t available this morning when I got up with a new idea to try out.

At any rate, I’m glad to be back. I’ll be at War Eagle in the Sharps Show part with the Burnt Kettle booth next weekend. Come out and say hello if you’re in the northwest Arkansas area and go to the fair.

The creeks are nearly dry.

Nearly Dry

We’ve had some rain lately, but not enough. The creek that runs through our land is nearly dry now. Thankfully, there are still a few constantly refilling pools here and there, or else I’d have to carry water to the horses.

Even the spring puddles on the way to the back gate are completely dry. That rarely happens.

While the creeks are low it is a great time to look for pigment stones and arrowheads, though. I haven’t looked for arrowheads, but I have been collecting a lot of stones with colors I can’t wait to extract when I get back from a trip to the real desert.

It only feels like a desert here. The real desert awaits in Doha, Qatar. Photos will commence in a few days!

Nearly dry creek at Wild Ozark. This is the only source of water for my horses, but there are still pools constantly being refilled so they're alright.
There’s still a few refilling watering holes on the creek but it’s nearly dry now. Hope it rains good soon.

I’ve been trying to learn the new Photoshop and in this one I played with focus and color. Lots of learning still needed.

A sign I put up to protect the Virginia snakeroot plants.

Oh no! The Virginia Snakeroot babies are all gone!

Virginia snakeroot at the Wild Ozark Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden.
Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)

I went out to check on the Virginia snakeroot nursery the other day and was mortified to find nothing. Not. One. Plant.

Virginia Snakeroot … What’s That?

Now, you might be wondering just what’s so important about a plant that really looks like nothing much more than a weed in the woods. It’s a plant of interest to me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a medicinal plant with a history of being used to treat snakebites and mad dog (rabies). I’m not likely to use it for either of these, but I do have an affinity for medicinal plants.

Second, it’s harder and harder to find because there’s actually a market for the roots. People dig them and then sell them to botanical purveyors who then sell them to pharmaceutical or herbal companies.

It Even Has Look-Alikes

There’s another plant that has very similar leaf shape, but it isn’t snakeroot.

Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, though I know what it isn't.
Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, but I know what it isn’t.

There’s a long article on the plant and how it was once used at the Herbs2000.com website.

For the past several years I’ve searched our property for this plant and never could find any. In 2015 I found the first plant, but then a major flash flood erased it from the site. Then last year while I was making trails in the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden, I noticed a whole mess of the plants on a little knoll under the cedar trees.

I was so excited. I’d even placed a sign at the entrance to warn visitors not to enter that part because there were so many it would be hard to walk around them without stepping on some. I wanted to collect seeds and propagate more of them.

Poof!

And now they are gone. Completely disappeared. The ground had been disturbed by an armadillo, but I don’t think an armadillo would eat snakeroots. I didn’t see any footprints that might indicate some roaming root digger had come by. Virginia snakeroot is one of the wild plants that botanical buyers purchase, but these plants were so small it would take a ton of the little roots to earn the $30 or so per pound that they can fetch.

Besides that, there were ginseng plants in the vicinity and I can’t see a poacher taking the snakeroot without also taking the ginseng.

So what happened to them?

I think I figured out the answer.

Butterflies.

Or more specifically, caterpillars of the Pipevine Swallowtail. These butterflies are not the pollinators for Virginia snakeroot, but the pipevine plants are the host plants for their larvae. Virginia snakeroot is one of the pipevines, as is wild ginger and Dutchmen’s pipe vine.

While we have lots of wild ginger around, we don’t have many of the Dutchmen’s pipe and I’ll bet what happened to my plants is that they were eaten by the larvae of butterflies. Actually, they weren’t ‘my’ plants. I’m sure the butterflies were excited to see them and call them theirs, too.

It’s the explanation that makes the most sense. If that’s the case, they’ll be back next year. I can find a way to protect a few plants and share the rest with the butterflies. Keep your fingers crossed!

The flower isn't mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.
The flower isn’t mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.

 

Custom iPhone Wallet from RedBubble

RedBubble iPhone Wallet: It’s beautiful! It’s Useless!

The iPhone Wallet from Redbubble

Update 5/28: The Support Team and I have exchanged several emails. I am still convinced none of them were real people, but help bots that chose the most appropriate responses from a queue of options available to them. So frustrating! Anyway, they assured me that they are sending me a replacement that is much improved. We shall see. I’ll update this review again once the new iPhone wallet arrives. I explained in detail that the problem was not  the printing but the construction of the product.

Update 6/4: Well, the new iPhone wallet came in today and it is equally beautiful. And equally useless. Just as I suspected, my entire string of emails were carried out with bots using a set script for communication. The new one is exactly like the old one, with the exception that they made the printing a little more vivid. However, as I stated multiple times in each email correspondence, the issue is not with the image.

The issue is the strip of sticky stuff meant to secure the phone to the wallet. I’m done with the iPhone wallets at Redbubble. I can’t recommend anyone buy one of those products.

So Disappointed!

Nothing like disappointment to rouse me out of a blogging hiatus. I had so looked forward to getting my custom self-designed iPhone wallet but was thoroughly unhappy with the product after a few hours of use.

Usually when I am not impressed with a product, I just put it aside and forget about it. I rarely leave negative reviews.

However, this particular item begs for this review.

The depth of my disappointment grew with time.

Give it a chance

I recently got a new iPhone and thought it would be a great opportunity to get one of those folder-cases with my Water Priestess drawing on it. I have a lot of my photography and art loaded to RedBubble.com and they’re available in a lot of different products, phone cases being just one of many. I knew the drawing would be beautiful on it.

So I edited the image to make it sit just right on the case and ordered it. Couldn’t wait for it to come in. This was something I’d wanted for a while but didn’t want to buy one for the old phone, knowing I’d need a new one in the near-enough future.

When the mail arrived with my package. I opened it.

First reaction. Love at first sight.

“It’s Beautiful!”

Second reaction. Took a closer look.

“It looks kind of cheap.” The construction left a lot to be desired. All the beauty was definitely skin deep. On the outside.

But it was gorgeous, right? For a little while the glow of beauty masked the utter uselessness of the product.

My beautiful new iPhone wallet from RedBubble. The love waned quickly.
My beautiful new iPhone wallet from RedBubble. The love waned quickly.

 

My biggest complaint.

There is one flaw with this cell phone folder that makes all else (pro or con) pale in comparison. The only thing holding your phone in there is a strip of sticky stuff.

Inside view of the iPhone wallet from RedBubble.
Fabric is the really thin stuff that wears and tears quickly. Sticky strip doesn’t hold the phone if it’s slightly warm (from stashing in pocket, riding in car without AC, any number of other ordinary situations that cause the phone to get warmer than chilly.)

This sticky stuff doesn’t hold well once the phone gets warm… say from carrying it in your back pocket. Or leaving it out on a warm day, not even in direct sunlight (which is probably a bad idea anytime).

I took it out while at the market to set up my Square reader and connect the app. My phone flew out of the folder, flipped a few summersaults before hitting the pavement. Of course the glass cracked.

Beauty only soothes so many flaws. There is no amount of it that can make me overlook the utter uselessness of this product.

Adding fuel to fire

So I contacted Support through the website. On the main page options if you’re dissatistifed are exchange, store credit, or refund. Refund is nowhere to be found once you go to the Support page. I sent a message, explaining why I was unhappy and that I wanted a refund. I was clear that the way it looked on the outside was fine, but my problem was with the interior design of the product.

Guess what? Of course I get a near immediate response. They said they’d send my complaint to the printer right away. Is the printer responsible for interior design and refunds? Hmmm. Sounded suspiciously like a bot-reply to me. So I emailed back to ‘Ashley’ to clarify that the printing was not the issue, but the inside design.

Another bot-reply in response that really didn’t seem like it understood the message I’d sent and chose what it thought would be the nearest best response from the automated responses in queue.

What a way to further infuriate someone already angry! A real person on the other end of the line, capable of responses not scripted, would have been a nice touch.

