A Call for Rocks and a New Page

Saturday I went down to Felkins creek which is near the end of our driveway. It’s not that I needed more rocks. I just wanted to see what the recent rains might have turned up. So I should probably have not gone looking.

Limestone and fossils.
Limestone and fossils.
Look at all of the fossils in this one little piece! There's that many more in the larger chunk.
Look at all of the fossils in this one little piece! There’s that many more in the larger chunk of fossil rock.

 

I only needed one rock. Or one color of rock. And I did get it. But all these other rocks wanted to jump in my bag, too.

It's the red sandstone without a black shell that I wanted. Not sure how all these other rocks got in the bag...
It’s the red sandstone without a black shell that I wanted. Not sure how all these other rocks got in the bag…

 

Have any rocks to share?

I’d like to make a collection of paints from other regions. A single colorful rock will work if it’s about hand-sized. I’ll send you a little pan of paint for a single rock (or handful of clay!). If you’d like to send me a medium-sized priority box of rocks (or clay) from your area, I’ll send you a whole palette of paints from those rocks. Choose a few rocks (or clays) of about 5 different colors if you can. Email me for my address.

How’s that fall in line with the ‘I don’t need any more rocks’ line of thinking??

New Page and Menu Item

I decided to put my paintings on a single page as I finish them. You’ll see that page now in the menu above. Next up will be a brown pelican, the State Bird of Louisiana. It won’t be for sale as it is a custom order but I’ll still post the progression of it as I’m doing it. Not sure I can do a pelican, so it’s an experiment!

A Book to Finish

I haven’t forgotten about the book I’m supposed to be wrapping up this summer. Summer is almost over… I know. If you’ve been waiting, please know it’s on my mind and I’m trying to work on it between making paints and painting.

A sign I put up to protect the Virginia snakeroot plants.

Oh no! The Virginia Snakeroot babies are all gone!

Virginia snakeroot at the Wild Ozark Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden.
Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)

I went out to check on the Virginia snakeroot nursery the other day and was mortified to find nothing. Not. One. Plant.

Virginia Snakeroot … What’s That?

Now, you might be wondering just what’s so important about a plant that really looks like nothing much more than a weed in the woods. It’s a plant of interest to me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a medicinal plant with a history of being used to treat snakebites and mad dog (rabies). I’m not likely to use it for either of these, but I do have an affinity for medicinal plants.

Second, it’s harder and harder to find because there’s actually a market for the roots. People dig them and then sell them to botanical purveyors who then sell them to pharmaceutical or herbal companies.

It Even Has Look-Alikes

There’s another plant that has very similar leaf shape, but it isn’t snakeroot.

Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, though I know what it isn't.
Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, but I know what it isn’t.

There’s a long article on the plant and how it was once used at the Herbs2000.com website.

For the past several years I’ve searched our property for this plant and never could find any. In 2015 I found the first plant, but then a major flash flood erased it from the site. Then last year while I was making trails in the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden, I noticed a whole mess of the plants on a little knoll under the cedar trees.

I was so excited. I’d even placed a sign at the entrance to warn visitors not to enter that part because there were so many it would be hard to walk around them without stepping on some. I wanted to collect seeds and propagate more of them.

Poof!

And now they are gone. Completely disappeared. The ground had been disturbed by an armadillo, but I don’t think an armadillo would eat snakeroots. I didn’t see any footprints that might indicate some roaming root digger had come by. Virginia snakeroot is one of the wild plants that botanical buyers purchase, but these plants were so small it would take a ton of the little roots to earn the $30 or so per pound that they can fetch.

Besides that, there were ginseng plants in the vicinity and I can’t see a poacher taking the snakeroot without also taking the ginseng.

So what happened to them?

I think I figured out the answer.

Butterflies.

Or more specifically, caterpillars of the Pipevine Swallowtail. These butterflies are not the pollinators for Virginia snakeroot, but the pipevine plants are the host plants for their larvae. Virginia snakeroot is one of the pipevines, as is wild ginger and Dutchmen’s pipe vine.

While we have lots of wild ginger around, we don’t have many of the Dutchmen’s pipe and I’ll bet what happened to my plants is that they were eaten by the larvae of butterflies. Actually, they weren’t ‘my’ plants. I’m sure the butterflies were excited to see them and call them theirs, too.

