Bloodroot Bud

It’s early February and the plants in the ginseng habitat are still buried beneath leaf litter and possibly snow. We’ve had a very mild winter so far this year. I won’t be surprised if I find hungry ticks waiting in ambush today.

I’m going out to the mountain to find goldenseal so I can get some root divisions before the spring growth begins. I’ll take pictures and possibly make a short video and post it to this website later on. When it’s ready, there’ll be a link here for you. I’ll try to get pictures of all the plants as we propagate them throughout the year at the appropriate times and in the various methods. Right now and until spring for some of the plants, it is time for root divisions.

Before these plants went to bed for the long winter’s sleep, buds were already in place and waiting to rise come spring. Bloodroot, goldenseal, ginseng, cohosh all have a new bud waiting for the growing season to begin. All but ginseng will sometimes have more than one bud per root clump. Bloodroot and goldenseal in particular are easy to divide and propagate because the rhizome root can be divided everywhere there are roots coming off of it and each section will make a new plant even if there’s no bud at that spot.

Here’s a picture that shows what the bloodroot bud looks like. You can click on the image to make it bigger. Be sure to sign up for our nursery brochure if you’d like a plant list mailed to you in spring or just want an idea of what we’ll have at our booth at the farmer’s market in Huntsville.

bloodroot bud

 

Random Nature Connection: Liminal Spaces

Thimbleweed grows often at the forest edge, where it could have full sun or partial shade or deep shade. It is one of those plants that like the liminal spaces.

This post is about liminal spaces. If you want to read more about the plant and see more photos of it, click here.

Thimbleweed flowers
Thimbleweed

Liminal Spaces

It wasn’t until 2012 that I really started paying attention to “liminality”. The phenomenon/occurrence of it fascinated me already, but I didn’t know there was an actual word to describe it. Then I interviewed Dr. Harrison Solow. After that, I saw the liminal in almost all of the time/space places that had always fascinated me most. I’ll find and repost that interview with her soon and link to it here. She’s a fascinating woman who lives a fascinating life. One of her specialty topics as a writer is liminality.

In this Random Nature Connection post, I’m going to talk about my love of the liminal spaces. Not all of those spaces are in nature per se, or at least they’re not all physical locations. But liminality is a natural “thing”. Not everyone notices or pays attention to these places-in-between where boundaries are blurred, and then again, not everyone likes the grey areas. Some prefer definite orientation on one side or the other – a definite yes or no, steering clear of ambiguity.

I like them because of the variety of life that usually exists in such places. I like the ambiguous things, the dichotomies. Probably because I sense a lot of myself in those places.

For those liminal spaces that aren’t physical locations but are instead metaphysical spaces, I like them because of the opportunities that exist only at times like that. Those kinds of places are where the strands in the webs of life are wavering on the pendulum between touching or not, and whether they do makes all the difference in the moments happening next.

This article is about the metaphysical liminal spaces, particularly when it comes to communicating with nature: https://wakeup-world.com/2014/11/28/some-pointers-and-pitfalls-for-talking-with-nature/. I found it very interesting and it puts into words what I’ve never been able to explain.

Here’s a list of liminal spaces I consider to be my favorites. I’d love to hear of yours.

  • Between night and day, mostly the mornings just before dawn when darkness is giving way to the light. But then I like to ramble around outside as day is giving way to night, too, so I guess I like them both. I like to hear the different animals moving around or waking up.
  • At Water’s Edge- beaches, rivers, ponds and creeks. The edges of these places are very interesting to me because of the life that lives where the two meet. Some dabble in both, some prefer to keep wet feet and never venture to the dry ground, and some never actually touch the water.
  • In the forest, on the lower part of a mountain before it becomes ground level
  • At the edge of waking or falling asleep
  • Where mountains meet field or valley, although the exact spot where this happens is sometimes thick and brushy and hard to get through. I don’t like that specific cluttered place so much, but do like the approach to the space where there is both mountain and valley, or forest and field.
  • Just before autumn, when the angles of the sun’s rays cast light a particular way that tells me fall soon will arrive.
  • Just before a rain after a long dry spell.
  • The moon while in Horns of Isis phase – showing both the shadowed part and the illuminated crescent at the same time.
  • The moment as comprehension begins but before fully recognized, after struggling with a difficult concept (I like witnessing this moment in others. as well). And this one has a dark side, as well – when comprehension of something unpleasant begins to dawn… and while I don’t “enjoy” this side of it, the space is still fascinating to me.

Random Nature Connection

This post was a Random Nature Connection post. Please join me and link to your own blog post about this topic or this picture.

Previous Random Nature Connection Posts

Here are the previous Random Nature Connection posts:

  • 1rst Friday – water (photo of water dripping)
  • 2nd Friday – planning ahead (photo of sunset)
  • 3rd Friday – resistance to change (photo of ice shard lifting rock)
  • 4th Friday – abundance (photo of farkleberry)
  • 5th Friday – force to be reckoned with (photo of tractor)

Ever Heard of Herbalism for Plants?

Is herbalism exclusively for animals and people? Why not herbalism for plants?

I’ve never heard of anyone else using herbs to treat plants. There’s lots of information about how to use plants to treat people (and animals), but not for using plants to treat plants. And why not? Certain plants have affinity for certain other plants, especially for certain trees. Certain fungi grow around only very specific trees. It isn’t a huge leap of the imagination to think that these plants benefit each other in some ways, even fostering good health when one or the other is stressed.

I’d just spent all day pruning and cleaning up an apple tree that had been neglected for about five years. All looked very nice when done. Except one thing. There were signs of borers at the base of the trunk. So many of them that the outlook for this tree’s survival is likely slim. You can click on the photos to enlarge them.

