When the Rain Crow Calls

Mature Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus-americanus) Image via By No machine-readable author provided. Factumquintus assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsJill HendersonShow Me Oz – It’s been another cool, wet spring here in Oz.  So much so, that I am beginning to wonder if our once-robust pepper starts will grow to full size before July.  Wet springs are not uncommon in our neck of the woods, but we can never be sure what kind of weather we’re in for.  The exception being our perennial summer droughts, which can range from average to severe.  Yet, in each and every one of the 15 droughty summer’s that we have gardened here, we have always been alerted to impending rainstorms by an uncommon but very welcome recluse that most folks around here call a rain crow.

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The Homeplace: Fragments from the Past

2016 1-27 Fragments - Cast iron garden furrow tool and well-worn horseshoes. (2)Jill HendersonShow Me Oz – On the ridge behind my house is a small meadow encircled by towering trees.  A short, but well-worn path leads to a small pond clinging to the steep slope.  The pond is circled by a grotto of ancient oak trees with branches so big around they dwarf the trunks of almost every other mature tree on these 42 acres.  As I sat and stared into the massive reaches of these ancients, I wondered why this handful of trees had been spared from the saws of men when so many on the property clearly had not.  Obviously, the pond had been here a very long time – perhaps even as long as the trees themselves. And judging from their size, they had been there for about 200-250 years.  It wasn’t long after that first encounter that answers to my question began to emerge from the land itself.

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Wild Walk: Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris) plant in bloom.  Photo copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comShow Me Oz – Sometimes the best “wild” medicine comes from plants that are decidedly not native, but rather naturalized and occasionally weedy. Plants like these are often considered to be invasive, undesirable weeds in cultivated fields and lawns across North America.  And yet, many of these non-natives are incredible edibles and natural healers that foragers and backwoods herbalists should take note of. Dandelions, dock and comfrey are all great examples of naturalized invasive herbs.  Another of these weedy invasive plants is a lesser-known little beauty with a plethora of common names, including Heal-All, Self-Heal and All-Heal among many others.  And if a name could say it all, this one definitely does.

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Wild Walk: Cream Wild Indigo

The creamy yellow pea-like flowers of Cream Wild Indigo. Photo Copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.com

Show Me Oz – Spring is in full swing here in Oz and the vast array of lovely wildflowers are blooming in quick procession.  Most of the delicate spring ephemerals like Trout Lily, Spring Beauty, and Bluets come and go so quickly that it is easy to miss them all together.  Thankfully, we have an ocean of natives to enjoy all season long.  One of my early spring favorites is the lovely Cream Wild Indigo, which blooms much longer than most spring flowers and puts on a show-stopping floral display fit for even the most refined garden.

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Navigating Before Google Maps

This directional Trail Marker Tree is located on the Fort Leonard Wood Base. It is just one of  many Trail Marker Trees still standing in that area.by Dennis Downes

For centuries, Native Americans used many different means to mark the boundaries between their tribal territories and hunting grounds, as well as to mark their trails and convey important messages. Some of these markers were upright standing stones, others were pictographs or petroglyphs, symbols were painted or carved onto trees, large earthen mounds, and even intentionally shaped trees or Trail Marker Trees were utilized. Depending on the area the Native Americans inhabited, they could also reference natural boundaries such as rivers, mountain ranges, and even the edges of dense forests or swamps.  (Photo Top: This directional Trail Marker Tree is located on the Fort Leonard Wood Base. It is just one of  many Trail Marker Trees still standing in that area.)

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Flycatchers: The Gardener’s Friend

By Peter Wilton (Eastern Phoebe  Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsShow Me Oz – People sometimes laugh when I tell them that I always know when spring is about to dawn on our Ozark homestead – even if it’s freezing outside.  It’s not the weather, or the slight budding of plants that clue me in.  And it’s not the warmth of the sun or my local weatherman, either.  No, the way I know that spring is on it’s way is when I hear the first shrill song of the Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe).  This slim, mousy-grey flycatcher with a creamy-colored belly and a big voice has a penchant for perching on low, leafless branches and compulsively wagging its long tail up and down.  And it’s one bird that every gardener should hope for.

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Seed Saving Time: Flowers and Pollination

2014 7-1 Straight Eight Cucumbers (2)Show Me Oz – No matter where you live in the country, you are either itching to get your hands in the dirt or are already in the garden digging, planting and dreaming! If you want to save seed this year, you have come to the right place! Because today we are talking about flowers and how they achieve pollination – and what those two things have to do with saving pure quality seed. Understanding these things not only helps you reap a larger harvest of fruits and vegetables to eat, but also ensures that the seeds you harvest from those fruits will come true in next year’s garden. So, let’s get right to it!

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A New Way to Grow Sweet Potatoes Slips

Starting sweet potato slips in pots.Show Me Oz – I have been growing my own sweet potatoes for years, but I always do it the same old way and with varied results.  The most common method of starting sweet potato slips is to root a whole sweet potato in a jar of water.  The sprouted shoots are then pulled off the mother tuber and rooted in potting soil before being set in the garden. (see Start Your Own Sweet Slips). Yet, I always seem to have trouble getting the tuber to root and send up enough shoots during the cold winter months to have the slips ready by planting time.  And I never seem to get enough slips.  So, this year I tried a new and very simple method of producing an abundance of sweet potato slips with a lot less fuss and muss.

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