It’s the explanation that makes the most sense. If that’s the case, they’ll be back next year. I can find a way to protect a few plants and share the rest with the butterflies. Keep your fingers crossed!

The flower isn't mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.
The flower isn’t mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.

 

Closer view of Fairy Pool #1

Fairy Garden Accessories from Wild Ozark

Introducing my new line of Fairy Garden Accessories – all handmade and one-of-a-kind artwork to complement your fairy garden terrariums!

Market Mainstays

Fairy Gardens have been a mainstay for the Wild Ozark market booth this season. Now I’m starting to make accessories to go with fairy gardens for the people who like to create their own terrariums and fairy garden scenes.

Fairy Garden Accessories

All of my fairy garden accessories are one-of-a-kind. This means I’m making each one by hand and I’m not simply painting a resin mold-cast item.

I gather the rocks from the creek here at Wild Ozark. If there’s a water feature, that’s made with a combination of hot glue gun and crayon shavings. Where a mossy look is added, it is actually powdered dried sassafras leaf or other green-colored herbs.

Here’s the ones I’ll be bringing to market this week. These are ship-able, so I’ll add them to the online shop and Etsy if they don’t sell at market.

Fairy Pool

I’m also working on some kits for those who want to build their own pools. Let me know if this is something that interests you. If I’m quick about it, I might have some of the kits with me at the market tomorrow, but I still have a lot of other things I need to do. Might be next weekend before I can put them together.

Fairy Steps

Fairy Waterfalls

Here’s one of the waterfalls. I have another one made to bring to market too, but I’m out of time for editing photos and will just post this one for today:

OOAK Fairy Garden Accessories from Wild Ozark: Waterfall

Want to See Them Early?

Watch for more fairy garden accessories as I get them created. Usually I share progress pics on my Instagram and Facebook, if you’d like to follow me there.

See them in Person

If you’re in the northwest Arkansas area, you can see these at the market downtown on Saturdays and any I have left go with me for the day on Sunday at the Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, AR.

Share!

If you’ve bought one of my unique handmade items, send me a pic of your garden with it in there and I’ll share it to Instagram and FB!

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!

Products of Wild Ozark's nature farming.

What is Nature Farming? What does a Nature Farmer Grow?

What I mean by ‘Nature Farming’ is not the same as ‘natural farming’, ‘organic farming’, or ‘natural farming methods’. Explanations for all of these things come up when you do a search online for ‘nature farming’. But nothing turns up for true nature farming. Hopefully this post will show up in the search engine results list soon.

I am literally farming nature.

I’m not doing conventional farming using natural techniques, or practicing organic or permaculture farming (although where I do actually grow things on purpose, I do adhere to those principles).

The more people who interact with my blog, the more quickly it’ll turn up in searches online. Will you help me get it noticed by sharing this post?

Wild Ozark is a Nature Farm. They are literally farming nature. Click To Tweet

 

What I’m farming is already present there in nature.

For the most part, the plants I use in my business already grow here naturally. I encourage some of them to multiply by dividing or transplanting or seeding them in more areas, but the habitats to support them already exist here. No tilling involved, though sometimes I do make nursery beds by creating rock wall terraces on the hillsides.

The terraces are in the deep shade under trees with the kinds of leaves that make good mulch for ginseng. They keep the pots from washing away during rains and when the creek floods, provides easy access for seedlings when I need to fill orders, and is a staging/holding area for the items I bring with me to market.

Things I keep in my nature farming nursery beds. A ginseng habitat in a pot! This one includes a 3-year old American ginseng with a handful of companions for $75. Available only for local pickup at the nursery, or the Rogers Downtown Farmers Market on Saturdays or the Huntsville Farmers Market on Tuesdays. Reserve in advance to make sure I have one with me by emailing madison@wildozark.com.
A ginseng habitat in a pot! This one includes a 3-year old American ginseng with a handful of companions for $75. Available only for local pickup at the nursery, or the farmers market booth (check schedule). Reserve in advance to make sure I have one with me by emailing [email protected] Bare root collections can be shipped in fall.

American ginseng seedlings are the main things that use the terraced beds. I transplant the seedlings to the other habitats and I also put them in pots sell them at market. When it’s not growing season, I sell them as dormant, bare root plants. Wild Ozark is the only certified ginseng nursery in Arkansas. Wild ginseng lives here naturally, and I’ve purchased seeds to grow even more of it. I keep the wild populations separate from the wild-simulated.