 

photo of damage from  apple tree borer
borer damage

 

Comfrey grows well beneath fruit trees. As the plants die back each winter, the broad leaves add nutrients and humus to the soil. The roots of Comfrey have impressive healing powers, affecting regrowth of skin and tissue and mending of bones.

As I tried to decide what to do about the damage the tree had suffered, I thought of comfrey’s medicinal virtues. Fresh root is best, but I don’t have any growing yet so I resorted to dried. I put some in the blender, along with some water and a shot glass full of “Super Tonic” for good measure. Super Tonic is a Dr. Christopher formula great for all sorts of things that might ail a person, but the taste is equally potent. I, personally, can’t take it without wanting to throw up. But my eldest swears by it and doesn’t find the flavor so disagreeable. My herbalist friend Dena gave me a bottle of it years ago and we do pull it out from time to time when the really tough bug strikes at home. You can find the recipe on this page of forum discussions about it.

A jar of comfrey plaster
Comfrey root all ground up and mixed with water and Super Tonic.

Before applying the plaster, I scraped away all of the spongy dead wood and scraped out the holes that were soft enough. The damage is so extensive, I’ll be truly impressed if this saves the tree.

apple tree base after debriding borer damage
Trunk base after debriding the dead material away.

Then came the plaster. I used an old basting brush to apply it. If you’ve ever used comfrey to make a sort of cast around a broken pinky toe, you’ll know it smarts. The Super Tonic would bring that sting to a whole ‘nother level. I hope the tree knows it was for its own good…

apple tree with herbal remedy applied to base of the trunk
After the plaster was applied.

It’s not supposed to rain for at least a few days, so hopefully this will have time to dry and harden into a sort of “skin” for it. Now we wait and see what happens. The rest of the tree looks great, so I hope this works.

Have you ever used herbalism for a tree? If so, please leave me a comment about the experience.

Plants with Strange Names

Devil’s Walking Stick. Strawberry Wahoo. Green Dragon. Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Fire-Pokers… All plants with strange names.

Sometimes my friends and family think I make these names up.

seeds from strawberry wahoo and devil's walking stick
Seeds from Devil’s Walking Stick (the nearly black ones) and Strawberry Wahoo (the red ones)

 

I remember coming home one day after running errands in town. I always drive really slow on the dirt road leading to Wild Ozark, and not just because the road is rough. The reason that motivates me to go slow most of all is so I can look on the sides of the road for interesting plants. Anyway, my mom was with me on one of these days and by the time I realized what I’d seen, we’d overshot the spot by a good distance. I shouted “Strawberry Wahoo!” and put the car in reverse. Poor mom probably thought I’d lost my mind.

But I backed up and found the bush. It’s actually a small tree sort of shrub. When she saw what I was talking about, she said “I think you just made that name up.”

“No, really,” I protested. “It’s really what it’s called.” My name for it combines a couple of the common names into one, but technically I think “strawberry bush” and “wahoo” work better together so we know exactly which plant I’m talking about. Euonymus atropurpurea is likely considered a more specific name, though, I admit. But I think I’d have sounded just as mad shouting that out as anything else.

photo of strawberry wahoos
Hanging wahoos

Similar words were exchanged when my husband and I passed what I’d mistakenly said were “Red Hot Pokers”. Actually, that’s a different flower than the one I saw, but “Fire Pinks“, which is what these were is just as odd a name because these flowers are nowhere near pink. They’re definitely red.

Then there’s the Devil’s Walking Stick. I spotted that one one day on our way off to somewhere once, and it too brought the raised eyebrows of “I think you made that name up”. I really like the Devil’s Walking Stick a lot because it’s one of the ginseng cousins, belonging to the Aralia family along with American ginseng, American Spikenard, and Sarsaparilla too. The only thing in common with any of these, though, is the way the flowers are arranged in a loose, airy, ball on the end of each flowering stem. All of the plants of this family flower in the same arrangement. The Devil’s Walking Stick I found looks more like a small, skinny tree than a shrub. Later in the year after the stem started sagging, I was able to pull it down so I could collect the seeds.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to sprout and grow the seeds of either the Devil’s Walking Stick or the Strawberry Wahoo, but if I can, I’ll have these to offer at the market too. So you can have some plants with strange names too. Both of these are native to the Ozarks and interesting conversation specimens even if you don’t find the medicinal uses of them interesting. I have some American Spikenard, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Green Dragon seeds I’m hoping will germinate in spring, too.

What are your favorite plants with strange names?

Random Nature Connection – Old Things and A Force to Be Reckoned

Is Nature a force to be reckoned with and hopefully conquered? This post is a prompt to think about our relationship with nature. Join us!

old ford tractor

I won’t have an essay today, just a few thoughts about this photo and the connection it represents to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. If you blog, feel free to link to your post about this photo or topic in the comments below. This is the 5th Random Nature Connection post in my series.

A Force to Be Reckoned

This old tractor is one of my favorite photo subjects. It looks pretty no matter what the season out here. But it’s an “old thing” and it rarely sees much activity anymore. Back in the day when my grandfather used this tractor to cultivate his fields I doubt the people thought much about reconnecting to nature. Nature was still very much a part of everyday life, and I imagine that connection wasn’t looked upon with fondness most of the time.

Nature was a force to be reckoned with and hopefully conquered. But it was also something that people worked with, knowing there were limitations on what could or could not be expected to yield in the battle for dominance.

Join Me!