We shall see how this plays out and I’ll update this post with the resolution, if one ever surfaces.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Not everything sold at RedBubble is crap. The tote bag, coffee mugs, posters and the stickers seem to be of good quality. I can’t vouch for the other items but I can totally recommend you avoid the iPhone wallets. Since I can’t afford to buy each of the other items to test them, I think it’s best to err on the side of caution.

I’m taking all of my work down from RedBubble , except the items I’ve listed above, before someone else orders something of such poor quality and associates that experience with me, rather than RedBubble.

Can you vouch for a product from RedBubble?

Have any of you ordered anything from RedBubble you thought was worth the cost? Tell me which item it was and I’ll leave that one standing too. The rest of mine are being cleared from the deck as soon as I have time to get back online long enough to do it.

Lousewort, Bumblebee Food and Medicinal Herb

Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis) is an interesting plant. It’s a medicinal herb said to be effective at muscular pain relief. The bumblebees love it!

Rosy colored variety of Pedicularis
Rosy colored variety of Pedicularis, with a bumble bee visiting.
A pale yellow-colored lousewort.
A pale yellow-colored lousewort.
Some lousewort, showing whole plant. It gets larger and taller as the season progresses.
Some lousewort, showing whole plant. It gets larger and taller as the season progresses.

An interesting find

In May of 2014, I noticed an interesting plant. Well, I’m *always* noticing interesting plants, so it wasn’t the first time to notice an interesting plant, but the first time to notice lousewort.

It was growing in the cedar grove below the pond, in the same area as the rattlesnake plantain and twayblade orchids. Although I’ve walked around in there before I had never noticed the the greenish-gray ferny fronds.

At the time it wasn’t blooming, but I immediately recognized it from long ago when I studied with a Master Herbalist in Bay St. Louis, MS. It’s hard to believe that was nearly 25 years ago now. Her name was Amelia Plant and we’ve long since lost touch, but I often wonder what she’s been up to. She had brought me and a few of her other students on a gathering trip in MS and that was one we collected.

Lousewort is semi-parasitic

Its roots feed off of the roots of neighboring plants, but it doesn’t require a host to live. Because of the possibility that it’s feeding from neighboring plants, if you plan to use it as medicine, it’s important to make sure the neighbors aren’t poisonous plants. The variety of lousewort that grows at Wild Ozark is Pedicularis canadensis.

Some of them bloom with a bicolor rosy/white tubular flower and some have pale yellow, nearly white flowers. Medicinally, the above-ground parts are used for skeletal muscle pain. I haven’t tried it yet, but I did just harvest some yesterday to put up for later use. It’s not a narcotic, so the pain relief isn’t likely to be as effective as narcotic drugs.

This herb is reported to combine well with skullcap and black cohosh to make a pretty good muscle relaxer. Black cohosh affects female hormones, though, so be aware of that and perhaps use a different herb, like black haw or skunk cabbage as a substitute if you have a hormone-influenced issue.

  • Always consult your physician and do your own research before using herbs – the information I provide through my newsletters and website is only meant to be a starting point and is NOT intended to be taken as medical advice. I’m not a doctor, have no medical training, and am not offering medical advice.

Lobelia inflata is another local medicinal herb that would go well with this combination, but the seeds (the part most medicinal) are potent. Use caution in dosage.

Where to Find Lousewort

The lousewort plants I found are growing in a moist cedar grove under plenty of shade. I’ve also seen them growing in partly shady areas alongside our county road. This spring I’ll be trying to propagate some of the ones here. If I’m successful with that and you want to get some, let me know. If I’m able to get in, I’ll be at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market this year. Otherwise you’ll have to make trip out to the Wild Ozark Nature Farm 🙂

References for my information and more on using lousewort at these sites:

  • http://7song.com/pedicularis-lousewort-monograph-pedicularis-as-a-skeletal-muscle-relaxant/ (sorry, can’t link directly because it’s not a secure website, but it is safe if you want to copy and paste the URL)
  • https://www.altnature.com/gallery/woodbetony.htm

My first fiction book, First Hunt

Just posting to let you know, my first fiction book is now available at most retailers. The first book of the Renegade Agents of A.R.S.A. trilogy, First Hunt, had been exclusive with Amazon since I published it last year, but now it’s available at almost all eBook retailers.

Many of you who follow this blog have probably already read it, or decided it wasn’t something you’d like to read, or you don’t read books you have to buy from Amazon. This blog post is just to let you know that now you can get it from almost anywhere that eBooks are sold. I self-published it through Draft-2-Digital, so it’s submitted to all the places they have partnerships with.

If you click on the link below you’ll be taken to a page that lists all the available retailers.

The second book is going up on pre-order next month and should be available to download everywhere by the end of August. That’s the plan, anyway, but I have to get busy writing to meet that schedule.

In the meantime, here’s the link to buy it if you’d like to give my brand of fiction a whirl:

Here’s a short excerpt from the first chapter. The whole first chapter is available at my Rural Fantasy website if you’d like to read a whole chapter to get a little more of a taste:


“I’d like to apply for a job,” I said to the receptionist. My voice came out so strong and unwavering, it surprised me. I swallowed.

“Which position are you interested in?” She didn’t even look up at me, but rubbed her finger left to right across the smooth glass front of her device on the horizontal surface in front of her, already poised and waiting to tap. I wondered which positions she’d already assumed I’d be there for.

Her gray and silver streaked hair was pulled into a very tight bun at the top of her head. It gave her eyes an exaggerated elongated shape. As bored as she had to get in there all alone like that, she probably did it that way to keep them from being able to close if she fell asleep on the job.

“Bounty Hunter,” I replied. There. I’d done it. Finally applied for the job. That ought to jar her out of her boredom. I couldn’t help the little self-satisfied smirk I felt creeping onto my face.

Veronica Statin, according to her name tag, still never looked up but gave her spiel in a drone that implied she got this inquiry a hundred times each day.

My smirk faded a bit.

“We don’t hire just anyone as agents. And if A.R.S.A. does decide you are a good fit, they won’t give you any solo jobs until you’ve mastered the art of tracking a target. You’ll have to prove you’ll actually follow through to the end. The end means running the target down to grub stage. For a relatively young criminal, this means three incarnations. Older ones could be more. It could take three or four years to finish one case and could involve travel to distant destinations. Do you have identification?” she asked.

I didn’t realize she’d stopped talking and had asked me a question. I was still stuck on the three times sentence.

Three times? People are killed more than once? How’s that possible?


Thanks for reading this excerpt from my first fiction book. If you liked it, you can get the whole book at your favorite retailer by clicking the button below 🙂

or, you can skip over to my fiction website and  read the whole first chapter.

The horses heading toward the front gate now that the back gate was closed.

Finding the Horses on a Drizzly Easter Sunday Morning

On Sundays I generally sleep late. The alarm goes off every other day at 0500, but on Sundays I have no alarm at all and my body takes full advantage of that fact. I do not ordinarily wake up planning to go off on a walkabout mission finding the horses.

Finding the horses is never a planned event, but always something that I move to the top of a priority list and its usually a situation that presents itself in the most inconvenient times. Finding the dog was a first time occurrence earlier during the week, but finding the horses is a sporadically yet regularly enough thing that I have made more than one blog post about it here through the years.

This morning was one of those inconvenient times. I woke up with a headache, probably from sleeping too late. It rained and stormed last night, so the water is up. It’s not as up as it would have been if I had started looking for them earlier, though, so perhaps my late start was a good thing, after all.

I started out with the usual routine of feeding animals in the morning. First Badger. Bobbie Sue is no longer with us, so he’s the only dog. Ordinarily he’s waiting outside the back door to see when I start feeding, since he can no longer hear the sound of food hitting his bowl. He wasn’t there. Yesterday we left the shop door open for him and the light on, and the old house door open because we knew the rain was coming. I brought him in the old house to show him his food bowl and the hay on the floor, and Rob brought him in the shop to show him where his bed was. Badger inspected both with a sort of disinterested look.

