Check the Fences… and Waterfalls

I didn’t intend to check the fences on the steep side of our property this evening. I say the ‘steep side’ as if there is only one. Ha. No. Most of the sides on our square-shaped 160 acres are steep. At the very least none of it is level.

Anyway, the plan was to feed the horses their afternoon rations. Which I did, with muck boots on because it’s mucky down there after all that rain.

But then my eyes wandered up toward the fence line and I could see the little trail of hoof prints going up that way, too. Might be a good time to check the fences. Especially if the horses have also been checking them.

Checking fences

And then my ears caught the sound of the creek flowing strongly, tumbling over the rocks. And I knew farther up, along the same path more or less, that there would be a waterfall flowing even more strongly.

The part of the creek near the gate.
The part of the creek near the gate.
On the way to check the fences.

And that’s how it started. iPhone in my pocket, muck boots on my feet, and the lure of a waterfall seldom seen. If it’s so beautiful as to have that sort of attraction, you might wonder why it is so seldom seen. Because it’s hard to reach. Unlike the little one on the driveway that delights and satisfies most waterfall cravings, this one requires a bit of dedication to fully see.

So I went.

Ordinarily when I’m going off on a jaunt like this, I’ll leave a note on the kitchen table to indicate which direction I wandered off in. In case I somehow don’t wander back on schedule. It would be rather difficult to guess where I’d gone without some sort of clue. But this wasn’t a planned walkabout. It was spontaneous. And those are so often the best kind.

Did I mention that it has been raining a lot lately and the ground is soggy? Soggy ground on steep hillsides in the woods gets slippery. So on one of my near-ground inspections, I saw a really large pair of snails. Here’s one of them.

Check the fences, and the waterfalls, and the snails!
A pair of snails.
Here’s both of them.

Interesting info about snails

One of my FB friends has shared some very interesting information about the mating habits of snails over on my page. Here’s a link if you want to read about it. It’s pretty mind-boggling!

Continuing upstream

I made my way up the creek, more intent on reaching the waterfalls than actually checking fences at this point. But I couldn’t say my purpose was to check the fences along the way if I didn’t bother moving the branches off of it, now could I?

Still heading upstream and checking fences.

This particular waterfall lives in a very narrow holler with steep walls on either side. Unless it’s almost dry, it’s hard to get very close to the part of it that I consider to be most beautiful- the long slide where the water gently ripples over it during low water spells. After a recent rain, the water spills down it, splashing all of the boulders and rocks down below so that they get very slippery.

In the holler

Beneath the water is a long rippled 'slide', rather than a jumble of boulders and rocks.
Beneath the water is a long rippled ‘slide’, rather than a jumble of boulders and rocks.

But I got close enough to enjoy it. The noise was deafening. Water spray in the air felt refreshing. And the scent of damp earth and humus beneath my feet capped it off. I took some video and photos with the phone, since I didn’t bring the real camera because it wasn’t a planned event.

Heading home

Light was fading and I needed to get back to the house. At the last close-to-ground inspection where I slid underneath the fence, I decided to stay on that side of the fence and make my way back to the gate that way.

Just about within sight of the gate, I felt my pocket for my phone. Of course it wasn’t there. After a deep sigh, and a few choice words for myself for not noticing when it fell, I backtracked to the last encounter with the ground. Thankfully that’s where it was. Because any further back might have meant it was a lost cause in the steepest parts toward the creek.

My pedometer on the phone said I hiked about a mile and climbed 17 floors. I think it missed a few floors during the time it lay on the ground reveling in the scent of humus and damp earth.

It’s the first hike I’ve made in a while that didn’t involve picking up rocks. Maybe I knew intuitively that I wouldn’t want to try to hold on to them as I slipped and slid my way up and down the hills. But it was a great little hike. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of our seldom seen but much loved waterfall.

A collection of video and photos of my hike to check fences and the waterfall.

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

To see her paintings click here.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

My Artist’s Business Plan for Wild Ozark 2019

So, this isn’t a ‘formal’ business plan, but more of an outline of my goals, plans, and strategy for the year regarding my art. To see the outline of intended subjects for the paintings, take a look at my Ozark Birds of Prey page. It’ll give you an idea of the focus and scope of the project.

And just so you know, I *am* still writing on my novel, too. I just don’t have a plan for the writing business… I just keep adding words and I’m doing that on a nearly, but not quite daily basis. There’s a note posted on the shelf in front of my computer to remind me to at least write ONE sentence every day.

My Artist's Business Plan: Paintings by Madison Woods of the Ozark birds of prey as of Feb. 1, 2019.

Paintings: the focus of my Artist’s Business Plan

Producing new paintings monthly is the primary goal this year.

My focus for the works planned for this year, which will likely stretch into the foreseen future, is to complete a few series of Birds of Prey. Specifically, I am interested in painting the ones found here in the Ozarks. We have a lot of resident raptors and several that visit us only during winter or summer. But where we live represents only a small part of the Ozarks. Since the Ozarks spans more than just Arkansas, it includes a few species less common to my immediate area. The states included are Arkansas, Missouri, and far eastern Oklahoma.

Here’s a link to the birds on my list, and that list has links to the paintings of the ones I’ve done so far. I’ve only begun to get started and it looks like I have my life’s work cut out for me with only this narrow focus!

Paints

Before I make a painting, I make the paint if I don’t already have some on hand. When I do that, I put the excess into decorative containers to sell at the Fayetteville Farmers Market and on Etsy. I’ll continue to do this, but my main focus is on making the paintings, not necessarily selling the paint. I am only going to do the farmer’s market during the indoor winter market months. Once it moves outdoors (in April), I’ll focus more on Etsy and Downtown Roger’s Art on the Bricks, and contests/exhibits.

Selling my handmade watercolors is part of my Artist's Business Plan for 2019.

Prints

I’ll definitely keep making prints of my art. These sell quite well at the market and on Etsy I’ve sold a few. Anywhere I can make some money (while staying focused on the art) to keep funding the art is on my list of things to do, ha.

Stationery

I am loving my stationery sets and stickers and have been using them to send letters to friends and family. These haven’t caught on much yet (well the stickers sell, but they’re a very low-dollar item) at the markets, but I hope they will. If they haven’t by the end of the year, I’ll probably drop this from my list of products and just focus more on the original paintings.

The Strategy and Artist’s Business Plan

My production rate of new paintings has been averaging about one per month. I want to keep that pace and perhaps squeeze out two on some months. Once I have paintings, then I will enter them into exhibits, contests and shows. The paintings may or may not be listed ‘for sale’ during the exhibits or contests. It depends on whether it’s part of a completed series or one still in progress. Getting into exhibits helps to build my CV and gain exposure to more people.

The ‘getting into’ exhibits isn’t necessarily a straight-forward thing, nor is it free. Each entry has a fee associated with it, normally $35-$50. And just because the fee is paid, it doesn’t mean my entry will be accepted. So this is one of the expenses in an artist business, and the selling of other things helps me to afford those fees.

Not only that, if it’s a show, then there’s usually a booth fee if the art is accepted. If it’s an exhibit and not local, then there’s shipping costs associated with getting the art to the exhibit. And then home to me once it’s over.

At least the rocks I use to make the paint is free! However, the paper I prefer to paint on is not. It’s quite pricey, in fact. So there’s another expense. I’ve been very discouraged by how expensive it is to get a work of art framed properly for shows/exhibits. That’s a major expense I’ll need to plan for, because the painting can’t be displayed in shows, contests, or exhibits without framing.

Keeping Track of Expenses

This year I’ll do a better job of tracking expenses and income directly related to the art. I’m curious to see how that turns out. In general, it’s fairly difficult to make a living as a painter. There’s a reason for the phrase ‘starving artist’. I’m planning to buck that stereotype this year, though. The derivatives, like the paints, stationery, stickers, and prints are where I expect to make the income to fund the paintings. Perhaps if I’d finish my books, I could rely on a little income from that too… but it seems that ‘starving writer’ might be a pretty accurate phrase, too. But thank goodness I’m not relying on my art and writing for my everyday expenses! And when Rob gets to working in his workshop again, we’ll have woodworking to add to our inventory of things to sell.

 

Selling my handmade watercolors is part of my Artist's Business Plan for 2019.

“I make paint from rocks…” A typical encounter.

Click HERE to go directly to my online gallery. All of the work you’ll see there uses paint made from rocks.

Click HERE if you want to see Paleo Paints at Etsy. And HERE for workshops on making them.

Talking about Paint from Rocks

When people see my artwork, they usually don’t realize the colors they’re seeing is paint made from rocks. I love the surprise I invoke when I tell them that. It makes for interesting conversation with almost anyone even remotely interested in nature.

During winter months I get to talk to people at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. From spring through fall, I’m usually at the gallery in Kingston, and that’s where I get to talk to people. Usually they’re visitors to the area, passing through on their way to or from the Buffalo River or out to see the elk at Ponca.

To see what other venues I’ll be at this year, check out my online calendar. And Wild Ozark is always ‘open for business’ at our Etsy shop.

A Typical Encounter

People come in through the doors, walk through the aisles, sometimes browsing the various offerings. At the farmer’s markets, some of them, regulars who come for specific things, walk right past other vendors as if they don’t even exist, making a beeline for the booth that carries their (usually) gastronomical delight. Some market-goers glance at everything they pass, just to see what’s new.

At the gallery, it’s a little different because mostly all there is in there to see is art of some sort or another.

An Interested Browser!

Finally I notice a person who’s eyes linger on my artwork. Usually i don’t pounce right away. Pouncing is not my style. I let them look for a little while. After a few seconds more, I know they’re interested and I will try to strike up conversation if I’m not already involved with someone else.

“All these colors you see are Ozark colors.”

“Oh that’s nice.”  And then they’ll either step away because they’re afraid I’m going to try and sell them something, or step closer. Most become more interested. So I give more information, little bits at a time until they’re really engrossed.

“I Make Paint from Rocks”

“Literally. I make the paint from rocks right here in the Ozarks.”

