The Sound of Winter

Some sounds are distinctly “winter”. Sometimes the sound of winter is marked by the absence of sound. Maybe it’s more correctly described as the “silence of winter”.

I am often reminded of how grateful I am to have my sense of sight. Beautiful things catch my eye almost daily. Most of the time I run to get the camera but often the lens (or the photographer) can’t capture the image in the same light it was seen.

Yesterday morning I noticed how thankful I am for my sense of hearing. I usually wake up right before daylight. That doesn’t mean I’m out of bed, only that I’m awake. Ordinarily, the chickens are crowing. When the horses get impatient for breakfast, they carry their rubber feeders and drop them into inconvenient nooks and crannies behind rocks and trees near the gate. This spurs the dogs to bark at them.

Yesterday morning it was quiet. It seemed all of the homestead critters had slept in.

It was cold in the bedroom when I finally pushed the luxurious alpaca blanket off of me so I could get up and get dressed. A quick look out the bedroom balcony door explained the silence.

Ice coated the ground everywhere I looked. All of the animals were not bothering to go about their usual morning ruckus because it was just too darn uncomfortable. Dogs huddled in their dog houses, chickens clucked and fussed from beneath the house where they hide out during inclement weather. And the horses just stood there by the gate, glaring at me as I tried to walk my usual route without slipping down.

Later that afternoon, I listened to the sound of sheets of ice slipping from the upper roof onto the lower one before finally shattering on the ground. It sounds like small cannon-fire explosions when it happens, but doesn’t rock the house, thankfully. This sound continues today. The early morning’s hearty round of sleet and rain added ammunition to the rooftop magazines.

Ice sliding from the roof is a distinct sound of winter.
Ice sliding from the roof is a distinct sound of winter.

Some sounds are distinctly “winter”. So is the stark absence of sound like that cold morning when the animals all decided to huddle in warmer places.

On the horizon-Just filling in

I’m swamped with my project list and missed my scheduled day to post here yesterday. So I’m just making a quick post to let you all know about a few things on the horizon.

Some exciting announcements coming up – we’ll soon be offering dried wild roots in our online shop (only for US customers). We’ve partnered with a couple of fantastic wildcrafters in North Carolina to do this, and by fall, if not sooner, we should also have wild Ozark roots. We’re happy to be able to satisfy the requests from our Asian-American readers who have expressed interest. We may also be able to provide fresh roots in late spring. If you’re interested in being notified when these are available, sign up for the mailing list by using the yellow top bar on this page.

Also, ginseng workshops are on the horizon. The first one is booked but we’re still working out the details at the Ozark Folkways Center in Winslow, AR for May 14. You can find out more about my ginseng presentations and workshops the the newly updated “Learn About Ginseng” page.

I’ve been keeping up with my fitness routine but haven’t made a whole lot of progress. While it was really cold I didn’t want to walk/jog down the driveway so have been using the treadmill instead.

The January Ozark Musings newsletter is almost ready. I just have a few more things to add to it and I’ll send it out next week, early, maybe on Sunday. I’m debating whether to continue doing it in the email like I have been or just sending you a link to read or download a PDF document. Which way do you prefer?

That’s all for today and might be all for the week. I’ll be back Sunday if not sooner. Have a great rest of the week and weekend!

On the horizon- frosty leaf

What is Humanity’s Role in Nature?

Humanity’s Role in Nature

Have you ever thought about humanity’s role in nature? Our various mythologies and religious origin stories offer some ideas that are generally accepted by many, but those are conflicting and I still wonder. Are we here to rule? To support and steward? Or perhaps to destroy?

Our current political, economical, and sociological situations have me wondering about humanity’s role in nature, in general.

Humanity's role in nature - what exactly is it?
The beauty of nature often awes me.

Beauty and Awe

So often I am awed by the beauty of nature. And then I am intrigued by the capacity of humans to experience that beauty, by the impulse to ponder. I feel most human, most in communion with the Divine, when I am witness to the extraordinary normalcy of Nature’s glory.

Maybe not effortlessly, but seemingly without thought and pre-planning, the cycle of life continues. One phase leads to the next without fail. The Great Mother marches onward without a glance back to see who’s lagging behind, who’s keeping up.

Vicious and Horrific

Harsh? Yes. But that precision march is what keeps chaos from ruling. The illusion that we are able to control Nature is the reason we most often refuse to keep up with the cycles and why we so often fail to observe and work in concert with the cycles. Instead we try to create our own rule of order.

And yet, life and death still happens. In spite of the flinches we experience when death strikes too close to home, still the world turns without a hitch.

No Pretense, No Propriety

Everything in nature carries on without questioning whether what they say, think, or do is wrong or right, or whether it will make someone smile or frown, draw toward or repulse in horror.

Nature extends to that which is both beautiful and horrific in its reach.

It is not existence without consequence. Some might say selfish. But that’s not true. In nature, everything plays a role, everything works together.

The humans who left this evidence lived much closer in proximity to humanity's role in nature - but I still can't clearly see what it was.
The humans who left this evidence lived much closer in proximity to humanity’s role in nature – but I still can’t clearly see what it was.

Nature directs the entire orchestra, not just the individuals. Only when all the voices are heard will the symphony be harmonic.

Everything *is* or *isn’t*. No pretense, no propriety.

In our man-made constructs of home and hearth, we either try to keep up or deny the progression as Nature marches past. Nothing is immune.

Whether we like it or not, admit it or not, humanity reflects the nature of Nature – both beautiful and horrific in its reach.

That’s why I love it here near the wilds. It makes it easier to see the human realm within the natural realm and, to me, the perspective is comforting.

fungi in the wilds at Wild Ozark
We have so many beautiful fungi out here. This is one of my favorite photos.

I often wonder about humanity’s role in Nature. On a Universal scale. Are we builders or the decomposers? Or are we perhaps a mixture of both?

Are humans just another form of decomposers?

There are many decomposers at work in the ecosystems of our planet. If you look at smaller and smaller systems, you’ll find repetitions in scale of the same kind of work. Oxidizers work on the molecular level, breaking down and scavenging any electrons it can wrest from unsecure bonds. Mushrooms are at work on the everyday realm, breaking down just about anything that once lived a vital life.

What if humans are decomposers on a planetary scale? And if so, why is this not simply part of Nature, just like the fungi and the molecular reducers?

chickweed with orange fungi

Just as there are checks and balances in action on the molecular scale, with the reducers balancing out the oxidizers and the fungi activity resisted by immune activity of living things, so too there must be equal and opposing forces to the destructive habits of humans.

Perhaps such is found in the form of other humans inclined to equal or opposite behaviors.

Duality exists on so many levels in nature: predator and prey, night and day, life and death, male and female… Just as some bacteria cause illness and some also maintain health, maybe the nature of humanity is dual.

Perhaps it is our nature to tear down and also build up.

Maybe we are the terraformers of the Universe.

If this is our nature, then we are not acting unnaturally in our destructive tendencies. Nor in our conservative and protective efforts. Maybe it just is what it is, and we are both destructive and creative, horrific and beautiful, just as Nature intended.


 

This topic on the natural-ness of man was sparked by a conversation I had with my youngest son one day a couple of years ago. I can’t remember the exact subject of the conversation but it had to do with birds being natural building nests of things they find in nature, why are human’s houses considered any less natural than the bird’s nest just because we went through extra measures, enabled by our more complex natures, to procure the building supplies?

Wild Ozark Musings – December Newsletter

newsletter pic-me with my mocha breve
If you’re ever in Eureka Springs, try the White Chocolate Mocha Breve from Mud Street Cafe. So much whipped cream, it comes with a fork!

Below you’ll find the December issue of Wild Ozark Musings, a newsletter about nature, ginseng, and our wild Ozark life.

Ordinarily I send this out as an email near the beginning of the month to subscribers. This month I didn’t get it sent until mid-month. Sometimes I post the newsletter to my blog later during the month if there’s a slot on the calendar. Lately I haven’t had packed editorial calendars but it involves a bit of reformatting to make a blog post of it and so this one is hitting the blog even later than usual.

The January issue might also be mid-month arriving in mailboxes. It’s been a busy end and beginning of the year here at Wild Ozark.

Wild Ozark Musings – December Newsletter

I didn’t think I’d get a chance to do the December newsletter this month, but as it turns out I had a little extra time to work on it. I’m a little more late posting it here to the blog than I was sending it to the Ozark Musing subscribers (a.k.a. Wild Ozarkians). There’s a bit more formatting work to turn it into a blog post from the MailChimp campaign, not a simple cut and paste.

My husband and I took a “stay-cation” in December. We didn’t go anywhere far – a couple of day trips and a few nights at nearby Eureka Springs.

It was good to disconnect from the internet a bit and take a break from my writing projects. But now it’s time to get back to work!

Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like me to cover in future newsletters. In the meantime, you’ll hear about the things that catch my attention throughout the month 🙂

Is Nature a cruel mother?

I guess that depends on the perspective of the beholder…

newsletter pic-predator eating preyI suppose the squirrel is not too keen on nature right now.

But doesn’t the snake deserve to eat?

Nature does seem cruel sometimes, I admit. But the more I’ve experienced life in close quarters with nature, the more I’m able to see both sides of the picture.

Mother Nature is Cruel – or is she?

This was a good article critiquing another article about man interfering with some of the crueler aspects of nature. Nature just “is”. I used to cry over the “cruel” Wild Kingdom episodes when I was a child. Now I see the relationship between predator and prey in a more balanced light, and can appreciate the catch that quiets a growling lion stomach.

http://motherboard.vice.com/en_ca/read/nature-is-violent

The earth is more than a commodity.

Are people becoming more disconnected in the attempt to reconnect? This article discusses the problem with compartmentalization and valuation of our living planet.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/jul/24/price-nature-neoliberal-capital-road-ruin

Ginseng Dates

When is ginseng digging season, when does it end, how long can I sell roots? In Arkansas,digging season ended Dec. 1. Diggers have until April 1 to sell the roots (if you can find a buyer. I don’t know of anyone buying in AR at this time, but if you do, please let me know so I can update my 2015 Prices page.)

It’s illegal to possess roots between April 1 and Sept. 1. The wording of this rule is confusing to some people and so I wrote to Paul Shell of the Arkansas State Plant Board to ask for clarification. Some diggers wondered if it meant all roots or just green roots.

Here’s the rule in question:

  • 10. Green, wild or artificially propagated American Ginseng roots shall not be possessed between April 1 and September 1 of each calendar year. Wild or artificially propagated American Ginseng roots shall not be purchased by a licensed dealer during the period April 1 to September 15 each calendar year. –http://plantboard.arkansas.gov/PlantIndustry/Documents/ginsengReg.pdf

And here is Paul’s reply to my questions:

  • The regulation deals with any roots between those months.  This does not apply to ginseng plants for sale for planting.  Any roots not sold by March 31 need to be accompanied by a document which we issue showing that ____ amount of harvested ginseng is being held until it can be sold in the next season (9/16).  This is a way of making sure that nobody is digging out of season, and that unsold roots are accounted for and used to determine if the population of wild and wild simulated ginseng is sustainable, going up or going down.

We had a pretty poor season here. Other states saw much better prices than we did. You can always follow along each year with the prices on the current year’s prices page. Next year I’ll start the 2016 page when I start getting emails from curious folks. That usually happens sometime near late July. Here’s the prices page for 2015: https://www.wildozark.com/2015-ginseng-prices/.

Wild Ozark projects 2016

There’s already a fair amount of work stacked up for the coming year. The one project that many of you will be interested in is the ginseng seedling sales. That ought to begin in late April. I’ll have the yearling ginseng and possibly some 2 or 3 year old seedlings at the farmer’s market in Huntsville. I may only do the Tuesday market, but I’ll know more about that when time gets closer.

Other projects:

  • Bounty Hunter ETA is Mar 2016. That’s 80K words in 3 months, which breaks down to 26K per month > 866 words per day. I’m a slow writer, but I know I can do this. I must do this. I will do this. I am doing it! (Managed over 1000 words today, so that’s promising 🙂
  • Two ginseng articles due – on for United Plant Savers about the ginseng sanctuary at Compton gardens, and the other for the North American Native Plant Society’s newsletter, Blazing Star.
  • A ten-minute speech for the Kimberling City Library Author Event in Feb, and books to order and have on hand to autograph and sell at the event.
  • Move Wild Ozark’s online nature journal and the online shop to a folder on the root directory, rather than a subdomain or a separate domain. This will eliminate the need for separate security certificates and dedicated IP addresses, since it’ll all be protected by the wildozark.com certificate after the move.

Guard your feet from cold winter floors

Make your own slippers!

Here’s a DIY article I found to make a pair of slippers from an old wool sweater. You can probably use any thick and warm fabric:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cosy-slippers-from-your-old-woolly-jumper/?ALLSTEPS

Index of November’s Blog Posts:


 

Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My sci-fantasy fiction usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.

My Amazon Author’s Page

 

 

Winter Solstice 2015 – A Widdershin sort of Time

Winter Solstice 2015 occurs tonight at 10:03 p.m. CST

It’s a widdershin sort of time, an unwinding, a releasing. A loosening of the grip on things I need to let go of.

image to signify winter solstice, a pretty wintertime sunset
Not at winter solstice, but a pretty wintertime sunset nonetheless.

Actual New Year’s Eve

It’s Winter Solstice,  the shortest day of the year and longest night. The reason it’s my favorite day is because of tomorrow.

This eve is the true eve of the new year to me. It makes more sense to me to follow a seasonal calendar, at least for the holidays, than it does to follow the traditional Gregorian calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, Jan. 1 is the start of the new year. On the seasonal calendar, Winter solstice is the start of the new year.

Tomorrow will be a little bit longer than today was. So I like to celebrate today. Tonight I’ll light a candle. Maybe I’ll meditate a bit, maybe do some other creative activity instead, but it’s a quiet sort of celebrating that I like to do.

Ways to Celebrate

Usually, my seasonal celebrations are done when I’m alone. However, it’s easy to turn this into a group event. If it will be a family based gathering, which I would like to begin doing eventually, I’ll have everyone write down on little slips of paper some things they’d like to release from their lives. Then we’ll burn them in the woodstove and imagine the release symbolized in the rising smoke.

Yule Log

If you don’t have a woodstove, it can be a fireplace or campfire or even a barbeque pit. You can decorate a Yule log to burn, as well. If I were going to burn a Yule log, I’d tie colorful ribbons with releases written on them to the log.

Alternatively, you can write your releases directly onto splinters of wood and add them to the fire. This is the way I will do it.

Yesterday I went out to the woods and saw the hardwood tree pictured below. Just above my head level there were two large splinters of dead wood. What better medium to use for releasing than dead wood that has never touched the ground? I kept one of the large splinters because the grain is pretty and it reminds me of driftwood. The surface is smooth enough that I may engrave something on it later and hang it in my office or use it in my market booth.

tree where dead wood was found for winter solstice ritual
Not sure what kind of tree this is, but it’s either beech, ironwood, or maple. The bark is smooth and “muscular”.
dead wood for my winter solstice ritual
Even though the dead wood had been in the weather for what appears to have been a long time, it’s still solid and hard. It reminds me of driftwood.

Ideally, I’d like to burn the wood just before the solstice event occurs in my zone.

What kind of things to release? It could be anything you’d like to not experience in the coming year.

  • Fears of any sort
  • Habits that aren’t helpful
  • Destructive relationships
  • Excess weight (lol)
  • Excess stress

Mulled Cider or Wine

After burning the releases, whether on paper slips or ribbons tied to a Yule log, it’s a good time to reflect on things you’d like to add to your life. Once the old has been swept out, it’s good to replace bad habits with good ones. Once endings are acknowledged, it’s time to open the door to beginnings.

I’d like to begin this part of the celebration immediately after the time of solstice.

Releases inscribed on the splinters to burn, Filling my solstice cup with intentions for the new year to imbibe with mulled wine after the turn of the natural year. www.wildozark.com/winter-solstice/
Releases inscribed on the splinters to burn, Filling my solstice cup with intentions for the new year to imbibe with mulled wine after the turn of the natural year.

 

More information on the scientific side of solstice

You’d think that being the shortest day would mean the earliest sunset. Somehow, that’s not true.

Here’s a post from EarthSky that gives lots of details about what the winter solstice is: Everything you need to know: December solstice 2015

 

Looking forward to solstice

Pulled this one from the archives. It’s from when I worked in Bentonville, leaving before dawn and getting home after dusk. I hated that and am glad to be working from home now, but I still look forward to mid-winter’s eve.

Hurry Up Solstice. – 2009-12-16 13:34

It was nearly 6:45 this morning before pre-dawn light was enough to see deer ahead without headlights.

Length of day is important. No wonder mid-winter was so much anticipated by people who lived in close connection to the land long ago. Hell, ~I~ appreciate it now, in the modern age!

A little less than a week to go before the days begin to lengthen again. After the solstice, the next date I look forward to is mid-March. That’s when I can make it all the way to my driveway gate after work, before it’s too dark to see the chain and clip without headlights. {chuckle} I should devise my own wheel of the year with dates that are meaningful to me.

I wonder if Llewellyn has a title on the shelf like that yet? And I wonder if it would apply to anyone but me…

Post a comment if there are special days of the year you look forward because of how it affects your interaction with the Earth or Nature.*  Besides opening day of deer season, I mean.


 

*I won’t be back online for a few more days, but will be interested in your comments and will reply as soon as I can, I promise.

sunset 12-28-13
sunset 12-28-13

Killing Pretty Roosters

One of the pretty roosters: Arnold, one of the "chosen ones".
One of the pretty roosters: Arnold, one of the “chosen ones”.

First I tried selling pretty roosters. Then I tried gifting pretty roosters.

Yesterday we killed pretty roosters.

It was my chore to pick which ones. I felt a bit like Kali (Goddess who is both giver of life and bringer of death).

sunset after killing roosters
Yesterday’s bloody sunset.

Last summer and fall the hens hatched out some eggs and most of them were roosters. So I knew this day’s activities would come sooner or later and I wanted to make sure it came before the roosters became aggressive in their desire to propagate their own genetics.

I chose three to keep and seven to kill. Three for our flock is still too many, but I don’t know how long chickens normally live and the old guy is almost 7. So one of the prettiest and healthiest looking young ones was spared as his future replacement. The keepers are named Old Man, Rufus, and Arnold.

Bet you can guess what was on the menu last night … Roosters in the freezer and roosters in the pot.

I made jambalaya & it was pretty good.

I roasted coffee.

That was a pleasant chore for all of the senses. In the meantime the guys carried out the rooster massacre. It was a task I’ve had to do before for myself and was glad to not be the one in charge of it this time.

Rob and Garrison reduced our rooster population by five. Two more to go, and then we’ll have three left that I intend to keep.

The hens are relieved to have some of that stress eliminated.

What kind of stress?

Well, it’s the sort of thing that motivated me to wring necks a few years ago. For a healthy and happy flock of chickens, there should be one rooster per 10 or so hens. This ratio ensures the eggs are fertilized, but the hens aren’t subjected to multiple breedings by multiple roosters all day long.

“gang raping”

When there are too many roosters, they will gang up on a hen. This happened while I was outside feeding them one morning a few years ago while I was still naive to some of the obligations of a homesteader. In the span of a few minutes that morning, I wrung the necks of three roosters one after the other as they attacked a poor hen repeatedly to breed her.

If this situation is allowed to continue, the hens will be cut and scratched and her back feathers will be scraped off by the roosters jumping on her and holding her down. She will become scared, depressed, and quit laying eggs, and she will try to avoid interaction with the flock when she can.

It is my responsibility to the hens to make sure they are not abused. In nature, there would be predators eliminating extra roosters and they’d eventually start fighting to the death (or banishment) with each other. We have guardian dogs that keep predators at bay, and natural banishment here would be a death sentence to any chicken that wanders outside the guardian’s ability to watch, so we are the ones who must make the “natural selection”.

black and yellow rooster
Old Man

An interesting but morbid observation.

When Rob killed the first rooster and it was on the ground flopping around in death throes, the other young roosters rushed to it and started attacking it, pulling feathers and spurring it even as it died. They acted as if they were embroiled in a blood frenzy, oblivious to the fact that they, too were most likely on the “kill” list.

Two weeks to Relax, Have a Fun Spree, Regroup

For the next two weeks I’ll be on internet vacation trying to relax and have some fun.

I’ll be trying to relax. I know I’ll have fun. But for the blog and social networks, that means I’ll be spending little or no time on the internet. This is the first of the auto-posts I have scheduled. I’ll update you later on whether I was successful at “relaxing” during my break!

I’ve just recently finished a few projects:

When I’m done with my break, I have some projects to begin:

  • Article to write for United Plant Savers
  • Article to write for North American Native Plant Society’s Blazing Star magazine
  • Column idea to pitch to Arkansas Wild Magazine
  • Nature Sketching workshop to organize and schedule
  • Author Event at Kimberling City Library to prepare for
  • Novel to finish writing
  • SEO issues with website to address

So, I’m not taking a break for stress relief, but to spend some quality time away from the computer. Instead of writing and creating or marketing things I’ve written or created, I’ll be having a two-week spree of fun with my husband. And then I’ll be regrouping and getting back to work.

Relax?

Although this break isn’t particularly to relax, thinking about stress relief got me thinking about it. I don’t think I know how to relax. Unless I’m sleeping.

Actually, I find thinking is relaxing. It’s when I can’t wrangle the time to think that I get stressed. But as far as lying-in-hammock-relaxed goes, I don’t think I can do that. Maybe one day.

If I have to do “nothing”, I’d rather be lying on a beach soaking up some rays where the water is clear and the sand is warm. But not too, too, hot. Is that asking for too much? Ha, it seems that anywhere there is sand and sun, then there is also excessive heat.

I did manage to soak up some rays on a beach this past summer for a little while, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, actually. But it was extremely hot and not very relaxing because of that, in spite of the gorgeous setting. I did, however, have a lot of fun. The summer before, we were on the sands of Destin, Florida and at the time I thought it was hot there, too, but my new beach experience showed me that there is nothing like the heat of the Middle East.

Too hot to relax long on the beach at the St. Regis hotel in Abu dhabi
The beach

What do you do to relax when life is stressful or you just need a break?

For normal everyday stress I walk outside a bit or sit on my favorite rock in the creek and listen to the water trickle by. But for big releases, I like complete departures.

Funny Dream

This is an old post I’m recycling from 2009 about a funny dream.  I’m going through my old blog posts and will reuse the ones I like. The old blog isn’t online anywhere anymore, anyway.

At this time I was working on a novel I had tentatively named “Retribution”.

Later I changed the title to “Symbiosis”, and finally finished it last year. I spent more than a few years working on that book. Now it sits in a figurative drawer, a file, waiting on a day when I might take it out and try to edit it into something worthwhile.

Being the first work of that length that I ever wrote, it is quite a mess.

Sleep thinking – 2009-11-30

I fell asleep musing over progress on my work-in-progress, wondering what the next step will be for the main characters. Sometimes going to sleep with those thoughts in my mind inspires dreams that will lead to answers.

It led to dreams alright. But in no way were any of them related to my book’s plot.  In fact, I woke laughing out loud at one of the dreams,  and it wasn’t that the dream was funny. It was because my response to a situation in the dream was funny…so I was laughing as I observed the dream while I was dreaming.

The line that made me laugh: “No. HELL no.”

A funny dream about fish
A funny dream about fish

That was in response to a question as to whether I wanted some fish. The fish were in an ice chest and still needed to be cleaned. What’s so funny is that this was a line from the book that I’d just added yesterday. In the dream, I used that line to turn down an ice chest of fish. It was totally out of character for me, because I would likely have been glad to take the fish if they were of good eating quality.

I thought that kind of strange but I guess most dreams are. Usually, I’m the only person I know in my dreams and they’re all populated with people I’ve never seen in my life. Last night was unusual in that all of my dreams featured people I know.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of the answers to my book questions.

Looking back on 10 years of roughing it in the Ozarks – Happy Thanksgiving 2015

Many would consider us still roughing it. Life is a lot more comfortable here now, but we learned a lot about survival since we moved to these wild Ozark hills.

turkeys

Our Wild Ozark Origins

When we first moved here to the Ozarks from south Louisiana, we lived in a very old house. We were a family of five who’d moved from a 2500 sq ft home to less than 1000 sq ft. This old house was not what most would consider “livable” and would very likely have been condemned as unfit in most civilized places.

old homesite
The front yard of our old house, after we bought the property but before we moved up here.

However, even as poor as conditions were, it was still far more comfortable than it must have been when the early settlers to our area built it. By the time we’d moved into it, there were bedrooms and a kitchen added on. Oh, and a bathroom. Sort of. The bathroom had a toilet and sink, but no bath or shower.

Until we built our new house, we used a kiddie pool rigged to a hose, with a spray nozzle for the shower. Living this way was definitely not for the faint of heart! It was cold in the winter time, but at least we did have a hot water heater.

Our makeshift shower for roughing it
Our makeshift shower for roughing it

At first, the old house was only a one-room cabin with a fireplace. If you look underneath and in the attic, hand-hewn beams of red oak mark the oldest part. Those old beams are so dried out and hardened that a nail will bend before penetrating if you try to hammer it in.

Cold Winters

That old house was cold in the winter, even with the modern wood stove that had taken the place of the fireplace years before we’d arrived. But the wood-stove was the only thing that kept the house warm enough for wintertime survival. There were so many holes in the floors and cracks in the walls that running an electric heater was an exercise in futility and expense. We still did it anyway in an attempt to supplement the heat in corners where the fire didn’t seem to reach.

We’d close the door to the kitchen so we didn’t have to heat a room not in use, so at least the living room and bedrooms would stay a little warmer. We’d leave the sink running a little so the water lines didn’t freeze up. Once, it got so cold in the kitchen at night, the next morning I had stalagmites in the sink. We had to keep food in the refrigerator so it wouldn’t freeze on the counters or shelves.

Stalagmites in the sink one cold winter morning.
Stalagmites in the sink one cold winter morning.

Once, when the kids and husband had traveled south to visit family near the warmer gulf coast for a couple of weeks in December, I stayed behind for work. There was a winter storm during that time and I couldn’t get the fire lit because of back-draft. That night I slept in my coat and hat and pants and socks in a 0*F sleeping bag. As long as I didn’t get out of it, I was pretty toasty and comfy. I marveled at how hardy the settlers who first lived in this house must have been. I can’t even imagine sleeping in relative warmth without the modern conveniences of at least a warm sleeping bag.

I guess the point of this story is that even though it was rough at times, I’ve been thankful the entire time I’ve been here. Although I lived in relative suburban comfort before the move to the Ozarks, I was unhappy there. Something burned in my heart to live in a remote area of the world, where water flowed clear and the seasons were easily marked.

I needed to tap the soul of the wilderness.

Adapting to a harder life

My children suffered for a while during our transition up here. I think they’ve recovered now, ten years later. No sane mother would have taken the measures I had to follow that “follow your bliss” call. Much comfort was sacrificed and lost during what seemed to most a selfish pursuit of a selfish dream.

But I never claimed to be sane.

And there were fun times for them, too.

The kids at Ponca
Gab, her friend Kayla, and Garrison playing at Ponca
hobo zack
Zack

Much was gained, too. The boys, in particular, really took to roughing it and the rural life and enjoyed learning to hunt and trap. My daughter is now quite proficient at cooking real food made from real ingredients grown in real gardens. And she’s doing a great job of raising her kids to know country life survival, without having thrown them into a crash course in a run-down shack of a house the way I did with them.

I can’t imagine how my life would have been today without having made the choices I made before. The kids are all grown now and have remained in these hills that have become their adopted home. Since moving here I’ve been divorced, and then remarried, now to a man who is truly my soul mate and who also loves this life in the wild Ozark hills. He’s the reason I was able to stay on this land I grew to love. All in all, in spite of the rocky path it took to arrive, I’m still thankful I made the crazy and sometimes excruciatingly difficult choices I made to get us here.

Gloria, the Old Oak Tree
Gloria, the Old Oak Tree
She’s grown a lot in the eleven years since we arrived.

Happy Thanksgiving from Wild Ozark!

I hope all of you out there reading this have plans for a pleasant Thanksgiving day (if you’re in the US), and if you’re not American or celebrating our American holiday, I hope you are still going to take time to reflect on all you have to be thankful for.

It’s a day early, I realize. But tomorrow I will likely not be online to make this post so I figured it was better early than late.

Actually, gratitude is a good practice for every day. It’s too easy to begin taking the little things for granted. Then it becomes harder to notice the little things that make life more bearable. Soon it becomes too easy to complain about all the little things that make life harder. And then suddenly it’s too easy to forget that there are so many ways that our lives are wonderful and awesome even in spite of our difficulties.

If you have an origin story to share about how you found and settled your homestead, I’d love to hear it.

Wild Ozark Nature Journal on Kindle

What is a sketch / nature journal?

Sometimes nature writers like to doodle while they’re interpreting nature. My nature journal is a combination of art and written journal entry.

It is both nature sketching and nature journal.

Here are some sample pages from my first collection. All of my work can be seen at WildOzark.com/naturejournal/as I do them, for free. But if you want the whole collection on your Kindle (or other ereader with a Kindle app), you can enjoy them any time, with or without an internet connection.

The sketch in the winner's journal - Two Sweetgum leaves, by Madison Woods Wild Ozark Nature Sketch Day 23 - Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) My nature sketching of Lobelia inflata.

Nature Sketches by Madison Woods, straight from the wild Ozarks.
  • Eighteen colored pencil nature sketches
  • Journal entries with each sketch
  • No double-tapping required
* Note: The images display best on full sized color readers. According to feedback, the book looks great on Galaxy pads, Kindle for PC’s (only Windows version 8 or better), Kindle Fire, and iPad. It is less than optimal on the Kindle PaperWhites, or the small screens of cell phones. Send a sample to your device to check display.
Dedicated to the Nature Lovers, for we are the bridges, the liaisons.

 

I’d love feedback if you download it – please leave reviews at Amazon or Goodreads to let me know how it displayed on your reader. I’ve never seen another e-book quite like it, so it’s kind of groundbreaking I think.

Wild Ozark Nature Journal: Autumn 2015

The Autumn 2015 collection of Wild Ozark Nature Journal is FREE all week Monday Nov 16 through Friday Nov 20
The Autumn 2015 collection of Wild Ozark Nature Journal

 

First Freeze 2015 in the Ozarks

First Freeze

It was 30*F when I looked outside this morning near daybreak. Honestly, it was somewhat after daybreak. Yesterday’s fun with the grandkids wore me plumb out and I slept like a rock past my alarm.

Technically, the sun rises around 0600 but because of Wild Ozark’s narrow valley, it doesn’t shine through the windows until closer to 0730.

Autumn sunrise shining through Gloria's leaves.
Autumn sunrise shining through Gloria’s leaves. Yes. The tree has a name.

It always seems to get a few degrees cooler in the span of time between actual sunrise and *our* sunrise.

So I’m not sure whether this is a first freeze or a second frost. Yesterday was first frost. But since it was below 32*F, I think it is considered first freeze.

This time last year, we had frost flowers for my birthday on Nov. 15. So it had to have been quite a bit cooler to achieve that. Here’s the post I wrote about them: https://www.wildozark.com/frost-flower-kind-morning/.

Random notes

It’s hard to believe that this website (in it’s current incarnation) is only one year old as of day after tomorrow.

I’ll be speaking/teaching at Hobbs State Park on November 22 on nature writing for the Village Writing School of Eureka Springs. I don’t have all the details for that yet, but let me know if you’d like a reminder.

This morning I was out of milk for my oatmeal and I used coconut milk in stead. That was actually pretty good! Good thing I had a random can of it in the pantry. I wished I’d had a spare can of evaporated milk, but was happy to try the coconut.

What have you been up to lately?

Symbols of Warmth and Sustenance

I brought the camera with me this foggy morning to capture some of the beauty that surrounded me in the hushed quiet of our little Wild Ozark valley.

When I came back in I sat on the porch and listened to the sapsuckers discussing the next leg on their journey. Mist muffled crows cawed and I plucked hitch-hikers from my pants legs and thought of titles for these photos.

My favorite is the last image of Warmth and Sustenance. Leave me a comment if you see the symbols for the warmth and sustenance. The one for warmth is easy. Maybe not so much for the sustenance.

I hope you find the photos as interesting, awe-inspiring and thought-provoking as I did.

Foggy Morning Perspectives - Dew gathers on the webs, highlighting just how many artistic spiders live in our world.
Foggy Morning Perspectives
Dew gathers on the webs, highlighting just how many artistic spiders live in our world.

 

Web of Intricacies
Web of Intricacies

 

Double-Layered Intricacy
Double-Layered Intricacy

 

Gloria, the Old Oak Tree
Gloria, the Old Oak Tree
She barely fits inside the frame.

 

Symbols of Warmth and Sustenance
Symbols of Warmth and Sustenance

 

 

 

Feeding critters under a gentle patter of rain

This morning I was feeding critters under a gentle patter of rain. There are times when I am tired or don’t feel like going out on my regular chore round, but for the most part I enjoy this part of my day.

Even in the rain. Or maybe especially in the rain. I like doing it in the snow, too. I have one of those long western-styled raincoats and a hat, and I wear my rubber boots.

All of the animals are waiting and ready every morning. You would think that something that occurs daily, in the same order with the same characters, in the same place, would eventually become boring.

Not so. Even though all the players are the same from day to day, week to week, and year to year and I make the same path in the same order at roughly the same time of day every day, it is not.

Each morning and evening is unique in its own right and I don’t really know how to explain why that is.

We don’t have any “single” animals. And even though an individual animal might die or a new one might join the team, it hasn’t changed the groups much in a decade at least, so I don’t see it changing a whole lot in the future going forward.

Each group has its place in the routine and expect that routine to not vary by much time or sequence. They get irritable when it does, but on occasion I do go about things differently just to keep anyone from becoming too set in their ways.

Most of the time the order follows this one.

First on the feeding critters route are the dogs. We have three of them and they have a certain order in which they are fed. One of them is on a lead now because he keeps fighting with Badger, and the order would adjust to feed him first if he weren’t. But because he can’t object very effectively now, the first one I feed is Bobbie Sue. She’s the oldest. Then Badger, and then Turbo.

Badger chowing down.
Badger chowing down.

After that are the chickens and cats. The cats insist on being first. They’re more obnoxious than the chickens and stay under my feet and at my shoulder on the loft ladder meowing and tapping at me until they see me en-route with the scoop of food going to the loft. Then they rush ahead and get in position to receive.

Tom Cat waiting not so patiently. Miss Kitty was moving around too much to get even a halfway decent pic of her.
Tom Cat waiting not so patiently. Miss Kitty was moving around too much to get even a halfway decent pic of her.

The chickens are waiting all this time, even less patient than the others.

Arnold the rooster and one of the other chickens.
Arnold the rooster and one of the other chickens.

Arnold is the only chicken with a name. He is my husband’s favorite chicken because he got to watch him from egg to first crow. The other chickens are all locked up in the hen house right now because they keep roosting all over the place and I have no idea where all the eggs are going.

So if I lock them up for a few days then they’ll most likely return to the house to roost instead of going in the shed and in the trees.

And hopefully they’ll deposit the eggs in the nest boxes in the hen house, too, rather than wherever it is that they’ve been hiding them.

The horses are next. They’re far less patient than any of the other impatient critters.

The horses have interesting personalities too. Comanche always, always, grabs his bowl and dumps half of his food before he begins eating. I don’t know why he feels the need to do this.

My son joked with me the last time he fed them and said he just went on and threw half of Comanche’s food on the ground to save him the effort.

Shasta always nibbles the side of her bowl in between each bite. She’s so much more polite while waiting for her food and doesn’t try to hurry me at the gate when I get there like Comanche does.

But she has a habit of carrying her bowl to hard to find niches between rocks down the hill.

I didn’t get a good picture of the horses. But here’s one that shows the path to the gate.

drizzly morning rounds -Horse's gate in the distance
drizzly morning rounds – path to the horse’s gate with a couple of chickens down there

We live in a beautiful and wild place. There’s no “lawn”. And there are rocks and weeds and trees everywhere. Sooner or later we’ll get some of it under a bit of control.

The colors are beautiful right now. Here’s how it looks past the garden toward the back. There’s cardboard in the garden right now, waiting for me to cover the rows between the beds. This works really good for keeping the garden from looking too wild with weeds. There is always a lot of earthworms underneath the cardboard, so the kids pull it back to get a few when they go fishing.

Past the garden toward the back at Wild Ozark.
Past the garden toward the back at Wild Ozark.

The old tractor hasn’t moved in a while, but it still looks pretty, especially in fall and snow.

drizzly morning rounds -Old Ford 8N
Old Ford 8N

I haven’t named the chickens or the cats, but I did name a tree. This is Gloria. She’s a white oak or post oak and is probably around 200 years old. I added a filter because I loved the vintage effect.

My favorite tree is named Gloria.
My favorite tree is named Gloria.

That’s it for this morning’s walkabout. Hope you enjoyed the task!

The original sketch for my Goodreads Giveaway

I have a copy of my sketch journal up for giveaway at Goodreads. It’s titled simply, My Nature Journal. It’s not *my* journal but a blank one designed for others who would like to get into nature sketching. Part of the giveaway is an original sketch and journal entry that I’ll make in it before shipping it out to the winner.

Confronting the fear

It’s time for me to do the original sketch and entry promised in the copy to be given away. I’ve been dancing around getting this done. I was afraid of messing up the drawing and wasting one of the journals.

No. That’s not the real reason for it. I was just afraid. Afraid of not being good enough. For having bit off more than I could chew. Of having to meet expectations of the winner. Afraid that the paper in the journal wouldn’t lend itself well to color or pencil.  Afraid for any number of reasons, including wasting one of the journals.

I didn’t want to wait until the last minute to do it, which is my usual way of handling things like this.

Just do it

But I decided to just do it. Which proves that I can *make* myself draw something on demand when I really set my mind to it, I guess. I’ll bet the same applies to writing…

And it came out great! I’m very pleased with how the paper takes the color and the graphite. I like it even better than my own sketch journal that I’d bought specifically because it is a *sketch* journal with paper designed for pencil. The color on the ones I designed give much more saturation of the color.

The journals are $12 through Amazon and my online shop, but if you’re local and want to pick one up without the wait of shipping, they’re $15 at The Place on the Square in Kingston.

Not only am I happy that the paper works very well for drawing, I think I did a fair job on the sketch.

So overall, I’m pleased. And this is the original sketch that will be in the journal given to the winner.

The winner’s sketch

The sketch in the winner's journal - Two Sweetgum leaves, by Madison Woods
The original sketch in the winner’s journal – Two Sweetgum leaves.

How to enter the contest

The contest entry form is in the link at the bottom of this post. I’m only giving away one original sketch, and it’ll be in that copy.

You can keep up with my sporadic not-so-daily sketching, and see the previous ones, at WildOzarkNatureJournal.com.  All of these are available as prints. Just email me if interested (madison-at-wildozark.com).

In other news

On the 25th my short story serial begins for those on my newsletter who signed up for it. If you want to get ~300 word segments of No Qualms every morning then sign up for my newsletter and check off the box for Free Reads (I think that’s what it says). If you’re already a member you’ll just have to update your preferences, which is where it will bring you if you’re already registered and you put in the same email address here:  http://eepurl.com/Q2dBP

 

Tangerine Sunrise, Goodreads Giveaway, Nature Sketching

When the sun rose high enough to top the trees it washed the hills in a tangerine glow. The trees are changing fast now and I really want to take pictures every day.

Photo quality isn't all that great but you can see how bright it makes the oranges when the sun hits the hills in the morning.
Photo quality isn’t all that great but you can see how bright it makes the oranges when the sun hits the hills in the morning.

I have been drawing more often than photographing these days. Here’s the journal entry for the most recent native plant subject. It’s so dry and being late in the season, only a few of the natives in my favorite deep woods habitat are still green (at least of the ones I visit most often), but even the aging ones with spots and yellowing borders are still beautiful in the way things of autumn often are.

If you click on the image it’ll bring you to my online journal website:

Wild Ozark Nature Sketch Day 23 - Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Wild Ozark Nature Sketch Day 23 – Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

If you enjoy sketching or want to begin, I have blank nature journals just for you. Beginning on Oct. 15 and running through Oct. 31 you can enter my Goodreads Giveaway to win a copy with an original sketch and journal entry in it by me. There are also four black and white journal entries as part of the front pages (the inspiration) of the journal.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

My Nature Journal by Madison Woods

My Nature Journal

by Madison Woods

Giveaway ends October 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


And if you would enjoy a little fiction with your morning coffee, be sure to sign up for my newsletter or set your preferences if you already have so you can get the “Free Reads”. I’m working on serializing “No Qualms” and hope to begin daily deliveries of it on November 1.

No Qualms Serial Cover Image
Click the image to go to the newsletter signup form. I believe when you put in your address it’ll let you change preferences if you’re already a member.

Here’s a nice fat rose hip down by the gate. I’m not sure what variety of rose it is, but the flower is a beautiful deep red and when the japanese beetles leave it alone it makes the most spectacular buds which open to a pretty, but fairly ordinary rose.

Rose hip
Rose Hip

 

Overcast and misty morning at Wild Ozark with a rain shower so brief it felt like hallucination.

Rain or Hallucination?

So brief it almost feels now like it was hallucination, rain fell this morning while I was out feeding the critters. The chickens were all like “what’s that wet stuff coming down from the sky?”

It’s been many weeks since we had rain last and everything is bone dry, including most of the creek. It’s hard to believe that dry little creek grew to such humongous proportions so recently as June.