So he wasn’t there when I put his food this morning and I had a dreadful feeling we’d be out in the rain today searching the backroads again. But I still had to feed the chickens and horses. By the time I’ve fed the chickens the horses are usually waiting at the gate, snickering at me to hurry up. Not this morning. But we just brought them a new bale of hay the other day, so I thought since I was late getting started this morning, they’d just gone back to the hay. They’d hear me when I opened the gate and come then.

Not so. Comanche didn’t snicker when the gate chain banged against the gate. If I don’t want them to come up, I’m quiet about that. But this morning I wanted them to hear it so I made extra sure it clattered good. The creek was high so the water was loud and I thought maybe they didn’t hear it. They almost always can hear me whistle even with the high water though, so I tried that. No answer.

I resigned myself to crossing the creek to see where they were and what they were doing. Headache and all. The creek turned out to at least not be over my boots, so another point for sleeping in. The extra hours gave it time to go down a lot. I crossed the creek and walked up the hill to the hay feeding spot. No horses. No immediate signs the fence was down, either. I called them again by whistling, but didn’t get a reply.

Walked to the back end of the field and that’s when I saw the back gate. Wide open. And two horses trotting up the path from the deep yonder toward their own field so they could come get second breakfasts. So that was good. They hadn’t gone any further than the wilds right beyond the gate. And the grass on that end wasn’t rich and green like the grass they would have encountered had they gone up the mountain and into the hunting club to the east.

Too much rich and green grass would have been bad for them. It can cause them to colic or founder because it’s a sudden and drastic diet change, so I try to be extra vigilant about fences and gates during spring.

When I made it over to the gate I saw that the latch ring dangled from the chain. It must have gotten loose and most likely Shasta noticed that and nudged it until it gave way. I rigged it to stay shut until I can get back out there to make a more permanent fix.

That’s our house on the hill in the distance. The creek is down at the bottom of the hill they’re on now. My morning feeding chores and then walkabout while finding the horses amounted to almost a half a mile’s walk this morning, so at least I got a little exercise on this muddy, drizzly day.

Photo from my post on finding the horses.
Zoomed in on the horses as they went ahead of me toward the front gate to get their second breakfasts.

They waited for me at the bottom of the hill, then sped past me at the creek. Because I was slow in crossing and they’re much better at it than me with my clumsy rubber boots and only two legs. If they wouldn’t have been soaking wet, I think I would have hitched a ride.

Oh, and by the way, by the time I got back from finding the horses, Badger had found me. He caught up with me in the field as I walked back to the house. So all is well again here on the Wild Ozark homestead. No lost pups or horses this day.

Happy Easter if you celebrate it that way, or Ostara if the seasons mark your passage of time more than the holidays. Either way, Spring is here, even if there is a chance of freezing rain this evening.

The hazelnut and husk, straight from the tree.

Vernal Witch Hazel Flowers and Hazelnut too!

Today I went out to take cuttings from the Ozark Witch Hazel in the hopes of rooting them. I wasn’t looking for an American Hazelnut, but that’s what I found! I found the Witch Hazels, too. But I already knew those were there. New finds are always so exciting to me, but I think most people probably think I’m a little strange to be so thrilled over finding a  plant.

While I was scanning the creeksides for the witch hazel blooms, I happened to notice a small tree/large shrub on the uphill side of the road. On the opposite side of where I knew the witch hazels to be. From a distance, it looked a lot like it was covered with the American hazelnut male flowers that I saw on Steven Foster’s FB post the other day. My heart beat a little faster and I got out to take a closer look.

American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)

Sure enough, there were the ‘catkin’ male flowers.

Male flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana)
Male flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana)

And teeny tiny little fushia colored flowers at the ends of some of the branches. The flowers are very similar in appearance to the witch hazel, just a different color and a LOT smaller. I couldn’t get a good photo of them, but here’s what I have:

Male and female flower of the American hazelnut. The female is that tiny little frilly thing at the tip end of the branch.
Male and female flower of the American hazelnut. The female is that tiny little frilly thing at the tip end of the branch.

Now, to see MUCH better photos, take a look at Foster’s.

I poked around in the bushes for a bit and found one of the hazelnut shrubs that still had a leftover nut on it. The nut was tremendous in comparison to the small ones produced by the witch hazels, but it is still a fairly small nut compared to the ones you’d buy in the stores around Christmastime.

Smallish or not, I’d be willing to crack and shell them if I could gather enough. In fall, the new crop of nuts will be on the tree and you can bet I’ll be there trying to get them before the wildlife.

The hazelnut and husk, straight from the tree.
The hazelnut and husk, straight from the tree.

 

Surprise, Surprise

I’ve lived here 13 years now and never noticed this small tree. I know it’s been there longer than I’ve lived here.

It always surprises me when that happens. I just this year saw the biggest beech tree I’ve ever seen out here and it obviously has been there fifty years or more. Same thing happened with a deciduous magnolia. Found it, for the first time, last year right on the side of a trail I commonly use, and it too has been there probably fifty years.

Who knows how many more as-yet undiscovered plants are out there waiting on me?

Vernal Witch Hazel

The Vernal Witch Hazels are also known as Ozark Witch Hazels (Hamamelis vernalis). They bloom in late winter or very early spring (hence, the ‘vernal’ part of their common name). We have another variety called simply ‘Witch Hazel’ (H. virginiana) that blooms around October. Those have yellow flowers. The vernal ones have maroon and yellow flowers.

I think I almost missed the blooms on these this year. Or maybe they’re just getting started. I’ll have to check again in a day or two and see if the flowers are more developed, or completely withered.

Vernal Witch Hazel flowers
Vernal Witch Hazel flowers

I don’t really do anything with the Witch Hazel medicinally. They’re good for making an astringent wash to treat hemorrhoids and they make a good facial tonic. I just like the flowers and it’s one of my annual ritual photos I like to take to mark the passing of time. If in the future I need to use them for a remedy, I know where to find them.

When I finished getting my pictures, I took some cuttings and will try rooting them to see if I can make new plants from them. I tried this last year, but it didn’t work. Ever the optimist – that’s me. I’ll keep trying.

Have you ever tried eating the American Hazelnuts or using the Witch Hazel? Let me know how it went. When I was a teenager I used to use the Witch Hazel tonic for acne, but I’m not even sure they still sell it on the shelf like they used to do way back when.

More Information

Hazelnut: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/american-hazelnut

 

Things I've learned since moving to the country.

Things I’ve Learned (Since Moving to the Country)

These are the things I’ve learned since moving out here to Wild Ozark.

I used to think I lived in “the country”, before we moved out here. That was thirteen years ago and I quickly realized once we burnt the bridges and sold our house, that we had no clue what it meant to live in a rural place.

So here it goes. Here’s my start to the list. Remember to check back later to see if I’ve added more. Maybe leave a comment to prompt me to do it, if it’s been a while and still nothing else is here.

Moving Even Small Rocks in Winter

I made a little video the other day, just to illustrate this one. It’s terribly funny the first time it happens to you. And it’s funny when you forget and it happens again. For those of you who live where ice and snow have been normal all your lives, just ignore me here. But this is the sort of things that astounds people who move from warmer climates to one with real winters.

I learned this the first winter here, but refreshed my memory the other day. I’m out of breath in the video, but not from trying to move the rock, ha. I’d just finished rolling some logs in place so Rob could come pick them up with the tractor. We’d been cutting a dead tree away from the driveway.

Hiking to the Wild Ozark Corner Bluff

A while back, I posted about our exploration of the bluffs along the driveway. This time we went hiking to what I call the “Corner Bluff”.

It’s not far away, either, but takes a bit of effort. Getting to this one is fairly difficult if approached from the ground level, so instead of climbing up, we took the 4-wheeler to the top of the mountain and hiked down to it.

Most of our hiking trips are short ones carried out right here at home, because we have so many places on our own property that we haven’t explored. Here’s a great compilation about long hiking trails in the USA for those who enjoy extended adventures on foot.