Then most of the time, the interest really flares. Oh? Their eyes light up. Now this is something they’ve never heard of, and if they step in to hear more, I’ll come around and go through the show and tell of how I gather the pigment rocks, crush them and then make the paint.

My personal pans of paint from rocks. They get pretty messy with use.
My personal pans of paint from rocks. They get pretty messy with use.

I get more satisfaction out of showing and telling about the beautiful colors than I do from trying to ‘sell’ art to them. The idea that I can get paint from rocks is still so fascinating to me that I like to share it as much as possible. But when someone walks away from my booth, treasure in hand, it is also very satisfying.

Keepers

The most favorite interaction comes from meeting those I follow or who follow me via this blog or other social media. They already know I make the paint from rocks. They’ve made a special trip to see my work or to meet me. It makes my most of the time otherwise slow day when one of these market-goers shows up. Even if they only came to look and don’t buy.

Paint from Rocks: Wild Ozark Paleo Paints

I bring whatever paint sets are available with me to markets, but they’re also at Etsy. Here’s something new I’m working on. This is the prototype, called a Paleo Biscuit. What is that? It’s a palette to hold paint. I made them from recycled paper and I hope to use them to replace all the plastic pans eventually. The idea of using flat rocks themselves as palette trays is also on my list of things to try.

The wood palettes are nice, too, but those I have to hire out, whereas I can make these paper ones by myself. Another thing I especially like about them is that they’re plastic-free, use recycled materials, and the base material (paper scraps) is freely available.

"<yoastmark

My Art

Most of my work is uploaded to Etsy when it’s ready to sell. These awesome stationary sets, all works derived from my paint made from rocks, are the most recent addition!

 

To see art works as I do them, follow me at Instagram. To see them when they’re finished, keep an eye on my Paleo Paints website. I do bring some originals with me to the market.

Original Paintings for Sale

The Twisted Tree swatches and other small originals are usually for sale, but I’m holding on to most of the birds of prey originals now. I need to build a large enough collection of them to enter into exhibits or shows. I almost always have prints of everything available at my market booths, but email me to make sure the one you want is ready, if you want to be sure of a certain painting.

Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, come out to see what incredible art and colors come from our Ozarks. I still find it fascinating, every time I make paint from rocks.

Upcoming Events and Exhibitions

I usually do a good job of keeping my online calendar updated, but here’s the highlights of the months to come.

  • Fayetteville farmer’s markets on most Saturdays
  • Feb 9- Community Craft Show, Bentonville
  • Feb – April- Fox No. 1 will be on exhibit at the Faulkner Center for Performing Arts
  • March- unsure of date- Terra Studios fair
  • last 2 weeks of March-December: Kingston Square Arts on Sundays
These are large acorn caps. Burr oak and other oak acorns.

New Products Lineup for Wild Ozark 2019

Lots of new Paleo Paint products in the lineup for Wild Ozark 2019! Look for new handmade watercolors, new packaging (less plastic!) and more paintings.

Since I started making the paint in June of last year, I’ve experimented a lot. And I’ve learned a lot. The same goes for the paintings using handmade watercolors.

As I’ve never painted with anything except these paints I make, I have little to draw on from experience compared with store-bought versions.

However, in my work-play, I’ve come up with a few more techniques for using and making the paint. And I’ve found some better ways to package the paints and make them easier or more fun to use.

Plastic Reduction

The usual thing nowadays used to hold paint are little plastic pans. I’ve gone through literally hundreds of pans since I started making paint. When it’s paint for myself, I wash and reuse them. As I’m developing new products for the upcoming year, I’d prefer to use less plastic.

Originally, artists used whatever was handy to their region. Those who lived near bodies of water typically used seashells. If they purchased paint, it came in seashells, I’d assume. However most of the artists of old made their own paint.

While I don’t have seashells handy, I do have acorns with convenient little caps. And we have a lot of wood scraps when Rob is in the workshop making his art. Nature abounds with all sorts of ‘holders’, so I’ll keep my eyes open for other natural items that will work.

Paint delivery with no or little plastics.
Paint delivery with no or little plastics.

For the acorn cup holders, I still need to use the hot glue to attach them to the base. So not completely plastic-free, but much closer.

New Products in 2019

More Colors

While my main focus for new products will remain on local colors, the Soul of the Ozark series, I would like to start experimenting with minerals from other places. Whenever I travel, I’ll collect the soil, rocks, or clay of that place and make collections called “Soul of That Place”.

I’ve learned to make an incredible blue out of lapis lazuli, but that rock is expensive and in short supply here in my possession, so it most likely won’t ever be one of my new products to sell. However, there are other rocks native to the United States that will make blue. Same goes for green. So these won’t be included in a Soul collection unless it is native to the region I’ve collected, but I’d like to have those colors on hand.

Another thing I learned to do, and now consider standard practice when I have a large enough source, is to refine the colors. The whole rock gives a certain shade. But if you separate the fractions of the rock using water, other shades are possible. Some of the shades can be quite vivid, like this Russet from the fines of the rock I used originally to make my Nirvana color.

More Art

I’ve entered the only two originals I have left into a show for the Artists of Northwest Arkansas. Which means in order to enter any other shows, I’ll need more originals. Right now I’m working on a goshawk and hopefully it will turn out well enough to compete. Before I can finish the painting, though, I have to make the colors I need.

The next exhibit I’d like to apply to is at the Springfield Museum of Art. I need to have this goshawk done by February for that.

My little twisted tree swatches have been popular items at the market, so I will make more of those and add them to the new product line as they become available. They’re small and affordable for people who want to own original art rather than prints. And they look just as nice framed as any larger sized painting would.

Paleo Duos

Whimsical, yet practical. At the moment, I only have enough of the large acorn cups to make 4 sets. If these prove to be a popular way to deliver my handmade watercolors, I’ll find more of them!

Each acorn cup holds more paint than a standard full pan. If all I can find are smaller acorns, then I’ll add more cups and call them Trios or Quads.

The bones of a new product. This is what will become Paleo Duo sets. Look for these to appear at Etsy and at the market booth by the end of January.
The bones of what will become Paleo Duo sets.

Wooden Palettes

These wooden blocks are awesome, and contain no plastics at all. When I finish the paints in one of mine, I’ll try washing and re-using it, too. My son Garrison has been working with me on this design. He’s doing all the work of making them and I’m filling them with paint and offering feedback. The one below is a working prototype.

Not one of the new products, but a new way to package the products. No plastic!
Not one of the new products, but a new way to package the products. No plastic!

Paleo Go

This is a portable set based on the concept of ‘whiskey paintings’. It features small acorn cups with magnets so they can be swapped out for different colors. Will come with the first set of colors, a miniature paint brush, shot glass for water, and the wooden plaque. I have been using this prototype as often as I can so I can make modifications as needed. Once I have all the bugs worked out and beautify the presentation of it more, it’ll be one of the new products at the market too. Look for this mid- to late 2019. Maybe earlier if I’m lucky with the first round of modifications.

Paleo Go prototype in use for one of my twisted tree paintings.
Paleo Go prototype in use for one of my twisted tree paintings.

Where to Find Wild Ozark?

Look for me on Saturdays at the Fayetteville (indoor) Farmers Market until March. I won’t be there the first weekend in January, though. You can find out when and where I’ll be by checking my calendar here.

I’ll be at the Community Craft Show in Bentonville on February 9.

My Etsy shop is at Etsy.com/shop/wildozark and it’s open all the time!

Got Acorns?

If you have any burr oak acorn caps, I would be happy to buy some from you! Ditto the other large caps. I have lots of medium and small acorns, just need more of the large ones. Email me if you’d like to donate or sell to the cause: [email protected]

Have a wonderful, prosperous, and exciting 2019!

Today it's 108*F and feels like 118*F. I'm standing in the shade of a date palm here.

Year in Review- Wild Ozark 2018

Every year I like to make a review of the year at Wild Ozark. I didn’t think I’d get time to do it this year, but today I managed to carve out the space to get it done. At first I thought this one post might include the goals and aspirations I have for 2019, but it’s turned out to be long enough with just the 2018 Wild Ozark Year in Review. The next post will be about the 2019 outlook.

2018 Wild Ozark Review

January started out with the loss of one of our homestead dogs, Bobbie Sue. The remaining dog, Badger is just now seeming to overcome the grief of losing his companion. I didn’t post much in January, but shared a few product reviews and began a soon-to-falter series of posts on homesteading hacks.

Rob and I did some exploring of the bluffs on our property in February.

I posted some photos to RedBubble. This one was my favorite. It made really cool looking tote bags and tee-shirts.

Comanche's Lovely Eyes are on products at RedBubble.
Comanche’s Lovely Eyes

I turned in an article with accompanying art based on one of my old blogs post about a woodland habitat full of green dragons. That would be published later in the summer by North American Native Plant Society.

Changes on the Horizon

Already I had begun feeling the tremors that would eventually lead to a complete transformation of what it is I do here at Wild Ozark, as a business. I was feeling the need to take some of the irons out of my fire already and early in the year. In March, Rob built the beautiful wooden corner shelves for the market booth and I began getting ready to start the season on Easter weekend, for the first time in Fayetteville at the downtown farmer’s market.

Not long after that, Rob got a job offer and all of the wheels ground to a halt as we switched into preparation mode for his departure. That took a lot longer than expected because of passport issues, but he was finally cleared to go but it would be May before he actually left. I brought the Burnt Kettle Shagbark Hickory Syrup, fairy gardens in glass globes, and Forest Folk.

New Artsy Product and Less Blogging

I also began making the little Fairy Swing Mushrooms. The syrup sold the easiest, but I also sold a lot of the fairy gardens and a few of the Forest Folk and mushrooms. We went to the Arkansas Made Arkansas Proud festival in Little Rock in April. For the entire month of May, I only managed to make two blog posts.

The first time I’d ever seen a Baltimore Oriole (bird) in real life was this year in May. After I’d seen the first one, I found some oranges in the refrigerator and sliced one up for them.

A Baltimore Oriole in the Ozarks

For the most part of 2018, I let posting to the blog slip to the side lines. It just seemed like so much more *work* than it used to be. I think it’s because I tried to include too many photographs in my posts. And also the effort of practicing good SEO (search engine optimization). The rigors of trying to make everything perfect really detracted from the pleasure of blogging. I’m going to quit worrying about that so much in the future.

Handmade Watercolor Paints, An Entirely New Obsession

At the end of June, I made my very first handmade watercolors. They weren’t even dry yet when I gathered all I had made so far with me and brought them on my trip to Doha, Qatar, where Rob was working. At this point, I hadn’t even painted anything with them yet. Surprisingly, I got through customs with my assortment of powdered rocks and sticky half-set paints.

I used earth pigments for my first paintings.
These are the colors I used for my first paintings.

It was there, on the other side of the world in a foreign landscape that I made my very first painting with my very first paints. That was a life-changing way-point. I had no idea so much color could be wrestled out of rocks. I had no idea I could even paint.

Change of Plans

I returned from my trip at the end of July to nearly desert conditions at the nursery. My little fern nursery and fairy garden mossy supplies had gotten dried out and died. In June it had rained too much, and in July it didn’t rain enough. So I dropped out of the market for the remainder of summer. Instead, I focused on making more paint and paintings.

And now that’s pretty much all I do. Go out for walks, pick up rocks, then smash them to powders to see what colors I get. It’s fun and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the art of making art.

Wrapping up the 2018 Wild Ozark Review

That’s pretty much where the business aspect of Wild Ozark stands now. I make paint, make paintings, and then make derivatives of the paintings. Recently I got the Etsy shop up and running again and have been making some sales through that venue. I also go to the Fayetteville (indoor) Farmers Market during the winter months, but not sure if I’ll go during summer. Instead I’ll be applying to the local juried art and craft shows. That will get more exposure for both the artwork and the paints.

My next post will highlight some of the plans going forward. Look for more paints, more paintings, and some workshops.

 

 

 

Post header for Winter Solstice 2018

Winter Solstice 2018, New Year, and the Color Black

Full Moon and Meteor Shower at Winter Solstice 2018

Winter solstice 2018 in Northern Hemisphere will be at 4:23 PM on Friday, December 21. This is the longest night of the year, and although I typically think of it as a dark night, it won’t be this year.

With a full moon and meteor shower going on, it’s likely to be quite bright outside after the sun goes down.

Solstice Seems to be a better “New Year” Marker

I’ve always wondered why the winter solstice isn’t the marker for a new year. So before starting this blog post, I looked it up. And now that I know, I’m surprised that New Year’s eve is such an accepted celebration in today’s political and religious climate. The reasons for the date makes a lot more sense to me now. You can read more about it at EarthSky.org if you like.

I still like the winter solstice better, though, lol.

And it seems a fitting time of year to stock up on one of my favorite handmade watercolor paint colors: Black. I make the black from wood char, and this year I’m going to make a special batch of black paint from the wood that I burn on Mid-winter’s Day. I’ll call it Winter Solstice 2018.

For Winter Solstice 2018 my musings are about the symbolism of black and the making of a special batch of handmade watercolors.

It’ll look just like the other blacks that I make, though, so the only difference will be the metaphysical.

If you want to read more about how I make the paint, visit my Paleo Paints website.

 

The Color Black from a Physical and Metaphysical Standpoint

Technically, each color is represented by specific wavelengths on a spectrum that ranges from red to violet. Basically, the same colors you see in a rainbow. Black isn’t a ‘color’ because it has no specific wavelength. And neither is white, because it contains all of the visible wavelengths and has no wavelength of its own. (https://education.seattlepi.com/not-list-black-white-colors-physics-3426.html)

White is all of the colors in the visible light wavelengths, and black is the absence of all colors in the visible wavelengths. White contains all colors and black absorbs all colors. It is the metaphysical struggle between these two that give all of life purpose and meaning.

Just as a blank white page contains all the possibilities of what can be, the inky black screen of the resting mind is there to fill that page.

In nature, all living things are in a state of decay. All systems are in a state of decay. And all living things are also in a state of change.

The word ‘decay’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘rotting’, although that is one meaning of it. As I am using it, and even in the unpleasant image of rotting, to decay means to break down to basic components.

Balance and Stasis

Balance is by nature a state of expended energy. When something is in balance, it is being pulled in opposite directions and compensation must be made to stay in balance. One little change can upset the balance if the thing in balance isn’t able to compensate for that change.

White is the complete and total opposite of black, and it represents the active state. All the other colors in between represent the struggle and chaos as the two opposites strive to gain an edge.

All things strive to move toward a state of chaos or randomness (https://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae261.cfm). Without balance, there is chaos. So from a color standpoint, black represents the the resting state. It also represents chaos.

In nature, temperatures ‘want’ to return to extremely cold. Bodies want to be at rest. Light wants to return to darkness. Colors want to meld to black.

Black and White depend upon and feed each other.

It is the Balance of Life that holds it all in play. Once the game is over, it fades to black.

Black represents the beginning, and the end. The alpha and the omega. It is the natural state of existence. Only life pulls out color, warmth, and motion. This is why I say the Universe is a living organism. Once it dies, it all returns to cold, dark, black.

And yet black holds the potential of all possibilities of warmth, light, and colors. Of life. This is because it takes a ‘black body’ to heat up and emit the white light. Again, the two polar opposites cannot exist without each other.

Almost all of the concepts of religion are about the struggle between good and evil, or the balance between light and dark. In psychology there is the struggle between our nature’s ‘good side’ and ‘bad side’, with the supposedly ‘bad’ side being called the ‘shadow’ side, which makes me think of darkness and black, or evil and wrong.

In my worldview, it is not so much right or wrong, good or bad, but the struggle to maintain the balance between opposite pulls. This struggle is evident almost everywhere you look once you start to pay attention to the symbolism.

What I’ll be Doing to Celebrate a Return of the Light

So Winter Solstice 2018 is going to be a time of dabbling in the dark and welcoming in the light as I make black paint pigments and look forward to new colors going down on my blank white canvases in 2019.

To read about the making and use of my black handmade watercolor paint, read my post over at the Paleo Paints website. You can read my previous Winter Solstice posts too:

Winter Solstice 2015

Winter Solstice 2014

An End of Year Post: Things going on at Wild Ozark

It’s been a busy past few months at Wild Ozark. I haven’t posted as often as I normally do, and when the blog goes silent, it’s usually because there’s just too many other things on my plate. Just in case I don’t get a chance to make another post to commemorate the end of the year, I figured I’d better get one in today while I have a little time.

For the months of October and most of November I wore the Burnt Kettle hat. Rob’s sister Valerie came up to give me hand at the War Eagle fair in mid-October. Thank goodness she was here, because that was the first large event I’ve ever done and it was hard! There’s no way I could have done it on my own. And then Rob came home for a break from the desert, but half of that was spent also spent selling more syrup at a different festival in Texas.

New (to us) Truck

The first few days he was home we did a lot of driving around looking for the best deal on a new (used) truck. We ended up buying one in Oklahoma City. As it turned out, the first truck we looked at was the one we ended up getting.

Our end of year gift to ourselves. Very comfy and lots of room inside! 2016 Ford F150.
Very comfy and lots of room inside!

Paleo Paints

Since mid-November I’ve been busy busy working on wearing the artist’s hat. I’ve made a few new collections of Paleo Paints. You can read more about the latest collection at the art website (PaleoPaints.com) but here’s the cover images for all three so you can get an idea of the colors in each. No. 3 is at the Walton Arts Center’s little Holiday Market shop until Dec. 16. No. 4 still has one color not yet dry enough to ship so I bring it with me to sell in person but it should soon be ready to go up on Etsy, too. Collection No. 5 is listed at Etsy now, but there’s only two of those sets left.

All of them have similar shades, but there’s some differences in tone. I used purple sandstone in the last two and in the third collection several of the shades are from pink sandstone. I hope to have some more collections finished before end of year.

Right now I’m working on a Twisted Tree painting and I’m using mostly colors from Collection No. 5, but resorted to a wee bit of wood char that hasn’t made it into a collection since the Collection No. 1. I’ll need to make more of that one and include it in the next set. Here’s Twisted Tree No. 1, still in progress.

Twisted Tree No. 1. Still working on roots. Will move up to the limbs next.
Still working on roots. Will move up to the limbs next. Follow me on Instagram if you like to see the things I’m working on in real time.

These Twisted Trees are obviously fantasy trees. I have no photo to go on, and when I first start a new painting of this sort I have no idea what will emerge. The farther along I get with it, though, the clearer the image becomes in my mind and the better I know how to go forward. This one is a very masculine looking tree to me, wouldn’t you say?

Paleo Paint Plans

Soon I want to try making a set of oil colors. There’s a goshawk painting I want to do using them. It’ll be the first time working with oils, so I’m curious how that will turn out.

End of Year Celebrations

I hope you’re all having a good Christmas season. The entire holiday season always feels too rushed to me and I find by now I’m really looking forward to the start of the new year. Solstice is the date it seems like the new year should begin, though, so that’s the day I privately celebrate the end of year here at Wild Ozark. I look forward to the nights becoming shorter and the daylight lingering a little longer each day as the seasons build toward mid-summer.

Yay! Wild Ozark is back online!

After 3 days of being in website purgatory, the site is finally back to the light of day.

Just thought I’d make a little post to shout out about that. You guys have no idea how much grief I’ve gone through trying to get it here, lol, unless you’re also of the geeky persuasion.

I’ve crashed websites often over the years as I’ve learned how to run them, but this time I did it in a particularly crafty way and it took me a while to figure out how to get it back. It turned out, as it so often does, the fix was simple. Had I known the simple route existed, I would have taken it first, but even tech support didn’t offer that option. Tech support didn’t help much at all. So just a word of warning, if you intend to use VPS and self-host, prepare to learn to do things on your own if you go with Dreamhost. I used ICDSoft for many years for regular hosting, and still do for some client sites, but they didn’t have a VPS option. Their tech support is awesome, any time of day or night there’s someone to help online to answer emails. I never even got a response to my tickets submitted at Dreamhost, and chat wasn’t available this morning when I got up with a new idea to try out.

At any rate, I’m glad to be back. I’ll be at War Eagle in the Sharps Show part with the Burnt Kettle booth next weekend. Come out and say hello if you’re in the northwest Arkansas area and go to the fair.

Promises in a broken rock, and clearing the clutter from my studio and website.

Clearing the Clutter: Promises, Broken Rocks, and Things to Come

Such promise in a broken rock… I see paints everywhere now. Makes it hard to walk down the driveway. As if that wasn’t already hard enough before I learned about making earth pigments! The path in my office/studio AND the website has gotten hard to navigate too, so it’s time to do some work clearing the clutter.

Broken Rock Aside

There are changes a’coming to the Wild Ozark website and Etsy shop. Right now the Etsy shop is completely down while I refocus and renovate.

Any of you who have followed me in my blogs over the … decades? I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this. More than a decade, at least. But if you’ve been with me even a few years you’ve seen the changes that happen.

With each name change, the focus changed too. In the earliest days of ‘Ancient Earth Wisdom’, the focus was on herbalism. Then we bought the property in Arkansas and I changed it to ‘Ozark Musings’, and later again to ‘Madison Woods’ and the focus was more on my writing. Even since I started Wild Ozark in 2014, it has evolved. I think part of that is because I’ve been trying to find my niche in the world. Part of it is because my interests are just so varied that my focus is scattered all over the place.

New passions grab me and I run with them for a while, you know? But want to settle in to one of my arts long-term so I can truly master it.

The Nature Art is Here to Stay

I’ve never felt so in love with a creative expression as I am with making my own colors and art materials. So this endeavor is *probably* going to be with me for the rest of my life. That includes the native clay and the colors and the things I make from them.

My writing is going to stay. But it has its own website and so isn’t part of the clearing of clutter on the website, nor in the office/studio. Except once I get the office/studio finished, it’ll be a lot easier to sit down and write!

The Fairy Swing Mushrooms will stay.

Once Rob returns from this contract, his woodworking is going to launch to a new level, so the woodcrafts will stay.

Clearing the clutter, but keeping the Fairy Swing Mushrooms!

What’s Changing?

Not much. I’m just doing some housecleaning – in reality and figuratively. And I’m taking out some of the too many irons in the fire. I’m going to retire the Forest Folk and Fairy Gardens and all the little accessories I’d been making. I’m not going to return the the farmers markets. Doing the market was just too time consuming and I could never get the art I really wanted to do done because I was too busy doing the things that sold best.

I will try to get into some of the juried art shows with the Fairy Swing Mushrooms and my watercolors once I get enough of them done. Ideally I’d like to have a circuit of shows or festivals to attend quarterly. At least some of those that are festivals would also let us have a booth for the syrup, too.

And speaking of the syrup. Burnt Kettle is a separate thing altogether and nothing at the moment is going to change with that. For the purpose of my focus narrowing, though, it’s just a separate thing and not part of my mental housecleaning.

Clearing the Clutter

At this very moment I’m in the process of clearing the clutter from my workspace in the house. I started that before I left for my trip to Doha, but hadn’t made a very big dent in the huge job that it is.

Once I came home I renewed the effort. All of my office is now stacked in boxes all over the kitchen and I’m trying to decide where to put it all and how to make it all fit back into the office.

It won’t all fit.

I am simply going to have to let go of some things. For example, I have tons and tons of empty boxes and containers for shipping my arts to mail-order customers.

Some of those can go and I can keep on hand just what I need. I don’t need three contractor garbage bags full.

This website is like a virtual representation of my studio/office. It also needs to be cleaned and decluttered every once in a while. Because it is important to my business, it also needs to perform well in that aspect.

Narrowing My Focus

So, the things I am going to continue doing will be the writing, the earth pigments and paints, the paintings/drawings, and the Fairy Swing Mushrooms. I had been using polymer clay for the mushroom caps, but I want to use the native clay for that going forward.

Letting go of the web design (not taking new clients), the farmer’s market, the Forest Folk, Fairy Gardens. Of course, I’m not throwing the supplies away for these things, I’m just clearing the clutter and putting them in labeled boxes. I might need to make a Forest Folk for some reason; who knows?

For the changes coming to the website, I’m going to weed out some of the categories of posts that don’t reflect the above listed things.

What About the Ginseng?

So the ginseng is a complete outlier to the rest of the things I’m doing and want to continue doing. I’m not sure yet what to do about it. I haven’t written any posts specifically about it in a long time, but it’s the main driver of traffic to this website. That’s because over the years, I did write a tremendous amount about it.

I may leave all the content related to ginseng alone, but that defeats the purpose of trying to focus and isn’t really helping with clearing the clutter. Every year I do still post a page for diggers and dealers to discuss prices and find each other. I may move all of that content to a separate website. Since I don’t update it often anymore, once I get it set up and moved, it wouldn’t be too much work.

The problem of what to do about the ginseng is the biggest potential change coming to Wild Ozark. I need to decide if I still want to bother with the growing and selling of seedlings. I think I do. But it’s an entirely different venture than the art and it needs its own place on the web.

What I’ve noticed is that most of the readers who are here for the ginseng information are not here for the blog. They come from the search engines directly to the content related to the ginseng and they rarely go elsewhere to the other topics. Most of the ones who are here to read the blog posts are not here for the ginseng related topics.

So for the most part, it’s two different audiences.

The Blog Itself Won’t Change Much

I write about nature, post pictures of things that interested me, and write about the artistic things I’m doing. Going forward, the focus will probably lean more toward the artistic things I’m doing, and I’ll post pictures of things I find interesting, like nature. So not much change. Just clearing the clutter.

Anyway… thank you to all of you who follow me around in this virtual space no matter what I’m writing about. And thank you to the ones who only like to read when it’s a topic of interest to you. And thank you to those of you who think you’re not going to like this new Wild Ozark much and decide to just hop off now, lol. It’s all good!

 

 

Art Satchel-A Souvenir from Doha

Camel leather satchel is my new art bag. A souvenir from Doha, Qatar.
This camel leather satchel is my new art bag. A souvenir from Doha, Qatar.

This old, beat-up looking camel leather bag is my new art satchel. I love it. It’s a souvenir from Doha, Qatar, where I’ve spent the last two weeks. It has enough room to hold my paints, journal, a few favorite pencil colors, brushes and rags. It even holds my easel, if I don’t mind the top poking out of the corner. The easel is just a little too long for it, but I think it works well enough. What a great item for a traveling artist to have.

It's easy to be a traveling artist with this awesome camel skin art satchel from my stay in Doha, Qatar.
What a great item for the traveling artist!

Pictures from Doha

If you haven’t been following along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve missed the photos. It’s easier to post them there than it is to post here, so I usually just skip the website/blog. Here are some, in case you’re curious. Doha is the capital city of Qatar. I’ll be here for another week before heading home. My husband is working here and I’ve been visiting. Next week, I’ll have to pack up my art satchel, computer, and clothes and head back home. Then I’ll just be a traveling artist toting my supplies down the driveway, ha.

Today was the first day I ventured out by myself. I went to get some groceries and used Uber to get a ride. My phone battery was almost dead so I didn’t want to use up battery life taking photos. Next week I might take another trip out to the museum if we don’t get to go to it this weekend while Rob is off of work, and I’ll definitely take more pics then.

I’ve never used Uber before and was a bit nervous but everything went great! The driver was quick to get here at the apartment to pick me up and again (different driver) to pick me up from the Geant’s grocery store when I was ready to leave. You might be wondering what kind of groceries did I get out here…

I got hummus, tomatoes, orange juice, and flat bread. Almost everything sold here is imported from neighboring countries. For instance, the tomatoes are from Holland and the Orange Juice is from Lebanon. They make the hummus and breads daily here.

Art Satchel for Me, Souvenirs for Others

I’ve only just now gotten a couple of souvenirs. A couple of friends sent money with me to buy them something interesting while I’m here, plus I wanted to get some things for family members. There’s no telling when I might get to travel again, so I want to get unique, ‘full of place’ items.

It’s unlikely that the items will be from Qatar, though at the Souq Waqif I did see several stalls that had signs stating the crafts were handmade by Qatari artists. As I said earlier about the groceries, most things are imported here. But there are some things that say ‘Qatar’, and there are things from the Middle East, so I should be able to mark some off the list soon. It’s okay if it’s not something made in Qatar, but it needs to at least be something made in the Middle East.

Traveling Artist, Signing Off

It might be after I get home before I get a chance to post again. This traveling artist and writer will be heading home soon. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of catching up to do with things at home, too. I’ll be back at the Kingston Square Arts shop on the 29th of July, and back at the market sooner or later.

Before I go back to the market I have to come up with some things to sell. I’m pretty sure all the fairy gardens will be dead or in need of repotting before I can sell them. I have paintings to make and paints to make, too.

The creeks are nearly dry.

Nearly Dry

We’ve had some rain lately, but not enough. The creek that runs through our land is nearly dry now. Thankfully, there are still a few constantly refilling pools here and there, or else I’d have to carry water to the horses.

Even the spring puddles on the way to the back gate are completely dry. That rarely happens.

While the creeks are low it is a great time to look for pigment stones and arrowheads, though. I haven’t looked for arrowheads, but I have been collecting a lot of stones with colors I can’t wait to extract when I get back from a trip to the real desert.

It only feels like a desert here. The real desert awaits in Doha, Qatar. Photos will commence in a few days!

Nearly dry creek at Wild Ozark. This is the only source of water for my horses, but there are still pools constantly being refilled so they're alright.
There’s still a few refilling watering holes on the creek but it’s nearly dry now. Hope it rains good soon.

I’ve been trying to learn the new Photoshop and in this one I played with focus and color. Lots of learning still needed.

Map of Kingston, AR 72742

Kingston, Arkansas?

There are some hidden treasures in the Ozarks. The tiny little town of Kingston, Arkansas is one of them.

The town itself is tiny, consisting only of a simple square with a gazebo in the middle for the “downtown” portion and across the bridge heading north there is the school and a gas station. That comprises the “uptown”.

Last I knew, the population was around 500. But most of the people live in the hills surrounding Kingston. And in those hills are a lot of crafty and artistic folks! You’ll see evidence of that if you stop in at some of the businesses in town the next time you’re passing through on your way to Ponca or Boxley.

What kind of business, you ask? Well, we have antique stores, a cafe, a gas station, a feed store, an old bank still using the old setup (take a look inside it), and an art gallery.

I’ve noticed that only the antique stores are said in plural. That’s a dead ‘small town’ giveaway to let you know just how small a town it really is.

Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas.
Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas.

Kingston Square Arts Shop (KSA)

Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things that are at the store:

 

Where the Heck is Kingston, Arkansas?

You’ll easily find it heading north on Highway 21 from Clarksville, AR (off of I-40) or by heading south on 21 (off of Hwy 412).

If you’re heading to Boxley or Ponca, you’ll already be in the vicinity.

KSA

Hours are 10-6, Thursday through Sunday.

Other than in the physical shop, you can find KSA on Facebook and at the website (still working on that). I’m the web and social mistress of the shop, so I’ll often post pictures of the items Greg (the house potter) or Barb (the house fiber artist) is working on or interesting things in there that’s for sale, or new things that the artists and artisans bring in to sell.

If you spot anything you want, it’s okay if you’re not close enough to drop in. They ship! Just post on the image in the FB timeline to ask if it’s available and they’ll take it from there.

If you’d rather call, the phone number is (479) 665-2559. The address is 100 Public Square, Kingston, AR 72742.

If you’re worried you won’t be able to find it, don’t be. If you can find the town of Kingston, you’ll find the square. And if you can find the square, you’ll definitely find the shop. It’s the big white store on the corner across from the post office.

Want to see some other places? Aside from KSA there are other things worth a stop in our tiny town.

Grandpa’s Antique Store

Maybe the only shop open on Sunday’s, Grandpa’s Antique store is on the square, too. If you have a pot missing a lid, whether cast iron or not, I bet you can find one to fit in Grandpa’s. There’s a lot of antiques and collectibles housed in this historic building, too.

The Bank

The bank is also a historic building. Pretty much all of the buildings on the square are. Inside the bank you can see the old tin ceiling tiles and the old bank vault. Both are in the lobby.

Others

There’s also a cafe (Waldron Valley Cafe), Bargain Buddy (antiques) the library (very small by most standards, but much larger than it used to be!), another antique store, and a new feed store. There’s a gas station just off the square to the north that also serves food.

I’ve probably left something out, so if you’re reading this and want to mention another spot to stop in our town of Kingston, Arkansas, or talk about the history of Kingston, just leave a comment and let everyone know!

A Week at Wild Ozark … No, I’m Not Lost

I’m just mired neck deep in a To-Do list of my own making, trying to get organized and into some sort of a groove now that market season has begun. Since I haven’t written in a while, I figured I’d write up a summary of a typical week at Wild Ozark.

This is my first year at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market and it’s a true test of my ability to maintain production of my creative arts. I’ve never had to continously make new product before, and I’m definitely not complaining. But it is a new thing to figure out. I want to keep making new things, but need to continue making the things I know will sell, and I need to still have some sort of life aside from the act of trying to keep up.

The ‘some sort of life aside’ isn’t quite working out just yet, ha.

I’ve been doing a lot of things. I have not been blogging; that’s obvious. It’s been more than a week since my last post here and that is not a normal occurrence for me. My first website and blog post was in August of 2001. At the time my website was called ‘Ancient Earth Wisdom’. I wish I had kept that domain, but I let it go long ago. That was back in the day of hand coding with HTML. There was no such thing as a blogging platform like WordPress then. You can still see the old site at the Wayback Machine. Did you know that the internet has an archive like that?

Finally got the horses moved after weed-eating the fences for days.
Finally got the horses moved after weed-eating the fences for days.

Lately I’ve had to squeeze time in for playing catch-up around the house. Spring took off with a fury and the weeds and grass grew up around the electric fences for the horses. Finally got that cleared.

While out walking along the creek, I very nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. It’s been thirteen years since I moved here, and all those years I’m tromping around the woods and have never had such a near miss. Yesterday I ordered some snake boots for future tromping.

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to, but today I checked and saw that I sold 7 books! That’s more than I ordinarily sell in one day, ha, so it’s great news.

A Typical Week at Wild Ozark

Mondays

Once market season starts, the entire week has a predictable pattern. On Mondays if I’m proactive about it, I start building my stock for the following weekend. The main sellers are fairy gardens, and I’ve been making some new things to decorate them, like little waterfalls and stairs.

The Shagbark Hickory Syrup is also a good seller, but I still have to apply labels and shrink wrap, and pour up samples. So I try to get that done early in the week. On Monday if possible.

Tuesdays

Starting next week, Tuesdays are reserved for watching the grandkids. I’m looking forward to that, but I need to find a way to crunch everything else into the remaining days of the week. I’ve become a workaholic, so this break will be good for both me and the kids.

Wednesdays

Ordinarily I like to get the fairy gardens made on Wednesdays, and any ginseng seedlings that need to be potted done. This week, I went to the creek, watched better for snakes this time, and collected some gravel. I love the ones with red in them, but the Ozark creek gravel comes in all shapes and sizes and in lots of shades of colors. I’m using them to make the fairy garden accents.

Putting the Rocks to Use

We have a lot of rocks here, so I’m happy to find ways to use them. And here’s what I did with the rocks. The ‘moss’ is ground sassafras leaves. The ‘water’ is hot glue.

A 'moss-covered' waterfall for the fairy gardens.
A ‘moss-covered’ waterfall for the fairy gardens.

A set of 'moss-covered' steps for the fairy gardens.
A set of ‘moss-covered’ steps for the fairy gardens.

Here’s one of the finished fairy gardens with the steps added to it.

Fairy garden with moss-covered steps.
Fairy garden with moss-covered steps.

Potting up Seedlings

It’s the time of year when the ginseng seedlings are for sale, too. On Wednesday I try to get any seedlings that need to be potted done. They’re usually settled and ready to sell by Saturday, but the ones that are still not happy on Friday stay behind in the Recuperation Nursery Bed.

Thursdays

By Thursday I’m starting to panic because I’m not ready yet.

Fridays

On Friday it’s a mad rush trying to finish up and then before dusk, pack up the truck.

Saturdays

Saturday starts at 0300 when the alarm goes off and I moan and groan about getting up so early. By 0345-0400, I’m on the road to Fayetteville. On a good market day, I’m sold out of the fairy gardens by 11 am and most of the syrup samples are taken before then. For every two samples, I probably sell at least one bottle of syrup.

Sundays

On Sunday I work my shift at the new Kingston Square Arts shop. My Fairy Mushrooms and Forest Folk and books are there, so if you’re up for a nice day trip to the rural parts of our beautiful state, come to Kingston on a Sunday and say hello!

Starting all over again

Then it’s back to Monday again and the cycle starts all over. Notice I didn’t mention house or yard work much in my week. That has to be fitted in there somewhere, but it’s a struggle.

If anything unexpected arises during the week, it throws the entire schedule off kilter. My kids don’t seem to understand that I’m not ‘retired’, so when I need to watch the grandkids unexpectedly, it creates havoc with the ‘work week’. But I like to try and keep them on Tuesdays when I can. They like to help with things like gathering moss and rocks for the fairy gardens, and they love to make mushrooms from the clay with me.

So you might have a good idea of why I’m behind on blogging and newsletter writing now. Thank you for being out there, and thank you all who support me as an artist, writer, and person trying to make a living with my passions.

Yep this was a long post!

No telling when I’ll get a chance to write another post, so I figured I’d better make this one count. At least you can get an idea of what each day of the week is holding here at Wild Ozark, anyway. Fill me in on your doings!

Lodging near Kingston, AR... not many nearby, but lots of beautiful scenery in between! What's Not to Love? On the way to Wild Ozark.

What’s Not to Love?

I titled this photo “What’s Not to Love?” because I love (almost) everything about living back here in the middle of nowhere.

Heading home is always a pleasure. Once I turn off the pavement, the half hour it takes to get to my house from there is pure sensory overload. I drive very slowly, looking at scenery, plants, and animals the whole six miles. It helped a lot when I worked full time, because the slow drive back in allowed me to adjust my mindset before I reached the house.

While that need to go slowly wears on a lot of people’s nerves, it’s one of the perks of living here to me

What’s NOT to Love?

Dirt roads means bumpy roads. That means I need to go slow so I don’t tear up the vehicle. There are some people who hate to slow down long enough to travel such roads.

That is not my problem. I love going slow because it gives me time to see things I wouldn’t see if I were going faster. Like which plants are blooming and when.

When it snows and I get to be the first one driving through it – that sort of thing carries a special sort of thrill hard to find elsewhere. But mostly it’s about the things I see.  Like the bobcat crossing the road and being lazy about it because I’m not moving too quickly, or the sight of turkeys strutting out in the fields.

If I’m really lucky I’ll get to see a bear… oh wait. I forgot. I’m supposed to be talking about what’s NOT to love.

Back to the point

Heading away from home isn’t always fun if I have to be somewhere at a certain time. To get anywhere on time means I can’t stop and enjoy the scenery as much as I might like. So that’s one thing not to love, I guess.

I have to leave plenty early to get anywhere at all, actually. For example, being a farmer’s market vendor means I have to get set up before the market opens. At the Fayetteville market, I have to have my tent all ready to go by 0700.

It takes me about an hour to put it all together. It takes about an hour and a half to get there IF nothing delays me along the way. So to get there by 0600 I absolutely have to have the truck rolling by 0430. Before that can happen, several other things have to happen. So it means my day on Saturdays start at 0300.

So I guess you could say having to get up way too early to get anywhere else early is one of the only things on the list of what’s not to love so much.

There are a couple of other things I could point out if hard-pressed. For one, if you have to work away from home, the drive to and from that job will eat up about 3 or 4 hours of each workday.

Another thing is the distance to a hospital if you become sick or injured.

So there are some drawbacks, but for me the pros outweigh the cons.

What About You?

What kinds of things would you list about what’s not to love if your daily drive meant a few miles of that road pictured above?

There’s another post of mine that you’ll like if you enjoyed this one. It’s called Why it Takes Me an Hour to Drive 12 Miles to the Post Office... or something like that.

Day 13: Nature Journal Series

Signs of Life

Day 13-Signs of Life

About this journal entry

The signs of life during the coldest parts of winter always intrigue me. I love seeing the green grass shoots found under a layer of snow or peeking out from the shelter of tumbled rocks. I’m not sure why I left the chickweed uncolored in my drawing. I think I just wanted to focus on the grass. When I started drawing almost everything I did had a single focal point. Some techniques use blurring to achieve this, but I preferred to use color instead, leaving everything else in black and white.

Recent drawings are all color, but nature journal entries might always keep this method because it’s a lot quicker than trying to get the color right for all of the elements in a scene.

 

About the Wild Ozark Nature Journal

Get the index to the other journal entries and read about my project at Wild Ozark Nature Journal.

If you keep a nature journal online, share the link to yours in the comments.

Too Many Irons in the Fire?

Too Many Irons in the Fire

This is a fiery sunset photo taken several years ago and it prompted my idea to write this post about having too many irons in the fire. Dense dark clouds hung low on the horizon, allowing the setting sun to illuminate so brightly as a backdrop giving the appearance of wildfires raging on the distant mountains.

If you’ve ever read any of my flash fiction based on photo prompts, you’ll understand why the image isn’t something you might immediately associate with the topic I’ve connected to today. Images stimulate my imagination in roundabout ways. The connections I make to them aren’t exactly direct, but I think this one is close.

And if you’ve been reading my blog for more than a year, you’ve probably seen this post. Every year I go through the same process at about this time. So to save some time, I took this post out of archives, updated it a little bit, and turned it back out.

Too Many Irons in the Fire

If you have the tendency, like me, to take on too many projects at once then you’ll know exactly why imagery of fire brings this saying to mind. “Too many irons in the fire”.

I’m not sure of the original meaning of this phrase, but when I hear it I think of cattlemen of a decade or so ago, rounding up cows. Branding irons in a fire.

If there’s too many irons piled on the fire, then none of them will heat evenly and the branding of the cattle will be more chaotic. The irons become tangled in that pile.

My Chaotic State of Mind

As it relates to my topic of musing for today, I have a tendency to get too many things going at once. And then all of the projects suffer because it’s not possible to allocate enough time to each all of the time. My tasks become jumbled like the piled on irons in the fire.

As it relates to nature, I think this is a uniquely human condition. I wonder how natural an occurrence among us it is? Does it only happen to a certain type of person, or is it random – afflicting everyone at some point?

I’ve taken a few irons out recently. It’s usually at this time of year when I notice just how many irons are in the fire. Because it’s tax time and tax time means I have to focus on ledgers and tax stuff.

Slipping through the Cracks

Although I’m still managing to get some writing done, other tasks as slipping. I have a piece of art work due by the end of this week and I’ve yet to start on it. It’s one to accompany the Green Dragon I finished last week. That must be remedied today. I’ve been reading up on the tax information for this year and trying to get an understanding of depreciation. That’s the one aspect of filing that keeps sending me to a CPA instead of doing them myself. I want to understand how to do this.

Taxes and art are not exactly occupying the same space in my brain, so switching back and forth from one to the other isn’t easy.

The process of figuring out what needed to be done, which forms needed to be filed, and what expenses could be deducted, and on and on ad nauseum keep me so occupied that very few of the other irons in my fire have received much attention lately.

I’m almost done with the tax headache and we may still end up needing to bring them to an accountant. But at least I have a better understanding of how to keep better records this year because of the struggle I’ve undergone over the past few weeks. (And I say this every year. But it does get better each year, so I’m not considering that a total failure.)

Clearing Out at Least One of the Irons in the Fire

Now that the most demanding iron is nearly out of the fire, I can add some of the other ones back in. And rekindle the flames. This fire of mine is a creative one and each iron is a desire to create. To create an art of the imagination, whether in the form of words in a story or photos arranged as visual art or seed-planting or business-growing.

What desires do you have burning and are you plagued with having too many irons in the fire?

 

Things I’ve Heard but Never Seen- Spring Peepers

How many things have you heard but never seen? One that confounds me every year is a little frog.

Today was a very windy and warm day, warm enough to make it easy to work up a sweat while helping Rob with firewood this morning. I can’t remember a sweaty February day before. The peepers must think it is time for spring. They were singing full-blast at one particular pond. Usually we don’t hear these little singers until March.

When I say *full-blast* I mean very, very loudly. The noise of the frog song was so loud, it was literally deafening.

Listen to them.

I’ve never heard them so loud before. At our pond there were none. Ours is a spring-fed pond with colder water than the rain-catch cow pond where this audio was recorded, so maybe that makes a difference to them. I never hear them in the creek, either.

A couple of years ago, I mentioned how loud the peepers were. But the ones I heard today trumped those.

With so many voices you’d think there’d be frogs everywhere. I’m sure they were there, I could hear them very loudly. But I could not find a single one! I wanted to get a photo to go with the audio. Not one in sight. I’ve seen pictures of them on the internet but until I’ve actually seen one of our own, how can I be certain ours look the same?

A spring peeper. Something I've often heard but never seen.
By USGS – http://cars.er.usgs.gov/herps/Frogs_and_Toads/P_crucifer/p_crucifer.html, Public Domain, Link

How can something be so often heard but never seen? A frog is a physical thing, so it should be possible. Well, of course it’s possible. Someone at the USGS obviously got a sight of one. They’re not like the wind, which is often heard but never seen. Signs that the wind exists can be seen, like debris flying or limbs swaying, but the wind itself isn’t visible. That’s not so with spring peepers. There should be a frog somewhere to go with that noise, haha.

They’re just very good at hiding. Of course, it *sounded* like they were in the pond. But maybe they were all *around* the pond instead. I looked there too, but still no sighting.

So for now, a spring peeper remains for me a thing heard but not seen.

Guest Post: Climate Change. Just My Thoughts and Observations

A note from Madison: Just to clear up some confusion – This is a guest post. It’s not my article. My own opinion on things is a lot more woo-woo and probably a lot less “scientific”, in spite of my past history of a career in science.

To state my own stand on the issue of climate change… I do think there is climate change occurring. While I also think this change is a naturally occurring trend I believe the human impact on the speed at which it is happening is tremendous. I do not believe we can continue to take from the earth, use all of the resources, and not expect some sort of reaction.

I believe the earth itself is a living organism, that all of creation is part of a larger organism, and that just as we have organs/mechanisms in our bodies that science thinks is not important or is not understood (like adenoids, tonsils, appendix, “gut instinct”, etc.), I think humans are incredibly aloof to believe that we can mine the earth’s resources to the point of depletion and there not be a consequence. So on to Richard’s essay…


First of all I’m no climatologist, weather expert or MIT scientist, but it doesn’t take a genius to see what is happening (re: climate change). This is the legacy we will leave for our children if we don’t make drastic changes in the way we treat the place we live.

Just My Thoughts and Observations on Climate Change

We live for all practical intent and purposes in an enclosed system. This enclosed system is Earth. It may as well be a biosphere, which it is, or a box. Everything we do not only affects the earth, but because we live here it affects us, and every living thing on the planet.

To deny climate change is to deny the obvious. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the effects of our carbon emissions, concrete jungle, asphalt, farming, and deforestation.

 

A Climate Change Metaphor

In electronics there is a device called a Zener diode. A Zener diode is used for several things but its unique characteristic is its ability to control voltage and current at a specific point. It will regulate voltage in a circuit until that voltage reaches a critical point and then it will conduct current in reverse. This point is called the “knee” or “break over” point”. Our forests, ice caps, plant life, atmosphere, oceans, and ozone are a lot like a Zener diode.

When people say the weather hasn’t changed and it’s still getting very cold in the winter and “how can there be global warming” what they are seeing is the Zener diode effect. Here is what I believe is happening.

Is Climate Change Happening? A guest post by Richard Kestrel.

Carbon Emissions

Our carbon emissions destroy the ozone and form what is called a thermal blanket around the Earth. Ever hear of that “survival space blanket”? That is a thin sheet of Mylar that reflects your body heat and keeps you warm in an emergency situation. Don’t believe me? Just get a large trash bag and cut a hole large enough to stick your head through and pull it down around your body. In a few minutes your body heat will build up inside and after a while you will start to sweat. This is the same effect the pollution in the atmosphere causes. It reflects the radiation that gets to the earth from the sun and warms the earth. With the depletion of the ozone, this effect is even more pronounced, as it lets in more radiation. This same effect is used every day to finish cooking potatoes after they have been in the oven or microwave. The Aluminum foil wrapped around the hot potato will continue to cook it and keep it hot for a very long time, same as carbon emissions around the earth. WE are on that potato!

Petroleum Consumption

Current world wide use of just petroleum today stands at 96 million barrels A DAY! That’s 35 BILLION barrels a year and growing! Each gallon of gasoline produces 19.6 pounds of carbon monoxide and each gallon of diesel produces 22.38 pounds of CO2. Multiply that by 42 gallons in each barrel of oil then by 35 Billion barrels a year and that is how much we put in the atmosphere each year! And oil is not the only thing we use that produces CO2. The total amount we put in the atmosphere each year is far higher. This can’t help but contribute to climate change. (Here’s a link to consumption in the US alone.)

Deforestation

Deforestation and loss of plant life in general cause the carbon dioxide to build as that is what plants use to grow and perform photosynthesis. There is also less oxygen because that is what plants emit after using the carbon monoxide to grow. Don’t believe me? Think about the beach where there is no plant life. Ever walk on the sand that was so hot you had to run to get to the beach water or burn your feet? Now think of all the millions of miles of asphalt roads and hi-ways, sidewalks, concrete, buildings, and plowed fields after harvest that do nothing but absorb heat in the world. Plant life shades the ground, produces the oxygen you require to breath, and even clean the atmosphere. We have to have oxygen to live. Without it we will die.

All that deforestation, concrete, asphalt, open plowed fields, carbon emissions, and pollution contribute to the temperature change. The effect of all this heat and loss of ozone are causing the polar ice caps to shrink. The ice caps, forests, plant life, and ozone are the Zener diode I talked about earlier. They all regulate the climate we live in. White ice reflects sun light and solar radiation. Ice also cools the atmosphere and regulates some of our climate. Ever get a glass of tea, fill it with ice and sit on the porch outside on a hot day out of the sun to cool off? After a while if you didn’t add ice to the tea it would get warm again, and the tea gets diluted with the melted water.

Ice Caps, Climate Change, Zener Break Over

The ice caps are shrinking at an alarming rate. Recorded ice cover on the polar caps prove this. Glaciers worldwide are disappearing at alarming rates. Glaciers that have been around for thousands of years. All that ice has to go somewhere. Usually into the ocean. The greatest part of the Zener diode. That ice water right now is cooling the oceans. This is the “knee” of the Zener diode. It does cool the planet causing the cooling effect and making some believe that the planet is actually cooling. But, when that ice has finished melting and the polar ice caps reach a point to where they are no longer cooling the oceans and the oceans start too really heat up again the Zener diode will “break over” and conduct in reverse.

Hot oceans produce massive hurricanes. Melted ice produces higher ocean levels, hotter temperatures produce more humid climate and accelerate global warming. Global warming (climate change) causes deserts adding even more to the warming. Deserts are growing as the ice caps shrink. Our “bread basket” in the central United States is shifting farther north every year. All the water under the ground in the central plains is becoming harder to get and wells have to be dug deeper than ever to reach the water that took thousands of years to build up. When all that water is gone how will we grow our food? Deserts require water to produce food. Without food we will die.

So, still don’t believe global warming is real, or that we should be concerned. What if it is? When the Zener diode breaks over it will be too late and there will be nothing we can do. The future is uncertain and we still do not understand all the dynamics involved with all these things. Do we really want to take that chance and leave such a future to our children?

What We Do Know

One thing we do know is that something unprecedented is happening. All these indicators are there and mean something. What we do know is that Mother Nature has a way of balancing everything. It usually comes in the form of eliminating what was causing the change. In this case WE are what is causing the change. Oh, and remember that enclosed system I talked about in the beginning? It’s called a “Bio-Sphere”, and it was an experiment to see if we could live in an enclosed dome and provide all the things we needed. It was a dismal failure and we would have died if we had to stay there much longer. We’re not smart enough to reproduce what nature has perfected over millions of years.

It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. She has a way of fooling you back. Maybe that is why people still believe there is no global warming. Isn’t Mother Nature perfect!  Still don’t believe? You must believe the earth is flat too, but that’s another subject for future thoughts. Just my thoughts on this.

Comments? Leave a reply for Richard below or find him on FB.


Richard Kestrel is the woodworker, homestead engineer and jack of all trades at Wild Ozark, and syrup cooker for Burnt Kettle.

Things I've learned since moving to the country.

Things I’ve Learned (Since Moving to the Country)

These are the things I’ve learned since moving out here to Wild Ozark.

I used to think I lived in “the country”, before we moved out here. That was thirteen years ago and I quickly realized once we burnt the bridges and sold our house, that we had no clue what it meant to live in a rural place.

So here it goes. Here’s my start to the list. Remember to check back later to see if I’ve added more. Maybe leave a comment to prompt me to do it, if it’s been a while and still nothing else is here.

Moving Even Small Rocks in Winter

I made a little video the other day, just to illustrate this one. It’s terribly funny the first time it happens to you. And it’s funny when you forget and it happens again. For those of you who live where ice and snow have been normal all your lives, just ignore me here. But this is the sort of things that astounds people who move from warmer climates to one with real winters.

I learned this the first winter here, but refreshed my memory the other day. I’m out of breath in the video, but not from trying to move the rock, ha. I’d just finished rolling some logs in place so Rob could come pick them up with the tractor. We’d been cutting a dead tree away from the driveway.

New beginnings - Beautiful sunrise here this morning.

Endings and Hopeful for New Beginnings

Sometimes it takes a thing ending to spark renewed efforts to find new beginnings.

Endings

One of our little shops in town closed its doors abruptly this weekend. The owner has tried to make a successful business of it, but that’s a hard thing to do in a town with a population of only 500 or so. She did quite well, but the income stream was seasonal and not dependable. When she received an offer for a good job in the next nearest town, she couldn’t say no to that opportunity.

Tina’s Place on the Square (and the Artroom Gallery in the back) was a wonderful retail outlet for lots of the local crafters and artists, myself included. My books sold fairly well in there, and our syrup did too. I’d come to rely on that little paycheck, mostly because it offered “proof” my work hasn’t been completely in vain. A paycheck is a symbol of success, ha, no matter how small it is.

Kingston, Arkansas. If you find yourself there, stop in at Tina's Place on the Square.
Kingston, Arkansas

This closure marks a new beginning for Tina at a full-time job with benefits. In this day and economical climate, the importance of a regular paycheck and health insurance can’t be ignored. I’m still holding out on that (since we do have insurance and some income), hoping Wild Ozark makes a run for the money soon.

Her run with The Place on the Square spanned at least four years, selling vintage and antiques, and local arts and crafts.

Hopeful for New Beginnings

So now I have been motivated to find more outlets for my work and Rob’s syrup. Today I applied to be a vendor at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. I’ve heard it’s quite tough to get in there, but my fingers are crossed and my prayers have been whispered into the ears of the trees. Hopefully, the Universe will hear and respond in a way that makes me smile.

I’ve also recently applied to be a vendor at the Arkansas Made-Arkansas Proud Festival in Little Rock in April, and to the Sharps Show at the War Eagle Festival, too.

If I’m able to get into those three venues, it should be enough to keep me busy year-round making and selling products. It should bring enough income to keep plugging away at these things I love to do.

What are the products? What do I do?

I’m glad you asked 🙂

  • Art
    • Forest Folk
    • Fairy Gardens
    • Nature Drawings
    • Note Cards
  • Writing
    • Content for my blogs
    • Articles for publications
    • Fiction books
    • Nonfiction books
  • Speaking/Presenting/Teaching
    • on Ginseng Habitat
    • on Nature Journaling
    • on making Nature Art
    • herb walks
  • American Ginseng
    • seedlings
    • companion plants
    • demonstration garden
  • Bark
    • the bark is used in Burnt Kettle’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup
    • after making the syrup, I re-use it
      • smoking chips
      • added to Forest Folk crafts
      • garden mulch

The list above pretty much sums up Wild Ozark. Here’s to new beginnings! January is a good month to start making a renewed effort toward my business sustainability, wouldn’t you say?

Other Endings

One of the first people to help me with my writing technique died the other day. His name was Dusty Richards. He and his wife both died from injuries received in a car accident. I haven’t been to meet with the Ridgewriter’s in a few years now, but I’ll always be grateful to Dusty, along with Velda Brotherton. She and Dusty started the group I used to attend, and I think it is she who runs the event mentioned below.

Other Beginnings

I’m going to make a point to become active again in my writer’s groups. Socializing with other writers always did help me stay motivated to keep writing. Although I’m still writing – on this blog, articles for NANPS, and slowly, slowly on my Bounty Hunter trilogy (which I’ve renamed, by the way), mingling will spur me to write more words more often.

Annual Free Writer’s Conference

On March 10 I’ll be at the Annual Free Writer’s Conference in Fayetteville. I’ll have a table there with my books. If you’re in the area and are interested in writing, or want to meet some of the local writers, come by. Registration is required, but it’s a free event.

Saturday, March 10 – 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Ozarks Electric 3641 North Wedington Dr., Fayetteville, Arkansas

To register please email Velda at [email protected] They would like to get a head count and will have to cut off registrations at 70 because of the size of the room so register early. Watch Facebook for any forthcoming announcements.

Ozark Writers League Conference

The Ozark Writers League holds a conference for local writers four times a year in Branson, MO. I used to go often to these, but haven’t in quite a while. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make the February meeting, but if you’re a writer in search of a flock, this is a good one to join, too.

The conference is Feb 16-17 and you can find out more by clicking this sentence. It’s linked to the website.

 

How Ginseng Stewardship Also Benefits the Landowner

Someone asked me yesterday about how ginseng stewardship benefits the landowner. It stumped me at first, because I’d never considered it from that angle.

Ginseng unfurling in spring, from article on ginseng stewardship.
Ginseng unfurling in spring.

What is Stewardship?

To steward something is to manage or take care of something. The short answer to this post’s question is yes. Stewardship benefits the landowner, especially if they want to have a long-term relationship with ginseng.

The word “relationship” is key to the true meaning of that answer, as you’ll begin to understand when I describe what I consider to be ginseng stewardship, farther down the page.

Obviously, it benefits the ginseng for someone to think of it as a long-term resident and not just as a root occupying space in their forest for the next 5-10 years.

How Does Ginseng Stewardship “Work”?

In this example, I’m talking about wild-simulated ginseng, and not ginseng grown as a woodland crop that is tended in the way a gardener tends vegetables. The wild-simulated ginseng will generally be left to fend for itself once the seed is planted.

Stewardship comes into play the moment you decide to give it, and the future generations of it, space in the forest to call home – not just a 5-year lease on a plot of ground in the woods to be terminated en masse at will.

The Wild Ozark Stewardship Plan

If a landowner begins planting ginseng in year 1, then plants every year thereafter, in 7-10 years it would be a good time to start digging roots. It’s legal in 5, but the roots are still small then.

Let’s just say you wait 10 years and each year you planted seeds. By the time year 10 rolls around, the ones you planted for the first 7 years will be flowering and producing seeds and offspring (they begin reproducing in year 3).

If you did this without fail each year, barring a disaster of some sort, you’d have quite a lot of ginseng growing and reproducing.

Now when you harvest in year 10, only take ½ or less of each colony’s reproducing adult plants. Each colony should have at least 100 plants total (of mixed ages).

Replant the seeds from the ones you harvest. Done in this way you will always have ginseng for the rest of your life and the lives of your children and your grandchildren because the colonies would be self-sustaining and taking your percentage won’t cause them to decline until all you have is a few.

Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day, from article on ginseng stewardship.
Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day.

Here on our property, the suitable spots aren’t large enough to plant full acres worth. Each spot is a little microclimate of perfect conditions, and the largest area like this is only a few thousand square feet at most.

Plant Where You Can

So we plant these pockets as we find them, if there isn’t already ginseng on them (it’s my attempt to avoid genetic pollution). We haven’t started harvesting our own roots yet; we’re still on the 10-year plan and only dig a few for personal use.

The ones we planted several years ago are now reproducing and we’re replanting those seeds in the same colonies and in a few more years those spots will all be ready for us to start harvesting a percentage of the reproducing plants.

Most of our forests had been logged at some point before we bought it and so they’re only just now beginning to recover and create stands suitable for ginseng again.

There are studies, (here’s a link to the abstract of one), that shows delaying harvest only a couple of weeks and taking only a certain percentage will lead to sustainability. I’ve read before that taking even 50% of the adult plants in a colony will not do it harm the sustainability of the colony if the seeds from those plants are planted back at the time of harvest in the same colony space.

Stewardship also means recreating natural habitats where possible. In some of the logged areas, I’m trying to keep the thorns and brush out and am planting spicebush and pawpaws instead.

The Setbacks that Can (and Do) Occur

Besides poaching, nature takes some of the plants. You’ll have to take into consideration the deer and poaching and other animal predation, or severe weather conditions that can take out a percentage of your colony.

One year we had a pretty bad ice storm that took out the tops and felled of a lot of trees. In one of our largest good habitat areas this destroyed the colonies because it let in too much sunlight. Then the poison ivy and underbrush choked it all out.

This particular habitat consisted of acres, actually, and not just little pockets. It was a heartfelt loss.

That ice storm would need to be factored in before deciding how many plants the colony could afford to lose in harvest. In this case it was none.

3 prong ginseng unfurling, from article on ginseng stewardship
3 prong ginseng unfurling

What is Not the Kind of Stewardship I Meant

People can and do plant and dig all of the mature plants from the beds they’ve established. And then replant, just like any other crop. Just like growing a tree farm that is clear-cut and replanted.

This treats it more as an agricultural product, which just isn’t how I want to interact with our forests. In the strictest sense of the definition, this is still “stewardship”.

But that isn’t the kind of stewardship I meant. What I had in mind was more… natural, I guess? There’s a word for it, I can’t think of it right now, though. I just prefer a more natural approach…

Ah-ha! The word is a phrase: NATURE FARMING. It’s also “wild-simulated”.

What I want is to know that at least some of the ginseng out there is finding a permanent home.

That is what I mean about stewardship. It’s a win-win strategy. Landowner gives to ginseng space to live a natural life. The ginseng gives to the landowner in the form of truly naturally grown, potent, medicine from the Earth.

Not only that, in natural areas there are entire ecosystems to observe and learn from.

I like knowing that ginseng is still out there somewhere enjoying the shade of the old trees. That they enjoy the company of their green-friend companion plants. Maybe this is a bit too woo-woo for some of you.

But I like knowing that out there somewhere, people are respecting the way this plant once grew. That those with wilderness are helping little pockets of ginseng find a permanent place on their land.

And I know a lot of you do it without thinking about it. I just want you to know that I thank you for it.

Here’s a page with links to a lot of other articles about ginseng here on my blog and out in the internet.

In Summary

In the end, stewardship does serve the person AND it serves the thing being “stewarded”.

I suppose, if money is the bottom line, this may sound like bad business.

For Wild Ozark, though, it’s not just about the money.

It’s about stepping out of an anthropocentric worldview.

It’s about having a mutually beneficial relationship with the land.


 

Some of our books:


 

sun sparkles on water

Sun Sparkles

On this day in 2015, we had snow and sun sparkles. So far this year it’s been unseasonably warm and no snow so far. That could change this weekend, though – snow is in the forecast!

Since we haven’t had any this year yet, I’m rerunning the photos from a couple of years ago.

Sun Sparkles in Winter

Sun sparkles in winter enchant me like sirens calling sailors to the rocks. The moments when these occur are the result of perfect synchronization, the synergism of all five elements: wind, fire, earth, water and spirit. They do not come when summoned, appearing only when conditions are right and only appreciated by those who heed the call to notice.

A Collection of My Favorite Photos

You can find twenty of my enchanting Ozark photos all in one place by purchasing my new ebook at Amazon and other retailers for only $1.99.

Most of the photos I shoot, or at least the ones I really like, are also scattered throughout this website and they’re completely free if you want to browse around to find them.

The ebook just rounds up some of my favorites and puts them in a format pleasing to view on tablets and other e-readers. I haven’t tried it on a phone yet, but if you do, let me know how it looks.

 

sun sparkles and snow in creek

sun sparkles on water

more sun sparkles

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

Rambling On about the To-Do List

Lots of things on my to-do list today, and I guess I should be getting on with *doing* them instead of rambling on about them.

But talking about it like this helps me to figure out what all I need to do. Plus in the process, it marks off one of the items, which is to make a blog post.

With Fall coming in so strong now with colors and cool temperatures, it’s hard for me to stay focused on my list. What I’d like to be doing right now is walking around with a bucket and my camera.

Camera might be self-explanatory. But why the bucket?

I’ve been making crafty things with all the pretty things on the ground at this time of year. Leaves, moss, lichens, driftwood, dead wood … you name it. If it’s on the ground and portable and small, then it goes into my bucket of botanicals.

Some botanicals from the last gathering foray.
Some botanicals from the last gathering foray.

The To-Do List

Today’s most pressing item on the to-do list is to make more Forest Folk. But I’ve already gathered enough things during the weekend that just passed to make plenty without having to go out for more.

My clay-cleaning experiment from last week failed because I missed an important step, so cleaning some more clay is on the list for one day this week. I want to use the natural clay to make the heads of more of the Forest Folk. These won’t be “Acorn” folk, but I’ll have to come up with another name. “Earthy” Folk, I think.

That’ll have to go on a later to-do list.

I ran an ad on FB for the Forest Folk, so I hope some do make it out to the market. Which is why I want to make more.

Just in case the ad worked.

Last week I made more ginseng jelly, but I have a lot more to make this week. I need to take some new product photos for it, since it’s packaged a little differently than last year’s.

Not sure how many will brave the new cold weather we’re supposed to get on Saturday.

We’re all back on track with our shagbark hickory syrup adventure. Now it has a new name: Burnt Kettle. We had to form a new business just for the syrup and any future food items, separate from our Wild Ozark or Madison Woods business.

Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to get food liability insurance. But we have it now. Marked that off the list early this morning. We have a new logo to go with that name, too.

Burnt Kettle logo for shagbark hickory syrup

Marked at least one thing off the to-do list: Burnt Kettle is insured now!
Marked at least one thing off the to-do list: Burnt Kettle is insured now!

 

Anyway, I need to get on with the doing part of my To-Do List. What’s on your list for today?

Things Collected During My Morning Mile

I have a housefull of things collected. Some I actually do get around to using, some stay on a shelf gathering dust. A few of the most prized collected things are just there for me to look at and enjoy, like the hornet’s nest and abandoned bird nest hanging in my office.

Most mornings after feeding the critters I take a walk for exercise. Sometimes I slow-jog or fast-walk. I’m still working on building back up to that part of it, and I’m still working on getting back up to a mile.

This morning was the first time since I was sick that I made the whole mile!

Well, with me, a walk is never just a walk. I’m looking around even when fast-walking. Usually I try to remember things of interest and come back to it later with the camera. Since I started doing the walks for exercise more than for exploration, I quit bringing the camera with me.

If I’m not noticing things to collect or plants to identify, I’m thinking of my writing projects and working through issues with stories.

This morning, though, I saw a few things I just had to break my stride for.

Here’s a picture of my things collected from this morning.

Things collected during my morning mile.
My morning mile collection.

The first thing that stopped me was a plant. Plants are frequently subject to making the list of my things collected.

This is one I transplanted into a pot last spring and can’t remember what it is. Right now it’s dormant, so all it is is a cluster of roots and a bud for next spring. So it’s hard to identify since it’s not one I already know.

The thing is, everytime I check on this plant, something has uprooted and tossed it out of the pot. The same thing happened last night.

So I repotted it again and carried it with me. It’ll wait at the house until spring and I can see what it is then.

Then I saw the red and yellow sweet gum leaf. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It is perfectly colored, no holes or tears, and very bright.

Yes, I know there are hundreds if not thousands of beautiful leaves on the ground right now. As you can see, I picked up a few more that struck my fancy, too.

I just learned how to use glycerin to preserve leaves and it leaves them pliable and their color stays vibrant. A solution to preserve plants like this is 1/3 cup glycerin and 2/3 cups of water.  I reuse the same bath for a long time. Just keep it covered.

So now when I see a leaf I want to keep for future use, most likely on pixies or other crafty things, I take it home and pop it into the glycerin-water bath I keep waiting on the shelf in the kitchen. Then I put rocks on top of the leaves to keep them completely submerged for a few days. Take them out and rinse them off after 4 or so days, then let them air dry.

After the leaves, which are quickly becoming obsessively collected things, and before I was halfway back to the house, I spied the little dead praying mantis. I’ve always been fascinated with these creatures but never have the opportunity to look very closely at them. So it became one of my gathered things too. How lucky! It wasn’t even stiff, so I could open the wings and look at the grabbing legs, even.

Among my things collected in the past, there is also a dead hummingbird. how often do you get to see a hummingbird up close in real life? Only when it’s a dead one, that’s when.

Then there were some perfect little acorn caps. Again, I know there are plenty of these lying around, but many of them are cracked or doubled, and I use the singles for pixie baskets. So I picked them up when I spotted them.

So there’s a summary of my oddities; my collected things for the day.

What kinds of things do you stop to pick up during your hikes or walks? I always swoop in for bones and arrowheads and fossils, too. Just didn’t see any this morning.

Hey, it adds to the exercise routine when I have to carry extra weight up the long hill back to the house!