Use this photo or another and link your blog post in the comments below. Here’s a tweet you can use to invite others:

Join me for ! https://www.wildozark.com/a-force-to-be-reckoned/

Life in the Dead of Winter

I enjoy seeing signs of life in the dead of winter. This week hasn’t been the typical dead of winter. Today was a beautiful day, sunny and nearly 70*F, and I became tired of figuring taxes. Time to go outside and move rocks around in the garden. I brought the camera to get some pics of bits of green contrasting with the sandy browns of our soil and the darker hues of dead brown leaves. I knew there’d be some life in the otherwise dead zone.

green onions

The green onions (above) grow somewhat all year long. I love having them ready to use anytime, but some times of the year, like now, a bit more trimming and cleaning up of the greens is required.

thyme

Thyme (above and below) still manages to stay looking pretty beneath the curled up cover of dead elm leaves.

thyme closer

Wispy tendrils of wild onion reach out from beneath this rock in my garden (below). These work like chives if you snip up the green parts. I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy having so many of these around if I were trying to graze milk goats or cows, but I like the abundance of wild onions and garlic around here.

wild onion

Aside from taking pictures of the living things, I moved a heavy rock into place where I needed another step. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get it where I wanted it, but it works perfectly in that place. Now I’m one rock closer to being finished with the garden path starting at the gate going down to the lowest terrace. It’s not a very large garden, in fact it’s very small. I can’t imagine trying to move enough rocks to make a large one of the kind I see in my imagination!

big rock step

 

 

The Nature of Still Water

We’re holding our breath here this morning at Wild Ozark, waiting to see what happens when the lines on the mountain thaw.

See, we’d insulated all the lines under the house and figured, hey, it shouldn’t freeze now under there tonight – let’s see what happens. Well, we forgot about the nature of still water in cold weather. If we didn’t leave a tap open, the water would no longer be flowing anywhere in our lines… it would become still.

And it did what still water does.

Now we most likely have a solid line of ice in the lines all the way from the tank at the top down to the house at the bottom.

The other natural thing that water does when it freezes is expands.

ice lifting rock

That’s why those little ice shards are lifting rocks. Because it’s expanding. But the thing about those shards is that it expands upwards because there’s nothing standing in the way except the weight of that little rock. To the sides of whatever little puddle of water froze, there is the surrounding earth keeping it contained, and that earth is stronger than the freezing water. Inside a water line, the thing standing in the way is the wall of the water line. And the ice is usually stronger than the plastic used to hold that water, especially when the plastic has been exposed to sunlight for a few years, causing it to become less flexible.

We don’t get our water from a well or a municipal water tower in the area. Our water comes from a spring about 500 yards above us on the mountain behind our house. It’s held in a 1500 gallon tank about 300 yards above the house on the mountain below the spring. This arrangement comes with a bit more maintenance than you’d find in most set ups. Keeping it flowing during winter is critical.

So, when it all thaws out I’ll take a little hike up the mountain to see what I find. This has happened once or twice before in the last 10 or so years. It’s always a spectacular show. I’ll bring the camera with me, just in case.

The Verdict

Update at 1144: Whoo-hooo! We got lucky. No leaks. I did bring the camera though and took some photos of the spring and cave out that way. Couldn’t get too close to the cave because the rocks I would have had to cross were slippery with ice and algae. I’ll post those when I get a chance later and leave the link here for you.

 

Random Nature Connection – Abundance in Nature

farkleberry
Vaccinium arboreum

Abundance in Nature

The other day as we were out scouting for new springs on the mountain, (springs new to us, not springs new in existence and another form of the abundance in nature out here), I looked at the shrubs around me. The airy, twisty trees looked familiar and my excitement grew as the realization dawned on me. It was a large collection of huckleberry bushes and trees. And there were so many leftover berries on many of the bushes! This year must have been a particularly abundant year for them. There were even enough that all the bears (we have lots of bears here) and birds had left a few for me to sample.

In the past I’ve brought home starts from other locations in the effort to get these growing at our own land and none of them ever took. I’d become resigned that to get any wild berries I’d have to forage farther from home than I like. So I was quite elated to find these.

Tasty!

Of course I tasted one of the not-so-shriveled berries to see if it was good and tasty. And it was.

As I looked around and surveyed the patch, I was struck by the abundance. And by the abundance potential. In my mind I pictured how many berries must be there during prime season. There’s enough here for wildlife AND for me!

Now I can’t wait for the season to arrive when I’ll go back on the mountain with a small pail to gather enough for some jelly. They’re not tasty enough to eat handfuls of them fresh, but are tart enough to promise the most delicious of jellies.

Wild Fruit Jelly

Last year our wild plum trees had an abundant year. I made about a dozen jars of wild plum jelly and loved every jar I managed to hold back instead of giving away.

My favorite kind of jelly is mayhaw, a fruit of a hawthorn tree that grows wild down in Louisiana where I grew up. I’ve missed that jelly since moving up here and after reading one of the comments over at Dave’s Garden, I am most eager to try the huckleberry jelly. That commenter said it was better than mayhaw. I find that difficult to imagine, but I’m certainly willing to test it and find out.

Forging the Nature Connection

Foraging, harvesting and preparing foods and treats from our own land helps me to feel connected to nature. Even if you don’t own land, you can learn about the plants that grow in the area where you live. When you have time, make trips to your nearest wild areas to see what you can find. It’s not a good idea to sample plants you’re not certain about, though, because many of the berries are either toxic or inedible, but by becoming familiar with what’s around you it’ll help to foster that connection. Even knowing what is not good to eat is a helpful knowledge to have. There may be someone in your area who can help you make sure of plant identification so you can safely sample some of nature’s wares.

