Paw Paw Hiding the Hickory

There's a hickory hiding in there with the pawpaw seedlings.
There’s a hickory hiding in there with the pawpaw seedlings.


About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes? Companion Look A-Likes

Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes?

Trying to differentiate between black cohosh and doll’s eyes before they come into bloom, has been frustrating. It’s very easy to tell once they begin the blooming process as the flower stems originate in different places and the flowers themselves are very different.

Both of these woodland herbs grow in the same environment, and both are ginseng companion plants.

But when only greenery exists, they both look so much alike, it’s uncanny. This is the first year I’ve had two colonies of both to watch as they mature.  My “intuition” tells me which is which so I want see if I can confirm my psychic inference, lol. In the meantime, I’ve been doing research online to see if anyone else can offer definitive proving methods.

I thought I’d found one way in a study posted online at the Canadian Universe’ Laval site – but in the end it proved inconclusive. The study, while not about differentiating the plants, is quite interesting if you would like to know the metal/mineral composition of various woodland herbs grown under different conditions.

It was the picture that caught my eye- an image of the symmetrical vs. asymmetrical leaf patterns on the cohosh. I’d never noticed that before about them, and though “ah-ha! That might be the difference.” But of course it wasn’t that easy. Both the plants I suspect to be black cohosh and the ones I suspect to be doll’s eyes have this same leaf pattern. It’s probably common to the Actaea genus.

Going to the Woods for Research

So it was time to go out for a little hands-on research. I took the 4-wheeler out to an area where I know both of the plants live. Along with the black cohosh and doll’s eyes, there’s also a bunch of other woodland herbs that enjoy this little ginseng habitat. I was glad to have on long sleeves and pants because the nettles are up a ready to sting right about now.

stinging nettle
Sting-filled hairs of a nettle plant.

I moseyed around in the ginseng habitat (this particular habitat doesn’t have any ginseng residents, however), looking at the two that are puzzling me. None of what I think are black cohosh have any signs of a flower stem yet. None of the ones I think are doll’s eyes did either – except one. I did finally find one of those with a small flower stem and bud cluster.

Obviously not Black Cohosh. Doll's Eyes with flower buds.
Doll’s Eyes with flower buds.

Now I am going to be curious to see if the ones I think are black cohosh turn out to really be the cohosh.

Going to Ground

When I’m in the woods inspecting and photographing plants like this, I am often right down on the ground at eye level with stem bases. It’s hard to get good photos of short plants if you don’t do that, and besides, the bases of stems often have clues like leaf buds and such. And besides all that, I just love being in close contact with the forest floor. The smells are wonderful and it’s usually cooler closer to the ground level on hot days.

Most importantly, though, is that if you’re not close to the ground you’ll miss things like this wild ginger bloom, which only happens at or just below ground/leaf debris level.

Wild ginger flower
Wild ginger flower

The sun slipped over the mountains while I was still crawling around uphill and lying prone among the nettles, black and blue cohosh, and doll’s eyes. The woods were so dark now I needed a flash to get a good photo of this pretty fern on my way out.

 fern

Conclusion

I’ll have to wait for the black cohosh to flower, but I think I can see, or rather, sense, the differences early on. The plants *told* me, in that way non-human things “talk” (some of you will understand this, some of you will just think I’m nuts, I know…and some will call it “intuition”), who was who from the beginning, but my skepticism persists. I still do not entirely trust that little voice and the logical part of me wants evidence. It’ll come in a month or two when the black cohosh blooms. When it comes to using herbs medicinally or as food, where a look-alike is deadly, I’ll never rely on intuition alone.

Satisfied enough for now, I got up and brushed off the humusy forest soil and leaves from my clothes and headed home to see how many ticks I’d managed to gather this time.

A Photogenic Anemone

Saw this on my way back and knew it would make a good photo with the creek behind it.

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

 

 Huntsville Farmer’s Market 2017

I’m out at the market on Tuesdays for now, and beginning in a few weeks it’ll be the Saturdays from 0700-1200. If you’re local or within a decent driving distance, come out! I’ll have a selection of our native woodland plants. I’ll have ginseng seedlings and companion plants, books, art and ginseng jams (while supplies last).

While I started out the season going only on Tuesdays but will begin only going on Saturdays after mid-May.

Ginseng Habitat Garden

If you want to drive out to the nursery, I have a ginseng habitat garden where you can see the plants growing in the woods. This will help you learn to identify them in their natural habitats.

While the garden is a restored habitat and I have trails and will have signs posted, it’s designed in a way to truly mimic what you’d see in the wild (except for the trails and signs, lol).

It’s open to the public, but since there is no cell signal or phone/electricity at the nursery you’ll need to set up an appointment until I can get a regular schedule to be out there. Just email me to let me know when you’d like to come on any day except Tuesdays or Saturdays.

[email protected]

 



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

April Spring flowers in the Ginseng Habitat

Lots of flowers in the ginseng habitat right now. The following are just a sample.

Wild Ginger

If you don’t mind getting down on the ground, you can see the wild ginger (Asarum canadense) blooming.

Flowers are usually just below the leaf litter at the base of the stems.

Wild ginger, <i>Asarum canadense</i>
Wild ginger, Asarum canadense

Mayapple

The mayapples are blooming too.

Mayapple, <i>Podophyllum peltatum</i>
Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum

Doll’s Eye

This plant is also called White Baneberry, and it is by that name that I’ve used it in a 100-word flash fiction story. The berries and roots are very toxic, but it is one of the best habitat indicators for ginseng.

