Solomon’s Seal Unfurling

Solomon's Seal blooming
Solomon’s Seal blooming

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

There’s a nice patch of Solomon Seal at the front of the driveway that was so choked out last summer that I don’t think any of them got a chance to bloom. I was afraid they might not come back after that. And I wasn’t sure exactly which spot it was where they lived, so earlier while it was still winter I picked my best guess and cleared the briars.

On my way home from checking the mail the other day, I was very pleased to see that I was almost perfect in my guess – just a little bit off. Still, good enough to give them a fighting chance until I get another day to do more clearing and cutting of briars. The plan was to do a little transplanting of them today.

The heady scent of plum blossoms greeted me this morning. It was overcast and misty, and just a wee bit chilly but that kind of lighting is great for taking photos. Before I could get on to the Solomon’s Seal, there was something else I needed to do first. Yesterday I had dug up some Dutchman’s Breeches but didn’t get a chance to pot them up before the rain started, so that was the top thing on my list of things to do today.

After potting up the Breeches I went up to the front end of the driveway dug up some of the Solomon’s Seal. I moved some of the plants to the nursery spot to be sure they don’t all get choked out this year. And while I was at it, I potted up several to bring to market later on this month, too.

Unfurling solomon seal
Unfurling Solomon Seal

Here’s how the rhizomes look:

Solomon Seal showing Root

 

Growing It

Solomon’s Seal enjoys the same habitat as American Ginseng, but it can tolerate a little more sun. It will do well in full or dappled shade but not in deep shade. The soil should be well-drained and loamy. The spot where these have been for many years is on the dry side during the heat of summer, so it can tolerate more dryness than ginseng can as well. The rhizomes should be planted 1 to 3 inches deep.

Uses

This native woodland herb has a surprising (to me, anyway) history of medicinal use. The young shoots are supposed to be edible, but I haven’t tried them yet to give a first-hand report on how tasty they might be. Most of the information I’ve found online regarding its use as medicine is taken from sources talking about the European variety, however ours is similar and is supposed to have similar constituents. The berries will cause vomiting. Some sources say they’re poisonous, some say to use them for causing vomiting. I’d say more research is needed on that use.

Here’s a quick list of ways it has been used by native Americans and herbalists from the Old World. Please do your own research before experimenting with herbs as food or medicine (see disclaimer at bottom of page):

  • to heal external bruises, make a poultice of leaves and root
  • to heal internal bruises, make a decoction and mix with wine to drink (eeww – I think whiskey or bourbon might be better, or just honey maybe)
  • to encourage broken bones to knit, take the root decoction
  • roots can be baked like a starchy vegetable and eaten (after boiling in 3 changes of water!)
  • young shoots can be eaten like asparagus
  • roots decoction good for stomach inflammation, piles, dysentery
  • to stop excessive menstruation (doesn’t specify which parts)
  • may decrease blood sugar levels (keep in mind if using insulin or if you are hypoglycemic)

And one of the most interesting uses I saw mentioned was as incense. Apparently if the root is dried and burned as incense it will ensure a sound night’s sleep. I’m planning to try this one. Sleep is an issue for me lately. I’ll let you know how it worked!

Sources of information:


Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional. The information on the web site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or prescribe any condition. The FDA does not approve of anything on this web site.


 

April 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the April 2015 Newsletter from Wild Ozark! For a plant lover, spring is an exciting time of year. This morning I found trout lilies blooming and blue cohosh unfurling! I try to get out to the woods every day to see what’s new that I didn’t see the day before.

trout lily at Wild Ozark
trout lily at Wild Ozark

 

Business is Good

Website

This month has been a great month for business. Our website visits are increasing which leads to book sales increasing which leads to my ability to invest more money back into the business, which leads to being able to offer better and greater products to you. For example, this month I purchased a new software to help me create better slide-shows of the photographs I’ve been collecting. There is no Wild Ozark herb safe from the camera now, haha. American Ginseng & Companions is the first to benefit from the new software.