About the Huckleberry

These huckleberries grow on small trees. They’re commonly called “farkleberries” or “sparkleberries”, depending on the local terminology used to describe them. They are a species of the blueberry genus (Vaccinium arboreum). Each fruit is fairly small, maybe 1/4″ or slightly larger or smaller. They taste similar to blueberries, but not as moist and not as sweet.

Here are some links if you’d like to learn more about the Farkleberry:

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=VAAR

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/31655/#b

Random Nature Connection – Resistance to Change

When I see the ice lifting tiny rocks and forming into shards and columns in this way, it reminds me of the rune Isa and causes me to reflect on how resistant all of nature is to change.

This is a Random Nature Connection post

If you’d like to join in and blog an essay on this topic, please do! You can join now or retroactively
by blogging on the previous topics and continue with us in the future.

ice shards ice lifting rock

Resistance is Natural

By “we”, as I used it in the introduction to this post, I mean all citizens of this natural world, not just humans and not just animals.

Humans are notoriously resistant to change. But animals are too. In fact, it seems that everything consisting of weight and mass are quite resistant. I know from experience that rocks are some of the most resistant things of all. This resistance to change is so ubiquitous it must be a totally natural phenomenon.

Yes, I know there is physics involved in the rock’s resistance, but that’s purely natural too. The entire Universe obeys the laws of physics, it’s just our understanding of it that changes. And that, too, only happens after great resistance from the scientific community.

Is Air Resistant to Change?

At first you’d think that things like air, water, fluids, and fluff are not resistant very much at all. They flow, ebb and tide, and float in what seems complete ease. But try to change the course of water as it flows where it desires. Not so easy after all. The same applies to wind, fluids and fluff. If you’ve ever dropped an egg or spilled oil on the floor, you’ll see an example of a fluid that resists. Its natural inclination is to spread and it resists your efforts to contain it.

Our bodies obviously resist change – losing weight or building muscle is sometimes extremely difficult because of that.

My Resistant Mind

The mind is like the wind and flows easily. Mine is fairly scattered right now as I’m trying to round up my thoughts into a cohesive structure. Stray ideas keep popping up like maverick calves breaking away from the herd.

It isn’t until we try to stop the chatter, or channel our thinking into certain patterns that it becomes resistant. Then once those patterns are established, changing them is difficult. As children, we learn to think in certain ways. These ways are either hindrances or helpful to us as we age. Trying to “undo” thought patterns established during childhood is a great illustration of the resistance offered by the mind.

Meditation is a way of channeling the mind, and yet this practice seems to make it more pliable and free-flowing – less resistant.

Isa

There is a rune that symbolizes this resistance to change. It’s called Isa. Learning about the meaning of this rune has given me another perspective, an understanding of the benefits of stillness at times where such qualities are needed.

Formula for Change

For those desiring to enact change in their lives, there is a formula for this and it’s pretty interesting. It’s called The Formula for Change and it was first developed by David Gleicher in the early 60’s. You might find it an interesting read, too.

Summary

Resistance to change is natural. It is part of Nature itself. Change is a natural occurrence. The key is knowing when one or the other is beneficial and how and when to bring about the desired state.

Ice surrounding branch

Your Thoughts?

I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic. Chime in either through a post of your own or a comment below!

 

 

 

Blustery Day in the Ozarks!

It’s so cold and blustery outside I had to suit up just to dig around in the freezer for some chili ingredients! Can’t see it in the pictures, but the wind is gusty and the snow is blowing. It’s frigid out there. My ears are still frozen.

Rob’s really wishing he had his shop built now so he could work on his projects. I’ll spend my time working on Bounty Hunter and cooking chili. Might bake some bread, too, while I’m at it. At least that would help warm up the kitchen.

badger by the henhouse
Badger checking to see if he can get in for eggs, I think.
garden tools
Definitely too cold to garden!

 

Tending our Wild Ozark Water

Springs at Wild Ozark

I’ve written before about how we are dependent on our wild Ozark water. This is a post from last year around this time of year and it’s one of my favorites. This activity of inspecting the tank and lines is one that occurs at least annually here and usually more often than that.

19 Jan 2014

Yesterday we hiked up the mountain to see what needs to be done with the logging road. It washed out several years ago and now that Rob is planning to get a tractor, he’s thinking of what he can do to repair the road. Up that road is also where the water tank and spring is and the water lines are, so we inspected all of that while we were up there, too.

A coupling on the water line is leaking.

leaking water coupling
A small leak at the coupler. One half is wet, the other is dry.

 

But the tank is overflowing right now so we’ll leave this alone until we get ready to do other things, like clean the tank. For now, it’s not a critical issue and to work on it right now we’d get soaking wet. When we come back to clean the tank we will shut off the line and then changing the coupling or resetting it will be easier.

water overflow
Since this photo was taken, we’ve run an overflow line to a nearby gully.

We walked farther up to check on the spring tank. The spring is all covered and under the leaves so there’s nothing to see there. But some critter, a bear probably, decided it wanted some wild Ozark water and chewed through one of the collection lines. This one isn’t connected, so no loss this time. And no gain for the bear.

spring water line
Uh-oh. Something chewed the line. Luckily, this isn’t the one in use.

This is the first collection point where silt drops out. This barrel needs to be flushed from time to time and it’s overdue. When we come back to do this during summer, that’s when we’ll probably also clean the 1500 gallon tank and repair the leaking coupling.

spring collection point
The chewed line is behind the half buried barrel.

Armadillo!