Doll’s Eye looks very much like black cohosh until it blooms, but I think I’ve finally figured out a way to differentiate at least the mature plants before flowering.

 

Doll's Eyes, <i>Actaea pachypoda</i>
Doll’s Eyes, Actaea pachypoda

Goldenseal

This medicinal herb is one of the most recognizable of the ginseng companion plants. It blooms in April, too.

Goldenseal, <i>Hydrastis canadensis</i>
Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis

Jack in the Pulpit

These are interesting plants. Although they resemble pitcher plants, the two are not related. Whereas the pitcher plant is carnivorous, the jack in the pulpit is not.

Jack in the Pulpit, <Arisaema triphyllum</i>
Jack in the Pulpit,

No Flowers Yet on the Ginseng

The ginseng seedlings are just barely coming up now. Some are a few days old, some are almost a week, and some were still in the process of unfurling.

American ginseng seedlings.
American ginseng seedlings.

Flower buds on older plants are held tight and closed still and the flower stalk is barely there at the center of the prong junction.

Many blooming flowers in the ginseng habitat, but ginseng isn't one of them, yet.
Many blooming flowers in the ginseng habitat, but ginseng isn’t one of them, yet.

 



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Hiking to the Wild Ozark Corner Bluff

Not too long ago I posted about our exploration of the bluffs along the driveway. This time we went hiking to what I call the “Corner Bluff”.

It’s not far away, either, but takes a bit of effort. Getting to this one is fairly difficult if approached from the ground level, so instead of climbing up, we took the 4-wheeler to the top of the mountain and hiked down to it.

Most of our hiking trips are short ones carried out right here at home, because we have so many places on our own property that we haven’t explored. Bootbomb.com has an excellent compilation of info about long hiking trails in the USA for those who enjoy extended adventures on foot.

We saw Mossy ledges while hiking to the Corner Bluff.
Mossy Ledges

What makes it a Corner Bluff?

I call it that because it exists on a topographical corner of a mountain that’s partially on our plot of land. It’s not at the corner of our property, which is a square in theory, but on a physical corner of a mountain.

Rocks and Walls

There are big boulders and tall walls in this spot.

A really tall rock. Had to get on the ground to get the top in the frame.
A really tall rock. Had to get on the ground to get the top in the frame.

 

Rob standing on the ledge of one of the walls. Helps to give you an idea for size context.
Rob standing on the ledge of one of the walls. Helps to give you an idea for size context.

Some of the rocks in one of the areas look like faces, complete with eyes, noses and mouths. I didn’t get any good pics of those, but I did a while back on one of our other hiking trips in 2011 or 2010. If I can find the pictures I’ll post them later.

Green even Mid-winter

Ferns growing in very little soil
Ferns growing in very little soil.

 

Moss and lichens on the rocks
Moss and lichens on the rocks.

 

Fruiting bodies on the moss collect the morning's fog droplets
Fruiting bodies on the moss collect the morning’s fog droplets.

 

The moss acted like a sponge. Water drained slowly down the rock bluffs through the moss. We don’t usually go hiking without bringing water, and the sight of all of it percolating made me even thirstier.

If the thirst became too terrible, I suppose we could have gathered enough sips from the moss to save our lives in an emergency.

Moss covered wall at the Corner Bluff
Moss covered wall at the Corner Bluff

Trees

This twisted little tree is growing on top of the rock.
This twisted little tree is growing on top of the rock.
A tree skeleton full of texture, shades and lines. I love tree skeletons almost as much as the living ones.
A tree skeleton full of texture, shades and lines. I love tree skeletons almost as much as the living ones.

 

This gigantic oak is growing underneath and between the rocks. I can only imagine how far the roots must go between the layers in order to hold it up.

Fav Hiking Finds: Nooks and Crannies

My favorite things are the hidden places like this nook between the rocks.
My favorite things are the hidden places like this cranny between the rocks.

 

Rob seems to particularly like looking in the nooks where critters like bears and bobcats could be sleeping.
Rob seems to particularly like looking in the nooks where critters like bears and bobcats could be sleeping.

Odd Rocks

This rock looks just like a knob for a cabinet pull on the face of one of the bluff walls.
This rock looks just like a knob for a cabinet pull on the face of one of the bluff walls. I didn’t pull on it for fear of breaking it off.

 

We don't have much limestone on our property, but this does look like it has a lot of calcium/magnesium because of the holes. Most of our rocks are sandstone.
We don’t have much limestone on our property, but this does look like it has a lot of calcium/magnesium because of the holes. Most of our rocks are sandstone.

 

This rock wasn't at the bluff but we saw it earlier on our way to the bluff. The rocks in that spot have a lot of iron veins in them. Odd-looking, huh?
This rock wasn’t at the bluff but we saw it earlier on our way to the bluff. The rocks in that spot have a lot of iron veins in them. Odd-looking, huh?

Getting Back to the Top

It’s funny how you don’t notice how far you’ve gone when you’re walking down hill or over the sides of walls until it’s time to go back to the top. I was worn out by the time we had the 4-wheeler back in sight.

Hope you enjoyed the photo-essay of our rock bluff exploration!

Unrelated Note

I heard spring peepers yesterday and this morning. It’s the middle of January. I should not be hearing spring peepers.



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Ginseng Garden Open to Public May 2017

Beginning in May 2017 there will be a place to go for anyone interested in seeing ginseng growing in a natural environment.

The Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden

This is a true wild habitat where you can see and learn about American ginseng in a natural environment.

The ginseng and companion plants are sleeping away the winter, awaiting the public in this "virtually wild" habitat at Wild Ozark.
The ginseng and companion plants are sleeping away the winter, awaiting the public in this “virtually wild” habitat at Wild Ozark.

A Re-Established Habitat

A few decades ago this land was logged but not clear-cut. Then it was unoccupied for a number of years. Between being unoccupied (which made the land a sort of “free for all”) and the ecosystem destruction that comes with logging, most of the wild ginseng was here was wiped out.

Still, some pockets survived. Microhabitats that provided the perfect environment for ginseng persisted because they existed in spots too difficult to reach for loggers.

The ethical diggers who frequented these hills protected patches they found by pulling off the leaves of plants they didn’t dig. They made a point to not dig all they found in a habitat. They did this so they could come back year after year to harvest without taking too large a toll on the population.

ginseng in summer with red berries
ginseng in summer with red berries

It helped that this all occurred and then we came along to occupy the land before the frenzy caused by the popular television shows romanticizing the pillage of American ginseng.

The Garden Habitat

In the area I’m using for the public garden there was no ginseng left and very few of the companions because of the logging that happened long ago. Now the trees have grown back and although the transition from pioneer cedars to mixed hardwood is still underway, the area is once again suitable for plants that enjoy the deep shade, like ginseng, goldenseal, ferns, bloodroot and cohoshes.

I’ve made trails, planted “virtually wild” ginseng, transplanted companion plants, and labeled or marked everything (this will be ongoing). Many thanks to my friend Layne Sleeth and her husband Brian for the help with labor and donation of maidenhair ferns!

Unique and Destination-worthy

I don’t know if there’s anything else like it in the country. If so, it hasn’t shown up in my internet searches to find one. If you know of any public ginseng gardens in natural habitats, please let me know so I can link to it here. We can create a “ginseng trail” for ginseng lovers like the wine trails from cellar to cellar enjoyed by wine lovers. It would be interesting to travel from habitat to habitat in other areas to note the differences between them all.

Details

Where is it?

CALL OR EMAIL AHEAD use the contact information (click here or see menu) to get in touch and I’ll mail the address and directions.

There is NO CELLPHONE SIGNAL in this area, so make sure to call before you leave Kingston or Huntsville to make sure I’m here if you haven’t emailed ahead of time to set an appointment. You will need a truck or car without low profile tires. If it has rained a lot recently, the bridges could be flooded. See below about “About the Road to get Here” for details about the drive here.

What are the Open Hours and Days?

For now, it is by appointment only. If the response to this project is great, I’ll set regular hours and days. I’ll always make the best effort I can to accommodate visitors, especially those who are travelling from a distance and are on tight schedules. CALL OR EMAIL AHEAD use the contact information (click here or see menu) to get in touch and I’ll mail the address and directions.

How Much does it Cost?

Free. I will have a donation can handy for those who are willing and able to support the garden. Anyone who donates $50 or more will get to pick one of my drawings to take home and have their names added to the “Friends of Wild Ozark” sign that will hang on the Nature Boutique.

$20/car for the optional escorted “Herb Drive” (see below)

About the Road to get Here

  • A long dirt road– Wild Ozark is in a very remote location. It is six miles down a dirt road. There are 6 low-water bridges to cross, so if it rains more than an inch or two, the road could become impassable.
  • Lots of photo opportunity– beautiful scenery to see along the roadside. You will see beautiful fields, pastures, old barns, old homesteads, forests, and possibly wildlife. You’ll definitely see a lot of beauty and tremendous biodiversity in plants.
  • Herb Drive – For $20/car you can take an “Herb Drive”- there are lots of plants and herbs of interest down this road. I will conduct a driving herb walk by meeting you at the front end of the road and escorting you back here with lots of stops along the way to get out and see plants like black cohosh, blue cohosh, green dragon, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild hydrangea, giant solomon’s seal, trout lilies, etc. Here’s a post I have about the plants and sights I often see and photograph on the way here.

Nearby Lodging

  • There are no nearby hotels, and the nearest rental cabins are about an hour away or more. Your best bet for hotels would be Rogers, Springdale, or Fayetteville. The cabin rentals at Azalea Falls are gorgeous.
  • Canoe, hike, and stay at Cedarcrest lodge in Ponca. There are other cabins in the Ponca area, too. Just do a Google search for “lodge in Ponca, Arkansas”. It’s about an hour and a half away. You’ll find almost everywhere is about an hour or two away.

The Nearest Town is Kingston, AR

In the town of Kingston there are places to eat and other things to see. Kingston is only 12 miles away, but it takes about 40 minutes to get there from here if you drive slow on the dirt road. Driving fast gets you there faster, but increases the odds of punctured tires and developing new rattles in your vehicle 🙂

  • The town square is tiny but teeming with antiques.
  • You’ll want to visit The Place on the Square. Make sure to go all the way to the back to see The Artroom Gallery, too.
  • And don’t miss Grandpa’s Antique store.
  • Look through the window if the bank isn’t open and you’ll see the old safe on display.
  • It’s okay to be amused at our micro-library, but don’t diss it. It’s come a long ways since the first one!
  • Dining options include The Valley Cafe, The Kingston Station, and Sugar Boogers which is a little farther north on Hwy. 21 near the junction of 412.

Visit the Wild Ozark Nature Boutique

The Nature Boutique is where you’ll be able to find ginseng and other plants for sale, nature arts & crafts, books, and hanging dried herbs & herbal remedies. It’s just an old storage container I’m converting to my shop. Right now everything is “under construction”, but there will be ginseng in the woods to see and plants to buy if you want them. Here’s a little schematic of the plan:

Plans for the Wild Ozark Boutique & Nursery
click to enlarge

Where else can you see ginseng?

