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
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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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.

 

 

Keeping up the Juggling Act

It’s the holiday season, so it stands to reason that lots of folks are juggling lots of things in their lives these days.

Juggling and Not Too Successfully

I’ve been dropping a few balls lately. Right now the ones on the ground relate to baking bread. Ha. And I had such good intentions!

My own juggling really has nothing to do with the added tasks of the holidays. I haven’t even started dealing with those issues, yet. So you can see the mess I’m about to make with the balls still in the air …

Anyway, back to baking bread.

Why am I baking bread?

Because we’re out of it since yesterday morning, that’s why.

Why not just get some from the store?

Because I have to go out to town when a package I’m waiting on arrives in Springdale. Doesn’t make sense? Well, to go to town for groceries alone is a half-a-day excursion here if I’m just going to the nearest town with a grocery store. Springdale is a good hour-and-a-half away and if I’m going to go out for that I might as well get everything else on my list while I’m at it.

So I decided I’d just bake some bread and wait until tomorrow to go out.

Part of my juggling act today. Need to grind some wheat.
Had to clean all the dust off the grinder first.

Of course the pictures loaded and turned sideways. Do they look sideways to you too? Throw that ball on the floor too, dammit.

To bake bread means I have to grind some wheat. What?! I hear you asking already, why don’t I just use the flour in the pantry?

*Sigh*

Yeah, I’m laughing too.

There isn’t enough flour in the pantry. Guess what? They sell that stuff at the grocery store I’m not going to today, too.

But I do have wheat that I can grind. And enough regular flour to cut it so the ball of dough actually rises into a loaf.

Stuff all over the counter. Balls dropped when the phone rang.

So I have all the ingredients for this project out and in progress when the phone rings.

Guess what?

The package is arriving at the DHL facility in Springdale in a couple of hours.

So I look at the mess I’ve got scattered all over the counters, consider my options … and decide I might just throw all this back into the cabinet and go out and buy that loaf of bread today.

Balls all over the floor.

I did manage to get one thing on my writerly to-do list done today, though. I created a virtual flipbook of my latest release. This morning I finally figured out how to get it loaded onto this website so I can share it with you.

It’s posted on the product pages for “Ginseng Look-Alikes” so browsers can flip through the whole book just like they could if it were in a real-life bookstore. Then if they decide they like it, they can click through and buy it.

Balls Still Airborne

At least there’s that ball still in the air. Now I’m going to clean up the kitchen and get ready to go out to town. If you get a chance to take a look at my flipbook, would you leave me a review at Amazon? I put the book out too early a few weeks ago.

And More Balls on the Floor

The one review on that dismal first go of it is a very honest, terribly unhappy buyer who left me two stars.

If you think it’s a decent product now, let me know. If you think it’s still as bad as the first reviewer thinks, let me know. I need to take it down if it’s that bad!

Get in Shape with Nature- Starting out the Day Hot & Sweaty

This morning kicked off my first effort at returning to a daily walk/jog routine. It’s time to get in shape after 6 months of trying to take it easy.

Get in Shape

I can’t *really* jog yet. My knee is still testy after tearing the ACL and meniscus in April of this year. But I can slow-jog/fast-walk. That’s a pretty hilarious thing to see, I’m sure, but thankfully there is no one here to fall to the ground in laughter. I can make funny maneuvers to my heart’s content.

This morning I didn’t bring my camera so I wouldn’t be tempted to stop and take pictures. The point is to get sustained heart rate elevation. I didn’t almost step on any snakes or encounter any bears, so no excessive heart rate elevation occurred either.

I’m pretty sure I could manage to run fast if something was chasing me, but I’m not ready to test the theory.

Bears, Lions, & Snakes

There have been bears in the area, though not yet spotted on the driveway.  This one is trying to reach the deer feeder on the mountain.

Running from a bear would certainly help me get in shape! Wild Ozark Bear 2016
Running from a bear would certainly help me get in shape!

There is a big cat (either a large bobcat or a cougar) in the area too. I saw big cat tracks in the soft new dirt on the driveway yesterday. Snakes are always in the area, but rattlesnake mating season is upon us and so the rattlers are out and about.

The thing that would bother me the most about seeing any of this wildlife is the fact that my camera would be at home, sitting on the table. But then again, that might be a good thing because I’d be able to move with so much more focus on escape without it.

Good Luck!

Anyway, wish me luck in my continued effort to get back in shape. The next few days are always the hardest for me to push through. Are you working on new exercise programs or have had success with long-lasting ones?

Installing a Culvert Retaining Wall was Today’s Homestead Project

Today I built a culvert retaining wall for the culvert on the shop driveway to keep it from washing out around the sides. I was grateful for the overcast and dreary day so I could do this work without getting burnt to a crisp or dehydrated.

Sloped Lands = Washed out Culverts

Almost all of our homestead area is sloped. Some of it is sloped pretty steep and when it rains, it tends to wash out around the culverts.

We needed a culvert retaining wall new culvert for the shop driveway to keep this from worsening the situation.