The photos below are from our hike to the Corner Bluff.

We saw Mossy ledges while hiking to the Corner Bluff.
Mossy Ledges

What makes it a Corner Bluff?

I call it that because it exists on a topographical corner of a mountain that’s partially on our plot of land. It’s not at the corner of our property, which is a square in theory, but on a physical corner of a mountain.

Rocks and Walls

There are big boulders and tall walls in this spot.

A really tall rock. Had to get on the ground to get the top in the frame.
A really tall rock. Had to get on the ground to get the top in the frame.

 

Rob standing on the ledge of one of the walls. Helps to give you an idea for size context.
Rob standing on the ledge of one of the walls. Helps to give you an idea for size context.

Some of the rocks in one of the areas look like faces, complete with eyes, noses and mouths. I didn’t get any good pics of those, but I did a while back on one of our other hiking trips in 2011 or 2010. If I can find the pictures I’ll post them later.

Green even Mid-winter

Ferns growing in very little soil
Ferns growing in very little soil.

 

Moss and lichens on the rocks
Moss and lichens on the rocks.

 

Fruiting bodies on the moss collect the morning's fog droplets
Fruiting bodies on the moss collect the morning’s fog droplets.

 

The moss acted like a sponge. Water drained slowly down the rock bluffs through the moss. We don’t usually go hiking without bringing water, and the sight of all of it percolating made me even thirstier.

If the thirst became too terrible, I suppose we could have gathered enough sips from the moss to save our lives in an emergency.

Moss covered wall at the Corner Bluff
Moss covered wall at the Corner Bluff

Trees

This twisted little tree is growing on top of the rock.
This twisted little tree is growing on top of the rock.
A tree skeleton full of texture, shades and lines. I love tree skeletons almost as much as the living ones.
A tree skeleton full of texture, shades and lines. I love tree skeletons almost as much as the living ones.

 

This gigantic oak is growing underneath and between the rocks. I can only imagine how far the roots must go between the layers in order to hold it up.

Fav Hiking Finds: Nooks and Crannies

My favorite things are the hidden places like this nook between the rocks.
My favorite things are the hidden places like this cranny between the rocks.

 

Rob seems to particularly like looking in the nooks where critters like bears and bobcats could be sleeping.
Rob seems to particularly like looking in the nooks where critters like bears and bobcats could be sleeping.

Odd Rocks

This rock looks just like a knob for a cabinet pull on the face of one of the bluff walls.
This rock looks just like a knob for a cabinet pull on the face of one of the bluff walls. I didn’t pull on it for fear of breaking it off.

 

We don't have much limestone on our property, but this does look like it has a lot of calcium/magnesium because of the holes. Most of our rocks are sandstone.
We don’t have much limestone on our property, but this does look like it has a lot of calcium/magnesium because of the holes. Most of our rocks are sandstone.

 

This rock wasn't at the bluff but we saw it earlier on our way to the bluff. The rocks in that spot have a lot of iron veins in them. Odd-looking, huh?
This rock wasn’t at the bluff but we saw it earlier on our way to the bluff. The rocks in that spot have a lot of iron veins in them. Odd-looking, huh?

Getting Back to the Top

It’s funny how you don’t notice how far you’ve gone when you’re walking down hill or over the sides of walls until it’s time to go back to the top. I was worn out by the time we had the 4-wheeler back in sight.

Hope you enjoyed the photo-essay of our rock bluff exploration!

Unrelated Note

I heard spring peepers yesterday and this morning. It’s the middle of January. I should not be hearing spring peepers.

A set of Rada kitchen knives and cutlery.

Product Review: Rada Kitchen Knives and Cutlery

The best thing about Rada knives – well, I can’t say that. ONE of the best things about these knives is that they’re made in the U.S.A. The other best thing is that they’re terrific. Read on to find out why I think so. Of the set, I only have the paring knife, apple peeler/potato peeler, and the serrated – the first three from the bottom. So I’m basing my review of the brand on my use and experience with three of the blades in this set.

Pros

We got the three that I mentioned as a wedding gift in 2013. I’ve only just now had to ask Rob to sharpen the edge on the paring knife. The other two are still performing as well as they did out of the box.

The blades are thin yet sturdy. They hold an edge for an incredibly long time. They hold a very fine edge so the knife is super-sharp.

They’re made in the USA. It’s hard to find affordable products that work well that are also made here. I can often find great quality but can’t afford it, so I’m happy when I find a product that meets both expectations.

Affordability

The whole set pictured above is $41.99 right now at Amazon. They’re very closely matched in price at Wal-Mart and I’ve seen the same brand for sale at The Huntsville Pantry for those of you local to Huntsville, AR.

Cons

You shouldn’t put these in the dishwasher. The handles oxidize if you do and it makes them ugly but it doesn’t seem to affect their performance. I ran my through the dishwasher before I realized this. I think the handles are made of aluminum and the dishwasher detergent reacts with the metal.


Read my other product reviews.

Elderberry blossom

Build your Herbal Armory!

Useful plants grow all around us. It’s time to start building your herbal armory of plant allies now.

My book, 10 Common Plants worth Knowing in a Long-term Survival Situation, will introduce you to ten at a time. I’ll help you make allies of them, enabling you to build your herbal armory.

  1. All-Heal
  2. Beebalm
  3. Echinacea
  4. Elderberry
  5. Red clover
  6. Red Raspberry
  7. Red Mulberry
  8. Persimmon
  9. Spicebush
  10. Witch Hazel

An Heirloom

This book is meant to be written in. I’ve given space to record your harvest locations, identification notes, place to write things that you think will be important for anyone trying to follow in your footsteps in the next generations.

Read More

Perhaps not so stylish a way to wear my shawl, but it is very warm!

Simple Survival Skills: The Multipurpose Pashmina Shawl #survivalhack #homesteading

A scarf by itself might not be enough to keep you from freezing to death in extreme temperatures. But a large scarf, known as a shawl, can serve multiple functions aside from keeping your neck warm like a scarf. It takes up little space in a glove compartment in your car. Keep one in your bugout bag, too.

Simple Survival Skills

I most often use my pashmina shawl in the way I’m wearing it at the top of this blog post. It’s not stylish, but it’s warmer than any baklava I’ve ever tried. The advantage to using a shawl over a baklava is the many other ways a shawl can be used. It’s not just a neck warmer.

Be Prepared

Keep this item handy. I’ve used it in several different ways over the course of a few years. I’ve listed some surprising alternative ways to use it below. It’s definitely a good item to keep in a bugout bag and stored in the glove compartment of your vehicles.

I could probably fold this shawl again and stuff it into a plastic zippered bag, but at 23 x 20 cm, it's small enough.
I could probably fold this shawl again and stuff it into a plastic zippered bag, but at 23 x 20 cm, it’s small enough.

Mine is large, about 80″ x 40″. It came from Afghanistan, but I’ve offered some alternatives below if you can’t find one this same size. Ones made of true pashmina this size are not easy to find. If you do come across one this size, please leave a comment below to let others know.

Mine is large - about 80" x 40". Plenty big enough to wrap up in.
Mine is large – about 80″ x 40″. Plenty big enough to wrap up in.

 

How to Use a Shawl to Stay Warm

This is kind of self-explanatory, because just keeping it around your neck will help tremendously. But for practical warmth while working on the homestead, I wear it a bit differently.

Perhaps not so stylish a way to wear my shawl, but it is very warm!

I’ll open it up and put it on top of my head, then fold it over toward the back to get it out of my eyes. Now it’s folded and draped over the top of my head. Throw one side over the opposite shoulder to the back, do the same with the other side. Now it’s over my head and wrapped around my neck.

Then I’ll put a hat on over it to hold it down. This really keeps my ears warm. If it’s windy, I’ll pull it some to shield my face or cover my mouth and nose. My coat goes on after this and it holds the shawl in place around my neck and adds extra warmth across my back if I’m good at keeping it spread out when I tossed each side over my shoulder.

