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]



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Wild Ozark’s Plant ID Challenge: May’s Mystery

This month’s Star Plant Guesser is Janet Webb, who correctly identified May’s Mystery plant as Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum).


Each month, around the middle of the month, I’ll post a plant ID challenge for readers to test their identification skills.

Every day until someone correctly guesses the true name of the mystery plant, I’ll post a new clue.


May’s Mystery Plant: First Clue for the Plant ID Challenge

First clue is just the photo. The first clue will always be just the photo 😉

May's Mystery - Wild Ozark's Plant ID Challenge
Can you guess the true name of this plant? Common names are often given to many plants, so comment the scientific name. If you know the common name it’s easy to find the other on the internet 😉

Check back tomorrow to see if anyone guessed it, or to get the next clue!

Already a Winner!

Gosh, I didn’t even get to sleep yet when Janet Webb guessed correctly that this is Conium maculata, or poison hemlock.

But wait!

Another contestant from the FB page commented that it might be “Water Hemlock”. Well, are these two the same, or not? Without a scientific name, it’s hard to say.

So I started doing the research. Turns out they are NOT the same, and that this plant I thought is plain old poison hemlock might actually be water hemlock, or Cicuta douglasii.

More Hemlock Clues and Pictures Anyway

Poison Hemlock leaves
Leaves
Poison Hemlock Stem Junction
Stem junction

Death by Different Mechanisms

Both poison hemlock and water hemlock are often fatal if eaten by humans. It’s probably more often fatal than not, especially if the person isn’t somewhere that knowledgeable help is nearby.

The toxin in water hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) causes seizures, foaming at the mouth, anxiety, and death after a while. It’s the root that’s the culprit in this one, which is the part most likely mistaken for the wild carrot. Horses sometimes accidentally pull up the plant when grazing near water. The toxins are less concentrated in other parts of the plant.

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is the herb used by Socrates to kill himself. The death is not pleasant, as it paralyzes from the lower extremities and creeps higher until the diaphragm loses the ability to cause the lungs to take in a breath. The victim is still conscious and alert at this point. The whole plant is toxic, but the seeds contain the highest concentrations.

Sometimes animals only eat a little and do survive afterwards. The ones who survive at least 8 hours after are more likely to live. Pregnant animals who survive often deliver deformed offspring.

My short story Ozark Pixies features the poison hemlock in place of wild carrot. It’s a free read everywhere except Amazon.

Why would anyone eat it?

Wild carrot looks a lot like both of these plants, and it’s a wild edible (and medicinal). The scientific name for that one is Daucus carota. It’s also known as Queen Anne’s Lace.

Here’s a pic of that flower.

Queen Annes Lace
Queen Annes Lace, also called wild carrot. The scientific name is Daucus carota.

They’re all three in the same family, the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, also sometimes called the ‘carrot’ family.

While the poison hemlock is also medicinal in tiny doses, the danger of death is so great that I wouldn’t use this one at all. There are safer alternatives.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes? Companion Look A-Likes

Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes?

Trying to differentiate between black cohosh and doll’s eyes before they come into bloom, has been frustrating. It’s very easy to tell once they begin the blooming process as the flower stems originate in different places and the flowers themselves are very different.

Both of these woodland herbs grow in the same environment, and both are ginseng companion plants.

But when only greenery exists, they both look so much alike, it’s uncanny. This is the first year I’ve had two colonies of both to watch as they mature.  My “intuition” tells me which is which so I want see if I can confirm my psychic inference, lol. In the meantime, I’ve been doing research online to see if anyone else can offer definitive proving methods.

I thought I’d found one way in a study posted online at the Canadian Universe’ Laval site – but in the end it proved inconclusive. The study, while not about differentiating the plants, is quite interesting if you would like to know the metal/mineral composition of various woodland herbs grown under different conditions.

It was the picture that caught my eye- an image of the symmetrical vs. asymmetrical leaf patterns on the cohosh. I’d never noticed that before about them, and though “ah-ha! That might be the difference.” But of course it wasn’t that easy. Both the plants I suspect to be black cohosh and the ones I suspect to be doll’s eyes have this same leaf pattern. It’s probably common to the Actaea genus.

Going to the Woods for Research

So it was time to go out for a little hands-on research. I took the 4-wheeler out to an area where I know both of the plants live. Along with the black cohosh and doll’s eyes, there’s also a bunch of other woodland herbs that enjoy this little ginseng habitat. I was glad to have on long sleeves and pants because the nettles are up a ready to sting right about now.

stinging nettle
Sting-filled hairs of a nettle plant.

I moseyed around in the ginseng habitat (this particular habitat doesn’t have any ginseng residents, however), looking at the two that are puzzling me. None of what I think are black cohosh have any signs of a flower stem yet. None of the ones I think are doll’s eyes did either – except one. I did finally find one of those with a small flower stem and bud cluster.

Obviously not Black Cohosh. Doll's Eyes with flower buds.
Doll’s Eyes with flower buds.

Now I am going to be curious to see if the ones I think are black cohosh turn out to really be the cohosh.

Going to Ground

When I’m in the woods inspecting and photographing plants like this, I am often right down on the ground at eye level with stem bases. It’s hard to get good photos of short plants if you don’t do that, and besides, the bases of stems often have clues like leaf buds and such. And besides all that, I just love being in close contact with the forest floor. The smells are wonderful and it’s usually cooler closer to the ground level on hot days.

Most importantly, though, is that if you’re not close to the ground you’ll miss things like this wild ginger bloom, which only happens at or just below ground/leaf debris level.

Wild ginger flower
Wild ginger flower

The sun slipped over the mountains while I was still crawling around uphill and lying prone among the nettles, black and blue cohosh, and doll’s eyes. The woods were so dark now I needed a flash to get a good photo of this pretty fern on my way out.

 fern

Conclusion

I’ll have to wait for the black cohosh to flower, but I think I can see, or rather, sense, the differences early on. The plants *told* me, in that way non-human things “talk” (some of you will understand this, some of you will just think I’m nuts, I know…and some will call it “intuition”), who was who from the beginning, but my skepticism persists. I still do not entirely trust that little voice and the logical part of me wants evidence. It’ll come in a month or two when the black cohosh blooms. When it comes to using herbs medicinally or as food, where a look-alike is deadly, I’ll never rely on intuition alone.

Satisfied enough for now, I got up and brushed off the humusy forest soil and leaves from my clothes and headed home to see how many ticks I’d managed to gather this time.

A Photogenic Anemone

Saw this on my way back and knew it would make a good photo with the creek behind it.

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

 

 Huntsville Farmer’s Market 2017

I’m out at the market on Tuesdays for now, and beginning in a few weeks it’ll be the Saturdays from 0700-1200. If you’re local or within a decent driving distance, come out! I’ll have a selection of our native woodland plants. I’ll have ginseng seedlings and companion plants, books, art and ginseng jams (while supplies last).

While I started out the season going only on Tuesdays but will begin only going on Saturdays after mid-May.

Ginseng Habitat Garden

If you want to drive out to the nursery, I have a ginseng habitat garden where you can see the plants growing in the woods. This will help you learn to identify them in their natural habitats.

While the garden is a restored habitat and I have trails and will have signs posted, it’s designed in a way to truly mimic what you’d see in the wild (except for the trails and signs, lol).

It’s open to the public, but since there is no cell signal or phone/electricity at the nursery you’ll need to set up an appointment until I can get a regular schedule to be out there. Just email me to let me know when you’d like to come on any day except Tuesdays or Saturdays.

[email protected]

 



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Ginseng Jelly – A New Wild Ozark Product in the Making

Jellies could work as a new product to bring to market this year. People seem to like home-made jellies … What about herbal jellies? Then the idea struck. Oh, my … GINSENG JELLY!

I love medicinal herbs, especially those that grow right here at home, and most especially ginseng.

Legality

As I looked over the Arkansas Cottage Industry guidelines, it became apparent that most of what I’d like make to bring isn’t legal. Like dried herbs for tea blends, coffee, or syrups made from the herbs.

I can sell the dried herbs as decorations, hanging in bundles from a beautiful natural twisted wood rack. But I can’t sell them as functional, useful things for making medicinal teas.

If we had a certified kitchen then I could sell the coffee beans after roasting them in the exact same way I roast them now. Same thing with the herbs. If I hang and dry them in the kitchen or office, not legal. If I hang and dry them in a certified kitchen, apparently that imparts some measure of safety that isn’t present otherwise.

In any case, I can’t promote the medicinal benefits.

But jelly and jams are on the “allowed” list. So ginseng jelly and jam it is!

Ginseng Jelly Holds Promise

Of the five types of items that are legal to prepare at home, jelly holds a lot of promise with Wild Ozark’s unique positioning.

I can also make beebalm jelly, blackberry or elderberry jellies, and also combinations of the wild fruits we have here with the ginseng.

Today I’m working on the first test batch of ginseng jelly as this post is being written. Some will be just ginseng, and some will be blackberry/ginseng, since I have some blackberry syrup on hand from my experiments last year.

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

The taste

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

The jelly I imagine will be somewhat sweeter because of the sugar that goes into it, and when combined with other things like blackberry it’ll be different, but the point with this product isn’t so much to use it as a confection, but as a tonic.

Medicinal Virtues

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

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

Here’s an article from WebMD that gives information on possible side-effects and drug interactions, as well as ways in which it has been researched.

Here’s another article about the effects of ginseng.

This jelly contains a broth made with American ginseng root and is a significant portion of the ingredients. Please check out these links, do more research, and make sure that ginseng is safe for you to use.

Cost

Ginseng jelly will be expensive, as far as the price of jellies goes. But it will be a delightful way to partake in the wonderful medicinal benefits offered by this incredible herb.

Coming Soon!

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

Unfortunately, I am not allowed (state law) to sell any of the jellies over the internet. So it’ll only be available at the market booth and the Nature Boutique. However, the law doesn’t say I can’t ship it. I think it just means it can’t be a product in my online shop.

If I find out otherwise, and I can only sell it in person, then this option will be removed until I can gain access to a certified facility to make it.

The test batch is pretty and tastes wonderful! I need to make some recipe adjustments though, and will try again with only the ginseng for the next test batch.

Ginseng and Blackberry Jelly, the test batch.
Ginseng and Blackberry Jelly, the test batch.

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



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

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.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Wild Mountain Mint – Whiteleaf Mountain Mint

Wild mountain mint grows in abundance here at Wild Ozark. This particular variety is called White-leaf Mountain Mint.

White-leaf Wild Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum albescens)

I love this wild mountain mint. It adds a nice flavor to my cold/flu/crud herbal syrup when I remember to gather it during late summer. This year I did 🙂

Recently I discovered, quite by accident and out of desperation that it works extremely well against the biting flies – you know those ones that chase the deer around and love to bite the tender skin of humans as soon as they hit you? Those demons fly faster than I can drive on the 4-wheeler, too, so there’s no outrunning them.

Deer Fly Repellent

Not long ago I went up on the mountain to get some photos of the goldenseal. Once I got up there the flies attacked. Usually there’s a can of OFF in the basket, but not this time.

I tried to get ahead of them, but it did no good. Their little triangle wings must give them super powers. In a frenzied craze I saw the stand of mountain mint and grabbed a handful of tops. I just crushed them into my skin, rubbing myself down.

And all of a sudden, poof! The flies were gone.

Wild mountain mint is good stuff.
Wild mountain mint is good stuff.

 

Wild Mountain Mint Species of northwest Arkansas

There are a few different species of wild mountain mint. The Pycanthemum species in northwest Arkansas, according to the “Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas” are P. muticum, P. pilosum, and P. albescens. Only the muticum and albescens are listed for Madison county, which is where we are.

Those two look similar, but the P. muticum has broader leaves and I am pretty sure the variety we have is the albescens.

Uses

Aside from just smelling nice, mint has useful properties. Probably the most well-known medicinal use is in tea to help settle stomachs. That quality works well with the herbal syrup I make, but mostly I’m using it for flavor. Peppermint (or any other mint) tea has never been something I enjoy.

According to Altnature.com, “Crushed flowers are placed on tooth ache and almost instantly kills pain. “ This is one of many attributes listed for this plant, but it’s one I think I’ll keep in mind for the future. Other medicinal uses include treatment of menstrual disorders, indigestion, mouth sores and gum disease, colic, coughs, colds, chills and fevers. A decoction of the herb can be used as a wound-wash.

Smell the Mint

The next time you see those white tops nodding along your path, forget about the roses. Stop and smell the mint!



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Mailbox and Back in Under an Hour

Yesterday I brought my camera with me when I went to the mailbox. If I had walked, I know it would have taken more than an hour because I would have seen so many more opportunities to stop and take a picture.

There’s Never a “Quick Trip” Anywhere Out Here

My intention was to make  *quick* trip to check the mail because I was waiting on a delivery of something in particular. But before I started the mailbox run, there was a mushroom that Rob had spotted near where he parks the tractor.

He’d told me about it the day before so I needed to get pictures of it first thing.

A bolete of some sort. This mushroom looks like a pancake when you're looking down from above, though.

Just as I took its picture, I saw there were more of them, just a little up the hill.

Another of the mushrooms that look like pancakes.
Saw this one just a little farther up the hill.
And there was this one peeping out from behind the leaves. Same type of shroom but the shape is a bit irregular.
And there was this one peeping out from behind the leaves. Same type of shroom but the shape is a bit irregular.
Don't they look just like pancakes?
Don’t they look just like pancakes?
But from this angle you can see they do have stems.
But from this angle you can see they do have stems.

The day before that he’d seen a different one, so of course I got some pictures of it, too:

mushroom from above
A humongous mushroom growing at the base of Gloria, the old white oak tree out front.
This perfect mushroom looked like it should have had a fairy sitting on the edge, with her legs dangling from it.
This perfect mushroom looked like it should have had a fairy sitting on the edge, with her legs dangling from it.

But I digress. After I finished taking the pictures of the pancake mushrooms I took the 4-wheeler to get on with the mail-checking task.

But the 4-wheeler was having issues and died on me a few times. This, of course, is where having the camera on hand came in handy indeed. I had ample time to walk around a bit and take some pictures while I waited for it to start again.

Dinner Leavings along the Mailbox Route

I know it was a squirrel who left this mess on the flat rock by the first creek crossing. The day before we’d seen a squirrel running across the driveway with a mouth full of mushroom.

Leftovers from a squirrel. Mushroom stem and nut shells.
Leftovers from a squirrel. Mushroom stem and nut shells.
Mushroom stem leftover from a squirrel.
Mushroom stem leftover from a squirrel.

Good thing I wasn’t watching which mushrooms the squirrels were eating so we could try them too! Squirrels have some interesting digestive abilities. They can even eat the deadly mushrooms without it hurting them. There’s more information about that here: http://www.mushroomthejournal.com/greatlakesdata/Terms/squir27.html#Squirrelsa

Leaves to Notice

It’s only July but already the leaves of the sourwood are beginning to color and drop. They always do this a little in late summer. And I always notice them. I love the leaves of autumn and the teasers of late summer.

Black gum leaf on a rock.
Black gum leaf on a rock.

My favorite leaf picture from yesterday is a rock and leaf composition with understated colors. I love the paleness of the rock and the light colored leaf:

Yellow leaf on pale rock in July 2016.

Herbs to Notice

I’ve been watching for a particular herb favorite of mine. It’s about the time for Lobelia inflata to bloom. I use the seeds of this plant to make a tremendously appreciated anti-spasm formula.

A mature Lobelia inflata plant with blooms and swollen pods.
A mature Lobelia inflata plant with blooms and swollen pods.
Swollen seed pods of Lobelia inflata.
Swollen seed pods of Lobelia inflata.

When the seed pods are brown and dry I’ll snip the stem and put the whole thing in a paper bag. Then I can smash the bag a bit and the pods will burst, releasing all the seeds inside the bag. After that, I’ll use a portion of them for my herbals and spread a portion of them outside so I’ll have more to gather next summer.

Frogs and Feathers

I love finding wild bird feathers. It seems that I encounter a lot of crow feathers during my walkabouts. Yesterday morning was no exception. We have free-range chickens, so chicken feathers are easy to find. And I’m always finding feathers as evidence the cats have killed a bird, too. But those feathers don’t catch my attention the way randomly placed ones on rocks in creeks do.

A small crow feather I spotted on the way to the mailbox yesterday on a rock in the creek.

Just as I was getting ready to try the 4-wheeler again I saw this small frog in the creek.

A little frog after he thought he'd jumped away and hidden from me again.

A little frog that was in the creek on the way to the mailbox.

He’s only about an inch or two long and thought he was well-hidden, which he was. But not so well-hidden that he could escape my notice, ha.

Other Posts Like This One

If you enjoyed this, this post reminds me of Why it Takes Me an Hour to Go to the Post Office and Back  so you might like it too. Both demonstrate how I shouldn’t leave home with the camera or a notebook or a sketchpad if the trip is intended to be a quick one.

 



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Top Questions from Readers: Healing Herbs

Healing Herbs: the first of the Top Questions and Topics of Interest from Readers


Healing herbs and using the wild plants for medicine was one of the most often mentioned topics in the recent survey results.

In case you’re just joining me here and aren’t yet a Wild Ozark Musings newsletter subscriber, I recently sent a survey to subscribers. I wanted to find out what sort of things they’d be interested in hearing me talk or write about in the newsletter.

I got so many good responses! Thank you!

So it took me a while to get around to it, but now I’m going to start addressing those questions and topics. I’ll do one each newsletter and later post it to this blog. Eventually I’ll probably compile them all into a book, but for now, they’ll just be newsletter topics and blog posts. The first question on the list is actually several questions and topics, so I’ll take each one separately. Here’s the first one.

I would like to know more on healing herbs.

This is a huge topic! I’ll address what I’m personally doing with herbs at this time of year. I just made a harvest from the garden of echinacea, thyme, oregano, and sage. From the mountain I gathered wild mountain mint.
My recent harvest of some healing herbs.

Not only are the oregano, thyme, and sage great culinary herbs but they’re also medicinal. None of those three taste very good as a tea to me, but they make a killer gargle for sore throat and an excellent tea for washing wounds or burns. I like using the mint to flavor any of the syrups and it has stomach settling qualities to add. There may be a lot more use for mint than that, but that’s how I use it.

Usually I also harvest beebalm (Monarda fistulosa) at this time of year, but all of it has powdery mildew this year. It doesn’t kill the plant but it gives a bad smell to the dried herb and may not be good for you to use that way, so I don’t. Beebalm has a propensity for powdery mildew, especially if it’s not growing in full sun with lots of air flow around it.

A great combination

I use the beebalm in combination with the echinacea and marshmallow root to make a tea once a week. This tea has helped my bladder issues more than the surgery I had to correct the problem over a decade ago did. Had I known then what I know now, I would never have had the surgery. Why? Because I almost died from blood loss from it, and the effect to cure the ailment wasn’t very long lasting anyway. This tea combination works for me. It has worked for others for cystitis, too. I, and my daughter’s family, also use it when we feel any sort of illness coming on and it shoos that right out the door. Elderberries would be great to add to the combination to combat viruses, too.

red raspberries

Wild raspberries are ripe right now, as are blackberries. I pick those whenever I can. Raspberries might be a delicious treat but they are also very beneficial as a healing herb. The leaves of red raspberries are good in teas to help tone pelvic floor muscles which will help prevent things like prolapse of the bladder and uterus. The berries themselves are healing. They’re very high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, too. Blackberry fruits have similar properties.

The elderberries aren’t ripe here yet, but the flowers are blooming and the bushes are loaded with green berries. Here’s a photo from last year’s crop:
ripe elderberries

Another way I use elderberries and beebalm is in a syrup made with mullein. This syrup is my grand-daughter’s favorite remedy and she’s always wanting it even when she isn’t really sick. I have the recipe for that syrup here on my website. It’s great for that pesky, lingering winter “crud” and cough.

The pic below is of the beebalm harvest from last year. After it is the mullein. I use the fresh velvety leaves in spring, not the ones nearest the ground but the next layers up.

The front side of the Beebalm card in Wild Ozark's Plant Identification Card set

Mullein, First Year

I harvest mullein during its first year, when it looks like the picture. In the second year it develops a flower stalk and the leaves aren’t as luscious. Mullein decoction alone, without the beebalm or elderberry is very effective for thinning mucus and making it easier to cough up, and it quiets the cough which makes it easier to sleep.

I hope you found the response to this topic useful. Feel free to email with questions or leave a comment to share your own stories.

Here’s a link where you can read all the back issues of the Wild Ozark Musings newsletters if you want.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

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.

 



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Update from Wild Ozark

Lots of things going on – or rather, NOT going on lately.

If you’re a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you’ve probably already seen the update that I won’t be doing the farmer’s market this year. I forgot to add some of the items below to the newsletter, so this post is not a complete repeat of the email.

I dislocated my knee on Thursday this past week, the day after we got home from our Texas – Louisiana trip. Although nothing is broken, that was a pretty traumatic event to my knee and I’m not sure it’s going to be good for much for a while yet. I can’t work on potting my plants, or work in the garden, or roast coffee. All activities vital to the market so I’ll have something to sell. Then there’s the work of setting up and taking down the booth, which is asking a lot of the knee. So I won’t be doing it this year. I’d rather put it off than risk further injury which would increase the odds of needing surgery on the thing.

I’ve been using my ointments on my knee and they seem to be helping. Today I’m almost able to walk normally, but there is still some pain on the top of my kneecap and I can tell it’s not strong enough yet to go without the brace. The ointments were the Ginseng & Lobelia (out of it now), Ginseng, Chilpetine, Coffee & Wild Comfrey Balm, and Sesame & Arnica balm. When I get a chance I’m going to make a profile page of what I used and how it’s helped to add under my “Herbalism” category. It’s hard to say whether what I’m doing helps or not because I’ve never had this happen before, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. All I know is that on day 3, the swelling is down, stiffness down, very little bruising or pain. To me, that’s terrific after what seems like should have been a pretty bad thing for my knee.

There are things still on the list that I DO intend to do:

nature journal workshop flier

Spring Unfurling Update

update on blue cohosh
One of the blue cohosh transplants that miraculously survived last year’s flood.

The only ginseng unfurling are the ones that were already there or seedlings from the mature plants. Very few of the seedlings are showing up from the from the seeds we planted. I’ve heard feedback from a few others on the list who are seeing the same thing.

I was very happy to see the blue cohosh, black cohosh, and doll’s eyes that I’d transplanted last year have all come up! Send me your ginseng habitat updates, particularly your ginseng seed germination if you planted any last fall.

 

 



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods