I’m at an ‘in between’ time at the moment. Between rain showers and rainy days, between things scheduled on my calendar. And since I just finished a painting, I’m between paintings, too. But this is a great time for an Ozark nature artist to get out and enjoy some nature.
Spring is in full swing here now and heading headlong into summer. It’s time to put away all but a couple of my cold-weather clothes. I always keep at least a sweatshirt or pullover hoodie type thing in the closet because it still sometimes will get chilly in the mornings or evenings, even during summer.
A Quick Virtual Nature Walk
Right now the orchids are blooming, getting ready to bloom, and finished with flowers. Just as I was getting ready to walk out the door just now to take some update photos of them, it started raining. Of course it did. So that’ll have to wait now. Eventually, there was a long enough break between showers so I went out to see what I could find on a quick run. With our unpredictable spring weather, and Ozark nature artist sometimes has to be quick about experiencing nature. Or just get wet. I took some video clips, so as soon as I can, I’ll make a YouTube short to post.
I saw a mink yesterday slipping over the side of the embankment of the road after successfully running across in front of me. I haven’t seen one of those in a long while, so that was fun to see. No chance to get a picture of him, though I sure wish I could have. This Ozark nature artist would definitely like to paint one eventually, but I need a photo from a photographer that will give me permissions to use it. It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever get a good photo of one myself.
The Garden of an Ozark Nature Artist
My garden is full of strawberries and lettuce at the moment. My tomato seeds are sprouting, so soon there will be tomato plants. I hope they taste better than last year’s did. I just started some already sprouted okra seeds, and I saw that they’re up and ready to reach for the sky. One of my squash seeds have grown a plant already without my noticing. Cucumbers and another squash are just poking out of the soil now, too. The peonies are just beginning to open their buds. Just up the road, where these came from, they’re already in full bloom. But that little difference in elevation gives our little holler an entirely unique microclimate. Everything blooms just about a week behind everything at the front end of the road.
Being in the very rocky Ozarks, it’s impossible to till a bed here. Once there was a great spot to have a garden on a bench across from the gully. Nice, deep soil there. And I did have a large garden over there for several years. But, back in 2015 that entire hillside came down in a landslide. No more garden. So now it’s all raised beds made from the rocks, right behind the house. It’s actually much more beautiful and convenient, except I can’t grow large amounts of any one thing. Maybe enough tomatoes to do some canning, though.
I use paper feed sacks and cardboard to keep the weeds down in my garden. It helps tremendously, though it looks pretty messy. So it’s beautiful and messy at the same time until I can get the cardboard and sacks covered with wood chips. Another thing I love it for is that it brings up a lot of earthworms to my garden, and gives the toads, skinks, and fence lizards places to hide. A major drawback, though, is that it also gives snakes a place to hide while they’re eating all those beneficial critters. So I’m just careful where I put my hands and toes. At least one copperhead came out from beneath a cardboard once when I pressed on it. So now I just assume they all have one lying in wait and am watchful.
The rain is really bringing the weeds into full growing speed, in spite of the attempt to keep them down. But I don’t weed everything out of the garden, just try to keep a workable balance. Some ‘weeds’ actually get featured spots. Like the mullein in the last pic above. At the lower right, not in the pic is a bearded penstemon that hasn’t bloomed yet, and there’s the daisies in there too, with the beebalm above them. Not only am I an Ozark nature artist, but I use the ‘weeds’ too. The mullein leaves and beebalm both go into a syrup I’ll make later this year.
Fence Lizards, Fake Lizards, and Stonework
I love the fence lizards, and I love my little rusty horny toad garden decoration. They seem to resemble each other a little bit, haha. The fence lizard is basking on one of my pigment rocks in the garden. It’s a large sandstone that I’ll probably not use for paint, but it looks pretty on the garden wall. Did you know that the western fence lizard is important in reduction of Lyme disease instances? I welcome seeing these little critters and love giving them all the space they want in my garden.
I love using rocks for various things. As an Ozark nature artist, I use them for making my paints, but I also use them to make my garden beds and stonework.
Panning for Gold – Not a Usual Ozark Nature Artist Activity
Yesterday, Rob and I panned for gold in our creek. We were using some soil we’d put in a bucket the last time we went to our claim in Colorado. Still a fruitless endeavor, but not so much as it would have been panning for what might have been in the creek here at Wild Ozark. But the running water makes an efficient way to pan out more than we could have on site in Colorado. I wish we would have filled many buckets. Maybe the next time we go, that’s what we’ll do. Then I can divide it up into large coffee can sizes and give them away to the kids and grandkids as Christmas gifts, along with a little gold panning kit. They can pan them out here, or at their own creek. I think they’d like that.
That’s it for today!
What kinds of things do you do when you’re not doing the main thing you do? Gardening and nature walkabouts have always been the things for me. When I worked away from home, I’d go straight to the garden some days when I got in. And I’m always fitting in plant and nature walks between everything else. Today we’re going to work on reclaiming our driveway. The trees are encroaching again and we can’t even drive down it without hitting branches anymore.
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints. In 2023 she began her journey into the world of oil painting with those same pigments. Her paintings of the Ozark-inspired scenes feature exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration. Wild Ozark is also the only licensed ginseng nursery in Arkansas. Here’s the link for more information on the nursery end of life out here.
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