The culvert before I started working on it.
The culvert before I started working on it.

You can see the buildup of silt in front of it and where it’s starting to wash out around the upper sides. When we traveled to Germany a few years ago, there was so many rock wall structures and I loved seeing them. I’ve seen many of the culvert retaining walls here in the Ozarks, too. Building them is hard work, but a structure that is both beautiful AND functional is such a nice combination to me.

I was determined to try and I had the idea in mind of how I wanted it to look.

Getting started on the Culvert Retaining Wall

Rob brought a nice pile of rocks to the worksite from a pile of rocks by the creek with his front end loader. So much easier than walking around to gather rocks from the area!

The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.
The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.

Ordinarily, I would take photos of all the steps along the way in a project like this. But with it looking like it might rain at any minute, I didn’t want to have the camera out there.

But that’s not the only reason I didn’t take pictures between the start and finish. The work was hard and I was too tired to take pictures when I did take breaks.

First Step

The first thing to do is to dig out around the culvert. I also dug a little beneath it so I could place the “floor” stone.

Then I chose an assortment of various sized rocks from the pile and brought them closer so I could reach without getting in and out of the ditch.

If the rock I wanted to use was too big for the spot, I dug out a little more. Keep in mind that all the dirt had to be removed from the ditch. This was the hardest part of the entire job.

The digging and shoveling out of the dirt was not enjoyable and it was extremely tiring. But it had to be done before I could stack the rocks around the sides.

One of the rocks broke when I dropped it and when the shard came off of it, I saw that it was a beautiful pink sandstone. Most of the rocks here are sandstone, but some are prettier than others. This was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

Pink sandstone from the Ozarks.
Pink sandstone

 

For each layer, or “course”, I dug out deeper than the rock needed it to be. Deeper, as in deeper into the side, not deeper downward. Then I backfilled behind each course with the small stones and soil that I’d taken out initially.

Irregular Rocks

These rocks aren’t uniformly shaped, as you can see in the photo below, and they don’t stack one on top the other without some shimming with flat or smaller smaller stones.

Once it was all done, I was pleased to note that I’d done a pretty good job of keeping it all level. That’s not always easy to do with odd-shaped rocks.

The finished culvert retaining wall.
The finished culvert retaining wall.

So that was my project.

The Other End

While I worked on the entrance end, Rob worked on the exit end. Two culverts intersect there and it also has a tendency to wash out, but in a different way.

Different Problems need Different Solutions

So it needed a different kind of rock work. He put big flat rocks on the sides and bottom after digging out the accumulated silt. This will help keep it from washing out on the sides and bottom.

The floor on the exit side of culvert.
The floor on the exit side of culvert.

Homesteading can be backbreaking, muscle-exhausting work. But I love living out here and I love seeing the results of all of our hard work. I just hope when the next rain comes it doesn’t wash it all away!

No Water

This morning I turned on the faucet to put some water on my toothbrush.

photo of faucet dripping
No water this morning. Not that I used the outdoor faucet to wet my toothbrush, but this was the only photo of a dripping faucet I had.

Nothing but a few drops came out. Then, nothing. No water.

No Water

My thoughts immediately led to the question in my mind, which was “Where did all the water go?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve had nothing at the faucet first thing in the morning, but it’s been a long time.

It always takes me by surprise when this happens and results in a few moments of disbelief.

Especially when I haven’t had my coffee yet.

So I took a quick look around outside to see if I left the hose on or whether the auto-waterer on the animal’s bucket overflowed.

Nothing obvious turned up.

What it turned out to be was the downstairs toilet. It didn’t stop running the last time someone flushed.

Yay for quick fixes!

When someone in the city has water running all night, they get a whopper utility bill.

When someone on spring water leaves the water running all night, they run out of water.

At least this time, by making sure the toilet wasn’t trying to refill, our water shortage would soon mend itself.

It can take as long as 24 hours for the water storage tank up the hill to completely fill. Within a few hours we were able to at least flush toilets again.

Water Conservation

This is one of the *big adjustments*. It’s such a big change of thinking that it is more accurately called a paradigm change.

When we moved from an urban environment to the very rural Ozarks, we had to make quite a few changes in our awareness. Staying conscious of our limited water resource is probably the biggest of the adjustments we had to make.

Out here, it’s really important to know when we can afford to “waste” water. Our spring has greater flow at certain times and lower flow at others. So during times of low flow we are careful to wash clothes only as needed, wash dishes only as needed, and be more conservative in all water usage.

flat rocks in creek
Water is one of our most precious resources. It is for everyone, everywhere.

 

Photos of Plants – Medicinal & Useful plants down the Wild Ozark Driveway

I’m still mostly stuck in the house because of my knee (dislocated it a little over a week ago) but I took the four-wheeler and camera down the driveway to get a few photos of plants unfurling or coming into bloom.

Doll’s Eyes versus Black Cohosh

Late last year, after the flood in summer, I divided and planted what I was pretty sure was black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) on one side of a rock and what I was pretty sure was Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda) on the other side of the same rock.