When I say ‘wild-simulated’ that means I’m growing the ginseng in the same way it would grow in the wild. All I do is plant the seed in a space where it can flourish. I do have one small area set aside as a teaching environment. It’s my Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden. It’s not quite a natural area yet, because it is still recovering from being logged many years ago. As the trees get bigger it will return to a natural dense shade forested habitat.

In addition to the ginseng seedlings and habitat pots, I also keep many of the companions in propagation beds so I can easily transplant them to pots and sell them, or harvest bare root plants for dormant shipping. Those plants include goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, blue cohosh, a variety of ferns, spicebush plants, pawpaw tree seedlings, and doll’s eyes. I also keep some of my other favorites like trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, and trout lilies, too.

Stewardship of Mother Nature versus Stewardship by Me

The Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden is not left completely to nature because I’m taking out things like honeysuckle and wild roses. I’m thinning some of the trees I don’t want there to favor some of the ones I do. The reason for that is to speed up the process that will make it a better habitat for the American ginseng and the companion plants that also grow in the same sort of environment. While the rest of Wild Ozark is pretty much left up to the stewardship of Mother Nature, this demonstration garden is being tended by me.

While the garden isn’t an ideal environment yet for the ginseng, it will eventually be so and the plants are doing well enough in the meantime. My process of doing this is helpful to others who want to do the same thing on their own property. Additionally, and the main reason I chose this spot, is because it is in a location close to the front gate and I don’t mind sharing that location with visitors.

Nature Farming means Harvesting Nature

I harvest things provided by nature. Things naturally growing, dropped to the ground, or dried on the stem. Wildcrafting is the gathering of wild plants. I’ll make ointments or extracts and teas from the medicinal plants. Some of them I’ll sell, and some of them I keep for our own household use. The parts I gather include fruits (persimmons, pawpaw), flowers (echinacea and beebalm), berries (elderberries, spicebush berries, raspberry, blackberry, etc.), seeds (lobelia), nuts (hickory, acorns), stems (witch hazel) or roots (ginseng, goldenseal).

 

Using Nature Farming Products to Create Art

So here’s where my nature farm departs from what most people normally think of when they think ‘farming’. The bulk of what Wild Ozark produces is botanical items most people barely notice. Usually it’s lying on the ground in the process of decomposing so it can return to the soil. Sticks, vines, leaves, bits of bark that fell from a tree… all treasures to me.

These harvests include things I use in my arts and crafts, like mosses and lichens and bark. These are things I simply pick up and put in my bucket during my morning walks.

A bucket full of nature farming produce. Some botanicals from the last gathering foray.

I use all of these things to create my Forest Folk, Fairy Houses, and Fairy Gardens. These are very popular and I even hold workshops on how to make these things so anyone can learn how a bit of nature farming can lead to beautiful Nature Art. I sell the small ferns for fairy gardens, bags of moss and preserved leaves, too. You can see where I’ve used twigs, acorns, leaves, dried grass, moss and small ferns in the following photos.

Bark from the Shagbark Hickory

One of our Nature Farm harvests is the bark of a certain tree. Burnt Kettle, my husband’s company, uses the bark from Shagbark hickories to make a delicious syrup. These trees grown naturally all around here.

Eventually we’ll harvest the wood from certain trees for my husband’s woodworking projects. He needs a bandsaw and sawmill to make boards from the abundant cedars that grow here.

Indirect Harvests from my Nature Farm

Art, photography, stories and workshops. Being around nature all of the time inspires me to write, draw, and take photos. I love sharing what I learn and enjoy with others, so I’m always happy to be contacted about doing workshops on topics like nature journaling, ginseng growing or habitat identification, and creating nature art. I’m not an expert on photography, so I’ll leave workshops on that to the ones that are. The outstanding photos from the ones I take are available for sale but I don’t have most of them listed at the shop yet.

Thanks for visiting with Wild Ozark website and taking the time to read about what I do here. Come by and visit the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden if you’re in the area during spring and summer or come by the market booth to see the Forest Folk and Fairy Gardens! The market schedule will be kept current so you’ll know where I’ll be and when, but you can always email in advance if you like. Click here to get all of my contact information.