You also can see American ginseng growing at the Compton Gardens in Bentonville, AR. Wild Ozark received a grant from United Plant Savers to install a sanctuary garden there. It’s still immature and will be for a few more years, but the little recreated habitat will fill out over the years. Each spring, we’ll bring new plants to replace the ones that don’t survive the squirrels or whatever other hazards might befall the plants in a tended garden.

There might also still be one specimen plant at the Ozark Folk Center’s Herb Garden in Mountainview, AR. It’s been many years since I’ve visited there, though, so can’t say for sure.

What’s the Difference between the Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden and those others?

The garden here is a natural setting, it’s not a park in an urban environment just growing a few ginseng plants. Wild Ozark’s Ginseng Garden is a true habitat and demonstration of the ecosystem that supports wild American ginseng.

Email today and set a date to visit the Wild Ozark Nature Boutique & Ginseng Garden!



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

How to Find Ginseng? First look for the right habitat.

Want to know how to find ginseng? Look for the right habitat. The easiest way to do that is to look for companion plants.


Feb 2017 – It’s winter now, so it’s not the best time of year to look for ginseng habitat. The ginseng is slumbering. It’s illegal to dig at this time and there’s nothing in the way of ginseng to see to photograph, either.

In the meantime you can read up on this elusive woodland plant. When spring rolls around you’ll have a better chance of knowing how to find ginseng so you can choose the best places to grow wild-simulated or steward the wild ginseng.

Notice I said “steward”. I phrased it that way because I just *know* you aren’t intending to go looking for it just to dig all you find. If you take a sustainable approach, there will be ginseng remaining for generations to come.

Before spring arrives, I’ll write a more detailed post on what it means to approach the harvest in a sustainable way. I’ve already written on this topic in my book “Sustainable Ginseng“, but that book is full of links that are probably outdated and I need to put out another updated edition.

A short version summarizing a sustainable harvest plan is farther down on this page.

Many people are asking where exactly can they find or go to dig ginseng. That answer is below, in this post, but just a note of warning. If you’re asking that question, you probably won’t like the answer.


First Hunt banner ad

Please Note

Legal season for digging for ginseng is Sept. 1 through Dec. 1.  If you have the proper habitat, I encourage you to plant wild-simulated ginseng using seeds from as local as possible a source. We usually plant our seeds in fall before it gets too cold.

How to Find Ginseng?

First look for the right habitat. Look for the kinds of places it likes to grow.

Where does ginseng grow?

Ginseng grows in moist deciduous forests of eastern North America, but only in locations that provide the perfect combination of deep shade, moist loamy soil, and the right mix of trees. It loves the north-facing slopes, but also grows on east, west, and rarely on south-facing slopes. Most often it likes the lower third of a slope, generally not the mountain tops. Here’s a map from the USDA that shows where it grows in the United States.

If you want to know if your state allows the harvest of ginseng, you can check to see if it’s on the map here. If not, then there are no regulations, which often means there is no legal way to do it. You’d have to contact the Plant Board or your local USDA office to ask more questions.

Where EXACTLY can I find ginseng?

You probably won’t like the answer. No one is going to tell you where you can go to find a specific patch of ginseng. The reason why is because if someone knows the plant well enough to tell you where it is, they’ll also know it’s endangered and easily exterminated from a single site. That person usually is either digging and maintaining the patch for themselves, or is protecting/stewarding the site so it can continue to thrive.

If you don’t have property of your own with suitable habitat, or know someone  else with the proper conditions, you probably won’t have anywhere to dig or grow. Some states might allow digging on public lands, but many don’t. Arkansas does not.

So if you are someone who just became interested in digging some ‘sang to make some money from the roots, you’re most likely out of luck.

However, if:

  • you have land (your own or a friend’s) & you want to know if ginseng is present or could be
  • you’re looking to buy property and want to know if it contains good habitat
  • you’re working with others to build a sanctuary

Then the rest of this post might be very helpful to you.

Keep an eye out for my 2017 Ginseng Prices page if you want to stay abreast of current digger/dealer prices this year. You can read last year’s price watch here.

Start Broad – If you want to know how to find ginseng, first learn to find Habitat

Increase your odds

Check the USDA map to see if ginseng grows, or has ever grown, in the area of interest. For example, if you live in Arizona, it is highly unlikely that you will ever successfully grow this plant. If you want to try, then you’ll have to recreate the kind of habitat that supports it.

Shade and moisture

First look for mature trees. The following are present in the areas I’ve found ginseng:

  • maple
  • redbud
  • pawpaw
  • oak
  • hickory
  • poplar
  • dogwood
  • cedar

It needs to NOT be all oak/hickory/cedar/pine. Ginseng will grow on any slope. North-facing is best, but it’ll grow facing any direction if the shade and moisture are right. It is most often right on north-facing slopes. There are sometimes “folds” on south-facing slopes that create mini-habitats on the north-facing inside of the fold.

Found the right forest?

Once you have the right kind of trees and good moisture that comes from the right shade, then look for companion plants.

[bctt tweet=”Where EXACTLY can I find ginseng? (You might not like the answer).”]

Companion plants

It’s good to know the companions because ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can be a difficult plant to spot. If you’re out looking for ginseng, you’ll know to look harder if you’ve already spotted the companions. The plant seems to show itself to some but not to others. I’ve spoken to many people who have never found it on their own even though they stood side-by-side with someone else who could point it out to them. I’m that way when it comes to hunting morel mushrooms. I cannot find them, even if I look exactly in the right kinds of spots. According to people who find them, morels have their own kinds of companion plants (and trees). During spring morel hunts, my friends come back with bags of gathered morels and I stand there empty-handed. Not so with ginseng. I can find that one!