Discount for DVD

American Ginseng & Companions isn’t available at Amazon yet but I’m in the process of getting it listed there. The “real” DVD will be $20, the On-Demand version will be around $5. I can’t say what they will set the price at, but that was my suggestion. Rentals will be less than that. Newsletter subscribers get a substantial discount on the “real” item. They’re $10 with this coupon code (“ginseng dvd”) through our online shop. I’ll sell them for $10 at the market in Huntsville or anytime in person after presentation. Before you run out and buy one, though, subscribe to my mailing list and get in on the FREE offer. It’s discussed a bit farther down in the newsletter under the “Business is Bad – DVD issues” heading.

Update since original newsletter release: DVD’s are now only available (free) with any paperback book purchase from the Wild Ozark shop

Click on the image to go to the shop if you want to check it out:

DVD cover for American Ginseng & Companions

I Was Interviewed

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Monica Johnson of east TX. She drove out here and took a little walkabout with me, then we visited with the ginseng buyer Trevor Mills from Harrison, AR. I’m eager to read the article she wrangles from all the good conversation we had over the course of two days.

Freelance Writing

I’ve been contacted by a new magazine about life in the Ozarks, to possibly become a contributing writer. This is exciting. The magazine’s premiere issue was recently released and if I make it on board, I’ll surely be letting you all know where it can be found. It’s a print magazine, not an online thing, which is something I’m glad for.

Business is Bad

Possible Ginseng Failure

I am growing increasingly worried that none or very few of the ginseng seeds we planted in fall are going to sprout. Usually by this time any leftover seeds I have in the refrigerator have long since sprouted and demanded to be planted. None of them have done so. The seeds don’t appear to be dead, just stubborn. So I’m thinking they’ll sit over in the ground this year and sprout next year. This always is the case with a percentage of them, but not normally most of them.

Updated since original newsletter release: I have learned that you can’t keep the seeds in the refrigerator so long or else they will go dormant. It’s best to keep them in layers of sand outside in a cool and sheltered place if you can’t plant them right away. The seeds I have aren’t dead, they just might not sprout this year. (Thanks to Dennis at Ozark Mountain Ginseng for this information!) Next year they should all sprout on schedule. I’ll have some seedlings to sell at market this year, just not so many as I’d planned for.

But obviously, this is bad for the nursery business. I know many of you were looking forward to ginseng seedlings this spring. All I can do is wait and see at this point. At any rate, I’ll have goldenseal, bloodroot, and other of the woodland companions at market. Just not too sure about the ginseng at this point. The strawberry jar at the bottom of this email is planted with companion plants and will feature a ginseng on the top. When it fills out it should be pretty unique and pretty to look at.

DVD issues

The first attempt at burning the new American Ginseng & Companions produced mixed results. The disks worked fine on my own DVD player, but wouldn’t even start on others. Then the text was too blurry, even on my own. So I decided to offer it free to those who would be willing to answer a survey afterwards or leave a review if it worked for them. Since I try to only send this newsletter out once a month, I wasn’t able to get this word to you unless you happened to see it on Facebook or my website. But you can get it free now and give me the feedback if you like.

If you’re already a subscriber, you got the code with the April newsletter that went to your inbox. If you’re a new subscriber, email me ([email protected]) to get the code. The coupon is only good until April 8, 2015. The test rounds that went out last week came back with mostly good responses, so I’m going to cut it loose and let it fly now but your responses will be helpful to me in case there are issues I’ve missed. As far as I know, I haven’t actually “sold” the DVD to anyone yet; they’ve all been free. However, if you are a subscriber and you paid for the DVD I’ll refund your money since I’m making this free offer now. The offer is good until April 8. The USB’s have worked fine. It’s only been the DVD’s that gave me trouble.

Interesting links & articles by others

From ANPS: Know Your Natives – Bloodroot (http://anps.org/2015/03/20/know-your-natives-bloodroot-2/)

Here’s one of the best collections of photography of Arkansas Plants I’ve ever seen:
http://www.pbase.com/cmf46/root/ – These are all by Craig Frasier. The only drawback is that there’s no way to search by name or color, but in scrolling through the images I’ve found many of the plants I just needed some second verification on to get a positive id.