Photos of plants : black cohosh
Black cohosh, not sure if they’ll make flowers this year or not, but I hope so. That way I’ll have an absolute positive ID on them.
Photos of plants: Doll's Eyes (White Baneberry).
On the other side of the rock is Doll’s Eyes (White Baneberry).

I planted them near each other so I could watch them side by side as they grew. These two plants are the hardest two plants for me to tell apart. But I’m beginning to see the differences between the two and today one of them bloomed which gives me a positive identification at least on the one. I’ll make a blog post about the differences I’m seeing later on this week. I made a post last year about my difficulty telling them apart.

The reason learning the difference is so important to me is because I want to harvest the roots of black cohosh to have on hand for medicinal uses. The roots are antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and are useful for menopausal or PMS symptoms. The best time to harvest a plant for the roots is after they’ve finished flowering and the leaves are beginning to die back. Mistaking the doll’s eyes for cohosh would be a bad mistake, possibly deadly. To make certain I’m digging the right plant once there isn’t a flower to judge by, I’m going to tie a ribbon around the base of the cohosh plants.

More Photos of Plants

The mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) are blooming in profusion. Maybe this year I’ll get to try the fruit. I always miss them when it’s time to harvest. Mayapple roots and the whole plant except for the ripe fruit are poisonous, but were used medicinally by native Americans. The roots are used to make cancer medicines.

A plant medicinal in very small quantities can be very toxic in too large a quantity. I read a story somewhere a while back about campers who had confused this plant with goldenseal. They thought that they’d make a tea with “goldenseal” to improve their odds of passing a drug screening (apparently they had smoked some weed while camping). The mistake was fatal for one of them because the mayapple tea caused liver failure.

photos of plants-Mayapple in bloom
Mayapple in bloom
Mayapple flower
Mayapple flower

The red honeysuckle was blooming. This is one of our native honeysuckles and isn’t invasive like the sweetly scented Japanese honeysuckle that chokes out everything it grows on. The red one is a valued nectar source for hummingbirds and certain bumble bees with long tongues. Not all bumbles have long tongues.

Native red honeysuckle.
Native red honeysuckle.

The Ohio buckeyes are blooming. When this tree is very young and only about a foot tall, it looks very much like ginseng. Aside from Virginia creeper, t’s one of the look-alikes most often mistaken for more valuable plant. I don’t use the buckeyes for anything. They’re a relative to horse chestnut which is useful for strengthening capillaries, but I don’t think our native variety has the same properties. Butterflies seem to enjoy the flowers, though.

Ohio Buckeye
Ohio Buckeye

I usually take photos of plants, not so often of animals. The main reason why is because the animals move too quickly or are too far away for my lens. But I got a decent one of a hawk in a tree. Rob is the raptor expert in our household. So I’m always trying to get pictures of the hawks so he can tell me what kind they are.

Broad-winged Hawk against a very blue sky.
Broad-winged Hawk against a very blue sky.

The southern black haw is blooming, too. Viburnum root is a component in one of my favorite antispasmodic recipes. The variety that grows here is V. rufidulum and may have similar properties. I haven’t tried it yet to see if it is as effective as V. prunifolium. The berries on our native are edible and I’ve tasted one before but haven’t tried using them to make anything yet. The flavor was sweet but the fruits weren’t real juicy or as pleasant to eat as wild raspberries.

Southern Black Haw in flower.
Southern Black Haw in flower.

Rob has been working on the landslide since he’s been home. There’s a lot to do on this particular project, and I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those never-ending sort of jobs. But he has to get it opened up so concrete trucks can get up to the house where he wants to build his shop, so it’s the top priority in our list of homestead chores right now. We need the shop to make working on all of the other things easier.

Getting started on clearing the driveway after the landslide last year.
Getting started on clearing the driveway after the landslide last year.
After day one of working on clearing the landslide.
After day one of working on clearing the landslide.
And by the end of day 2, new earth moved into the work area.
And by the end of day 2, new earth moved into the work area.

 

It felt good to get out and look at plants again and to get over to the driveway worksite. The four-wheeler had been in the shop for repairs so until we got it back the other day I was limited to walking inside the house or to and from the truck. While stuck in bed for the first few days after hurting my knee, I worked on a drawing of ginseng.

 

How to move a round bale without a hay spike by using the front-end loader instead.

I’ve been using a chain with the tractor and front end loader to move round bales to the horses. We don’t have a hay spike or fork attachment.

This how-to assumes you have a tractor with a front end loader attachment. Before we had a tractor, I used to fork hay each day to the horses, or carry flakes from square bales out to them.

Buying a tractor was a huge investment but it is one we have thoroughly appreciated making every time we use it. And we use it a lot for a variety of farm and homestead chores.

We move round bales without a hay spike with our tractor's front end loader.
We move round bales without a hay spike with our tractor’s front end loader.

While Rob was working an overseas contract, I had to learn how to do some things on it myself. Before he left, he taught me how to go front and backwards on it and then my dad showed me how to use the bucket and supervised a little more learning of the frontwards and backwards skills, ha. I’d never used a tractor before, so I was a little bit intimidated at the beginning.

