Notes from Turtle Ridge: Spring 2014

Box Turtle Shellby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

June lays claim to the longest day of the year and the most violent thunderstorms, it is the month of bluebird babies, spindly-spotted fawns and box turtle crossings.   Although we have been expecting another hot and dry summer, we suddenly find ourselves wearing warm flannels and digging the blankets out of the closet.  But the rain and a long cool spring is exactly what we – and our garden – were hoping for.

2014 5-10 Hebron to Twin Bridges Float (24) - Water Quality StudyWe didn’t let the cool spring stop us from hitting the river on a few choice, sunny days.  But before we headed out onto the river for a much-needed float, we join our friends on the Stream Team for Water Quality Monitoring on the North Fork of the White River.

In addition to testing the water, we also counted and catalogued a myriad of sometimes-microscopic invertebrates that live in the water beneath the river gravel.   It was a fun and eye-opening experience.  You can volunteer or help out on water quality studies like this or join in a host of other activities that help protect our beautiful rivers.  Check out this page from the MDC or call them and ask about a Stream Team near you!

2014 5-10 Chickweed Infusion (2)Of course, cool weather is perfect for chickweed, which makes an excellent salve for those itchy bug bites of summer.  To make your own, simply gather an armful of chickweed and dry it on screens in the shade for a few days before crushing it up into a canning jar and covering with olive oil.  Place the jar in the sun every day for a week or so, then strain and use.  Chickweed is an excellent itch-fighter all by itself, but we added dried comfrey leaves to the infusion to aid in the healing of bites that get scratched open (and often get infected!).  Once the oil is ready it can be used as is, or made into a salve or lotion with the addition of a little melted beeswax.

Another plant I have come to adore in the garden is buckwheat.  This cool-season annual legume is a super fast growing cover crop and green manure that takes absolutely no skill to employ in the garden.  Just scatter the seeds after the last frost and watch them go!

2014 5-24 Buckwheat in the garden (4)Buckwheat fixes nitrogen, acts as a living mulch, attracts scads of pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden and in our case, seemed to shield the young garden starts from bad weather and the hot sun.  In this picture, buckwheat that has been growing in the corn for several weeks is being laid down into the rows.

The stems of buckwheat are brittle and break easily.  Once broken, the plant quickly dies and the stems can be left in the rows as mulch or the whole plant tilled under.  Since the bees were thick on the flowers, we didn’t want the buckwheat to die back just yet, but at the same time it was much taller than the corn.  So we gently bent the buckwheat to the ground by hand so as not to break the stems, and they just kept on going!  At some point they will be sacrificed to the soil, but for now, they’re still feeding the bees, nurturing tons of beneficial insects, and blocking out weeds in the garden.

2014 6-3 Fritillaries and Milkweed (1)Out in the meadow a brightly flowering plant caught my eye and I left the garden to investigate.  I found this Purple Milkweed in full glorious bloom being ravished by a pair of Great Spangled Fritillaries!  The butterflies were so immersed in gathering the sweet nectar from the blossoms that they actually let me touch them.  In next week’s post, I’ll talk more about the amazing relationship between these butterflies and violets.

I hope to see you then!

© 2014 Jill Henderson  ~ Feel free to share with a link back here.  Thanks.


AJOS-214x32813A Journey of Seasons

Filled to the brim with colorful stories, wild walks, botanical musings, and a just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor A personal and inspiring tale of homesteading in the Ozark backwoods by noted author, naturalist and plant organic gardener, Jill Henderson.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore
Look inside!


Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.


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8 responses to “Notes from Turtle Ridge: Spring 2014

  1. Another wonderfully detailed posting, Jill. I love learning these things. xo

  2. Great to see you getting involved with Stream Team activities. I enjoyed doing that for Spring Creek in Douglas (all data and knowledge and experience out there on the water is useful) a decade ago now but admit that I was saddened by the challenges of translating that into action to protect the rivers from harm (in that case gravel mining). At the time it was explained to me that the main focus is showing children (the next generation) how wonderful the rivers are and how life flourishes (or not) within them in order to encourage their involvement in river care and land stewardship. Still, for adults, it’s like being a child again rediscovering the fascination of water and life!

    • It was definitely an eye-opening experience, Sara. I enjoyed seeing all the tiny creatures that live on the river bottom. There were many tests done on the water, including nitrate and oxygen levels and several others I can’t remember. As I understand, we had good results on all accounts. I’m sure that a big part of Stream Team is education for the public, particularly for kids, but as you know they do monitoring of all kinds, help keep the river clear of snags and strainers, and keep an eye out for erosion and other issues. And of course, they do their famous river clean-ups. But as was the case with the gravel mine near your place, there are still so many challenges to preserving our riverways.

  3. Wonderful article from you, as usual.
    I am blessed to live in French Creek Valley, in NorthWest Pa., This is one of the most prolific healthy systems extant in the lower 48.
    Every day reminds me to give thanks to the heroic national treasure for us all – Euell Gibbons!

    Thanks again!

    Stalking the Wild Asparagus – An Interview with Euell Gibbons with Mother Earth News

    • Thank you hp, so glad you enjoyed it. I grew up with Euell Gibbons! I can remember him in a Pine Nuts cereal ad (?) saying, “Hi, I’m Euell Gibbons. Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.” Us kids used to joke about it, but having been raised to enjoy nature, we all knew that one could indeed eat parts of a pine tree. I’ll bet you have a plethora of pines up there in the north woods of PA. I was there only once – during the fall – and it simply took my breath away. Certainly a little slice of Oz! Happy foraging!!

  4. Pingback: Itching for Summer | Show Me Oz

  5. Pingback: Itching for Summer – Dealing with Chiggers! | Show Me Oz

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