Speaking Gigs

Booked

I’ll be at the Olli Birthday Luncheon at 11:30 on April 16 at Bordino’s on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. If you’d like to attend to hear my presentation on the ginseng habitat and ginseng we’d love to see you there. I’ll have copies of the DVD’s and some books and other things there. I’m not sure, but I might be able to pass around the slide-show on my Galaxy during the talk so people can get a look at what it is. It’ll be an informal event. I’ll try to bring some plants to pass around, some dried roots to taste, and some photos of the companion plants. The attendees can ask questions and get to know this precious habitat a little better. I’ll also talk some about our project at Compton Gardens in Bentonville. Meals are around $10 and I’ll need to have a headcount, so if you plan to attend, let me know.

Pending

Trevor Mills of Mills Ginseng in Harrison Arkansas is trying to organize an event. If you know anyone who could sponsor or participate in a traditional skill/sustainability/survival/mountain man(woman) type of convention drop him a note at his FB page. I’m planning to be a vendor/speaker/presenter at this, but we are not certain about the dates yet and I may be out of pocket during the summer when he might want to do it.

March Blog Post Index

That’s all folks!

This was a pretty lengthy newsletter, so thank you if you managed to read the whole thing 🙂

I hope to meet many of you at the farmer’s market this year. The opening day is April 21, at the Huntsville Town Square, from 7-12. It’ll be every Tuesday and Saturday 7-12. My booth should be somewhere near the gazebo so I can have electricity. I’m going to bring a television and run the DVD on it during the market hours so if you want a preview before buying it, or just want to stand around and watch the whole thing there for free, come on by!

trout lilies and dutchman breeches awaiting market
trout lilies and dutchman breeches awaiting market
Forest companions in a strawberry jar
Forest companions in a strawberry jar
Bloodroot and others awaiting market
Bloodroot and others awaiting market

 

 

bloodroot flowers

Potting up Goldenseal

This is my beautiful workspace today where I’m potting up goldenseal, trout lilies and trying in vain to find any of the previously potted ginseng seeds sprouting. Wild Ozark potting table

I’m thinking this year is going to be a poor one for new ginseng. That’s going to be a hard hit on our new Wild Ozark Nursery, unfortunately.

However, I should still have plenty goldenseal, bloodroot and trout lilies to bring to market on April 21. And of course, I’ll have copies of the American Ginseng & Companions DVD’s and USB’s, along with my other books Sustainable Ginseng and the DIY Ginseng Habitat Assessment Guide.

And I’m putting companion plants in the side pockets of those strawberry jars with a ginseng plant on top. This is an experiment, but I hope it works and the plants like growing in them because I think it would be a great market item if they do well.

Potting Goldenseal

Today’s main goal was transplanting the goldenseal that I dug yesterday into pots so I can bring them to market. The tops aren’t showing above-ground anywhere yet, but the unfurling is quietly beginning beneath the dead leaf cover. If you’re planting them in the ground, the steps are the same, just skip the pot.

potting goldenseal step 1
Fill the pot 2/3 full.
Potting Goldenseal Step 2
Spread out the roots on top of the soil. If it’s a large rhizome, the root should be mostly horizontal with the bud pointing skyward.
Potting Goldenseal Step 3
Cover the roots but leave the bud exposed. When you’re done with this step, cover the pot and bud with crumbled dead leaves.

Here’s some of my other posts to do with goldenseal and other herbs:

 

Other Plants Sprouting and Unfurling or Blooming in the Nursery

The blue cohosh seeds appear to have sprouted, at least, and the bloodroot is already up and blooming. And the Dutchmen’s Breeches are blooming, too. It’s too bad these won’t be still in bloom by the time the market starts. I’ll have to print and laminate a picture of them so people can know what to expect if they’ve never seen them before. The bloodroot might still be in bloom, but maybe not.

Blue Cohosh seedling
The blue cohosh seedling is unfurling.

 

Mayapple Unfurling
Mayapple Unfurling
Dutchmen's Breeches blooming
Dutchmen’s Breeches blooming
bloodroot flowers
Bloodroot flowers

New Wild Ozark Pages About Ginseng

ginseng with ripe berriesI created a few new pages about ginseng on the site today that you might find interesting. Since they don’t post automatically to the social media or go out to subscriber’s inboxes, I thought I should also post them here:

 

Arnold’s First Rooster Crow

Arnold is a Fall chicken. He hatched from an egg, along with his three nestlings way back in October (I think). The clutch of eggs that had hatched shortly before his fell prey to a large black rat snake. You might remember my FB post about that. It takes about six months from hatch to first egg or crow.