 

Other Uses for a Shawl

For some of these other uses, you’ll have to not mind so much if it gets dirty. I have some shawls I keep for wearing when I go to town, and some I use for homestead work.

  • carry infant – tie it securely around your shoulders and use it to carry a baby or toddler

When all the grandkids were over this past spring, we decided to go hunt for morel mushrooms. The youngest walked just fine on the ground but getting up the hills among the rocks was hard for her. Since of course I had on one of my shawls, I quickly converted it into a sling-style tote and carried her on my hip.

  • sling – if you hurt your arm, use it like a sling

If you have one of the longer ones, like I do, you’ll have to tie the ends together and then loop it twice over your shoulder to make it short enough.

  • carry food- use it the same way as for carrying a child, but carry your wildcrafted or gathered food/herbs/mushrooms
  • carry firewood – this might tear it up if you’re not careful, but use the same technique for carrying the other items
  • wrap in to sleep – use it like a blanket

The pashmina is surprisingly warm for such thin fabric. Every time I wear one, I am amazed. I can’t vouch for what the synthetics are like. All of mine came from my husband. He bought them in Afghanistan while he was working there.

  • shock prevention – staying warm is important when injured. Keep in your car in case of accidents, too.

When someone is injured badly, if you keep them warm and calm, and focused on something besides their injury, it helps to prevent shock (if they’re not bleeding too badly). Not only is the pashmina warm, the story of where you found it, and how many ways it can be used is something you can use to help distract the patient.

Where to Buy

I got mine from my husband. He bought it for me while he was working in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Mine measures about 80″ x 46″ and is large enough to be a topper for a twin sized bed. I couldn’t find any exactly like mine at Walmart or Amazon, but the nearest like it I’ve found are linked below.

Let me know if you find one somewhere else by leaving a comment.

If possible, it’s important to get true pashmina and not the synthetic.

The one listed from Walmart is pure wool, not the blend of wool/silk (if the listing shows up – it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment).

Pashmina is a goat wool and silk blend, traditional to the Afghan region. Synthetics may not provide the same warmth, and cashmere alone is too weak of a fiber. The silk gives it strength and insulative properties. I can’t say how well the pure wool will do for the alternative uses for a shawl, but for warmth it will work just fine.

Many of the Amazon listings say “pashmina” but when you read the details, it’s not actually pashmina but a synthetic blend.

 

Simple Survival Skills Series

Throughout this blogging year I’m going to try and remember some of the other things I learned during our first years here at Wild Ozark.

In 2005, I moved from a comfortable 2400 sq ft house in a suburban area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Since that time, I’ve learned a lot of things that people leading urban lives rarely need to know. As a matter of daily life we probably employ more simple survival skills here at Wild Ozark than most people do in their lifetimes because of the rural location and our dependence on spring water rather than municipal or well.

For many years, living here was more like camping. Rob works to make improvements, but it’s still not an *ordinary* lifestyle.

A Way of Life

After 13 years out here in the hills, it’s become a way of life and I rarely take special notice of how we do the things we do until something in particular makes me pay attention.

Here at Wild Ozark, I use my shawls often. It is much easier to stay warm with one on my head. I’ve used it as a sling to carry things ranging from grandchildren to berries or mushrooms and kindling. I hope to hear your tales of use when you get one!

Read my other Product Reviews for Homesteaders

Read my other Simple Survival Tips

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: A Quiet Computer Mouse by Mossy Oak

Mossy Oak Mouse Product Review
The image links to the Amazon page.

My old mouse recently died and I had to get another. The next time we went to Walmart I picked up one of the least expensive ones I could find. It was around $10 and I thought that’s not too bad. At this point, I didn’t have any other requirements in mind, except that it had to be wireless. I didn’t know I’d want a quiet computer mouse.

Terrible Noisy Mouse

Well, I hated it. The clicks were so noisy that if I were trying to write or work on the computer in bed while Rob was asleep it would have kept him awake. The thing constantly shifted into sleep mode if I hadn’t moved it within the previous minute, or however long the alloted waking period was. So I had to constantly wake it up. Not only that, I just hated the clicking noises.

Quiet Computer Mouse

The next time we went to town I tried all the mice on the shelf to see how loud the clicks were, and ended up with this Mossy Oak mouse.

The price is a lot less at Walmart. It’s more than double at Amazon, so unless you have a gift card to spend I’d check with your local stores first. At Amazon it runs around $36. It was $15.88 at Walmart, at the time I wrote this post, but shipping isn’t available for that item so you can’t mail order it. Therefore, the photo is linked to the Amazon option.

There are other features, such as the scroll wheel and a DPI button, and a bunch of other things I don’t really use. I’m not sure what the DPI switchable is for, or why there are “breathing effect” lights for the scroll. The only thing I cared about was that it was 1.) quiet and 2.) wireless.

If you’re looking for a quiet computer mouse, and don’t mind the camo pattern, this is a great pick.


Read my other product reviews.

old homestead down our dirt road

Simple Survival Skills: Limited Water Washing

I forget, until I have to use them, how many simple survival skills I’ve used since moving to this remote and rural Ozarks life. Washing dishes with limited water is one of the most useful things to know.

Simple Survival Skills

This post will seem silly to some people, especially people who have washed dishes like this before. Many people in many parts of the world know and use simple survival skills every day. Especially those who live in third-world countries. Those who live in hurricane or other severe weather-prone areas learn some basic skills to get by until help arrives.

But many others are accustomed to modern comfort and and don’t live in parts of the country where floods, hurricanes, or ice storms keep them house-bound for more than a day or two.

How many people would be ready for more than a week without aid from Red Cross or other organizations?

Events do happen that cause utilities like electricity and water to pause, but usually food and water are being handed out by the government or other organizations to the people within a few days. What would you do if a few days went by and no help arrived?

More than a week of no utilities ushers in a whole new set of things to know and skills to use.

Be Prepared

Sometimes it’s easy enough to predict when you’ll need your skills. But sometimes a situation comes quickly and unexpected, or continues longer than you thought it would.

That’s where knowing a few of the simple survival skills can really help.

Limited Water Washing is probably one of the most important things you can know, and should be implemented immediately when a water-rationing event happens. It’s better to have water left over because you rationed it than to not have enough to stay sanitary for the duration.

Simple Survival Skills Series

Throughout this blogging year I’m going to try and remember some of the other things I learned during our first years here at Wild Ozark.

In 2005, I moved from a comfortable 2400 sq ft house in a suburban area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. That was the year Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast.

Since that time, I’ve learned a lot of things that people leading urban lives rarely need to know. As a matter of daily life we probably employ more simple survival skills here at Wild Ozark than most people do in their lifetimes because of the rural location and our dependence on spring water rather than municipal or well.

Our house itself is also not what many are accustomed to because there’s no central heating and cooling and it’s unfinished. For many years, living here was more like camping. Since Rob and I married, he’s made a lot of improvements, but it’s still not an *ordinary* lifestyle.

After 13 years out here in the hills, it’s become a way of life and I rarely take special notice of how we do the things we do until something in particular makes me pay attention.

Here at Wild Ozark, we started out the New Year of 2018 with frozen water lines. That meant no running water in our house nor to the animals outside. The water was frozen for 5 days.

Running Water

I said “in the house” because we’re very fortunate to have running water at least nearby. This was no accident. When I first started looking for the perfect place to move, nearby running water was a top criteria. I’m glad it’s one I didn’t compromise on.

When our containers are empty, we can go to the creek to fill them. Our own creek is smaller than this and right now it’s frozen pretty solid except for a few small areas. This is the larger one that ours is tributary to. There’s an easy to access unfrozen hole at the bridge.

A creek nearby makes dealing with limited water a bit easier.

We usually store water in gallon jugs and any empty 2-Liter bottles we have. The bottles fit into spaces like under the stairs or utility room cabinet. I used to store a lot more of them because when the water froze I’d have to use the set aside ones to water the horses with, too. But Rob and I built a good fenced in area for the horses now and they have access to a portion of the creek.

