Category Archives: Nature Notes

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl pastel copyright

This soft pastel painting was inspired by a lovely wilderness-filled summer haunted by the calls of a pair of these tiny “cat-faced” owls whose eyes seem to be the biggest part of their bodies.  Saw-whet owls are found throughout the United States and southern Canada but this little guy will feel right at home just about anywhere you want to hang him.  As a lover of birds in general, I have an especially soft spot for owls. This large 9×12 pastel painting fits into an 11×14 frame, but if you opt for a larger frame with plenty of matting this work of art will be the focal point of any room.  This original one-of-a-kind work of art can be yours for only $225.00 plus S&H.  Check out more of Jill’s work at https://foreverpetportraits.wordpress.com/ 

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Bald Eagles on the Rise

bald-eagleJill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz ~

Winter is one of the best times to see bald eagles in Missouri.  A few years back, on a winter day much like this one,  Dean and I spotted a pair of adult bald eagles circling lazily above our house on the warm rising thermals of a mid-winter day.  Their white head and tail feathers shone brightly against the clear blue sky.  Since we don’t often get to see them for long, we watched the pair with much excitement and within minutes, a darker sub-adult joined them.  We were thrilled to get a rare glimpse of this eagle family, especially since we were so far from the large lakes and rivers where the eagles prefer to congregate this time of year.

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A Bygone Bee Gum

Bygone Bee Gum - Image copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress (4)

Jill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz

I love history. Particularly when  I find it in a far-flung or unexpected place.  Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a tree with a huge hole in the side of it.  Of course, it’s not uncommon to find trees with natural cavities in them around these parts, but this particular breach was not made by nature or time, but by man – and for a very specific purpose.

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Green in December

Green in December Image copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress (12)Jill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz ~

The weather in December is always a hit and miss affair here in Oz.  Some years it’s mild while others roar in like the Siberian Express that has blanketed our northerly neighbors in snow and ice.  And while that train has yet to roll into the Ozarks, we’ve had our fair share of temperatures in the teens already.  Yet, for all the cold we’ve experienced so far, there is still an amazing amount of green lingering in the yard and garden like this like this pretty Dwarf Stonecrop Angelina peeking out from behind a cedar log.   It’s enough to please the eye and tease our gardening souls into dreaming of spring.

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The Ozarks: No Place Like Home

Fall mosaic. Image copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comJill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz

Today is one of those magical days that come about from time to time in the waning hours of November. The big winter sun hangs low in a crisp blue sky, warming the ageless rocks at my feet. The golden light of midday has taken on an ephemeral tenderness that highlights the sculpted edges of thousands of umber, scarlet and saffron-colored oak leaves whose active lives have come to the ultimate conclusion upon the bosom of the earth. In some sudden and mysterious way, they are no longer leaves, but individual pieces of a naturally fantastic jigsaw puzzle just waiting to be pieced together.

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Bamboo Goes Berserk

Bamboo Goes Berserk Copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comJill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz ~

No matter how many years you’ve gardened, one day, you will wake up and say to yourself “Why on earth did I do that?!”  I know this is true because it’s happened to me and many gardeners I know.  Take, for example, the lovely, modest, tiny clump of what I believed to be switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), a small North American species of bamboo, that Dean and I found growing in the front yard (soon to be the vegetable garden) when we first moved here.   It looked to me like the native, well-behaved switch cane we had growing over yonder behind the shed, which has stayed pretty well put for going on 8 years or more.  So, we dug up the little clump, divided it and spaced it just so in a more appropriate spot.  Or so I thought…

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Itching for Summer – Dealing with Chiggers!


By Orrling and Tomer S (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commonsby Jill Henderson
Show Me Oz –Summer is a fabulous time to explore and hunt for wild edibles or to hike along a cool river, but people around these parts generally avoid venturing into overgrown and untamed places during the summer months because of the ticks and chiggers. How does one even begin to tell outsiders and visitors to our fair hills about the myriad of insects that inhabit our beloved Oz? I suppose if you’ve got a vicious sense of humor, you could just let them wade into the chest-deep grass and work it out later, because they’re not going to believe you anyway. Continue reading

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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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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Garden Time: Watch Out for Early Garden Allies!

Box Turtle HatchlingShow Me Oz – Although ‘official’ spring has yet to arrive in Oz, the weather outside my door tells me it’s already here. As always, Dean and I are at it early and have already cultivated most of our garden and planted the first round of cold-hardy seeds. But while we’re hard at work cleaning up and organizing the yard and garden for the season to come, we are constantly on the lookout for sleepy, still-hibernating and just-hatching garden allies like frogs, toads, turtles, spiders, and all manner of beneficial insects and creatures that help us control insect pests in our organic garden!

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Wild Walk: Wild Blueberries

Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium stamineum) 2013 5-5 (9)Show Me Oz – The Ozarks are blessed with an abundance of wild food including delectable black walnuts, savory hickory nuts, sticky-sweet persimmons, juicy paw paws, tart wild black cherries, tart wild plums and serviceberries, nutritious black berries, wild grapes and delicate black raspberries. If you’ve spent much time here in Oz, you are almost certainly familiar with one or all of these wild foods and have probably spent your fair share of summer and fall afternoons gathering them by the bucketful. But there is one more wild Ozark delicacy that often escapes the notice (and the baskets) of many a wild forager: the wild blueberry. Continue reading

Nature Notes: Exploring the Great Sleep

Winter Landscape Copyright Jill Henderson-Show Me OzBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

I like to refer to winter as The Great Sleep, because although life outside the window pane seems dull and lifeless, it is anything but. Yet to find that elusive bit of life, one must go in search of it. Even this self-avowed nature freak has to remind herself of this from time to time. So today, I took a stroll through the woods with my eyes – and my senses – wide open.