During very cold spells, the horses need a lot more hay throughout the day and night than they do when there’s grass to be had in the fields. Learning to use the tractor meant I could do this chore only once a week instead of day and night.

We don’t have a hay spike or fork attachment for the tractor, so we use chains to move a round bale with the front-end loader instead.

 

We keep the chains in a tool box mounted to the tractor fender.
We keep the chains in a tool box mounted to the tractor fender.

The chain is a logging chain with hooks on both ends. Rob welded hooks to the top of the bucket and this makes using chains easy for lots of things. I use them for moving the hay and we’ve used them for lifting fence posts, trees, implements, anything at all that needs a chain and lift or pull.

You can do it without the hooks, but it’s more tedious because you’ll have to wrap the chain around the bucket and use the chain hooks to secure it or shackles.

 

The hooks Rob welded onto the front end loader bucket have many uses. I use them for moving round bales without a hay spike.
The hooks Rob welded onto the front end loader bucket have many uses. I use them for moving round bales without a hay spike.

First of all, pull the tractor in front of the bale to be moved and drop the bucket. Tilt it so the blade is downward (in dumping position) and on the ground. You should be flush with the bale at the top of the bucket.

Put the first end of the chain in the hook.
Put the first end of the chain in the hook.

After hooking the chain to the bucket, bring the other end of the chain around to hang low on the hay bale. There’s a sweet spot for placement. Too low and the bale will tip out when you lift the bucket. Too high and the bale will droop too low once lifted.

To lift the bale wrap the chain around the lower half but not too low or it will tip when you lift.
To lift the bale wrap the chain around the lower half but not too low or it will tip when you lift.

After wrapping the chain around the bale attach the other end to the other hooks if you have them, or wrap and secure the chain on the other end. Then tilt the bucket back before lifting to tighten the chain.

When the bucket is tilted up, the chain tightens and then the bale can be lifted.
When the bucket is tilted up, the chain tightens and then the bale can be lifted.

Once the chain is tight you can lift the bale high enough to clear the ground but not so high to put your tractor off balance.

Safety note:

  • don’t lift so high the tractor is off balance
  • don’t lift so high the bale tumbles off the bucket and onto you

I have a long trip through the creek, up the hill and through a few mud holes from springs to go with it, so I have to raise it higher at times, but then I lower it to keep the center of gravity as low as possible without dragging it on the ground.

When I’m ready to set it down I’ll tilt the bucket again to relieve the tension on the chain so I can take it off.

Set the bale and tilt the bucket so the chain becomes slack.
Set the bale and tilt the bucket so the chain becomes slack.

The horses get excited when they see me in their field. They run around, kicking and bucking.

Comanche waiting for Shasta to catch up with him after he ran ahead of her.
Comanche waiting for Shasta to catch up with him after he ran ahead of her.

 

Shasta finally catching up with Comanche.
Shasta finally catching up with Comanche.

 

Comanche playing by jumping and twisting while I'm setting the hay bale in place.
Comanche playing by jumping and twisting while I’m setting the hay bale in place.

Once the hay bale is in place and the chain is put away in the toolbox, I head back to the house.

Heading back to the house now that the job is done.
Heading back to the house now that the job is done.

Have any homestead hacks of your own to share? If you move the round bales without a tractor or hay spike, let me know how you’re doing it. I love using the tractor, but that might not always be an option for everyone and it might not even be an option for us always.

Repairing Our Wild Ozark Spring Water Line

Today I repaired our Wild Ozark spring water line

Since I’ve learned how to do this myself, I figured I’d do it while Mr. Wild Ozark was at work. Later this summer we have plans to change out the entire spring water line and bury them, but this smaller repair needed to be done sooner rather than later.

The other day I posted about finding the leak. In that post I explained how our water is from a spring and is gravity fed to the house a few hundred feet below the source.

The hike to get up there is a rough one to me, although when I was younger it wasn’t as hard as it seems to be now. I think I’ll make this hike more often than once a year in the future. Perhaps if I do it more often it won’t be such the task when it’s a necessary hike.

Weather kept me from getting to it sooner. It’s been cold and very windy. Not my favorite kind of weather for doing anything outside. But this weekend there is icy rain in the forecast and I wanted to make sure it was done before that arrived. Today there was still ice on the ground around the leak.

If you want to enlarge these photos, just click on them and it should take you to a full sized image.
Ice all around the leak on the Wild Ozark spring water line.
Ice on the ground all around the leak.
The leak had grown a little larger since the other day, but still not too bad.
The leak had grown a little larger since the other day, but still not too bad.

I kept hiking higher to the water tank so I could shut off the valve. I also needed to cut the overflow line because it had been mangled by critters trying to get water out of it instead of drinking from the other spring a few hundred feet away.

Our 1500 gallon water collection tank.
Our 1500 gallon water collection tank.
The valve is old and brittle and hard to turn.
The valve is old and brittle and hard to turn. We’ll need to replace it soon, but I surely didn’t want that day to be today.

Now, I have figured out how to do things, but that doesn’t mean I know how to do them properly. I just know that this method works for me. Working on the spring water line is something I’ve had to do over the years fairly regularly, and most of the time it’s been during winter.

I also don’t always know the proper names for parts and tools. Ha. So you might notice that in some of my not-so-scientific terms for things, like the handy dandy little pipe saw in the picture below. Who cares what it’s really named? It works wonders. I wanted to make a cut on the part of the line I was changing out so the water would drain faster. I’d left a faucet running in the house before I went uphill, but that was taking too long to do the job.

Handy dandy pipe cutting saw.
Handy dandy little pipe cutting saw.
More cuts to drain more water more quickly.
More cuts to drain more water more quickly.

Once the spray slowed to a trickle, I used the same little saw to cut the line in half, leaving enough room to add a coupler to the end leading underground.

7. sawed end

Before putting the coupler on, though, I need to use the other cutter to make a cleaner edge on the pipe so it seals properly.

The other pipe cutter.
The other pipe cutter.
A smoother end.
A smoother end.

There’s the new line still coiled up. There are only a few places now to buy the parts we need for servicing our spring water line. Hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot carry ordinary water line supplies, and they probably have the brass couplers, but not the kind of lines we use here to bring it down the mountain. The house itself has the PEX with crimp bands, but this is a thicker walled plastic that I haven’t been able to find anywhere besides our little local store.

25' of new line I bought on Monday.
25′ of new line I bought on Monday.

I’ll unroll it and hope it’s warm enough to straighten it out a little easier. When it’s cold it doesn’t want to bend too much and likes to stay coiled.

Here’s all the parts I’ll be using for this part of the project.

11. assembly of parts

13. assembly on pipe
I had to use the handle of the screwdriver like a hammer, since I forgot to bring one with me, to drive the insert down all the way. This part keeps the fitting snug and keeps it from leaking.

Then I’ll do the same thing to the new end that is getting connected to the old end.

And finally I’ll do the same thing to the other end. And then it’s done.

A finished joint between the old line and the new.
A finished joint between the old line and the new.

Ideally, the line should be buried so it doesn’t freeze and so that sunlight doesn’t weaken the plastic. But that’s something that’ll have to wait for my husband’s help. In the meantime I’ll lay it on the ground and weight it with rocks to keep it from trying to coil up again and make a loop in the air. Any part of it up in the air would be exposed to the cold more than it would be if it’s on the ground. When it snows or ices, then that snow and ice at least stays at 32*F and insulates the line from temperatures colder than that. In the zero and minus zero temps we can get sometimes, it is much harder to keep water moving. Even if I leave a faucet running with a fairly good stream in the house.

So this little project is done and I’ve gotten all the exercise I can stand for one day. I hope you enjoyed this little vicarious plumbing of the Wild Ozark spring water line 🙂

A problem in our gravity feed spring water system

What is a gravity feed water system?

We are fortunate to have our very own spring fed water source that runs all year long. It is a spring that pumps out enough water, without fail, to serve our household with daily water. Even more lucky to have gravity feed.

The spring is located on the mountain behind our house. We have it piped down the hill and to the house and shed. This is the “spring fed” part, and because it’s high enough above the point of use to give us great water pressure at the house, it’s also the “gravity feed” part.

Making Repairs

Sometimes I forget to leave the water dripping in winter time. When the temps are below freezing, if the water isn’t moving, it will freeze in the lines. This is one of the challenges of living out here. I forgot to do this last week and now there’s a break I’ll have to repair. I’ve had to learn how to do a lot of things for myself out here, because you can’t just call a plumber for things like this. I can’t even imagine how much one would charge to hike up the mountain to do a job!

I knew there was a break because the pressure was lower than usual and there was a lot of sediment in the water. I worried that maybe the tank had drained to the bottom and what I was seeing was the dregs. So I gathered some tools.

tools for working on the spring fed water line
Pipe wrenches for taking old couplings off and putting them back on, pipe cutter, screwdriver, pipe saw, bands, inserts for couplers, pipe cutter, 2nd pipe wrench, spare coupler

I figured out a long time ago that for the couplers you need two wrenches. I also figured out a long time ago that to go up there “just to see” what the problem is, is really stupid without bringing the tools. Because then you have to walk all the way back down to the house, gather tools, then walk all the way back to the problem. Better to just bring them the first time. I put all the tools in my backpack and went up the mountain to see what the problem was exactly.

The first section of line didn’t have any leaks. In a gravity feed system, the higher the water storage elevation, the better the effect of gravity on the water pressure. I’m glad we have such a good setup, but that means a lot of hiking uphill when there’s a problem.

first section of the spring fed line
That’s the roof of the house down below. No leaks on this section. Going higher to inspect the next section.

On the next level I found a small leak. But the bigger problem was how the ground had eroded underneath it and caused it to stretch tight.

The water line is stretched tight because of the shifting ground and erosion.
The water line is stretched tight because of the shifting ground and erosion.

If I cut the line to put in the coupler, then I might not be able to pull them together enough to keep it from leaking. What I need to do is change out this entire section because it’s older and brittle now from being exposed to sunlight so much. All of this used to be buried, but we’ve had some really bad floods lately and the logging road (which is the path the water lines also follow) washed out.

leak on the spring fed gravity feed water line

So, I found a leak, but it’s not enough to account for the low pressure and silty water. Next stop, the tank. I need to see if it’s empty or nearly so. I set my bag of tools down here because it was heavy and I didn’t think I’d need it for the tank.

The tank was plumb full. So why the low pressure? I forgot to take a picture here, but the water was as high as it could go and about a foot over the overflow line exit. This shouldn’t be. The excess should be draining from the tank through the overflow line.

That inflow and outflow what keeps it able to go out of the line to the house. I’m not sure why that is, but when the overflow doesn’t “flow”, then neither does it flow properly out of the tank through the feed line.

I followed the overflow line to see why it wasn’t working. On my way there I saw a pretty old log with moss growing in the broken end. I liked the wood grain showing in it. Even when I’m doing “work”, I still take time to notice the pretty things.

old wood grain with moss

The overflow line wasn’t flowing because it had been chewed and twisted. Looked like a bear had been rolling around on the ground with it and mangled it.

Some critters chewed and crimped the overflow line by bending it back on itself. We had it flowing into a bucket for them, but I guess whatever it was thought it would be more efficient to get it from the middle instead.
Some critters chewed and crimped the overflow line by bending it back on itself. We had it flowing into a bucket for them, but I guess whatever it was thought it would be more efficient to get it from the middle instead.

It was a mistake to have set my bag of tools down by the leak. I needed the cutter so I could cut the overflow just before the crimped part. But I didn’t feel like going downhill and then back up again. It was a pretty good hike to where I was at that point. So I did the best I could by pinching it in my hands. It did let a little start flowing through.

Managed to open up the crimp a little and now it's flowing from the chewed spots.
Managed to open up the crimp a little and now it’s flowing from the chewed spots.
And it also flows a little all the way to the end now.
And it also flows a little all the way to the end now.

Tomorrow I’ll have to go to our local hardware store for some replacement line. Just opening the overflow gave me back the water pressure, and the leak is small so it’s not an emergency. But I want to do the repairs as soon as possible so it doesn’t get worse, and the overflow line needs to be cut. So if I’m going to hike back up there to do that part, I might as well also fix the leak.

Not too many people outside of our area use spring fed water anymore because of pollution in the more populated areas, but ours is fairly clean. No coliforms, phosphates or nitrates. Fortunately, there are no poultry houses or livestock fields in the lands where our water enters the ground. I tested it several times myself when I worked in an environmental laboratory, but we still drink filtered water. We use it as is for cooking, bathing, and washing clothes, though. As long as we take care of the lines, and conserve our usage, we always have water when we need it. The flow rate is not great, but it’s enough to fill our 1500 gallon tank in 24 hours. I would not trade it for city water or even a well.

(Click on this link to read the post about my repair of this leak.)

 

Warm Egg on a Cold Day

There is something quite satisfying about finding a warm egg in the henhouse on a blustery 15*F morning.

So nice to find a warm egg on a cold morning
Not the actual egg from this morning – this is one of my stock photos and is a new maran egg. This morning’s egg was small and light brown, but not one of the maran’s.

I tried something new to help me wake up a little earlier this morning. It wasn’t until 5 a.m. when the strange noises began that I’d remembered what I’d done, though. Fresh coffee brewing in the bedroom, just what a body needs to motivate it out of bed, right?

When I got downstairs to turn on the heater and put my insulated bibs in front of the fire to warm up before I put them on for feeding rounds, I checked the temperature. I had already heard the wind rattling the house and outbuildings, so I knew it would be blustery. 15*F on the thermometer.

I was pretty surprised to find not only one warm egg this morning but two. One hen has been going into the old house where I store the square bales of hay. She goes in through a broken window. I didn’t find that nest until yesterday, because I’d been using the round bales and hadn’t gone in there for a while. But yesterday I wanted to put hay in the hen’s nest boxes and the dog houses. So when I found the nest it had several eggs in it. I threw those out.

The hen won’t usually set eggs right now anyway. But if she did act broody, I might let her go on and see how that works out. When a hen wants to hatch out a clutch of eggs, she’ll stay on the nest and “set” them. But she won’t start doing that until she’s collected several eggs. It doesn’t have to be only her eggs. The other hens will often lay eggs in a broody hen’s nest and she adopts them without a blink of an eye.

Usually those other hens do that while she’s off the nest getting food and water. So they act as babysitters and leave a bit of a gift behind, ha.

The mother only gets off the nest to eat and drink water once a day, and toward the end of incubation, not even then. I usually will bring food and water to her. The only threat at this time of year would be the cold. In spring and summer it’s the snakes that are the biggest cause of loss in the chicks around here. Maybe the mother hen could keep them warm enough to survive.

Hens usually lay less eggs in winter because the days are shorter. But we have two or three hens that lay an egg every day, regardless of weather or season. The only time they don’t is during molting. I wish I knew which hens had laid the eggs this morning – I’d give them an extra special treat for being so diligent!

Warm eggs on cold mornings are like little pocket warmers – if you’re careful.

 

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus), one of the useful “weeds” to know

I saw a young Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) the other day when I walked down the driveway. Usually, unless I’m specifically looking for younger plants, when I notice this plant it’s already matured and ready to produce seeds.

Yellow dock, while not native to our soil, is one that will make its way into the next volume of “10 Useful Plants Worth Knowing” because it grows everywhere I’ve ever been (with maybe the exception of the Middle East). It is both edible and medicinal.

It’s not a plant I use often, but I like knowing it’s there and how to use it if desired. Other than being unsightly in otherwise groomed lawns and fields, I don’t know of any harmful effects from this invasive immigrant “weed”.

(Happy New Year’s Day, by the way! I hope you enjoy a year full of wonder and awe, with many hours spent in Nature’s outdoor classrooms!) See my New Year’s newsletter greeting card

Yellow Dock is edible and medicinal

This is a seedling growing next to the waterfall along our driveway. Anytime I find a seedling of a plant I’m pretty sure I know, but haven’t actually seen as a seedling before,  I’ll watch it through the seasons next year to confirm its identity. I’m pretty sure this is yellow dock.

yellow dock seedling at Wild Ozark
yellow dock seedling

Yellow dock is an introduced species from Europe, a “weed”, and undesired by most people. It grows along roadsides, in disturbed places and usually in full sun. It’s an edible plant (young leaves, in small quantities, properly prepared) and the root is a “blood-building” tonic herb useful for anemia because it’s high in iron. It is a perennial, but the tops don’t die back unless winter is cold enough.

Given that our soil is high in iron, too, I would imagine that the yellow dock that grows here ought to be super-charged in that respect. Ha. It doesn’t always work that way, but if I were still working with access to laboratory instruments, that would be an easy enough thing to check. Sometimes more availability of a mineral (or metal, as is the case with iron) in the soil does lead to more uptake by the plant.

first year yellow dock
first year yellow dock

This summer I’ll try to remember to get a picture of the plant with seeds on it. They make a russet dried stalk of seeds and once you’ve had it pointed out to you, if you don’t already know the plant, you’ll see it everywhere after that.

How to eat yellow dock

To properly prepare the leaves for eating, treat them like mustard greens with a lot of bite. Use young leaves, boil a few minutes, pour off the water and boil again in fresh water. A few boil and water changes ought to be enough. This is also the way to prepare poke (also sometimes called poke sallet). After the boil/rinse process, some people like to lightly saute the herb with bacon and onions. I find it hard to believe there’d be much vitamin content left in anything after this kind of treatment, though it still said that mustard greens are good for us and they’re usually cooked to death, too.

In a survival type of situation, this is a plant you will not want to eat in large quantities. The oxalic acid in the leaves that give it the sour flavor can cause kidney stones and urinary system irritation. This same oxalic acid is present in many of the usual leafy green things people eat, like spinach, mustard and turnip greens and kale. These greens normally do take up small places on the plate anyway.

To use medicinally

The roots can be dried and chopped up to use for making a “spring tonic” broth with other herbs, or ground into a powder and put in capsules. It can also be tinctured. If I were using it to fortify blood iron levels, I would chop and make a strong tea or decoction of the fresh root. If I wanted to use it as a liver tonic, which would mean longer term use, I’d probably use the capsules. The root is bitter and because of that it will increase bile production, which will in turn promote bowel movements. In some people it might cause stomach distress and diarrhea.

In my distant past I lost a lot of blood during a surgery and was very weak and “shocky” afterwards. The doctor said if I didn’t get a transfusion it could take a week or more to “build my blood” enough for me to regain enough strength to even stand. If I would have had the roots of yellow dock on hand, and if I didn’t have children at home that needed me back on my feet quickly, I might have tried that to see if yellow dock root broth would help. Instead, I opted for the transfusion. In a survival-type of situation, that might not be an available option, so I am glad to know about yellow dock and the blood-building properties it possesses.

Here’s an excellent website to learn more about the various ways plants can be used. I visit this site often, so if this yellow dock post of mine interested you, bookmark this link as well: http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/cook/RUMEX_CRISPUS.htm

What are your favorite wild edible plants?

Exercising in Nature – or – Why it takes me an hour to walk to the mailbox and back

Exercising in nature is as easy as taking a walk to check the mail. It helps if you have a long driveway.

One of my resolutions for the new year and the rest of my life is to get into better shape. So I figured I’d use our natural resources here at Wild Ozark to help me. It’s roughly a mile round trip from the house to the mailbox.  On the way to the mailbox is a lot of downhill. Which of course means on the way back is a lot of uphill.

My original plans for doing this was to get exercise and I intended to walk straight there and back.

But I brought the camera with me. Just in case, you know. And so it became a multi-media expedition.

Down the hill and through the creek

Along the way I have to cross the creek twice.  Twice on the way to the mailbox and twice on the way back. So there’s the exercise of balance so I can get across the stones I put down to step on without getting my feet wet. Oh, I guess, at least on the first crossing, I can count the exercise of picking up and tossing in 10 lb rocks to make a way across.

Observing and learning while exercising in nature

1. chickweed
Chickweed (Stellaria media)

While exercising in nature, there are lots of opportunities to observe and learn about plants. This study is compulsion with me, and I can’t help it.

Foraging for edible and medicinal plants in winter

In the middle of the creek, growing in a small gravel bed was some chickweed. I had to get photos of

these. Chickweed is edible and medicinal. I’ve used it more than once for pink-eye when the kids were young and on the grandkids recently. Use it by making a strong tea for an eyewash and apply it in the eye with an eyedropper several times each day. It works quickly and for us solved the problem without a hitch. It’s anti-inflammatory properties make it good for burns, exzema and skin irritations. This little

2. mouse-eared chickweed
Mouse-eared chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)

plant is high in many trace minerals and vitamins. The smooth kind, Stellaria media, is good raw on salads and can be cooked, too, though cooking destroys much of the nutrition. The downy ones are not so good raw but can also be cooked.

 

There was a dandelion blooming – in December! These are both edible and medicinal, as well. The greens, roots, and flowers can all be added to salads.  Wildman Steve Brill has a great write-up on his page about them (and many other plants).

Dandelion blooming in December
Dandelion blooming in December

We have a lot of rocks around here, mostly sandstone. Bits and pieces of shale in the creek always shalecatch my eye because their composition is so different than all the surrounding rocks. When I find larger slabs of this, I bring it to the garden for pathways. It always crumbles to tiny pieces but makes a good path (though not for bare feet).

more shale at Wild Ozark

I didn’t have to walk much farther to find another supposedly green edible, a bittercress or rocket of some sort. This plant is

bittercress
A bitter cress – I won’t be adding this one to my salads. It is pretty bitter. It’s a larger plant, about 12″ in diameter.

bitter and I probably wouldn’t opt for this one ever, unless I wanted the bitter principles (to help with cholesterol levels by promoting more bile secretion and bowel movements). Sometimes the flower buds while still tight and unopened are tasty and a bit reminiscent of broccoli, but some of those are vile bitter, too. If I had to survive in winter without access to grocery stores or pantries, I’m hoping I could get by on salads for a while. There seems to be a lot of plants good to eat, but none of them have a whole lot of substance to them.

Watercress
A different bittercress – this one tastes nutty and good. It’s a small plant, about 5″ in diameter.

This smaller cress (Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta) would be tasty in salads. The name is a bit odd. It’s neither hairy nor bitter. In the photos I’ve seen, the flower stalks look hairy, so I’ll have to check on that next year when it blooms. It has a good flavor, no bitterness with a little nutty flavor similar to arugula.

There are lots of wild onions (Allium canadense) and garlic (Allium sativum) growing wild here. The garlic isn’t easy to find during winter because the leaves die back, but the wild onions are everywhere. The tiny little bulbs and greens will add flavor to salads and other wild meats if we are resorting to home foraged flavors.

Wild onion (Allium canadense)
Wild onion (Allium canadense)

I don’t only stop for the edible or medicinal. The pretty, unusual, or interesting things give me pause, too.

Was it exercise or leisure?

Don’t discount the benefits of this sort of exercise right off the bat. In between the walking, which, admittedly didn’t stretch long before I found a new photo subject I just couldn’t pass up, there occurred a lot of stooping and bending and even getting downright onto the ground. So I think that counts. I definitely feel as if I’ve had a workout.

However, when Rob comes home from his contract we’ll be doing “real” exercise. He defines that as by at least 30 minutes of elevated heart rate…  so I’ll be working on leaving the camera at home and working up to a fast-paced mile so I can be ready to join him when he gets here. Just the thought of “real” exercise is causing my heart rate to elevate already, ha. I have a lot of work to do to prepare for that.

  • Update:  I wrote this post on Christmas Eve. Today is Christmas day. So in light of that more strenuous workout on the horizon, I began taking the walk without the camera today. It took me 20 minutes to make the same mile and I guarantee my heart rate was elevated the entire time. I even tried jogging a little from the mailbox to the gate, which is an embarrassingly short distance. I have a lot of work to do. And I don’t even want to think at this point about the fact that to get the “30 minutes” means I’ll either have to turn around at the house and go back down the hills or go past the mailboxes on the first lap. I’ll update you with my progress in a few weeks. Hopefully you’ll be working on your exercise resolutions too and will keep me posted on your progress. Let’s motivate each other.

At any rate, we’ll still be exercising in nature, whether it’s down the driveway jogging (him) or gasping for breath (me).

If you liked this post, you might like the one about how long it takes me to go the twelve miles to the post office and back 🙂

  • Update: On Jan 2 I made the walk in less than 20 minutes and I even jogged for some of it. I wrote a post about it, too – check out Exercising Outside on a Crisp Ozark Morning.