If you’re storing or using creek water, be sure to add chlorine to it or boil before using it for washing dishes or anything else that might result in swallowing any.

Limited Water Tips

The main thing is to remember during limited water events is to use the water as often as possible.

Don’t ever use fresh water for dirty purposes if you can help it. The last destination for the water should either be the toilet for flushing or for watering plants or washing down the sinks.

It’s easy to use gallons of water without noticing it, especially when you’re doing something like washing dishes. So I use a large pot in the sink. This accomplishes two things:

  • I can get by with a smaller amount of water for dishwashing
  • The dirty water can be poured into the toilet afterwards for flushing

Before I fill the washing pot, I use a second large pot to hold the water. Since our limited water events usually happen because of freezing temps it means the woodstove is probably going. I put the pot of washing water on the stove to heat it. This also accomplishes two things:

  • heats the water without needing to use the propane
  • humidifies the air

When you use a wood stove for heat, it dries out the air and that causes the sinuses to get too dry. We usually keep a small kettle of water on the stove for this reason throughout winter. I take this smaller kettle upstairs before bed during water outages to use for brushing teeth, washing face, and taking limited water splash baths.

Limited Water Rinsing or Pre-cleaning

Before I start washing them, I use a laboratory style rinse bottle to get as much of the food off as possible. The link takes you to Amazon where you can get one for not too much, but you can also use a water bottle that has the squirt top on it.

Paper towels are good for taking off more of the residue, if you have plenty of those on hand. I wouldn’t use real towels because then you’d have to use water to wash those. If this is a short term water shortage, that might work alright. You can also wash the towels in the creek. However, icy creeks have icy water in them and that makes it hard to do much washing. Hands tend to go numb after a few seconds of that – done that before and will try to not ever do it again.

Limited Water Washing

First, heat a few gallons of water in a large pot. If the electricity is out and you have a wood stove you can do it on the wood-stove. We have a propane stovetop and oven, so even with no electricity and if we had no wood stove, we could still heat water or food during outages.

The large pot of heated water, the washing pot, and the dirty dishes that need to be pre-rinsed.
From closest to farthest: The large pot of heated water, the washing pot, the rinse bottle (with the cap off) and the dirty dishes that need to be pre-rinsed.

After the pre-cleaning and before you add water, put the dishes into the washing pot. Arrange them so they will hold water by standing glasses or cups upright, bowls and pots open side up. Forks and spoons and knives dirty side down into one of the pots or glasses.

Pre-rinsed dishes arranged in the pot for limited water washing.
Pre-rinsed dishes arranged in the pot for limited water washing.

Clean the other side of the sink with your rinse bottle and spray cleaner (I keep a bottle of bleach water for this, or any other cleaning spray) so you’ll have somewhere clean to put the dishes after you wash them but before the soap is rinsed off of them.

Pour about half of the hot water into the wash pot in the sink.

Don’t pour all of the hot water into the sink pot. Use as little as possible to get the job done.

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Re-Use the Soapy Water

Use the dirty water in the back of the toilets so you can flush them. Yes, it puts dirty water in the toilet. Once the water is running again, I can clean the dirty toilets. It is tempting to put clean water in there instead, but once you’ve hauled water by hand into the house a few times I bet you think the dirty water is a good idea, too.

After I dump the dirty water, I’ll use the rinse bottle to clean the pot. Then arrange the cleaned, but still soapy dishes, back into the pot. Pour the rest of your hot water over them to rinse off the soap.

It won’t be enough water to cover them completely. You’ll have to dip with the cups and work them around to get them all rinsed.

You can reuse this water for the houseplants. I use it also for cleaning the counters and sinks or anything else.

Long-term Limited Water

Once you’ve done this for a few days in a row it becomes easier to find ways to use water more than once. The hassle of washing with so little water becomes less of a hassle.

When our water started running again after it thawed, we were quite happy to return to our less-limited water usage. Hot running water inside my house is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s such a joy to take a hot bath or shower after doing without for a week.

 

 

 

 

RIP Bobbie Sue. You were a good Farm Dog.

Bobbie Sue, chicken guardian dog
Bobbie Sue 2005 – 2018. Loyal Farm Hand, Driveway Escort, Chicken Guardian.

Bobbie Sue was a dog we got as a pound puppy from a shelter in Harrison, Arkansas during our first year here at Wild Ozark. She had probably been abused or severely neglected before she went to the rescue. She wouldn’t come out of her crate for days when we brought her home.

When she did come out, she was very shy and didn’t want to interact much with her new family but she warmed up to us soon enough. While she was still a puppy I wanted her to learn how to guard our chickens to keep them safe from predators. She wasn’t very good at that at first.

She killed a few of them, chased them around with much zeal and fervor. In the meantime, she foraged for grub worms and preferred that to dog food. In time she learned that killing the chickens wasn’t the goal.

In the thirteen years she’s been with us, she’s been an excellent chicken guardian and companion to our other dogs and us. But her favorite role was “driveway escort”.

I didn’t know when I first got her that there are two kinds of cow dogs. I knew she was a cow dog of some sort, most likely Australian Shepherd mixed with something else, maybe Catahoula. When working with the horses, she always got right up in front of them, yapping and taunting them, and she had a propensity for “leading” cars up and down the driveway.

I found out soon enough that there are “header” dogs as well as “healers”. She was a header.

She was a good farm dog and I’m glad she’s no longer suffering. These last weeks have been hard on her.

Using a Spring for Water – Winter Issues

When you rely on a spring for water, you need a tank. This is our 1500 gallon water collection tank.
When you rely on a spring for water, you need a tank. This is our 1500 gallon water collection tank.

Using a spring for water requires more effort than relying on tap water. Sometimes, just because you turn on the faucet, that doesn’t mean the water will come out like it’s supposed to.

Yesterday, while Rob worked on changing the O2 sensors on his truck, I burned some calories. It was only twenty degree as I hiked up the mountain behind our house to check on our water tank.

Having a spring for water is nice, but it works best when that spring is a good distance higher in elevation than the house.

The Problem

We’ve had some well-below freezing days and have been keeping the water running pretty much around the clock. The flow became low in a couple of faucets in the house.

When using a spring for water, ideally the plumbing *should* all work the same as it does in a city. It’s just the maintenance of the system that is different.

At first I thought perhaps the tank was getting low on water. But that didn’t explain why some faucets had good pressure and flow and some didn’t.

Then I thought maybe the lines under the house were beginning to freeze in those faucets that were off.

Puzzles

But that didn’t explain why, after running hot water through them, it didn’t help. Or why the sprayer at the kitchen sink worked fine but the faucet didn’t.

Just in case the water was low, I hiked up the mountain. I’m not sure, but I think the spring is a good three hundred feet in elevation above the house. I don’t know how many walking feet it is, because the angle to get there obviously isn’t straight up. But it’s not gentle.

I wish I would hike up there every day, but it seems I’m only motivated when the likelihood of running out of water prompts me to start climbing.

Great Exercise

It’s exceptionally good exercise for my knee – if I don’t misstep. Since tearing the ACL and meniscus a year and a half ago, I’ve been using my natural terrain to help rehab and that has worked great. No surgery.

There’s an old logging road that runs up there, but flooding over the years have washed it out and made hip-deep trenches in some places, and narrow footpath trails alongside those trenches are all that’s left.

Oh, and loose rocks and shale clay, and acorns galore. It all makes for an adventurous hike.

This time, the tom cat came with me. I didn’t get a picture of him because I didn’t bring my camera. I knew I’d have enough to do with just breathing and staying on my feet. Mr. Kitty thinks it’s cool to stop right in front of me while I’m walking, and he did this on the way up there, too.

Motivating the Cat

I stepped on him a couple of times and booted him to get moving and he started behaving better after that. He made the entire trip up there and back down again. I think this cat thinks he’s a dog because he sure acts like one sometimes.

It didn’t take as long as I thought it would to get up there, and I wasn’t as winded as I thought I’d be, either. Must be that ginseng jelly I’ve been eating every morning on my toast!

The view from above the house on the bench where the spring tank sits.
The view from above the house on the bench where the spring tank sits.

The tank was full to overflowing, so the level of water definitely wasn’t the source of our problem. Having a spring for water offers multiple opportunities for figuring out the sources of problems, ha.

So I looked a little harder. The overflow line was plugged. I could tell that because some critter had made holes in it and the water was spraying from the holes but not making it to the other end where it should exit.

Stuck Lid

So I decided to take off the cap and have a look. Well, the cap was stuck. It felt frozen stuck. It’s over my head to reach up and turn the thing, and I couldn’t get good leverage to make it move.

Rocks are particularly handy and I’m glad we live somewhere there are lots of them lying around. I tried the rock. It didn’t work. Then I noticed a shovel leaning against the other side of the tank. That worked after a few times hitting the cap ridge in the direction I wanted it to turn.

What’s Inside the Tank?

From tiptoes I could look inside. There was a layer about an inch thick of ice on the top of the water. If you look at the photo at the top, you’ll see the little “neck” to the tank. The water was only about an inch below the lid. The overflow line is the one at the top leading out.

So I thought maybe a sort of vacuum had formed, causing the pressure to be lower at the house than normal. But again, that didn’t explain why some faucets worked right and some didn’t.

Anyway, I broke up the ice and tried to open up the overflow but couldn’t get that to work. It just kept clogging back up with ice. At least I knew without a doubt that we had plenty enough water to continue running the water as the temperatures drop to near zero in the next few days.

The Solution

Once back at the house it occurred to me that only two faucets had issues. The others all seemed fine. Then I thought about taking the aerator screen off of the kitchen sink faucet to check that.

Sure enough, the problem the whole time was right there at the end of the faucet and not anywhere else along the lines.

Algae is always present in the water and it usually doesn’t cause any problems. I think the green algae actually helps to keep the water cleaner than without, but I haven’t found any evidence to support this thought. I know the red/brown and some blue-green algaes do indicate poor water quality, though. At least two varieties of blue-green algae is edible and nutritious.

However, Rob likes to keep the water algae free as possible, so he shocked the tank last week. Algae had clogged the aerator screens on those two faucets. We’ll have to take them off of the faucets the next time we’re flushing the lines after shocking. Or better yet, just get rid of the fine screen in the aerator altogether.

Using a Spring for Water

So that’s the saga of what it’s like living on a spring for water so far this winter. Ordinarily there are far more incidents to write about but I’m thankful it took this long to encounter one and hopeful there won’t be another!

Long Dirt Road: Why it Takes me an Hour to Drive 12 Miles

This is a post from a few years ago that I love, so I’m reposting it. We live down a long dirt road. This little facet of our lives is the main thing that makes or breaks most newcomers to rural life.

It takes a long time to go anywhere, if you go slow enough to spare the vehicle’s suspension and tires, and every other nut and bolt on the chassis. You gotta love the long dirt road for offering a chance to transition from the ordinary world into the magical realm of these hills, though.

Or vice versa. It gives you a chance to readjust on your way out of the magic and into the mundane.


Today was an ordinary summer day in July. I went to the post office.

It’s only 12 miles to the post office in our little town.

6 of those miles are by dirt road. It’s a long dirt road.

My average speed on the dirt stretch is 10 mph, but I slow down for the rough spots. So for just that portion of the trip, it already makes up for more than 30 minutes. The remaining 6 miles of pavement only takes 10 minutes or less, depending on whether there are cows, tractors, or deer in the road.

On a direct trip with no distractions, it’s about a 90-minute round trip, if you add the time spent getting the mail posted. And that’s if I only go to the post office and back.

But that rarely happens. Read More

Through Ice and Mud We Go – Bringing Hay to Horses

Through Ice and Mud. Ice in the spring puddles on the way to the top gate in the horse's field.
Ice in the spring puddles on the way to the top gate in the horse’s field.

Through Ice and Mud

Whether through ice and mud, or snow, or rain or wind, kind of like the postman’s creed to deliver mail, we must deliver hay to the horses.

It’s easy to stay in touch with the wheel of time when you repeat a certain activity outdoors throughout the year. I like this facet of living out here.

I’m sure everyone everywhere has a similar regular activity that would allow them to notice the passage of time and seasons, but how many take note?

Why does it matter?

It’s so easy to get caught up in a frenetic life these days. As for myself, I’m get overwhelmed with too many irons in the fire. I have a tendency to be a workaholic. Even though what I do for a living is creative and I enjoy it, I still manage to get disconnected from the baseline that’s important to me.

When the list of things to do gets so long there’s no end in sight, a simple reconnection to nature helps me to feel more centered and grounded.

Noticing

Taking note of the changing seasons is one way I get reconnected on a regular basis. No matter whether the weather is typical or atypical, being outside brings me into close contact with the passage of time throughout a year.

Our winter this year seems to have taken a long time to arrive. When the ice begins to skim the spring puddles, getting out there to experience it is a physical connection to the fact that it is indeed winter now.

I can’t explain very effectively how this helps, but it does. It satisfies something in me on a deep and personal level to make this connection to nature.

Reconnecting and Getting Back on Task

After playing for a little while in the ice and mud while bringing the hay to the horses this morning, I came back inside and organized my daily list of things to do with better focus on the task.

So it was a small thing, but the blast of cold helped. Stopping along the way to break some ice in the puddle wasn’t necessary. It was just for the fun of it. I like seeing the glassy shards of clear spring water. I took some pictures and immersed in the moment.

Year round I do similar things. Every time I begin to feel anxious about not getting enough done, I make a special effort to get outside and make contact with the world around me.

My World

The world around me is nearly wilderness. I like this. Ice and mud in spring puddles please me in strange ways, I guess. Perhaps it is a thing that appeals to my inner child. But if I lived in a city, I’m sure I’d find some other way to make this contact meaningful.

If you notice the little things in your surroundings, is there anything special that you do to facilitate that connection? Do you stop and savor the moments like this throughout your year?

New Tax Rule – Arkansas Sales Tax on Digital Products

This year there’s a new tax rule that will affect the people who buy digital goods from Wild Ozark. We have to pay retail sales tax on ebooks that I sell in our online shop as of January 1, 2018.

 

sales tax

Sales Tax on Digital Goods only for Arkansas Residents

Just as with other sales tax on other products, it only is charged to Arkansas residents. If you buy something and your billing address is outside of Arkansas, there will be no tax added to the total.

Previously, digital audio or ebooks were exempt, but no longer. So you’ll see the tax added on at checkout.

No Sales Tax on Plants

So far, there are still no sales taxes due on the nursery plants we sell. I still have a few ginseng seedlings left, by the way.

Trying to Stay Organized

This time of year seems to roll around faster and faster and faster. Every year I say I’m going to stay ahead of the game all year long. Do my ledger entries every month. File receipts every month.

So when it comes time to file the income taxes, everything will be ready to go.

It never happens.

Every year I’m faced with a month or less time to complete the monumental task of getting the books in order for the whole year. And I wreak this havoc on myself.  I know. I  must be a glutton for punishment.

Next year, I swear I’ll do better.

At least this year I do have all the receipts in folders by month. That’s a huge step forward from last year. I don’t have them ordered by date, though, and I don’t have all the digitally filed receipts printed out yet.

Can you guess what I’ll be working on for the next several weeks?

If you’re a writer or ebook seller in Arkansas and want some more information about this new sales tax, here’s the link to information about Act 141.

 

The Wild Ozark shop at Etsy

Just a short post to let you know what I just listed over at the Wild Ozark shop at Etsy. The photos are linked to the listings.

Fairy Cup and Stand, $10 now at the Wild Ozark Shop at Etsy.
Fairy Cup and Stand, $10 at Etsy.

 

Forest Folk Reading Girl
Forest Folk Reading Girl, with chair for $35 at Etsy.

Here’s the page about the Forest Folk if you’d like to read more about them. I’m constantly working on new ones but I can only take the photos on days when it’s not too windy outside.

If you like to make crafty things and are local, you might like to join me in a workshop on making Acorn Folk in Winslow on Dec. 16 at Ozark Folkways.

I’ll try to update this post and republish it every once in a while with the current listings.

Please click through and visit and add them to your favorites, even if you can’t buy any right now. I’m not sure how Etsy’s search algorithms work, but that might help my things show up better on their site. Thanks in advance!

Ginseng Jelly – A Delicious Wild Ozark Luxury Product

Oh, my … GINSENG JELLY!

I love medicinal herbs, especially those that grow right here at home, and most especially ginseng. This year’s ginseng jelly comes in two varieties:

  • Ginseng Gold (4-oz, $25)
  • Ginseng/Apple (8-oz, $25) Soft-set: thicker than syrup, thinner than jelly

Both are delicious, but you’ll get more of the ginseng active ingredients from the Gold. Prices do not include shipping.

Email me for a PayPal invoice and let me know your address so I can give you the quote on shipping: [email protected]

Ginseng is a Medicinal Herb

This jelly is intended for adults only. A teaspoon a day is plenty enough to experience the benefit.

 

UPDATE 2017, made a fresh batch of jelly for this year: it is delicious and potent!!

Email me if you’d like to try it.  [email protected]

Making ginseng jelly- Getting ready to chop the ginseng roots after soaking them for a couple of hours.
Getting ready to chop the ginseng roots after soaking them for a couple of hours.

The taste

I tasted the decoction (broth) this morning after it soaked overnight and the flavor is bitter with a sweet follow. This is exactly how the roots taste when chewed.

The jelly is sweet, lightly flavored with a very slight bitter finish. Some people don’t taste the bitter at all, but I do. The point with this product isn’t so much to use it as a confection, but as a tonic.

My favorite way to use it is on my morning slice of toast. That’s all you need – a teaspoon a day. If you take it daily, then the little jar won’t last very long. This is a good thing, as ginseng shouldn’t be used on a daily basis for more than a month or two at a time.

Medicinal Virtues

Ginseng has been in use as a medicinal plant for thousands of years. American ginseng was first used by the Native Americans but became popular in China during the 1700’s.

In recent years scientists have become more interested in the ways ginseng works and have produced several studies.

Here’s an article about the effects of ginseng.

This one offers a handy chart: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103855/figure/F3/

And, here’s an article about some of the side effects of ginseng and possible drug interactions. You should always do research before using herbal remedies, and do more than just read the links on mine or any other one site.

This jelly contains a broth made with American ginseng root. A large portion, if not most, of the medicinal  part of ginseng is water soluble, so it will be in this jelly.

Don’t Wait too Long!

Look for Wild Ozark American Ginseng Jelly at the Nature Shop and at our market booth this year!

It’s pretty and tastes wonderful!

Ginseng and Blackberry Jelly, the test batch. I'm out of this one. Right now I have "Ginseng Gold", which is just ginseng, and "Ginseng/Apple". Both are $25, but with the Ginseng/Apple you get twice the volume.
“Ginseng Gold”, which is just ginseng, and “Ginseng/Apple”. Both are $25, but with the Ginseng/Apple you get twice the volume.

Email me at madison(at)wildozark(dot)com if you want some.

Some botanicals from the last gathering foray.

Acorn People are a Great a Way to Justify Collecting Things

I’ve been creating Acorn People as a way to justify my obsessive habit of collecting things I find while roaming around outside.

Now I can pick up fossils, moss, lichens, leaves, twigs, and acorns and never feel a moment of uncertainty about my sanity.

I’ve been calling them Acorn Folk.

And they’re gorgeous little beings!

The Acorn Folk are part of the Forest Folk society. Fairies, pixies, gnomes, and all of the other woodland creatures that prefer to live in the shady forests belong to the same group.

Here’s the latest addition of the acorn people. She’s the Acorn Folk Sorceress, partner to the Wizard. I made the Wizard yesterday. If the pics don’t open full-size, click on them to see it larger.

As I make a new Forest Folk characters, I’ll add them to the Wild Ozark online shop, but I’m behind in my listings. I also add them to my Etsy shop. Please drop in over there and follow the Wild Ozark shop. Some of them are also at Tina’s Place on the Square in Kingston, AR.

As soon as I get caught up, I’ll start posting how I make these things so you can try it too. Or you can start out just looking at these and modeling your own to be like them.

In the meantime, here are some pics of the others.

Pixies – Miniatures by Madison Woods

Pixies are the most elusive of the unseen creatures that live at Wild Ozark. They live around you, too.

Most likely you’ve only seen the effects of them because they’re solitary creatures, working quietly in the background of nature, wherever that nature occurs.

There are pixies in the cities and in the rural areas and in the wilderness.

Pixies are Shy

They’re solitary creatures and prefer not to interact with humans if they can help it.

For a while I’ve been mulling over creating something involving pixies. Here’s a little bit about them that I’ve learned since we moved out here to the wilds.

Most of them work at things involving nature.

Lack of respect is their number one complaint. People just don’t consider them important. While they don’t want the attention, they are a bit jealous that elves and fairies get all the admiration.

All pixies have important jobs to do in the wilds and even urban settings.

They do not have the ethereal look of fairies.  By nature, they aren’t “beautiful”.

Most of them are literally close to the earth (short), and because of that they’re often are dirty little things. Not all of them have wings but they can all appear and disappear at will.

The mechanism of their ability to move quickly from one place to another nearby place without walking is not understood. I think it is magic.

Some of them, the ones that tunnel through the ground like moles, have double rows of teeth and can be quite frightening to the uninitiated. I have a short story about one of the more troublesome types of pixies. It’s a free story at most ebook retailers (except Amazon).

I decided to begin my crafting with one less intimidating.

Handmade Pixies by Madison Woods

This is Helga, the first of her line. She’s a mushroom gardener. Her hair is made from dried moss. In one hand she holds a shiny bauble (pixies love shiny baubles) and with the other she keeps her acorn cap basket balanced.

Helga was the first of the pixies ever created at Wild Ozark.
Helga was the first of the pixies ever created at Wild Ozark.

Inside the basket there are mushroom “seeds”. The set also includes a feather-lined leaf cloak for her to cover herself with while napping or wear over her head, a bauble on a stand and three mature mushrooms.

Unique Works of Art

Each creation is unique and each have their own name. The mushroom gardeners will all have the same accessories, but they’ll look a little different from each other. Well, as I get better at crafting them, they’ll look a lot different from poor original Helga.

Here’s Annabelle, under construction at the time of this photo.  She’s the second of her line, and also a Mushroom Gardener.

Freshly sculpted pixie in need of hair.
Freshly sculpted pixie in need of hair.
Annabelle with her basket of mushroom seeds. She's the second of the Wild Ozark Pixies.
Annabelle with her basket of mushroom seeds.

Here she is with her garden. Pixies use the baubles because they reflect light and they like the shiny flashes.

Annabelle tending her mushroom garden.
Annabelle tending her mushroom garden.

Each Wild Ozark Pixie set comes boxed and ready to relocate to your house. The terra cotta plate and moss are not included in mail orders, but if you pick a set up from the market booth, it is part of the package.

If you’d like to order a set of your own or for someone you know who loves nature and believes in the unseen world around us, let me know.

Your pixie will be created at the time of your order and won’t look exactly like these, but will have her or his own personality. You can request male or female and skin color.

Boxed sets make great gifts!
Boxed sets make great gifts! Website prices are discounted compared to Etsy’s listings.

To get it in time for Christmas you’ll need to order soon. If the response to this is unusually high, I’ll only take as many orders as I can be sure to complete in time.

These are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t love this little pixie (yours will be individual and won’t be identical to the one pictured, though it’ll have the same basic content), I’ll take it back and refund your money.