On our way to the spring, Bobbie Sue gave chase to an armadillo. She ran it back toward us where it buried itself under the leaves while digging an escape route. Did you know armadillos make a weird noise while they’re running? She didn’t pester it, just stood watch while it dug a hole.

After leaving the spring we headed over toward the ginseng patch.

ginseng habitat
One of the great spots for ginseng habitat.

We passed one of the forest matriarchs who died and dropped parts of her trunk on the ground.

dead tree

Circle of Life

Even in death she still supports life.

fungi in arkansas
We have so many beautiful fungi out here. This is one of my favorite photos.

Random Nature Connection – Do Animals Plan Ahead?

2nd Friday after Winter Solstice

This is the second of my weekly #RandomNatureConnection posts. Read more about this meme here and consider joining us if you love nature and blog about it.

Here’s a short Tweet you can use to invite others:

Join us for #RandomNatureConnection!

The other Random Nature Connection posts:

photo of sunset in winter in the ozarks

Humans tend to think a lot about the past and the future, and (at least some of us) not so much on the present. It takes a special conscious effort for me to stay focused on the present moment because I’m always thinking of what I want to do in the future. I know others who spend more time remembering the past than they spend in the present or future.

This is the second day of the new year according to the Gregorian calendar, but according to the seasonal wheel of the year, it’s the 11th day after the winter solstice, which makes a more sensible first day of the year. The day after winter solstice is the first day of the year when days begin becoming longer and nights become shorter. At least for those of us here in the northern hemisphere. The opposite cycle is occurring for those of the southern hemisphere.

At first I started to say that humans are the only creatures that think of the future and plan ahead, but maybe that isn’t so. Right now at the time I’m writing this, outside on the ground, squirrels and chipmunks here at Wild Ozark are scurrying through the dead leaves on the ground. They’re making quite a bit of noise as they search for nuts. The reason they’re searching so diligently is to store food for the days ahead when snow covers the ground, or ice. This requires forethought, although I suppose it’s possible that they don’t consciously know why they’re doing it. They’re driven by instinct. This keeps them in the present moment, the not knowing. So I guess I’m back to the original posit that humans are the only ones who think of the future or the past. Perhaps you know of instances where animals show signs of forethought? If so, leave a comment for me.

I believe we humans could rely more on instinct to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done if we weren’t so preoccupied with making sure we’re taking care of the future by planning it all out.

Ironically, I’m thinking of my intentions for the future today and one of the things on my list of things I’d like to do is to focus more on the present.

Here’s the few items on my list of New Year Resolutions:

  • Start a daily exercise/stretching/meditation (I want to incorporate meditation into this routine so it’ll be a physical and mental workout). This habit will be a daily present-time-focus experience.
  • Reach a 50K word goal on my new novel in progress.
  • Reduce the amount of time I spend fiddling with my website and social media.

That’s pretty much it on my list. It’s the shortest one I think I’ve ever done. What’s on your list?

I’ll be at the dentist until later today, so if you leave your link I’ll be back online to take a look at your blog this afternoon!

 

 

Fiction influenced by Nature

At first glance it might be hard to imagine how my fiction could be influenced by nature. There are three things that make it so. Maybe there’s more than three, but these are the ones that stand out for me.

Setting, Plants and Predators

 

Specifically, it’s the places where the stories take place, the relationships that humans have with plants (or plants with humans) and the relationships predators have with prey (and vice-versa). These themes factor heavily into the plots of what I write, even if the details have been drawn more from my dreams (and possibly nightmares) than from day-to-day reality.predator eating prey

In my short story, No Qualms, there is influence from location, plants and the predator/prey relationship. Ledeir collects bloodroot to serve as her protection in facing an otherworldly threat called a shadeling. This story is set at the Sinking Stream Trail at Hobb’s State Park near War Eagle in northwest Arkansas but it quickly goes from the real-world to an alternate one.

I’m 622 words into a new novel called Bounty Hunter.

For a spring board I’m using a short story I’d already written and several 100-word flash fiction stories that used the characters and settings from that short story’s larger story. If you’re curious, here’s one of the flash stories. Treya is the main character in the new novel. She’s a bounty hunter for an agency called ARSA (Arrests, Retribution and Silencing Agency). In this world setting criminals incarnate into lower life forms when they’re killed, so the bounty hunter has to track them down to whatever level the agency determines is adequate before the job is considered “done”. In the short story I linked to, Eli is the target Treya is hunting and Tva is a non-human entity. Eli is setting up an encounter between Tva and Treya as a trap to eliminate Treya from the chase.

Here’s my progress page for this novel if you want to keep track of how far along it is and read excerpts that I’ll post from time to time. The first paragraph of the opening scene is posted there now.

writer's mood graphic from writertopia.com
So far, so good

and by end of day…

image from writertopia.com
Bleary-eyed and done for the day!

update 12/29

As of 2/22/16 – on the second draft now, at least. Well, no one can accuse me of “churning” out the words, LOL!

Random Nature Connection – Ozark Spring Water

Dripping Faucet

photo of faucet dripping

Nature’s Water

Water is such an integral part of nature, but we don’t often recognize it as such when it comes from a faucet. All water originates from nature, even water from the tap in a city.

Our water source is home-grown Ozark spring water. We have a spring that feeds the house, one that feeds the camper, and one that feeds to our neighbor’s house. There are other springs on this property, but only those three have been captured for our use. The others feed the creeks and surrounding ecosystems. At the tank that feeds the house we have an overflow line for the wildlife to use, as well.