We weren’t sure whether Arnold was a he or a she, but had our suspicions. Yesterday he crowed for the first time and confirmed his identity. Oddly, this was a joyful occasion here at Wild Ozark. It was pretty exciting to witness the coming of age of a rooster.

young copper maran roo
Arnold, the new rooster kid on the block.

The day before, one of his nestlings laid her first egg and that was a sweet find too. A hen’s first egg is about half the size of a full-sized egg. The first egg a mature hen lays in spring, if she pauses for a winter break, is also smaller than usual, but not as small as the very first egg she lays in her life.

a hen's first egg
A new hen’s first egg as compared to a mature hen’s egg.

I don’t normally name the chickens. “Arnold” is Rob’s doing. I don’t even name our cats and had to come up with something for one of them at the last minute last year when I brought her to the clinic to be spayed. I guess the dogs and horses should feel lucky to have names. I’m not sure why I don’t name the other animals in my life.

Hopefully this new roo won’t have the same problem with danger discrimination the old roo used to have. I have literally knocked the old one out three times. He kept jumping on me and the grandkids, hurt me pretty badly on the wrist with his spurs once. So I swung my trusty walking stick and took care of him. I thought I’d killed him the first time I knocked him out, but he woke up several hours later, much contrite. Nowadays he gives wide berth when I walk through the flock and I’m glad I didn’t have to really kill him because he’s a good roo otherwise.

chickens
Some of the other hens and the old rooster in our flock.

Update 2017, December: Arnold is now the flock rooster and Old Man is gone. He died of fighting with Arnold. This is another reason to not have more than one rooster for small flocks.

image of coins and bill

The cost of doing (DVD) business with Amazon

Ever wondered how much an author makes per book or product through Amazon? Royalties aren’t bad for books and e-books. I get 70% on the ones that are listed exclusively through Amazon if the price is over $2.99, and 35% for those I want to be available anywhere else. So, for example, Sustainable Ginseng is listed at $2.99 (e-book). I get 35% royalties on that title, which leaves me $1.05 per e-book sold after fees are subtracted.

But publishing a DVD with them using my own ISBN (the identifier for a book that will designate Wild Ozark as the publisher instead of Amazon) is another story entirely unless I charge double what I’d intended for the DVD.

Here’s the story on that.

The Original Plan

So I thought I would offer those DVD’s I’ve been working on for $10. That’s a fair price with a fair profit margin after subtracting the cost of supplies, postage, and the time I put into it. Figured I’d do business with Amazon as I usually do with my e-books and print titles. I always want to broaden my reach. Boy I got a huge surprise when I visited Createspace to see into the details.

coins and a dollar

The Problem

If I publish them for $10, then I’ll see about $0.50 on each sale. There’s a $4.95 charge for each one and then they take an additional 45% cut of the sale price. YIKES! 

I understand the $4.95 surcharge. They have to cover their expenses, because they POD and package them to ship. But there’s no way I can make a living on those wages! I had to come up with a solution.

The Solution

So here’s the plan.

I’m going to sell them each for $20. Both the USB and the DVD. I’ll have to use this price at my website too, or it’ll seem to be a drastic undercut to Amazon’s prices. But subscribers to my newsletter will get a coupon that puts the cost of them right back down to the original $10 for a DVD and $12 for the USB if ordered from the Wild Ozark shop.

If you want to sign up for the newsletter now, there’s a link on the side-bar under the cover image for the DVD.

If you’re a current subscriber considering purchasing this product, be sure to let me know so I can get the coupon to you. New subscribers will get it on the confirmation email after signing up.