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Nature Notes: Milkweed, Monarchs and You!

Close up of Purple Milkweed flowers. Copyright Jill Henderson ShowMeOz.wordpress.comShow Me Oz

As a gardener and lover of nature, I garden with butterflies and beneficial insects in mind.  Yet, for all my efforts, the one North American butterfly that I have failed to lure to my garden is the bright and beautiful Monarch.  For years I thought the failure was mine, but the truth is that these icons of the butterfly world are in dire straights and their numbers are spiraling dangerously downward.  The good news is that there is something we can all do to help them – and all their colorful kin – to flourish once again.

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Wild Walk: Coral Mushrooms

Mushroom - Coral 2012 10-7 (3)by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Fall is here and we finally got enough rain to kick off the fall mushroom season.  Among the many foragable fungi available in the fall, my favorite are coral mushrooms.  Not only are corals super easy to identify, even for the novice mushroom hunter, but they are downright beautiful and oh, so good to eat.

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Nature Notes: The Silent and Unseen

By Joshua Mayer (Flickr: Flying Squirrel on Roof) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commonsby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

This story happened many moons ago in a garden we used to tend.  It was a sultry late summer morning and Dean and I were meandering through the garden discussing future chores.  We were having a nice walkabout, chatting and discussing one thing or another, and I suddenly turned to him and said, “Do you feel like someone is watching us?”  His perplexed look answered my question and should have set me straight, but I just couldn’t shake the strange feeling I’d had all summer long.  Someone or something had been watching me.

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America’s Native Bamboo – Part II – Identification and Culture

2012 2-13 February Snow (15)by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

In last week’s article, America’s Native Bamboo: History and Ecology, we learned that America was once home to massive colonies of native bamboo, better known as canebrakes. These lush cane forests played a critical role in the ecology of the regions they inhabited by filtering sediments, controlling erosion and providing food and shelter for many native animal and bird species. Cane also played an important role in the lives of the earliest inhabitants who valued it as a nutritional food plant and an important material used to fashion tools, weapons and lodging. In the early days of settlement, America’s native cane fields were first used to fatten cattle and then cleared for farmland. Today, a whopping 98% of America’s once-abundant native bamboo has been extirpated from the landscape. This week, I will discuss the ways in which native bamboos are being used in restoration projects and how we can help return them to their rightful place in nature and beautify the home landscape, all at the same time.

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America’s Native Bamboo – Part I – History and Ecology

Switch Cane copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Mention the word bamboo and most people in the Western world naturally think of panda bears, China and steamy exotic jungles. In fact, the majority of the 1,450 species of bamboo in the world do originate in countries located in South and Southeastern Asia, with a few scattered species in Saharan Africa and the very farthest regions of South America. In these places, native bamboo species can grow as dense as the thickest forest you can imagine and produce giant canes as big around as small trees, while others are as diminutive and slender as a clump of our native Big Bluestem.  In fact, bamboo is actually a grass belonging to the Poaceae or True Grass family. With over 10,000 recognized species, true grasses represent the fifth largest plant family on earth. Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that the United States has three very distinct native species of bamboo, known collectively as river cane.

Slow & Steady: Turtles in the Ozarks

IMG_8863by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

When we first moved to the Ozarks it was a three-toed box turtle that inspired us to call our place Turtle Ridge Farm.  The first morning after moving in, we opened the front door to find a big box turtle sitting on the porch, smack dab in front of the door. The concrete porch isn’t all that high, but high enough to be difficult if you’re only 5” tall.

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The New Nature

by Allison Vaughn – Guest Post

Recently, there has been a surge in literature throughout the conservation community highlighting the importance of native plant gardening for the sustainability of wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation writes that chickadees, for example, require 5,000 insects from native plants to successfully rear a clutch. I trust them, just as I do Doug Tallamy’s fantastic book that highlights the importance of converting landscapes from turf to native flora to benefit wildlife. These and a myriad of other articles have positively impacted many communities now embracing native plantings in urban areas; they have reinvigorated Wild Ones chapters, native plant enthusiasts, and wildlife advocates. Add to the resurgence in growing natives are the reports of impacts to non-target wildlife from the widespread broadcasting of glyphosate and other herbicides in an effort for a “weed-free” lawn, and so forth. The assault on wildlife and the natural world is pervasive with sprawling development, wanton abuse of chemicals, regular thumbing of the nose to regulatory agencies and procedures that were put into place in the 1970s during the heyday of the environmental movement.

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Fun in the Garden with Critters

Male Pileated WoodpeckerBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Ahhh! Who doesn’t love a spring day? The birds are singing and the flowers are blooming and it’s just a beautiful free for all.  We’ve spent a lot of time in the garden recently, planting and weeding and the general stuff.  I was standing there in the garden, when a beautiful pileated woodpecker sailed by me and beyond, into the woods.  I suddenly thought of an interesting gardening experience from some years before – and in another garden. It involved a pileated woodpecker, a hollow tree, a mess of squirrels, and me.

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Indian Bent Trees: History or Legend

Indian Bent Tree.  Copyright Jill Henderson

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

In the woods near my home is an unusual tree.  At some point in its long life the tree was bent into a distinctive L-shape.  The trunk is almost perfectly horizontal and nearly touches the ground, running almost five feet before making an abrupt 90 degree turn towards the heavens.  It’s a perfect place for two people to sit back and observe the forest hillside and all its goings on.  But it is much more than a handy bench – it is an ancient form of communication and a little-understood piece of Native American cultural history

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Hunting with Respect

A good hunter knows and respects property boundaries.by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

The first sounds of rifle shots ringing across the hills and hollows marks the end mushroom hunting season and puts a temporary damper on my beloved woodland walks.  For the next few weeks, Dean and I will stick a little closer to the house than we are accustomed to.  When we do dare to venture beyond our protective ridge, we’ll be sure to wear plenty of brightly colored clothing to avoid being accidentally shot at – something Dean and I are all too familiar with.

Granddaddy Trees and Old Cisterns– Part II

Old cisternby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Water is the elixir of life and no rural homestead at the turn of the century could have existed without a ready source.  Not only was water important for daily chores like cooking, cleaning, and bathing, but absolutely necessary for keeping livestock and raising crops.  A hundred years ago, finding land with a running stream or live spring was just as difficult and expensive as it is today, and not everyone could find or afford them. Those who found themselves without a ready source of water had to dig a well, build a cistern, or move on.

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Granddaddy Trees and Old Cisterns – Part I

2007-4 (2) Grandaddy treeby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

This morning, I woke to find the world sparkling in a fresh coat of dew.  I quickly filled my mug with coffee, grabbed a bucket, and headed down the driveway to check on the persimmons. The tall, dry grass was burnished yellow-gold in the morning light and fragile wisps of glowing spider’s silk drifted on a breath of air.  I cut through the meadow, following the long, narrow deer trail that leads past the ancient oak tree whose massive branches nearly swallow the morning sky.  My jeans were quickly drenched to the knee.

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Tree Bombs and Praying Mantises

Falling acorns. Copyright Jill Hendersonby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

With the lovely fall weather moving in at last, we can once again spend most of our time outdoors without fainting from the heat or being attacked by voracious insects. While it would be nice to sit under the oak trees and relax in the slight breeze, the squirrels just won’t allow us to. Right this minute, there are thousands and thousands of ripening acorns in the oak trees and the squirrels, looking for early fall forage, have been sorting through them one by one.

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Nature Notes: Sinkholes and Springs in the Ozarks

Boze Mill Springby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Karst is crucial to the biodiversity of the Ozark region. At some point in its travel from heaven to sea, nearly three-quarters of the water in our rivers, streams, springs, aquifers, and wells have been filtered through this fractured limestone.  This massive system of water movement and erosion is what makes karst one of the most bountiful and fragile geologic formations in the world.  And while it’s beau  Some of the water that falls or runs across our hills will become forever locked below the surface in aquifers, but a larger portion of it reemerges somewhere on the surface, usually in the form of a spring or a seep, or a wet weather stream.

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The Sound of Nature

Barred Owl in the RainBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

This morning I woke at 4:00 am.  The crescent moon was high in the eastern sky casting it’s milky light into the open spaces on the edge of the woods. In the deep shadowy crevices the cicadas and crickets wound down the night’s exuberance in a fading farewell hum.  I stood at the open window, basking in the slightly cool breeze coming down the mountain and relishing the silence when suddenly a series of piercingly eerie shrieks broke the spell.  The suddenness of it startled me, but my instinct was answer with my own crazy whoop and scream, which would surely have woken the house. Instead, I silently searched the branches of the tall, dark oak beside the house for the Cheshire Cat of raptors.

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Violets and the Great Spangled Fritillary

Fritillaries on Milkweedby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

I know I promised this article a couple of weeks ago, but between blackberry pickin’, the garden and seed saving classes, I just couldn’t get back to it.  But while we were up berry pickin’, we saw lots of butterflies – including the Great Spangled Fritillary.  Of course, I love all butterflies, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Fritillaries because of their softly muted-orange coloration and complex wing patterns in brown, black and silver.  I had been wanting to entice more fritillaries to the garden but wasn’t sure what to do, so you can imagine my excitement when I realized I had already done it!

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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.

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Pink Cucumber Beetle? Look again!

Pink Ladybug [Coleomegilla maculata] Image by Jim Conrad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

With the onset of summer, legions of gardeners will soon be out in force doing battle with bad bugs and wily critters up to no good in the garden.  But not all the bugs in your garden are bad. This pink ladybug is a real beneficial, but is often mistaken for a “pink cucumber beetle” and destroyed.  So, before you whip out the spraying wand, look again!
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Wild Walk: Let the Blooming Begin

2013 4-21 Ohio Buckeye in bloom (2)By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Winter is definitely over and summer is marching in with a fury.  Here in Oz, temps have hit the 90’s already and we’ve had a few rain showers to kick the growing season off to a good start.  What was a clear view through the forest just a week ago is now completely obstructed by what we jokingly refer to as “The Jungle”.  So, if you don’t mind a few seed ticks, now is a fantastic time to check out the wildflowers and flowering trees – like this beautiful blooming Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra).

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Wild Walk: Spring Beauties

Image00046It’s been a busy spring here on Turtle Ridge.  We finally got the warm up we’ve been waiting for to really get the spring garden growing.  While we were waiting for sunny days and spring showers to germinate our seeds, I took a little time to go wild.

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What Lies Beneath: Karst and the Ozarks

Copyright Jill Henderson 2002 By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Recently I was leafing through a bunch of old pictures that I had taken of our first Ozarks farm and the surrounding countryside.  I was admiring my favorite shots – those of deep rolling hills and meandering rivers and clear blue springs.  These are the things that speak so clearly to love of this place – the thing that keeps my feet from wandering too far away for too long.

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Flicking Feathers

2008-3 -  April sunrise (27)By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

If someone had told me when I was younger that I would actually enjoy being awake before dawn, I would have laughed.  But over the years I have developed the habit of waking up with the sun.   And since we turned the clocks forward in anticipation of the Spring Equinox on March 20th,  I’ve been up  just in time to witness the rising sun as it paints the eastern sky with watercolor shades of pink and yellow; everything looks so new and fresh in the muted light of dawn and life is just beginning to stir in the dark recesses of the woods.

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Snow and Roses

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Winter arrived in the Ozarks with an incredible 12” of snow and temperatures in the teens for much of the week.  We stayed busy indoors for most of that time, but Dean and I are not the kind of people who find it easy to sit around the shack all day.  So, when it warmed up a bit we  found ourselves trudging around in our heavy winter pants and boots looking for something constructive to do outdoors.  We finally decided to clear a path through the thick brush and brambles to the east pond.

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Winter Colors: The Spirit of Place

2002 - 10 - Noblett Lake - lovely colorBy Sara Firman (Sulis)

In the world of home interiors, natural tones, are often boring neutrals.  Yet the natural world is never boring or neutral.  Even in winter, colors abound.  Continue reading

Ancient Wetlands of the Ozarks

Cupola PondBy Jill HendersonShow Me Oz

One of the things I love about living the Ozarks is discovering places of exquisite natural beauty.  Over millions of years this entire region was submerged in the warm shallow seas of the Paleozoic era before being uplifted by tectonic and volcanic forces.  This cycle repeated itself many times over the course of thousands of years, carving out the hills and hollers we call the Ozark Mountains.  Over the course of time, many of the plants and animals that once lived here became little more than geologic memories etched into stone.  Yet, a few remnants of ancient wetlands still exist within the relatively dry and rocky Ozark highlands.  They are known as Tupelo Gum Pond and Cupola Pond.

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Striped Scorpion Surprise

Striped Scorpion - © 2013 Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

This morning I found this little Striped Scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) in the gravel near our front porch.  Although they might look quite ferocious, these tiny, one and a half inch arachnids are shy and rarely seen.  This one wanted nothing to do with me and wanted nothing more than to hide as I attempted to take it’s photograph.  Even after nudging it into the open several times, it never once tried to sting me. 

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The Great Apes of Sumatra (A Travel Story) Part III

B45-Abdul-showing-off._thumb.jpgBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

(If you missed them, you can read Part I and Part II here.)

When we left the story last week, Dean and I had just come face to face with an extraordinary creature named Abdul.  A free, but not yet wild male orangutan whose eyes shone with an intelligence and knowing that was both unsettling and revealing.  Just as we turned to hike up the mountainside towards the feeding platform a female orangutan named Jackie came into the clearing walking upright on two legs and waved at us.  Instinctively, we all waved back. Continue reading

The Great Apes of Sumatra (A Travel Story) Part II

B45 Abdul showing off.By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

(If you missed it, you can read Part I here.)

After walking through the jungle mist along a narrow foot trail that followed the Bohorok River upstream, the narrow dirt path suddenly vanished into an impressive wall of giant rocks that had obviously fallen from the surrounding bluffs thousands of years ago.  Although we were alone at present, this was obviously the place where we were to meet our guide for the trip across the river to the Bohorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Continue reading

The Great Apes of Sumatra (A Travel Story) Part I

'Abdul' - Bohorok Rehabilitation CenterBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

In the half-light of a misty dawn, we walked quickly down the narrow jungle path that wove its way along the high banks of the rocky river below. The thick morning fog oozed slowly down from the mountains all around us, shrouding its highest points in a mysteriously gauzy veil. We had only been walking for fifteen minutes, but already we were soaked in minute, iridescent beads of moisture. Continue reading

Rain: The Spark of Creation

Rainbow after the storm. © Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Excerpted from my book, A Journey of Seasons:  A Year in the Ozarks High Country.  Available in print and eBook in the Show Me Oz bookstore.

It’s amazing what a little rain can do during a drought.  Before our last bout of rain, the grass was brown and so brittle that it crunched beneath our feet.  But after the rain, the grass and all the native plants in the meadow turned a vibrant green and the once silent meadow suddenly came alive with the songs of happy frogs, crickets and cicadas.  This seemingly incredible transformation is not as uncommon as it might seem. 

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Black Swallowtail Butterfly Larva

Have you seen these caterpillars in your garden?

Black Swallowtail Butterfly LarvaThese are pretty Black Swallowtail butterfly larva  that recently hatched on my dill and fennel, which are both primary food plants for this species. Without these specific plants, the caterpillars will die and no butterflies will be produced.

black swallowtail butterflyTo preserve a colony of black swallowtails in your yard, consider planting a patch of dill or fennel away from the main garden as food for these flying flowers. That way, you can relocate destructive caterpillars found on garden crops to those in the butterfly plot.  If you like butterflies, you might also like to read my article Flying Flowers: The Beauty of Butterflies.

Enjoy!  ShowMeOz.Wordpress.com

Floating an Ozark River

http://www.elevenpointriver.org/By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

This morning Dean and I were having our morning coffee and watching the news, when the weatherman casually mentioned that the temperature today will be dangerously hot with a heat index of around 105° F.  Dean looked across the table at me scratching myself bloody from all the new chigger bites I acquired this week and thoughtfully suggested we hit the river for a cool, bug free day of floating.  I was up and in my bathing suit before the last words came out of his mouth.

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Perceiving Patterns in Nature

Image Copyright 2013 Sara FirmanBy Sara FirmanDiving Deeper

“The failure to perceive order and structure in and unknown city can upset a visitor in the same way that an apparently homogeneous forest can be completely confusing to an unobservant wanderer.” – Landscape: Pattern, Perception and Process by Simon Bell Continue reading

The Birth of Summer

Vulpes_vulpes_pupsBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

June is the traditional, astrological, and physical birth of summer.  In June, you can witness the stately elderberry unfurling its huge white flower umbels to the blue sky, or wander through dense blackberry thickets filled with ripening fruit.  Somewhere in the deep, shady woods the wild turkey hen lays her clutch of eggs in a neatly cloaked bowl of leaves and sticks, female deer give birth to spindly spotted fawns and golden fox kits are born in shallow dens.  June is the month with the longest day and the most violent thunderstorms.  It is that unique combination of warmth, moisture and long sunlit days that stoke the fire of creation.  In June, life rushes to complete yet another circle in the endless journey of seasons.

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Feathered Friends Brighten Spring

Tufted_titmouse_closeupBy Jill HendersonShow Me Oz –  (Excerpted from A Journey of Seasons)

The hands of time seem to spin faster during spring than during any other time of year. So many things are happening right now that it is almost dizzying to watch. Every day I take time for at least a short walk about the property and could spend hours at my journal describing the myriad of new plants, animals, birds and bugs that I find.  Right now, it’s the birds who have my eye with their colorful plumage and brilliant songs.

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Wild Walk – Spring Blooms

Trillium © 2013 Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Spring is an exciting time to be out and about, checking out exciting and beautiful native plants like this gorgeous trillium.  The vistas across the Ozarks hills are still long and relatively unobstructed by leaves, while bugs should be at a minimum for at least another week or two.  All it takes to witness one of nature’s finest seasons is a walk in nearby woods, river valleys or even farm fields.  To get the most out of your native forays, bring along a field guide to trees, wildflowers or native plants, a pair of binoculars, and a friend or two for a fun-filled day of nature-watching.  To get you started, here are a few interesting Ozark plants you may encounter on your spring walk-about.

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Sweet Nesting Solution for Flycatchers

Eastern PhoebeBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz  –

Excerpted in part from my book,
A Journey of Seasons

Along with the more obvious firsts of the year, I am always glad to welcome the return of our nesting pair of Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe), also known as common flycatchers.  These little brownish grey birds are easy to overlook until they begin building their mud and grass nests on porch lights, windowsills and other protrusions beneath the eaves of houses, garages, barns and other structures.  I’ve always loved having phoebe’s around to eat bugs and cheer me up, but cleaning the mess they create while building their nests can sometimes be a drag.  If you’ve had the same experience, I’ve got a sweet solution to keeping both you and your flycatchers happy.

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Peepers Call for the Awakening

Spring_peeper_(SC_woodlot)By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

The Vernal equinox, also known as the Spring Equinox, marks a point when day and night become equal in length for a short time all over the world.  This stellar event marks our astrological trip into spring and the long-awaited wakening from the Great Sleep.  As if on cue, the first creatures to respond were the Peepers – those incredibly small amphibians readily identified by a conspicuous X-mark across their backs – as if picked out by the Creator for a very special purpose.

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Alien Invaders: Armadillos in the Midwest

Nine-banded ArmadilloBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Many people who don’t live in the Ozarks are surprised to learn that there are armadillos here. This is obviously because most people do not associate these odd animals with the mid-south, but rather think of them as creatures from such dry states as Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  While I never thought much about armadillos before I came here, I have come to learn the hard way that they are both an intriguing and terribly frustrating creature.  And while I am a self-avowed animal lover, I must admit that my frustration with this scaly critter has occasionally reached murderous proportions.

Return to the Wild: A Deer Story

Daisy says hello.   Image by Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

About this time last year, Dean and I were working on a new garden bed beside the front porch.  It had been a warm spring and the weather was perfect for working outdoors.  We were both intently hacking away at the compacted soil with our shovels and rakes when I happened to look up.  What I saw took my breath away.   Not two feet from Dean stood a doe quietly nibbling at the clover in the grass.  My heart raced.  This couldn’t be happening, could it?  She was close enough to touch.  Thinking she would bound away at the slightest breath, I stood like a statue, absorbing every little detail.  She raised her head and looked into my eyes and right then, I knew she was no ordinary deer.

Here Come the Bluebirds!

A male Eastern bluebird.. Image by Ken Thomas (KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons;By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

(Excerpted in part from A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country)

With all the cold weather we’ve had of late, it might seem a bit early to be talking about getting ready for bluebirds, but in our neck of the woods, many have already begun their search for spring nesting sites.   In the winter, bluebirds flock together in large groups of mixed adults and fledglings from last year’s broods.  But just about the beginning of March, the large groups begin to break up into smaller family groups and pairs.  So, if you would like to invite a nesting pair of bluebirds to your yard, late February and early March are the best time to put out the welcome mat.

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Winter Storms and the Nature of Being Human

Winter Ice Storm - copyright Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Excerpted in part from A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country

Ice storms in the Ozarks often have disastrous outcomes and warnings of them are often taken more seriously than those of tornadoes.  Indeed, an ice storm can wreak incredible havoc.  Besides making driving and even walking incredibly treacherous, as little as a half-inch of freezing rain can easily snap large tree branches, flatten shrubs and small trees, pull down power lines and cave in greenhouses, sheds and carports.  Accumulations of more than that can, quite literally, snap full-grown trees in half.  Yet, despite their potential for disaster, ice storms are not only beautiful, but often bring us humans closer together.

Sustainable Solutions: Timberland or Healthy Forest?

Winter ForestBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Throughout the history of mankind, humans have used and manipulated the natural landscape for their own ends.  Here in the Ozarks, we are blessed with an abundance of forests that, at times seem to grow like weeds.  Because of that ill-perceived notion, good quality Ozark woodlands are becoming thinner, rarer, and spaced further and further apart.  Fortunately, many landowners are learning how to properly manage their woodlands for timber, recreation and wildlife.  Continue reading

The New Day

Sunset before new years eve 2011 - Copyright Kathleen Gresham Everett

By Kathleen Gresham Everett

As the old year slinks away into the night
I will throw my shoes at its shadow
Shaking the dusty months from my clothes,
I will wear my cap and shirt inside out
So the old minutes and seconds can’t cling
Like a bad smell
I will salt the earth where the previous days
Stretched on and on
Assuring they will not
Follow me into the new year
When the New Years Eve bonfire is burning
I will gather the bitter herbs
And walk counter clock wise into the previous moments
Casting the hated bouquet into the flame
Leaving its acrid taste behind
With the smell of its grief and sorrow

Only then will I wreath my head with four leaf clovers
Fill my pockets with new pennies
And my trunks with rabbit’s feet and horseshoes
And walk bravely into the coming year
Head held high and with cheerful optimism
I will greet the new day

© 2012 Kathleen Gresham Everett – posted with permission.

Kathleen Everett is a writer and poet living in the Missouri Ozarks.  Kathleen’s blog, The Course of Our Seasons features her eloquent poetry as well as articles and photography focused on the seasons of the Ozarks region.

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Winter Blahs? Let’s Feed the Birds!

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch By Daniel Novak

Feeding and watching birds in the summer, spring and fall can be an enjoyable family pursuit and winter should be no different. While many of the birds we often see at other times of year travel to warmer climates for the winter a few hardy souls remain. Inasmuch as feeding can attract a plethora of birds for our viewing enjoyment it can actually be integral in seeing our feathered friends through a tough time of year when other food sources may be scarce or absent. Here are a few basic winter bird feeding tips that will keep birds happy and coming back day after day.

Alley Spring: An Ozark Landmark (Part II)

Alley Mill - Photo NPSPart Two
By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

The Ozarks are famous for their grist mills in the way Vermont is famous for its fall colors, or Maine for its maple syrup and Pennsylvania for its covered bridges.  Last week we talked about the history and historic significance of Alley Mill and one cannot talk about the mill and not mention the stunningly beautiful spring-fed mill pond.   Yet, as impressive as those things are, what I really love about Alley Spring – and what my little botanists’ heart craves most – is  the plant-watching.

Alley Spring: An Ozark Landmark (Part I)

PAlley Mill - Photo NPSart One
By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

When Dean and I get visitors from out of town who want to see something of the real Ozarks, we often take them down to Alley Spring down in Shannon County along the banks of the Jack’s Fork River.  We bring our visitors here because we know that regardless of their age, physical ability or interests, everyone can find something to love about one of the Ozarks most beloved historic sites and natural areas. Continue reading

Wild Walk: A Touch of Winter

Fiery Fall Leaves © 2012 Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

As the hours of daylight become blatantly shorter, the journey of seasons moves quickly towards the Great Sleep of Winter.   Despite the prolonged drought, Ozarkers everywhere enjoyed a most spectacular fall color display.  In all my years of living in the Ozarks, I can’t remember a fall as beautiful as this one.   But now that the Autumn show is over, the curtain is coming down in a torrent of swirling leaves and piling up in huge ankle-deep drifts that blanket the earth in gold.  And yet, the falling is far from over.   For even now, the leaves cling to the remnants of their arboreal lives – resisting their eventual future as rich dark humus and rattling their final farewells at the slightest breeze.

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Crawl into Fall: Cool Caterpillars

Unknown Caterpillar on Passionfruit Vine - Copyright Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz
A Journey of Seasons

It is fall all over the place here in the Ozarks!  The sunburnt days of summer drought have been replaced by moisture-laden mists and golden afternoon sunlight – perfect for a long leisurely walk through the woods.  Sometimes I get lucky and run across one of the creative and colorful caterpillars of the Ozarks.

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Reflections and the Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse by Mike's Birds via Wikimedia CommonsBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz
A Journey of Seasons

This morning I was standing on the porch enjoying my morning coffee when I was suddenly struck by the unusual absence of any kind of sound or movement.  The trees didn’t sway and not a creature stirred.  Even the air stood still.  I was marveling at the odd and unnatural silence of the forest when suddenly a flurry of small, gregarious chickadees, titmice, juncos and nuthatches suddenly rained down upon the yard, filling the air with their busy chatter and my heart with a childish happiness.  Among the festive band of feathered friends were a large and noisy group of titmice.  These friendly, acrobatic birds seemed the busiest and most vocal of the group and my attention naturally turned to them.

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The Beauty of Fall

Leaf & Moss - copyright Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz
A Journey of Seasons

Since life began on our watery-blue planet, the sun has ruled the seasons. It is a calendar by which all living things keep time. The Autumnal Equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator in its southward march towards winter. As the days grow shorter, the northern hemisphere begins to cool. I have always been in awe of the effects the sun has on life and how fast nature responds to it’s movements. The changes that occur once we pass the fall equinox happen so fast, that if you close your eyes for only a moment you will surely miss something wonderful!

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Is a Blue Moon Really Blue?

Full Moon copyright Jill Henderson 2012By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Tonight we will be treated to a rare blue moon.  Celebrated throughout the ages, blue moons are studied, admired and looked upon with varying levels of wonder and awe.  Of course, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month and happens on average, once every two years, mostly in the months of June, July and August.   But is a blue moon really blue?

Ozark Riverways: A History in Perspective

Spring CreekBy Jill Henderson (A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country)

When my husband and I left the pristine wilds of Montana back in 1996, I never thought I would ever again see rivers that were as lovely and clear as those high mountain streams – but then we found the Ozarks.  Some of the rivers in these hills are so clear that you can count the rocks at the bottom six feet down, and so cold they’ll take your breath away.  Obviously, Ozark rivers are the pride and joy of south central Missourians and in the depths of the hot summer months, they are also our respite.  But the rivers in the Ozarks also have a long history – some of which is much more recent than most realize.

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The Storm on the Horizon

Storm on the Horizen © 2008/2012 JillHendersonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

When folks speak of summer in the Ozarks, they are generally referring to the hot, sultry month of August.  Generally.  This year, August started way back in April and we knew even then what was coming our way.   Each day that passed without rain was torture and we prayed for even a scant drop of rain.  When rain did fall, it was so scattered and isolated that your next door neighbor might get an inch and a half of rain while you got nothing but pipe dreams.  The earth is cracked, the grass is brittle and trees are dying.  All summer we have watched with muffled dread as the heat wave scorched its way across the landscape and wondered when the other shoe was going to fall.

Flying Flowers: The Beauty of Butterflies

Butterfly on coreopsis. Copyright Jill Henderson - Show Me OzBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Butterflies must be one of the most beloved creatures of all time. They exist almost everywhere on the planet and their diverse forms are absolutely one of the most astounding feats of creation. In Missouri alone, there are 198 recorded species of butterfly; from the seemingly dull skipper to the fantastically impressive swallowtail. The Ozarks have enough butterflies to keep even avid butterfly lovers happy. Continue reading

Notes from Turtle Ridge: May 2012

Red Mulberry - Copyright 2012 Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson

The hands of time seem to spin faster during spring than during any other time of year.  This May has been disconcertingly warm, which  brought about the early bloom and fruiting of many trees and plants, including this Red Mulberry tree (Morus rubra), which normally ripens its fruit in mid-summer.   Every other day, Dean hiked up the hill, bucket in hand,  to pick the Continue reading

Hanging Out With Spiders

Spider Hammock by Sara FirmanJill Henderson

Anyone who lives in or visits the Ozarks invariably notices that we have a lot of spiders.  They’re  in our gardens, fields, meadows, pastures and woodlands; and sometimes, they’re even in our homes.  Love them or hate them, life in the Ozarks just wouldn’t be the same without  a few wispy strands of spider silk brushing across your face on a woodland walk or the sight of a dewy meadow strung with thousands of glistening hammock-like webs strung by the Sheet-web spider (Linyphiidae).  Of course,  living in Missouri provides plenty of opportunities to encounter and learn about at least a few of the 300 species of spiders that call the Ozarks home.

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Wrens, Tree Frogs and Rain Gardens

Carolina Wren - Dan Pancamo - Wikimedia CommonsHere in our little slice of Ozarks heaven, we are most fortunate to be granted the privilege of greeting every new day with a lyrical symphony of sound that has the ability take our breath away.  Yet, there are those rare occasions when the sweet symphony becomes more like a raucous cat fight.  Take the Carolina wren for example. Earlier in the week I spotted a male wren among the brushy edges of the woods, bobbing and flicking his tail up and down.  I’ve always found wrens interesting enough, but to be honest, they never really made any enduring impression on me – just a nice little brown bird that flicks its tail a lot.   I would soon be proven wrong. Continue reading

Winter Landscapes in the Ozarks

We’ve been offline all week as we waited for our new computer.  Since I was not able to finish the second installment of America’s Native Bamboo in time for this week’s post, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite winter scenes.

I’ll be back next week with a healthy article entitled: America’s Native Bamboo: Identification & Culture.  I hope to see you then. Continue reading

Otters in the Ozarks

Image by Schmiebel By Jill Henderson

When Henry Rowe Schoolcraft first entered the Ozarks in 1818, he found the area lightly populated by settlers whose livelihoods included hunting, trapping and timber. At that time, the Ozarks were still a secret wilderness overflowing with thick virgin timber and teaming with wildlife.  But it wouldn’t be long before prospectors began to cash-in on the abundance of the land, and a great assault on the precious resources of the Ozarks began. Continue reading

A Hole Lot of Trouble!

Woodpecker Hole © 2011 Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson

Last week I was in the shop working on a project when I realized that for the entire hour that I had been there, I had been hearing the steady, drumming rhythm of a woodpecker pounding a nearby tree. I stepped out of the shop to look for the source of the sound, hoping to find out which species of woodpecker it was. I scanned the trunks of nearby trees without luck. Finally, I walked around the side of the well house to get a better look at the lower portion of the trees when a small woodpecker shot out in front of me and landed in a low-hanging branch ten feet away. I turned to look at the side of the well house and immediately saw a tidy hole in the wood siding just below the eave.

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Fabulous Frost Flowers

Frost FlowerJill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz ~

Humans have a love-hate relationship with winter.  On one hand it’s cold and sometimes dreary and on the other it is a respite from the heat and bugs of summer.  With unsurpassed vistas, clear woodland paths and limitless opportunities to spot birds, raptors and other wildlife, winter also allows for some of the best hiking of the year.  During winter hikes one can spot some of nature’s best architectural wonders, specifically those created during freezing weather, such as ice falls, hoary frost and frozen fog. My all-time favorite wintertime sculpture has to be the elusive and transient frost flower.

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Big Bucks and Hunting Season

hunterssmBy Jill Henderson

As we round into the third week of November the Ozarks is enjoying blissful days of low-70 degree temperatures and generally sunny skies.  The winds have been gusting steadily all week long and have finally blown in a good soaking.  I view the weather from the perspective of a gardener, homesteader, and naturalist and this week’s weather has afforded my husband and I the perfect opportunity to check our fence lines and enjoy a hearty hike in the woods.  But  now that the official hunting season has begun, we will spend the next two weeks a little closer to the house.

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Bob Ross and Titmice: A Meditation on Conservation

BobRoss1oilBy Jill Henderson

Saturday morning I was curled up in a blanket watching Bob Ross paint a winter landscape on PBS.  I was enjoying his rapturous meditation on loving life and the subtle nuances of painting glacial mountains against a blue sky when a slight movement outside the window caught my eye. Like a cat to a bit of bright yarn, my eyes were immediately drawn to a silky grey titmouse flirting in the low branches of the oak tree.

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Aiming to Transform

copyright Kelsey RumleyBy Greg Swick

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”  – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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Fall Frenzy: A Skink Story

fall leavesBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, but it is also one of the busiest. Between winterizing the garden, gathering wild edibles, bringing in firewood, and generally readying ourselves and the homestead for the winter to come, it seems to me that we have been in perpetual motion – a frenzy, if you will.  A word that seems to convey just a touch of obsessive compulsive behavior that can sometimes lead to strains, and bruises and bumps.  But we humans are not the only creatures driven to frenzy in our preparations for the coming winter.  In fact, sometimes the frantic nature of animals searching for food, mates and shelter lands them in a slippery situation.

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Ladybug, Ladybug…

Image by Reytan, Wikimedia CommonsBy Jill Henderson

Everyone knows what a ladybug is. That bright, domed beetle-like creature covered in spots and dots is prized by gardeners, cherished by children, despised by some homeowners, and even emulated in the design for the infamous VW Bug. But what exactly are ladybugs and how does one entice them into the garden or drive them from the woodwork when they become invasive pests in the fall?

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An Ode to Rain

Stormy SkiesBy Jill Henderson

After last summer’s brutal drought and a winter uncertain to end, spring brought about some unseasonably warm temperatures and the inevitable spring rains.  And while heavy rains are not uncommon in the Ozarks, deluges are always disconcerting.

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Of Rocks and Snakes

By Jill Henderson

Behind our house, the forest slopes down to a narrow valley that Ozarkers would call a “holler”. In some places the hillside is smoothly covered with a carpet of dead leaves and in others it is a jumble of ankle-twisting rocks of every dimension and color. In one particular place the rocks are so

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Walking Across Boulders

File:Alvar2.JPGBy Allison Vaughn

During winter months, I take literally hundreds of photos that (upon a quick scan of each folder) all look the same: golden grass, gray trees, blue skies, dolomite boulders. I like the structure of the winter landscape, the silvery old growth chinquapin oaks, the open-grown post oaks, and the exposed geology.

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Great Horned Owls – Giants of the Forest

By Jill Henderson Show Me Oz

Last night, as I stood outside admiring the way the stars danced brightly in the clear dark winter sky,  I heard the unmistakably deep, resonating call of one of the Ozarks most reclusive giants –  the great horned owl.

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Being Chosen and the Spirit of Place

Susan Minyard - www.sweetwaterpottery.bizBy Sara Firman (Sulis)

You can’t choose, it seems, without being chosen. For the place, in return had laid its claims on me and had made my life answerable to it…’ Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow.

I’ve lived in the Ozarks since the summer of 2002 when I happened to be passing through. Without meaning to, I fell in love with a piece of land; and, as love goes, jumped into its arms without much further thought.  The result was as tumultuous as you might expect. Continue reading

Snakes: Friend or Foe?

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

All summer long Dean and I have been having a serious problem with a mouse in the engine compartment of our car, where it has been tearing up insulation and chewing through wires.  We have repeatedly fished out wads of grass and other nesting materials that the mouse has drug under the hood thinking the engine compartment would make a great winter den.  The damage from the mouse’s nocturnal goings on was beginning to get out of hand, but despite all our efforts we could not catch it, or kill it, or persuade it to leave. Continue reading