Finding the clues: Ginseng Companion or Indicator Plants

In one of my other posts about ginseng, I talked about choosing the best site to plant. Those tips can also help you find ginseng if you’re hunting it. And here’s a post that might help explain why you’re not finding it. There’s another page on this site that shows the ginseng plant as a seedling, two-prong, three- and four-prong, if you’d like to see how it looks as it gets more mature.

♥ Ginseng indicator plants, also called companion plants, are those plants, shrubs and trees that like to grow in the same sort of environment as ginseng. They keep the same company because they require the same habitat.

Wild Ozark Resources

Finding the first ginseng plant

When I first go out to the woods, even in a place I know has ginseng, I have a difficult time spotting the first ginseng plant. They have a way of growing that makes them hard to see, but once you’ve found the first one it’s easier to find more. I think the first one somehow trains the eyes to see that form. It’s like this every time I go out. I have to find one first, then the rest become easier to see.

image of how to find ginseng
See how the ginseng plant has a horizontal form?

 

If you’re scouting woods for likely places to either plant or find it, here are a few of the companion plants you’ll want to keep an eye out for. They’re much easier to find than ginseng itself. Look for goldenseal, black cohosh, pawpaw trees, American spikenard, virginia snakeroot, bloodroot, blue cohosh and wild ginger.

Poster available from Shop Wild Ozark. https://shop.wildozark.com/shop/posters-of-ozark-plants/
Poster available from Shop Wild Ozark. https://shop.wildozark.com/shop/posters-of-ozark-plants/

Photos of the companions

Here’s some of the ones I see most often around here in the Ozarks:


 Want More Ginseng or Companion Plant Pictures?

link to ginseng category

There’s lots of photos on this blog if you’d like to just browse around a bit. Click on the “Ginseng Blog Posts” icon to get all of the posts that mention ginseng.


 

A Note about Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is NOT an indicator plant. In fact, if you see too much of it, it’s an indicator that there is probably too much sunlight in that location.

Poison ivy recently moved in and choked out a good ginseng habitat on our property. Before the ice storm of 2009, there was dense shade in that little holler. During the ice storm many of the trees fell and tops were snapped off, which then let in much more sunlight than had been there prior. And that’s what allowed the poison ivy to grow so densely there. It has taken nearly five years for the forest to recover to a point where the shade has returned to proper density.

Natural Setbacks

The ginseng suffered and much of it died or went dormant because lost trees opened a gap to direct sunlight for too many hours per day. Most of the ginseng companion plants can tolerate more sunlight than ginseng.

Maidenhair and Christmas ferns can tolerate more shade than can ginseng. But the ivy can also tolerate shade and thus it is still there even as the tree’s limbs have stretched to fill in the canopy.

If we avoid more ice storms, it’ll eventually fade back toward the brighter areas and leave the deep shade alone. With a little help from the companions, you’ll be able to find suitable habitat for one of our greatest natural treasures, wild American Ginseng. The knowledge you gain will help you become a better conservationist if you choose to grow your own “virtually wild” ginseng rather than dig the wild.

Practice Ethical Hunting and Harvesting, and Consider Growing Your Own

[bctt tweet=”♥ Ginseng has a legal harvest season. Ethical practices will help the plant to continue in the wild. “]

 

Please follow the laws of your state regarding how and when to harvest. For the state of Arkansas, those rules are here (it’s a PDF file). I also go over specific practices to help the plant survive in my book Sustainable Ginseng. You might wonder why someone who conserves the wild ginseng wants to hunt it.

Except when our personal stash is low, when I find wild ginseng (in season), I don’t dig it. I record where I found it and observe the habitat, photograph the plants and environment.

Why I study

I use the information I gather to become more successful at growing it and I share what I’ve learned with my blog and book readers. From the plants I’ve seeded on our property, I also plant the ripe berries and redistribute them to places I want to establish new colonies. (Never gather all of the seeds of a plant, and never dig without planting the seeds.)

To know where to plant, it helps to know the preferred habitat of ginseng. My hope is that you’ll become interested in growing wild-simulated ginseng, and for that you’ll need to know the kinds of places ginseng likes to grow.

♥ Wild-simulated, or virtually wild ginseng, is simply the practice of planting seeds and allowing them to grow naturally.

A Summary of Sustainable Practice for Wild-Simulated

No tilling, no fertilizing, no weeding (except perhaps in the beginning to clear out underbrush). Then in 7-10 years, begin a sustainable plan for harvesting.

That plan would include taking no more than 50% of the seed-bearing plants from each colony, and only a small portion of the oldest plants. Always replant the seeds from those plants in the original area.

This harvest plan would also be what I consider to be a good way to “steward” the wild if you intend to harvest it when you find it.

Other Ginseng Posts You Might Like

ginseng with red berries

If you have questions, please leave a comment or use the Contact link in the menu to get in touch. I’m always happy to help if I can.

If you found this post useful, please share by posting the link to Facebook, Twitter or your favorite social center. If you want to stay posted on what’s going on with Wild Ozark, sign up for my monthly newsletter. Next year I’ll start doing slide show presentations around the area and those will be announced through the list as well. You will not receive my regular blog posts through this announcement list.



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

An Exploration of our Wild Ozark Bluff

Yesterday we took the day off from our usual daily work and hiked around Ozark bluff that follows our driveway. Every time we travel to and from the house, we look at it and comment that we’d like to get out there and explore a bit sometime.