There are still pools of water in the deeper sections where Rob had dug it just for this reason of holding water when everything went dry. The entire creek is still there, really. It’s just about 2′ underground instead of flowing over the ground. So the dug out spots allow the water to collect where the horses and dogs and wildlife can reach it.

The pond is also still full, as it is spring-fed, and that spring doesn’t usually go dry even in the driest of droughts.

Still, a little more rain would be nice. This morning’s little spatter isn’t going to keep the dust down for long.

Color is intensifying in the maples and sweet gums. Soon the hills will be ablaze here at Wild Ozark.
Color is intensifying in the maples and sweet gums. Soon the hills will be ablaze.

 

 

Beautiful Fall Misty Morning

There is a silence accompanied by a misty morning that is unlike anything else.

This morning I sat on the porch to have my morning coffee. The roosters refrained from crowing. The logging activity is either done or stopped for a break. Only the occasional drip of condensate from the porch could be heard.

I brought the camera outside for feeding critter chores. By that time the peace had been disrupted by all manners of noises but the imagery was still pretty.

 

Misty Ozark Morning
Misty Ozark Morning
One of the two Wild Ozark kitties. I just call her "Miss Kitty".
One of the two Wild Ozark kitties waiting on the loft ladder to be fed this morning. I just call her “Miss Kitty”.

Feels like fall is really here

It’s a foggy morning at Wild Ozark, and chilly too. Feels like fall is really here now. 42*F when I looked at the thermometer right after sunrise.

I went down to the mailbox to mail a letter this morning after feeding the animals and noticed a grasshopper struggling in the middle of the little creek that runs alongside the driveway. I planned to stop on the way back through and fish him out of there if he hadn’t managed it on his own by the time I got the letter put.

Too late. A hungry frog had already scooped up breakfast. Too bad I didn’t have my camera on me because that would have made an interesting photo. A green frog hung limp legs in the water, floating peacefully with his head and eyes above and a grasshopper sticking out of his mouth.

Anyway, it did inspire a poem. This is a rare occurance for me. I only write poetry when the mood strikes and the mood doesn’t strike often.

Web of Life

Frog waiting on shallow edge

For insects struggling

In water’s web

Something else fell prey at Wild Ozark.
Something else fell prey.
acorn on weathered stick, sketch by madison woods

For all the little acorns

May they grow to mighty oaks

For the past several weeks one of the first morning sounds have been that of heavy equipment moving into place on the mountains to our southeast. Later, as the sun rises, it’s chainsaws. And the crashing of mighty oaks.

Someone is clearing out an entire forest from the sounds of it, and from the logs I see stacked on the side of the road awaiting transport, it is an oak forest of significant age. In my mind’s eye I see the acorns scattered across the ground in a desperate last effort to carry on.

I understand the need for fields but I do not like the sacrifice these trees are called to make. I don’t believe this particular field is necessary, as it is most likely being created only to make a space more enticing to deer and other animals hunted there. I’m not against hunting, either. I’m just sick of the sounds of falling trees.

Yesterday’s Nature Journal entry was created today because a new grandbaby of mine entered the world the night before and I slept through my usual drawing/entry time.

So the acorn symbolizes the potential new life. Both for the baby and the future oaks.

The Business ‘Circle of Life’ at Wild Ozark

An older post, but still representative. Eventually I’ll update it but for now, I’ll leave it alone:


This is the second year since making Wild Ozark my full-time endeavor. Over the past year, I’ve noticed a life-cycle of sorts. It’s risen organically, and next year I hope to be more efficient at taking advantage of this circle of life, working with the flow of the seasons to bring products to life.

Winter is coming

It was a chilly 49* when I got up this morning and so I started the first fire of the season in our woodstove.

I love the cooler temps, but mostly I think it’s the more saturated colors caused by shadow and shifting light angles that I love most of all. And then there are the sounds. Those change with the seasons too. Crows and Jays often are the first sounds I hear at this time of year, aside from the roosters crowing at dawn.

The other thing I love about this time of year is the harvest. I went out gathering lobelia seeds, black cohosh and black snakeroot, and spicebush berries last week. This weekend I’m making ointments. Aside from writing, this activity is my favorite thing to do.

Wild Ozark Circle of Life: My fall root and berry harvest. I didn't gather much of any one thing, just took what I needed for a few of my recipes.
My fall root and berry harvest. I didn’t gather much of any one thing, just took what I needed for a few of my recipes. That’s why quantities will always be limited when I sell them.
Wild Ozark Circle of Life: Black snakeroot (Sanicula canadensis) are astringent and vulnerary. And they dry to become very stiff and pokey! I'll use these in a general purpose scratch & scrape balm.
Black snakeroot (Sanicula canadensis) are astringent and vulnerary. And they dry to become very stiff and pokey! I’ll use these in a general purpose scratch & scrape balm.
Wild Ozark Circle of Life: Ripe spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries. We didn't have very many of these this year, so I only gathered a handful. I use these in the muscle & sore joint rub.
Ripe spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries. We didn’t have very many of these this year, so I only gathered a handful. I use these in the muscle & sore joint rub.
Wild Ozark Circle of Life: Roots of wild comfrey (Cynogolossum virginianum). I'll use this in a burn salve.
Roots of wild comfrey (Cynogolossum virginianum). I’ll use this in a burn salve.
Wild Ozark Circle of Life: Possibly black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) but I'm holding this for positive i.d. when the plants flower again. I replanted several parts of this root mass.
Possibly black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) but I’m holding this for positive i.d. when the plants flower again. I replanted several parts of this root mass.

The Wild Ozark Circle of Life

Early Fall

This is when the berries are ripe on spicebush, which I use in one of my herbal formulas for muscle and joint pain. It’s also when it’s time to gather berries for propagation of doll’s eyes and spikenard. It’s also when I gather the ginseng berries to reseed them in places where I want more to grow if I don’t want to let them naturally fall from the plant.

It’s illegal to do this with the wild ginseng, by the way. Most of what we have here are wild-simulated. I began planting seeds here in 2005 but avoided planting in the areas I knew already had native colonies growing. With wild ginseng, you have to replant the seeds of any plants you dig in the same location as the mother.

When the tops of plants begin to die back, it’s the time to gather roots. Black cohosh, black snakeroot, bloodroot, goldenseal, and wild comfrey fall into this category along with ginseng. Many of these roots will be put to stores for herbal remedies but many are also divided and replanted to propagate plants for the nursery.

This time of year is a good time to begin making ointments and tinctures from the herbs I’ve gathered.

It’s also a good time of year for our homestead projects. Our “To-Do” list is a mile longer and grows by the minute, it seems. Firewood is something we never seem to have enough of, so we will cut and stack now and throughout the winter, too.

Herbal Remedies

We make a few things at home that we use often and I’ve started bringing these to the market with me. The most popular one is the Amazing Sting oil. I also make lip balms and ointments, and a medicinal tea blend. Then there’s the cold/flu syrup using various wildcrafted herbs as they come into season.

I’m working on making hard candies with the herbs, too. And there’s the Three Kings tincture we use for nail fungus, spider bites, and other difficult topical things.

Most of these are not listed on the shop, but I’ll add them as I can.

Later Fall

We order ginseng seeds with a delivery date somewhere around the beginning of October. For the weeks following the arrival of the seeds, my main task is to get them planted. I don’t want to leave them in the refrigerator too long because that’ll cause them to go dormant and then they won’t sprout the following spring. Did that last year, don’t want to do it again.

I’m still writing now, and we are still working on homestead projects during this time of year, too. And it’s a good time to stack more firewood.

Winter

This is the best time of year for making herbal remedies, writing my books and stories, taking photographs, and planning next year’s gardens.

We can’t do many outdoor projects, but once Rob has his shop built he’ll be able to work on his beautiful woodworking projects now.

It seems like we’re always needing more firewood, so cutting and stacking goes on even during snow and ice weather.

Spring

Photography is always on my mind in spring. I’m watching now for the ginseng to unfurl and delighting in the awakening of the land. The outdoor homestead projects will begin again.

In spring I sow seeds for both the garden and the nursery. The seeds that were gathered and sown from fall, like the spikenard, green dragons and jack-in-the-pulpit will be coming up along with the ginseng. All the goldenseal, and bloodroot that were divided in fall will now begin unfurling too.

The market begins in late April and I’ll start bringing plants and books and herbal remedies. My plant offerings start out with ginseng and ginseng habitat plants. Then as the weather becomes too warm for those I bring the medicinal and edible wild plants. Books and remedies are available throughout the market season.

Summer

I’ll still be at market with plants, books, and herbal remedies. When it’s not market days I’ll be helping Rob with homestead projects and in between it all I write and take photographs.

Full Circle

With early fall it all begins again. Throughout the entire year I write, photograph and create products. I try to keep the blog current with at least one post a week. I also write our monthly newsletter and in those I try to give my subscribers something they’re not getting at the blog -or at least give it to them before it goes to the blog.

I’m honored and pleased to get emails and comments from readers throughout the year. I don’t get many comments; more often it’s emails from readers with questions. Many have come here to learn about the habits of ginseng, want to know how to identify it or grow it, and I love the updates when you let me know how your efforts are going.

Thank you!

PawPaw’s Notebook

A while back while visiting down south I thought of PawPaw’s notebook.

My PawPaw was in his 90’s and I knew he wouldn’t be with us much longer so thought I’d ask him for his notebook while he was still alive to give it if he wanted to do so.

He died yesterday afternoon. For anyone unfamiliar with that naming terminology, he was my father’s father. A “grandpaw”, in that same terminology, would be the father of a parent’s parent (great-grandfather). I’m from south Louisiana, and that’s the way we called them.

This post is in memory of him.

He was 95 (I think) and one of the last of the cajun french speakers of my family. I remember waking pre-dawn to the smell of coffee brewing and the sounds of a crowing rooster and cajun talk radio when I used to spend the night there as a child.

He was a lifelong gardener until his eyesight failed a few years ago.  I’m so glad to have asked for his garden notebook a few years ago.

No one else would likely have placed any value on Pawpaw’s notebook, and it would likely have been thrown away when his house was cleaned out. But these are the very sort of things I consider as valuable remembrances of a person’s life and passions.

I believe my own passion for gardening comes from my pawpaw, and from his father before him, my grandpaw. More than ten years ago PawPaw gave me the starts for the green onions I’m still dividing and growing today. He called them “shallots”.

When I was little I used to help my grandpaw get seeds from his huge tomato patch. We’d smash the nearly rotten tomatoes that he’d kept for seeds and spread the pulp all over newspapers on the front porch of his old house. I’d walk with my grandpaw down the trail in the woods behind his house.

He’d pick wild strawberries and I’d taste them. He’d cut stalks from the palmettos and make whistle from them.

My dad never enjoyed gardening very much (probably because he had to work too often in the gardens and fields for my grandparents), but he is a big lover of nature, hiking and photography, and I think I’ve inherited my love of those things from him.

So a lot of what makes me who I am comes from that paternal line of influence.

The following is a post I made at almost the very same time of year in 2013 on my old blog.

Sept 3, 2013

I just spent the holiday weekend with family down in Louisiana. The drive to get there is long and I don’t much like it, but I enjoyed visiting.

The flavorful food is always one of the things I like to indulge in while I’m down visiting. Momma fried catfish the night I’d arrived and that was a delicious treat. One of the highlights of my trip was eating out at Mike Anderson’s restaurant in Baton Rouge. It’s my favorite place to eat real Cajun food, aside from going to a relative’s house for supper. I figured my sister’s birthday, even if it was a day late in celebration, was a great excuse to go. Unfortunately I forgot all about getting a picture of us to use on this post.

It’s been a year or so since I’d last been home and things have changed some in our family. My MawMaw died since I’d been there last and I couldn’t take off work at the time to go to the funeral. So it was different being at my pawpaw’s house without her there and I knew I would find that difference uncomfortable. I hadn’t had a chance to visit her before she took the downturn that led to her death, either.  When the opportunity arose to be able to go this past weekend, I figured I’d better visit PawPaw while I still had the chance to see him.

Pawpaw was a life-long gardener. I say “was” because he can’t see well enough to do it anymore. This was the first year I can ever remember there not being a garden at his house.  Not only is the garden not planted, the spot where it used to be has been wiped clean. It was an odd feeling to see that, too. Of course, it’s better to have lawn to mow than raised beds growing up in weeds, but it still felt odd to see the spot like that.

There was a notebook I wanted to ask my pawpaw about. For as long as I can remember, he used to make garden notes in a spiral bound notebook. Since he can’t garden now, I wondered if he still had his notebook and whether he might give it to me. Not that it would have a lot of useful information about gardening specific to my own area (which is a whole zone and a half different in climate), but because it was his. Filled with his handwriting and about a part of his life that was important to him. My sister thought I was nuts because she didn’t remember such a book and when pawpaw didn’t immediately know what I was talking about, she thought her assumption confirmed.

Not so though. I may be nuts, but not because I wanted a notebook that didn’t exist, ha. He did remember. And luckily, it hadn’t been thrown out yet. He went to his dresser and dug it out from beneath a bunch of clothes. He handed it to me and said I could have it. Here’s a picture of him holding it, and that’s me in the background. On the front cover you’ll see some writing, too. That’s all the last frosts of previous years since he’d begun using the notebook. I think the earliest date in it was from 1986, so it’s not his original book and he’s probably thrown out plenty of them over the years. But I got to salvage this last one, at least.

PawPaw's Notebook
PawPaw’s Notebook

 

Death from Above – Wasp vs Mantis

There are lots of videos at YouTube about wasp vs mantis, but they always show the mantis winning. Today I saw a wasp carrying the head of a praying mantis. I saw one yesterday, too.

I’ve found lots of info online about the mantis eating the wasps, but nothing about wasps eating them.

The praying mantis is so helpful in the garden, and the wasps are too (except they sting and hurt like hell), but I didn’t realize the two were enemies of each other!

I’d rather have the praying mantis than the wasp…

wasp vs mantis
Looks like the wasp won this fight.