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.

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
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.

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.

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.

 

Elderberry Flowers Oil Infusion

Elderberry at Wild Ozark
American elderberry, Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry flowers have a light, sweet fragrance and all manners of pollinators love them.

Which Elderberry Flowers?

The variety I’m using for this is Sambucus canadensis, which is the native elderberry in our area.  Black elderberry (S. nigra) is the european comparative variety. Don’t use red elderberry if it grows in your area because that one is toxic.

Step by Step

  • Pick the elderberry flowers. But don’t pick ALL of the flowers. Save some for the pollinators and some to make berries for you and the birds.
Fresh elderberry flowers.
Fresh elderberry flowers.

Choose only the fresh flowers, just opened and not turning brown yet. You’ll have to pull the branches down where you can reach them if the flowers are too high.

  • Cut them and let them drop into your bowl.

Don’t cut all of the flowers so there will be some left for the pollinators and for berries.

Be forewarned. You’ll get showered with bugs and old petals while you’re doing this.

  • Separate the petals from the stems.
  • Spread them out on a pan and let them sit for a few minutes outside so the bugs can vacate the premises. I put them on a sheet of kraft or parchment paper, on the pan.

When you’re ready to transfer them into the jar, you can use the paper like a funnel.

Spread them outside on a pan to let the bugs escape.
Spread them outside on a pan to let the bugs escape.

 

  • Add the flowers to a jar.
  • Cover with the oil of your choice and put a cap on the jar. I used macadamia nut because I had it on hand, and coconut oil because I didn’t have enough of the macadamia alone.
Elderflowers infusing in the sun.
Elderberry flowers infusing in the sun.
  • Let it sit in the sun to infuse all day. Every once in a while turn the jar to move the oil around.
  • Strain the next day into a fresh jar. Use a wooden spoon to press the flowers to get every last drop. I had more than would fit in the pint, so grabbed another smaller jar to capture the rest.
Straining the infusion.
Straining the infusion.
  • Label your treasure! This is something I am trying to do better at.

It’s one thing for me to know what’s in a jar or bag by smell, it’s another when I have to ask someone else to retrieve something for me, based upon my description of that smell or taste. If I’m not able to physically retrieve it myself because of injury or any other reason, I need to have them labeled so someone else can do it.

Case in point is when I wanted to slather on some healing balms after my ACL/meniscus tear and couldn’t walk down the stairs to get it myself. With nothing labeled, it would have been hard to ask Rob to bring what I needed.

Labeled infusion.
Labeled infusion.
  • Strain it again the next day. Use a fresh jar and transfer the label to it. After the tiny bit of moisture from the flowers has had time to gather itself together and form little bubbles or globs beneath the oil, you need to strain it again.

This time use a piece of paper towel and pull it through the funnel until you have most of it out of the bottom. Then cut off the paper towel so only an inch or so hangs beneath the funnel.

  • Then put two coffee filters opened in the funnel and pour the oil through the coffee filters first. it’ll be slow to go through so you might have to wait a bit before pouring again. Between the coffee filter and the paper towel, the little bit of moisture should get captured.

Your resulting oil should be crystal clear with a yellow tint and the scent should be lovely and light.

  • Let me know if you make this and how you used it. I’ll be using it in lip balms this time. When the tubes arrive next week, I’ll document the process and share that here in a blog post too, so stay tuned.

Happy Harvesting!

Email me if you’d like this post in PDF format. [email protected]

2017 Farmers Market Schedule

I decided to just update the schedule on my “appearances page“. Please check there for the latest dates. The link to get there is https://www.wildozark.com/appearances-workshops-herb-walks-presentations/ 

Schedule of farmers markets & events

5/26/17 – Friday

I’ll be in Jasper, for a change of venue.  I’ll have a couple of older ginseng plants (2 yr and 3 yr plants), ginseng seedlings, ginseng jams, books, and nature art and cards. If it’s very windy, I’ll keep the ginseng inside the high-walled tote, so ask if you don’t see them if you come by. Also, if you want fresh-roasted coffee beans, I’ll have that with me too. Oh – and an item I keep forgetting to bring but is wonderful: Amazing Sting Oil! This stuff works to keep poison ivy from itching so badly, will bring down the pain and sting and swelling of wasps and hornets, too. I made some up by dissolving frankincense tears in fractionated coconut oil after my daughter told me how good it worked for her when a hornet stung her on the lip.

5/23/17 – Tuesday

Cancelled due to rain, even though now it seems as if it might not rain very much after all. I can’t pack the night before if rain chances are high because too many of my items will be ruined if it gets damp. This morning, it was raining a little, so I cancelled out.

5/16/17 – Tuesday

I’ll be in Huntsville at the Farmer’s market from 7-12. This week I’ll have a couple of older ginseng plants (2 yr and 3 yr plants), ginseng seedlings, and possibly some Heritage red raspberries if they’re ready after transplanting to the pots. Also will have ginseng jams, books, and nature art and cards. If it’s very windy, I’ll keep the ginseng inside the high-walled tote, so ask if you don’t see them if you come by.

5/2/17 – Tuesday

I won’t be there this week. The recent weather made crossing the creek to get to the nursery too difficult and it’s been far too windy to pot up more tender seedlings. As of right now, I do plan to be there next week on the 9th, but check back in case more weather or unexpected circumstances happen!

5/6/17- Pot 5 Get 1

The recent flooding has made our driveway nearly impassable except for trucks. If you plan to come to the Pot 5 Get 1 event this weekend, be sure to let me know! If no one RSVP’s, then I may not be out there if someone unexpected shows up. The nursery isn’t near the house, so unless I know someone is coming, I won’t be down there the whole time.

General Info

The Farmers Market in Huntsville (AR) will open on Tuesday, April 11. It’s early this year! Many of the vendors must already have crops ready to sell. I am going to be fairly bare-boothed for a few more weeks.

I won’t have ginseng so early, though. It’ll be May before I start bringing the plants to market. We’ll be there every Tuesday. Once the ginseng is ready, we’ll be there some Saturday’s also.

However, I will have other items. When I see what sells best, I’ll adjust what I bring more of accordingly. Art generally does not seem to sell so much at farmers market venues, but I’m experimenting with a couple of different forms of it to see if that makes a difference.

Nature Art Cards

I’ve searched high and low to source the materials for my cards from companies in the US. These are 100% Made in the USA cards. The paper, ink, and art was all created right here in the United States. The cards are fine art paper and are blank inside with a drawing assemblage on the front made from one of my original works of art mounted on kraft paper.

Nature Art Note Cards by Madison Woods
Available directly from me, and coming soon to the Westwood Garden Nursery stores in northwest Arkansas.

Nature Art Prints

Tree Priestess will make her debut at the Huntsville Farmers Market this year.
Tree Priestess

I’ll have a few of the 5 x 7 or 4 x 6 prints of the Tree Priestess, and Slug on Poison Ivy. I’ll have others when my printing supplies come in. The paper I usually order is out of stock and other than that one favorite brand and type, I’m not sure what else to use. It’s too expensive to try and have it fail in the printer to just pick another. So more research is in order for that if my trusted supplier doesn’t restock.

Jams

While supplies last, which I suspect won’t be long, I’ll have some of the ginseng jams left. I will have other jams and jellies as I get them made, including red onion marmalade, wild plum jelly, and blackberry if it’s good seasons for the wild fruits this year.

Fairy Gardens

Our latest product creation is these adorable homestead fairy habitats. Going through shipping trials now! Sign up for the newsletter or watch the blog to know when they're listed in our Boutique.

I’ll have a couple of the fairy gardens, but again, I’m out of the globes for them and need to order more. Basically, I need to make some money before I can order all the things I’m short on, so hopefully the opening day will bring cash flow, too.

Books

I’ll have some of the ginseng look-alikes guide, at least, on opening day. The book order with the rest of my books won’t be here until the following week, though.

What Else?

That’s about it for my lineup. I’m not sure what everyone else is bringing, but it should be a good variety of things this year. The Huntsville Farmers Market has grown to more than 10 vendors, from what I hear, so it will be fun! Come out to see what else is there, and say hello to me while you’re  at it.

Ginseng Seedlings for Sale! At the Huntsville Farmer’s Market on Tuesday

Market Day April 18, 2017

I’m just going to update and repost this same market page each Monday night before market.

Tomorrow I’ll have ginseng seedlings, a couple of older ginseng plants, and various companion plants including blue cohosh, doll’s eyes, bloodroot,  and maidenhair fern.

Ginseng Companion Plants ready for market day.
Ginseng Companion Plants ready for market day. Pic may be sideways because it’s from my phone and I can’t figure out how to make it stay upright in WordPress, lol.

I’ll also have the books, art, and ginseng jams.

Hope to see you there!

April 11, 2017

The Huntsville (Arkansas) Farmers Market 2017 season is set to begin. Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 11) is the first market day this year.

Wild Ozark will be there, but it’s too early for plants. Tomorrow we’ll have ginseng jam, winter crud/cough syrup (jam), books, and nature art cards and drawings. If I can find a way to pack it in the car, I might bring my herb hanger.

Next week I should have some plants ready to go, including ginseng seedlings.

If you’re in the area stop in and say hello!

It's market day tomorrow! Wild Ozark's Market booth
I might not have the banner hanging until I get more grommets, but look for the tan top and green curtains 🙂

Sunrise Sounds at Wild Ozark

In the mornings, we don’t hear highway noise of people rushing to get to work on time. Our sunrise sounds belong to nature.

Sunrise Sounds

Remodeling

We’ve been particularly busy lately here. Rob’s remodeling the bathroom. We thought it might be a weekend project, just a new coat of paint and put up some trim.

Ha. Well, it’s almost three weeks later now and we have had a bit of stress over the bathroom. Ended up needing a new shower door, too. It looks great, even if the cost was the vanity top we left behind busted up in the parking lot at Home Depot.

Image to accompany the Sunrise Sounds post.
shower doors

Garden

We finally got our garden started yesterday.

Yesterday Rob said “We need to get those onions planted before the rains come.”

Translated: “You should go out there and plant those onions while I’m in here working on the shower door.”

It was already on my list of things to do anyway. Grandgirl Chloe was over and I thought she’d like to help. She loves to plant things. So we gathered our tools and seeds and head down there.

Then when I started to make the first row, the hoe just “plinked” when it hit the ground. It was hard as a rock. I knew right then we had a problem.

And so I scratched a line in the dirt and gave the rake to Chloe and said “here, why don’t you rake that way (waves hand toward other end of garden) while I go get the shovel?”

Poor thing, she’s so eager. When I came back from getting the shovel I could barely see where she’d been raking, lol, and she was huffing and puffing. I didn’t think she’d keep going once I’d gotten out of sight.

So I started digging with the shovel, to turn over the row since the hoe wasn’t working. Plink! The shovel wouldn’t even go in.

The dirt was like baked clay and all I managed to get done was a pathetic scratch on the surface.

By the time Rob got out there to see what I’d gotten done I was so mad that if he would have commented on how little progress I’d made I would have given him the shovel and hoe and dared him to make the rows.

But he didn’t say that! He asked if I wanted him to get the tractor out to break it up, hahahahahahaha, and so that’s what he did and then he helped me get them planted.

I was hurting so bad by the time we got to bed last night but it felt good to get started.

Getting started on the garden.

We’d like to grow all the things we normally like to eat, but that’s going to take some time.

After yesterday’s efforts we only have onions planted.

At least when we’re toiling, we’re getting to hear sunrise sounds and other noises mostly originating in nature while we’re doing it.

Compost Sifter

Rocks are everywhere here at Wild Ozark. Even when I rake leaves or clean out the chicken house I get rocks mixed in. A compost sifter would help when I’m trying to separate rocks and weeds out of the pile.

Compost Sifter Concept to Reality

I had an idea in mind of what I wanted and so I made a little sketch to show my husband.

Later that day he came into the house carrying a real-life version of exactly what I’d sketched, except his was perfect. Not like my drawing, which is NOT a good example of my artistic skill …

Compost Sifter my husband built from my sketch.

Perfection

If I had built this myself, I know it wouldn’t have been properly squared. There wouldn’t have been the attention to the details Rob gives to everything he builds or creates. He even angled the feet. On both ends.

Garden Work

If Spring ever returns, I’ll get to work with my new compost sifter on the manure pile for the garden.

Our new garden is raked (thanks to the rake he just rebuilt for the tractor) and looking very nice, but it too is peppered with small rocks on the surface. I know larger ones are hiding just beneath the top. So I might sift a little spot for each plant as I set them out so they can get a good start. We’ll see. That might be too much work.

Starting Seeds and Straightening Tines

Yesterday I decided it was time to get busy starting seeds for our garden. Hauled the seed vault out and began the painful process of picking which of the very many seeds I have saved that I want to start first.

Starting Seeds Means Choosing WHICH Seeds

The pile quickly grew too large.

And so I went through it again.

And again, until the pile was narrowed down to a manageable stack.

Starting seeds means choosing WHICH seeds to start.
Starting seeds means choosing WHICH seeds to start.

The Seed List for the First Round

Here’s what I ended up with:

  • Broccoli (might be a little late for this one)
  • Paris Island lettuce
  • Black seeded Simpson lettuce
  • Oakleaf lettuce
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Bloomsdale spinach
  • Colorado blue spruce (we just love these trees)
  • Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa)
  • Beebalm (Monarda didyma)
  • Hopi tobacco
Waiting to sprout.
Waiting to sprout.

In the Meantime…

Rob was working in his shop straightening the tines and bar for his rock rake. A couple of years ago during the landslide aftermath, the rake was collateral damage in the effort to cut a new driveway.

Our friend who had been working on the bulldozer making the road better had to exit the site quickly because lightning started striking far too close for comfort. Since being encased in a metal vehicle didn’t seem like such a good idea at the time, he accidentally hit the rake backing the dozer out of the creek.

But Rob’s a masterful welder and craftsman and he made it even better than before.

Refabricated bar on the rock rake.
Refabricated bar on the rock rake.
The spindle looks pretty strong!
The spindle looks pretty strong!
Look at those uniform and perfect tines!
Look at those uniform and perfect tines!

An Herbal Remedy for Winter Crud featuring Mullein, Ginseng, Beebalm, and Echinacea

Here’s my recipe for an herbal remedy I use every year to combat what we’ve come to call “Winter Crud”. We also take it at the first sign of anything that feels like trouble coming on. This year’s formula uses mullein, echinacea, ginseng, and beebalm. I’ll update and repost this every year to tell you which herb’s I’m using and whether I’ve changed anything about how I’m making it.

My recipe for this year's Winter Crud syrup.
click to enlarge or print

Ugh. Winter Crud

I’m sure there’s a real name for it, but I don’t know what it is. We just call it the “winter crud” or “creeping crud” or “that *bleeping* cough that lingers forever”. I don’t usually go to the doctor because I’m worried that there might be even more serious ailments lurking inside the office waiting room than the one currently plaguing me. So I generally rely on my trusty herbal allies unless it’s acute or serious.

The symptoms are always the same: deep congestion that’s hard to cough up, sometimes a low fever for a day or two at the beginning, and a few weeks of long-lingering congested cough.

Inevitably someone in the family gets it. Usually the whole household gets it. And so I like to have it ready to go. Most years I make extra for Christmas gifts, but this year I procrastinated too long.

My reservations

Generally I don’t blog much about my herbal remedies because it feels like slippery ground when it comes to sharing that information outside my own little network of like-minded family and friends. But I’ve really had great results with this one and thought I’d share.

Please make sure you research these herbs to find out if they’re suitable for you and your conditions. Just the sugar alone is enough to send a diabetic into crisis.

I am not a doctor and am not prescribing or advising you to try this remedy. I’m just sharing how I make it and what I use it for. If you want me to make some for you, though, I will do that. See the link at the bottom of this post.

Dried mullein and echinacea root getting ready to decoct.
Took the photo before adding the ginseng. Dried mullein and echinacea root getting ready to decoct.

The Ingredients

The precise list of ingredients I use for anything at all changes according to what I managed to gather the summer and fall before.

Today’s ingredient list for this year’s Winter Crud syrup features wild American ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius), mullein leaves (Verbascum thapsus), beebalm flower, stem, and leaf (Monarda fistulosa), and echinacea root, leaf stem, and flower (Echinacea purpurea).

Wildcrafting

All of the herbs except the cinnamon were responsibly foraged from right here at Wild Ozark. I never take more than a small percentage of ginseng (or any other roots) from a colony. When taking flowers, I always leave half behind for the pollinators. There is no shortage of mullein anywhere so I am less concerned with conservation of that herb.

I had blackberry syrup on hand from a failed batch of jelly this past summer, so I’m using it for the sugar content and for flavor. You can skip that ingredient and add back a cup of sugar to the recipe.

The Most Important Ingredient

The syrup must have mullein for it to be useful for this remedy at all, and thankfully mullein is easily found almost all year long here. I think the beebalm and ginseng also add a lot to the effectiveness. But if all I had was mullein, I’d go with it. And if sugar is an issue for you, it works just as well as a decoction alone. You’ll have to use it within a few days because the sugar is a preservative. It just won’t taste as good, but it’s a tolerable flavor.

I give instructions on how to make a decoction in my book 10 Common Plants Worth Knowing, but that one is for witch hazel tonic.  Here’s a procedure for the mullein decoction recipe  you can download. It’s in PDF format. Just save it to your hard-drive or print it out.

I’d love it if you’d “pin” it to Pinterest for me:

Wild Ozark's Mullein/Beebalm decoction procedure

Mullein needs to be strained more thoroughly than most other herbs because of the hairs on the leaves. Make the decoction with the mullein, ginseng, and echinacea roots. Then add the leafy parts of herbs in the last phase of making the decoction, just before the final reduction.

DIY?

You could make it yourself and it’s a great project to do so. If you try it and need to ask questions just email me. If you don’t have the ingredients or don’t want to spend a day stirring the cauldron, you can buy a pint from me.

Bringing Hay to Horses in Snow

After yesterday’s post where I reveled in the fact that we’d actually had a decent snowfall, we went out in the cold to bring hay to horses. The temperature was about 15*F with a windchill factor of I don’t know what, but I’m sure ridiculously cold.

Bringing Hay to Horses in Snow
Heading toward the hay stash.

Rob takes the tractor and I go ahead of him on the 4-wheeler to open the gate. Well. I’m behind him when I took this photo, but after snapping the pic of him going down the driveway, I turned around. The gate I need to open is the other direction, through the creek and over the hill at the top of the horses’ pasture.

It was COLD.

Comanche watching our approach with the hay.
Comanche watching and waiting for the tractor to arrive.

My fingers and toes were frozen. I periodically put my hands (gloves on) inside my jacket and under my arm. This warmed them up alright, but brought with it the pain and stinging of defrosting fingers.

The horses were thrilled to see the hay arrive.

Comanche in the back, Shasta in front. Kicking up heels in delight. And because Bobbie Sue was harassing them.
Comanche in the back, Shasta in front. Kicking up heels in delight. And because Bobbie Sue was harassing them.

Getting back up the hill to the house was an adventure all by itself. The tractor going down it as we left out on our mission had crushed the snow and made ice. Then it made more when it went back up. I swerved, spun tires and slid sideways and had a grand time making the 4wheeler get back home.

It felt deliciously good to go back inside the house and take off the coveralls, the gloves, and snow boots in front of the crackling wood stove.


 

Can’t see the Trees for the Forest, or rather, Snowflakes for the Snow

Yesterday we only had a little bit of snow and each little snowflake was easy to see and photograph. Now it is like not being able to see the trees for the forest. Can’t see the snowflakes for the snow.

Snow Makes the Cold More Bearable … for a little while

But I love it. I enjoy the crunchy sound of snow beneath my feet and take great pleasure in being the first to walk smooth snowy paths. But it’s cold, and I can’t keep my toes warm long enough to stay outside more than a little while.

Snowy Morning Scenes

Here’s some scenes from my feeding of critters round this morning. The dogs love the snow. Chickens are indifferent. Cats are reluctant. And the horses were just downright pissed that I took so many photo stops on the way to feeding them.

Trees for the Forest. Hen House in the Snow

Wet water (as opposed to frozen water) and food time for critters.
Wet water (as opposed to frozen water) and food time for critters. Turbo’s and the chickens’ water buckets aren’t heated, so I have to add warm water so they can drink after eating their breakfast. But they have to get to it quick while it’s still wet.

"Yucky snow."
“Yucky snow.”

Big Oak Crown

They're not sure what all the fuss is about. It's just snow.
They’re not sure what all the fuss is about. It’s just snow.

 

Horse-sickles
"Quit with the pictures and get down here and feed us!"
“Quit with the pictures and get down here and feed us!”

 

Old Tractor in Snow

The first good snow for the shop.
The first good snow for the shop.

Trees for the Forest

It’s easy to lose track of the little things that bring pleasure and joy when there’s a long list of things that need to get done and time is feeling rushed. Slowing down to take note of simple pleasures is kind of like noticing the trees in the forest, or individual snowflakes in the snowstorms. Or like stopping to smell the roses.

I’m full of metaphors this morning, I know. But I think you ‘get my drift’.

We have to go out and cut firewood in a little while, and bring hay to the horses. It’s not as fun when fingers and toes are frozen, but at least the sun is coming out now. The high today, not counting wind chill is only supposed to be 19*F.

I hope you’re enjoying your winter weather this weekend too. Stay warm!

How to Identify Plants in the Wild, How to Search and Find Clues

Earlier this year I surveyed my newsletter members for their top questions. Here’s one about how to identify plants found in the outdoors.

Top Questions

It’s more of a comment than a question, but I’m creating this post in response to it. Although I’ve paraphrased some, I believe the underlying question would be “how to identify plants found in the wild”:

“My problem is being able to identify the plant, tree, bush and vine when I find them in the open outdoors. Would appreciate seeing pictures and descriptions when reading about them.”

I’ve never really paid attention to the steps I take when I’m trying to identify a new plant, but I’ll try to organize my process for you.

If any of you out there reading this have other methods you use, please comment. The more input from others, the more information this reader will have to draw on.

Learning to identify plants in the wild. What is this plant?
Our example plant to identify. It looks tender, it’s green, and likes moist ground.

The First Thing

First thing for me is to look for flowers. If there are flowers, I usually go to the web and search through wildflower databases for my area. I start with USWildflowers.com. The link is to the Arkansas database. On the right hand side they’re organized by color of the flower.

This is just a starting point if I know nothing other than the color of the flower. If I had an idea of which family the plant belonged to, that would give some extra clues to start the search. For example, if the stems were square, I’d start searching plants of the mint family.

Looking for Clues

However, in the photo I posted, there are no flowers. And I can’t see the stem shape well enough to say if it’s square or round. It is green. It looks tender. And it must like moist ground. It’s been pretty cold outside and yet it’s still green, too. So these are all good clues to use.

Know some Botany

It will help to have some basic botany so you’ll know if the leaves are opposite or alternate, are they attached to the stem by petioles or not, are they “clasping”? Clasping leaves wrap around the stem where they join. Petioles are little stems at the leaf base where it attaches to the larger stem. It is the “leafstalk”. Sometimes the stem seems to go *through* the leaf.

Understanding the Latin

The botanical names of plants offer a lot of clues and can help you when you’re trying to figure out if the photo of the plant you’re looking at is the same as the one you are trying to identify.

For example, let’s go back to the leaves that have the stems going through them. The plants with leaves that do this most often have the word “perfoliate” or some derivative of that word as part of the Latin binomial. It means to perforate, or go through.

If you’ve found a photo that looks a lot like your plant, and if the latin last name of that plant doesn’t match what you think you’ve found, then it’s a good clue that your identification is wrong. It is just as important to know when you’re wrong as it is to know when you’re right.

Using the Internet

If you have access to the internet, it makes identification a lot easier. If I had to start the search knowing nothing except what I can see in the photo above, I’d search using this:

tender green wild plant

It looks tender in the photo. I imagine if I pulled on it, it would come up easily. It just looks like it has shallow roots because it looks so tender.

So this is the results page for my search of the term listed above. You’ll have to click on this link and I hope it displays the same way I’m seeing it or the rest of this section might not make a lot of sense. (Note: it does not display the same on all screens. On my laptop it is the first, seventh and eleventh photos.)

The first, seventh, and thirteenth pictures are the ones that look a lot like the plant I’m trying to identify. The first one has flowers on it, but the leaves look the same. The thirteenth looks most similar. I’m going to click on the thirteenth one first and see what it says. I get “Page Not Found”. So I’ll click on the seventh image.

A Name to Go On

Aha – that one gives me a common name without having to go all the way through to a website. “Chickweed”. When I do click through to the website, it gives a very detailed write-up about chickweed, or Stellaria media. I’ll take that information and compare the details to my plant, and then look up chickweed in a few other places to compare all the data.

In this case, finding the Latin name didn’t offer me a lot of clues. Mainly that’s because there are no flowers on it right now, but “stellaria” refers to little stars, and the flowers are like tiny stars. “media” refers to middle or in the midst of. I’ve seen explanations that say it’s named so because the mound of greenery covered with flowers does indeed look as if you’re in the midst of stars.

However, I believe it’s named so because in the middle of the end of each stalk is where you’ll find the “little stars”.

Extra Measures

Verify the species

There are often other species of plants that have slightly different features. Smooth or hairy are common ones. Often the differences don’t matter in whether the two can be used in the same way. But in the case of chickweed, it matters to me.

There are some types that are hairy and won’t be very good in a salad. Not only is this one pictured below hairy, it’s not even the same genus/species even though it is still called “chickweed” and looks similar:

2. mouse-eared chickweed
Mouse-eared chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum). This one won’t have the same tender palatability the first one, the photo I started this search with, will.

Other times, the different species will have entirely different properties. If you’re using plants medicinally, this will matter a lot. Even when it comes to flavor and taste for edible domestic plants, like apples, you can easily tell a difference between one variety and the next by flavor and texture, let alone between species.

Stellaria media a.k.a. Chickweed- Good food and medicine from nature.
Stellaria media a.k.a. Chickweed- Good food and medicine from nature.

Wait for Flowers

Watch plants you’re not certain about for a full year. See if it flowers. If it does, will it set fruit? How do the seed pods look, and how are the seeds dispersed? Observing a whole season of growth and change offers lots of clues and helps greatly to identify plants.

These things all give important clues. You may also want to dig up a plant to see what kinds of roots it has. Is it a taproot or shallow rooted? Maybe it’s a rhizome or a bulb. These are very important clues.

Not Using the Internet

Real books are an old standby when it comes to needing to identify plants.

Without the internet, you’d need to use identification books like Peterson Field Guides. One of the ones I use often is by Steven Foster & James A. Duke, the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants & Herbs.

Another good book to have on hand, if you’re in Arkansas, is Carl G. Hunter’s Wildflowers of Arkansas. It’s out of print now, but you can find it still through Amazon or on eBay or from a used book store.

And yet another favorite is Wildman Steve Brill’s Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants.

It’s a good idea to have real books stashed away somewhere to help you identify plants in the event there is no internet available to use.

When I’m using books, I usually flip through all of the pages to familiarize myself with how it’s organized. Then unless the book is “keyed” I start from the beginning and look for clues.

If the book is keyed, which means it gives you starting points for things like leaf structure and leads you on yes-no answers to the most likely categories. For example, it’ll ask if the leaves are opposite. If yes, follow through to the next question. Depending on the answers it directs you to the next question, and so on. This is where understanding some of the botanical terms will help a lot.

Other Internet Resources

Although not an Ozark site, here’s a one that uses keys to help with identification: https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/simple/. Many of our plants here are present there as well, so it could still be useful. But the main reason I am referring it is to show how a keyed book or search works.

I’ve been a member of a FB group about the native plants of Arkansas and the members of this group are always willing and ready to help with identification. If you’re on Facebook, a group for the plants of your area is another resource you might like to try.


Have fun in your quest to identify plants!

If you have questions or information to add about this topic, please comment. If there is a lot of interest in this introductory post, I will do another more detailed post on the types of terms that I use need to know most often, especially leaf arrangement and structure, and a little more on how understanding the Latin can help you identify plants more easily.