Exploring the Driveway Ozark Bluff

This one isn’t that far off the driveway and not much of a climb to reach it, even. We’re just always too busy on our way to or from doing something else. In the winter, great icicles cling and span for sometimes many feet as the water dripping from a spring freezes on its journey groundward.

This day was not too cold, though, and yet not so warm that the snakes would be active. No ticks, either. Perfect weather for a little walkabout at the bluff!

 

Looking for critters in our Wild Ozark bluff
Rob looking for critters.

Signs of Life

I like looking at all the signs of life and trying to figure out who and what lives and travels where. There’s a whole story of life here, a hidden society of wood rats, chipmunks, bobcats, foxes and skunks. Probably others, too.

A critter hole, entrance to a home for some small animal.
A critter hole, entrance to a home for some small animal.

Signs of life are everywhere, though we didn’t see any of the residents. I wondered if they hid just out of sight, watching us and wondering what we were doing in their world.

A well-worn path.
There’s a well-worn path between the two trees, to the right of the left tree.
Droppings from an out of sight Ozark bluff critter. Maybe chipmunk.
Droppings from an out of sight Ozark bluff critter. Maybe chipmunk.

 

A nest of sticks and twigs. Probably a big wood rat, lol.
A nest of sticks and twigs. Probably a big wood rat, lol.

 

Dirt Dauber mud homes, still occupied. Did you know these insects collect mostly spiders to feed their young?
Dirt Dauber mud homes, still occupied. Did you know these insects collect mostly spiders to feed their young?

Not all of the life forms were animals. A few plants are still green, or at least *living* at this time of year, too.

Bronzed by the frost, but still thriving.
Bronzed by the frost, but still thriving.

 

Another not quite green but still alive. This is either rattlesnake or grape fern. I can never tell the difference until they “bloom”.

We have both northern and southern maidenhair fern here at Wild Ozark, but they grow in two different locations. I find the southern all over the shady rocky bluff and the northern in the more moist and shady habitats where the ginseng likes to grow.

I find these ferns often in the Ozark bluffs. Adiantum capillaris-veneris L., Southern maidenhair fern. Trying to poke itself out into the light from underneath some rock layers.
Adiantum capillaris-veneris L., Southern maidenhair fern. Trying to poke itself out into the light from underneath some rock layers.

Signs of Past Life

And then there were signs of things that once lived or moved on to different phases in life.

A vacant dirt dauber nest.
Not too recently departed snail.
Not too recently departed snail.
A find on our exploration of the bluffs. An empty cliff swift nest made from mud and bits of hornet's nests.
An empty cliff swift nest made from mud and bits of hornet’s nests.

 

A tree that once lived here.
A tree that once lived here.

Textures and Layers

My favorite thing to notice and photograph out here is the texture. There are so many layers and shapes in the Ozark bluff. Rocks layered on top of shale, all of it made from sediment many thousands of years ago. The Ozarks aren’t really “mountains”. They’re ocean bottom. Dissected plateaus from the bottom of an ocean that existed even before the dinosaurs.

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Odd Bumps and Formations

Wavy bumps
Wavy bumps

 

Bumpy ceiling bumps.
Bumpy ceiling bumps.

 

Weird iron oxide bumps.
Weird iron oxide bumps.

Hiking Partner

Bobbie Sue is over 10 years old now, but she still likes to join us on our hikes.
Bobbie Sue is over 10 years old now, but she still likes to join us on our Ozark bluff hikes.

 

Happy New Year

May 2017 be all you hope for. After we finished with the hike, we got all gussied up in our swashbuckler costumes and took some cool photos. Here’s my favorite. How did you spend New Year’s Eve and what’s on the list for 2017?

the Wild Ozark duo, having fun.
the Wild Ozark duo, having fun.


About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Ozark Backroad Photo Journey – Come Along for the Ride

Whenever I go away from the house alone, I take my camera. A simple run to the post office or to town becomes an Ozark Backroad Photo Journey. I generally try not to do this when I have passengers or am myself a passenger. It seems that stopping as often as I do when I’m alone is torture to others. And if I’m a passenger, the drivers tend to get irritable after the second or third shout to stop, ha.

The “Ozark Backroad” Begins on our Driveway

The first thing that caught my eye on this trip was a hawk in the tree at the second creek crossing on our driveway.

First sight on the Ozark Backroad Photographic Journey was a broadwing hawk.
Broadwing Hawk

 

Well, I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save draft”, so this post is going out prematurely. I’ll add the rest of the photos as I get them resized for the web!

I’m learning how to use Photoshop, so it might take longer to get the photos ready. This looks like a really versatile program, but so complicated! I want to add my signature to photos with my own handwriting, not the copyright stamp like you see in the hawk picture above. It’s turned into a major challenge to learn how to do what I thought would be one simple thing.

Update: Now that I’ve figured out how to add the signature, I think I want to change it to Wild Ozark instead of Madison Woods. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort “branding” Wild Ozark so I might as well continue along that path.

Back to the Post

So now we can get on down the road. As I mentioned earlier, the Ozark backroad begins on our own driveway. It actually begins the moment we walk out of the back door.

When I got out of the car to see if I could get a better picture of the hawk, it flew away. I looked down and spotted a little frog hiding out under the leaves at my feet. I really love the colors in this photo.

Frog Hiding on an Ozark Backroad
(click to enlarge)

The driveway is long and bumpy, so I go really slow anyway, but going slow gives me the chance to see things. There was a virgin bower blooming that I wanted a picture of, so I got out to take that. While getting ready to take the bower photo, I saw a good-sized preying mantis (or is it praying?) in the greenery.

It was on the prowl for a snack, so I will stick with the “preying” spelling for now.

praying mantis on the Ozark backroad trip
(click to enlarge)

Not even a tenth of a mile farther down the road yet, I spied a nice old fence post with a hole in it and some rocks and other things stacked on top. It gave the post the look of an odd person with a hat. And I just like old fence posts and barbed wire. So this photo had to be taken, as well.

Old Fence Post

 

Our neighbor has some old buckets hanging on the porch of an old shed. I am always trying to get a good photo of these buckets, but I can never capture them in a photo the way they look to me in real life. I just love old buckets.

Old Buckets
(click to enlarge)

Surprises

You never know what you’ll see when you’re driving down an Ozark backroad. Most often it’s plants and landscape that prompt me to pull out the camera. For this photo, though, it was a flock of wild turkeys. I only managed to capture one of them, and just barely.

Flying Turkey on the Ozark Backroad
Poor photo, but the best I could do on short notice and from inside the car.

The only wildlife I ordinarily get photos of are the slow ones. Things that don’t fly, run, or crawl away too quickly, ha. Here’s a box turtle (tortoise) snuggled into a dirt berm under the leaves.

Box Turtle (tortoise)

Most often it’s the Plants

Unless the wind is blowing, the plants don’t stand much of a chance. I take a lot of photos of plants. Even the ones no one seems to like, such as the poison ivy and teasel.

Poison ivy is very pretty in early fall and is often one of the first to begin the color change.

Red poison ivy

One of my fav photos from the day of slowly wandering down this Ozark backroad. These are teasel seed heads. Teasel is considered to be an invasive weed by many. I think it’s a great photo subject, and an unusual and useful plant, though I wouldn’t want it taking over and choking out native habitats.

Teasel is one of the plants on the Ozark backroad that I like to photograph.

 

King’s River

We’re not far from the headwaters of King’s River here. This is always a favorite place to stop and look for beavers, eagles, and other wildlife. Once my husband spotted a large cottonmouth floating lazily on the surface as it drifted downstream.

King's River is a beautiful sight along my favorite Ozark backroad.

If you are in the area and like to hike, there’s a nice trail that leads to the headwaters and the King’s River Falls.

Until Next Time

That’s all of the photos from this excursion. I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime soon!



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Mailbox and Back in Under an Hour

Yesterday I brought my camera with me when I went to the mailbox. If I had walked, I know it would have taken more than an hour because I would have seen so many more opportunities to stop and take a picture.

There’s Never a “Quick Trip” Anywhere Out Here

My intention was to make  *quick* trip to check the mail because I was waiting on a delivery of something in particular. But before I started the mailbox run, there was a mushroom that Rob had spotted near where he parks the tractor.

He’d told me about it the day before so I needed to get pictures of it first thing.

A bolete of some sort. This mushroom looks like a pancake when you're looking down from above, though.

Just as I took its picture, I saw there were more of them, just a little up the hill.

Another of the mushrooms that look like pancakes.
Saw this one just a little farther up the hill.
And there was this one peeping out from behind the leaves. Same type of shroom but the shape is a bit irregular.
And there was this one peeping out from behind the leaves. Same type of shroom but the shape is a bit irregular.
Don't they look just like pancakes?
Don’t they look just like pancakes?
But from this angle you can see they do have stems.
But from this angle you can see they do have stems.

The day before that he’d seen a different one, so of course I got some pictures of it, too:

mushroom from above
A humongous mushroom growing at the base of Gloria, the old white oak tree out front.
This perfect mushroom looked like it should have had a fairy sitting on the edge, with her legs dangling from it.
This perfect mushroom looked like it should have had a fairy sitting on the edge, with her legs dangling from it.

But I digress. After I finished taking the pictures of the pancake mushrooms I took the 4-wheeler to get on with the mail-checking task.

But the 4-wheeler was having issues and died on me a few times. This, of course, is where having the camera on hand came in handy indeed. I had ample time to walk around a bit and take some pictures while I waited for it to start again.

Dinner Leavings along the Mailbox Route

I know it was a squirrel who left this mess on the flat rock by the first creek crossing. The day before we’d seen a squirrel running across the driveway with a mouth full of mushroom.

Leftovers from a squirrel. Mushroom stem and nut shells.
Leftovers from a squirrel. Mushroom stem and nut shells.
Mushroom stem leftover from a squirrel.
Mushroom stem leftover from a squirrel.

Good thing I wasn’t watching which mushrooms the squirrels were eating so we could try them too! Squirrels have some interesting digestive abilities. They can even eat the deadly mushrooms without it hurting them. There’s more information about that here: http://www.mushroomthejournal.com/greatlakesdata/Terms/squir27.html#Squirrelsa

Leaves to Notice

It’s only July but already the leaves of the sourwood are beginning to color and drop. They always do this a little in late summer. And I always notice them. I love the leaves of autumn and the teasers of late summer.

Black gum leaf on a rock.
Black gum leaf on a rock.

My favorite leaf picture from yesterday is a rock and leaf composition with understated colors. I love the paleness of the rock and the light colored leaf:

Yellow leaf on pale rock in July 2016.

Herbs to Notice

I’ve been watching for a particular herb favorite of mine. It’s about the time for Lobelia inflata to bloom. I use the seeds of this plant to make a tremendously appreciated anti-spasm formula.

A mature Lobelia inflata plant with blooms and swollen pods.
A mature Lobelia inflata plant with blooms and swollen pods.
Swollen seed pods of Lobelia inflata.
Swollen seed pods of Lobelia inflata.

When the seed pods are brown and dry I’ll snip the stem and put the whole thing in a paper bag. Then I can smash the bag a bit and the pods will burst, releasing all the seeds inside the bag. After that, I’ll use a portion of them for my herbals and spread a portion of them outside so I’ll have more to gather next summer.

Frogs and Feathers

I love finding wild bird feathers. It seems that I encounter a lot of crow feathers during my walkabouts. Yesterday morning was no exception. We have free-range chickens, so chicken feathers are easy to find. And I’m always finding feathers as evidence the cats have killed a bird, too. But those feathers don’t catch my attention the way randomly placed ones on rocks in creeks do.

A small crow feather I spotted on the way to the mailbox yesterday on a rock in the creek.

Just as I was getting ready to try the 4-wheeler again I saw this small frog in the creek.

A little frog after he thought he'd jumped away and hidden from me again.

A little frog that was in the creek on the way to the mailbox.

He’s only about an inch or two long and thought he was well-hidden, which he was. But not so well-hidden that he could escape my notice, ha.

Other Posts Like This One

If you enjoyed this, this post reminds me of Why it Takes Me an Hour to Go to the Post Office and Back  so you might like it too. Both demonstrate how I shouldn’t leave home with the camera or a notebook or a sketchpad if the trip is intended to be a quick one.

 



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Installing a Culvert Retaining Wall was Today’s Homestead Project

Today I built a culvert retaining wall for the culvert on the shop driveway to keep it from washing out around the sides. I was grateful for the overcast and dreary day so I could do this work without getting burnt to a crisp or dehydrated.

Sloped Lands = Washed out Culverts

Almost all of our homestead area is sloped. Some of it is sloped pretty steep and when it rains, it tends to wash out around the culverts.

We needed a culvert retaining wall new culvert for the shop driveway to keep this from worsening the situation.

The culvert before I started working on it.
The culvert before I started working on it.

You can see the buildup of silt in front of it and where it’s starting to wash out around the upper sides.  When we traveled to Germany a few years ago, there was so many rock wall structures and I loved seeing them. I’ve seen many of the culvert retaining walls here in the Ozarks, too. Building them is hard work, but a structure that is both beautiful AND functional is such a nice combination to me.

I was determined to try and I had the idea in mind of how I wanted it to look.

Getting started on the Culvert Retaining Wall

Rob brought a nice pile of rocks to the worksite from a pile of rocks by the creek with his front end loader. So much easier than walking around to gather rocks from the area!

The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.
The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.

Ordinarily, I would take photos of all the steps along the way in a project like this. But with it looking like it might rain at any minute, I didn’t want to have the camera out there.

But that’s not the only reason I didn’t take pictures between the start and finish.  The work was hard and I was too tired to take pictures when I did take breaks.

First Step

The first thing to do is to dig out around the culvert. I also dug a little beneath it so I could place the “floor” stone.

Then I chose an assortment of various sized rocks from the pile and brought them closer so I could reach without getting in and out of the ditch.

If the rock I wanted to use was too big for the spot, I dug out a little more. Keep in mind that all the dirt had to be removed from the ditch. This was the hardest part of the entire job.

The digging and shoveling out of the dirt was not enjoyable and it was extremely tiring. But it had to be done before I could stack the rocks around the sides.

One of the rocks broke when I dropped it and when the shard came off of it, I saw that it was a beautiful pink sandstone. Most of the rocks here are sandstone, but some are prettier than others. This was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

Pink sandstone from the Ozarks.
Pink sandstone

 

For each layer, or “course”, I dug out deeper than the rock needed it to be. Deeper, as in deeper into the side, not deeper downward. Then I backfilled behind each course with the small stones and soil that I’d taken out initially.

Irregular Rocks

These rocks aren’t uniformly shaped, as you can see in the photo below, and they don’t stack one on top the other without some shimming with flat or smaller smaller stones.

Once it was all done, I was pleased to note that I’d done a pretty good job of keeping it all level. That’s not always easy to do with odd-shaped rocks.

The finished culvert retaining wall.
The finished culvert retaining wall.

So that was my project.

The Other End

While I worked on the entrance end, Rob worked on the exit end. Two culverts intersect there and it also has a tendency to wash out, but in a different way.

Different Problems need Different Solutions

So it needed a different kind of rock work. He put big flat rocks on the sides and bottom after digging out the accumulated silt. This will help keep it from washing out on the sides and bottom.

The floor on the exit side of culvert.
The floor on the exit side of culvert.

Homesteading can be backbreaking, muscle-exhausting work. But I love living out here and I love seeing the results of all of our hard work. I just hope when the next rain comes it doesn’t wash it all away!



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


Ways You Can Support Wild Ozark

  • Spread the Word

    Share this post or tell a friend about my website. "From little acorns do mighty oaks grow." A little thing like sharing could start momentum! This is a free and tremendously powerful way to help.

  • Buy a Book

    See all of my books here:
    Nonfiction: Madison Woods Amazon Author's Page.
    Fiction: Ima Erthwitch Amazon Author's Page.

  • Shop at our Nature Boutique

    Unique gifts, books, and information for the nature lovers in your life. Adding more items as time allows: Wild Ozark Nature Boutique.

  • Become a Patron

    A small monthly stipend of even $1 from enough supporters will help me continue the educational outreach and construction of habitat gardens. More information here: https://www.patreon.com/wildozark

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods