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.

I hadn’t even gotten the car started yet when I saw the Lamb’s Quarters and remembered I had my camera, right there on the seat beside me. Imagine that.

Lamb's Quarters along our long dirt road.
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album) are in the same family as Amaranth and Quinoa. Early in the season, it’s an edible leafy green. Later in the season, the seeds are edible, too.

So just as I was getting back in the car to get started down the road, I saw a milkvine right beside the truck!

The first time I saw one of these plants it took a bit of sleuthing and questioning various plant people. Finally the good folks over at the Hobbs State Park put me in touch with someone at the UofA Herbarium who knew it, and she told me about the wonderful group at FB founded by Susie Westerman-Dunn. So if any of you want to have a peer support group to help you learn to identify plants, here’s a link to the ANP FB group.

Anglepod milkvine (Gonolubus suberosus) flowers.
Anglepod milkvine (Gonolubus suberosus) flowers.

The peculiar thing about this vine is that if you touch the underside of the leaves, they have a very strong odor. Until you touch it, it doesn’t seem to have any scent. I haven’t seen this mentioned in any of the information I’ve found about the plant. Although it doesn’t mention the smell, there’s a nice write-up on anglepod at Arkansas Native Plants.

So okay, maybe everyone doesn’t scratch and sniff all the interesting things they encounter, but I do. Lots of things to do on a ride down a long dirt road.

Finally I finished looking and taking photos of the plants right there and got into the car.

I managed to get a few miles down the road. But then I saw the wild hydrangea blooming.

Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

And there was the interesting configuration of roots of the old sycamore tree on the edge of the embankment, too…

roots of an old sycamore tree

And both the yellow and orange jewelweed were blooming.

yellow jewelweed flower orange-spotted jewelweed

And, well, look at that, the Joe-Pye weed was almost blooming too.

Joe-Pye weed
Joe-Pye weed

I had to stop and eat a few of the ripe raspberries, of course. But before I did that, I took their photo, too. A long dirt road seems to grow longer with so many things to do and see along the way.

Ripe red raspberries right before I ate them.
Ripe red raspberries right before I ate them.

While gathering the berries I noticed a cute little arrangement of ferns and moss growing on a rock.

ferns and moss on rock
Looks like a fairy habitat, doesn’t it?

After this I drove a little more and saw how pretty the chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace looked growing together on the side of the road.

Queen anne's lace and chicory

Chicory flower

There also was some bouncing bet blooming, so I got out to take some pics of that, and while I was there I saw a nice bear claw rock. I put that in my pocket even though it was a bit dirty with clay and sand. Not really sure *why* I felt the need to collect that rock. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of them at home always underfoot. But I did, and so I did.

Bear Claw rock

Bouncing Bet along our long dirt road.
Bouncing Bet, also called soapwort because the roots will make suds when mashed and mixed with water. Might need to know that for washing clothes and hair and such if I never make it to Walmart one day and decide to just take photos instead…

There was also a pretty little morning glory flower with dew on it and I thought that would make a nice picture too.

I’m not even one way down this long dirt road yet. Imagine. I still have to finish this and make the same trip back in!

Morning Glory along our long dirt road.

If you’re still with me on this little trip to the post office, I guess you’re beginning to get the idea of why it takes so long!

Then I drove a little farther and finally made it to the plant I brought the camera to photograph in the first place. The black cohosh would be blooming and I figured that I’d get some pics of it on my way.

Black Cohosh flower Black Cohosh leaves

And so now my mission was complete. Oh, except for the post office. I still had to do that. And yes, it’s 4th of July today, but I started writing this post days ago!

There’s still the trip back in on this long dirt road, too. I’m sure there’s more things to see that I missed on the way out.


First Hunt by Ima ErthwitchPredator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.

Nature Farming


Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.

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.


13 thoughts on “Long Dirt Road: Why it Takes me an Hour to Drive 12 Miles

  1. I’m surprised you make it home at the end of the day sometimes Madison. I bet you keep a tent in the boot (trunk) for days when there are just too many pictures to take.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    1. Haha, it’s very stressful to me to have to go straight to and back from somewhere when there are good photo ops along the route. There are days when I’m surprised I get my tasks accomplished at all! I used to carry a little emergency bag with blanket, water, and such for unexpected delays. LOL, but there’d be mutiny at home with all the critters waiting to be fed if I delayed too long!

  2. Heck I’d leave the car behind, looks like you enjoy the trip quite a bit. I only wish I had the knowledge in botany that you do.

    1. I’d have to bring the backpack with water and a tent for sure if I walked it with camera in hand, lol. The need-to-know thing is an obsession, I think. It’s many years of learning to identify the plants and now I can’t stand to *not* know what one is if it looks interesting or useful. That link I gave to the ArkansasNativePlants group has helped tremendously. There’s probably a group near you if you’re not in AR and you want to learn your plants. My 10 Common Plants books are designed to help people just starting out and keeps the overload to a minimum by only dealing with 10 at a time, too.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

  3. Pingback: Finding Lost Fungi
  4. I completely understand, Madison. It’s the same reason it takes me so long to go for a walk through the park unless I’m very strict about walking fast just for exercise. When we go up the mountain in Wyoming, it takes us a long time, because it’s a very unimproved road and if you can go 15 miles an hour, you’re really moving!! Going down, you don’t want to be going too fast! You have to be careful not to ride your brakes so much that you burn them out. 4-wheel drive helps there, but we don’t have it. So we’re just very careful.

    janet

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