Before I moved here from a suburban area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, I thought very little about the water unless we had a hurricane and the electricity went out. Ordinarily if I turned on the tap, water came out and all was good. What an eye-opening experience it was to move here and learn to live on a limited supply!

We have a 1500 gallon tank and when we had a family of 5 living here, rationing was important. Washing clothes, taking baths, and washing cars uses a good many gallons. When the daughter ran out of water mid-shower and full of shampoo and soap, it was funny to the rest of us. But she didn’t find it so amusing. Youngest son took buckets to the creek and filled them so she could rinse off, at least, but that water was cold and she had to either wait for me to warm it on the stove or brace for the frigid blast.

It takes about 24 hours for the spring to refill the tank. Our flow isn’t great, but it’s consistent. That’s far more important than having a greater gpm (gallon per minute) to me, but it would be nice if it were greater AND reliable. Still if we’re careful and conscientious, we have more than enough for our needs.

In many places of the world clean drinking water is scarce. Our own isn’t considered “clean” by drinking water standards because it has bacteria in it. Not coliforms, but general flora. This doesn’t cause us stomach distress because we’re used to it but anyone coming to visit has to use caution. We generally don’t drink it, but use it for cooking, bathing, washing, and brushing our teeth. I do drink it when I’m hiking up the mountain to the tank. One day we’ll install a filter on the line leading down to the house and clean it up a bit more, but for now it’s working fine. It has for the past 9 years.

Spring water is one of the things I’m most grateful for out here. That picture of the dripping faucet is on the line that leads to our neighbor’s house. It’s Ozark spring water.

 

Happy Yule-Tidings!

Today is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. It is winter solstice 2014.

This always feels to me like a more appropriate time to celebrate the eve of a new year, and so I do. I think of the things I’d like to do differently and plan things I’d like to try or begin or do during the next year. New Year’s Resolutions, but now instead of Dec. 31.

One of those items on my list is to create gift baskets for next year to sell at the farmer’s market – here’s a pic of one we did for Christmas gifts to family this year, but I think they’d make great anytime gifts if I change the box decor to something less seasonal:

Wild Ozark boxed gift set
Each box contains our home-roasted coffee (whole or ground), Rob’s shagbark hickory syrup, my herbal remedy syrup, wild hickory nuts.

Other items on my resolution list include submitting more frequently to magazines. I’d slowly stopped over the years and began using most of what I write for articles on my blog. But I’d also stopped because it seemed all I ever got anymore were rejections and I grew tired of the disappointment. Well, the reality is that if I don’t submit, then there’s no chance to ever get acceptances, so I’m going to try again to make some doors open. Besides, I have a lot of drafts saved back to use for blog posts if I find myself short on ideas.

May the Yule fires burn warm in your hearths this night! Happy Solstice, and Merry Christmas to all of you. It may be next week before I post here again… working out a regular posting schedule is another one of the items on my resolution list 🙂

Here’s a link to the 2015 Yule post, if you’re interested in it and it doesn’t show up in the placards below.

Cover and Sample Page

Here’s the cover and sample page for “Forest Companions”, the last book in the “Into the Ginseng Wood” series. Should be at Amazon by the weekend! If you want to catch up on the others, heres a link to the first one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OFAMAS6. They open into full page photos, no double-tapping required!

Click on the image below to go to the latest release.

forest companions cover image

 

First Thoughts

What is the first thought that enters your mind on waking? Are you savoring vestiges of pleasant dreams, or do you wake up already planning the day…or is there a sense of ‘oh no, not again” ?

Sometimes the first thing I do is glance to see if the sun is up yet. Depending on the visual cue, my first thought after that is usually something along the lines of “What time is it?” which leads into either wondering if the coffee is done yet or cold already.

I’m feeling contemplative this morning. Just curious what kinds of things are on the minds of everyone else. Usually, my first thoughts fall into the first category I mentioned of savoring vestiges of pleasant dreams, but they quickly lead into the coffee contemplations. I rarely wake up in a bad mood.

photo of sunbeams

Frosty Hills

photo of frosty Ozark hills

Frosty hills are pretty and the Ozark hills are sporting white capes this morning! See the distant mountain with the white hoar frost?

The 4-wheeler was also decorated. A light coat of ice had the key and brake lock stiff and I had to clear the encrusted seat so I could sit. Took a very chilly ride out to the mailbox so I could send off a bill in time.

When it’s foggy outside and the temps drop below freezing, all of Nature takes on a sparkly white hue. I love it when that happens. This morning only the tops embraced the chill this way, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

Broomsedge, not Fescue

An Author’s Corrections: It’s Broomsedge, not Fescue

When I wrote No Qualms I described the shadeling as having hair that resembled fescue. That’s because I’d always thought the grass I had in mind was fescue. Recently I learned that it is in fact a grass commonly called broomsedge (possibly Andropogon virginicus). It might be a different species. There are several that look similar, but the point is that fescue looks nothing like this grass. And so the image I drew up in my mind and tried to relay to the reader’s mind would have been completely wrong, at least if the reader knew what fescue looked like.

Most likely the average reader won’t know what broomsedge looks like either, but I hope from the passage it’s easy enough to imagine that it’s a grass or weed or plant of some sort that the narrator is referring to. Fescue or broomsedge, it won’t matter to most readers. But to the few who might read it who know, it would. And it matters to me. At least if it’s a different variety of broomsedge, the reader can come close to imagining what I had in mind.

The pictures below are of broomsedge. This is the imagery I drew upon when writing the character Dannae. An excerpt from the story showing where I used the description is below the photos.

broomsedge gone to seedbroomsedge bluestem

An excerpt from No Qualms:

“It took you long enough to stop by,” a voice said.
I froze. Dammit. I hadn’t found even one root yet. I stood slowly and looked around. No one was there. He might not be visible yet, but I knew the vile creature had come already. “Who’s there?” I asked into thin air.

I didn’t have to pretend to be scared. My heartbeats were so loud in my ears right then I wouldn’t be able to hear approaching footsteps. Touching my pocket again to feel for the bloodroots I’d gathered earlier, I reassured myself. Knowing they were there helped me to calm down.

The calm didn’t last.

“Me,” the voice said, causing my heart to leap into my throat again. “I’ve thrown out an etheric hook every time you passed. But did it help? Nooooo. You just kept on driving like you didn’t even feel them.”

Oh, I felt them alright. Not that he needed to know, but I went home and cleansed myself of them every night. “Who are you and what do you want?” It took all of my willpower to make my voice sound calm and confident. My every instinct shouted to me to run, to get away from this place. But that wouldn’t solve anything. This had to be dealt with now.

“I want you to come closer so I can better see you.” A form finally materialized in front of one of the more spindly maidenwoods. He was a short rail of a man busily nodding at me in the dappled evening shade. His gaunt face creased with something sort of like a smile, if you could call it a smile. It might have been a toothy grimace. He stood with his skeletal hands clutched into fists in front of his chest, head still bobbing away. “Some people listen to their instincts. Not you. What took you so long to stop?”

“These hooks you threw – is that what you’re calling instinct?” I asked as I backed a few steps away from the shriveled man. I knew what he’d been doing. Those hooks grabbed my instinct and made it react, but that wasn’t instinct itself. I knew better than that. Only ordinary people made a mistake of thinking it any sort of natural inclination.

His too bulbous head was nearly bald except for a few bunches of stiff yellow hair standing here and there like broomsedge gone to seed. A smattering of brown liver spots danced across the top of his scalp when he raised and lowered his eyebrows.

“Smart one, aren’t you?” He shuffled a few steps in my direction but then stopped short. He cocked his head and looked back at the tunnel looming behind him and then down at the ground beneath his feet. A quick frown passed over his face before he dismissed it and reassumed the fake smile.


No Qualms is my short story available from Amazon, Smashwords, and iTunes.

Hunt Food, Gather Firewood

smoked venison
I wish I could capture smell and taste in a photo! This is Rob’s latest recipe trial, and oh it is sooooo delish.

This year we’ve been proactive about a stocked freezer and our supply of firewood. Last year and the years since we’ve moved up here, we’ve always had a steady supply of venison, but we seem to always need firewood at the worst times. Last year, I remember waiting impatiently for the temperature to get above freezing to go out for more. On that particular day the thermometer started out around -10*F. As we watched the thermometer once the sun rose over the hill, we gave up when it finally reached a whopping 10*F, judging that it was finally warm enough to go out. Above freezing just wasn’t likely to happen that day.

This is a post from the old blog from last year, one of my favorites because it’s a ‘pondering’ post… I’m a frequent muser and ponderer.

Hunt food, gather firewood

We’d just returned from the grocery store. So the larder has been restocked. Now we needed to gather firewood.

It suddenly struck me that our daily habits as civilized man isn’t a whole lot different than our daily habits as primitive man.  Hunt food, gather firewood. The way we go about nowadays it is different, but the principle is the same.

We have a lot more time for detours during the route to and from the hearth. For many of us, our means of lighting  and stirring the pot on the home fires is more indirect. It takes 40 consistent hours a week to be able to afford to keep the fires going and the food cooking consistently the modern way.

Food and fire. Whether we shop for it at the grocery store, grow or hunt it with weapons, it’s the same need to procure food. Whether we go to work all day long on the hamster wheels of daily jobs or literally pick up sticks and chop wood, it’s the same need to stay warm and cook food. And for me, it’s important to be able to bathe without a goose bump shroud.

Anyway, thought I’d share my thoughts on this today. In what ways do you satisfy your hunter-gatherer issues? Do you work the daily grind and buy what you need, grow gardens and gather firewood? How much of your diet and warmth is direct sourced? I had never thought of it that way before, but it interests me. I like having the direct connection most of the time. But I also like the convenience of being able to get what I need at the store or supplier, too.

firewood stacked
Stocked up for a little while.

For all of you in the U.S. – Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal tomorrow! We here at Wild Ozark have a lot to be thankful for.

 

Photos of a misty day in the Ozarks

beech tree at wild ozark

For you from Wild Ozark™ 🙂 Grab a cuppa & enjoy!

A Misty Day in the Ozarks

One of my favorite kinds of trees, the beech, keeps leaves long after the others have disrobed and gone into winter’s sleep.

Almost all of the beeches I see are very young. This one is older than most. It’s a very good kind of tree to see if you’re looking for ginseng habitat, but not common out here at Wild Ozark.

Many of the oaks, especially white oaks, still have clinging leaves right now too. Beech retains leaves even throughout out the snowy days of winter.

If you’re in northwest Arkansas and want to see a very large and beautiful specimen beech, there is one in the front parking area of the Compton Gardens in Bentonville.

The rest of the photos from this mornings excursion are arranged in a slideshow. I hope you enjoy them and feel moved to tell me which is your favorite. Tell me also about your favorite kind of tree!

How Far Removed – Predator and Prey

Out here we have a healthy balance between predator and prey. Squirrels crowd the treetops, mice are at home in sheds and even in our house if we aren’t diligent. Snakes lurk everywhere.

snake eating squirrel

Predator and Prey

Coyotes are plentiful. The dogs break into a discordant chorus when they hear their wild cousins yapping on the outskirts of the “safe” zone the dogs have established. Last year a wiley bobcat ate more than his fair share of our chickens in spite of Badger’s diligent guard. And we eat a fair share of the game that abounds in our hills.

For the time being, we have a balance, a harmony. While we do enforce a boundary around the small space we’ve carved out to call our own, we don’t seek out to kill animals like snakes, coyotes and bobcats, as many people I know do, because we acknowledge that these mountains are just as much theirs as this safe zone around the house is ours. When I ramble around on the mountain, usually camera in hand and down on all fours (or even belly) to get close to the plants, I’m in the wildlife’s home and I’m respectful of that. It doesn’t mean I’ll submit to becoming prey, but it does mean I won’t kill just because our paths cross. I’ve never encountered a situation that required more of me than patience.

The following is from my old blog. This post was originally posted on July, 2010:

Youngest is outside right now, whittling on the mechanism of his newly cut frog gig. It’s made from a 6′ sapling section, about 2″ diameter. He needed to cut it a few feet longer, but this is his first effort and I’m not about to discourage him now. When he gets to putting it through trials, he’ll find out if his barbs were sturdy enough or the shaft long enough and make adjustments accordingly on his next attempt.

At first thought, to many, what he is doing sounds barbaric and cruel.

How far removed we, as a society, have become from our origins as nomads and hunter/gatherers. Nowadays, most of us never think twice about the food we put into our mouths, not to consider whether it was once a living thing nor about the idea that it died so that we might eat.

We live each day in a world of predator and prey relationships, and yet rarely notice. The project my son has embarked upon is unabashedly ‘predator’ in nature. And I guess what gives me that sense of satisfaction I am feeling, is that he knows it.

The same kid holds a kitten with a tender smile on his face and cheers for chicks hatching from eggs in the incubator.

Predator versus prey - predator wins on this one. I didn't get there soon enough to save my chicken.
Predator versus prey – predator wins on this one. I didn’t get there soon enough to save my chicken. But then the bigger predator (me) won, and that snake won’t be eating any more of my chickens.

First Hunt by Ima ErthwitchPredator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it’s just part of my nature.


♥ If any of you read No Qualms or First Hunt, please leave a review. You’ll have my deep appreciation for it! ♥

 

The Ent Trees of Wild Ozark

This article had been posted over at Medium but I decided to move it back home where it belongs.

Special Trees

Two special trees grace the dirt road where I live. There are more trees like this here and there on our own acreage, tree-beings, or trees that appear and do more than trees appear to normally do.

Of course, the knowing that these trees “do” anything other than normal tree “being” is what puts me into that category sometimes referred to by others as … well, crazy.

This relationship I have with the land and inhabitants is part of my purpose in being. I can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t “get” it, but it’s the way I connect to the Divine. Some get that from churches and religions. I get it from Nature.

But that only explains what I get from the relationship. True relationships are a give and a take, and not always balanced. In my opinion, what I get from it is more than I give. I give respect, consideration, and a voice.

I started not to post more than just these pictures because I worry sometimes about what other people think of me. But that would be cheating on the “voice” part of what I give in this relationship. I’m trying to not care so much whether anyone thinks I’m crazy or not. It is what it is.

Anyway, now that the excuses have been made and you know what comes next might sound as if I’ve lost my mind, I want to talk about Ent Trees.

Ent Trees

According to Wikipedia, Tolkien took the Anglo-Saxon phrases orþanc enta geweorc = “work of cunning giants” and eald enta geweorc = “old work of giants” and applied it to describing the trees in his story, settling on the word “ent”. It’s a fitting word for them.

Others who notice these sorts of things might call these particular trees “plant devas” or have other phrases to describe them. Or maybe most people don’t notice them at all. I suppose it’s one of my own peculiarities to notice such things, but I think anyone who lets their imaginations free can see at least these two tree-beings.

Those with mouths, sing

singing ent tree

She makes me smile every time I pass her on the road. Today I stopped the car and got out to to see if I could hear what song the singing tree sang. The words aren’t a language I can translate into words. My very being vibrates with the resonance. I feel more than hear the notes, and the center where it is felt is in my heart. Her music may fall on deaf ears for the most part when it comes to humans passing on the road below, but I hear her loud and clear.

This tree isn’t singing for me. She sings because her tree-heart inspires her to do so. It’s her purpose, at least one of them, and I am simply one who hears, understands, and appreciates what she does. Who knows her importance within the tree community?

I’m sad to report that this lovely spirit has left her tree form. A devastating flash flood and storm put her on the ground in Mid June 2015.

One thing I do know is this. Trees are among the greatest messengers on earth. Wherever trees exist, a message can be delivered from tree to tree. And where trees are sparse, the wind normally blows and the message can be handed over to the wind. Trees interact with other sorts of carriers — birds and insects work above ground, and below, the practically invisible world of fungi network from tree to tree across the land. Even the very water rinsing over leaves and limbs can carry messages as it settles into the ground and penetrates the earth to move back into the cycle of regeneration. Perhaps the trees that sing are also distributing messages to the Universe.

Those with ears, listen

Among the trees, there are singers, like the one I showed you in the photo above. There are also listeners. This one listens to everything that transpires in his forest. Surely he also hears the song which emanates from the singing tree up the road. Perhaps those with ears are listening to messages from the Universe.

listening ent tree

 

Calling all Ents

Have you seen any ent trees? If you have photos, share them with me by posting them at your blog and leaving me a comment with your links. I’d love to see them. As I find pages with lovely trees, I’ll add them to the list below: