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.


About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


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