Here’s the video trailer I have over at YouTube to advertise the DVD/USB:

Beautiful Morning in the Ozarks

I woke before dawn and dragged myself downstairs to get back to work where I’d left off with some last minute edits on the DVD near midnight last night. As the coffee brewed and my eyelids gained motivation to remain open I noticed it was becoming a very beautiful morning in the Ozarks.

oak in morning light
The oak out front, different camera settings
oak in misty morning light
oak in misty morning light

PawPaw Flower Bud

The PawPaw tree is a ginseng companion plant, or ginseng indicator plant. It often grows where ginseng grows, but is also often found in areas with more sunlight. Here at Wild Ozark it is a fairly good indicator of great ginseng habitat, but it also grows prolifically on the edge between forest and field, marking places where the forest beyond the boundary has proper habitat.

The photo below is a PawPaw flower bud. It is a frame in the American Ginseng & Companions slide-show. Later in the season the flower will open completely and the color will be a deep burgundy red.

“There’s a “between” space where the ginseng habitat and the surrounding ecosystems meet. It’s the boundary between one kind of place and another, like a doorway or threshold. The ginseng habitat and the surrounding hardwood forest, the forest and the field, or that transition space where mountains meet the ocean, plains, or desert sands — all liminal spaces of a physical sort that speak to the soul of those who enjoy crossing and lingering along such lines.” –  QUOTE FROM AMERICAN GINSENG & COMPANIONS

PawPaw flower buds, A page from American Ginseng & Companions
A page from American Ginseng & Companions
A goldenseal plant with red berry.

Sights and Sounds of Spring

The sounds of spring fills the night air now. Spring Peepers are calling!

The only visible signs of spring so far as I can see are the bits of wild onion grass growing with a bit more spright than usual. And the chickweed is making my garden look like it already needs to be weeded.

Soon, though, the early bloomers of the ginseng habitat will begin blooming. Every year I go to the woods to watch for them. If you’d like to see them too, I have a USB full of photographs of ginseng and the companion plants, starting with those that bloom in early spring and ending with ripe fruits on the ginseng. It’s $12 with free shipping (unless you want Priority delivery). I’m out of stock right now, but am still taking orders. It’ll only be about two weeks before they’re ready to put in the mail.

cover for American ginseng & Companions
A 30-minute Windows Media Movie, PDF, and Kindle e-book files on USB.

Here’s some of the images from the first chapter (Before the Unfurling) of the slide-show:

button to order Into Ginseng Wood on USB from Wild Ozark

March Snow in the Ozarks

Traffic is always crazy when there’s snow in the Ozarks. We had to go into Fayetteville this morning. It was raining and I knew the colder weather was coming in, but we figured we should be able to get there and back before the roads started icing. Halfway there I noticed ice building up on the mirrors. Not a good sign. Soon the roads were covered with slippery sleet. Got the urgent errand done and had to take an alternate route home because the little car wouldn’t get up the big sleet covered hill. Finally reached our county road and made it across the low-water bridges with a few inches of water over them. Whew! What a trip. We only saw one vehicle in the ditch. Someone going to fast most likely.

Here’s some pictures from the ongoing Ozark Blizzard of March 2015. The horses are NOT happy about this.

March Snow in the Ozarks

 

A couple of hours later…

The Next Day

This little storm I hope is Winter’s Last Stand for this year. These photos were taken the day after the previous ones. Temps started out this morning around 15*F. Now, at 1400 it is about 42*F and the next days through the weekend and into next week are going to warm up even more. So the snow won’t be here long. Maybe spring will finally get a turn with Mother Nature.

Ozark Inspired Podcasts

Prefer to listen to your stories more than read? Do you like Pinterest? I’ve created a Pinterest board just for Ozark related stories and essays. Do you write fiction or non-fiction that is inspired somehow by the Ozarks? Put them to audio recordings and join my board at Pinterest.

Ozark Inspired Podcasts

I’ve started putting my flash fiction stories and the photo prompts that inspired them to my Writing website as podcasts. If any of you who are writers want to use the photos I post and create your own stories, feel free & to link to your post in the comments to my stories. I’ll be posting the podcasts to Pinterest as I get around to it and having been inspired by another writer friend of mine, have created an open/shared board called “Ozark-Inspired Podcasts“. If any of you want to make audio recordings of your stories and join it, let me know. This board isn’t limited to fiction, but only needs to be Ozark inspired or written by Ozark authors. To join, comment on one of the pins and let me know. I’d love to get a variety of audio pins from Ozark influenced authors.

Madison Woods Stories

My stories are all somehow influenced by my life here in the Ozarks, but are usually not “about” the Ozarks. Eventually I’ll add some audio of my non-fiction articles to the Pinterest board, the Nature Journal essays and some of the ones that are about the plants and things more directly Ozark related.

 

 

 

snow covered oak limbs

Raising the Bar at Wild Ozark

Today we were gifted with more snow. Yesterday when I got out of bed, the sun shown brightly with promises of warmth at least from direct sunlight. So I let the horses out to scrounge around for what little grass might be popping up from beneath melted snow from last week. We decided to go to town to get more hay. By the time we’d paid for the hay and were walking out the door it had become overcast and snow fell from the skies. That was unexpected.

Snow continued to fall, tiny powder flakes, for the rest of the day. Thankfully, the horses came when I called and I didn’t have to get on the 4-wheeler to go retrieve them from a grassy honey-hole somewhere.

The snow drifted down slowly all night long, too. Still only about an inch or two collected on the ground. But snow is still falling now at 1018, and the flakes are bigger and falling with what seems intention to cover all with a blanket of white.

southeastward

This year is still new-ish, but already it’s gathering speed and momentum. Look- February is already gone! Before we know it, we’ll all crash through the finish line of yet another year. Here at Wild Ozark we’re experiencing the thrill and excitement of raising the bar. Since it’s so early in the year, the challenge will be to continue to meet these expectations…

Excitement at Wild Ozark

Egg-cellent Performance

strange colored eggI’ll start with the chickens. Their greatest accomplishment this year had to do with eggs. The hens raised the bar on their own performance this past week by laying eight eggs yesterday, more than we’ve had all season in one day so far. And one of the hens left a very unusually colored egg in the nest. One hen has decided that the hay storage area is a better place for a nest and has begun sneaking in there to lay eggs, then escaping from the window that has no glass left in it afterward. Altogether we have 15 hens and a rooster. Four of them are new and won’t begin laying until possibly spring.

The maran’s are trying to get the color saturation right, I guess. Their eggs become very dark brown later in the season. One of the green egg layers laid two eggs in one day, two days in a row! Talk about feats hard to beat.

On the Business Front

  • Lots of addresses on the nursery plant list. Twenty interested persons have asked to be added to the nursery mailing list. This is a great start for a small nursery. Each year we’ll have more to offer and better variety. This first year will test the waters on demand so I’ll know how much of everything to plant for next year’s market season.
  • The Huntsville Farmer’s Market begins some time in April or early May. Our first meeting to plan is on March 17, so I’ll have more details then. I’ll be there at least on the weekday market every week with Ginseng Habitat Related books, information, and  plants to sell. The slide-show on USB will be playing on the monitor so if you can’t or don’t want to buy it, come by and watch for free and enjoy the good market company. It’ll be fun just to visit. I’d love to hear your ginseng stories.
  • Wild Ozark sold more books in one month than ever before! 52 and the day isn’t even over yet.
  • Survey Results – thank you to all of you who voted in my survey about the best format for a photo book. The results say that in spite of the higher cost, most prefer a hard copy book. For second place results were tied between the USB and magazine format. There are five winners of the Wild Ozark Herbs DVD/slideshow to be notified. I’ll need to collect addresses for shipping. Those winners are listed below.
  • Landed a grant from United Plant Savers to install ginseng habitat – my first ever successful grant application (and the first grant ever applied for). This will pay for printing booklets for the next and greatest of the bar-raising highlights so far…
  • Wild Ozark will work in conjunction with Peel-Compton Gardens in Bentonville to install a ginseng habitat, complete (of course) with ginseng and companion plants. This will be a public place people can go to see and learn about ginseng. I’m so excited by this project. The goal is to provide a hands-on interaction with ginseng and the companions. It will help teach how to identify and protect the habitat. Our hope is that with education about the fragility of the ecosystem, we can help protect the plant and give knowledge to those new to the lure of digging. We hope to instill a sense of stewardship and long-term thinking and planning, thereby providing the means to ensure ginseng’s survival for generations to come. We hope others will become interested in restoring habitats on private property for a plant steeped in history and lore. Once we get started working on this project this spring, I’ll chronicle our progress on a page all of its own. If you’re on my monthly newsletter list, you’ll be sure to get the announcement when that page is ready, or you can watch for it here or on the social medias. Newsletter members may get special announcements or invitations regarding this project that I don’t post to my blog…

Winners of the Wild Ozark Herbs DVD/Slide-show

  • Piya
  • Terry
  • Jim
  • Carla
  • Bill

Thank you for voting! I’ll be emailing you for your mailing addresses.

 

Snow and Ice in the Ozarks

Snow and ice are a common winter-time theme of my photos out here in the wild Ozarks. I like the balance of movement and stasis and implied potential in this photo of the snow capped rocks. The creek continues to flow no matter how cold or frozen the surface becomes, even if it must do so below the ground’s surface. And yet the ice embraces solidity and resists change, giving way only slowly in the return to liquid state when the sun warms even the shady spots. Beneath the snow, grass is already beginning to green up and even while they sleep, trees siphon trace minerals and nourishment from the slow snow melt.

snow capped creek rocks by gate
Snow capped creek rocks

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.

Recover an Apple Tree

We have an Arkansas Black apple tree overgrown by brush and saplings. Is it possible to recover an apple tree after it’s gotten overgrown?

Pruning it has been on my list of things to do for a few years now. Today I finally got around to it.

Here’s how it looked before:

overgrown apple tree
Overgrown and crowded out apple tree.

The first thing I did was pull up all the honeysuckle, catbriers, and blackberry bushes trying to crowd it out. The honeysuckle was the worst. It had started going up into the tree and would have only been a matter of time before it choked it to death.

Before pruning apple tree, after clearing underneath.
Before pruning, after clearing underneath.

I added fertilizer over the root zone. The only kind I had on hand was a general purpose garden mix (organic), so that’s what I used. I did have a feather meal, but I didn’t think it would need only nitrogen. I might add some later after I do a little research to see if it’s a good idea.

Nitron's 4-8-4 fertilizer
Nitron’s 4-8-4 Organic fertilizer.

And here’s how it looked when I was finished:

Arkansas Black apple tree after pruning
After pruning and clearing away underbrush and trees crowding around.

The horizontal sticks you see in the apple tree are forked branches of the sassafras trees we cut down from nearby where they were growing too close. I used them to spread the main branches of the apple tree. Ideally, this would have been done while the tree was younger to train it to grow with more of a spread all along, but I think doing it now will help a lot still.

An Arkansas Black apple isn’t the best for eating fresh. They’re very tart. But they make great cider and are great pollinators for other varieties that are good fresh. One of the issues with growing apples in the Ozarks is cedar rust. We have so many cedar trees here that it’s hard to grow apple trees without them getting infected. Arkansas Black is a resistant heritage variety, so it does well.

After all was said and done, it turns out that the tree has been invaded by borers. This is likely going to kill it. But I performed some surgery on it and plastered the base with herbs and hopefully that will help. If you’re interested in my experiment with using herbalism for a tree, I’m working on a blog post about that. When it’s done I’ll come back and make this a live link. (Be sure to check back – The post about my remedy for the apple tree is scheduled to go live on Jan. 28)

So now it’s just a matter of waiting to see how it does this spring and summer. Hopefully it’ll survive to produce apples again and we’ll get to try making some cider.

Have you ever tried to recover an overgrown apple tree? If so, did it work?

Update 5-20-15: Sad to say this tree did not leaf out in spring, and appears to be dead 🙁

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/

It’s A Good Day to Plant Seeds in Winter

seeds being planted at Wild Ozark

Yesterday I took a break from figuring taxes (yes, I’m still working on taxes) and went outside to enjoy the warm-ish winter’s day and plant seeds. On the seed list today:

  • American ginseng
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Echinacea tennesseensis
  • Comfrey (officinale)
  • Poppies

These plants all need to be seeded while it’s still cool outside so the seeds can be exposed to the cold, damp soil before sprouting. It could be done by putting the seeds in a bag of sand in the refrigerator (this is called stratification), but I’ll just plant them into pots and keep the pots outside where they’ll get cold exposure. Fresh ginseng seed would need two winters, but the seeds I buy have already been stratified, which means they’ve already spent one winter outside so they’ll sprout after this one.

Day before yesterday I planted some Cowslip (primula veris). This one is not a native plant, not to the Ozarks nor to the United States. However, it’s a good medicinal plant and I wanted to have some on hand for my sustainability/preparedness peace of mind. There are other plants that are native (lobelia inflata, mullein) that also have some of the same benefits (antispasmodic, cough, sedative) but I wanted to have this one, too.  While the lobelia is valuable in it’s antispasmodic capacity, and I wildcraft it here at Wild Ozark and use it in formulas with much success, it can be fairly easy to use too much. The consequence of that mistake is violent vomiting which squeezes the lungs. This action supposedly can also be beneficial to expel excessive mucus from the lungs but I’ve never tried it and am not sure I’d want to without someone on hand to give me a breath if it caused my lungs to collapse (seriously).  I use mullein quite often to make syrups for the kids and love the gentle way it works to loosen phlegm and quiet coughs at the same time. I’m curious to see how well the cowslip works in comparison to these other plants.

Why the poppies? Well, because they’re beautiful, of course. And they attract bees for pollination…lots of good reasons to plant poppies.

These plants, while not woodland plants or ginseng companion plants (except for the ginseng, of course), will also be part of the offerings brought to market in April. (Except the poppies. Those are being seeded directly into beds where they’ll stay.) We’ll have them at the farmer’s market in Huntsville, Arkansas on Tuesdays if you’d like to stop in. I can legally ship plants by mail now, but these will be too young yet and I’m not set up with boxes and packaging for that anyway. Maybe one day soon. For now we will just fill orders and sell from the market venue.

The links I gave to the plant information goes to the electronic version of “A Modern Herbal” by Maud Grieve, originally published in 1931. This is one of my favorite resources for medicinal herbal information.

I’ll be drawing up an availability list with prices soon. If you want to get on that mailing list, be sure to fill out the form at our nursery page and send it to me.

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

Torture of Taxes, Podcasts and Frozen Water

Today I’ve been undergoing the torture of  taxes,  podcasts and frozen water . I’m doing taxes for the business, repairing broken podcast audio files, compiling good nature blog links, and making the chickens happy today. Compiling the good nature blog links has actually been a pleasant task, though. And at least the water job ended with me feeling victorious. Taxes are turning out to be another matter entirely.

Ugghh! Taxes

Why can’t the language and rules for the IRS be simple? And why can’t there be some special simple provisions for businesses that make less than $1000 in a year? Ha, maybe that kind of business is a very small niche, but it would be oh so helpful if such provisions existed for poor little bootstrap companies like ours.

It is tax time and I’ve been spending the day trying to figure out how to do them. I didn’t know filing would be so different when it comes to having an LLC business versus a single proprietor home-based business. Ugh. Too many things I didn’t know, but I’m glad I’m at least not past any deadlines I didn’t know I had until today. Of course, a person should SHOULD NOT begin businesses without some forethought into things like this, and there should be better record-keeping than I’m prone to do… I suppose a new item or two was just added to my New Year’s resolution list. I wish I knew more about bookkeeping now.

photo of laughing dog

Podcast Woes

I just found out today that none of my podcasts were working. They’re all at the Fantasy website. It worked for a while, but at some point, probably with the most recent website updates, the recordings disappeared. Well, now they’re back.

Nature Blogs

I’ve been collecting URLs of various nature blogs I find, as I find them. What I’d like to also start adding are links to authors or websites featuring fiction inspired by nature. If you’re such an author, or know of one, let me know and I’ll add your link to the index page too. The Nature Blogs index is going to be one of those constantly updating pages on this site, much like the Ginseng Articles and Headlines page is.

Making the Chickens Happy

Today I decided to uncover the water line that feeds the chickens and dogs and cats to see why it was still not working. As I suspected, it was still icy underneath the tarp and blankets I’d used to try and insulate it from the cold. Apparently, once it froze underneath the cover it did an admirable job of insulating the ice. It required a blowdryer and some time, but now the water is flowing again. The chickens all gathered to celebrate and have sips as the bucket filled.